Big Blue is beefing up its maintenance, repair and operations to help its industrial customers with asset optimization.

Courtney Bjorlin

July 3, 2018

2 Min Read
Image shows a man with a safety hat standing near an oil refinery.
Engineering man standing with white safety helmet near to oil refineryGetty Images

IBM will integrate maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) supply optimization functionality from its recently-acquired Oniqua subsidiary into its Maximo asset optimization platform. The acquisition is aimed at boosting industrial IoT capabilities in the mining, oil and gas, and energy and utilities industries.

Cloud-based Oniqua software helps customers automate and provide analysis to monitor and manage inventory like spare parts and materials for the assets themselves. Bringing together data on MRO inventory with data on the assets in the Maximo platform will enable better control and availability over materials and parts, with the aim to ultimately predict requirements that will optimize asset operation and maximize uptime, according to IBM.

“I can optimize (MRO) inventory and reduce a lot of inventory costs, and reduce further downtime that is a result of MRO missed alignments,” said Mark Peterson, vice president, partner and global lead, Building and Asset Optimization, IoT for IBM Global Business Services. He added that better MRO inventory analysis can save “millions of dollars,” that can be used to invest in predictive maintenance capabilities and further operational optimization.

In one example shared by Dan Miklovic, research fellow, LNS Research, when installing new equipment most companies adopt the OEM’s recommendations for a certain minimum level of spare parts based on equipment design, performance criteria and past experience, and adjust upward if those levels aren’t adequate. As equipment ages or is replaced, the level of spare parts often doesn’t match the footprint of installed equipment.

“In the worst case, a firm may be holding spare parts for equipment they no longer even own,” Miklovic wrote on his blog. “In the typical case they are probably maintaining spares levels based on the original footprint instead of what exists today.”

Peterson pointed to one $25 billion company that has saved $250 million a year in better managing MRO inventory.

“As you look at MRO inventories and ability to optimize, we can save customers a lot of money in that process,” he said.

Oniqua will be sold as a separate service, and be available to both on-premise and cloud-based Maximo customers, according to IBM. There are plans to integrate Oniqua functionality into other IBM solutions, Peterson said, but he couldn’t discuss the road map in detail. Oniqua will be under the Watson IoT team.  The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“We believe, and I think it’s being validated in the market, that asset management and buildings and physical assets are really at a crossroads because of the IoT,” Peterson said. “This was a very nice strengthening and complementary addition to our existing portfolio.”

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