Author Archive | Gary Parr


4:55 pm
May 10, 2017
Print Friendly

Fear or Attack Automation?

1015gparrBy Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director

Shelly Palmer is a technology blogger I follow regularly. I particularly like his levelheaded approach to covering technology and what it means to our daily lives. Lately, he’s written a number of columns based on the “automation is going to take your job” theme. He’s certainly not the first to address the topic, but he’s very good at looking at both sides of the issue.It’s not hard to agree with Palmer that automation has, is, and will take jobs away from humans. That’s basically been happening since people started making things. Nothing new there. What goes through my mind when I read articles on this subject is, yes, automation takes jobs from workers who operate machinery and automation equipment, but does it take or does it change jobs for reliability and maintenance professionals? While there may be some job loss in the reliability and maintenance (R&M) arena as automation increases, things still, and always will, break. Somebody has to know what to do when those failures occur.

But that doesn’t mean R&M professionals can go merrily on about their daily routines. You have to stay on top of things or be left behind. In Palmer’s April 30, 2017 column “Partner, or Die,” he focuses on man/machine partnerships and lays out some strategies for how to “survive and prosper as robots take over the business world.” Here’s an overview:

Invent the future. List everything you do and all of your responsibilities, and write down how they will be done when machines rule the world.

Start reading. Read everything you can about data, data science, machine learning, AI, and automation. Everything you need to know is available online. Find every company that is working on automating cognitive tasks associated with your business. Immerse yourself in the subject. It is your new full-time job.

Be “that person.” This is the hardest step. Become that person in your department who “knows this stuff.” Figure out where to use data for better decision making and what tools to use to automate certain tasks, and become expert in them. Your current lack of knowledge is unimportant. You can learn, so learn!

Propose a test project. After you have figured out which assets (people included) need to be combined to accomplish your test project, build a short, uncomplicated presentation to articulate what you will try to accomplish and benchmarks you will use. You will be surprised at how quickly management says yes. If management does not say yes, you are working in a company that is not going to exist much longer, so look for a job where you get permission to use your new knowledge.

Show your results. Build another presentation that describes the problem you identified and solved with data science, data scientific research, machine learning, and the automation or the automated systems you built, conscripted, used, partnered with, and/or purchased. Make it easy to understand and obvious.

Revel in your success and repeat. With your initial success will come a “hallway handle,” something that gets thrown around by two coworkers passing in the hall, such as, “Hey, what are you working on?” “Joe’s data project.” Embrace it, own it, love it. It’s your pathway to gainful employment for the next decade and beyond.

Palmer concludes his column by stating, “The way to prosper in an ever-more-automated world is to create your competitive advantage by becoming the best possible man/machine partner. If you let the machines do what they do best, combine that with what you do best, and, most importantly, demonstrate the value of you and your machine skills to management, you will not only survive the attack of the machines, you will be stronger for it.” MT


3:55 pm
May 4, 2017
Print Friendly

Fluke Accelix Merges Data Silos

The new Accelix platform, introduced today by Fluke Corp., Everett, WA (, connects the company’s eMaint cloud-based CMMS with its Fluke Connect Wireless test tools and Fluke Condition Monitoring. The key development is that the platform eliminates manual digital entry, allowing reliability and maintenance professionals to quickly gather data and, most important, actually do something with the information.

  • The platform is designed to address issues in several areas:
    There are a third fewer manufacturing facilities today than existed prior to the recession. All are operating at higher productivity levels with smaller teams.
  • Continuous margin pressure has converted maintenance from a cost center to a bottom-line contributor, but maintenance metrics don’t convert to top line KPIs.
  • Increased quality and transparency requirements at all levels.
  • “My team doesn’t speak data. They fix machines. How do I get buy-in?”
  • Younger workers expect answers right away.
  • Small- to medium-sized plants don’t have data scientists.
  • Best people have been promoted to management levels and the team under them is lean and green. Moving forward is hard.
  • There are too many technology choices and not enough obvious ROI.
  • “Taking advantage of IIOT? Not without a WiFi hotspot or cell coverage! We can’t use smart devices on the floor.”
  • “I have so many different legacy proprietary systems I can’t get an overall viewpoint, much less standardize or scale.”

