One of the most heavily researched industries over the past decade is Artificial Intelligence (AI). From real-world applications in most sectors, the possibilities and benefits of AI are practically limitless. In simple terms, artificial intelligence refers to programmable intelligence in machines or software. 

What is predictive maintenance?

It refers to determining the breaking point or failure point of a particular machine through periodic observations. The machine can then be serviced or replaced just before it fails thus helping to minimize downtime.

How does it work?

A software or manual inspection can read certain parameters of the machine such as the temperature of the connections, vibrations in the bearing, and other similar factors. Periodic readings can help determine major offsets and also find out the breaking point of the machine. 

Machines and tools in the defense are usually mission-critical and have a high availability requirement. What happens when equipment such as vehicles, drones or aircraft fail when in operation? It may result in extensive damages and loss of property or worse, loss of life. 

What are the advantages of using Predictive Maintenance in Defense? 

  • Reduction in maintenance costs
    In just the United States alone, the government spends almost $700 billion every year on its military budget. A big chunk of it is reserved for maintaining and servicing the defense equipment. By using predictive maintenance, the associated service costs of machinery can be reduced significantly. Data and estimates show that roughly 10-20% of operational costs can be reduced by implementing predictive maintenance. 
  • No downtime
    Imagine being able to predict exactly when a machine is about to reach failure? Predictive maintenance through AI has shown results by reducing machine failures by approximately 55%. Additionally, machine downtime can also be reduced by 60% by better planning the maintenance schedules. 
  • Better service life from machines and equipment
    With predictive maintenance, the equipment can be serviced as needed leading to better durability and longevity. By properly managing the maintenance and service of each part, predictive maintenance can increase a part lifespan by more than 30%. 
  • Reduced stocking of spare parts
    Without predictive maintenance, parts of the machine are replaced periodically. However, by using AI, each part can be utilized fully and replaced only when it is about to reach failure. This can help reduce the costs involved in stocking spare parts by almost 30%. 
  • Better planning and usage
    The “fix it before it breaks strategy” can help you plan maintenance well in advance. This means that you can avoid using the machine for critical missions when you know it is nearing its failure point. 

The need for AI in predictive maintenance

The major challenge with implementing Artificial Intelligence for defense is that a large amount of data needs to be interpreted and analyzed. How do we get this data? Machines and equipment are fitted with sensors that periodically record relevant data such as temperature, vibrations, and other similar factors. This data then needs to be monitored and checked for major offsets and differences. Additionally, using AI, the failure or breaking point of the machine can also be determined accordingly. Though this is quite simple to be implemented for individual machines, consolidating and analyzing data becomes near impossible when there are hundreds of machines. This is where AI comes into the picture. 

Thanks to technological advancements, we have the practically limitless processing power. Coupled with AI, large data sets can easily be sorted and analyzed. 

Is it really necessary?

The major advantage of using predictive maintenance with AI is being able to avoid unplanned failures and downtime. Military equipment is mission-critical and has a relatively high availability requirement. With predictive maintenance, the AI can determine when the machine is reaching its failure point. The handler can then take the appropriate action necessary to fix the machine. This makes predictive maintenance one of the most efficient strategies when it comes to maintaining or servicing machines. The AI can also be drilled down to focus on individual parts instead of focusing on the machine as a whole. North America tops the chart with almost a 32% market share in predictive maintenance solutions. All other countries are expected to follow suit with the market expecting rapid gradual growth in the coming years.