Does the future of the computerised maintenance management system reside in the Cloud?
A revolution is sweeping the systems that lie at the core of every process plant. Systems that monitor critical equipment and coordinate a tight schedule of maintenance activities are increasingly being moved into the Cloud.
Those who do their banking online will already be familiar with the concept of cloud computing, but applying this on an industrial scale is becoming increasingly attractive, say experts.
Just like banking in the cloud, enterprise transactions are secured with encryption using technologies such as Secured Sockets Layer protocol (SSL), and all data is held in secure enterprise data centres.
Reducing operational and maintenance cost is by far the most important aspect
ARC’s Valentijn de Leeuw
Consulting firm Accenture says Cloud-based platforms can take a number of forms: private, public, hybrid and community.
“Private Clouds are dedicated to a single company for private use and can either be built within a company’s premises or located off-site and owned and provided by an external third party,” says a recent Accenture report on the adoption of Cloud computing in the chemical industry.
“As the rise of the digital enterprise gathers pace, most chemicals companies mapping out their future IT strategies are finding that cloud computing alone does not deliver the business case for Cloud adoption.”
However, the report goes on to say that “once they add complementary and convergent technologies such as mobile, analytics and social media capabilities - together with related elements such as remote online sensors, biometrics and unmanned drones - the hard business benefits are there to justify investment in Cloud computing”.
A recent ARC Advisory Group study revealed key priorities for the users of predictive computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS).
“Reducing operational and maintenance cost is by far the most important aspect … followed by improving total cost of ownership, monitoring and prediction of asset health,” says Valentijn de Leeuw, director of consulting at the research group.
Managing maintenance via the cloud can eliminate many of the costs associated with purchasing expensive software and hardware, and setting up and maintaining IT infrastructure, says Gil Acosta, director of engineering services at eMaint Enterprises.
As one of the first CMMS vendors to embrace this model in 1999, the company’s eMaint X3 solution is now exclusively cloud based.
“In the early days it was difficult to sell to Fortune 500 companies owing to concerns over security and cyber crime,” says Acosta.
“They didn’t want to be the first ones, so our earliest customers were mid to small companies who couldn’t afford larger full-scale enterprise software systems.”
Acosta says he has also seen larger clients embrace the Cloud after starting with small pilots at a plant or two.
“They are often quick to adopt it once they’ve proved the concept within their organisation,” he says.
When it comes to addressing security concerns, Acosta says the online banking model proves how robust it can be.
“It became apparent at a recent mobility conference that Cloud-based banking was now widely considered more secure than ATM banking,” he says.
“I definitely see from a technology standpoint fewer concerns around security… but some companies do still have concerns. For them we have a number of options such as adding firewalls.”
The other area that still presents challenges is the need to be connected to the internet.
“It is not a big deal in all industries, but for some with mobile workers out in trucks, for example, there are some solutions based on wireless technology,” says Acosta.
However those types of solutions do require good synchronisation, he adds.
“This is something that is very much on our radar,” he says…
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