Distributed Maintenance, Repair, and Operations

The goal of any maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) organization is to get products back in the hands of the customer as quickly and cheaply as possible. However, it’s never easy.

Nobody can accurately predict when equipment will fail, (failure prediction is the subject of a lot of industrial AI research; a much longer discussion we can get to later).  At this time, products break and need to be fixed.

Industrial equipment, like generators, pumps, and machine tools, can operate for over thirty years. The generator may be one year old or twenty, and there may be parts in stock, or this is something nobody has seen before.

So, a big industrial piece of equipment breaks. After an initial assessment of the cause of the break, the MRO must decide if the repair can be performed locally at the regional office or if they need to send it to somewhere central. They also need to determine if the broken parts can be repaired, a compatible part is in inventory, or if they need to manufacture new parts.

In the case of repair and manufacturing a new part, the organization needs to find available capacity and capabilities to do the repair or create the necessary items.

Manufacturing organizations often separate out the manufacturing of their current product production from the MRO organizations. You may have a shop where the orders are lagging, and everyone is sitting around with idle machines, and the MRO organization, in the next building, has orders backed up six months.

The first question an MRO needs to ask, where do I have available capacity and capabilities to repair this product? The capability is usually well known in the organization; they know where they have equipment and personnel trained in certain repairs. They often don’t know exactly how much each piece of equipment is being used, which leads to uncertainty about when they can complete the repair and where is the best location to do the work.

Repair organizations need to know, in real time, where they have the capacity and equipment to perform to do the job and for the fastest and cheapest turnaround. It may mean that moving the repair job from a central location to a regional office may be the best option, but since most organizations are hub and spokes, this information is not available.

A centralized information system, like VIMANA that tracks machine availability and capabilities in real-time, can enable the ability to make intelligent decisions. VIMANA can also provide information about the other manufacturing organizations and where the company has spare capacity.

As we move towards ‘power by the hour’ for airplanes and earth movement ‘by the ton’ subscription service-based offerings, the OEM will be responsible for ensuring the products they sell are always working; otherwise, the OEM is responsible eating the cost of repairing or replacing products. MRO organizations will move from being a source of income to be a cost center, and companies will be looking to squeeze every dime out of repair costs and equipment service times to meet the bottom line and contractual obligations.

To take this a step further, the OEM may decide that it is more cost effective to manufacture the parts at a competitors site because they have the capacity and capabilities to make the part. The OEM will only need to provide the digital documents for the parts that need to be repaired–with fully digital models; the OEM can still protect the IP for the complete product.