The deployment of industrial maintenance solutions has always been very challenging, as it involves a host of enterprise systems (e.g., ERP, Asset Management), and physical devices (e.g., sensors), along with people and processes.
Designing, developing, deploying and evaluating a maintenance solution requires effectively coordinating people, systems and processes in a way that leads to tangible improvements over legacy solutions in terms of OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency), operations quality, maintenance costs, production cost and other parameters.
The advent of Industry 4.0 has increased the technical complexity and challenges of maintenance solutions in exchange for improved efficiency, quality and timeliness, as well as reduced costs.
Despite the rising sophistication and complexity of maintenance solutions, there is a diminishing number of experts that can successfully deploy, test and validate these solutions as a result of the talent gap in technologies such as BigData and the Industrial Internet of Things.
Enterprises are gradually realizing that they should invest in activities that improve their understanding of emerging solutions. At the same time, they need to facilitate the validation and evaluation of emerging maintenance paradigms such as predictive maintenance. In this direction, enterprises can consider the setup and operation of testbeds in their plants as a means of testing, deploying and validating maintenance solutions under realistic conditions.
Testbeds are in principle, platforms that facilitate testing and experimentation with technologies and tools under nearly operational conditions.
In the case of Industry 4.0 based industrial maintenance processes, testbeds provide the software (e.g., data analytics software) and equipment (e.g., machines, sensors, tools) needed to experiment with advanced IT-driven maintenance solutions.
Apart from software and hardware elements, a testbed is usually associated with concrete processes regarding setting up, configuring and deploying experiments, along with collecting and analyzing their results. Overall, the main characteristics of an Industry 4.0 testbed environment are as follows:
Based on these properties, testbeds can provide a host of benefits. These benefits provide the foundation for justifying an investment on a maintenance testbed, which can often incur significant costs (especially for large-scale testbeds).
Typical uses of a testbed include:
Overall, a testbed serves many different purposes and improves both maintenance knowledge and solutions within an organization.
Testbeds are useful to plant owners, plant operators and providers of industrial maintenance solutions, as all these stakeholders need to understand, test, and validate leading edge maintenance solutions. However, testbeds are probably most useful to solution providers, as they are the ones that need to design and validate solutions much more frequently than plant owners.
Would you like to understand and fully leverage the technologies and business models that drive the digitization of industry and the next generation of maintenance applications? If so, it might be a good idea to consider building out your maintenance testbed.
Whether a small-scale pilot line or a large-scale testbed, such an experimentation facility will help you improve your knowledge, while saving you time and costs. Additionally, it will facilitate your safe and smooth transition to Industry 4.0 maintenance applications.