Automation IIoT On The Floor SCADA

On The Floor: Equipment-Performance Data — Challenges and Payback

Jane Alexander | August 9, 2016

The IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is literally running most of our homes and businesses these days. Or, more precisely, is said to be helping us run them better. So, how does all that equipment-performance data work for you?

That’s the focus of this month’s EP Reader Panelist discussion. We asked three questions:

  1. What’s the biggest challenge with equipment-performance data at their respective sites (or, if they are consultants or industry suppliers, at their client/customer sites) and why (and what could improve the situation)?
  2. What’s the best source of reliable equipment-performance data at these sites and why?
  3. Have the sites been able to connect equipment-performance data to business goals, i.e., profit-loss, revenue, cost/unit produced, among others), and if so, what does it show?

Edited for clarity and space, here’s what we learned from several respondents:

Maintenance Superintendent, Utilities West…

My site’s biggest challenge with equipment-performance data is the lack of it. We have minimal online-monitoring equipment and our data is a result of portable analyzing equipment that really only captures a small snapshot in time.

The biggest challenge to improvement is capital cost associated with installation and commissioning of the equipment necessary for continuous data gathering. Another problem is what to do with the large amounts of data generated by continuous online-monitoring equipment. Without staffing resources to pull reports and analyze trends, it’s almost pointless to have such an abundance of data.

Our best source of reliable data is a small team of reliability and maintenance technicians performing predictive tasks, i.e., obtaining and analyzing the data and initiating corrective-maintenance work orders. They take this snapshot in time with the intention of identifying a potential failure and mitigating it before a full functional failure of the asset.

At this time, it’s difficult to connect the data to business goals because we lack useful information. The plant has operated for many years, but we really only have about 18 months of useful CMMS data since updating the system. I can say that from the minimal amount of available data, I can draft improvement strategies for specific areas such as PM compliance, but not equipment-performance specific.

Industry Consultant, Central America…

My clients’ biggest data challenges are standardizing it and establishing a culture to capture/use it correctly in KPIs and automating capture and storage of it from PLC, PIMS, SCADA, plant-floor control, and other systems.Their main sources of data include CMMS, Quality and Operations, or ERP systems. Some use Excel spreadsheets or books with information. In some cases, control panels in the plants’ main equipment provide information, but not all of it can be analyzed for making decisions.

Some KPIs are always calculated, but not always aligned among processes. The mature organizations have dashboards for tracking KPIs. Others mostly use Excel spreadsheets to calculate and present the information.

PdM Tech, Process Mfg., Southeast…

We don’t have a specific program in place. Most of our data is in an Excel spreadsheet and what’s stored in the vibration-analysis program. I keep an Excel spreadsheet with information that’s seen by management. We haven’t aligned this data with business goals.

Industry Supplier, Midwest…

I don’t think many of them [our customers] really dig into this. We do sampling of fluids and greases for them; they do vibration and other acoustics. But do they compile all of this data for a plan moving forward or just have it and fix or leave it if the report shows OK?

It’s a lot to do with limited workforces and fewer hours available, as many have cut back with their markets down. They could improve by taking a proactive versus reactive approach, but I think the entire industry struggles with that.

Customers’ main source of reliable equipment-performance information is their supply base and OEM support, when available. They reach out in many of my areas for support. For example, when a bearing fails, they look to vibration reports, the bearing supplier, and the lube supplier for data, and hope it doesn’t cast blame back on them.

As for aligning equipment-performance data with business goals, many run their data and schedule maintenance based on findings, but a holistic approach, not really!

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Mfg., Midwest…

I would have to say our site’s biggest challenge is making sure trades personnel put complete information into the CMMS. By this, I mean the parts that they used and what was done for a repair. That way, we can build a better database and use it with our PMs.

Our best source of reliable data is our CMMS. Our distributor is another good source. On my end of the business, when parts are ordered in our part-order form, we’re able to put in either the machine brass tag number or the machine and cell number. Again, we’re building a database that will give us the ability to see what parts we’re using and the frequency at which they’re failing.

Connecting this information to business goals is a given. Our current trending is going in the right direction. Predictive versus emergency work is improving.

College Electrical-Laboratory, Manager/Instructor, West…

Instrumentation feedback is excellent for controlling our quality and output. This, plus our CMMS, should give all the information needed to operate an efficient process area. The challenge seems to be the human factor. Employee reliability is a problem. The best solution is to hire the right staff and constantly train everybody, including maintenance, calibration teams, engineering, quality control, process technicians, and management.

Operators and maintenance teams are the best source of data. Properly trained, they provide excellent input. Taking that with electronic data, the equipment’s operational pulse can be tracked, reducing downtime and increasing quality.

Business planning is always a challenge. Process reliability is only a piece of the puzzle. Training costs should be added to the cost/unit. Top-notch staffs are getting older and retiring. Companies need to find the best way to pass knowledge to the next generation.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

Energy data has been a challenge. We’re adding building, department, and zone meters over the next few years for our various utilities (depending on state budgets). Each area will be able to check the amount billed for each utility and try to reduce their energy use. (In the past, they just received estimates of use.)

We mainly use BAS trend logs and equipment scheduling to track energy use and temperatures, humidity, CO2, air-changes, etc. When efficiency appears to be dropping, we do a check of any variable that may have caused the change. With the BAS, we can eliminate dozens of potential calls an engineer would have to answer, make repairs before major breakdowns, and show that preventive maintenance has or hasn’t been kept up. If equipment is running at 90% to 100% efficiency, the institution is getting its money’s worth.

Industry Consultant, West…

The biggest problem [for my clients] seems to be data analysis. Plenty is collected, but no one has the time for or is dedicated to analyzing it.

[With my clients] the main source seems to be notes from the operations groups. The information is seldom in an easy-to-use form, but written more as a narrative. Not very useful.

None of my clients seem to be able to connect the data to business goals. Part of the problem is the lack of analysis, the other part appears to be a lack of motivation. Their boardrooms aren’t demanding it.

About the EP Reader Panel

The Efficient Plant Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed and their responses are not necessarily projectable. Note that our panel welcomes new members. To be considered, email your name and contact information to with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.




Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander

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