Millions being lost due to downtime in industrial systems

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A Vanson Bourne survey of 450 UK, US and French IT decision makers in field service and service management has estimated that the average cost of downtime is $260,000 per hour.

The research, which was commissioned by ServiceMax, found that 80% of respondents said they had experienced a critical major outage lasting four hours in past three years.

The study showed that in those organisations that had experienced an outage in the past three years, almost half (46%) said a hardware failure or malfunction played a role in this, while 40% cited a software failure or malfunction. Other causes of downtime include overload (29%), user error (17%), a security breach (14%), and humidity (11%).

Although a a certain amount of downtime can be expected and tolerated, the research showed that 65% of respondents from the energy and utilities sector, and 62% from the medical sector, believe losing customers’ trust is a high possibility following a high-profile incident or disaster.

With companies experiencing two such events annually, each of which typically lasts an average of four hours, the costs to business are considerable, according to ServiceMax.

Mark Homer, vice-president of global customer transformation at ServiceMax, said: “Outages tend to go unnoticed. The survey found that 70% of companies have a lack of awareness about when their assets need to be maintained.”

The costs, causes and repercussions of unplanned downtime are triggering investment in digital tools and field service management.

Homer said he was seeing a shift among businesses to outcome-based business models where service providers offer a guarantee of uptime and availability. “There is a big move to sophisticated instrumentation and connected systems,” he said.

“In the same way field service management moved from being reactive to proactive to preventative, we are seeing a similar shift in attitudes to unplanned downtime from recovery to protection to pre-emptive. Over time, zero tolerance and zero unplanned downtime will become the norm as companies develop and invest in their industrial digital strategies.”

This leads to the so-called digital twin, a concept pioneered by GE Digital, which acquired ServiceMax earlier this year. The digital twin provides an electronic representation of a physical asset. Sensor data on the physical device is mirrored on the digital twin. When the physical asset is maintained, or firmware is updated, the digital twin is also updated.

“With a digital twin, you can see where one piece of equipment has failed and you can do planned maintenance,” added Homer. … … … … … … … ….

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