Changing Workforce / Leadership Skills / STEM Education / Women in Manufacturing / Influential Women in Manufacturing / Asset Management System

She leads industrial innovation

Sheila Kennedy speaks with seven women leaders in manufacturing and asset management on what’s driving industry’s new revolution.

By Sheila Kennedy

From the plant floor to the executive suite, women who have jumped the industrial gender gap are applying their expertise toward crucial process improvements and playing a critical role in the digital transformation of manufacturing and asset management. Here, seven women leaders in industrial production and management offer their perspectives on some of the most innovative and disruptive technologies making an impact in their fields, and on efforts to ensure that an industrial career path becomes a reality for more girls.

Modern maintenance and reliability

For Eli Lilly and Co.’s Rendela Wenzel, associate senior consultant engineer for global plant engineering maintenance and reliability, the most intriguing technologies now being explored are the internet of things (IoT) and prescriptive condition-based maintenance. Both technologies have “the opportunity to change the paradigm of how maintenance is performed at our facilities all around the world,” Wenzel says. She explains: “By moving our maintenance from a time-based schedule to a condition- and prescriptive-based schedule, we can increase our overall equipment utilization and reliability while decreasing downtime.”

Kendra Gastright, director of the Office of Facilities Management and Reliability at Smithsonian Institution, says vibration monitoring is revealing very early warning signs of trouble with Smithsonian facilities’ equipment, allowing issues to be addressed before they impact operations. “The idea of using vibration signature changes as early warning makes perfect sense, and we were early adopters of the technology,” says Gastright. She notes that although the technology was challenging to add initially, “we love that remote sensing is now affordable, continuous in real time, works with our building automation system, and that we can undertake deep analysis as well as use a simplified dashboard.”

Oil analysis is the focus for Randi Price, applications manager and patent-holding inventor at Spectro Scientific, a provider of on-site oil-analysis systems. “There is a big demand for on-site condition monitoring equipment, and with the technology available today, it is possible to get lab-quality data at even the most remote locations with a nontechnical user,” says Price. “The challenge is to translate that data to actionable information with useful trending tools and a smart rules system to recommend maintenance actions.” Spectro Scientific has products that offer these capabilities.

Aleida Rios, vice president of BP Gulf of Mexico Operations, sees advancements in the digital space transforming her company’s business. “Big data and data analytics will allow engineering teams to respond to issues in real time and prevent unplanned downtime, improving the efficiency, reliability, and safety of oil and gas production operations,” she says. Already, novel sensor technology such as wireless corrosion monitors and robotic crawlers are enabling better corrosion management in her division’s operations, says Rios, who oversees a team of more than 1,000 and manages a $1 billion operating budget.

Innovative information and controls

Katrina Hale, engineering manager for 3M Process Information and Control Solutions (PI&CS), appreciates how 3M is embracing new opportunities in the industrial IoT. “Having the ability to quickly turn data into information will make dramatic improvements in operations,” she says. “Data analytics, machines that learn, mobile applications—the technology is expanding at amazing rates. The implementation of that technology into our factories is energizing.”

BP Control and Automation engineer Nichole Rocha says one intriguing technology that could have a significant impact on process control systems is the virtualization of input/output (I/O) cards.

“This advancing technology allows for the separation of logical devices from their physical cards and allows for a greater number of logical devices to be implemented on a smaller number of physical devices, as well an increased flexibility in mapping,” Rocha explains. She says advances in virtualization are enabling potential benefits such as simplification, flexibility, and cost reduction for future projects, though she cautions that continued work is needed to better understand any risks that may be introduced and in vetting of the technology.

Expanding the talent pool

To encourage science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers, Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) recently announced the availability of 15 new STEM badges. Additionally, cyber-security badges will be available in 2018.

“At Girl Scouts, we believe there is a wellspring of passion, determination, and courage residing within every girl, and our organization offers a nurturing environment where she can develop skills to unleash her potential,” says Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of GSUSA. She speaks from experience; as an engineer at IBM, Acevedo led the design of state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities that have been showcased on a global scale.