There’s a long tradition of making annual predictions for trends in maintenance management. Our brands’ collective blogs are full of them. Unfortunately, the last few years have been so unpredictable that the safest bet was to describe everything as “unprecedented.” But with 2023, it looks like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. As organizations embrace and implement new technologies, for example software for data collection and augmented reality, we hope to see some more positive trends, from how companies get spare parts through the supply chain to how they set up preventive maintenance programs.
Fleet managers switch to EVs
Remember when the only electric vehicle (EV) company people talked about was Tesla? (Alternatively, remember when people talked about Elon Musk only in relation to cars and Mars?) Thanks to the major automakers entering the market, there are many more options to meet what looks like a quickly growing demand.
In fact, likely because of the steep increases in gas prices in 2022, more and more people have or are looking to make the switch from internal combustion to battery.
Projected global combined sales for battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs are $462.8 billion.
Overall, what does this mean for fleet managers? Just like everyone else, they’re likely to get caught up in the tide of people getting tired of the fluctuations in gas prices and making the move to electric fleets, which also have the added benefit of being cheaper to maintain.
Leading the way is the United States Postal Service (USPS), where they’re set to spend $10 billion on going electric to make their fleet of delivery vehicles more environmentally friendly.
Augmented reality (AR) in maintenance bring data to life
For example, using a mobile device, techs can see information overlaid the asset or equipment they’re fixing. Instead of having to look back and forth between the instructions and asset, they can see both at the same time, with associated information hovering over different spots on the asset.
So, over the panel, instructions on how to open the panel. By the gears, a warning to lock out and tag out before starting. We expect to see a wider distribution of these sorts of technology as part of an overall move from paper to digital maintenance data management.
Supply chain moves to onshoring and nearshoring
It’s exciting to think about the ways 3D printing is set to change how we think about inventory. Theoretically, once you can print spare parts as you need them, you only have to keep parts in stock for the 3D printers. In the meantime, facility and maintenance managers need to keep an eye on developments and coming trends in the supply chain.
It’s possible trends in the supply chain will affect more than just your ability to source and bring in parts. Because so many companies were having so many problems with the global supply chain, companies are now talking about onshoring and nearshoring.
So, instead of having factories overseas, they’re bringing that manufacturing capacity back, either within their borders or to a neighboring country. In the past, going offshore made everything cheaper. The hope is that by moving things closer, everything becomes more dependable.
What does this mean for maintenance? Setting up local production means more facilities and assets to maintain. Departments will get bigger, and with teams spread out across different sites, there will be an even greater need to easily capture, centralize, and share maintenance data.
Sustainability is the latest trend that’s been around forever
They might be new buzzwords in the C-suite, but environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and sustainability have always been SOP in maintenance, where the whole focus is on getting the most value from an asset by extending its life cycle.
We predict organizations are going to be looking at everything, from switching to environmentally friendly office cleaning supplies to installing EV charging stations at their facilities.
The good news is as this trend grows, it’s going to be easier for facility and maintenance managers to make the business case for implementing an enterprise asset management (EAM) solution.
It saves money by reducing your use of supplies and extending the useful life of assets and equipment. There are countless benefits to making the move from paper to digital, but one that often gets overlooked is that any paperless system saves trees.
Artificial intelligence (AI) predicts the future of maintenance
Modern maintenance management software makes it so much easier for you to capture good data because it automates so many of the steps. Instead of relying on techs’ unreliable memories long after they’ve completed an inspection or task, you get data into the system right away, when they’re still on site.
Instead of waiting for them to write stuff down when they’re back at the office, with a few quick scrolls and taps, they can enter data directly into the system on their mobile device.
And where it doesn’t make sense to have a tech collecting data, you can now install asset-mounted sensors to collect a steady stream of data on heat, vibration, noise, current, or air quality.
That solves the problem of getting the data. But it doesn’t answer the question of how best to use it. In some cases, your best bet is to feed that data into an artificial intelligence (AI) that can then predict future failures long before they happen, showing you which steps you need to take and even when to take them.
Now, you’re aware of issues much higher up on the p-f curve. In the worst-case scenario, you don’t know there’s a problem until you see flames. A bit higher up the curve, you know something bad is about to happen when you start to see the temperature rising. With AI-backed predictive maintenance, the software warns you when it detects a looming problem.
The end of every year brings with it a new batch of predictions for the meaningful trends to come. For the last few rounds, it’s been hard to be hopeful, with “unprecedented” often used as a stand-in for “plain terrible.” But 2023 promises that legendary light at the end of the tunnel, with new opportunities for maintenance professionals.
In many cases, it’s the arrival of new technologies, including AR to get the right data to techs and AI to take the data from assets and turn it into accurate, cost-saving insights. Other trends affecting the industry are more cultural, especially when it comes to industries and governments embracing more environmentally friendly solutions.
USPS has already invested heavily to switching to an electric fleet, and as organizations adopt new goals related to ESG and sustainability, maintenance managers, who have always had their eye on cutting waste and the costs that come with it, may find now’s a good time to re-pitch the benefits of EAM solutions to their boss.
Going “paperless” is set to be a big selling point for a new set of reasons. For supply chain issues, the coming trends are related to companies looking for ways to reduce risk and increase reliability. For some, that may mean moving to onshoring or nearshoring, which means more local facilities and assets to manage.