Will tomorrow's machine fitter be an IT expert?–In the near future, members of the maintenance team will be expected to be as proficient in handling data and smart phones as they are with wrenches and welding torches. But what needs to be done to turn the vision of Maintenance 4.0 into a viable concept? PROCESS took a closer look at the next industrial revolution.
Is that really maintenance? Walking around the Maintain trade show in Munich, the annual gathering for maintainers and industrial service providers, was like visiting an Apple store. On display: Explosion proof smartphones and tablets configured for equipment maintenance, promoted with slogans full of buzzwords like iMaintain and Maintenance 4.0.
Well–known industrial service providers like Bilfinger exhibited new mobile information systems and cloud-based data management concepts. It seems as if the Internet of things has finally set footinto the world of maintenance. Off course, visiting service engineers took photos with their cellphones and shared the images in real time with colleagues and business partners alike.
No doubt about it – mobile devices are mainstream. Tablets and smartphones are everywhere. Now, the first augmented reality platforms like Google Glass are about to make an impact on the world. But mobile applications have not really taken off in the process industry despite their enormous potential.
Nevertheless, experts are convinced that the future belongs to technologies like e-maintenance, RFID, CMT and the convergence of virtual reality and physical world. “In the future, practically all of the information about products, customers and a company’s internal resources such as staff capacity will be available in digital form,” states Bernd Bienzeisler, who leads a Competence Center at Germany's Fraunhofer IOA technology management institute. “For this information to be of any real benefit, it has to be collated in a meaningful way.”
Big Changes on the Horizon?
Maintenance experts are convinced that is only a matter of time for mobile solutions to come into widespread use. The idea itself is not new: Eye-catching visualizations have been showcased for years at trade shows and presentations, highlighting the benefits for plant and service personnel. And yet, nothing has changed.
A study by the Salzburg Research Initiative in Austria came concluded that only 5 % - 25 % of the surveyed companies have started phasing in Industry 4.0 concepts in their repair and maintenance operations. In cases where projects had been initiated, the authors of the study reported that monetization often leaves much to be desired. It seems unlikely that the results in other parts of Europe would be much different.
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