Author Archive | Jane Alexander


5:27 pm
August 24, 2016
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AVO Opens Cable U, Expands Testing & Diagnostics Course Lineup

Cable 2 SMAVO Training Institute (AVO) has announced the opening of AVO Cable U at its main training location in Dallas. The facility is said to offer a hands-on, technologically advanced, real-world training venue “for every electrical cable testing and diagnostic application.”

According to AVO, with the host of critical issues facing the utility and industrial cable industry, it’s important to leverage training and test-equipment technology to improve existing and future cable installations alike. The company says that’s what its Cable U field lab and enhanced course lineup are designed for: to provide a comprehensive approach to “future proofing” cable systems for increased reliability and reduced costs.

_DSC6331 smAVO Cable U Courses and Certifications
Cable U offers training in three critical areas of the “future proofing” process for new and service-aged power cables: Cable Splicing & Terminating, Cable Fault Location & Tracing, and Cable Testing & Diagnostics.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 12.06.46 PMAVO Training Institute offers its Cable Technician Certification through successful completion of AVO Cable U’s Cable Splicing & Terminating, Medium-Voltage, and Cable Fault Location & Tracing, Medium-Voltage courses, as well as a new certification in Cable Testing & Diagnostics. The company notes that this offering is consistent with current industry needs to provide technicians with the capabilities to “future proof” existing and future medium-voltage installations.

To learn more and/or make arrangements to attend an open house at the Cable U training facility on October 4, 2016, CLICK HERE.

About AVO Training Institute
Dallas-based AVO, a subsidiary of Megger, is celebrating more than 50 years of keeping people safe from electrical hazards. Known for its hands-on approach and wide range of training-related deliverables, from equipment application and maintenance procedures to safe work practices, online courses, arc flash studies, and engineering services, AVO characterizes itself as “a one-stop electrical-safety learning center.” Courses are available at campuses nationwide or on-site.


12:21 am
August 24, 2016
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Use Fluke 368 FC & 369 FC Leakage Current Clamp Meters without Shutting Down Critical Equipment

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 6.56.55 PMAccording to Fluke Corp. (Everett, WA), its rugged 368 FC and 369 FC Leakage Current Clamps help electricians and maintenance technicians identify, document, record, and compare leakage current readings over time to help prevent problems before they happen. And personnel can do all this without shutting down critical equipment.

These recently released devices incorporate large-diameter jaws (40 mm for the 368 FC; 61 mm for the 369 FC) for working with oversize conductors. The clamp jaws are fully shielded and designed to accurately capture very small leakage current signals (as low as 10 μA) and minimize external electromagnetic interference. As true-rms meters, they’re designed to accurately measure complex signals, with the highest resolution of 1 µA and an upper measurement range of 60 amps.

CAT III 600 V safety rated, both models offer a forward-facing LED worklight for use in dark wiring cabinets, a backlit display with auto-off, and auto-power-off for extended battery life.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 7.11.01 PMThe 368 FC and 369 FC are part of Fluke Connect, a system of more than 40 wireless test tools that communicate through the Fluke Connect app, or Fluke Connect Assets software, a cloud-based solution that gathers measurements to provide a comprehensive view of critical equipment status.

Fluke Connect lets technicians record and share both thermal images and electrical measurements in real time via their smartphones or tablets and automatically upload them to the cloud. Reports can be created and shared right from the job site by email. Personnel can also collaborate in real time with other colleagues through ShareLive video calls, thus increasing productivity in the field.

For more information on Fluke’s 368 FC and 369 FC Leakage Current Clamp Meters, CLICK HERE.


11:31 pm
August 23, 2016
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Snap-On Industrial Introduces Feature-Rich Williams Wireless Borescope

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 5.43.51 PMThe Williams Wireless Borescope (JHW40282) from Snap-on Industrial (Kenosha, WI) lets technicians quickly and easily examine engines and other machinery inside and out.According to the company,  the product offers flexibility in a number of way, including wireless connectivity that allows straightforward transmission of both still and video images.

This lightweight, handheld device features a waterproof camera (IP67 standard); a detachable 3.5-in. thin-film transistor LCD monitor that runs on a built-in rechargeable Lithium battery; and a flexible 3/8-in. (3mm) X 3-ft. (1m) lens tube. A lens-mounted LED light provides adjustable brightness, while 3x zoom capability offers increased visibility.

