Women at the forefront of reliability

Sheila Kennedy explores how technology is transforming asset management, from women leading reliability efforts at some of the country's top industrial organizations.

By Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor

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Anyone who has attended an industrial conference has surely noticed the dearth of female attendees and presenters. Fortunately, if this microcosm of the workforce is any indication, women's representation is slowly but steadily growing within the industrial sphere. Even better, more women are taking leadership roles and sharing their expertise as public speakers, published writers, and pioneers in their respective fields.

Plant Services invited some of these leaders to highlight key trends and technologies disrupting their industrial sectors.

Information, automation, and assimilation

Real-time information is a game-changer for maintenance and operations. “The most important trend I see is capturing live data from the plant floor and using it to create maintenance schedules that are based on actual tool life, run time, battery life, etc., from each plant’s own production instead of from supplier recommendations," says Lisa Sobkow, executive director of manufacturing execution systems at RedViking Engineering. "This increases uptime and extends tool and machine life.”

She adds: “For operations, we’re setting up plant floor process control boards, pagers, and mobile app notifications to facilitate moment-by-moment information on production counts, machine states, and fault codes.”

At Dow Corning Corp., process automation is a focus, states Sharla DeFrain, project manager for Global Capital Engineering at the company. “Automation solutions can directly address operational issues, help to identify and prevent process and equipment failures, and ensure that safety features and concepts are built into process operations,” she notes.

“Process control and automation systems enable operational improvements on multiple fronts, including plant productivity, product quality, and process safety,” explains DeFrain. “These systems are often underutilized tools that can deliver significant value to the business. The challenge is to identify how their capabilities can be used to meet your business and operational needs.”

For Paula Hollywood, senior analyst at ARC Advisory Group, it is the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and its power to generate and process vast amounts of data rapidly, widely, efficiently, and effectively that captures imagination. “The industrial world is experiencing a seismic transformation from product-centric business models to service-centric models enabled by IIoT technologies – cloud, big data, mobile, and analytics,” says Hollywood.

“For OEMs, service-centric models represent opportunities for differentiation based on proactive field services, deeper customer relationships, and increased service-related revenues," she says. "For owner/operators, the transformation presents the opportunity to outsource asset ownership, operation and maintenance to OEMs, allowing them to better control costs and increase focus on core competencies.”\

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