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A remote view of maintenance

14 June 2021

Raj Singh discusses how the pandemic and the introduction of new technologies has resulted in a change in thinking about the maintenance task. 

As an industry, we are still feeling the effects of an uncertain economic climate over the past 12 months, which has understandably caused many food manufacturers to reassess their production lines, to seek new and innovative ways to get more out of their current equipment. As a result, we are seeing a rise in demand for approaches such as predictive maintenance which can be provided as part of an added value aftermarket service to reduce equipment downtime and improve equipment reliability, helping to maximise productivity for the food production sector. 

Predictive and preventative maintenance strategies both involve taking a proactive approach and can be used in conjunction with each other. They do, however, have distinct differences which is often not well understood. 

Predictive maintenance uses data monitoring alongside other methods to continually assess the condition of equipment during operation. This can help food producers calculate the risk of their equipment developing any faults and enables them to take action to prevent failures through regular corrective maintenance. 

Preventative maintenance calls for inspections according to a pre-determined schedule – usually based on the machine’s lifecycle – rather than relying on performance data specifically linked to the equipment’s current condition. 

With widespread Covid-19 travel restrictions having made it more difficult to conduct field service in-person in recent months, tna has identified that more project managers and engineers are looking for a new approach to keep predictive maintenance strategies in place and production lines running smoothly. “Advanced digital tools, like remote repairs enabled by augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technology, can provide a quick and safe way to access essential repair services – without the need for site visits from technicians. 

Communication and collaboration
Rather than being a barrier to communication, remote repairs appear to have helped to open up new dialogues and are fast becoming a great equaliser across the industry. Signing up to this level of support means that sites all over the globe have access to the same resources – such as testing, commissioning, troubleshooting, training and fine-tuning. Equipment manufacturers are now using apps and a headset to connect to technicians virtually, so they can quickly and accurately address technical queries. It’s also easier to collaborate with other team members in different locations and time zones, to help get the right advice wherever you are in the world, while reducing the costs associated with physically sending technicians between sites.

In a post-pandemic – and increasingly virtual – world, it is vital that the food processing industry adopts technological developments. Digital remote assistance services are becoming a crucial tool in predictive maintenance strategies and should not be underestimated. They enable food producers to conduct essential repairs according to updated health and safety guidelines, through regular tune-ups and advice on when to upgrade machinery. These innovations are enabling a new wave of possibilities for better support and improved collaboration and it is important that the food sector looks closely at such opportunities which can help increase productivity and profitability.

Raj Singh is group aftermarket & services manager at tna.

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