The top trends for 2022 to improve operational efficiencies

Jan. 5, 2022
The new year brings fresh opportunities to embrace new processes and technologies to meet the challenges in today’s industrial environments.

The last two years have been challenging — to say the least — for managers running industrial operations. What were once jobs that existed in relative obscurity are now on the front pages of newspapers and business publications. Supply chain challenges are common topics around the dinner table and the lack of readily available goods is one of the major factors driving inflation globally.

Things will probably never be like they were at the turn of this century — and that may be the best news ever. The challenges being faced in industrial operations have brought a closer examination of many of the weaknesses in operational processes and supply chain management as well as an awareness among top management that fundamental changes need to occur to protect the bottom line. That should be music to the ears of progressive managers who have been recognizing operational deficiencies and advocating for investments to improve efficiencies and reliability. Now may be the best time to make the case to adopt new technologies and processes to ensure your company thrives in this new environment.

The following are a handful of trends that can drive new initiatives to improve operations, increase efficiencies and take reliability to a new twenty-first century level.

Remote condition monitoring is the new reality

Remote work here to stay and corporate reliability departments are increasingly turning to innovations in remote technologies and outside experts for help with condition monitoring. During the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 60% of maintenance teams operated with skeleton crews on site with as much of the work as possible being done remotely. Yet many maintenance teams said they did not have the tools to effectively keep machines and equipment in peak condition with people working remotely.

Some who have struggled to adopt or keep up with predictive maintenance practices are turning to remote condition monitoring services that can help with things like implementation, configuration, reporting, analysis and diagnosis.

Meanwhile, industries with more advanced predictive maintenance practices, like energy generation and water, have been able to leverage online condition monitoring even with remote work by adopting new technology. These organizations are thriving thanks to an increased focus on condition monitoring sensors and cloud-based software.

With remote work being the new normal, investing in technologies that make remote monitoring possible is essential in enabling reliability and maintenance teams to stay ahead of the reliability curve no matter how fluid on-site staffing might be.

EAM improves supply chain connectivity

If there is one certainty in all this change it is that the supply chain has become a roller coaster. Waves of demand with waves of supply chain disruption are making on-time delivery and capacity a continuing challenge.

To ensure consistent production of products, and thus a more reliable supply chain, suppliers are turning to Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software and the practice of predictive maintenance. Organizations ranging from small, single sites to multi-site global enterprises are realizing that pandemic-driven uncertainties are driving the importance of supply chain visibility, predictability and connectivity.

Companies have discovered that EAM software can significantly improve supply chain connectivity and improve the reliability of its operations.

New IIoT tools identify trends and recommend proper maintenance

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have held the promise to quickly identify trends and adapt quickly to changing operational conditions. Now, software armed with prescriptive analytics is finally meeting up with modern condition monitoring hardware to spark a revolution in the use of AI/ML in maintenance operations.

For generations, maintenance professionals have used preventive maintenance to avoid equipment failures and turned to reactive maintenance when their assets did fail. With the emergence of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies, maintenance professionals can now connect tools, software and sensors to collect, store and analyze multiple data sources in one place.

But a new race has emerged to pair that hardware and software with ML and AI algorithms. Companies, like Fluke Reliability, are working to combine technologies so that the software can identify trends, recognize data patterns and ultimately make specific recommendations for equipment maintenance.

Digital SI speeds the integration of critical equipment measurements

Exchange of data and data itself are the basis of highly automated industrial processes. Digital SI (International System of Units), an initiative that was created as part of Industry 4.0, is the creation of a globalized system to transmit calibration certification information electronically. This format ensures measurement traceability from all calibrations performed and shared in a paperless manner. It speeds up the integration of measurements that can be performed using critical test equipment a part of an integrated factory.

Why is this important? Despite the challenges of the global supply chain, industry is more connected and interdependent than ever. The International System of Units underpins all measurements in industry, trade, legal metrology and science. Its transformation into a fully digital representation to support local interdependent is necessary to facilitate efficient processes within industry, the quality infrastructure and its organizations. Digital SI provides a robust, unambiguous and machine-actionable digital representations of units of measurement to support the increasing global interdependencies that drive industries.

Agile R&D improves product development

While 3D printing is nothing new, the uses for the technology continue to expand. With supply chain issues not letting up and a strong desire for manufacturers to be as agile as possible in their product development, 3D printing is the answer. Limits on material types and questions around longevity of parts printed has put the kibosh on specialized self-serve part replacement, but for small, disposable parts, 3D printing is cost effective and easily tangible.

On the prototyping front, the quick turn of parts lets engineers evaluate designs with a hands-on approach and much faster than with conventional manufacturing. It is also a more cost-effective way of putting a prototype in front of the customer to get better in-depth feedback. 3D printing fits very nicely in the agile product development category that many manufacturers have adopted.

Renewable energy goes mainstream

Solar is once again leading the way in renewables. As the technology continues to improve, solar is becoming more affordable at scale. From houses to open desert spaces, solar is growing. A handful of trends to look for in 2022 are:

  • DC-coupled battery storage
  • Solar power (DC) tracking systems
  • More professional training programs
  • Drone infrared scanning of the PV array
  • Smaller central inverters

Cloud-based data monitoring create energy savings

Data monitoring using internet-connected instruments with analysis and data display on a cloud platform allows operators to monitor their compressed air system key performance indicators (KPI), including energy, specific power, flow, pressure and leakage flow. Some software as a service (SaaS) offer online databases that track detected leaks and calculate the energy savings once the leaks are repaired.

Preparing for the new normal

With challenges come opportunities. The last two years have pushed companies to examine their operations to identify deficiencies and develop roadmaps for improvement. This year marks a unique moment to incorporate new technologies and processes to advance operations so that organizations are better prepared for the new normal. 

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