Blog August 25, 2019

IoT in Construction: Preventive Maintenance

What is Preventive Maintenance?  

Many of us are guilty of holding off our car servicing appointments. Whether it be an oil change every few months or a brake assembly check every few years, we tend to hold off until the very last minute. Why spend more money when the car drives just fine? 

The answer is simple, regular servicing appointments are meant to keep the car running at peak condition throughout the duration of its life. Delaying appointments can make small, easily repairable issues turn into major, potentially crippling problems later on. 

This is called preventive maintenance

Much like your car getting serviced every couple of months, the construction industry relies on preventive maintenance to make sure that their machines and equipment are running smoothly and their performance lifetime is not cut short. 

As we learned in our previous blog posts, there are several bottlenecks that hinder efficiency in the construction industry, the two biggest ones being time delays and overspending. Maintenance scheduling – a lot of them being estimated by the manufacturer – plays a major role in contributing to these bottlenecks. 

Before we go into how IoT improves preventative maintenance schedules, we need to understand the issues that they pose right now.

What’s Wrong?

Preventive maintenance schedules are a good attempt at keeping machines operating efficiently, but standardized schedules suggested by manufacturers are often inaccurate in predicting exact wear and tear. It can turn into a guessing game for construction crews, since there are a lot of factors that affect the overall health of a machine which are usually not accounted for. 

Preventive maintenance is usually on a 2 or 5-year basis. A manufacturer will typically recommend that a vehicle or piece of machinery be maintanenced at specific intervals even if it seems to be running smoothly. Unfortunately, this can be problematic as manufacturers do not account for the specific time and usage factors of each individual machine.

Time vs. Usage

The most important thing to understand here that time does not directly correlate with usage. 

Let’s use an excavator as an example. The useful life of an excavator heavily depends on how often and how hard it’s being used. Factors such as (but not limited to) hydraulic pressure, shovel load, stresses on linkages, weight distribution, rotational speeds, operating angle, and overall operating weight all need to be taken into account. An excavator that runs once every week might actually have a lower lifespan than one that runs every day of the year, depending on the loads it’s working with and the environment of the site.

Environmental Factors and Conditional Usage

Machines, vehicles, and equipment are not all used for the same purpose or even in the same climates. The current condition of a machine or piece of equipment is also extremely important in determining a preventive maintenance schedule. An industrial saw that is 15 years old will need much more frequent attention than one that is brand new. 

Maintenance check ins are scheduled at specific intervals without taking into consideration the age or environment in which the machine operates. Similarly, you mainly drive your car on country roads in the winter, it will be in different shape than if you drove it in California on the highway. The general environmental factors that your car experiences has the potential to create more or less wear and tear on your vehicle.

Cost 

Arguably, the main purpose of preventative maintenance is to cut down on costs. It is an important part of ensuring the long term health and longevity of construction equipment, so that easily fixable problems do not turn into larger mechanical or operational issues, which usually cost much more to repair in the long run.

However, having machines serviced at time intervals means that if a machine was only lightly used, it gets serviced unnecessarily, while large problems and inefficiencies go undetected for long periods of time…even years. This is extremely costly and begs the question of what the purpose of preventive maintenance is if it is so expensive and inaccurate. 

There has to be a better way.

Internet of Things 

Manually inputting each and every single piece of information – machine data, wear and tear estimates, external environmental properties, etc – is not practical and could be very inaccurate.

IBM completed a study that showed on average, 70% of investments in traditional  preventive maintenance schedules (manual processes) have no effect on uptime metrics. “Uptime” refers to the amount of time that the machinery is operational. In other words, preventive maintenance is completed on a “good” guess, and that guess is not always all encompassing or accurate.  

This is where the Internet of Things (IoT) comes in.

Early, Real-time Detection

IoT offers several benefits to preventive maintenance. First of all, it addresses the challenges discussed above by enabling real-time and remote condition monitoring. Even more conveniently, it enables automatic alerts as soon as something starts to go wrong. If a crane’s engine is doing poorly even after only a few months on the job site, it can be detected immediately. 

Additionally, IoT sensing can determine the humidity, temperature, emissions and more to keep track of the health and environmental conditions a machine faces. Data analytics allow for constant tracking of machinery and equipment in real-time. If something is out of the ordinary in regards to efficiency or performance, action can be taken immediately.

Cost Savings

With the capability of early detection, cost savings are inevitable. Since managers and stakeholders have the information they need to stay informed, they can identify areas for improvement and better allocate their resources. IoT technology – when paired with Artificial Intelligence – can create accurate predictions of machine wear months, even years in advance. This reduces any unexpected or sudden delays, which in turn saves on overall cost.

Conclusion 

Preventative maintenance scheduling is ideal for keeping your machines constantly running smoothly in any environment. IoT streamlines that process by unlocking real-time data and analytics, creating a continuous and accurate monitoring solution for machine performance. IoT makes it easy to tailor project schedules based on machine servicing, saving both time and money. 

Looking to explore IoT for your construction project? Schedule a call today to learn how AOMS can help!