Many organizations both large and small were simply not prepared for the type of disruption COVID-19 brought to their daily operations, and many had to make drastic changes virtually overnight. But those who had some sort of digital solution in place were positioned far better than those who had to cobble one together on the fly.
The Game-Changing Effects of COVID-19
No one ever really thinks these things will be as bad as they turn out to be. We, as humans are by nature optimists when it comes to things like this. Still, having the benefit of hindsight now is a great time to reflect on how we got here and what we would do differently should something like this happen again.
At Bently Nevada, while we are feeling the effects of COIVD-19 right alongside you, we are uniquely positioned as the world leader in condition monitoring to offer some insights and solutions for organizations looking to better insulate themselves from future disruptions, no matter the source.
The Bad News First
Many organizations were caught out by the sudden impact of COVID-19, and they had to make drastic changes virtually overnight. Those who had some sort of digital solution in place were positioned far better than those who had to cobble one together on the fly to accommodate a newly remote workforce. But in many cases their workforce’s physical location wasn’t the greatest of their problems: they also had to contend with the outdated and “offline” nature of their infrastructure, machinery, and condition monitoring systems.
A recent study polled those in the industrial manufacturing space regarding their reaction to and handling of day to day operations in the COIVD-19 era and found that over 60 percent of the respondents indicated that they were making daily changes on the fly.*
What does this mean? Well, the obvious is that many organizations - large and small - were simply not prepared for this type of disruption in their daily operations, from supply chain and warehousing shortages, transportation interruptions, to the ability to handle a percentage of their operations remotely and with a reduced workforce. Even for very large customers, a global presence, nor a deep pool of capital was the solution. What we’re seeing is that those who embraced a digital approach to machine condition monitoring are the ones who are succeeding where others are struggling.
So what can you do to avoid this in the future?
The first thing you can do is audit your current situation, which we presume most of you are either happily or painfully aware of your current situation.
The second thing to do is to get together a disaster plan so you have an established protocol for what to do when things go awry.
Finally, you’ll want to research and implement a clear roadmap that will enable your organization to leverage available digital solutions as much as possible.
“If You Fail to Plan…”
The old axiom “if you fail to plan, then you should plan to fail” can be seen across all industries and all levels of capitalization. From small family-run businesses to global names - many have fallen victim to not being prepared for something as devastating as COVID-19. No one was too big or too funded to become immune to the impact of COVID-19. Interestingly, those who already had a sound digital environment in place were better positioned to resist operational disruption at the onset of the pandemic.
Setting aside the uncontrollable and external forces associated with a global disruption of this magnitude, what could you have done differently to be better prepared for something like COVID-19? You will no doubt have a list of things that you would have liked to have had in place back in January, and a list of things that you are still perhaps trying to implement as you read this.
Water under the bridge, or spilled-milk, or the past is the past- being what it is, forward-thinking organizations are using this time as a learning phase, looking for ways to protect against the pressures they are facing today. We at Bently Nevada have compiled a rough list of things you should be looking at now so that you can be prepared for the future when something of this magnitude occurs again.
In no particular order:
Human Resources - A Problem of Breadth and Depth
One of the first things that hit virtually every sector of industrial manufacturing was a vast and immediate reduction in staff. From mandatory stay at home requirements being put into effect, travel bans, to quarantines, and the illness itself, workforces were drastically reduced both in numbers and availability. With industrial manufacturing already running at highly-efficient human resourcing levels, those who did not have adequate digital solutions to augment their human skill pool felt the hit harder than those who did.
So how can you counteract the effect of a sudden reduction in your finite and highly-skilled labor resource? If your machinery condition monitoring program is built to support a networked collection of sensors for your machinery, you can use a Remote Monitoring Service like that offered by Bently Nevada via a Supporting Service Agreement or a Service “call.” By having this global group of industry-leading experts on tap for when you need them, you can instantly have your systems monitored and analyzed by some of the top minds in the condition monitoring industry - all so you can still make sound machinery health decisions, even when you may be experiencing a short supply of your own personnel at any given time.
The same study we quoted earlier had this to say about remote access in industrial manufacturing environments:
“This new demand for remote access and remote work is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. So rather than think of additional information infrastructure as a temporary solution addressing the global pandemic, manufacturers need to create new information infrastructure that will enable their knowledge workers to be productive in the future regardless of where they are working.”*
Do You Have Enough Sensors?
