Predictive maintenance 101: an introduction

A stitch in time saves nine, so the saying goes. And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to the maintenance of infrastructure and equipment. Nipping problems in the bud saves time, money and disruption, as well as improving safety.




Technology has now taken things one step further by opening the door to predictive maintenance. But what does the term actually mean – and how can you reap the benefits of it in your business?


Predictive maintenance involves automated and real-time asset monitoring around the clock, every day of the year. A network of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors acts as your eyes and ears in every corner of your business to check that all is well – monitoring everything from vibration and pressure to temperature, humidity, gas levels and even security.


A major advantage of IoT technology is that it can reach the parts of your infrastructure that are difficult for humans to access. Long-distance underground pipelines, for example, offshore oil rigs and wind farms, and thousands of miles of rail track are all challenging for employees to monitor on a regular basis – let alone constantly, day and night, in all weathers.


Yet we're only too familiar with the headlines when things go wrong – rail passengers killed or injured if a train derails due to poorly maintained track or an environmental disaster if an oil rig suffers an explosion or pipeline leak due to maintenance issues. And, away from the headlines, workers are injured every year carrying out maintenance checks that could be delegated to technology.


As its name suggests, predictive maintenance is all about spotting problems at a very early stage before they become a major issue. It relies on monitoring and analysing data from the actual, current condition of equipment or infrastructure. Its close relative – preventive maintenance – uses historical data, averages and life expectancy statistics to predict when maintenance activities will be required.


Because maintenance is only flagged up as required, predictive maintenance is often more cost-effective than preventive maintenance. It allows maintenance to be performed when required to address a specific problem and prevent an asset breaking down.


So how can you predict whether predictive maintenance is right for your business? The first step is to analyse your loss of earnings caused by downtime, along with the cost of manually monitoring maintenance requirements. And check whether any predictive maintenance solutions have been planned into your company's technology roadmap – you may already have a solution in the pipeline, so to speak.


The next step is to compare the cost of installing a predictive maintenance solution with the cost of your loss of earnings and manual monitoring. This will allow you to determine the potential return on investment so that the decision as to whether to invest in the new technology becomes easier.


If you’d like help with understanding the business implications – or would just like to find out more about predictive maintenance – get in touch via info@smartcomptech.com