(Updated for 2024)
Data is the fuel that keeps your machines running.
Hi, I am Phil Hull. Before joining the Maextro team, I worked in the Aerospace industry for over forty years. When I started my career in aerospace, they were still using an IBM mainframe computer. My first job was as an MRP controller in the machine shop but saw my opportunity to move when they decided to move to SAP in 1989 and they were looking for people to do the testing of the new environment. I have not looked back since.
Around the same time, I decided to do an OU BSc honours degree in Information Technology and Computing. I set up SAP Plant Maintenance in the UK for one of the leading European commercial airspace manufacturers.
I decided to take a job at Maextro because I wanted a new challenge and saw it as an opportunity to improve Plant Maintenance process and pass on some of my extensive knowledge on the subject to others.
In today’s enterprise environment, it is important to maximise throughput though your fixed assets such as machines & plants etc.
It is important to know the status of the assets that you own, whether they are available for production, being maintained as part of planned maintenance activities or are being repaired due to a breakdown. Once you have this data in the enterprise environment, you can see asset availability in real time. This enables you to better plan your production and see maintenance cost in real time without the need to rely on manual reports produced in Excel.
It enables the collection of data surrounding each asset which in turn enables the maintenance department to get a better picture of:
- See upcoming planned maintenance and whether you have enough capacity to carry it out or reschedule if necessary. This brings real benefits as you can now capacity plan your workload and resources, but you need to remember to allow some spare capacity for any unforeseen breakdowns.
- See what planned maintenance was carried out on an asset. The main benefit here is that you can see the full history of the asset and, in the unlikely event of an incident, you can show that the asset has been properly maintained and was in proper working order before the incident happened.
- Cost of planned maintenance for an asset. It enables you to see the cost over a given period of, say, a month or a year or longer.
- See Breakdowns across asset groups or a single asset. This enables the business to see breakdowns in real time enabling them to plan around the issue if another similar asset is available to move the production to.
- Have a clear view of outstanding breakdowns and their priority and whether they are waiting for spare parts. It enables you to work on the highest priority ones first where an asset is at a complete stop and you have no alternative machine that can do the work. The lower priority ones tend to be an issue where the asset can still run but at a low capacity until it is fixed.
- Look for pattens in the breakdowns to enable preventive maintenance to be carried out to stop future breakdowns. The most powerful tool in plant maintenance is the ability to analyse the reasons for breakdowns so that you can see where the same fault is occurring on a regular basis and plan to carry out a regular check as part of the maintenance plan to stop the fault occurring in the future.
- Cost of repair of an asset over time. This would include spare parts used, cost of parts and man-hours to fix the asset. It enables you to see the repair cost of each asset over a given period.
- Check the mean time between breakdown of an asset. This is a good indicator to use to see if an asset needs replacing as breakdowns tend to occur more frequently as the asset comes to the end of its life. It might just need more planned maintenance to stop the breakdowns happening in the future.
- Average time to repair an asset. This enables the maintenance manager to better understand the likely downtime of a machine depending on the fault.
- Better utilisation of maintenance team. If you get the planned maintenance right, you stop most breakdowns happening so you can better plan your week, rather than running from one breakdown to another. You will never stop all breakdowns completely.
- Better utilisation of spares held by maintenance. If you have bills of materials for each asset of the separable parts, you can better understand what the commonly used spare parts are. This enables you to hold stock of the spares and, when used, replace them.
I never valued the power of the data within Plant Maintenance before, but I do now. It can transform your business from reactive maintenance to proactive maintenance where you plan maintenance. The biggest battle you will have is with the production manager who just wants to run the machine until it breaks rather than have planned machine stops for maintenance. Once they see the benefits of planned maintenance rather than reactive maintenance they will come on board, as they usually see a more controlled flow of work through the business.
Phil Hull – Plant Maintenance Consultant at Maextro
(Updated for 2024)
We’re Bluestonex- the team behind Maextro master data management system and we love to craft new ideas and innovative solutions. Yes, we do the design thinking and then (dependant on how crazy we get) we add a touch of pragmatism. Well, I guess that’s my approach as I like to challenge ideas occasionally as I am always trying to understand the consumer or end user of the service or product we start talking about and designing for.