Of course, if you are going to leverage a digital solution to make enterprise-wide and plant-specific decisions about your machinery health, you may want to review your sensor deployments. Are you getting all of the data you could be getting from your current sensors? Are you monitoring only what are historically the “critical machines” while leaving the other machines to be gathered by having a technician physically plug into a given machine? With developments in sensor technology, especially with wireless sensors like the Ranger Pro, the excuses for letting machines be monitored by anything less than a real-time, fully automated, data-driven system are becoming fewer and fewer.
“In any given plant, 15% of assets are critical and use a machinery protection solution. End users are now progressively moving to instrument the balance of plant assets, which is 85% of the asset class with affordable wireless CM equipment.” - Frost & Sullivan
And with the new levels of insights you can gain from Bently Nevada’s family of sensors, you will be armed with the data you need - when you need it - to make more accurate and informed decisions about a given machine (or system of machines) that could turn a costly production stoppage into a properly planned and scheduled maintenance event.
In reality, one of the foundational moves for any industrial manufacturing digital transformation is to make sure you have the sensors and instrumentation in place to leverage the basic and what is most important of the “digital” part of your digital conversion process. Which leads us to...
Getting Your Data Ready for External Analysis
So, if you have the sensors in place, and you have the network firing away beautifully, storing gigs and gigs of data, you should be good, right? Well, maybe. But as we mentioned at the outset, human resources are one of your most susceptible and finite resources, so what happens when the handful of techs you have on hand for sifting through all of that data can’t be there? You’ll need to have a way for your data to be accessed remotely, securely, and timely. And you’ll want those people to be able to make informed, data-driven decisions that will help you in monitoring the condition of your industrial machinery. With software like System 1 from Bently Nevada, in conjunction with world-class system monitoring sensors and instrumentation like the 3500 Monitoring System, Orbit 60 Series, vbOnlinePro, your organization would already have the capability of remote and secure access.
And Now For The Good News...
You don’t necessarily have to completely overhaul your organization to get all of the benefits we’ve outlined above, which also means you don’t have to fear the accountants when you pitch your digital transformation strategy. By leveraging our Bently Connect product line, which allows you to run System 1 in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model and a Remote-Monitoring-as-a-Service (RMaaS) model, you can have the benefit of not having to worry about hosting, upgrades, deployments, etc… and enjoy the human resource peace of mind that comes with that, i.e. allowing your technicians to focus on other things, like solving problems rather than just finding them. Or in the event of something like COVID-19, you can lean on Bently Nevada should you find yourself short of human resources.
Some of the features of Bently Connect are:
- Software and hardware hosting
- Digital asset management, monitoring, and protection
- Remote support
- Remote system health check
- Ensure condition monitoring system is healthy
And yes, we’ve already run several beta tests with customers in Europe and North America with great success. Some highlights include:
- Two separate clients both cited an average of $125k saved through a 5-year agreement including System 1 data hosted at a Bently Nevada Data Center for the ongoing monitoring and diagnostics of 85MW steam turbines.
- Another client estimates $18k per year saved through an open-ended agreement including cloud-based solutions for vbOnline and System1 covering vibration monitoring of a steam turbine generator train and various critical pumps.
Of course, should you prefer, or require a self-hosted solution, we can meet with your organization to discuss your hardware, software, analytical and decisioning needs. From our machinery protection and condition monitoring solutions, as well as portables and diagnostics, to our award-winning software, System1, and an unrivaled Services & Support suite, we at Bently Nevada are confident that we can help you in assessing your organization’s current state as well as make sound recommendations that will not only increase your asset reliability, but also mitigate the damage your organization could sustain during another global crisis such as COVID-19.
One final thought from that ARC study we’ve mentioned:
“Regardless of whether [organizations] choose cloud-based or hosted applications, manufacturers need to think about these new information infrastructures as permanent rather than as temporary. Supporting a much larger set of remote knowledge workers will be critical for success in the next one to two years and will probably become an expected part of “the new, new normal.”*
We hope that this article has at the very least served as a thought-starter for your condition monitoring needs as they relate to dealing with trying times such as these. If you would like to talk about any one of Bently Nevada’s solutions that could help you to gain greater control and deeper insights into your machinery health, feel free to contact us.
* Impact of COVID-19 on Industrial Manufacturers - ARC Strategies May 2020