How to connect a facility ─ even when the customer is skeptical

Excerpts from a podcast with Kevin Clark, CMRP 

Kevin Clark, former Vice President of Fluke Reliability Solutions, spent more than 35 years in manufacturing, first as a wrench-turner and eventually as an expert in digital maintenance systems. He recently sat down with IIoT podcaster Dez Blanchfield to share some of his experiences. You can listen to the full podcast here.

Clark spends most of his time advising manufacturing facilities on their reliability journey, including whether technology can be of assistance. Depending on the facility and personnel, the longtime CMRP may talk with them about skills growth and training, or core RCM practices, such as asset hierarchy analysis. In some cases, he might propose upgrading classic tools, such as the resident CMMS, with mobile workflows for better team communication. He may also suggest collecting additional data points for certain assets, especially if that data can be automatically collected and integrated into the EAM or CMMS.

All of these points—the connected team, connected assets, and connected systems—add up to “connected reliability.” As Clark sees it, the practice of connected reliability starts with reliability maintenance as its foundation and then integrates asset health data, systems, and workflows so that teams have what they need to reduce equipment downtime. The burning question often is, how do you get there?

Despite the universality of manufacturing (motors, pumps, controllers), Clark reminds us that every facility is different. During his site visits, he starts by asking what the team is trying to accomplish. After enough questions, he can put together a framework that highlights what they have, where they want to go, and what they need to get there.

You’d think the last part is the hardest (and it is hard; hiring an outside expert is often necessary). But casting an objective eye over your own plant’s readiness for connected reliability can be equally as hard.

Assessing a company’s readiness is the first step

For that reason, Clark’s team is now offering a Connected Reliability Assessment. This service sends a team of Fluke experts to fully assess the facility’s readiness for connected reliability, and is part reliability audit and part connectivity assessment. Read more about the assessment and download a datasheet to see what’s involved.

The assessment may or may not recommend adopting new technology—from Fluke or anyone else. There’s a moment in the podcast where Clark admits he’s not after a big order if it doesn’t make sense for the customer. Facilities often have more work to do before they’re ready for condition-based maintenance or other types of IIoT-enabled reliability. As Clark says, “Most of their equipment might be on the wrong side of the bathtub.”

It also pays to remember that one of the hardest things to do in manufacturing is changing the way something has always been done. “There’s That Guy with preconceived notions and thoughts about what he believes to be true and has already tried, and what you can’t do because it doesn’t work. I tend to run into That Guy on a regular basis,” Clark says. And it’s true—implementing IIoT solutions can look easy, but getting results from them is not. People may have already learned the hard way that enthusiasm alone isn’t enough to make a pilot successful.

Having a clear goal, expert advice, and a roadmap for what to do next (and what not to do) can help move things along. “That Guy” is just another reason why having an outside expert assess site readiness might be a more feasible way to achieve connected reliability.

To learn more, tune in to the podcast interview with Clark and download the Connected Reliability Assessment datasheet.

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