American Standard Plumbing UK, formerly Armitage Shanks has made serious inroads into predictive maintenance – and is already seeing the benefits. The company – which makes bathroom fittings – went live with a CMMS (computerised management and maintenance systems) solution based on software from developer Shire Systems in March of this year. While it has yet to reach the dizzy heights of achieving full predictive maintenance, American Standard can already anticipate the advantages – through seeing the early effects of deploying CMMS in the first place. Its CMMS project has proved to be major success from the point of view of predictability, according to Robin Theobold, engineering leader at the company. Before implementation, that maintenance was often conducted on the basis that the group which shouted loudest and longest got priority. Now the company can balance out the planning of jobs versus reacting to breakdowns. Prior to CMMS being installed Theobold reports that 95% of jobs were due to breakdowns. Already, 33% of jobs are planned: some turnaround. Automating the repair and upkeep of physical manufacturing assets is clearly the way for industry to proceed. CMMS is starting to capture the imagination of manufacturers, but most are still using old style paper systems to run their maintenance and machine care operations. And there’s no way that such techniques are going to sustain industry for long: competition in the marketplace is raising the stakes, and ensuring optimal plant up-time is becoming ever more critical. Quite simply, CMMS has to be developed to the point where predictive maintenance is possible. Full predictive maintenance practices involve absolutely no less than the full integration of maintenance, production and enterprise systems. Without this level of automation the full benefits and cost savings available from CMMS cannot be gained. A planning process based on predicting maintenance has to include information gathered from sources like sales and marketing departments, inventory controllers, MRP planners and shop floor staff. Then, and only then, can it be geared towards forecasting plant downtime (based on patterns) and then scheduling the best time for maintenance work to be carried out, while also providing a clearer picture of how a plant and its constituent parts are actually performing. CMMS packages are capable of both capturing the relevant data to support this and assembling it within a dedicated database. As an ERP (enterprise resource planning) software vendor with a CMMS software component, Intentia is well placed to pinpoint the benefits of using CMMS to achieve predictive maintenance. According to Brian Dunks, product manager for maintenance with Intentia’s research and development group, although its most obvious effect is on the shop floor, where kit is guaranteed to be available, as needed, due to a sound maintenance plan, the ripples go out much further. Dunks believes that predictive maintenance also has an external effect – in terms of improving customer satisfaction. Apart from keeping the customer accurately informed about the true status of jobs and delivery times, the insight gained from predictive maintenance can also feed back to the quality assurance team as well. At its best, CMMS can also be configured to analyse poor output and quality levels that dip lower than customers’ expectations. Other useful benefits include reduced component costs and extended life span of plant. At American Standard, other reported benefits include the ability to run reports against incidences of downtime to see where problems actually lie. Was it a breakdown, operator error or a lack of maintenance? These questions can now be more easily answered. One significant sidebar to its CMMS project is the reduction of calls and faxes received by Theobold’s team, as all alerts are electronic. Shop floor staff are also encouraged to help with maintenance of the machines, such as greasing and cleaning. Theobold reckons this alone can reduce downtime by 25%. Maintenance workloads are also more evenly spread out. Many manufacturing companies are still using maintenance plans devised years ago. While the costs of installing CMMS deter some from taking the plunge, those organisations with foresight are realising that the industry is only as good as the timeliness and quality of what it produces. And this means getting the maintenance plan right.