The human factor in APM is easy to overlook,
but hard to overstate.
We all need confident data engineers.

I often emphasize that APM needs an all-inclusive point of view to be successful. The holistic approach is the only realistic way to go. Yes, effective solutions are tailor-made and embedded in your process. They also connect your business goals to your daily operations, obviously. But perhaps most importantly, they take into account the human factor.

To be clear I’m not talking ergonomics here, although the usability of new equipment and systems also deserves careful attention. To a large degree, the user friendliness of newly introduced tools and methods determines the speed with which they are accepted and adopted. But today I want to bring the people involved in APM into the spotlight.

Connecting all the dots

In operations with less than 100 pieces of equipment, it may well be possible to get away with a partial solution and keep assets running. In larger operations, however, APM solutions that do not connect all the dots are prone to fail. It’s that simple. The primary function of an APM system is to maintain effective supervision over all equipment, and to fully support your work processes.

The point is that everything is connected to each other. Generating a specific work order or a Bill of Materials, and using the associated data to determine the right spare parts strategy for that particular asset, is not optional. It’s how APM is supposed to function. Your system should be set up to generate the right actions at the right time.

Much more than a technology push

For truly rewarding APM results, the right people are needed. The notion that Industry 4.0 and APM 4.0 are mostly a technology push, is quite widespread but wildly mistaken. People take the final decisions, people have to work with the system, people gain the confidence to make changes in their daily routines, and people need the right guidance to make the most of APM.

That is why MaxGrip invests a lot of project time in training and education. In my last article I mentioned the wonderful magic boxes offered by some new APM vendors on the block. Something comes out of the box, but no one can tell you how exactly it came about. For clarity’s sake, let’s juxtapose this black box with a white box.

Insight and understanding

The white box is not mysterious at all. It contains the knowledge of your assets’ failure behavior. With the help of databases – complete libraries of equipment history, failure behavior descriptions, and best maintenance practices – you can then be more effective in achieving real progress. The difference with the black box is insight and understanding, it’s the level of knowledge people have.

If your people don’t know about the failure behavior of your equipment, they cannot recognize the patterns and make the right decisions about maintenance, repairs, or suppliers. At the end of the day, even while we enter the age of machine learning and ever smarter technology, people have the final responsibility and the need to be in control.

Understanding failure modes and risks

It is therefore crucial for your APM professionals to understand the failure modes and failure risks. Without knowing the failure modes, you cannot close improvement loops and without knowing the failure risks, you cannot prioritize maintenance work for large numbers of equipment. With growing data streams, this would lead to a relapse into the black box approach.

Industry 4.0 is a process of change, particularly for people working in maintenance. They will have to become data engineers as well. It’s always wise to start small, preferably with the most troublesome assets, and test the whole process end to end. Some processes may have to be redesigned. However, once it works and the benefits become clear, people will have gained the confidence to go all the way and fully embrace their digital transformation.

Jakob Boelens,

CEO and Co-Founder MaxGrip

Deploy successful Industry 4.0 initiatives

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