Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 5


UPTIME

eloquently about the future of
automated systems and facilities,
though, seems to have forgotten about
maintenance. That's not unusual. Many
people tend to think of maintenance
as fixing things that people damage.
From their perspective, if we remove
the erratic and ever variable human
element, all is well. Right? Wrong!

Technical skills must prevail
Automated machines and systems
must be fabricated, assembled, and
commissioned by people. Once these
precision and technologically advanced
machines enter the workplace, they
must be programmed and integrated
by yet another group of people. At that
point, such machines should basically
be ready to operate autonomously with
technology that has been proven to
work efficiently, and effectively. Are
they really?
This is where some of the technological promises of autonomous
equipment and systems fall apart.
Those modern marvels still require
maintenance. Sure, many now have,
and will continue to expand their
condition-monitoring/self-diagnostic
capabilities. But, can they fully
maintain themselves? Probably not.
In fact, maintenance of highly
automated systems just became more
complex because of automation's
sensors, transmitters, transducers,
control loops, logic controllers, Wi-Fi
networks, software, signal cables,
connectors, circuit boards, and many
other components that make the base
system, machine, vehicle, or conveyor
function without the aid of a hands-on
human.

Managing the base machine
I've said for decades that automation
by itself does nothing. Automation
(whatever it is) must connect to a
base system or machine. These can
be configured in many different ways,
including as automated guided vehicles
(AGVs), conveyors, sorting systems,
forked vehicles, pallet movers, tuggers,
OCTOBER 2016

Higher levels
of automation

tion system(s), and the interface
between those two complex systems
and components.

complexity will

The teachable moment

introduce countless
more opportunities
for failure.
deck vehicles, and self-driving vehicles
(cars, trucks, trains, and airport people
movers).
Let's focus on forked AGVs. This is
basically a forklift truck that has been
fully automated. The components of
a forked AGV still require routine
(periodic) maintenance, and an
occasional repair, including, among
other things, its:
■ mast system, rollers, sliders, chains,
guards, hoses
■ hydraulic-lift cylinder(s), tilt
cylinders, hoses, control valves,
pump, fluid filters, fluids
■ forks, carriage
■ drivetrain wheels, tires, drive axle,
transmission, steering
■ electric-motor connections, wiring,
brushes, armature condition, filters
■ battery system terminals, electrolyte,
status indicator, and the actual
battery
■ electrical contactors, connections,
lugs
■ lubrication of chains, rollers, motor,
fork carriage, pivot points, wheel
spindle bearings
■ electrical-system wiring, connectors, lights, annunciators, warning
devices.
What's missing from the forked
AGV maintenance list that's included
on one for a traditional forklift? Not
much: the operator's seat, seat belt,
steering wheel, protective cage/roll
bars, brakes, and gear shifter. In the
end, the reliability of the forked AGV
depends on the reliability of the base
systems and components, the automa-

Higher levels of automation complexity
will introduce countless more opportunities for failure. The requirements for
inherent (built-in) reliability, reliable
work processes, and human talent will
also grow exponentially.
The investment in human capital
will become increasingly more important than the investment in capital
assets in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Without investments in skills and
knowledge to operate and maintain
high-tech systems, the money spent on
new automation will fail to achieve the
desired businesses goals.

Key takeaway
The "Professional Equipment Technician" of the very near future will be
required to master equipment/system
maintenance fundamentals, interpret
on-board diagnostics, and make necessary repairs to electro-mechanical
systems. The good news is that all of
this is achievable without a four-year
college degree.
Businesses must accelerate
their internal and external talentmanagement systems. Community
colleges and technical schools must
begin tooling up for transforming
occupations. Beyond STEM (science,
technology, engineering, math) skills,
our elementary, middle, and high
schools must begin introducing careers
for modern industrial/manufacturing
and facilities maintenance that will
continue to command high wages for
high skills. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM
and member of the Institute of Asset
Management, is in his fourth decade
of focusing on the "people side" of
world-class maintenance and reliability
in plants and facilities across North
America. Contact him at
RobertMW2@cs.com.
MAINTENANCETECHNOLOGY.COM | 5


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Maintenance Technology October 2016

Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 1
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - Cover1
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - Cover2
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 1
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 2
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 3
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 4
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 5
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 6
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 7
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Maintenance Technology October 2016 - Cover3
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