How to Take Control of Equipment Lifecycle Risks Before They Cause Downtime | Automation.com

How to Take Control of Equipment Lifecycle Risks Before They Cause Downtime

How to Take Control of Equipment Lifecycle Risks Before They Cause Downtime

By Dave Mayer, Product Manager, Rockwell Automation

Running production equipment for decades comes with inherent risks, like spares shortages and technology obsolescence. And if you don’t control these risks, they’ll control you.

When you’re the one in charge, you know in advance when you need to replenish spare parts or migrate a line to a new technology. And you can schedule this work to minimize its impact on production.

When lifecycle risks control you, you may not know that equipment needs to be migrated until it breaks down mid-shift. Or you may not know you lack certain spare parts until a critical asset fails and you need them.

This reactive approach is not only more stressful, it’s more expensive. Your maintenance costs are higher, because you may need to express ship parts or unexpectedly hire an outside vendor to migrate technology. And your downtime costs are higher, because you don’t get to choose when you will stop production – or for how long – to perform the necessary work.

You can take control of your lifecycle risks to avoid these problems. But only if you have the right data to tell you what your risks are and where they’re hiding.

 

Paint a Picture With Data

To gain visibility into your lifecycle risks, you need two data sets.

First, you need to understand your installed base – the many different assets from multiple vendors that are used in your production facilities.

An evaluation of your installed base can give you a detailed inventory and analysis of your assets. But there are key considerations to keep in mind if you’re performing an evaluation on your own.

One of them is personnel. An evaluation is a time-consuming process. If you’re using a team of in-house engineers or other personnel, keep in mind that they can be consumed by the day-to-day priorities and demands of their jobs.

This can result in your evaluation taking several months – if not years – to complete. As a result, the data you collected at the beginning of your evaluation may be obsolete by the time you finish, and you won’t have full visibility into the risks in your facilities.

To help ensure your data is accurate upon collection, you also need to make sure it’s collected in a standardized manner. That means you need data-collection policies and procedures for your evaluation and training to make sure your team adheres to them.

The second data set you need is product lifecycle data from your vendors. This will tell you where your assets are in their lifecycle and, as a result, what risks they present.

But again, capturing this data has its challenges.

For starters, you need to make sure you’re pulling the data from whatever means vendors choose to provide it – like published documents, notifications or other channels. You also need to make sure you’re collecting and updating this data as it changes, so you can stay on top of risks in your installed base – like when a product moves from “end of life” to “discontinued” status.

Finally, with your evaluation and lifecycle data in hand, you can marry them to create a real-time view of the lifecycle risks across your installed base.

Of course, getting to this point can seem like an almost impossible task, because the two data sets you need are both vast and constantly changing. That’s why digital services and tools can be useful. They take over the hard work of collecting and managing data. And they can give you a clear, continuous real-time view of your lifecycle risks.

 

Turn to Technology

When evaluating digital services and tools to help mitigate lifecycle risks, look for offerings that reduce risk and help you get the most from your data.

For example, before a service provider collects any data, they should sit down with you to define a facility hierarchy. This way, both you and the service provider will have the same shared understanding of your facilities and where your assets are located within them.

The service provider should also use standardized technologies and engineers who are trained in how to perform installed-base evaluations. This can help make sure data is collected across your organization in a consistent format.

You also need the right tool that can help you understand and mitigate your lifecycle risks.

Ideally, this tool is web-based, so workers can access it from any device connected to the internet. It should also be able to contextualize data to make it relevant to different roles, so workers across your organization can monitor the aspects of lifecycle risks that are important to them.

A maintenance technician, for example, could use the tool see if their plant is running low on critical spares. A control engineer who’s notified of a product update could use it to find the relevant assets in their plant. And a plant manager could use it to track high-level risks, like aging controllers that are no longer supported.

Even in corporate offices, operations managers could use the tool to identify migration needs across several facilities. This can help them make more informed decisions in capital planning and budget cycles.

 

Rein in Your Risk

Better visibility can not only help individual workers monitor and mitigate risks in their daily jobs. It can also help you adopt new companywide strategies, so you can better manage risk to an acceptable level.

Perhaps you want to rethink how you manage your inventory to make sure critical spare parts are always available. Or, to reduce risks like insufficient inventory, you might want to hand over this responsibility to a service provider through a parts-management agreement. You also may identify that you need to get to work on a modernization roadmap with your automation vendor to head off obsolescence risks in your aging equipment.

With better data, the opportunities are endless to not only better understand obsolescence risks but to take control of them.

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