Maintenance in manufacturing
The main purpose of regular maintenance within manufacturing is to ensure continuous operation of manufacturing lines and maximum productivity of production equipment. Through short daily inspections, cleaning, lubricating and making minor adjustments, small problems can be detected and corrected before they become a major problem that can shut down a production line. Studies show that a lack of effective maintenance can reduce a plant’s overall productive capacity by up to 20 percent.[i]
Although it is a key part of production, currently maintenance operations tend to be highly dependent on an engineering team’s skills and experience. The maintenance manuals kept onsite are usually in a paper-based form, which are generally not preferred in practical scenarios due to the difficulties of navigating 2D drawings that are complex to match with onsite equipment.
The common problem of using outdated or obsolete documents and the use of outdated drawings, specifications or procedures could easily be reduced by providing engineers with information digitally, which can be displayed in tablets that use a centralised source of truth to extract data.
At HSSMI we develop interactive digital maintenance manuals that combine machine information with 3D CAD data to aid maintenance engineers on the shop floor. The eManual integrates 3DPDF features with multiple data sources, such as CAD drawings, product attributes, process steps and Bill of Materials (BOMs). At this stage, the engagement with machine vendors and OEMs is key to ensure that the latest and most relevant dataset is being used. This provides engineers on the shop floor access to the most updated information about the machines, spare parts and maintenance tasks as well as the ability to interact with the information in a way that’s intuitive and easy to understand.
The eManual characteristics improve navigation by utilising useful digital features that reduce the time required for diagnostic and identification of machine faults. The displayed CAD data allows machine parts to be pinpointed virtually beforehand, avoiding large scale disassembly and providing access to engineering data required for repair functions and spare parts ordering.
These digital manuals are then complemented with their corresponding Visual Job Plans which provide digital instructions to the engineers for each specific maintenance task. The document includes 3D animations for each step to facilitate the visualisation of the process.
As part of my career path, I get satisfaction knowing that I’m contributing to the improvement of legacy workflows/processes. Working together with machine vendors and OEMs helps you to understand the current challenges from both perspectives. Getting engineers’ knowledge firsthand has been key in delivering a service that adjusts to their requirements and at the same time, it’s enriching to learn from their industrial experience.
This is not the first time I’ve been involved in different projects looking at the development of digital applications to support maintenance work, and I realise how crucial it is for day to day shop floor activities. I started working with digital manufacturing tools during the development of immersive training for ECPL (Energy Control and Power Lockout) procedures, building virtual environments to take operators through different hazardous scenarios, assessing and recording their performance.
With this latest challenge, I now find it very rewarding to see how digital manuals are being used to support maintenance workers with valuable information. As a Mechanical Engineer I am very familiar with CAD and visualisation tools and I believe that the replacement of historical written manuals with more interactive and appealing digital manuals can make a huge difference when displaying any type of work instructions.