Accelix makes maintenance activities and data visible and connects the reliability and maintenance team to the rest of the enterprise. Because it’s SaaS (software as a service), the platform is accessible and targeted at small- and mid-sized manufacturing operations. According to Kevin Clark, Strategic Alliances Director, Fluke Digital Systems, “Our culture is ready for this. They want data right now.”


5:06 pm
April 12, 2017
Print Friendly

Varsity Sport for the Mind

1015gparrBy Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director

Lack of skilled workers is an urgent topic of discussion these days. It came up more than once in Detroit at the recent Manufacturing in America 2017 conference, sponsored by Siemens, Alpharetta, GA, and Electro-Matic Products Inc., Farmington Hills, MI. Two issues are at play. One is the short-term need for people who don’t exist. That’s a tall hurdle to clear. The other is long-term development. That solution involves a shift in culture at our schools and time for students to graduate and enter the workforce.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition is one program that is helping accomplish that culture change and facilitating the needed education. The robotics program celebrated its 25th year of existence in 2016 and is one of four programs offered by the FIRST organization. If you’re connected in some way to those involved or have school-aged children, you’ve likely heard of the program or may have attended an event.

Doug Williams, coach of the TigerTronics Team 2053 from Vestal and Edicott high schools in New York, shares his experiences helping students enjoy and benefit from participation in the robotics competitions.

I encountered the FIRST program a few months ago in a passing conversation with my friend Christine Williams, who mentors her son’s FIRST Lego League Gelinas team, based on Long Island. Christine’s brother Doug coaches the TigerTronics Team 2053 group, made up of students from Vestal and Endicott high schools, also in New York.

While I found the program interesting because it involves my friend, her son, education, and technology, I was intrigued because the competitions are such a big deal. This year’s global championships will be held April 19 to 22 at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center and April 26 to 29 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

igerTronics Team 2053 co-president Julie Williams is shown in the competition arena with the team’s robot.

igerTronics Team 2053 co-president Julie Williams is shown in the competition arena with the team’s robot.

Competitors are focused on the action in the competition arena.

Competitors are focused on the action in the competition arena.

I didn’t fully realize the power of this program until I talked with the students who were exhibiting at the Manufacturing in America conference. Two teams had tabletop exhibits. The Robostangs, Northville, MI, sponsored by several corporations, including Siemens and Electro-Matic, and the ThunderChickens (“Engineering new ways to cross the road”), from Sterling Heights, MI. Both teams have had notable competition success in recent years.

Talking to team members gave me a full appreciation of this program and what it is doing for students who normally wouldn’t get recognized because they aren’t skilled at kicking or throwing a ball. The students I met were excited and absolutely energized about what they are doing, under the pressure of competition, with their mechanical and electronics knowledge. They’re also learning real-world workplace skills such as fund raising, money management, business/sponsor relationships, logistics, purchasing and parts management, and, of course, reliability and maintenance.

If you’re not already involved, I encourage you to find a way to support a FIRST program through your local school/team. If one doesn’t exist, maybe start one? The students have to raise money to buy all of the materials they use for their robots. These things are not kits they buy from Amazon. They also need spare parts and, I’m sure, have travel expenses. Maybe you or your company would be willing to sponsor a local team?

