Insights from the Future - Maintenance Management

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insight_from_the_future_maintenance_management_blog.jpgPeriodically throughout the year, we invite flexis team members to write brief blog entries about some of the most pressing, complex, and interesting conversations currently taking place in today’s global production and supply chain industry. The goal of these entries is to provide insight into these discussions from an insider’s perspective and to get an idea about what’s on the mind of today’s supply chain professionals.

Our first entry comes to us from Hansjörg Tutsch, Vice President of Research for flexis AGwho discusses the importance, opportunity, and challenges of maintenance management for today's manufacturers. 

Maintenance management in many manufacturing companies still means the planning and execution of necessary or routine maintenance measures. But even so, these concerns are often placed behind the requirements of production. Depending on the industry, between 15 and 40 percent of all production costs can be allotted to production-related maintenance tasks, which significantly impacts the productivity and competitiveness of a company. With annual sales volumes upwards of $250 billion, the maintenance sector plays a much larger role in the macroeconomics of manufacturing compared to other industry sectors.

The increasing complexity of production has resulted in the volatility of incoming orders and a great diversity of products with ever shorter planning horizons. Flexible and powerful maintenance management strategies have become increasingly necessary to maximize uptime and minimize credit risk and maintenance / operation costs. Currently, however, neither the established static and reactive maintenance, nor the concepts of condition or reliability maintenance, are workable solutions.

To create a portable, sustainable solution, the need for maintenance has to be captured at the level of the individual production plants with a specific time horizon, evaluated and prioritized in the context of the entire production environment, and matched simultaneously with production planning. The coupling of system-related condition monitoring and on-demand maintenance strategies does provide value-added conditions, however, the lack of flexible software solution maps, heterogeneous system environments, and data from different diagnostic and planning levels makes it challenging to create and implement intelligent maintenance planning strategy. As such, only plant-wide maintenance planning makes sense in complex coupled production processes.

The research project SmartMaintenance, in which flexis is involved, targets a new software solution for predictive maintenance management that includes both the current machine status and the pending load (capacity utilization, stress) from production planning - this software also determines against this background the best maintenance plan for maximized operational capability of the production system as a whole. This overarching approach allows for the first time to fully reflect the multi-objective, multi-decision problems of maintenance in a modular software tool and to solve all relevant factors in an optimized way. Only such a comprehensive solution can optimally coordinate maintenance activities both in coordination with machine status and availability within the framework of production systems and dynamic production planning.

The overall objective of the work is the need for synchronous, secure, and flexible optimization of maintenance and production through research on systems for generating multidimensional optimized recommendations for any action.

Along with flexis AG, partners in this consortium - which deal with the integrative planning of production programs and maintenance processes - include Green Gate AG, which develops innovative software solutions for the management and organization of maintenance tasks (resource control, sequence / information structuring) designed for complex, geographically distributed infrastructures; the pro-micron GmbH & Co.KG, which, as an expert in wireless sensor solutions,  develops custom sensor technology and data loggers; and the Research Institute for Rationalization (FIR e.V.), a non-profit, cross-industry research institute at the RWTH Aachen with more than 25 years of experience in the field of maintenance management. As associated partners, the following companies provide application scenarios against which the resulting concepts are validated:

1). The Berger Group, with its 1,800 employees, manufactures on more than 800 machine tools and equipment machines turning and milling parts, ball screw drives, motor spindles, and related assembly groups. The maintenance of production facilities are serious challenges in light of those numbers. To date, spontaneous fault and failures can only be taken into consideration reactively.

2). The BILSTEIN Group, with its more than 1,400 employees and an annual production volume of more 600,000 tonnes, is Europe's leading manufacturer of cold-rolled products. The focus of maintenance at the Bilstein site are 20 rolling machines whose comprehensive production data collection provides a good starting point for the collection and maintenance specific evaluation of plant conditions.

3). The joint venture GETRAG FORD Transmissions, founded in 2001, produces manual and dual-clutch transmissions at six locations in Europe with 4,600 employees. Their maintenance management strategy relates to a plant of about 700 machines. Based on a section from the plant, selected along the production line, the production data collection and sensor integration for the determination of load conditions in metal cutting machine tools is utilized along with diagnostic software for the prediction of system or component-specific maintenance.

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