The most frequently cited example of Industry 4.0 is asset performance management. A critical manufacturing asset is fitted with affordable sensor technology. This allows for the collection of unprecedented volumes and variety of data. Advanced analytics and machine learning are then applied to gain remarkable new insights into the operation of the asset. The revolutionary and rigorous pursuits are grouped under the title of Predictive Maintenance (PdM). The pot of gold at the end of this PdM rainbow is almost always a drastic reduction in unplanned asset downtime. There are other benefits of PdM including the avoidance of the potential capital repair or replacement costs of “run to failure” approaches and the ability to scale maintenance personnel based on automated evaluation.
Improved asset performance is indeed a noble and worthwhile pursuit. However, it is important to acknowledge that asset availability is not the ultimate goal. Extra hours of availability of a critical asset are only as useful as what you can do with those extra hours.
How Does This Affect Production Performance?
In high-volume, low-mix manufacturing environments, where the asset is dedicated to the production of a single SKU, there is a direct and obvious correlation to the value of extra hours of capacity. Extra capacity immediately translates to extra production and can be the basis for avoiding extra shifts or the burden of capital investment in additional assets. This is a big win for the manufacturers of laundry detergent, for example, as well as high-volume food products.
Most manufacturers, however, don’t have the luxury of dedicated equipment with a hyper focus on tuning a repeated process. Product variation and demands for customization result in equipment that must be flexible and adaptable. Extra capacity for critical assets is certainly welcome, but the resultant capacity is only a true benefit if the right order is processed and the appropriate customer delighted.
The extra capacity will not solve legacy issues such as matching demand to production or providing collaboration between conflicting organizational goals. In worst case scenarios the extra capacity could actually produce even more unwanted inventory of the “wrong” product.
There’s a Tool for Every Task
For many manufacturers, deep knowledge of asset performance must be matched with modern demand and supply chain planning tools. There will not be a windfall of benefits from asset performance if the impact is throttled by legacy spreadsheet planning. Modern demand and supply management tools are necessary to extend the baseline benefits that result from asset performance monitoring and predictive maintenance.