Maintenance is key to keeping businesses competitive and increasing return on investment. At the same time, companies need to control costs to remain competitive. So, how can maintenance managers provide cost-effective maintenance? Our team looked at the biggest challenges for 2022 – including the one just mentioned – and the trends that take them head-on. Let’s dive in!

E-maintenance and Maintenance-as-a-Service (MaaS)

In order to stay competitive, relevant, and withstand market variations, manufacturers are expanding equipment-related services. One of those services is maintenance, which is known as e-maintenance or Maintenance-as-a-Service. Manufacturers know their own equipment better than anyone else, so there’s an authority argument to be made when they offer to help companies optimise their resources.

There are several e-maintenance models. Equipment manufacturers may offer subscription-based equipment maintenance, for example. Or they may offer predictive health monitoring through RFID tags or sensors. In both cases, manufacturers can aid companies in the reduction of their energy use, improve sustainability, increase safety, quality and, eventually cut costs. 

Sensor Technology

Although sensors are not a new trend, we expect them to grow. In 2020, Forrester predicted that companies that already used sensors on 25% of their machinery would increase their use by four-fold until 2023. That means we have two years to go – and, after COVID-19, we’re sure a lot of people wished they had installed more sensors in their facilities to enable remote work.

Of course, we wouldn’t reduce sensors to their practicability. Since they provide automated data collection, they’re also the best source of reliable data. And data is the foundation of a good predictive maintenance strategy, which is another undeniable trend. According to the same research by Forrester, 47% of global manufacturers use predictive maintenance technologies to reduce operational costs. Now, it’s time for the other 53%. 

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

Augmented Reality (AR) has the potential to be one of the most disruptive technologies for maintenance. Its first application is immersive training. Instead of reading up on equipment manuals, technicians can see 3D models. Siemens has applied this type of training to reduce some training sessions from a full day to only 45 minutes. Besides, it gives technicians an opportunity to train in a realistic but safe environment. 

Workers can walk through specific repairs, step by step, with realistic images of the machine or a piece of equipment. This training is ideal for well-established procedures with little variation. For example, replacing a given part in a machine, inspecting equipment, tag-out and lock-out procedures, and so on. However, AR can also be useful to prepare for uncommon and complex interventions. 

The second application is remote support. Using AR, experts can offer virtual repair oversight, providing support to on-site teams and technologies. This is very promising as a potential solution to one of the industry’s greatest challenges: the skills gap.  Thyssenkrup, for example, already provides remote AR guidance from senior engineers to technicians, which reduces downtime by 50% and the length of repairs by 4 times.

Decentralised Repair Teams

Companies with several facilities, often spread throughout different territories and countries, traditionally keep maintenance teams onsite at a great cost. Realistically, this is the only option that allows companies to react quickly to a sudden breakdown But, if we take sensors and AR for granted in the near future, do onsite teams still make sense?

Decentralised repair teams are feasible in 2022 already. Open networks of repair logs and real-time machine data (and extremely reliable, if it’s collected by sensors) allow managers to know what’s happening at any time. Meanwhile, AR can be applied to realistic training materials and virtual repair oversight. That means companies can either have smaller in-house teams or allocate them to a facility only when it’s strictly needed.

Ultimately, decentralised repair teams allow companies to optimise their workforce. They also reduce costs – on travel, training, etc – and cost variations. On the other hand, given the level of outsourcing in Maintenance and FM, it will impact many third-party companies. These companies will likely need to adjust their business model and differentiate themselves by the level of support and analysis they provide.

More Agility and Less Downtime

If you call us out for saying less downtime is a trend for 2022, we don’t blame you. In truth, less downtime is never out of fashion. But, since there’s increased competition, businesses need to become more agile. Arguably, adaptability is the greatest competitive advantage that companies can have. That means maintenance teams need flexible platforms where they can add or remove features with no hassle.

However, that’s not enough to reduce downtime and improve productivity. Companies are looking to become more agile across the board, eliminate waste, and implement lean practices. Lean maintenance includes “just-in-time” inventory management and procurement, kaizen, reliability-centred maintenance, and condition monitoring (which, in a way, is also “just-in-time” maintenance). 

👉 By the way, here are 9 condition monitoring techniques you must know.

Reduced downtime not only improves uptime, it also increases the equipment’s useful life. Both have a positive impact on equipment ROI, thus growing profit margins. It plays into sustainability as well, since we must use resources for as long as possible and quit “Europe’s throwaway culture”. 

On average, maintenance accounts for 20-50% of the total operating budget. Effective maintenance is critical to ensure competitiveness and productivity. It’s a tall order for maintenance managers, sure, but it’s not impossible to provide top-notch services with greater agility and economy. As long as you have the right technology, of course!

Since you’re here…

Don’t forget to check the Industrial Maintenance Trends until 2030! 

You may also be interested in the Facility Management Trends and Challenges for 2022