Advocating for Maintenance 4.0

Successful implementation requires champions

Deploying IIoT and Maintenance 4.0 at scale requires buy-in not only from maintenance and reliability professionals but from production, IT, OT, and leadership. For digitalisation initiatives to become a strategic priority there is a need for internal champions.

In a recent survey of O&M employees, most respondents indicated that assigning a plant level evangelist / dedicated project owner has a high impact on scaling Maintenance 4.0 solutions. This finding is in keeping with more general benefits associated with these roles: technology evangelists help generate the motivation to adopt new ways of working, while project ownership assigns responsibility to a specific individual or individuals to advance adoption.

These roles are gaining new significance as a result of the national and plant-driven safety measures adopted to limit the spread of Covid-19. Social distancing has created a more pressing use case for Maintenance 4.0 and for streamlining the integration of these remote solutions. By enhancing their abilities to detect, diagnose and remediate evolving asset failure from afar or with fewer technicians on the plant floor, plants are better equipped to maintain product quality and throughput during this next normal.

The following article addresses the topic of who should manage the implementation of Maintenance 4.0. Though specific initiatives, such as the implementation of connected sensors for a limited number of assets, can be achieved without these designated roles, a comprehensive approach to Maintenance 4.0 requires dedicated proponents. Since every organisation is structured differently, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. That said, both an Executive Sponsor and a Project Evangelist are vital for the long term.

Executive sponsor

The notion that critical projects be assigned an executive sponsor is widely accepted. The sponsor ensures alignment with the organisational overall strategy and can gain buy-in from other key executives within the organisation.

However, according to a Harvard Business Review by Ron Ashkenas titled “How to Be an Effective Executive Sponsor,” many executive sponsors are disconnected from the project they sponsor and do not know how to add value. This creates dysfunction for the project but also risk for the sponsor, whose performance is evaluated by the CEO.

Dr. Ashkenas suggests that the following steps:

  • Prior project launch, the executive sponsor and the project leader should have candid discussions about the requirements and expectations from the sponsor. This might seem obvious, but based on experience, many project leaders lack the courage to engage directly in this manner.
  • Both the executive sponsor and the project leader need to be realistic about the extent to which he or she can commit. In many instances, executive sponsors manage multiple projects and don’t actively contribute in a meaningful way. An executive sponsor that focuses on only a few initiatives is more likely to see the project through.

Project evangelist

“Evangelism isn’t a job title, it’s a way of life.” – Guy Kawasaki

Let’s take into consideration that the word evangelist is typically associated with religion and is synonymous with preacher, missionary, proselytiser and crusader. Granted, these are not terms that are typically applied to the industrial plant. At the same time, the project evangelist will need to be a believer who is passionate about Maintenance 4.0 to spread the faith.

A process-oriented project manager may not be the right fit. It’s important to remember that Maintenance 4.0 represents disruptive change, and career project managers may not be comfortable upsetting the status quo.

The evangelist role is similar to the “Change Agent” referenced in Dave Ulrich’s Four-Role Model of HR. The requirements for this role include the following:

  • An understanding of the organisation’s culture and what is effective and ineffective
  • Institutional change capabilities with the organisation
  • Assists line managers to lead and facilitate change

While most industries are moving towards digitalisation, albeit at different paces of adoption, the dark factory is not a near-term or even long-term goal for most plants. The role of company culture in successfully integrating people and people-driven processes with technology helpmates should not be underestimated.

It Takes a Village

Maintenance 4.0 is not a simple initiative and requires support from across the organisation. As part of the project process, we recommend that you form a cross-functional team that includes representatives of the following:

  • Plant Asset Maintenance
  • Plant Engineering
  • Plant Management
  • Finance
  • IT
  • OT

Executive sponsors and project evangelists understand the company culture and the business case for Maintenance 4.0 but may not have the technology knowledge and experience to gauge the value of different Maintenance 4.0 offerings. The cross-functional team can

  • Determine yield, revenue, OEE, safety and environmental objectives;
  • Establish plant readiness for Maintenance 4.0 adoption;
  • Assess the efficacy of a solution;
  • Evaluate a solution’s ability to meet the predetermined KPIs.

Executive sponsors and project evangelists must be guided by the cross-functional team in their promotion of specific solutions. Failure to align with the team’s findings could see sponsors and evangelists advocating for solutions that do not bring value or enough value to the organisation.

Summary and conclusion

The successful implementation of Maintenance 4.0 can have far reaching consequences across the organisation. The project teams that are selected will be responsible for changing the mindset of employees that are likely to be skeptical and possibly resentful of change. Without executive support from the top of the organization and buy-in across the employee base, industrial plants will struggle to achieve the ambitious goals of Maintenance 4.0.

Maintenance 4.0 roadmapping made simple

Maintenance 4.0 is still new territory for many industrial plants. SKF Enlight AI’s Maintenance 4.0 Handbook provides practical tools and guidance throughout the implementation process. To access the first chapter of the handbook, click here.

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