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On the Evolution of an Intelligent Maintenance Optimization System

Author(s): K. A. K. Kobbacy
Source: The Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol. 55, No. 2, Part Special Issue:
Intelligent Management Systems in Operations (Feb., 2004), pp. 139-146
Published by: Palgrave Macmillan Journals on behalf of the Operational Research Society
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Journal of the Operational Research Society (2004) 55, 139-146 ? 2004 Operational Research Society Ltd. All rights reserved. 0160-5682/04 $25.00

On the evolution of an intelligent maintenance

optimization system
KAH Kobbacy*
Centre for OR & Applied Statistics (CORAS), Salford University, UK

In this paper the author reviews the development of an intelligent maintenance optimization system over the past 16
years. The paper starts with discussion of the initial motivation behind developing the system and the designs of the
early versions of a computer program to access maintenance history data and provide an analysis. The concept behind
this system was gradually developed to incorporate a rule base for the selection of a suitable model for preventive
maintenance (PM) scheduling and then to a fully developed knowledge-based system for decision support. The need to
incorporate case-based reasoning thus creating a hybrid system that can learn with use in addition to using elicited
knowledge from experts is discussed. The experience with system validation with two versions of the system is analysed.
The paper also reviews the extensive fundamental work on developing appropriate PM models that can deal with real
data patterns. Finally, the scope for future development is presented.
Journal of the Operational Research Society (2004) 55, 139-146. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jors.2601696

Keywords: maintenance; optimization; scheduling; knowledge-based systems; case-based reasoning

Introduction The particular problem in hand was to study the

maintenance policy of North Sea oil platforms with a view
This paper outlines the history of the development of an
to cost-effective improvement. These are very complex
intelligent decision support system (DSS) for maintenance
structures. They have the facilities to drill production wells
management of complex plant. Besides highlighting the
and to produce crude oil, separate oil from the accompany-
amount of research that has been necessary so far, and that
ing gas and water and to pump crude oil to shore. Each
needed in the future, reviewing the history clarifies the
platform is divided into tens of systems, for example,
motivation for the numerous developments and refinements
drilling, pumping, cranes, water injection, etc. As crude oil is
that have been necessary. This action-based development has
a valuable commodity, equipment availability was of
been a natural consequence of starting from the outset with a
paramount importance. Extensive PM routines were ap-
real and substantive problem within a company.
plied. History records of failures, PM interventions, down-
In the spring of 1987, the author made a visit to the offices
time, etc were kept in a database.
of a major oil company to organize industry-based MSc
As each platform contained thousands of components, it
projects. In a meeting with the maintenance management became evident that in order to be able to evaluate the
manager, it was explained that the company had been
maintenance policies it was necessary to develop a compu-
accumulating maintenance-related data over a number of
terized system that can access data, carry out analysis an
years in a database. They had recently made some analysis
produce results that can guide engineers in their decision
of these data, such as identifying major tasks and comparing
making. The idea of developing maintenance DSS was
work on different oil production platforms. The manager
was looking for ways to better utilize the data stored in the
database. This sort of data would be recognized by
researchers as a valuable source for real life data for use in
the much needed maintenance modelling research. It was Maintenance DSSs
agreed to carry out two projects, one based at the company
Two studies were carried out in parallel.1,2 Both studies had
offices and the other at the university where the authora similar objective, namely to develop automated main-
lectured at that time.
tenance DSS. They used different tools for analysis but
reached similar conclusions.
Study A' was carried out at the company's offices, hence it
*Correspondence: KAH Kobbacy, Centre for OR & Applied Sciences,
was possible to establish clear understanding of the
Maxwell Building, Salford University, Salford, Greater Manchester M5
4WT, UK. maintenance system in place and access any additional
E-mail: information required. Study B2 was carried out at the

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140 Journal of the Operational Research Society Vol. 55, No. 2