Supporting up to a 32GB micro SD card, the Williams Wireless Borescope comes with an accessory kit (hook, magnet, mirror, and rubber ring), power adaptor, USB and AV output cables, and carrying case.

For more information, CLICK HERE.


4:36 pm
August 11, 2016
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AutomationDirect Expands RHINO Power-Supply Portfolio

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 11.17.22 AMAutomationDirect (Cumming, GA), has expanded its RHINO PSB series of DIN rail power supplies with a PSB48-480S single-phase-input, 48VDC- output unit. According to the company, this high-quality, 480W solution offers high performance and reliability at a lower-cost than fuller-featured power supplies.

This model features removable finger-safe terminal blocks, output voltage status LED indicator, conformal coated circuit boards, and approval for Class 1, Division 2 hazardous locations. An aluminum housing easily installs with integral 35mm DIN rail mounting adapters. The PSB48-480S also offers overload, over-voltage, and thermal protection, and is UL 508 listed, UL 60950 recognized, CSA certified, CE marked, and RoHS compliant.

To view AutomationDirect’s entire line of power supplies, CLICK HERE.




3:52 pm
August 11, 2016
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Opto 22 Delivers Node-RED IIoT Solution for Industrial PACs

SNAP PAC_Node-RED_printTemecula, CA-based Opto 22 has announced immediate availability of Node-RED nodes for its industrial programmable automation controllers (PACs). According to the company, these nodes significantly decrease time and complexity in deployment of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) applications.

Specifically, Node-RED nodes for Opto 22’s SNAP PAC programmable automation controllers are said to “enable nearly anyone” to rapidly prototype and develop IIoT applications by opening a path to quickly connect legacy assets to cloud services.

To download Node-Red nodes along with a RESTful API for Opto 22 SNAP PAC R-series and S-series controllers, CLICK HERE.

About Node-RED
Node-RED is an innovative visual wiring tool to connect edge computing systems such as industrial automation controllers to various cloud services, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT, IBM Watson IoT, and Microsoft Azure in new and interesting ways.

This open-source, cross-platform technology is currently available through and for a variety of platforms, including OS X, Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Raspberry Pi, and cloud offerings like IBM Bluemix and AT&T Flow.

Built on the popular Node.js JavaScript runtime, Node-RED benefits from a large Node-RED library—w over 500 prebuilt and ready-to-deploy nodes—allowing IIoT application developers to leverage existing software code and deploy it directly into their applications.





2:58 pm
August 10, 2016
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Nurture Non-Stop STEM Learning

Cheerful dad and kid with modern gadgetThink back: As a child sitting in a classroom, how many times did you have to hear or see something presented before you remembered it? It’s a question Jay Flores asked in a June 13, 2016, Rockwell Automation Blog post. Flores is a STEM Ambassador for the Milwaukee-based company (, where educational-outreach initiatives aimed at growing the workforce of the future are a top priority.

Regarding his own classroom experience, Flores remembers not how long it took to learn something, but how quickly he could forget it after the bell rang. “Coming back after a break (from school),” he noted, “was brutal.”

What Flores described is associated with “The Forgetting Curve.” According to statistics referenced by Art Kohn in his March and April 2014 columns for Learning Solutions magazine (, it can follow us through our lives, even as adults in work-related training. That wouldn’t seem to bode well for development of the type of diversified, highly skilled workforce needed to support increasingly complex manufacturing technologies.

randmHelping students overcome “The Forgetting Curve” is crucial in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) learning. To do so, Flores explained, it’s important to keep them challenged, especially during breaks from school. His number one rule, however, is to have fun.

Flores lists a number of engaging and fulfilling ways to enhance STEM learning when classes aren’t in session, as well as supplement classroom time during the school year. Among them:

Find STEM examples in everyday life.
Create a math problem based on a movie you’re watching or game you’re playing. On trips, help children calculate the time left to reach your destination. Encourage children involved in sports to calculate free-throw shooting percentages or batting averages of players on their favorite teams. Link hobbies to learning. For example, “Angry Birds” is a physics and engineering problem disguised as a game. Talk to a child about why he/she launched a bird at a specific angle.   

