What is prescriptive maintenance?

Prescriptive maintenance, sometimes shortened to RxM, is seen as the next step for maintenance management in manufacturing plants. It aims to use machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) together with IIoT to deliver targeted recommendations for equipment maintenance that reduce operational risk.

Prescriptive maintenance builds upon predictive maintenance (PdM). Predictive maintenance detects the earliest signs of impending part failure so that plant engineers can develop more efficient and streamlined maintenance schedules. Prescriptive maintenance would calculate the potential outcomes of different actions and recommend the best approach.

Prescriptive maintenance isn’t yet a reality, but some engineers are exploring the concept and considering how it could benefit their plant.

Why does prescriptive maintenance matter to process manufacturing plants?

Although it’s impossible for any process plant to implement prescriptive maintenance now, there is talk about the value it could bring to process manufacturing. Root cause analysis would be faster, because machines could analyze themselves. Smart machines could diagnose their own issues and produce accurate recommendations for the best course of action.

Sometimes, plant engineers are faced with an item of equipment showing signs of impending failure. They need to decide between an early repair, run-to-fail or slowing down production to bring the equipment up to its scheduled maintenance window. A prescriptive maintenance model would make the decision easy by revealing the outcome of every option.

How can plants apply prescriptive maintenance?

For the moment, prescriptive maintenance is out of reach for process manufacturing. There are simply too many complex moving parts and too much data that fluctuate in unpredictable ways.

The best option for process plants is to focus on predictive maintenance. In many ways, predictive maintenance lays the groundwork for prescriptive maintenance. It requires plants to gather data and make it accessible to AI-powered platforms; forces a culture shift to trusting data insights; and helps employees grow accustomed to early, proactive interventions instead of “running to fail.”

Plants that implement predictive maintenance will be well placed to advance to prescriptive maintenance when those solutions become viable. Until then, they’ll enjoy smooth, streamlined plant maintenance, reduced plant downtime, lower equipment costs, and higher product quality, which are the shared goals for both predictive and prescriptive maintenance.

How could prescriptive maintenance benefit process plants?

Analysts and data scientists hope that prescriptive maintenance could lower costs, cut plant downtime, and increase production quality and quantity for process plants, thereby boosting profitability. However, it’s not yet possible for process manufacturing.

Predictive maintenance currently delivers all these benefits and is realistic for process plants, so it’s not clear whether process plants will choose to move to prescriptive maintenance even when the technology makes it viable.