Enabling an E-Maintenance Infrastructure

Information protocol standards developed by MIMOSA offer a path for networking islands of maintenance and reliability information for equipment asset management and optimization.

Progressive plant executives, maintenance managers, and work planners have always wanted to have information about the condition of equipment assets at their fingertips when they need it. Unfortunately, it typically is scattered among separate information systems, one for each information type: work history, reliability data, vibration analysis, infrared thermography, oil analysis, control device monitors, and more.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to view the different information types on the same computer terminal, let alone compile and synchronize them into an integrated view or report on which to base intelligent asset management decisions. Even when the systems can be accessed from the same terminal, it usually requires separate programs using separate languages.

One solution to this predicament is the open protocol standard being developed by the Machinery Information Management Open Systems Alliance (MIMOSA), a trade association for the MRO solutions industry. The organization advocates and develops information integration specifications to enable open, industry-driven, integrated solutions for managing complex high-value assets.

The power of having information when you need it facilitates sound asset management decisions that add value to the top line, trim expenses, and reduce waste. The contribution to the bottom line is significant, making development of an asset information management network a sound investment. The resulting network that integrates and synchronizes the various maintenance and reliability applications to gather and deliver asset information where it is needed when it is needed is called e-maintenance, which is a subset of e-manufacturing, and e-business.

Connecting islands of information
Interconnectivity of the islands of maintenance and reliability information is embodied in e-maintenance. These separate information islands are built using specialized proprietary systems that provide value because they are optimized for a specific task or tasks, and they provide best results and value for those purposes. However, their combined value can be multiplied significantly if they can be merged into an e-maintenance network.

The e-maintenance network can be developed from a collection of information islands in several ways: use a single proprietary system, buy a custom bridge, build a custom bridge, or use an open systems bridge. The following discussion outlines some of the advantages and limitations of each approach.

Avoid bridge building
One network development strategy is to purchase as many systems as possible from a single vendor and leverage the system connectivity and integration provided.

Advantages include:

  • A single source to resolve system problems and incompatibilities
  • Low risk

Limitations include:

  • Possibility of not getting a complete off-the-shelf solution from one supplier
  • Possible dependence on proprietary interfaces
  • Each product may not be the "best-of-breed" solution
  • Less customization

Buy a bridge
A pre-designed bridge offered by a supplier can tie applications together so they can exchange information. The bridge may connect one program to another program or link one program to several programs. The bridge supplier may be one of the application providers or a third party.

Advantages include:

  • Lower cost because development costs are shared among all who purchase the gateway
  • Lower risk than using internal information technology resources to build a gateway

Limitations include:

  • Possible dependence on proprietary interfaces
  • Greater risk if gateway depends on the relationship among the suppliers. If that relationship sours, then gateway may be in jeopardy.
  • Continuous buying or funding of updates to the gateway for new system versions
  • Less customization available

Build a custom bridge
Some limitations of a pre-designed gateway can be overcome by using an integration company or your own company's information technology group to build your own gateway. However, this route can be expensive.

Advantages include:

  • High level of customization for plant needs
  • Short-term strategic benefit to company

Limitations include:

  • High risk due to unforeseen incompatibility issues
  • High cost due to lack of multiple users
  • Difficulty in resolving problems among application suppliers (possible finger-pointing)
  • Possible dependence on proprietary interfaces
  • High annual software maintenance cost. These costs typically run around 20 percent of original cost which translates to $100,000 annual maintenance costs for a $500,000 software integration project.

Use an open systems bridge
A number of the limitations inherent in custom bridge solutions can be overcome by using an industry standard gateway. In mature sectors, this translates into plug-and-play capability that allows a company's information services department to hook up any compliant product to the network.

Advantages include:

  • Engineered plug-and-play system capability designed up-front into system
  • No burden of on-going integration efforts
  • More freedom to choose best technology from information supplier (plug and play)
  • Creation of the information backbone of e-maintenance

Limitations include:

  • Necessity for suppliers to support industry standard
  • Standard gateway may not provide all the functionality of a custom interface, but a good open systems standard allows suppliers to add capabilities built on the standard.

Win-win scenario
MIMOSA's open systems specifications offer advantages to maintenance and reliability end users as well as technology developers and suppliers.

For users, the adoption of MIMOSA specifications will facilitate the integration of asset management information, provide a freedom to choose from a broader selection of software applications, and save money by reducing integration and software maintenance costs.

For technology suppliers, the adoption of MIMOSA specifications will stimulate and broaden the market, allow concentration of resources on core high-value activity rather than low value platform and custom interface requirements, and reduce development costs.

What is an open system?
According to the glossary posted by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University (www.sei.cmu.edu/opensystems/glossary.html), a specification is open if its interface is fully defined and available to the public and it is maintained by a group consensus process.