Fix things. Or at least, try to.
An old clock radio, a small household appliance, an engine. Taking things apart and putting them back together requires all of the elements of STEM.

Celebrate innovation.
Find examples of exciting advancements or new applications of technology to share with your kids. Celebrate the scientists and engineers that make these advancements possible. Expose them to enough of these great role models and your child might want to grow up to be like Elon Musk.

Enroll in a camp.
There’s no better way to inspire future innovators than to give them the opportunity to take a hands-on approach to solving problems. Check out the calendars for local universities, libraries, and science museums. Many have innovation-related camps.

Most important, Flores reminds parents and others to have reasonable expectations. As he put it, “If you push too hard, or don’t do age-appropriate challenges, the games become work.”

The point is to keep students energized and engaged about STEM learning in and out of the classroom while they’re still in school, and help support their career pursuits later in life. MT

-Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

To learn more, see Jay Flores’ complete post, “It’s Important to Support STEM All Year Round,” on the Rockwell Automation Blog, or email


9:40 pm
August 9, 2016
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On The Floor: Equipment-Performance Data — Challenges and Payback

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

The IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is literally running most of our homes and businesses these days. Or, more precisely, is said to be helping us run them better. So, how does all that equipment-performance data work for you?

That’s the focus of this month’s MT Reader Panelist discussion. We asked three questions:

  1. What’s the biggest challenge with equipment-performance data at their respective sites (or, if they are consultants or industry suppliers, at their client/customer sites) and why (and what could improve the situation)?
  2. What’s the best source of reliable equipment-performance data at these sites and why?
  3. Have the sites been able to connect equipment-performance data to business goals, i.e., profit-loss, revenue, cost/unit produced, among others), and if so, what does it show?

Edited for clarity and space, here’s what we learned from several respondents:

Maintenance Superintendent, Utilities West…

My site’s biggest challenge with equipment-performance data is the lack of it. We have minimal online-monitoring equipment and our data is a result of portable analyzing equipment that really only captures a small snapshot in time.

The biggest challenge to improvement is capital cost associated with installation and commissioning of the equipment necessary for continuous data gathering. Another problem is what to do with the large amounts of data generated by continuous online-monitoring equipment. Without staffing resources to pull reports and analyze trends, it’s almost pointless to have such an abundance of data.

Our best source of reliable data is a small team of reliability and maintenance technicians performing predictive tasks, i.e., obtaining and analyzing the data and initiating corrective-maintenance work orders. They take this snapshot in time with the intention of identifying a potential failure and mitigating it before a full functional failure of the asset.

At this time, it’s difficult to connect the data to business goals because we lack useful information. The plant has operated for many years, but we really only have about 18 months of useful CMMS data since updating the system. I can say that from the minimal amount of available data, I can draft improvement strategies for specific areas such as PM compliance, but not equipment-performance specific.

Industry Consultant, Central America…

My clients’ biggest data challenges are standardizing it and establishing a culture to capture/use it correctly in KPIs and automating capture and storage of it from PLC, PIMS, SCADA, plant-floor control, and other systems.Their main sources of data include CMMS, Quality and Operations, or ERP systems. Some use Excel spreadsheets or books with information. In some cases, control panels in the plants’ main equipment provide information, but not all of it can be analyzed for making decisions.

Some KPIs are always calculated, but not always aligned among processes. The mature organizations have dashboards for tracking KPIs. Others mostly use Excel spreadsheets to calculate and present the information.

PdM Tech, Process Mfg., Southeast…

We don’t have a specific program in place. Most of our data is in an Excel spreadsheet and what’s stored in the vibration-analysis program. I keep an Excel spreadsheet with information that’s seen by management. We haven’t aligned this data with business goals.

Industry Supplier, Midwest…

I don’t think many of them [our customers] really dig into this. We do sampling of fluids and greases for them; they do vibration and other acoustics. But do they compile all of this data for a plan moving forward or just have it and fix or leave it if the report shows OK?

It’s a lot to do with limited workforces and fewer hours available, as many have cut back with their markets down. They could improve by taking a proactive versus reactive approach, but I think the entire industry struggles with that.

Customers’ main source of reliable equipment-performance information is their supply base and OEM support, when available. They reach out in many of my areas for support. For example, when a bearing fails, they look to vibration reports, the bearing supplier, and the lube supplier for data, and hope it doesn’t cast blame back on them.