university and hence more academic support was at hand. Knowledge-based maintenance DSS
However, in both studies students were closely communicat-
Another MSc projected was carried out by Harper6 in the
ing with each other and the maintenance management staff
following year in order to continue the development of
as well as the academic supervisor. What follows is a short
the maintenance DSSs of previous studies.',2 This study
summary of the main features and findings of both studies.
was characterized by formalizing the concepts implemented
Wighti used the statistical package SAS to develop a
in the previous studies as well as consolidating the modelling
system to assist the management of the Maintenance
process and the statistical estimation and testing of
Division in deciding on how often, if at all, preventive
parameters. Thus, the definition of DSS was adequately
maintenance (PM) should be performed on the equipment of
discussed and the special feature of the DSS that it has
North Sea oil platforms. He identified three patterns for PM
a 'certain degree of intelligence' started to emerge. Handling
data and used a different model for each data pattern. For
of the censored data received special attention in this
components that have relatively extensive data to establish
study. Overall, the study was very successful in consoli-
lifetime distributions following PM and corrective work
dating the concept of an intelligent maintenance man-
(CO), he adopted a simplified version of a model developed
agement system that was to be further developed in the
by Watson3 (Stochastic model). If sufficient data were not
available for the component, a version of Handlarski4 model
The next step in developing the proposed system was to
(Deterministic model) was used. A Geometric model was
attract funding from the research council and/or industry,
also adapted to model cases with history containing only
which was a time-consuming process. This time was used to
PMs with no failures. He applied his system to the Water
develop ideas and clarify design details of the proposed
Injection System. The study identified that a large propor-
system. A key paper7 containing these developed ideas was
tion of survival data was censored, although that was not
published. Kobbacy7 dealt with the following fundamental
accounted for in Watson's model.3 The system was able to
decide an optimal PM interval for 83% of the components.
Why there is a need for developing an intelligent
The Geometric model was applied more frequently than any
maintenance DSS?
other model (67% of items) revealing that the system may
have been over-maintained. Watson's model seems to have
(1) The main functional features expected of such a system.
more value as it was used in cases that represents 77% of the
(2) The main components and outline design of the system.
man-hours expended in maintenance, although 17% only by
(3) How to identify maintenance data patterns.
number of components.
(4) Factors affecting model selection.
The other study by Alzubaidi2 had similar objectives for
developing a simple DSS to evaluate the maintenance The configuration and main modules of the proposed
policies of a Main Oil Line Pump system with a view to
system are shown in Figure 1. The data base and model base
extending the application to other systems. The criterion was
contain the data and models used in analysis, respectively.
to maximize availability. The FORTRAN programmingThe knowledge system contains the rules that are used in
language was used to develop the DSS. Five specific data
selecting the model for a data set. The processor commu-
patterns were identified and a suitable model was identified
nicates with all system modules and with the user through
for each. These were: no failure, few failures, frequent
the user interface.
failures with or without PM, and variable PM cycle length.
The models used were similar to Wight'si study. The focus
of the study was on analysing the results of the different
models for components. Using data for all the components,
it was possible to model the failure patterns for only 50% of
them, a figure closer to the finding of the subsequent studies
than that of Wight'. However the Geometric model was
again the most frequent model used for cases with few or no SYSTEM INTERFACE
failures. This applied only for 43% of components. The
study was concluded with useful recommendations for
further research.

The most important finding from these two studies was PROCESSOR

that when examining large maintenance databases many

failure data patterns can be identified and hence a suitable
model can be selected to schedule PM for pattern. An USER INTERFACE

outline design for an information oriented maintenance

management system was developed based on these findingsFigure 1 A configuration of knowledge-based mainten
and presented at a conference in 1988.5 management system.7

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KAH Kobbacy-Evolution of an intelligent maintenance optimization system 141

