Free your data and uptime will follow

Fluke's John Neeley explains how mobile innovations are enabling reliability-centered maintenance.

By Thomas Wilk, Editor in Chief

The Plant Services Disruptive Technology series continues this month with collection of five interviews on how mobile technologies are reshaping the way that maintenance and reliability teams are doing their jobs. This story features John Neeley, product director for SaaS and IoT at Fluke, on how mobile tools are breaking down data silos and creating new analysis and reporting opportunities. Links to all five interviews are collected on this page.

PS: What does the mass availability of mobile technologies mean for maintenance strategies?

JN: I think the biggest change due to mass availability is that the measurements that used to be stranded in a tool, like a DMM reading, or a vibration spectra, or a thermal image – these measurements that were in the tool, and you had to figure out pen and paper, and put it on a notebook, and then run back to an office and put it in this work order system or Excel, and it never quite worked right. Carrying this smart computer around means that all that data, measurement data, on this motor, the vibration spectra on this motor, can be instantly archived and filed away easily for analysis just like the pictures of kids at a birthday party on Facebook.

PS: What are the risks, especially as they relate to security?

JN: Let’s take the risk-reward together. If the mass availability of mobile technology just means that now we can get a whole bunch of data and organize it for easy analysis, then I think that the pro/con of the analysis turns to the plant manager, maintenance engineer, and IT. The pro for the plant manager and maintenance engineer is that, yes, things will go from reactive to proactive. The analysis and ease of finding data I think will enable people to go from simple calendar-based maintenance to predictive maintenance. You’ll have a set of thermal images that you can flip through on this motor just like you flip through an album of your kids and you can see it’s getting hotter over time. That just wasn’t possible before – there was no user interface that somebody could look at in the field to predict from thermal images that easily.

When you’re able to look at the combination of, say, thermal images and vibration on the same motor, and you’re able to see the production schedule or the work orders, you can go from predictive to pretty much reliability-centered maintenance. You can start promising more uptime. It’s much more easy to make that case with the data, so that's a big pro.

But then on the flipside, you’ve got a potential con: Is this data proprietary, and what are the risks to security? I think there are two ways to think about that, and they eventually lead to partnering with IT. One way to look at it is, really, what is the risk? Maintenance data, reliability data isn’t always production data. The amount of data you need for great maintenance practices, condition-based maintenance, predictive maintenance, all of the different hierarchies and the taxonomy, that’s different than the production schedule, so the sensitivity is different.

Then another thing, with SaaS offerings like Fluke Connect, the security in the cloud now is incredibly good. Amazon, Microsoft, Google, these giants have thrown their weight behind it, and they frankly are just bigger than the local or company-based IT department. What we’re finding is that when you offer kind of a SaaS-based system that is turnkey, the IT department says, well, let’s do the risk assessment.

That data isn’t production data. It’s not controlling the plant, but it adds an enormous amount of value to the uptime, and a SaaS solution that is secure doesn’t tax the IT department, so instead of rejecting it usually they’re quite an advocate because the alternative would be trying to do an on-premise system with a lot of big iron that they could get turnkey from SaaS. They would rather be working on the ERP system, not the EAM system.

Read more interviews from "Going mobile: Advice from the experts"

How mobile won the plant floor
Zebra's Jim Hilton talks about how mobility and production processes are redefining each other.

Secure peer-to-peer data sharing on the plant floor
Rockwell Automation's Kyle Reissner introduces Project Stanton, which will turn mobile devices into smart nodes.

How mobile is disrupting field services, operations, and logistics
Honeywell's Rohit Robinson argues that the greatest risks related to mobile tech are not adopting it soon enough.

Mobility is a standing expectation in plants
Schneider Electric's Saadi Kermani says to get a mobile plan in place to help become more agile as a business.

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