Women tech leaders: New perspectives, more-robust solutions

Female leaders in technology and industrial production share their perspectives on the evolution of smart manufacturing and the unique voices that women bring to the table.

By Sheila Kennedy

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A new generation of female innovators, trendsetters, and executives is having an indelible impact on the industrial space. In their leadership roles, they are adding much-needed diversity and a crucial point of view to several historically male-dominated science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions. Plant Services invited several notable women in STEM fields to share their perspectives on compelling technology trends and the importance of women’s representation in manufacturing and industrial production.

Embracing innovation

People who thrive in industrial fields welcome continuous learning and dynamic change. Though too often still regarded as a stodgy and/or grimy career path, industrial manufacturing and production now boasts robust use of cutting-edge software, technology, business processes, and industry standards.

“Asset-intensive industries are seeking to get better at strategic asset management – understanding within the context of market conditions and regulations the best strategy for designing, installing, operating, and maintaining assets,” says Jill Feblowitz, vice president of utilities and oil & gas at IDC Energy Insights.

“There are a whole host of technologies now available on the market to support these efforts, including instrumentation and communications networks, predictive analytics, simulation, optimization, and mobility,” explains Feblowitz. “We also expect to see accelerators having an impact in the near future, such as 3D printing of spare parts; cognitive computing for root-cause analysis and maintenance approach; and natural interfaces, whether embedded in the equipment, in wearable computers, or in the training environment. The challenge for operations and maintenance, together with IT, is to assemble and integrate these technologies in the most cost-effective ways.”

Mary Bunzel, portfolio manager for IoT, EAM and Business Analytics at IBM, sees the evolution of intelligent sensors as a game-changer within the industrial space. "These sensors are like the nervous system in our body, telling us how our arms and legs are functioning. If you are not paying attention to how your ‘body’ feels, it will be hard for you to win the race against those who do,” says Bunzel. “The next inflection point will be when manufacturers utilize a ‘systems-based brain’ to replace the limited human capacity we have to sense and respond to terabytes of ‘feelings.’ That's the next evolution, and we are on the cusp of it now.”

Specific enablers are driving strategic gains. “The technology trend at my site has been increased use of laser alignment equipment, especially the specialized tools of the laser alignment machine,” says Michelle Foster, maintenance reliability engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), research reactors division. “These tools enabled us to better understand how these machines were behaving while running and helped us improve the reliability of these machines with a tweaking of our alignment methods.”

New and improving industry standards compel best practices. “The foundational principles from the ISO 55000 Asset Management Standards – leadership, value, alignment and assurance – make asset management everyone’s responsibility, just like safety and quality, and bring about value through overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), long-term reliability and reduced life-cycle cost (LCC),” says Marie Getsug, senior consultant for maintenance and reliability services at Commissioning Agents and founder of SMRP’s pharma and biotech special interest group.

“Finding ways to introduce evidence-based maintenance to break out of the traditional frequency based and intrusive-type maintenance strategy, and leverage the predictive technologies, automation and instrumentation trends as well as human senses, has been a trend and necessity to improve OEE and LCC,” adds Getsug.

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