Process control combines checking variables and making adjustments to a process to achieve a desired output. Maintenance control is the combination of people, parts, and processes you have in place to coordinate and allocate maintenance resources. Across industries, both are critical to your success.
But instead of running two separate-but-equally-important systems, it pays to find and leverage connections between the two.
Before looking at the benefits for maintenance teams, it’s important to make sure we understand both what process control is and why we use it. And because we’re talking about modern systems across industries, including oil and gas, power, manufacturing, healthcare, and even recycling, it’s also important to talk about SCADA.
What are total process control and SCADA?
The easiest way to answer that question is to start with a different one, “What are the connections between process control and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)?”
The answer is that SCADA is the computer control system that helps you do process control. And it helps a lot. Without it, you’re back in the bad old days, when staying within range and on target involved a lot of manual checks and paper-based record-keeping.
But we’re starting to jump between the past and the present a bit too much, ending up ahead of ourselves.
On the most basic level, process control is about monitoring and influencing a system to maintain a specific output. The classic simplified example is where you have a room you want to keep at a set temperature. In the old days, that meant keeping an eye on the temperature and then turning on the furnace or opening all the windows when things became either too cold or too hot.
With process control, you simply set up a thermostat connected to the furnace, which then takes care of everything for you. Now your system is automated, safe, and optimized.
What are the benefits of process control?
It’s worth repeating that with process control, your system is now automated, safe, and optimized.
Automated means you don’t have to worry about it, allowing you to focus on other tasks. Safe means you don’t have to worry about simply human error leading to someone messing up the furnace. Or leaving it on too long or not turning it on soon enough, causing the room to get dangerously hot or cold. And optimized means you’re not wasting energy heating the room more than you need to. You’re getting the best results for the least amount of work.
What is maintenance control?
Maintenance control is the combination of people, places, polices, and processes you use to coordinate and allocate maintenance. At the heart of the system is the work order, which you use to:
Maintenance control is also how you control work, material, inventory, and overall costs.
What are the benefits of process control for maintenance control?
Let’s get back inside that room with the thermostat controlling the temperature. And from there, one more jump, this time to inside the thermostat, where we find two main components: a sensor and some way to signal the furnace to turn on and off. Remember, that’s the process control.
But because it’s there, we also get some help with maintenance control. That sensor is collecting a steady stream of data about the conditions in the room, which is exactly what we need to implement reliability centered maintenance (RCM). Basically, SCADA systems are all about collecting and acting on data, which is the same things you need for many modern maintenance strategies.
Benefits of process control for maintenance leads
On the most basic-but-also-critical level, the maintenance department needs to find and fix small issues before they have a chance to develop into large, budget-busting problems. Once the problems get big, you’re wasting a lot of money on labor, parts and materials, and making up for lost productivity.
So, the higher up on the P-F curve the department can tackle an issue, the better. The challenge is that the signs that there’s a problem get smaller and smaller the higher you move up the curve. So, the motor in a fan might only have a slight, hard-to-detect wobble when it starts heading down the curve on its way toward failure. By the time things are obvious, for example there’s smoke and flames shooting out of the motor housing, you’re already too far down the curve. Now instead of a quick repair, you’re faced with a complete replacement.
With process control, you get streams of data that can help you detect issues earlier, helping you move to more proactive, less expensive maintenance planning.
Benefits of process control for maintenance techs
Just like for the maintenance leads, process control makes life easier for maintenance techs. Now, instead of only ever being reactive, techs can walk into work knowing exactly what they have scheduled for the day. Work orders are about fixing small wobbles, not suddenly having to pull and replace entire motors while asset and equipment operators stand around idling watching.
How can maintenance management software help with maintenance control?
Process control systems can help you with maintenance control, but it’s just one of the sources of data you need to keep everything up and running. With the right enterprise asset management (EAM) platform, you get even more data and can even make better use of it.
Better maintenance data capture
A good SCADA system can tell you what’s happening with your assets and equipment right now. But it can’t tell you what happened last week in terms of the preventive, predictive, or reactive maintenance the team did.
But a good EAM solution can.
Inside the software is a complete, up-to-date, sharable record of all your work orders, including:
- Who assigned and then did the work
- What work they completed on the asset
- Which parts and materials they used
- How long everything took to complete
Plus, a lot of other information, from customizable checklists and step-by-step instructions that ensure the team is always following SOPs and industry best practices, right down to OSHA guidelines and rules.
Cleaner, more accurate maintenance reports
And once all that data is inside the system, you can easily leverage it into actionable business intelligence that keeps your maintenance team ahead, your assets up, and your costs down.
For example, once you know which asset was costing you most to keep up and running in the last few months, you can start fine-tuning the associated preventive maintenance program inspections and tasks to find and fix issues more reliably. Or you might change how you look at the data coming in from the SCADA platform.
Ready for data-driven decision-making that streamlines processes and optimizes operations? Schedule a demo.
Total process control is how you monitor a system to influence it to produce a specific output. One of the most basic examples is a thermometer in a room. When the room gets too cold or hot, the thermometer notices the change and either turns the furnace on or off. SCADA is the type of software used to make process control possible without having to endlessly make manual checks and adjustments. The benefit of process control is that your system is now automated, making it both safer and more efficient.
There are also benefits for maintenance control, which are the platforms and processes you have in place to control maintenance labor, parts, and costs. Because SCADA systems include a wide range of sensors producing constant data streams, the maintenance department can find and fix small issues before they have a chance to grow into large problems.
Along with SCADA, you also need an EAM that helps you capture, safeguard, and deliver additional data, including work orders packed with the information techs need to work more efficiently. For example, clear instructions and SOPs. You can also use it to leverage data into reports packed with business intelligence that helps you then fine-tune your existing preventive maintenance programs.