April 05, 2016
Too Smart to Fail: The Future of CMMS
Some in the CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) industry imagine a day when critical equipment and machinery, as well as, core structural systems of the plant or facility will "telegraph" impending component failure well-before disaster strikes. Wouldn"t that be wonderful? Sure, but is it really possible?
Why wouldn't it be? Miniature sensor technology has evolved to the point, for instance, that all credit cards are being replaced in 2015–2016 with EMV chip-equipped cards to ensure greater fraud protection at the point of sale. These credit card chips are really computer processors that facilitate two-way communication between the card being read ("dipped") and its originating financial institution. At the completion of the point of sale transaction, the card chip is sent a unique transaction number preventing its reuse in case the card data is being clandestinely stolen.
Now supposing every critical component of an aircraft frame and skin were "tagged" with miniature microchip technology that "senses" any changes in the composition or integrity of the part? In this scenario, a critical fuselage section experiences a crack or other deterioration due to an unnoticed object striking the part or because it has been subjected to unintended or unseen stress. The EAC (embedded alert chip) reports its status when remotely interrogated either upon a manual command query or regular auto-reporting to a control system. Wouldn"t that be great?
Of course, we know that critical sensors have been built into equipment ever since the first powered machinery was invented. Modern CMMS software, in fact, captures meter and gauge readings, engine hours, lubricant status and all manner of other sensor-driven data. However, years of scientific failure analysis and forensic investigations after catastrophic failure events have provided a treasure trove of information about critical components that cannot be remotely analyzed with current sensor technology employed in standard machinery and equipment manufacturing.
As we know, at the heart of CMMS is the ability to schedule crew, tools and spare parts to a specific piece of equipment for preventive maintenance or repair. In this way, we hope to avoid unnecessary equipment downtime by applying regularly scheduled preventive maintenance protocols. Yet, unexpected breakdowns still occasionally occur. Unnoticed bearing contamination, a corroded coupling perhaps, or overstress of an uninspected part may lead to deformation and machine stoppage. There is no embedded sensors to alert the CMMS of such impending crisis. Ideally, shouldn't there be?
No matter what type of plant or facility you manage, maintenance costs and productivity levels are inexorably intertwined with your CMMS and how well your maintenance staff manages asset and equipment availability. Imagine if your CMMS was linked to a new generation of microsensor chips embedded deep within equipment recesses reporting the status of parts never observed by trained technicians. Imagine repair cost savings and machine availability percentage over time! it's possible to even wonder if some equipment manufacturers would prefer not to embed alert chip technology that might disturb expected machine life and even planned obsolescence.
Regardless, maintenance managers should begin to consider specifying EAC embeds as part of their new equipment purchasing RFQs. A major piece of equipment vital to the production line but equipped with new EAC technology could potentially add decades of useful life while suffering far less downtime overall. The cost savings realized in delayed replacement expense and increased productivity could easily pay for any additional expenditure necessitated by installed EAC technology.
Technology is forever advancing. Nothing mankind makes use of will stay unchanged for very long. Just as properly utilized CMMS has improved industry and facility productivity and bottom line protection so too Embedded Alert Chips could advance the efficiency of maintenance personnel across the globe.