Thankfully, the days of break-fix reactive maintenance are behind us. Over the last 15 years, state-of-the-art industrial maintenance strategies have evolved from being only reactive to preventive to predictive to prescriptive. The result has been significant improvements in plant maintenance.
The problem is that because improving maintenance strategies seems so reasonable to most industrial professionals, who accept it as the natural evolutionary path of technology, they do not seek to understand what is actually driving the need. What we have learned is that process control advancements, which are intended to increase asset efficiency, are the primary reason new maintenance approaches are required. This is because advanced process control strategies pushthe operating limits of plant equipment, which leads to a reduction in equipment reliability.
So while new maintenance strategies have helped improve asset reliability, what we really require is a better, more real-time approach.
I question the commonly accepted premise that reliability improvement can result from advanced maintenance management strategies alone. Process control affects the real-time operation of plant assets. Maintenance management does not. Therefore, improving asset reliability needs to start with real-time control action that matches the challenges created by process control. Additionally, asset reliability and process control for improved efficiency control need to be coordinated or the control strategies will end up fighting each other.
The ultimate objective for implementing process management and maintenance management is to improve operational profitability. Because the speed of business has increased significantly over the last decade, some aspects of operational profitability can no longer be managed transactionally, i.e., month to month. Instead they need to be controlled in real time. For example, the price of electricity on the open power grid, which a decade ago did not change for months at a time, can change every 15 minutes today. This necessitates real-time profitability control strategies because monthly profitability management is no longer sufficient.
Real-time operational profitability control is becoming a reality for industrial manufacturing, and it can be the primary coordinating mechanism between efficiency and reliability. In fact, real-time profitability can be the primary loop of a cascade control strategy over both process and reliability control. As such, profitability control cascaded to reliability and process control is possible, and it makes achieving the ultimate objective of maximizing operational profitability even more possible.
Since the early 2000’s, maintenance management strategies continually improved, with positive results. However, as the speed of business continues to increase, we must expand their capability by adding real-time profitability control cascaded to real-time reliability control. Combining maintenance management and real-time reliability control strategies will allow industry to drive operational profitability improvements, safely, and convert their process automation in the profit engines of their business.