Everyone is looking for skilled workers and will be for the foreseeable future. You can play a part by supporting FIRST and similar programs. They’re developing manufacturing skills that will be in demand for years to come. MT


9:00 am
February 16, 2017
Print Friendly

Advanced Controller

Anwender nutzen jetzt in Hochsprachen wie C/CC+ geschriebene Programme mit Simatic Controllern. Dazu hat Siemens den neuen Advanced Controller CPU 1518 ODK und das Engineering-Paket Simatic ODK 1500S entwickelt. Mit dem Open Development Kit erzeugt der Anwender sein Hochsprachen-Programm und integriert es in das Step-7-Programm des neuen Controllers. Nowadays, users are using programs written in high-level languages, such as C/CC+, with Simatic controllers. Siemens has developed the new CPU 1518 ODK advanced controller and the Simatic ODK 1500S engineering package for this purpose. The user generates his high-level language program with the Open Development Kit, and integrates it into the Step 7 program of the new controller.


The Simatic S7-1518-4 PN/DP OKD controller is said to handles the most advanced standard and fail-safe automation applications. The controller has a 13-MB user work memory and 43-GB load memory with memory card. As many as 128 drives axes with isochronous operation in the 250-microsecond operation range can be connected without additional modules.


8:14 pm
February 14, 2017
Print Friendly

Words To Make You Think

1015gparrFrom time to time, when editing an article or listening to a conference presentation, the writer/speaker will say something that makes me stop and think, either because it applies to me personally or it might be thought-provoking for reliability and maintenance professionals.

A quote from author and pastor Andy Stanley that drives this month’s “Voice from the Field” professional really hits the mark for me. It also prompted me to look back through past articles and my conference notes for other notable quotes.

Here, beginning with the Andy Stanley quote, are selections from my collection that I read or  heard. As you read each, I trust you’ll find one or two that have meaning for you. MT

Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say. — Andy Stanley

No matter how much money you throw at technology, at some point, you must capture the hearts and minds of people. — Ronald Lee

Reactive organizations do approximately twice as much work as their proactive counterparts. — Jeff Dudley

The biggest problem with communication is thinking it was successful. — Saul Cizek

Remember that it is the people who get things done. It doesn’t matter how good your systems are if your people don’t feel appreciated and part of the big picture. — Robert Bishop

Always be willing to learn something new and be a resource for others. — Clinton Davis

Is your reliability program on the wall or on the shop floor? — multiple people

With great data comes great liability. How much you know matters. — Jerry Kaplan

People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. — Ryan Avery

Don’t let what you want to say get in the way of what you want to accomplish. — unknown

Does your company have a sustainable culture or do you just try to sell the buzz word? — Dale Stroud

Good people want to do jobs well and will create workarounds to do so. Workarounds cost money. — Missy Decker

What if I train people and they leave? What if you don’t and they stay? — Mary Jo Cherney

I hire people who are smarter than me and help them grow. I do not feel insecure because they know more than I. In fact, it has made me a better leader. — Mark Alan Csonka


9:00 am
February 14, 2017
Print Friendly

Rolling Bags

1702mtprod10pAn 18-in. jobsite rolling bag and a 24-in. Hardtop model provide mobile solutions to transport tools, accessories, and other materials. Metal-rimmed 6-in., all-terrain wheels allow smooth movement and an industrial-grade extension handle provides a comfortable grip.
Milwaukee Tool


9:00 am
February 13, 2017
Print Friendly

Output Filter for Motor Drives

1702mtprod08pThe FN510 dv/dt filter is said to eliminate premature motor damage caused by high dv/dt, over voltages on motor cables, and motor overheating. For motors from 1.5 to 30 KW with frequencies to 400 Hz (4 to 24 A) or 200 Hz (33 to 66 A), the technology reduces high-output voltage dv/dt from IGBT motor drives and restricts over voltages caused by line reflections on motor cables.
Edison, NJ


9:00 am
February 9, 2017
Print Friendly

Auto-Calibrated Digital Levels

1702mtprod04pThe e105 series True Blue digital box levels are auto-calibrated. With a digital readout ready to measure when powered on, the levels have seven measuring modes and an inspect mode for repeat inspection-grade measurements. The levels have an IP65 rating for water and dust protection
Empire Level
Mukwonago, WI