The salient functional features that are expected of (3) Analysis data module: analyses of formatted data,
the proposed system were articulated by Kobbacy7 and identify pattern, select model and produce results. This
marginally adjusted in subsequent studies.8'9 These features module contains the rule base and model base.
are: (4) Display results module: displays results in numerical
(1) To access the history data from a maintenance data base.
(5) Plot results module: displays results graphically.
(2) To check the quality of data.
(3) To recognize characteristic data patterns.
(4) To query the user for additional information,When handling massive amounts of data for thousands of
ment and criterion. components, it is essential to ascertain its consistency and
(5) To select the most appropriate PM scheduling model validity. This feature is performed by the format data
for the decision analysis. module. Maintenance events are classed into four categories:
(6) To optimize the selected decision model, evaluate the invalid which are excluded, incomplete which are partially
current policy and propose optimal maintenance policy. used, absorbed which are merged into other events and valid
(7) To present the results of the analysis in a flexible format. events which are readily used in subsequent analysis. All
(8) To respond to user enquiries, perform 'What if?' deci- events that are not classified as valid are flagged.10
sion modelling and provide explanations of the recom- Knowledge representation in the form of procedural rules
mended decisions. is commonly used in OR applications due to its rapid
(9) To have learning capabilities. development, efficiency of execution and ease of integration.
(10) To have a user friendly Windows interface. The development of an "explicit" model selection rulebase is
Kobbacy7 detailed the factors affecting the model selec-a feature of IMOS, which distinguishes it from its DSS
tion process "rule base" including: predecessors. In the Harper6 study, for example, the code
representing the rules was embedded at various points in the
(1) History data; type, failure pattern and distribution ofFORTRAN program, which makes any changes or addition
failure data. to the rules rather cumbersome. In IMOS a list of rules for
(2) Current maintenance policies; inspection, repair, pm selecting a suitable model under certain conditions were
and replacement.
presented for the first time in maintenance literature. The
(3) Optimisation criterion; maximize availability, minimize
typical form of a rule is:8
cost, safety.
(4) Additional information including user's judgement and Rule 1: If Not matched
and Number of PM events is large
and No failure events
and PM cycle length is not very variable
Intelligent maintenance optimisation system
Apply Geometric Model I
By 1990, research funding was secured from major oil Matched
companies to develop a prototype Intelligent maintenance
optimisation system (IMOS). During this 2-year research The development of the rule base perhaps is the most
project, three main significant development steps were complex of all the development activities of IMOS. This is
achieved. These are:
because it requires thorough understanding of the field of
(1) Statistical checks of data. mathematical modelling in maintenance, which is vast and
extensive, and a grasp of how to relate identified data
(2) Development of an "explicit" model selection rule-base.
(3) System validation. patterns to these models. Figure 2 demonstrates this process.
The rule base protects models from being fed unsuitable
IMOS was based on the previous systems, that is,data.
the Hence, once a model is identified it is most likely that it
work of Wight,' Alzubaidi2 and Harper,6 but was restruc-
will have the appropriate data to produce results. The order
tured and written in C programming language in a PC in which rules appear in the rule base can have effect on the
environment. This is unlike all the previous systems that
modelling of a data set only if models were interchangeable.
were developed for use on a VAX mainframe computer. The
Testing of IMOS revealed that the only potential case of
structure of the system involves five modules:10
model overlap is between the deterministic and stochastic
(1) Main module: serves as a user interface, coordinates
models and the probability of such overlap in less than
0.5%. Thus, it was established that the order of the rules is
other modules and handles hardware system config-
uration. only significant for those two models and priority was given
(2) Format data modules: converts format of input to
the deterministic model (see Kobbacy et al8 for detailed
and checks and validate data. discussion).

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142 Journal of the Operational Research Society Vol. 55, No. 2

Examination Table 1 Percentage use of maintenance models for

of Data HIMOS when applied to large systems
// , Model HIMOS* IMOS**


1 /1 / 1\
S Identification of \\RP
Stochastic 6.6 12.8
SData Patterns
NHPP 1.6 1.6
NRP 2.3 2.3
Total Stochastic 10.5 16.4 5.6
Taxonomy of Knowledge
Models in --- - ----------------- Elicitation Geometric I 15.7 23.5 13.8
Geometric II 1.7 1.8 3.1
Literature- --- .------------------modeling
experts & Weibull 1.7 3.7 5.3
Deterministic 1.8 1.9 3.9
No model suitable 68.6 52.7 68.3

Definition Learning *1633 components in three data files.

of Math Through use **2182 components in four data files.
Models of System

a rule base and a case base. Table 1 shows in the last column

and testing of the percentage success rate of IMOS in modelling a large

number of components. As can be seen, around two-thirds
Figure 2 Development of model-selection rule base.8of the components could not be modelled because no rule
matched the data to a specific model. The introduction of
case base reasoning can add to the success rate of modelling
The system validation will be discussed in a latter components.
section Table 1 also shows that the introduction of
along with HIMOS as the validation process was similar CBR for
reduces the percentage of cases where no suitable
both systems. model was identified from 68 to 53%. Given the self-learning
nature of CBR where the case base expands with use, it is
possible to improve the success rate with extended use of the
Hybrid intelligent maintenance optimization system
system in certain environments.
Having completed the development of IMOS, it was realizedCBR can be thought of as a type of rule-based reasoning
that the functional features expected of such a system,(RBR),asalthough in CBR the emphases is on the contents of
the knowledge
detailed earlier, are not fully met, particularly features 8, 9 issues as opposed to the emphases on the
mechanism of reasoning in RBR. Thus, in CBR one is
and 10 regarding the system response to user enquiries,
learning capabilities and the user interface. A follow-up
typically interested in the kind of content cases should have
study was carried out with the involvement of and the type of adaptation strategies to adopt. CBR is
a PhD
student. The aims of this study were to overcome typically
the useful for dynamic and less well-understood
drawbacks regarding system functionality and to address the In HIMOS, the aim is to attempt to model
issues of mathematical modelling. components that were not matched to models in the RBR
The most significant developments of this particularstage
studyby comparing the features of such components with all
are: components (cases) previously modelled by the system and
stored in a case base. The system then adapts the solution
(1) Expansion of the model base to incorporate a wide
method (model) used in solving the most similar component
range of models covering more practical situations (to
to the current unsolved component.
be discussed in detail in a later section).
Figure 3 shows how the hybrid structure of HIMOS
(2) Offering what-if modelling, requirement 8, which was
operates in identifying an appropriate model for a given data
achieved through the incorporation of a system feature
set. If no model is identified by KBS for a certain
that allows the user to choose any model stored in the
component, then CBR is evoked. The method selected for
model base manually. This feature allows users to
case retrieval in HIMOS is the Nearest Neighbour
compare, judge and search for better decisions.
algorithm, which is based on calculating the weighted value
(3) Development of a self-learning ability through the
of a similarity function. The selection of the features in the
introduction of case-based reasoning (CBR), require-
similarity function and their weights is fundamental for the
ment 9.
success of the application for CBR. In HIMOS, four features
(4) The development of a user-friendly Windows interface.
were selected and assigned equal weights. They are: number
of system
Hybrid intelligent maintenance optimization PM events,(HI-
number of failures, trend value and variability
of PM cycle
MOS) is a hybrid system where it has dual reasoning length." Once the best matching case has been

