Tech that attracts young talent

Sheila Kennedy asks: Does your plant's tech reflect the “new normal”?

By Sheila Kennedy

Recruiting the next generation of maintenance and reliability professionals requires a targeted appeal. Millennials are likely to view making a contribution to society as a priority, but they are also motivated by fun and adventuresome tasks. Many technologies used in the industrial space complement these goals: Robotics, remote-control devices, drones, and 3D technology are just the tip of the iceberg.

Next-gen tech for a new generation

Younger recruits are attracted to robotics and innovation, the driving forces behind new transportation and mobility solutions. 5D Robotics turns existing mobile equipment into intelligent, autonomous vehicles. It picks up where GPS leaves off and works indoors or outdoors, and in fog, rain, or snow.

“By using Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology, we can transform any machine that moves into a robot with 2-centimeter positioning accuracy,” says Phil Mann, CMO of 5D Robotics. “We have turned ordinary scissor forklifts into autonomous robots that follow a planned course or can follow a human operator like a well-trained guide dog.”

Interest in remote control that may have begun with planes and train sets continues into adulthood with sophisticated autonomous options. Marlin Mk3, the commercial deepwater autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) developed by Lockheed Martin and manufactured by SeaRobotics, is designed for applications such as deepwater surveying and sub-sea inspection of pipelines or other structures.

“Young engineers have the intriguing challenge of optimizing the Marlin AUV, which operates in 4,000 meters of seawater for extended periods with little or no communication,” says Don Darling, president of SeaRobotics. “Lockheed Martin’s Marlin AUV performs the critical mission of inspecting oil and gas infrastructures, and engineers are tasked with ensuring its success.”

Watch a video from Lockheed Martin and SeaRobotics

Drones, cameras, and 3D technologies also capture the imagination of this generation. ContextCapture reality modeling software from Bentley Systems uses drone-captured photographs to produce 3D GIS or CAD models. Maintenance and reliability engineers are able to share and reference the scale models and incorporate them into work planning, scheduling, and operations.

“The new norm is working in the context of visualization. Photographs of assets can be captured using drones and high-resolution cameras and then turned into 3D models quite easily using Bentley’s ContextCapture software,” says David Armstrong, reality practitioner at Bentley Systems.

Additive manufacturing (3D printing) has a huge appeal for all ages, says Kristian Olivero, technical director at Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC), Tinker Air Force Base. OC-ALC is one of the Air Force complexes working to integrate 3D printing into its aircraft design and maintenance. The technology has potential for on-demand production of replacement engine parts as well as reverse-engineering and improving older or obsolete parts.

“There is nothing more gratifying than seeing a creation that started as a spark of inspiration come to life in the physical world,” says Olivero. “Our universities are shaping minds that are just as comfortable printing an item as we once were printing a drawing.”

The sheer size of equipment used in heavy industry is impressive, and so are the maintenance tools. The new LL-Series Level Lift system from Enerpac resembles a toy wagon, but it has the power to lift and lower unbalanced loads that weigh many tons. With a maximum operating pressure of 10,000 psi, the Level Lift System can be operated safely and remotely by one person. As many as four lift points are controlled simultaneously from a central, semi-automated pump.

“During operation, uneven loads are moved evenly as the Level Lift valve sends a fixed volume of oil to each cylinder while lifting or lowering,” says Mark Johnson, director of global product management at Enerpac.

Sense of purpose

For candidates striving for meaning and purpose, the protection of health, safety, and the environment is attractive. Reliability Solutions Training offers process improvement instruction in areas such as precision maintenance, reliable manufacturing, and resistance to failure (R2F).

“Competently applied precision maintenance skill sets reduce the risk of injury with less intrusive human interaction and allow for a higher standard of applied safety in manufacturing environments,” says Bill Yantz, vice president of business development at Reliability Solutions Training. “The added benefit of improved asset performance can effectively increase profitable results.”

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