19 thoughts about the future of digital transformation in maintenance: Where maintenance is now and where it's going

April 27, 2022

| 6 min read

19 thoughts about digital transformation in maintenance

Last week, we hosted a webinar about the changing face of maintenance, together with industry analyst International Data Corporation (IDC). The webinar featured IDC’s Kevin Permenter and Fiix’s Solutions Engineering Lead, Stuart Fergusson, talking about the ins and outs of digital transformation in maintenance and manufacturing.

There was a lot to unpack across the 58-minute webinar about one of the biggest issues in maintenance, so we put together 19 initial thoughts on the discussion, along with more ways to explore the topic of digital transformation.

Connecting the dots on digital transformation in maintenance

1. It’s time for a different mindset toward maintenance

The title of the webinar, “4 ways maintenance will be a game changer for modern operations,” is very important. As Permenter says, “Companies are beginning to realize that maintenance is playing an increasingly more critical role when it comes to the user experience for the ultimate customer.”

We’re not talking about how maintenance itself is going to change because maintenance has already changed. We have to start talking about how that shift can impact organizations at a higher level. Instead of seeing maintenance as a pebble creating ripples, it should be seen as a boulder causing a tsunami of positive change.

2. The future of maintenance, by the numbers

Permenter mentions the report created by IDC that explores the state of CMMS software and how maintenance is changing. If you haven’t had a chance to see the report, you can check it out here. There’s a lot of great information about growing trends in maintenance technology, the forces behind them, and how to take the first step into digital transformation.

3. Baby steps are sometimes the best steps

Webinar attendees took a poll about which digital transformation initiatives they’ve undertaken. It’s interesting that mobile computing and smart devices were the most popular answers. The majority of maintenance operations are still trying to make the jump to Industry 3.0, despite the buzz around Industry 4.0, IIoT, and AI. This is right where they should be. Learning to walk before you run makes it easier to avoid the growing pains of digital transformation.

Here are the full results for that poll question:

Poll Results, what digital transformation initiatives have you started?

4. The maintenance revolution has already begun

Another interesting thing to note from these results — almost half of the respondents haven’t started any digital transformation initiatives. If you’re wondering if you’re all alone in this, you’re not. Maintenance is changing fast, but there’s definitely time to catch up.

5. Maintenance makes the world go round

Permenter talked about the six degrees of separation between maintenance and a company’s ultimate customer. People want whatever they buy to be available right now and delivered tomorrow. Every part of a business’s operations, from production to sales, has to work smoothly to deliver on these expectations. This starts with well-maintained equipment, which keeps products flowing all the way to the customer.

6. It takes a village to pursue digital transformation in maintenance

People usually focus on technical roadblocks when talking about the challenges of digital transformation. While Permenter mentions these obstacles, there’s another huge consideration that isn’t mentioned as often — staffing and development. Digital transformation is as much about managing people as it is managing technology. It’s exciting to install new technology, but it doesn’t mean much without the culture and training to support it.

7. You have to put your money where your maintenance is

Here’s a staggering stat — companies are spending $394 billion on technology to support strategic asset management. Businesses obviously see the potential ROI on this investment, but this number also highlights the importance of spending wisely. Digital transformation can be a huge financial commitment, which makes it worthwhile to invest in expertise, training, and support alongside technology.

8. “Digital transformation is not an ‘it’ll happen soon’ kind of thing. It’s already happening, and it’s only going to pick up speed going forward.”

If you had any thoughts about kicking the can down the road when it comes to digital transformation in maintenance, this quote from Permenter makes it clear that this isn’t an option.

9. How to wade through the deep-end of data without drowning

Another stat from IDC: There will be 80 billion IoT devices online by 2025, creating over 180 zettabytes of data. As Permenter says, it’s the organizations that can tune out the noise and focus on the right data that will have an advantage. This bodes well for smaller maintenance operations who may not have the resources to install every piece of new technology, but have the ability to generate high-quality data from the technology they do have, as well as the processes to act on it.

