The Leading Reliability Conference provides participants with an opportunity to learn more about maintenance and reliability by attending live presentations, workshops, and trainings. In addition, attendees are also provided with ample opportunity to socialize and make connections – allowing participants to build relationships with influential professionals in maintenance and reliability from around the country. This year's event happens May 16-18 at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Plant Services editor in chief Thomas Wilk recently spoke with the team behind the Leading Reliability Conference, including Shon Isenhour from Eruditio, Blair Fraser from UE Systems, Mason McNally from RDI Technologies, and Brian Shanovich from ACOEM. The group reminisced about last year’s event and outlined what attendees can look forward to at the 2023 conference.
PS: We are about a month out from the conference. Are you getting excited about this year's event
SI: We are! I just spoke with one of our speakers this morning. In fact, not more than a couple of minutes before I walked in for this podcast. And so they're excited, they're going to be talking about implementation of reliability and using some of the tools that some of our other peers here are going to be bringing to the conference. And so we're really getting excited to be there.
PS: Sounds good to me. Some of the memorable presentations from past conferences I've attended have been from Amazon and from Frito Lay, companies like that. Could you guys talk about some of the companies that will be presenting this year?
SI: I can definitely take that one, Tom, I know that we've got Blue Origin presenting, that's the one that I just spoke to this morning. That's kind of a a very unique presentation, so we're definitely looking forward to that one. I'll let some of the others talk about their specific ones, but we also have an individual coming from Los Alamos National Labs and he's going to be talking about his implementation of reliability within a government facility, which is always kind of interesting because there are a lot of very unique challenges from that perspective.
PS: Absolutely. That's a long way to go for the conference too. I've been out there in Los Alamos, not an easy place to get to.
SI: No, it really isn't. I'll be there next week with those guys and it takes about 2, 2 1/2 hours I think to get there sometimes.
PS: We ended up driving through the forest, coming from the west, and we were not in a 4x4, and I'm relieved that we got there in the sedan because it would just about kill the axles on the car on the way in. Other kinds of presentations, uh, Mason or Blair. Can you comment on who else you're excited to see this year?
MM: Yeah, we're pretty excited. We've, we've done a lot of stuff in some government organizations as well. So we're really excited to have our friends from NASA back. They spoke at a previous conference about the Artemis project and the work that they were doing with our technology inside of that organization. We've also got some developments with the Navy, specifically a branch of NAVSEA and they're doing some really interesting things in additive manufacturing with 3D printers and some other types of stuff onboard ships, so those two organizations will be there presenting and available for discussion. So we're really, really excited to have those guys.
PS: That's fascinating. I always find reliability on Navy ships especially such a interesting topic because it's crucial to have five nines or better when you’re in the middle of the ocean and have got nowhere else to go to fix the ship.
MM: Right. I mean, that's just it. You're in the middle of the ocean and you have to fix a problem. What do you do when everything's moving and bouncing around? So our camera has been really useful to those guys in those environments.
PS: There's always a lot of new announcements and technologies showcased at the Leading Reliability event. What are some of the things that attendees are going to get to see this year in person or experience? I remember last year I got to drive the Spot robot from Boston Dynamics and I think Mason, you helped me take the controls for a little while, move the robot around. What are some of the things that attendees can see this year up-close at the event?
MM: Spot will be back, so if you want to do round two, take him for another spin, a test drive try before you buy Tom. You're welcome to do that.
SI: If you break it, you bought it, Tom. If you break it, you bought it!
MM: I'm a huge fan of just handing people the Spot controller, so expect more of that. We've got a couple new product releases. We finished the payload that went on top of spot. We've actually planned a session around kind of the hands-on type of session where you can come in, touch everything that that we've got. I posed this and I'm hoping it'll happen, but I'd like to do a John Henry type thing, “beat the machine” with Spot, like pit you and a vibration analyst against Spot to see who can take better vibration data.
PS: That would be really cool. And OK, for a second, I thought you were going to challenge me to a push up contest with spot.
BF: That's where I thought it was going to Tom. I was like, this is going to be good.
MM: We could do that. Yeah, we could do push-ups. We could do, like, run down the beach contest. We'll just motion amplify you as you run.
BF: No, that's not a good idea. That's not a good idea on your behalf, Tom! I'm saying this is not a good idea! There's a moment I want to talk about and get off my chest. Shon, we do need to address this on this podcast. There was a certain incident that happened. Tom, while you were moderating last year that I do want to bring up.
From UE systems side, you know, I'll go back to the start of the pandemic, I think it was from the CEO of GM at the time when they switched from making cars to ventilators. And they said if you come out of the pandemic the same way you came in, you failed to take advantage of an opportunity. And I think that's true. And if you look at our technology road map, and I think anyone at UE systems would have seen it, now our customers are started seeing the things that we invested in at the start of the pandemic are starting to come to fruition, are starting to come out into the market. We've done the research, we've done the beta testing.
We do have some pretty exciting new releases coming that we're going to hint at this conference too, but it's also the same technology view, but just how it's being applied a little bit differently on different assets, different type of industries that we're learning. Who would have thought you could put a sensor underwater and measured the bearing friction, right?
A customer at last year's Leading Reliability said, can you put this sensor underwater? I said, I have no idea, let's find out! That's what's leading to what we're releasing and the innovation we've seen from UE Systems.
PS: I was at Marcon about a week ago, and one of the catchphrases I picked up was that the pandemic was both a burden and also a catalyst, as you're saying, and to see the technologies that are emerging now that we saw the new needs that are emerging from the pandemic, I'm looking forward to seeing what you got too. Will there be an underwater tank there? Or a shot of the sensor underwater?
BF: We're going to have a dunk tank where we're going to put Spot on a dunk tank, and then another Spot's going to throw a ball at Spot.
MM: I'm kind of in though, we've invited a couple Boston Dynamics people in so I'm trying to think of how we can work this into their marketing efforts. So get the Spot with the arm to throw the ball. That'd be pretty cool.
BF: So can I express my concern for last year now? It will go back into your first question about the type of industries or people that are coming and for us, we do have a couple great customers that are speaking about how they partner with UE System, the technology. What I've always liked about Leading Reliability is, first of all, it's across all industries. So especially when you look at the customers that use our technology, people always ask what industry are you in. And I just respond “yes”. Ultrasound gets used everywhere, even to a point where we don't want it to get in that industry, we haven't proven it there, but it's still gets over there, right?
So last year, Tom, I think you were hosting a panel discussion I was on with Jeff Hay, Shon, and myself. You asked a question about, I think it was “Marvel or Star Wars?” Actually Shon wasn't on this panel because Shon was in the back of the room. And I openly admitted that I have not seen either. I have not seen Star Wars, And the crowd! It was just you could hear a pin drop and all you hear is “boo!!” And I look up. They're Shon from across the room, way at the back door going “boo!!”
SI: Yeah, I'm sure you didn't take that personally, Blair, but there was a lack of American-ness there. And we do understand you're from Canada. We get that.
BF: There is some international representation at this conference as well. Also in the same panel discussion I had the worst burn I have ever received, not a physical burn. It was with your partner Rick, Shon.
SI: Oh yes.
BF: And we were going back and forth as we normally do, just chipping at each other on the panel discussion, and I looked at Rick and I said, “Could we still be friends?” And he looked in front of the crowd and said, “I didn't know we were friends to begin with.”