The SEI goes on to define an open system as a collection of interacting software, hardware, and human components:

  • Designed to satisfy stated needs
  • With interface specifications of its components that are fully defined, available to the public, and maintained according to group consensus
  • In which the implementations of the components conform to the interface specifications.

It follows that open system architecture would be made up of components, both hardware and software, that are specified in an open manner.

A number of consensus-based specifications have been developed or are in development for information sectors that make up the e-maintenance infrastructure. Those information sectors, specifications, and consensus-building organizations include:

MIMOSA is also working closely with the International Standards Organization (ISO). ISO Technical Committee 108--Subcommittee 5--Condition Monitoring and Diagnostics of Machines is developing an official international standard for machine condition assessment.

MIMOSA solution
Taken as a whole, maintenance and reliability information is extremely complex, much more so than most business sectors. The e-maintenance network must provide for the open exchange of equipment asset related information between condition assessment, process control, and maintenance information systems. The condition assessment sector must include the specialized data required by vibration, oil analysis, infrared thermography, and motor circuitry evaluation. All these disciplines are represented on MIMOSA technical committees.

Prior to MIMOSA, developers defined data fields to fit their own hardware and software systems. MIMOSA provides a standard set of asset management data fields in its Common Relational Information Schema (CRIS) that software developers can adopt for their open systems.

CRIS spans all technologies, with tables for site information, measurement data, alarms, sample test data, and blob data (binary large object fields for drawings and photographs). Special maintenance and reliability tables define fields for events (actual, hypothesized, proposed), health and estimated asset life assessment, and recommendations. CRIS has been posted on http://www.mimosa.org/ for public download.

MIMOSA supplier members whose products conform to CRIS have the opportunity to certify those products as MIMOSA Compliant. Two sponsor members have done so: Emerson Process Management–CSI division and Rockwell Automation–Entek.

MIMOSA has begun adapting CRIS to XML which is a common approach for data exchange between systems over networks, including the Internet.

Learn more, get involved
MIMOSA needs additional insight into user information needs, technical input for standards projects, volunteers for technical and administrative activities, and project funding. Visit http://www.mimosa.org/ to learn more. E-mail MIMOSA President This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Telephone MIMOSA Executive Director Tom Bond at (619) 226-2244.

The more technical details of information flow in the e-maintenance network will be covered in a future article. MT

Special thanks to Ken Bever, strategic project manager, Rockwell Automation–Entek, Milford, OH, for significant input to this article.

Robert C. Baldwin is editor of MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY Magazine, Barrington, IL

MIMOSA Initiatives
Alan Johnston
, President

We usually need to work together to make significant advances in business, science, or engineering. Unfortunately, powerful forces frequently make this more difficult than it should be. MIMOSA, the industrial trade association for the maintenance, repair, and operating (MRO) solutions industry, is using the attractive forces of cooperation to help counterbalance the repelling forces of competition. MIMOSA thus is building what can be termed a "cooperative" environment for the MRO industry. Beneficiaries include the manufacturers, integrators, operators, and maintainers of complex assets and heavy equipment.

Society has been able to agree on benefits arising from competition. There is also broad agreement that a purely competitive environment tends to channel all available benefits to a handful of participants, thus eventually slowing innovation and limiting potential benefits. As a result, both society and business have attempted to organize themselves to provide a broader distribution of the potential rewards of competition by "growing the whole pie." MIMOSA is fundamentally dedicated to serving business by using a variety of methods designed to help improve the entire MRO industry, thus creating improved business opportunities for all market participants.

In order to improve the business environment for the MRO industry, MIMOSA has organized itself around three principal activity domains: technical, marketing, and institutional. This section covers marketing activities that contribute to the overall vision and approach to the MRO marketplace. Technical and institutional issues are covered in similar sections by Ken Bever and Tom Bond.

Recently, MIMOSA has moved to expand its marketing efforts in three areas: advocacy for enhanced approaches to MRO, coordination with other associations, and development of the MIMOSA Information Network (MIN).

While MIMOSA has always had a basic role in market education and advocacy, current efforts are increasingly emphasizing collaborative efforts with other associations and groups. Rather than trying to do everything itself, MIMOSA believes it can be more efficient and best increase the opportunities available to MRO market participants by leveraging the efforts of other organizations and institutions participating in the market. Results of current collaborative efforts within the commercial and governmental sectors are expected to be ready for announcement soon.

MIMOSA also has moved forward to develop a technology demonstration platform, the MIN, which provides a basic membership marketing tool and a basis for commercial MRO collaboration. A current MIMOSA project is using the MIN as the basis for establishing an architecture and demonstration platform for collaborative telemaintenance in the U.S. Army.

By focusing on the needs of the MRO community, MIMOSA is helping to establish an improved business environment for all MRO market participants. MIMOSA believes it is the best forum for organizing the needed forces for cooperation and collaboration in the MRO industry and invites your participation.

