Machine Learning in Predictive Maintenance

Last week, we looked at the deployment of applications on a Kubernetes cluster. This was one step in preparation of a bigger project, one which involves using machine learning(ML) for predictive maintenance of industrial processes. 

What is Predictive Maintenance?

Predictive maintenance is the process of using historical data to find patterns that can help to predict future failures of industrial processes, AKA machine failure. Traditionally, predictive maintenance has been done by hard-coded rules that say things like, “when x rotations exceeds y threshold, this machine will fail.” The problem with these hard-coded rules is that they all have to be created by patterns that are readily apparent from the data (since they are written by humans).

How Machine Learning can help

Machine learning algorithms can pick up on patterns that would not be visible to the human eye. A ML model can take in a lot of data at a time and use it to “train” itself to find patterns from data that is otherwise unrelated. 

Without ML facilities are prone to performing unnecessary maintenance. By implementing machine learning, you can not only know when things are going to fail, but you can also reduce the wasted money that comes from over-maintenance. This will reduce cost while not risking downtime or the safety of workers. 

There are multiple ways that ML models can be implemented for predictive maintenance purposes. We will explore two common types.

Regression Approach:

This approach is used to predict the Remaining Useful Life (RUL) of an asset. It will tell how many days or cycles are left before a system fails. To implement this, you need static and historical data, with every event labeled. You can only implement this if there is only one type of failure. If there are multiple, you will need multiple models. This is the well-known linear regression approach, which finds a line of best fit according to the data provided.

Classification Approach:

This approach is used to predict if a machine will fail in the next N days or cycles. This can be more useful and accurate than using a regression, because you may only need to know if the system will fail soon. Implementation also requires static and historical labeled data. 

What are we trying to do?

Our approach involves time-series analysis to forecast when machines are due for maintenance.  Alongside that, a Remaining Useful Life model will most likely also be implemented just to have more information. For now, we are using free datasets available at the UCI Machine Learning Repository (UCI Machine Learning Repository) that are specifically made for the purpose of predictive maintenance. Once we have a working model, we can collect our own data and use that instead.

The model will be deployed on the Kubernetes cluster for purposes of redundancy.

Next week we will further explore the creation of our machine learning model. We will discuss cleaning and preparing data, and designing neural networks.