There have been many advances in technology that allow us to gather, analyze, and visualize data. Remote condition monitoring and data communication has evolved over the years to allow massive amounts of information about machinery performance to be transmitted wirelessly and automatically . New developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning have made it possible to even automate the interpretation of data. But where does that leave the human element?
The Digital World
There is no denying that the wide use of sensors and remote condition monitoring systems have had a very positive impact on machine maintenance. They allow us to establish a baseline of performance and parameters and then compare behavior to that baseline. Remote condition monitoring and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) also make it possible to predict failures before they happen, signal when maintenance needs to be performed, and provide invaluable data to assist in troubleshooting issues with performance and operation.
The Human Element in Remote Condition Monitoring
None of that happens on its own, however. There is still a human element involved. Smart motors and similar IIoT systems must be installed and configured correctly to even provide the simplest data. While they provide an immense amount of data, it takes someone with training and experience to interpret that data.
Charts and graphs may look impressive, but they are useless if no one is present that can take that information and apply it to maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair. This is especially true with vibration data, which should be evaluated by a certified vibration analyst to obtain the full benefit of what it provides.
Boots on the Ground
And even when you combine an excellent IIoT system with technicians that know how to use the data, you still need real people interacting with the equipment. The fact is that humans can see, hear, and experience more than even the best programmed remote condition monitoring system or predictive maintenance system. This is especially true when it comes to technicians that are familiar with the equipment.
By combining boots on the ground with predictive maintenance data and/or asset condition monitoring, an informed decision can be made that allows issues to be addressed before expensive damage can occur. It also minimizes the downtime.
Much in the same way a face-to-face meeting most times yields better outcomes than online conferences...the latest IIoT and remote condition monitoring technology is not a replacement for boots on the ground when it comes to the equipment you are responsible for maintaining. Man and machine complement each other, and the reality is that a combination of sensors and human thoughts/expertise is necessary to effectively put data to good use. That's why it also also important that the human element also be trained to use data to inform maintenance, repair, and replacement decisions. Together, man and machine make a powerful team to extend the life of your equipment, keep it running at peak performance, and increase its reliability.