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9 critical functions and objectives of world-class maintenance teams

Updated: Feb 28

In this ten-week series, we’ve considered and discussed all of the following:

In this post, we’ll look at nine common objectives for the maintenance business, and consider how digital twin technology can assist in their achievement:

Objectives for the maintenance business

1. Maintaining the capability of the company's assets to perform their designed function, thereby maximizing the company's return on assets and increasing shareholder value

Removing data silos is critical. Technology enables digital twins to ingest, aggregate, unify, and analyze all engineering, geospatial, planning, scheduling and operational data in a single web-based interface.

The insights provided through this analysis include operating conditions, production rates, bottlenecks, malfunctions, structural integrity, potential failure modes and rates, and requirements for near term repairs and replacements. Insights are used to perform ‘what-if-scenarios’, and to optimize plans for intervention for repairs and replacements, and production.

2. Maximizing production or operational throughput

Digital twins support remote operations and maintenance. Planners, inspectors, engineers and supply chain managers are no longer required to be physically present on site. Inspections, assessment of as-built information, unified data access, and collaboration with all stakeholders, including contractors and vendors can be conducted remotely from the safety of the office or home. Employees are empowered to work more efficiently, accurately, and safely from anywhere in the world, and business continuity is ensured.

3. Identifying and implementing cost reductions

Digital twins monitor and analyze data in near real-time and can be used to automate operations and large complex physical sites, minimizing site exposure risk and improving the safety of the asset by decreasing accident rates and enabling 24/7 operation and business continuity.

Digital twins also enable remote access to site for site inspections, as-built assessment, and work identification, significantly reducing time required on site, and as a result reducing site exposure risks and travel costs.

4. Providing accurate equipment maintenance records

Disciplined record keeping saves lives. It’s critical that the maintenance department accurately documents and records all maintenance related activity. Integrated with all other systems, the application allows maintenance teams to easily search and find all required information relating to a task or an object. They can easily upload new information, and capture conversations within the application which acts as the single source of truth for all users, including head office, site workers, and sub-contractors.

5. Collect necessary maintenance cost information

Tracking maintenance costs is one of the ways asset-heavy industries evaluate maintenance department effectiveness. These costs represent the result of all the department and companies’ efforts to maximize the lifetime and productivity of their physical assets.

When maintenance is considered an investment as opposed to a cost center the maintenance department undergoes a mindset shift:

  • As a cost center, maintenance managers are constantly pressured to reduce total maintenance costs even to the detriment of the long-term horizon

  • As an investment, the mindset is more about optimizing performance and useful life while reducing the number of production days. While poorly managed maintenance absolutely erodes profitability, well managed maintenance budgets can reduce operational costs by extending lifetime value and working to minimize both the direct and indirect costs of maintenance.

To effectively manage any department, especially those with heavy-assets that are highly cost intensive, meticulous record keeping is essential. With digital twins, all the documentation associated with any work order or object is easily uploaded.

The data is easy to find and contextualize within the 3D interface, and collaboration is enabled within the digital twin. This ensures that everyone is up to date with the latest communications and has access to all the same data.

6. Optimizing maintenance resources (labor, materials, contract)

This is a clear objective for any heavy-asset maintenance department. We’ll dive right into the impact of utilizing digital twin technology on this objective:

  • They enable maintenance teams to visit their assets and plan maintenance projects from anywhere in the world, minimizing the time required to travel to site and the risks of site exposure

  • By simulating equipment placement and movement with precise measurements on the digitized site, digital twins minimize rework and enable off-site orientation for maintenance teams and 3rd party contractors

  • Digital twins connect the systems of cross-functional teams, enabling seamless simultaneous operations (SIMOPS) execution

  • As a 3D online model of the facility, users are enabled to share unique URLs of specific views with team members and contractors, adding visual context to emails, report and virtual meetings for improved remote collaboration

  • Users can have conversations within the application to identify and track new equipment, collaborate with other stakeholders, and resolve issues in the virtual world before they impact reality. By enabling real-time communication between the site and the office, productivity on site is improved.

  • Digital twins easily connect computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) work orders and real-time internet of things (IoT) data to the 3D model. This enables visual work identification so the entire team knows what work orders are coming next

  • They enable remote maintenance planning with visual support, allowing teams to build a digital record of all maintenance activities

  • The technology allows users to assign tasks and create a schedule in the interface. Maintenance teams can update the status of a work order in real-time, helping identify any schedule slips and bottlenecks before they impact subsequent maintenance projects.

7. Optimize capital equipment life

This objective is self-explanatory: by optimizing the life-span of capital equipment, maintenance teams maximize the productivity of that asset, defer replacement costs, and help assets reach their full service life potential. This reduces annual capital reinvestment costs. Decisions regarding optimizing maintenance and the timing of asset renewal, replacement, or decommissioning requires full tracking of all maintenance activities, including costs (see objective 5).

Tools and systems that help to both optimize maintenance and increase collaboration among internal departments help to improve outcomes. Digital twins enable both of these. See objectives 1 through 4 for more on this.

8. Minimize energy usage

Running heavy-equipment and managing industrial assets by nature consumes a significant amount of energy. By ensuring equipment and systems are correctly calibrated, tuned to run as efficiently as possible, and scheduled to run only when needed is one way to help to reduce these costs. Effective maintenance strategies that facilitate this are preventive in nature, and digital twins assist in enabling these strategies while reducing the need for corrective maintenance.

Digital twin software allow entire teams and third-party contractors to access, collaborate on and view the same, complete asset data in the context of both 2D and 3D modeling. By facilitating remote visualization and collaboration, travel to site is minimized reducing all associated costs. By enabling simulations of future-development scenarios, rework is reduced. By connecting cross-functional teams, SIMOPS can be managed in a single environment, including work orders, clash detection and existing site conditions. All of these result in energy reductions, contributing to the achievement of this maintenance objective.

9. Responsibility for Environmental, Safety, and Health compliance.

Digital twins provide simulations to enable the development of future-operating and future-development scenarios. This reduces rework, facilitates off-site orientation, and enables remote emergency training reducing site exposure risk.

Use case

“VEERUM ran a constructibility simulation, virtually assembling digitized components. It was discovered that a critical pipe had been built improperly, although the fabricator’s specifications did not show any issues. The affected pipe would not have been used until toward the end of the shutdown, at which time its discovery would have required significant rework. At that time, the precise nature of the problem would not have been immediately obvious, and it would have taken time to discover the source. The shutdown would have necessitated an extra two to three days of unplanned work. In this case, VEERUM saved the client hundreds of hours and between $800 thousand to $2.7 million in extra on-site work and field exposure hours, and a loss of upwards of 90,000 barrels of product per day.”

The ability to work remotely with access to all data inputs in one platform allows users to be on site without going to site, further saving time while reducing costs and site safety exposure. Reduced travel and a common viewing platform can result in productivity improvements of up to 33%.

Next week we start our new series on “A day in the life”. We’ll be considering the jobs to be done, challenges and technology advancements helping the work life of maintenance planners, maintenance material management planners, business analysts, and asset owners and managers.

If you found this to be of interest, here’s more detailed information on how VEERUM specifically optimizes all phases of maintenance management including planning and scheduling, or download the full white paper on Visualizing the Future of Operations, Maintenance and Reliability.


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