Smart tools: Power to your people

Sheila Kennedy says sophisticated technologies help employees make data-driven maintenance decisions.

By Sheila Kennedy

Employee empowerment is all about trusting personnel to make the right decisions, and new, “smart” technologies support just that. Intelligent devices, sophisticated software, and the broader industrial internet of things (IIoT) are empowering today’s workforce in ways not previously seen.

Smart devices

Hands-free smart tools allow work to be done faster, safer, and more efficiently. The HMT-1 from RealWear is a head-mounted tablet operated by simple voice commands, even in loud industrial settings. The headset has an auto-focus camera, two-way audio, and an on-demand flashlight. Users can view and follow work instructions, pull up supporting information, record video, and collaborate in real time with remote experts.

“The convergence of wearable technology and the IoT has resulted in innovative tools that are being used in industries across the world,” says Andy Lowery, founder and CEO of RealWear. “Our ability to take that innovation and make it as tough and as rugged as the workers themselves presents the potential to transform how industrial work gets done.”

Seek Thermal’s CompactPRO is a high-resolution thermal imaging camera attachment for iPhones and Androids. Used with the company’s free Seek Thermal App, it turns smartphones or tablets into thermal imaging tools to simplify the capture of thermal photos and video. CompactPRO and its handheld counterpart, the RevealPRO, have a 320 × 240 thermal sensor and adjustable settings for thermal level, span, and emissivity.

“With the ability to measure and visualize heat, thermal imaging technology is a reliable, nondestructive method for preventative and predictive maintenance that helps a factory to work safer and more efficiently,” says Tim LeBeau, vice president at Seek Thermal.

Intelligent software

Industrial production facilities increasingly are relying on online monitoring and diagnostics (M&D) centers to prevent critical asset failures, though in-house alternatives are available. SureSense, a Lean M&D solution from Expert Microsystems, is designed to use advanced pattern recognition to detect anomalies with fewer false alarms and automate diagnostics and prognostics to facilitate corrective actions.

Randy Bickford, president and CTO of Expert Microsystems, says next-generation solutions such as SureSense include advanced diagnostics to determine the likely cause of a failure and prognostics to predict an asset’s remaining useful life. “These advancements leverage the knowledge base of traditional subject matter experts and put actionable information directly into the hands of the people who need it most to make risk-based decisions,” he says.

AspenTech’s asset performance management (APM) solutions aim to help to support organizations that are losing experienced employees to retirement. Mtell uses machine learning to detect data patterns to improve decision-making, reduce human error, and support the goal of human performance improvement. Aspen Asset Analytics leverages existing equipment models, historical data, and data analytics to make predictions and prescribe corrective actions.

“The IIoT, big data, machine learning, and advanced analytics offer an unprecedented opportunity to drive reliability and availability for complex, capital-intensive industries,” says Mike Brooks, senior director of APM business consulting at AspenTech.

Engineer empowerment is the aim of ReliaSoft and nCode software from HBM Prenscia. Achieving and sustaining high reliability, availability, and maintainability in process industries and asset management is a difficult task, acknowledges Umur Yenal, engineering consultant at HBM Prenscia. “You need to design effective processes and performance objectives and schedule maintenance and inspections with high precision while assessing the assets’ risks and keeping the risk low,” he says.

Hazard-filled industries can use Proscient from Petrotechnics to manage activity and risk at the same time, including major accident hazards (MAH). With this software, “Everyone from the boardroom to the front line can consistently make the most effective decisions based on an integrated view of an asset’s operational reality in terms of risk, cost, and productivity,” says Petrotechnics CEO Phil Murray.

Proscient’s real-time visualization of data that did not exist before distills to three different views – time, space, and risk. The data presentation “supports decisions on activity commencement, schedule priorities, and plant operations, including risk levels, across the business” while also offering “context for making key operational decisions in support of an organization’s strategic operational excellence objectives,” Murray says.

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