The primary message being delivered by the champions of wireless is that it will enable full access to the rich information contained in today’s smart instruments and in particular the diagnostic information thus providing you the benefits of complete predictive maintenance. Of course it is never quite this easy. What the marketing and sales literature conveniently forgets to mention is that you need a significant investment in: infrastructure to be able to transmit the information from the device to the central database, Asset Management software (central database) to gather, collate the information and interpret it so that meaningful actions can be taken – likely through an interface to your existing maintenance planning tool, and most importantly the cultural change so that your maintenance people welcome this new tool that rather than ‘spying on them’ helps them to do their job better. Let’s look a little deeper into each of these items.
Infrastructure – wireless transmitters are simply the edge devices of the network. You also need the access points, backhaul, and associated security just to name a few ‘minor’ items.
Asset Management software – in addition to the link to the ERP system, this software also needs to be configured and maintained so the tags, maintenance rules/practices, etc. need to be entered and updated as changes occur.
Cultural – yes, we are finding it more difficult to keep skilled workers and the retirement boom will happen but in the meantime all the staff see this as taking away their hours and overtime. They are happy to use the handheld units and maybe synchronise to their laptop but the central server /database with real time collection is a much bigger hurdle.
As we can see, purchasing the wireless transmitter is the easy part in making all this work and this might help explain why approximately 80% of facilities with smart instruments are not using the diagnostic data they have available. Hopefully this will change in the future.