Today, a fresh generation of technologies, fuelled by advances in artificial intelligence based on machine learning, is opening up new opportunities to reassess the upper bounds of operational excellence across these sectors. To stay one step ahead of the pack, businesses not only need to understand machine learning complexities but be prepared to act on it and take advantage. After all, the latest machine learning solutions can determine weeks in advance if and when assets are likely to degrade or fail, distinguishing between normal and abnormal equipment and process behaviour by recognising complex data patterns and uncovering the precise signatures of degradation and failure. They can then alert operators and even prescribe solutions to avoid the impending failure, or at least mitigate the consequences. The leading software constructs are autonomous and self-learning.
In 2017, McKinsey conducted a study on productivity gains driven by technology transformations, such as the steam engine, early robotic technology and advances in information technology. McKinsey sees manufacturing on the brink of the next generation of industrial automation revolution with unprecedented annual productivity growth of between 0.8 – 1.4% in the decades ahead. Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning will match or outperform humans in a range of work activities involving fast, precise, repetitive action and cognitive capabilities. To remain competitive, complex industries need to deploy industrial automation more than ever, as intense global competition drives process industries to increase efficiency through reduced operating costs, increased production, higher quality and lower inventories. The highest priority should be to eliminate production losses caused by unplanned downtime and address a $20 billion a year problem for the process industries.
With advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, traditional SCADA and manual statistical modelling are likely to be replaced. Advanced Statistical Modelling based on offline data is resource intensive and ultimately cannot provide real-time analytics that are actionable. As Automated Machine Learning gains traction, we expect more industrial plants to rely on this solution for Predictive Maintenance.
In this special guest feature, Mike Brooks, Senior Business Consultant at AspenTech, discusses how companies can no longer rely solely on traditional equipment maintenance practices but must also incorporate operational behaviors in deploying data-driven solutions using machine learning. For example, a North American energy company was losing up to a million dollars in repairs and lost revenue from repeat breakdowns of electric submersible pumps. In another case, a leading railway freight firm operating across 23 states in the US used Machine Learning to address perennial locomotive engine failures costing millions in repairs, fines, and lost revenue. Companies can no longer rely solely on traditional maintenance practices but must also incorporate operational behaviors in deploying data-driven solutions.