The future of reliability

May 15, 2014
Insights on the changing world of asset management, maintenance, and reliability.

The world of manufacturing is changing. “We’ve got a changing science of reliability,” said Shon Isenhour, CMRP, partner at Eruditio, a blended learning company. Isenhour provided his insights on the new landscape and how it impacts asset management during the second day’s keynote presentation at the Reliable Asset World/Ultrasound World X co-located conferences in Clearwater Beach, Florida. “We’ve got a skills shortage that’s growing every day. We’ve got big data. We’ve got a renewed focus on risk management and the broadening idea of asset management. It all boils down to change. We’ve got to lead, and we have to have a plan.”

Isenhour covered the future of maintenance, reliability, and asset management as it relates to reshoring, continuation of lean, true custom manufacturing, additive manufacturing, micro-manufacturing, and robotics. “These trends in manufacturing will drive the asset-management community,” he said. “Time-to-market is shrinking. A lot of jobs are coming back to the United States. They’re not the same jobs that left. There have been quality issues and intellectual property issues. Reshoring is happening not just in the United States, but also in Europe. Robotics is one of the things credited with the reshoring trend. More and more robots are becoming lower cost. They can take a lot of the repetitive work.”

He predicted we’ll see lean manufacturing continue to grow. “It’s crucial,” he said. “Some of the tools of lean are necessary to meet the challenges going forward. We’ll start to see more true custom manufacturing. Imagine what that does to changeovers. How easy is it to changeover the asset in the facility?”

“We’ve got a changing science of reliability. We’ve got a skills shortage that’s growing every day. We’ve got big data. We’ve got a renewed focus on risk management and the broadening idea of asset management. It all boils down to change. We’ve got to lead, and we have to have a plan.” — Shon Isenhour, CMRP, Partner at Eruditio

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is coming on strong, as well. “I’ve been in facilities where they’re using 3D printers for parts,” said Isenhour. “Instead of going out and ordering a switch or a cover or a dial, they’re printing them in their facilities. Right now you can buy a 3D printer that can make basic items for about $1,000. They’re printing houses in China. They take old cement, old glass fibers, and they grind it up and put it in a cement-based carrier. And then it builds the house one layer at a time.”

The changing science or reliability is fueled by complexity, big data, speed of change, and combining technologies. Equipment complexity is increasing. “Control is more refined, and we run closer to the edge of the envelope,” he explained. “It’s the difference between a Cessna — you get in there and fly around; it’s not hard — compared to an F-16. You can’t even fly that by yourself. Automation adds complexity.”

Setup becomes more critical with additional SKUs. “We’re going more one-on-one manufacturing,” explained Isenhour. “Tolerances are even tighter. 5S of equipment will no longer be optional.”

Big data is all the data connected with you when you get on the Internet. “Organizations mine that data,” said Isenhour. “Big data is the difference between having one screen of data and having millions. Now on a piece of equipment, you can see lots of process variables because of the sensors. We have an incredible amount of data available. What’s important is how we’re going to use it. More collection points and sensors are collecting a broader type of data. We produce more data per hour. The interaction of process variables has to be understood. It becomes a world of algorithms and alarms.”

New technology and convergence

“IFS has taken a smartwatch and embedded what you need from an EAM for daily interaction,” said Isenhour. “GTI Predictive Technologies can collect vibration data to an iPad. Flir One is an infrared camera; it’s an iPhone that’s an IR device. It allows us to see the changes in temperature. It’s a case that slides over your iPhone. It doesn’t take a big leap to get to that next step. Why not put all of that together? That would probably change the way we do maintenance. In the next five to seven years, we’ll see all of those things come together on one maintenance device.”

The Internet provides a wealth of information. “If we need a torque spec, we can go directly to the Internet. That will continue,” he said.

Isenhour recommend three rules for the Internet.

Rule 1. Be careful. Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t make it true. Most hoaxes on the Internet are about celebrities and politics, not Gould centrifugal pumps and Honeywell proximity sensors. But it pays to take the time to check.

Rule 2. The Internet changes. Don’t expect information to be there forever. Articles come and go. As you find things you can use, save them locally in an organized manner.

Rule 3. The Internet is forever. Don’t be a troll. If you’re posting questions or responses on the Internet, be professional at all times. These posts remain on the Internet for years and can show up in Google searches where they might be taken out of context.

He also offered 11 ways to use the Internet more effectively. They include:

  • RCA preparation prior to getting the team together
  • searching bulletin boards and user group pages for common equipment failures
  • locating spare parts for obsolete equipment via eBay and Google
  • locating new vendors and service centers for existing parts
  • identifying physical defects with pictures of similar failure from Google images
  • finding equipment vendors’ websites via Google
  • reading about additional vendor, equipment, part or product characteristics information
  • following your common vendors on Twitter to be in the loop on new product releases and updates
  • reading the blogs of people interested in the same topics or that deal with the same issues you face
  • reading the various trade publication websites for articles that target the problems you’re facing
  • using LinkedIn to post questions when you can’t find answers through a Google search.

The future is now

The skills shortage has become very real. “The equipment is getting more complex,” Isenhour explained. “We’re leaving the era of the Cessna and going to the F-16. The same thing is happening to our equipment. The environment is changing; what’s expected from a reliability technician is changing. We’ve been talking about the Baby Boom generation leaving for a while. The exit of the Baby Boom generation is happening. This is a huge part of our population. But how much do they know about the assets that we use?”

A common Baby Boomer misconception is that their offspring must attend university to succeed in life. “There’s negative cultural bias toward blue collar employment,” he explained. “There’s a movement from children working on cars in the garage with their fathers to playing video games or working on computers. Most recently, the inevitable retirement of Baby Boomers from the workforce has been happening. Beginning January 1, 2011, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach the age of 65 every day, and this will continue for the next 19 years.”

We don’t have a labor shortage. We have a skills shortage. “We have plenty of people to take these jobs, but they don’t have the skills,” Isenhour said.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the average starting salary of a college graduate was $45,327 in 2013. According to Money magazine, that same graduate was $29,400 in debt. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows an average electrician makes $49,840 with no student debt. “It’s only going to get better for these guys if they go to a technical school,” recommended Isenhour. “Had the individual spent the same time gaining the skills of a journeyman electrician, then that person would be making the same amount of money with a lower debt ratio at the end of four years. They’ve made more money and have more experience. It’s much more profitable to be in a skilled trade, and I think that will just continue.”

Isenhour offered six ways to fend off the skills crisis:

  • Clearly documented business processes to ensure a smooth transition, continuous improvement, and employee involvement, which is key to the new generation
  • Implemented training as both a knowledge and morale booster. Make sure it’s real-world training and targeted at the facility’s needs. Good training is a better boost to morale than a pay raise.
  • Leverage the condition sensing technology (PdM tools) in the realm of maintenance and how they can bring the “cool” back to the skilled trades. While we’re getting new maintenance and reliability folks who don’t know machinery dynamics, they like new technologies.
  • Capture and facilitate the data in the CMMS/EAM.
  • Mentor by the retiring generation who are now more open to both data capture and transition as they prepare to leave the workforce.
  • Promote proactive reliability. The new generation of employees doesn’t typically want extraordinary overtime and constant reactive firefighting on an emergency. This generation strives for a more predictable, less stressful world work culture.
Don Jones, Citizens Energy Group

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