The point is; we love working with people using Design Thinking approaches for innovation / problem-solving and this story is a brief blog on how we created our flagship product- Maextro.
We need to retrace our steps some 10 years to tell the story properly. Back then, we had a conversation with a couple of clients looking for a new solution for running & managing their enterprise data objects and associated processes. They were running SAP software for their ERP & had looked at the compatible market offerings to manage their data processes. They had found a couple of products that could potentially meet their requirements but these were either too expensive, too complex or lacked the flexibility they craved. That’s where we came in……
We were already working on a prototype and had done tons of research & observation sessions on the subject matter of data management & we had spotted a gap in the ever-expanding SAP enterprise estate…but the engagement from the clients gave us more drive to deliver something simple, effective, full of features & functionality and all with a great User Interface (UI).
We wanted to build a flexible master data management system, integrated to SAP and focused on processes as well as data. Oh, and of course we needed to build for mobile users and therefore needed a great UI.
When running the design thinking workshops, we talked about ‘stand-alone cloud’ but it became apparent very early on that a ‘stand-alone cloud’ in this case didn’t make sense. What did make sense was wherever the SAP ERP system resided, so too must this solution, not just sit next to it, but within it (and by that, I mean either premise or on the cloud).
We talked about future trends in SAP ERP and we knew SAP is heavily investing in technologies (S/4 HANA) that promotes a run simple strategy i.e. single master data management system for all your needs. Our thought process was that by developing something that sits within core SAP system is definitely the right approach and future proofs the solution in terms of SAP compatibility /usability and therefore we decided to develop a tool that pretty much would work from within the core of SAP.
We also wanted to deliver an IMG (Configuration Menu) in the solution for customers to configure the system as and when required (this way, as their data processes change, they shouldn’t be reliant on consultants to re-develop the application and they can do it themselves). Sounds simple and yet a lot of solutions do not cater for this type of basic/obvious requirement.
Early prototyping took various forms from wire framing & use of tools such as Invision, Build and Axure…..but from early design to first working prototype it took 12 weeks utilising SAP ABAP. This included technical delivery, data migration from old solution (in this case MS Sharepoint) and user training. I would tell the story in more detail on this area but I would lose my thread and lose your attention.
What do we call the software – what name do we give it? Everything has to have a meaning, right? This is where we involve our great thinkers, digitizers and innovators. We wanted something to connect to data processes and to be instrumental in their flow. A conductor manages an orchestra and the orchestra has various components so we can relate the term Maestro (a man who is very skilled at playing or conducting (= directing the performance of) music) – but in our case were talking about processes & data that need directing – so we gave birth to Maextro (with the X replacing the S because its Bluestonex and of course our focus on UX)
Delivering a master data management system
Bringing Maextro to life took time. The core engine took thousands of hours of code from our labs & the different UI (User Interface) options alone took some time. Some might say that this isn’t true design thinking and that prototypes should be quick (& if we fail then we should fail early…which is true to a point but I will elaborate on this).
Another factor – We didn’t pick one UI as we thought why limit the customer? We can let the customer choose depending on their landscape (just like when you buy your phone and choose your own wallpaper and fonts etc..).
So, we developed Maextro’s core engine in ABAP and have a UI on SAP GUI but also using SAP Screen Personas and SAP Fiori (UI5).
We thought this approach was better to give those options as SAP Screen Personas is freely available for customers (for branding as their own product and simpler screen navigation) and by also creating all screens on SAPUI5 using SAP Fiori Principles we gave the option to a modern UI that’s responsive to different device types – this way, depending on the customers landscape the customer can choose which UI they deploy.
So, back to timescales and what timescales does it take to bring a product like Maextro to market???
Enterprise Software that is integrated or is considered an ‘add-on’ for powerhouse software companies like SAP, must be robust, must add value and absolutely must be low risk. This is why it takes time. This is why Maextro is a great solution for enterprises looking to get the most from their SAP investment, want control of master data processes and want flexibility from a solution, how it is configured and how to deploy it.
if you have already used the product, we hope you enjoy as much as we enjoyed creating it & bringing it to life.
If you would like more information about Maextro, visit the Maextro home page here.