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KAH Kobbacy-Evolution of an intelligent maintenance optimization system 143

New Case are more than one matching model, the system recommends
the first-ranked model from those retrieved by the Nearest

Rule Base Model Model Base

Neighbour mechanism.
Selection by

Mathematical models
Found ? >lApply Model
HIMOS and all its predecessors address one of the most
No intractable problems in maintenance optimization, namely
Retrieval scheduling PM interventions. Specifically, it is assumed a
Case Base Identify similar cases
complex engineering system with a large number of
components. Each component may be subject to PM routine
Adapta I Adaptation
tion Apply adaptation rules and repair upon failure. Details of system assumptions are
discussed elsewhere.8'11 The models aim at deciding the
optimal PM interval. Up to IMOS, only five maintenance
models were used (see Table 1). All these models assumed
found? No
stationary conditions, that is, no trends.
Yes Expert User
Selects a model During the development of HIMOS, special attention was
(manual mode)
given to developing models that can cover more practical
situations. Table 2 describes the optimization models that
are included in the model base of HIMOS. These models
User eess
were divided into stationary and non-stationary.
The stationary models in HIMOS were similar to those
Store new case Yes Adapt model Yes used in IMOS but with two main differences. The stochastic
in retrieved )
model was replaced by a generalized stationary model that
assumes general lifetime distributions following PM and CO.
Kobbacy and Jeon12 have discussed this model in detail
No Model suitable
including the selection of appropriate lifetime distributions
and the estimation of the renewal function. The second
Figure 3 Model selection in HIMOS in expert and automatic
difference is the introduction of a delay time model in order
to deal with situations where inspection is involved. There
are various types of delay time models that essentially
retrieved, the CBR system adapts the solution of the assume that there is delay time between the origination of
retrieved case to the needs of the current case. Thus at the faults and their propagation to cause failure. HIMOS
adaptation phase, CBR looks for prominent differences implements a basic delay time model,13 and employs the
between the current and retrieved cases and then applies objective parameter estimation method.14
rules that take those differences into account when suggest- The non-stationary models in HIMOS are applied in cases
ing a solution. HIMOS uses the Derivational Replay when trend has been found in severity/frequency of failures
Adaptation technique, which reuses the rules that generated or severity of PM. Kobbacy and Jeon15 proposes a
the original solution to produce a new solution for the generalized framework for selecting models in non-station-
current case. The adaptation rules are very similar to the ary situations. In general, non-stationary models in HIMOS
can be classed into non-homogeneous Poisson process
RBR rule base except that the critical values used are more
relaxed. (NHPP) or renewal process (RP) models. NHPP models
The next step in CBR is the evaluation of alternativeassume that inter-arrival times between failures are neither
models for solving the current case. This step can be independent nor identically distributed, although RP models
performed in two ways: for the expert and for the user. Forassume they are independent and identically distributed.
the expert, the system displays the candidate models as A practical situation which has been included in HIMOS
identified by the adaptation rules together with their featuresbut seldom mentioned in the literature is the case where
for the current case. The system also displays the identified equipment is subject to multiple PM routines. A model
cases from retrieval. The expert can then make judgements assumes a multiple PM interval, which is an integer multiple
about the model to select. For the non-expert user,of the single PM intervals and different renewal functions
the system provides recommended model(s) based on the following each type of PM.
evaluation process. This is carried out by comparing the In total, HIMOS now has 21 different models compared
results of adaptation with the results of retrieval. If there iswith five in IMOS. When excluding CBR, both IMOS and
no matching models then no model is recommended. If there HIMOS has the same success rate for modelling large-scale

