Measurement for the masses

Metrology is an infratechnology, underpinning all other technologies, said Jeff Gust, chief corporate metrologist at Fluke (www.fluke.com), which hosted its very first press summit this past week. Fluke, at is core, is a metrology company, explained Gust. "And to advance any technology, you must measure it," he said.

GustTo demonstrate the long-standing tradition of measurement and its importance, Gust exhibited a model of an Egyptian royal cubit stick, a measurement device whose length was determined by the length of the pharaoh’s arm from elbow to the tip of his extended middle finger. Using the cubit, the Egyptians built their pyramids with sides that are within 6 inches of each other, a deviation of less than 0.05% — a pretty compelling testament to the value of reliable and repeatable measurement. And Fluke certainly has done its part to keep the value of metrology alive and well.

The event, Fluke Press Summit 2012, was a bold step, and the shoe fit perfectly. Congratulations to Leah Friberg and the entire group that made it possible. The day was filled with new product launches and demonstrations; tours of the Everett, Washington, campus, its labs, production areas, and assembly cells; and intimate conversations with measurement giants.

CavorettoOne such individual, Jim Cavoretto, senior vice president and chief technology officer, was a contemporary of John Fluke, Sr., the company’s founder, and he explained how his company has followed its customers from the laboratory onto the plant floor as they’ve transitioned from engineers to artisans. Fluke’s 583 active patents are on technologies that are found in tools designed for installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting, he explained.

The big news portion of the event was the forthcoming arrival of new infrared and vibration tools that will bring high-end measurement technology to maintenance technicians on the front line. And while time will tell the role training will need to play with these new tools, the practicality, design, ruggedness, and accuracy of these products appear to maintain the brand trust that Fluke has achieved.

The price points and ease of use make the technology more accessible by front-line maintenance technicians who need diagnostic tools that can give them instant red-light/green-light type of information.

The new 805 vibration meter, for example, is a tool designed for a technician to be able to use with no training. It also comes with an audio jack port so headphones can be used to listen up to 20 kHz, and a force-feedback coupling is included to allow for reliable, repeatable results, regardless of who’s taking the measurement.

PhiferMichael Phifer, predictive maintenance manager at Giant Cement (www.giantcement.com) in South Carolina uses the 810 vibration meter, big brother to the 805. "We don’t need a vibration specialist on-site," he explained. "You hit the diagnose button, and it gives you a color. Red is bad. It will tell you what’s going on. Nowadays, every piece of equipment is critical. We don’t have redundancy. That $3,000 motor can take the whole plant down."

Fluke also announced its new 62 Max and 62 Max+ infrared thermometer line. The + version comes with dual lasers to define the surface area that’s being measured and averaged. The most common misconception with the laser on an IR thermometer is that you can stand 30 ft away and still measure the tiny spot the laser is pointing at. Fluke’s Paul Heydron explained how the measured area increases the farther away you stand. See a video demonstration of the 62 Max at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUlak3rACQo.

Abramson thermal imagerIn addition, Fluke has brought its thermal imager price point down significantly with the Ti/R125, Ti/R110 Ti100 series, making the technology available to plant technicians, HVAC/R professionals, and other maintenance professionals. Fluke Marketing Manager Ernie Chan gave a hands-on demonstration of the new product, including thermal images of vintage motors from the private collection of Michael Stuart, senior thermal product marketing manager. A video of the demonstration is available at http://youtu.be/9q1ydP8qonQ.

Although the ease of use and thoughtful design make the thermal imager much more user-friendly than infrared technology has been in the past, users still will need training for proper interpretation of the results. The Snell Group (www.thesnellgroup.com) already is expanding its training offerings with this in mind.

Sustainability PanelFinally, Paul Studebaker of Sustainable Plant (www.sustainableplant.com) led a formidable panel of experts in a discussion of energy monitoring and sustainability practices. Tom Lienhard, lead engineer for the energy solutions department at Avista Utilities (www.avistautilities.com), shared his list of the six Ts (time, talent, treasure, trust, truth, and tenant) that are barriers to energy-efficiency implementation. Not having enough time is a common barrier for almost any project. Talent can be remedied with training. More appropriate funding can overcome the treasure barrier. Organizations need to trust in energy-efficiency practices and believe they will work, whereas the truth about successful implementations is an important part of obtaining the funding in the first place. Lienhard, explained the significance of the final T, tenant, by reminding us that 30% of companies don’t own the buildings they occupy, putting energy efficiency on a separate list altogether.