10. The status quo must go

The way manufacturers are thinking about their operations is changing. More companies see the need to invest in technology than in production capacity, as per IDC research. This is a big deal. For as long as they’ve been around, the main goal of manufacturing facilities has been to make things. This stat shows how much the priorities of manufacturers have shifted and how big of an impact digital transformation is having on manufacturing.

11. Maintenance has an unshakeable foundation

There is a big connection between old and new in maintenance. The fundamentals of many assets, like conveyor belts, haven’t changed in decades. The ultimate goal of maintenance (to keep assets running so they can produce more things) also hasn’t changed. However, these assets now provide a lot more data, which is changing the way they are maintained. Maintenance, at its core, hasn’t changed in any huge way, but the tools have.

12. Digital transformation is not a destination

There is no finish line for digital transformation in maintenance. There will always be a new piece of technology, ways to fine-tune your processes, and more efficient training models. That’s a very important mindset to have when diving into digital transformation. Organizations can quickly and easily fall back into a rut if this isn’t always top-of-mind.

13. “Adding new technology to broken processes won’t fix anything.”

A reminder that implementing technology is often one of the last steps of digital transformation. Everything else, from the right processes to the right people, have to be in place first.

14. Some assembly is required for digital transformation

Webinar attendees participated in a second poll. The question was, “What maintenance strategy are you focused on?” It’s interesting to compare the results of the second poll to the first poll, and what it says about digital transformation. While over half of respondents have embarked on digital transformation, the vast majority are focused on preventive maintenance (73.7%). The ultimate goal of adopting advanced systems is predictive maintenance, but it’s clear this change doesn’t come all at once. There’s no on-switch for predictive maintenance. A preventive model is a necessary foundation for everything that’s to come.

Here are the full results for the second poll question:

Poll questions results: What maintenance strategies are currently focusing on?

15. Everything in moderation

Fergusson had a great point early in his talk, saying no maintenance team will ever completely get rid of reactive or preventive maintenance. This brings up a great point about creating a balanced maintenance strategy. The reality is, preventive maintenance triggers will continue to exist throughout any digital transformation, so you can’t forget about creating and maintaining strong PMs. The secret is to use concepts like a criticality analysis and the tenets of condition-based maintenance to find out where predictive maintenance is the most useful.

The evolution of maintenance strategies from reactive to predicitive

16. Trust is the missing link for your maintenance team

Fergusson laid out a great roadmap for long-term CMMS success, from driving asset performance and maintenance efficiency, to operating in new ways by connecting several systems. There are a lot of steps in-between, but the most important thing to remember is that the ingredient that ties point A to point B isn’t technology — it’s trust. You must trust your training, data, processes, and, most importantly, your software partners.

The ladder to CMMS success

17. Lone wolves won’t survive digital transformation in maintenance

A lack of trust in your software partners is like hiring a guide for a hike through the jungle, only to have them walk you a few feet into the forest, point at a path, say “Go that way,” and leave you to figure out the rest. Having someone to help you navigate the fickle waters of digital transformation in maintenance makes the process much easier and worthwhile.

18. Let the cloud be your security net

Whenever you talk about data and cloud-based software, there’s always going to be questions about security. Both Fergusson and Permenter mention that while cloud-based software is relatively new in manufacturing, it isn’t new in other industries. If you’re just dipping your toe into digital transformation, partnering with a vendor can actually make your data safer. Manufacturing facilities might not have the finances or expertise to create back-ups, fail-safes, and secure servers, but vendors do. Again, it comes down to trust.

19. Don’t get ahead of yourself

A lot of webinar attendees asked how to get started with digital transformation. There’s a tendency to talk about specific software features when these questions come up. Features are great and necessary, but there are two essential ingredients that need to be thought about first — data and processes. You need a lot of high-quality, accurate data and the right systems in place to act on that data. If you don’t combine those two elements with maintenance software, reality won’t come close to expectations

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