Alex Walter, chief innovative officer (CIO) at A3J Group, discussed the benefits that mobilizing the workforce can bring to an asset managment program in a recent webinar. For most industries, assets and equipment have been stationary, therefore, the technicians have always been mobile. Now, in the past 10 years, we have the technology capable to support the mobile workforce. Walter talks about the advantages to mobility and also outlines how mobility can support a condition-based maintenance effort.
During the webinar, several attendees submitted questions for Walter. Below are his answers.
A Q&A on asset management mobility with A3J Group’s Alex Walter
I’ve been wanting to start a condition-based maintenance program, but I don’t know where to start. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations?
Walter: My recommendation is to start small. Basing your next scheduled maintenance against equipment run hours as opposed to the calendar is a small step in the right direction. It’s not “condition based,” but usage-based maintenance is better than time-based maintenance. Also, if your organization already uses a SCADA or data historian solution, analyze the information that is captured there to see if any information available in those systems could serve as leading indicators of equipment failure. If so, you should be able to integrate that data into your enterprise asset management (EAM) system.
How does this differ from reliability-centered maintenance?
Walter: I see reliability-centered maintenance as an overall maintenance strategy. Condition-based maintenance is one of five different types of maintenance strategies that can be deployed as part of an RCM program:
- Run to Failure
- Time-Based Maintenance
- Usage-Based Maintenance
- Condition-Based Maintenance
- Predictive Maintenance
What categories of data do you recommend end users try to integrate/gather to get a full picture of asset health?
Walter: Anything that can be considered a leading indicator of failure:
What are some technologies you know of or have had success with for integrating data categories and mobility?
Walter: I’ve had success implementing the Fluke Connect2 suite of products with EAM systems to achieve both mobility and CBM data capture.
The Fluke Connect2Mobile product provides a full suite of work management, inventory management and instrument calibration capabilities on a handheld device.
The Fluke Connect2Asset product integrates SCADA, PLC, and OPC server data into your EAM system for triggering proactive maintenance activities.
Condition based monitoring (CBM) is crucial. Do you know of any mobile oil analysis equipment? We take samples, send them to a lab, then wait for the results of the oil analysis. It would be more timely and efficient if we had the ability to analyze the samples on site.
Walter: Unfortunately, I don’t have a recommendation for mobile oil analysis equipment. I would recommend reaching out to the folks at ReliabilityWeb.com or logging a question on their forum, which is usually very active.
I have an interesting oil sample analysis story though. I had a customer who sent oil samples out for analysis and recorded the results in their EAM system. Eventually, they had accumulated years of data but weren’t using that information effectively. Eventually, they sent the data to a data science company and asked them to analyze the information and report back when they thought a major failure of the equipment occurred. The company was able to find patterns in the data and was able to relatively closely match when major failure had occurred. That customer now uses oil sample information to predict failure for their equipment.
For steam traps, IR is very good. How about ultrasonic sensors? Are there mobile ultrasonic means?
Walter: Unfortunately, I don’t have a recommendation for ultrasonic sensors. I would recommend reaching out to the folks at ReliabilityWeb.com or logging a question on their forum.
What are some trade shows and organizations you’re familiar with that can help people learn about this and other topics?
Walter: Here are some conferences that I’ve attended in the past that have been very helpful:
- Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP)
- International Maintenance Conference (IMC)
- Xcelerate from Fluke
- IBM Think
- Maximo World
In addition to the benefits, Walter discussed the barriers to achieving enterprise mobility, and he said don’t forget the end user. He shared a photo of a customer who was so against the upgrades in technology, that he had a custom t-shirt made that said, “I’m too old to Maximo.” Walter explains that the decision to mobilize is admirable and recommended, but understanding the end users’ needs ahead of time will make the transition much smoother for everyone.
After working with him, did the man with the “I’m too old to Maximo” T-shirt change his mind?
Walter: I can’t say that it was a 180-degree turnaround, but we eventually got him to where he wasn’t opposed. That was a very big deal, as many of the folks at his level looked to him for behavioral validation. To bring him back, a lot of time was spent explaining “why.” It’s important for folks not to be told what to do without an explanation of how things are going to be better with a new direction. Training also was an important factor.
How do you overcome resistance to introducing CBM and EAM in “traditional” organizations?
Walter: I’m finding that most companies are not resistant to the idea of CBM. Their main struggle is how to identify leading indicators of failure and how to cost effectively obtain and use the indicator information. Outfitting an organization’s equipment with sensors or integrating with their control systems is not a small endeavor.
As mentioned, my recommendation is to start small. Basing your next scheduled maintenance against equipment run hours as opposed to the calendar is a small step in the right direction. It’s not “condition based,” but usage-based maintenance is better than time-based maintenance. Also, if your organization already uses a SCADA or data historian solution, analyze the information that is captured there to see if any information available in those systems could serve as leading indicators of equipment failure. If so, you should be able to integrate that data into your EAM system.
You said cost for CBM is a downside. Have you seen the cost of some of the sensor technology decreasing with the flexibility of the IIoT?
Walter: Yes, and I expect that these costs will continue to come down as the technology gets better, smaller and more efficient.
For example, the 3561 Vibration Sensor from Fluke was recently launched. It’s about the size of Chapstick and fastens to your equipment. It sends vibration data to the cloud, which can then be integrated into your EAM system for use in a CBM initiative. It’s a simple and cost-effective device that can kick-start your program.
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