Predictive Maintenance, It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination

August 9, 2016 By Matt Gates

Matt Gates

Predictive maintenance is no longer only about maintaining a single piece of equipment to ensure reliability. Today it is about the macro view of energy consumption, devices, system optimization, and continuous awareness. With predictive maintenance, you can take a holistic view of your building’s energy consumption and the performance of systems and equipment for optimized, reliable building operation.

Predictive maintenance is a journey, not a destination. As buildings continually change, continued success with predictive maintenance hinges on making it a part of standard building operation. Implementing the right building energy management system (BEMS) for your specific needs is the first step.

Connectivity provides early warning signs

Preventative maintenance is often conducted based on a set schedule — whether it is needed or not. Predictive maintenance relies on the connectivity of building systems and equipment, using the data provided to look for early signs of degradation or inefficiency.

More building systems and equipment are beginning to use Internet-based platforms that enable connectivity and the collection of system-wide data. This is often referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). Previously a technician would check building equipment in person based on a set schedule, now with remote access the data produced by building automation systems (BAS) and other energy management solutions allows for continual monitoring of building performance and energy consumption.

As a result, maintenance can be conducted as needed — based on analysis of building data. This ability to actively look for improvements that can be made before issues become larger problems helps reduce equipment downtime and save time and money.

Utilizing a BEMS also provides the ability to take a more holistic view of a building’s operation. This helps ensure that all components and equipment — from the chiller to the air handler to the VAV boxes — are working together as they should for efficient performance.

An impact on efficiency

Using the BEMS process, you can assess building performance and use that information to create a performance baseline. The baseline is a metric against which improvements can be tracked.

Because you can’t fix what you can’t see, this awareness of performance and visibility into building data is a key step toward greater energy efficiency and cost savings.

In addition, analytics provide insight when performance indicators start creeping into designated “gray areas.” This can be a sign that a recommissioning of a device or the building is needed, to bring equipment and systems back to optimized levels.

Keeping equipment optimized also impacts reliability and occupant comfort, which in turn can help save time and money in repairs and troubleshooting. Without a BEMS to continually look for anomalies or degradation, a failing VAV box could be causing problems that are difficult to diagnose. Occupant complaints about temperature may alert you to a problem, but it can be hard to pinpoint which unit needs repair. However, when the data is continually monitored for signs of degradation, this type of failure can be quickly spotted and fixed.

Another efficiency benefit is the ability to use the data to determine times of peak demand in a building. Utilizing a BEMS, there are ways to stagger energy usage so that demand is lower during peak windows, which can help in avoiding higher utility penalties.

Longer equipment life

Every piece of asset equipment in a building has a usable lifespan, often anywhere from 15 to 30 years. As the equipment is used, it degrades over time and usable life decreases.

With predictive maintenance, you can potentially exceed the expected usable life of equipment by continually monitoring performance and degradation and making repairs before the equipment fails.

This serves to extend your capital investment, by lowering the total lifecycle cost of systems and equipment. In addition, it helps postpone the expense of replacing equipment, since the usable life of a unit can be extended.

BEMS solutions and predictive maintenance also contribute to better capital planning and budgeting, by providing a better understanding of where equipment is at in its lifespan and the type of performance that can be expected. This can help in planning for any future capital investments.

Choose an experienced partner

A BEMS process may identify hundreds of thousands of data points. It can be difficult to know where to start and what to fix first. A knowledgeable BEMS provider has the experience to analyze and understand what your building data is saying. The result is a better understanding of what’s happening in the building.

The technology or software is an important part of the solution. It’s also important to choose a provider that acts as a partner throughout the process. A good partner not only helps identify goals and makes targeted recommendations, but also helps prioritize projects for predictive maintenance, to ensure resources are directed at the right priorities. The right partner can also act as an extension of your building staff, which helps you extend personnel resources and capabilities.

Once implementation of predictive maintenance projects begin, it’s also important to have a clear path for directing savings, whether they go straight to the bottom line in the form of reduced costs or are reinvested in additional improvements and maintenance efforts to meet business goals.

Key steps for success

Predictive maintenance is a journey that does not happen overnight and offers significant cost savings through longer equipment life, greater energy efficiency and reduced time and money spent on maintenance. As you begin your journey, a key factor for success is finding the right BEMS solution that works for you.

Matt Gates is director of Intelligent Services Offers for Trane, a leading global provider of indoor comfort solutions and services and a brand of Ingersoll Rand. In this role, Gates manages a portfolio of Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) solutions and leads the efforts to commercialize new and differentiated Intelligent Services offers for North America.

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