MIMOSA Organization
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Executive Director

MIMOSA is a trade association of members with business interests that focus on the interchange of condition and performance based maintenance data and equipment asset information. MIMOSAs nonprofit corporation status permits cooperation by otherwise competitive entities. The cooperation centers on developing specifications for maintenance information interfaces. These specifications are periodically made available to the public. Tool sets and example applications are produced from time to time for use by the members.

One of the major purposes served by MIMOSA is that of a clearing house for product certification status.

Current MIMOSA Compliant products include Rockwell Automation–Entek's E-MONITOR Odyssey Ver. 1.2 and Emerson Process Management–CSI division's RBMware Ver. 4.2. These products are certified as complying with Ver. 1.1 of MIMOSA's Common Relational Information Schema (CRIS) and specified interfaces. Ver. 1.1 deals with file transfer.

Certification is self-administered using provided tools and a procedural guide to verify conformity. Upon successful self-certification, a trademark use agreement is executed. For detailed information see www.mimosa.org/certprod.htm. MIMOSA Compliant certification procedures and tools are under development in support of the XML-enabled versions of CRIS (Ver. 2.1 and 2.2).

MIMOSA is funded mostly by the annual dues paid by its members. Foundation grants and other typical means for funding nonprofit educational organizations are not permitted.

The current 60 MIMOSA members break down to six sponsors, 43 corporate members, eight individuals, and three academic members (outside North America). Functionally, the membership can be loosely described as suppliers, system integrators, consultants, and end users.

The end users set the tone and represent the buyers. Current end users include Eastman Chemical, General Motors, Koch Petroleum, M&M Mars, and Southern Company. Their support and advice is greatly appreciated.

MIMOSA Technical Activity
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Technical Director

MIMOSA's experts from across the globe have spent more than 5 years in developing a common information schema which allows information from many systems to be communicated and integrated. The schema is in a relationship form and so is known as CRISCommon Relational Information Schema.

It contains standard site, asset, and functional service segment identification nomenclature. In addition, it provides for a method of standard measurement location identification across various condition monitoring technologies (dynamic, scalar, binary, and sampling). CRIS also allows the communication of diagnostic, health, and prognostic information from smart systems and eases the generation of advisory recommendations. CRIS models maintenance and production work request scheduling and tracking the actual completion of a maintenance or production job as related to an asset. CRIS also provides the information framework for storing reliability data for assets.

In addition to CRIS, MIMOSA experts have generated a large reference database, the MIMOSA Site Zero Reference Database. This contains many useful codes which allow standardization across many disparate systems—even those from various countries. For example, the Site Zero database contains a standard universal asset type taxonomy, which allows standard querying of common asset types such as "centrifugal pump" which have never-changing three-integer unique identifiers. Other standard code tables include service segment, measurement location, engineering units, sampling test codes, diagnostic/prognostic event codes, health codes, failure codes, and root cause codes.

Recently, MIMOSA—s Technical Committee was organized into three working groups: MIMOSA Specification Working Group responsible for developing the XML client/server specifications and XML schema, the MIMOSA Tech-XML Server Working Group responsible for developing a server toolkit and compliance test utility, and the MIMOSA Information Network Working Group responsible for developing the next version of the MIN viewer.

MIMOSA: A Promise Fulfilled
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Past President

Seldom does anything tangible come from informal discussions about world problems, the ills of politics, or even failures in a favorite sports team. MIMOSA is one stellar exception.

MIMOSA began like so many other discussions—lamenting conditions within and surrounding the condition monitoring community. Despite demonstrated results, including a virtual elimination of unexpected failures, reduced costs, and a huge return—anecdotally as high as 7 to 10 times investment, all participants felt the condition monitoring community was stuck in the mud and about to be overwhelmed. The acceptance and growth many had been predicting for 10 or more years had never been fulfilled. The community was at best static and probably declining. No one felt they had the stature and respect in their own organizations that their personal contribution and results certainly justified. Many felt threatened by their own success; with a great reduction in fires, why maintain fire marshals? Finally, all recognized that larger communities were hungrily eyeing condition monitoring with little appreciation for the details of what was actually required to gain results.

The people who participated in the initial discussion identified several improvements that could be implemented within the community. Full communication between condition monitoring systems and technologies that would facilitate links into the expanding plant information infrastructure would be a major improvement. Publicizing of results and a better connection between technical and financial results were two more.

Thanks to a group of dedicated enthusiasts, the major difference between MIMOSA and so many similar conversations is that real action followed words. Today the basis for fully open exchange has been constructed, refined, and is available for use by everyone. Thanks to MIMOSA and the spark ignited eight years ago, everyone can gain the multiple advantages of a published, open method to exchange vital condition information at essentially no cost.