"It would be a waste not to use this knowledge!"
Martin Imbusch started his career as a communications electronics engineer for IBM. Since 1991 he has been working for AUCOTEC, where he has been responsible for areas including project services, training and maintenance for more than 15 years. Today he is a product manager specializing in process automation and maintenance support solutions. Here one of his tasks is to define the product innovations that put Industry 4.0 into practice for maintenance too.
Mr. Imbusch, providing efficient maintenance support through the engineering system has long been one of your focuses. Why?
Because up-to-date documentation is just the best basis for rapidly locating and eliminating faults while the plant is running. Everyone knows how expensive downtime can be. But as soon as machines and plants begin their intended "life", with all the associated changes, the original documentation usually soon becomes obsolete. In the best case scenario there are a few red markings on drawings, but what status they have is hard to follow. And, of course, technicians are not usually experts in engineering systems.
But our database-driven Engineering Base (EB) platform knows "your" plant best, because it is the system with which the plant was fully developed. It would be an enormous waste of resources not to use this knowledge! And not only for the maintenance tasks themselves, but also for managing them.
But the data must then be kept up to date. How does that work?
We have developed a standard app that allows a technician to view the complete live data of his maintenance work online at any time, without EB installation – not a copy of a specific status that can never really be up to date. If he then makes changes in the plant, he can simply redline with his finger on the tablet, as in the past on paper, where he has done so and enter what exactly he has changed into a note field. The information goes directly to the engineering department, which checks it and updates the documentation. Without paper and pencil, without data transfer, everything is available in EB. In addition, the photo function of the tablet can be used to take a picture of the new status and assign it to the maintenance task.
So the documentation remains up to date. How else can the data be used?
For example, the complete maintenance process can be managed and tracked via a status network. For this, maintenance tasks are first of all defined in EB. The technicians see all open tasks in the app and choose their own. This task is immediately assigned to the employee who accepted it; its status is then "in progress". This means that responsibilities are clear and management can monitor the progress of all tasks at any time via EB.
And what does the technician get out of it?
Let's take the example of pump maintenance. Upon acceptance of the task, the technician responsible automatically receives all information about the pump on his mobile device: P&IDs, any associated valves, Word files, maintenance checklists, etc. This means the service expert can be sure that this data is up to date. If the pump has been serviced and all changes have been entered, he will tick it off in the "completed" status field and need do nothing else. The engineering department then converts the information into EB and after that defines a new revision status.
Is the status network laid down in EB?
No, this can be freely defined by any user. It can be flexibly customized to any workflow.
Can anyone install a maintenance app like this?
Yes, anyone with web access. The interaction of EB and the app is based on web standards. Depending on the security status, certificates may be required, and this requires the involvement of the company's IT. However, AUCOTEC is there to help everyone with advice and support if required and also takes on the installation and configuration of the web service.
Can the whole thing also be connected, for example, to SAP, which many companies use to organize their maintenance?
We're working on that right now. In one of the next development steps, EB will be able to automatically transfer the maintenance intervals from SAP Plant Maintenance (PM) or other systems. Anyone who manages their maintenance tasks using SAP PM today will need additional information from the engineering system anyway. The technical plant data from SAP PM is not usually enough for the fitters. Close coupling with EB's maintenance app will therefore bring further simplifications.