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Look before you leapfrog culture change

Digitalization of maintenance practices is no substitute for bringing together people, data and processes

By Mike Bacidore, chief editor

Culture change is a funny thing. If ignored or approached improperly, it can derail the most innovative and profitable initiative and bring a project to its knees. How many of us have learned that lesson the hard way?

New technology, unlike culture change, is rarely overlooked. Quite the opposite. It often comes with a wow factor, and we obediently scramble to force-fit it in an application to justify its existence and monetize it as quickly as possible.

Mind you, new technology isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes we are so excited by it that we skip an important step. This potential miscue occurred to me recently while attending a variety of conferences and exhibitions where culture change and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) kept rearing their heads in presentations and conversations, as they often do these days.

RELATED: Keeping factories humming with predictive maintenance

Even though it’s been around for decades, predictive maintenance is anything but ubiquitous.

Who hasn’t heard about the significant cost savings that the IIoT can offer with predictive analytics? What an outstanding idea. Equipment failures can be anticipated and addressed before they become expensive.

Machine data can be collected via sensors and analyzed digitally at the edge or in the cloud; and condition-based maintenance can be performed on equipment, reducing downtime and eliminating the introduction of failures from unnecessary preventive-maintenance practices.

Talk about your low-hanging fruit. It’s like the IIoT was designed for predictive maintenance (PdM). What could possibly go wrong?

It’s one thing to digitalize predictive maintenance in an organization already practicing PdM or reliability-centered maintenance or prescriptive maintenance or any of the varieties that now include PdM. But, even though it’s been around for decades, predictive maintenance is anything but ubiquitous.

If you’re not already practicing PdM, implementing IIoT technology to achieve PdM savings without addressing culture change could be the leapfrog move that lands you in the creek.

Ensco, which operates the world’s largest fleet of oil rigs, identified culture change as one of its top six priorities when it began its journey to digitalize PdM. And Peggy Gulick, director of global transformation at AGCO, an $8 billion manufacturer of agricultural equipment, said it best: “Culture is the key to success. It requires business leaders to reenvision existing business models and embrace a different way of bringing together people, data and processes to create value for their customers.”

Also read: Machine design with maintenance in mind