Modern maintenance practices are in the crosshairs of some unique advancements.
While many maintenance departments have gone relatively unchanged for decades, the technology introduced in newer facilities has inspired some unstoppable trends.
What was once a cost-center now has a competitive edge. CMMS Software has stepped in to give these departments a leg up over the rest.
The following three trends are bound to make waves in 2016; Millennials, Mobility, and Machine Learning.
With so many fears about a lack of STEM graduates, mechanical jobs for high school and vocational graduates have lost the spotlight.
Maintenance technicians are typically entry-level positions and often seasonal. Hours are generally long due to unexpected failures, and there has been very little upward mobility.
The demographic of workers hasn’t changed in decades either. The experts within this department have long been in their positions, and they’re likely known as the company’s “Mr. Fix-its.”
But some very fast movement is happening among the employees of this department in three stages:
Stage 1: Experts are retiring
So long, Mr. Fix-its! They’re ready for retirement along with the aging Baby Boomer population.
However, as these specialists leave the workforce, it’s important to have a smooth transition.
In many cases, CMMS technology is serving as a repository for training material. These experts are leaving behind a knowledge base for helping future technicians.
Stage 2: Millennials are graduating with bachelor degrees
Millennials are destined to be the most educated generation in the history of the world. Not only that, but 57% of today’s undergraduates are women.
What does this mean for the future of maintenance?
In 2016, you’ll likely come across many women taking on leadership positions in facilities. One factory maintenance firm has discussed its extensive efforts to recruit for maintenance positions. The skills needed for these jobs involve technical competencies, but not always STEM degrees, and have more to do with on-the-job training than prior certifications.
As more of these jobs are filled based on candidates’ leadership and competency, they’re becoming well-paid career paths and very attractive to up-and-coming professionals.
Stage 3: Machines are being upgraded to display more data
Millennials were raised alongside technology. While this has led to some unfair assumptions (such as being self-centered), it’s true that they’re more receptive to using data on the job.
Mechanical assets are being outfitted with sensors to better “communicate” their condition. It’s important that as a facility’s equipment is upgraded, maintenance staff is able to understand the machines.
A great example is with modern HVAC units. The data used for gauging office temperature was collected decades ago, and many are finding a more comfortable environment is a few degrees higher than those numbers on average.
Today’s HVAC units in offices and on college campuses are being upgraded to better track temperature and humidity. This way, each building cuts energy costs and the number of complaints decreases.
These “smart buildings” are much more common and require the right talent to keep up their maintenance.
Mobility has brought both innovations and challenges to technicians’ daily lives.
2016 is the year many vendors will perfect CMMS features for the technician’s own mobile device.
One common complaint from technicians is that entering information is quite difficult for work orders and other task-tracking applications. Because of all the fields that must be filled with dates, spare parts, updates and more, users have a hard time texting the information.
An advancement that will make this easier is speech recognition. Applications that allow speech recognition enable maintenance technicians to do jobs hands-free.
When maintenance technologies are able to respond intelligently to voice requests, such as how Siri and Cortana work on smartphones, technicians can work faster and more accurately.
Another popular upgrade involves the next major trend that’s here to stay in 2016 and beyond.
3. Machine Learning
Machine learning is a method of automating a solution to teach itself. This is an enhancement on predictive technology and includes prescriptive abilities as well.
By combining the two abilities, the software is able to analyze data and make a decision on what to do, taking out any guesswork on how to fix what’s wrong.
While machine learning is very new, its predecessor, predictive technology, was a popular trend this past year. From the 2015 Definitive Guide to CMMS:
Predictive Maintenance relies on conducting maintenance based on trends within equipment data. This technology is tied to condition-based monitoring systems for reading the output (condition) of an asset’s variables.
For example: If a piece of equipment has had temperatures continually rise, an alert or work order for predictive maintenance will trigger before equipment failure. Predictive maintenance is based on predicting when an asset needs attention rather than simply replacing a part when it could have lasted longer.
Machine learning is able to save these predictions and process them as on-going trends within equipment data. This way, when a prediction is made, the software draws from past problems and dynamically applies the solutions that worked towards new fixes.
The result is artificial intelligence (AI) that can offer actionable advice.
This may seem like quite a jump for the maintenance profession because AI is a type of technology straight out of science fiction. However, the costs of the hardware and software for enabling it have significantly dropped in the past few years.
For this reason, many startups are using the technology to gain a competitive and disruptive edge. Similar to what Uber has done to taxi services and Zenefits has done to HR services, companies that include machine learning will be ahead of the curve.
2019 and Beyond
The maintenance profession has always been slightly behind the times. The technology used for heavy machinery must be reliable and proven before it’s widely incorporated.
Maintenance has also not been considered an area of business that bolsters the bottom line. However, with these enhancements, it’s becoming much more important to driving the organization’s future.
Author Bio: Julia Scavicchio is a writer with Better Buys, a trusted source for enterprise software news and research.