THE opening keynote speaker at the 2019 Condition Monitoring and Diagnostic Engineering Conference (COMADEM) warned against recent claims that the future of predictive maintenance should be led by data science, and not engineers.

Professor Andrew Ball, a renowned expert in the field of diagnostic engineering, delivered the first of the keynote presentations at the COMADEM Congress, which was attended by over 180 delegates and held at the University of Huddersfield. 

Professor Ball, who also co-chaired the conference, told delegates that the separate techniques of detecting, diagnosing, assessing severity and prognosis of machine faults require engineering expertise and context to achieve the accuracy and timely results demanded in the field of predictive maintenance.

“I have attended conferences recently where speakers have talked about purely data-driven approaches to predictive maintenance, with no concept of what engineering really needs,” he told his audience.

Professor Ball stressed that successful interventions could only be achieved by engineers and data scientists working together.

“Data-driven methods are truly excellent for identifying patterns and anomalies in large, complex data sets, and warn us when to undertake fault diagnosis, location and severity assessments,” he said, “but the latter steps cannot be achieved using data-driven methods alone.  Predictive maintenance is an engineering discipline.  One that can be significantly assisted by data science, but only if they work together.”

COMADEM, now in its 32nd year, made its second visit to the University of Huddersfield, previously coming to the campus in 2012. 

Designed as a leading international forum for industrialists, engineers and exhibitors, the conference attracted a worldwide audience with papers presented by speakers from as far away as China, Australia and the United States.

Under the theme of Digital Enabled Asset Management, conference papers covered all areas of condition monitoring and maintenance, including signal and image processing, pattern recognition, finite modelling and simulation, as well as root cause analysis, sensors and actuators, asset management, and education and training.

Those present were welcomed by the Conference’s co-chair Professor Len Gelman and the founder of COMADEM, Professor Raj Rao, and the Congress was pleased to welcome a master-class by the respected Professor Robert Randall, who is an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales.

Professor Randall is widely regarded as one the world’s most distinguished predictive maintenance engineers and is a leading authority on vibration-based condition monitoring.  His talk, delivered on the opening day, was titled The trajectory of CM: past, present and future.

Delegates were also advised on the best techniques to adopt when approaching leading journals with their research with master-classes from both the Editor-in-Chief of the distinguished journal Mechanical Systems and Signals Processing, Professor John Mottershead and Swati Meherishi, who is an executive editor at leading global scientific, technical and medical publishers, Springer.

A number of Huddersfield academics presented their work and chaired sessions at the three-day conference.  These included Professor John Allport (Signal Processing for Condition Monitoring), Dr Adam Bevan (Maintenance of Railway Assets and Deep Learning) Professor Fengshou Gu (Modelling, Vibration Analysis and Condition Monitoring), Professor Phil Lane (Digital Technologies for Manufacturing and Condition Monitoring) and Professor Lee McCluskey (Autonomous Intelligent Systems, Diagnostics and Prognostics).