Companies are adopting connected worker technology to both advance their digitisation efforts and respond to an increasing demand for these platforms across different sectors. This is because connected worker technology helps streamline daily operations and improve the quality of routine workflows, says Eric Whitley, director of smart manufacturing at L2L.
Implementing connected worker technology transforms asset maintenance standards in facilities by enhancing preventive maintenance efforts, helping companies to extend asset lives, reducing emergency breakdowns and maximising workplace safety. Connected worker platforms transform preventive maintenance into a data-driven undertaking, maximising operational efficiency. Let’s explore the four key benefits of connected worker platforms in streamlining preventive maintenance.
#1: Real-time access to asset information
Connected worker platforms use sensors, mobile applications and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to collect and centralise asset information, allowing maintenance workers to access it anytime and anywhere.
This information includes:
- Asset maintenance records
- Equipment specifications and technical data
- Spare part information
- Equipment performance patterns
Real-time access to asset information has a significant impact on maintenance planning and implementation. Workers can use the available data to identify potential problems and take appropriate corrective action. Connected worker platforms generate alerts when equipment operating patterns deviate from the recommended standards. For instance, maintenance employees receive alerts on their mobile devices whenever machine temperatures spike.
Connected worker platforms help maintenance technicians track trends in asset usage and their impact on performance. Some assets may exhibit lower performance or fail after a certain number of hours in operation, and maintenance technicians can use this information to adjust preventive maintenance schedules accordingly. This ensures that assets receive adequate care based on their usage patterns and performance trends.
Maintenance managers use real-time asset information to track the effectiveness of preventive maintenance programs. They identify assets that break down frequently despite timely preventive maintenance. The failures could occur due to ineffective maintenance practices, substandard spare parts and tools or incomplete maintenance. Managers rely on this information to make informed decisions when changing maintenance schedules and processes.
#2: Automated maintenance scheduling
Maintenance teams usually deal with multiple assets that require special care at different times. If companies rely on manual asset management methods, they can easily defer asset maintenance. However, connected worker platforms overcome preventive maintenance scheduling challenges. Compatible with computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS), these platforms provide enough asset performance data to effectively and accurately schedule preventive maintenance.
Software systems compare predefined maintenance criteria, asset age and usage patterns to develop reliable preventive maintenance schedules. Connected worker platforms analyse the data collected by sensors embedded in critical production assets. The sensors detect even the slightest anomalies or machine defects and immediately alert technicians. Maintenance planners use this information to schedule preventive and corrective measures to restore assets.
Connected worker technology centralises personnel management, allowing employees to communicate with each other, update their availability and post work progress on digital platforms. Managers use this information on technician availability to plan resource-intensive workflows and ensure technicians are available for critical preventive maintenance tasks.
Leveraging connected worker platforms helps maintenance managers to centralise inventory planning and management. The technology analyses historical maintenance data, enabling maintenance planners and managers to identify frequently used spare parts. Based on criticality and ease of availability, companies can stock these parts to ensure assets receive adequate preventive maintenance.
#3: Digitised work instructions
Connected worker platforms centralise the sharing of technical information among technicians, allowing field employees to receive remote maintenance instructions, safety information and standard operating procedures (SOPs) through mobile devices or factory wearables like smart glasses. Access to this critical information ensures field workers complete maintenance work on time and without errors.
Preventive maintenance tasks vary for each piece of equipment, and technicians require different streams of information when performing these tasks. With the connected worker platform, technicians and field workers can access mission-critical information to ensure the accuracy of maintenance work. They can access detailed equipment manuals, standard repair procedures and safety measures for different tasks. Companies can also integrate maintenance checklists with connected worker platforms, guaranteeing the consistent quality of maintenance work.
Connected worker technology provides a reliable solution to the prevailing skilled trade shortages. It enables lone employees or inexperienced maintenance workers to complete complex maintenance tasks with the help of work instructions from supervisors. The supervisors can connect with field workers using video calls or pre-recorded information accessible through smart glasses or mobile devices.
Connected worker technology simplifies the preventive maintenance of advanced systems. Technicians can receive work instructions from equipment manufacturers and machinery suppliers using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to create interactive instructions. This approach reduces errors and enhances accuracy when maintaining newer or advanced assets.
#4: Real-time data analysis
Adopting connected worker technologies builds a data-driven maintenance culture on the shop floor. Maintenance decisions are primarily based on asset usage and performance data. However, managing data from numerous independent assets can be overwhelming. This is where connected worker platforms come in, offering innovative technologies such as the cloud, edge computing and advanced mobile networks to optimise data collection and transmission speeds.
Real-time data analysis promotes a continuous improvement in preventive maintenance by providing informed insights. It also enables real-time risk assessment, ensuring the safety of workers during maintenance operations. Technicians across different locations can provide real-time maintenance updates to maintenance managers. Using this data, managers can evaluate the effectiveness of different work practices and compare the performances of teams or technicians.
Maintenance managers rely on these insights to identify skill gaps among employees. For instance, they can establish whether all employees understand work instructions and ways to leverage digital tools in maintenance. Additionally, they can quantify metrics such as mean time to repair (MTTR) and mean time between failures (MTBF) to evaluate the effectiveness of preventive maintenance programs and improve them over time.
Connected worker platforms are advancing daily, providing advanced tools for streamlining operations. The choice of connected worker technology depends on the existing maintenance challenges and operations. Companies should choose a connected worker solution that complements their existing maintenance efforts, is affordable, scalable and compatible with their available digital resources and infrastructure.
To enhance the effectiveness of connected worker platforms in improving preventive maintenance workflows, it’s important to optimise data collection and analysis. This ensures that companies can make the most of their connected worker solutions.
The author is Eric Whitley, director of smart manufacturing at L2L.
About the author
For over 30 years, Eric Whitley has been a noteworthy leader in the Manufacturing space. In addition to the many publications and articles Eric has written on various manufacturing topics, you may know him from his efforts leading the Total Productive Maintenance effort at Autoliv ASP or from his involvement in the Management Certification programs at The Ohio State University, where he served as an adjunct faculty member.
After an extensive career as a reliability and business improvement consultant, Eric joined L2L, where he currently serves as the director of smart manufacturing. His role in this position is to help clients learn and implement L2L’s pragmatic and simple approach to corporate digital transformation. Eric lives with his wife of 35 years in Northern Utah. When Eric is not working, he can usually be found on the water with a fishing rod in his hands.