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Technological development in maintenance creates many new options and room for maneuver. Many companies are exploiting the opportunities provided by digitization in order to optimize their processes with innovative ideas. T.A. Cook has been acknowledging especially exciting innovations since 1999.


Not every idea has to be large-scale – even marginal changes can have a big impact. T.A. Cook has been presenting the MAINTAINER award to companies for smaller and larger innovations for 20 years and thus emphasizes the importance of maintenance for operational productivity in the industrial environment. But for such an important anniversary, it’s not only worth looking at brand-new innovations, but also the ideas of past years. How have the innovations of former winners developed? INSITE takes a look at current and past award winners:

Digital Rather Than Analog: Equipment Transfer Made Easy

In the category “Excellence in Maintenance & Technical Service,” the MAINTAINER award this year went to Evonik Technology & Infrastructure GmbH. The company was acknowledged for its I-Qui app, which should significantly simplify registration and documentation of technical equipment using QR codes. The app thus solves a central problem: the transfer of technical equipment from the analog to the digital world. I-Qui registers the equipment, most notably nameplates, via QR code and then allocates every component to a digital data set. In turn, these data can be processed by maintenance and servicing software, making plant maintenance a whole lot easier. “Thanks to the digital master data set, I-Qui has laid the foundation for transforming existing plants,” says Karina Spionkowski, technical services employee at Evonik.

Virtual Assistant: Marvin Helps with Complex Issues

This year, the special MAINTAINER award for innovation went to T.CON GmbH & Co. KG. T.CON secured the prize with its Marvin chatbot, which complements a mobile maintenance solution. While using apps to digitize paper-based processes has been an integral part of maintenance for some time now, utilizing many solutions is often a complex and confusing process. That’s where Marvin comes in: as a virtual assistant, the chatbot is available to help employees with any questions or problems they may have. It thus provides information from relevant IT systems, in particular SAP PM/EAM, and, if desired, can even carry out simple bookings. Technically based on the SAP Conversational AI platform, the
chatbot can be integrated into a variety of communication and messenger systems. Due to the practical approach, it should come as no surprise that Marvin has already attracted a great deal of interest: “The initial feedback from interested parties has been very positive. We look forward to tackling the first customer projects in the coming months,” reports Norbert Kölbl, Product Manager and Solution Architect at T.CON.


Economical and Fast: Video Wiki Simplifies Maintenance

In 2018, the special prize for innovation went to InfraServ GmbH & Co. Knapsack KG. The company secured the award with a video wiki that employees can access from anywhere at any time. “It allows us to quickly and safely carry out repairs and maintenance of all kinds. The wiki should also intensify exchange among employees and experts,” explains Sven Meurer, Head of Site Management & Maintenance Technology. Among other things, employees can use the feedback button to ask questions and/or give feedback. All questions go directly to the person responsible for the video and are answered in dialogue. Initial successes have already been measured since it was established.

“According to an employee questionnaire, the wiki accelerates processes and makes them more efficient. Some employees were even able to make repairs more quickly than usual using the video instructions and, in some cases, were no longer dependent on external support. Both have reduced maintenance costs,” says Sven Meurer. InfraServ is currently working on further improving the wiki and the corresponding app. But this is only the beginning: the video wiki is the first phase of a three-stage model for introducing augmented reality. The model should be implemented gradually over the coming years as well as promote digitization at InfraServ with additional innovations.

Modern Risk Analysis: Data-Based Approach for Low Maintenance Costs

In 2017, Novartis Pharma Schweizerhalle AG won the MAINTAINER award in the category “Excellence in Maintenance & Technical Service.” The winning project addresses the issue of “Value-Oriented Maintenance,” which aims to improve risk assessment. Plant evaluation used to be carried out in an Excel table in which practical experience had been collected. The idea was to replace this approach with the newly developed Business-Focused Asset Criticality Assessment Tool. “The new tool is based on figures and data. Maintenance and failure data and financial figures are entered directly from SAP, ensuring all aspects are taken into account in risk analysis. The facility manager also maintains an overview of the machinery, capacities, and risk of failure at all times,” explains Pasqualle Petrella, ChemOps Operations Manager at Novartis. The new cost-tracking tool has allowed the company to reduce maintenance costs in ChemOps by double-digit percentage points. Maintenance costs fell from CHF 39 million in 2014 to CHF 29 million two years later, with consistently low risk of failure and a considerable increase in plant reliability. While the tool is still operating reliably, Novartis will continue to look for ways to reduce maintenance costs: “The more data there is and the better it’s prepared, the more cost-efficient and focused the maintenance is. And that, in turn, requires digital innovation,” says Pasqualle Petrella.

Say Goodbye to False Alarms: Intelligent Health Monitor Enables Proactive Maintenance

In 2016, the MAINTAINER award went to algorithmica for its Intelligent Health Monitor (IHM). The IHM analyzes the alarm signals of pumps, turbines, and compressors – not individually, but as a whole – thus dramatically improving condition monitoring: “When signals were analyzed individually, false alarms occurred repeatedly and critical situations were not correctly detected. By analyzing signals as a whole, damage can be detected and proactively prevented days and even weeks in advance,” explains Dr. Patrick Bangert, CEO of algorithmica. He points out that this has resulted in a transition from reactive maintenance to proactive maintenance and reduced costs by up to 90%.

The Intelligent Health Monitor software is now frequently used in process manufacturing, including at Evonik. “IHM can also be found in Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East,” says Bangert. The algorithmica team regularly works on further developing the tool, with two updates generally released each year. According to Patrick Bangert, the tool will also be further optimized in the future, as maintenance just isn’t possible anymore without state-of-the-art software: “A typical plant has tens of thousands of signals, all of which provide important information. No person can handle all of that. We need innovation to do that.”

Find out more about the Maintainer Award and how you can apply for 2020.