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144 Journal of the Operational Research Society Vol. 55, No. 2

Table 2 Description of the optimization models in the model base9

Models Description Stationary (S)/ Manual Intelligent Applicability

non-stationary selection selection by CBR

RPDW Delayed renewal process S N N

Lives Weibull fitting
No trend

RPDE Delayed renewal process S N/

Lives exponential fitting
No trend

RPOW Ordinary renewal process S N/ Ni

Lives Weibull fitting
No trend
RPOE Ordinary renewal process S N
Lives exponential fitting
No trend
Trend in frequency
Trend in frequency
Trend in severity of CO
Trend in frequency
Trend in severity of PM
Trend in frequency
Trend in severity of CO, PM
RPDWSco Delayed renewal process NS N N
Lives Weibull fitting
Trend in severity of CO
RPDWSpm Delayed renewal process NS N N
Lives Weibull fitting
Trend in severity of PM
RPDWScoSpm Delayed renewal process NS N N
Lives Weibull fitting
Trend in severity of CO, PM
RPOWSco Ordinary renewal process NS N
Lives Weibull fitting
Trend in severity of CO
RPOWSpm Ordinary renewal process NS N
Lives Weibull fitting
Trend in severity of PM
RPOWScoSpm Ordinary renewal process NS Ni
Lives Weibull fitting
Trend in severity of CO, PM
Geometric I No failures S N N N
Using Bernoulli trials
Geometric II Very few failures S N N N
Using Bernoulli trials
Weibull I Using shape parameter of W
Weibull II Using shape parameter of Weibull distribution (P) S N N N
Deterministic To calculate the expected number of failures in a S N N N
PM cycle by using second-order polynomial
Delay-time Delay-time model S N
Inspection case
Obtains the delay-time function parameters from
FORTRAN program
Multi-PM Multi-PM case S N N
Delayed renewal process
Lives Weibull fitting
No trend

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KAH Kobbacy-Evolution of an intelligent maintenance optimization system 145

systems as shown in Table 1, although more components are Another area of development is to enhance the model base
seen to be modelled in the current case with the more exact to cover wider practical situations. Of particular interest is
stochastic models by HIMOS. When CBR is also intro-the adaptation of the powerful approaches using Cox's
duced, both the percentage of stochastic models usage andproportional hazards model (PHM) and proportional
cases where models are chosen, increases. intensities model (PIM). Kobbacy et a117 presents a most
promising approach to utilizing the PHM in developing
optimal PM schedules based on the full equipment history.
System validation
Percy et al'8 discuss the implementation of the PIM which
Both IMOS and HIMOS were validated using test cases.8,9 allows the direct incorporation of the explanatory variables
Selected test cases representing different data patterns were(covariates). An additional advantage for those two models
run through the system. The results were then comparedis that they do not require the common restrictive
with the recommendations of a panel of experts. Theassumptions used in modeling PM regarding the quality of
validation of IMOS involved the use of six data sets and a PM and CO such as renewal upon breakdown or minimal
repair. Other areas for enhancing the model base would be
panel of six experts, who also met to discuss the results. With
to extend the applications of the delay time models and to
HIMOS, eight data sets were used and a panel of five experts
was involved. In general, there was agreement between
consider PM routines applied to multi-component systems.
IMOS/HIMOS and the experts, The experts had a measureThe further development of an efficient user interface is
of disagreement in their advice as a result of making
considered to be of considerable importance as it will lead to
different assumptions in their analysis. Experts also made
better and efficient use of the system. Finally, it is important
useful suggestion for the operation of the system. Below to
is atest the operation of HIMOS in real-life situations
addressing the ability of the DSS to produce a decision
typical example of HIMOS and experts' recommendations.9
recommendation, the quality of the resulting decision, and
the actual use of HIMOS by management in practice. It is
Data set 3 also important to study the effect of extended use of the
system on its case base and modelling capabilities.
HIMOS Increase PM interval from 177 to 403 days
(CBR-RPOW model)
Expert A There is no evidence of trend. Increase PM Acknowledgments-I express my sincere appreciation to all who
interval but should not be allowed to approach participated in this research at the different stages of development.
600 days In particular, my thanks are to E Wight, H J Azubaidi, M A Harper,
N C Proudlove and J Jeon.
Expert B Unless failure has substantive safety or risk
association, PM could be extended.
Expert C Optimal PM interval is found to be 404 days
Expert D Increase PM interval References
Expert E Increase PM interval to 250 days
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