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Brian Charles


The Machine-Health Tipping Point Is Here

Is IIoT adoption inevitable?

Published: Tuesday, November 26, 2019 - 12:03

It’s often difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when things change, but it usually happens faster than one imagines. Old technology gets replaced by new innovations; first by early adopters, and then, suddenly, by everyone. A century ago silent movies reigned, then talkies, and now 3D and virtual reality. What was once a disruptive new technology quickly becomes the norm.

For forward-thinking manufacturers, digital transformation initiatives, and their growing focus on machine health, are fast becoming the norm. I’ll say it out loud: The machine health tipping point is here. It’s no longer possible to avoid putting machine health at the center of your company's digital transformation strategy if you want to succeed through the Foutrth Industrial Revolution.

In the United States, manufacturing is on the rise, with a growth of 3.9 percent in 2019. At the same time, a generational shift is playing in the industrial workforce, as older workers retire and a new generation of manufacturing talent enters the workforce. This generational shift comes with a new mindset, attitude, and eagerness to adopt new technologies that will increase productivity on the shop floor.

In fact, according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, more than one-quarter of the generation now entering the workforce are considering jobs in manufacturing, seeing it as a prestigious, modern, and desirable career path. These younger workers, having grown up post-Internet, expect increasingly advanced technology on the job.

Some companies are even using technological tools, like virtual and augmented reality, to train younger workers, helping them to learn tasks by “doing” them. Attention to a generational learning style that’s more inclined toward technology helps attract and retain workers, who see it as an essential way of acquiring information and skills.

Older workers are getting on board, too. One U.S.-based heavy industry plant, for example, was initially committed to doing maintenance by hand, sending expert technicians out to check the machines. Those experts were initially skeptical about sensor-based machine data and analytics. But when they started seeing less unplanned downtime and increased throughput thanks to the company’s new machine health technologies, they started getting excited about the opportunity to refocus their expertise where it was most needed. When someone asks those technicians now if they want to go back to the old manual maintenance procedures, they just laugh. After all, who wanted to go back to a typewriter when word processors and computers took hold?

Machine health technology has improved to the point that it delivers clear production-efficiency gains that far outweigh the investment required to achieve those gains, in most manufacturing operations. Earlier this year, at Hannover Messe, the world’s leading manufacturing technology conference, there were more than 250,000 participants and more than 6,500 companies exhibiting. More evidence that the tipping point has arrived.

One of the biggest areas of benefit is in operating metrics, where sensors and associated data can identify malfunction risks before they happen on production lines. New machine analytics tools are dramatically reducing downtime events, and improving OEE and total machine health far beyond what was conceivable in the old world of manual processes and reactive machine maintenance. In fact, predictive technologies in this space are flipping the entire “metric tracking” methodology on its head. Rather than looking at old-school lagging indicators such as OEE, companies leading the pack are taking it a step further with streamlined tools that enable them to look at the leading indicators that roll up into those familiar acronyms. Why wait until there’s a negative impact on the balance sheet to make changes when the visibility and actionability to take proactive charge exists?

In 2018, Deloitte predicted that the market for advanced business analytics will reach $232 billion globally by 2021, and a sizable portion of that will be spent on manufacturing solutions, including machine health solutions from the industrial internet of things (IIoT).

So yes, the machine-health tipping point is clearly here.

In 2019, well-designed machine health initiatives are almost always delivering clear financial benefits and improved operational efficiency. Backed by a generation of new workers who are at ease and enthusiastic about advanced technologies, along with a dizzying array of new vendors and technology solutions in the marketplace, digital transformation, with its increasing focus on machine health technologies, is finally going mainstream.

We may not see every industrial manufacturer adopting a machine-health-first digital transformation strategy in the next year or two, or even five. But five years down the road, it’s increasingly inevitable that the companies that were still on the fence in 2019 will at best be playing catch up, and at worst will be out of business. The writing is on the factory wall.


About The Author

Brian Charles’s picture

Brian Charles

Brian Charles is an Account Executive at Augury. Charles has spent his career in mechanical rooms across a number of industries and is an expert at implementing machine health programs.