The need for better predictive maintenance capabilities in defense, commercial aviation, and commercial rail is urgent. However, factors like legacy systems, tooling, and a lack of access to real-time onboard data cause are getting in the way of reaching that goal, according to a new report from MeriTalk and underwritten by Shift5, the observability platform for onboard operational technology (OT).


The report – titled Redefining Operational Readiness: Enabling the Full Potential of Predictive Maintenance – surveyed 300 leaders in predictive maintenance from the Department of Defense (DoD), commercial air, and commercial rail organizations to explore the state of predictive maintenance and identify critical challenges to implementation and expansion.


Predictive maintenance allows owners, operators, and maintainers responsible for transportation and defense fleets to monitor the condition of their fleets. That ability then allows them to identify issues before they impact safety, availability, or readiness – which are critical for national security, public safety, and economic prosperity.


The need for better predictive maintenance capabilities is clear, the new research report says. Within the last year, 66 percent of DoD, commercial air, and commercial rail maintenance organizations experienced preventable fleet downtime due to a lack of predictive maintenance. 


Only 46 percent have fully implemented at least one predictive maintenance solution, while 89 percent of leaders said their organization must improve their ability to predict and prevent equipment failure. 


Leaders across all three industries concurred on the major factors that impede the adoption of predictive maintenance – the top three were legacy OT infrastructure/systems, a lack of appropriate data access, and a lack of observability. More than 77 percent said their organization’s current tooling fails to provide the onboard data access and observability needed for effective predictive maintenance. 


Moreover, implementing effective predictive maintenance measures also could drive cybersecurity improvements, according to the report. About two out of three leaders across all three sectors said that when an issue arises, their organization struggles to determine whether the cause is related to a cyberattack or an equipment maintenance issue. 


Looking ahead, some leaders expect to implement predictive maintenance measures within their organization, with aims of achieving improved operational efficiency, optimized system availability and reliability, and customer and passenger safety.


However, the report also found that even leaders who have piloted predictive maintenance efforts seem apprehensive about developing implementation plans. About 73 percent of DoD leaders piloted at least one predictive maintenance application, but less than half feel prepared to develop a comprehensive implementation plan, according to the report. 


Overall, defense, air, and rail leaders see a path forward for mission success but still would like to see improved data access and availability to accelerate the implementation and expansion of predictive maintenance. 

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.