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Here's How GE Digital Is Using IIoT Technology to Help OEMs Enable Predictive Maintenance

Brought to you by WBR Insights



For many years, manufacturers have practiced a time-based approach to equipment maintenance. The age of machinery has been taken as the number-one factor for planning maintenance routines - the older the asset, the higher the frequency of maintenance procedures that are carried out. This forms the basis of preventative maintenance - i.e. the practice of avoiding failures by scheduling maintenance before the asset's probability of failure starts to increase.

The problem with this model, however, is that it can lead to a lot of money being wasted running maintenance procedures on machinery and equipment that does not require it. In fact, according to a recently published paper by ARC Advisory Group, the probability of failure increases with age for only 18% of assets. "The other 82% of assets have a random failure pattern," writes Ralph Rio, ARC's Vice President. "For these assets, preventative maintenance is not an appropriate strategy because the equipment will likely deteriorate and fail between the maintenance occasions."

In other words, a time-based approach to equipment maintenance is neither beneficial nor cost-effective. Fully functioning machinery gets maintained regardless of actual need, while genuinely deteriorating equipment is neglected if it starts to fail outside of the time-based schedule.

To avoid ineffective maintenance routines and the costs that accompany them, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can leverage Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology and data science to monitor the actual health of an asset in real time. By using IoT to connect equipment to sensors, potential issues can be identified before they occur. This enables OEMs to proactively perform maintenance only on equipment that requires it, keeping uptime high for the customer while minimizing costs for the OEM.

As Rio explains: "Analytics puts the IoT data into mathematical algorithms for predictive maintenance. An issue is identified as it emerges, and, by creating an alert, a repair can be scheduled prior to a failure. The maintenance planner assesses the alert, prioritizes, and schedules the work order. Depending upon the failure and its repair time, production schedules can be modified, resources realigned so that it results in zero production loss."



(Image source: tcs.com)

GE Digital

As an early leader in IIoT, GE Digital has built a strong business with its industrial customers that delivers real results at scale. Earlier this year, David Ovadia, Product Marketing Director at GE Digital, sat down with Robert Colby, Principal Engineer of IT Infrastructure at Intel, to discuss how GE Digital solved a crucial issue for Intel using the power of IIoT.

Intel needed a way to improve the performance of its fan filter units (FFUs) - common but critical devices deployed to ensure manufacturing environments are free from dust and contaminants. Before working with GE Digital, unexpected FFU failure would typically result in three to four days of unplanned downtime for Intel. This was proving costly, and a remedy was urgently required.

Working in collaboration, the two companies developed a solution leveraging Intel's IoT Gateways and GE Digital's Predix Asset Performance Management (Predix APM) to better understand the real-time health of each FFU in order to predict failure. Predix APM is a suite of software and service solutions designed to monitor equipment and turn data into actionable insights. It enables OEMs to monitor threats and reduce emergency repairs by detecting problems early - turning costly, unplanned downtime into scheduled downtime.

Using Predix APM to monitor the performance of its FFUs, Intel can now predict potential failures, have the right parts staged for maintenance, schedule downtime in advance, and proactively service fans before an issue grinds operations to a halt. When FFUs need to be serviced, Intel is now able to plan for downtime accordingly, reducing the impact from three or four days to just a few hours.

Final Thoughts

Field service is now an important competitive differentiator and a key driver of revenue and customer satisfaction. Technology advancements such as IIoT technology help to strengthen the relationship between OEMs and their customers by creating an ongoing partnership that allows OEMs to proactively perform maintenance on the equipment they sell, reducing failure impact for the customer.

This is precisely what the market is demanding. Customers now choose a piece of equipment based not on specific product attributes, but on the quality of the service that the selling company can provide, or what level of guarantee they have that the product will be operable.

According to Ovadia, for GE, a huge part of the business (including most of its profits) now comes from the services it sells, and not from actual equipment sales. "We've built an infrastructure where we help customers monitor their equipment and detect issues proactively to enable predictive maintenance. As we all know, equipment ages, business and compliance requirements change, process conditions alter, and asset health can deteriorate over time. That's why GE Digital is helping OEMs dynamically monitor emerging threats and automatically take actions to keep business, and equipment, running around the clock."


Predictive maintenance is set to be a hot topic at Field Service Palm Springs 2020, taking place in April at the JW Marriott Palm Desert Resort & Spa, CA.

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