Welcome to the last of a three-part series on digital transformation in operational technology (OT) environments (see parts one and two if you missed them). In this blog, I cover how organizations can use asset visibility to support preventative maintenance.
Let’s start by looking at how an energy company and large international airport could leverage visibility into OT and IoT devices to eliminate operational problems, and reduce costs through predictive maintenance.
Failure of a baggage handling system at an international airport can severely diminish the customer experience, disrupt logistics, and harm the reputation and profits of the operator.
Leveraging Asset Visibility to Identify the Root-cause of Problems
Limited OT asset information, paired with long travel times to geographically dispersed equipment and suboptimal maintenance schedules can really drag down operational productivity.
An asset visibility solution is one of most valuable upside investments an organization can make. Rich device data eliminates blindspots and allows companies to quickly identify root causes of OT problems, and solve issues whether they are operational or security-based.
Take for example an energy company that introduced new equipment into its network. Because the equipment was misconfigured, network congestion in the OT environment gradually increased over a year. This decreased output, reduced equipment lifespan, increased the amount and extent of repairs needed, and raised operational costs.
Relying on the enriched device performance data delivered by their asset visibility tool, plant engineers were able to identify the root cause, fix the misconfigurations, and perform proactive maintenance The actionable insights fueled by asset visibility not only reduced downtime, it allowed them to optimize their maintenance schedules.
Using Condition-based Monitoring for Preventative Maintenance
A key centre-of-excellence pillar is condition-based monitoring – a maintenance strategy that involves ongoing monitoring of devices to determine their condition including wear, degradation and other relevant changes. By using sensors to monitor remote assets, organizations can use the resulting data insights to reduce mean time between failure and repair. Although this does not qualify as truly predictive, it can help identify issues as they arise and allow operators to conduct proactive maintenance..
Consider for example a large international airport that sees millions of passengers transit through each month. A single failure of a baggage handling system can severely diminish the customer experience, disrupt logistics, and harm the reputation and profits of the operator. By monitoring processes such as the vibration and rotational speed of conveyer belts in real time, operational staff can better identify imminent failures and take action before a system goes down.
Using Actionable Insight to Prevent the Predictable
Predictive maintenance can help prevent predictable problems – ones that could cost manufacturing, automotive, power, oil and gas, mining, railway and other industrial operators millions of dollars. Here are some parameters that help deliver a good return on an investment in asset visibility:
- Ample data for process variables such as rotation speeds, vibration, fluid flow, temperature, and oil analysis
- The process cycle must be long enough to create accurate predictive models
- Focus on operations that are significantly impacted by downtime, such as large plants where it would be impossible to shift production capacity to smaller plants
The benefits of assets visibility and its impact on predictive maintenance are a true game changer, including:
- Lower costs
- Vastly improved uptime
- Extended equipment lifespan
- Reduced safety risks
This concludes my three-part series on the importance of OT visibility and security in your digital transformation journey.
As cyber threat sophistication increases along with the damage from cyberattacks, it’s more important than ever to include OT and IoT asset visibility in your digital strategy. To learn more the OT/ICS cybersecurity landscape, check out the SANS 2021 Survey below.