Our take on Euromaintenance 4.0 and what’s to come

Euromaintenance is Europe’s largest trade exhibition and conference on maintenance. We are proud to have participated, as sponsors and exhibitors, in its most recent edition this September in Antwerp, Belgium. The event was organized by EFMNS and the Belgium Maintenance Association BEMAS. 4.0 was an addition to the event’s name to emphasize that we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For the MaxGrip team, the event was a great opportunity to embrace and evaluate the atmosphere and current opinion of the maintenance community.

In light of the event, more than 1,200 participants from all over the world went to Antwerp. Industry 4.0 was the talk of the town; during the four-day event 150 presentations took place. We heard a lot about disruptive technologies and how they are going to change asset-intensive industrial operations and maintenance, beyond recognition. Clearly there’s a strong international technology drive, with many companies focusing on the latest wireless and smallest sensors. However, it also became clear, throughout the course of the event, that many companies have embarked on their digital transformation journey but struggle to apply technology in an effective and meaningful way to their daily operations. It’s a typical case of being in the middle of a revolution and not being able to identify the decisive developments.

On the eve of the breakthrough of winning innovations, we see a lot of interesting technologies but most of them working from their individual perspective, not from a full-scale deployment perspective. Some companies are dabbling in augmented reality and drone inspections, other demonstrate highly advanced sensoring and analysis solutions. All not addressing how this can be applied in daily practice. The most important challenge in our opinion is sensible practical effective use of these solutions and scalability. Knowing what is needed and what is feasible for companies to benefit from these solutions. Addressing topics like data quality, availability and consistency. Taking into account skills, capacity and capabilities of the companies they are targeting. Creating a technology pull rather than a technology push. We need to keep things simple and user-friendly, move effectively from the piloting stage to a full implementation in daily practice.

The wheat and the chaff

In the next few years, we expect the wheat to be separated from the chaff. We also believe that the real added value is not only in technology, but rather adopting a comprehensive approach towards Industry 4.0 and focusing on its results. There will have to be more cooperation. First of all within organizations, as Industry 4.0 touches on many disciplines. It is a great opportunity, but also a challenge, to make Maintenance a more integral part of Operations. Only few companies have the know-how and capabilities to move forward on their own. This is another area where cooperation and using experience across companies is essential. Many companies are actively looking to share experiences and join up efforts. In general, a systematic approach and clear sense of where to go still seems to be missing. Many companies need to establish specific objectives and an implementation roadmap. And stick to the plans, working with the end goal in mind.

To be fair, there were realistic and constructive steps presented in Antwerp as well. We saw manuals visualized in video and incorporated in EAM systems which we thought were really pragmatic with evolutional change. The value of the international asset management standard ISO 55000 is being promoted and underlined in various workgroups. Additionally, some companies are achieving pragmatic progress by nurturing and feeding an “idea pipeline”. We liked this approach a lot and think this deserves a serious follow-up as a methodical way forward.

People and technology

Alongside the innovations and progresses presented, concerning points also emerged and proved that there is still a long way to go. For example, we are reminded time and again that cyber security is a crucial factor, but, we did not see any solution being presented on this. We are often told about the shortage of technically educated personnel, whilst it’s predicted that Industry 4.0 developments will make many jobs obsolete. Other competencies will be needed, specifically advanced data analysis skills. What can we say? Only time will tell.

We do agree that it is important to set up organizational change and find new ways to connect the new technologies to the people and processes in place. The question remains how to achieve this, and the answer remains elusive. A Euromaintenance visitor gave us two clear examples of how the human factor is still predominant:

“…an eagerly awaited spare part was ready to be picked up, but no one got notified that it haarrived at the front desk or the express delivery was refused at the gate because it wasn’t on the list…”

If these scenarios cannot be prevented, no matter what the innovation, entire production lines can go on hold for the silliest of reasons and result in unnecessary costs.

People are of course at the center of the whole Industry 4.0 effort. They have to build up trust in the sensors, the data, the models, and the system as a whole. Only after a few false alarms, credibility is out of the window. Conversely, at which point will we be ready to let go and rest assured that the data we are receiving are a true reflection of our work floor reality? From several presentations, it emerged that trust is an important issue. One provider of Asset Health as a Service offers a 100-day free trial. You can let them put the data in the system and then wait and see if any good comes from it.

Adapting to change

In the end, the success of predictive and prescriptive maintenance depends on people adapting to change. This was also highlighted by our guest speaker Piet van der Schaar, Senior Global Lead Maintenance & Asset Management at Heineken, who won the event’s award for best presentation on asset management. He showed how MaxGrip helped manage and support the company’s global roll-out of IBM Maximo, and how technological innovations are piloted simultaneously. He even added a live demo of remote assistance by linking with a Heineken brewery in Haiti during his presentation.

Piet also brought some Heineken beer to the MaxGrip booth which was a good thing as there was no Heineken to be found at the venue 😉. We really enjoyed the event; the weather was beautiful and we savored lunch outdoors every day, with stunning views of Antwerp Zoo and the city’s magnificent railroad station. The venue’s elevators didn’t work (we think the venue could use a better APM strategy), but it was actually an advantage as we got to work on our exercise going up and down the stairs, which was needed because the catering was outstanding… We’d love to come back for more of those deserts!

We are looking forward to the next edition in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 2021!

The MaxGrip team at Euromaintenance 2018


[Photography Credits: Euromaintenance 4.0]