As for aligning equipment-performance data with business goals, many run their data and schedule maintenance based on findings, but a holistic approach, not really!

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Mfg., Midwest…

I would have to say our site’s biggest challenge is making sure trades personnel put complete information into the CMMS. By this, I mean the parts that they used and what was done for a repair. That way, we can build a better database and use it with our PMs.

Our best source of reliable data is our CMMS. Our distributor is another good source. On my end of the business, when parts are ordered in our part-order form, we’re able to put in either the machine brass tag number or the machine and cell number. Again, we’re building a database that will give us the ability to see what parts we’re using and the frequency at which they’re failing.

Connecting this information to business goals is a given. Our current trending is going in the right direction. Predictive versus emergency work is improving.

College Electrical-Laboratory, Manager/Instructor, West…

Instrumentation feedback is excellent for controlling our quality and output. This, plus our CMMS, should give all the information needed to operate an efficient process area. The challenge seems to be the human factor. Employee reliability is a problem. The best solution is to hire the right staff and constantly train everybody, including maintenance, calibration teams, engineering, quality control, process technicians, and management.

Operators and maintenance teams are the best source of data. Properly trained, they provide excellent input. Taking that with electronic data, the equipment’s operational pulse can be tracked, reducing downtime and increasing quality.

Business planning is always a challenge. Process reliability is only a piece of the puzzle. Training costs should be added to the cost/unit. Top-notch staffs are getting older and retiring. Companies need to find the best way to pass knowledge to the next generation.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

Energy data has been a challenge. We’re adding building, department, and zone meters over the next few years for our various utilities (depending on state budgets). Each area will be able to check the amount billed for each utility and try to reduce their energy use. (In the past, they just received estimates of use.)

We mainly use BAS trend logs and equipment scheduling to track energy use and temperatures, humidity, CO2, air-changes, etc. When efficiency appears to be dropping, we do a check of any variable that may have caused the change. With the BAS, we can eliminate dozens of potential calls an engineer would have to answer, make repairs before major breakdowns, and show that preventive maintenance has or hasn’t been kept up. If equipment is running at 90% to 100% efficiency, the institution is getting its money’s worth.

Industry Consultant, West…

The biggest problem [for my clients] seems to be data analysis. Plenty is collected, but no one has the time for or is dedicated to analyzing it.

[With my clients] the main source seems to be notes from the operations groups. The information is seldom in an easy-to-use form, but written more as a narrative. Not very useful.

None of my clients seem to be able to connect the data to business goals. Part of the problem is the lack of analysis, the other part appears to be a lack of motivation. Their boardrooms aren’t demanding it. MT

About the MT Reader Panel

The Maintenance Technology Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed and their responses are not necessarily projectable. Note that our panel welcomes new members. To be considered, email your name and contact information to with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.


9:36 pm
August 9, 2016
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My Take: Pathway Payoffs

1014janemytakeBy Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

The headline of an Education Week blog post by veteran education reporter Catherine Gewertz seemed mildly interesting: “Combination of Career, Academic Skills Pays Off for H.S. Grads, Study Finds.” That is, until I read the teaser under it: “High school graduates with advanced math and science, good grades, and a professional license or certificate earned more than young adults with bachelor’s degrees.” I was hooked.

Reading further, I learned that Gewertz was alluding to a recently released Center for Public Education (CPE), Alexandria, VA, report titled The Path Least Taken III. A final installment in a three-part series of reports based on data collected through the U.S. Department of Education’s (Washington) long-term study of Class of 2004 graduates, it offers some food for thought for those who might have an interest in development and deployment of a highly skilled technical workforce.

In a nutshell, as Gewertz wrote, “The right combination of career and academic skills can pay off for high school graduates who don’t go to college, producing higher wages and a better chance of working full time, than their peers who earn associate degrees or leave college without earning a degree.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 4.33.51 PMTo be specific, the report’s authors, former CPE senior analyst Jim Hull and CPE managing editor Naomi Dillon, found that non-college goers did much better in the labor market if they had completed high-level math and science courses, earned average to above-average grades, completed multiple vocational courses focusing on a specific labor market area (occupational concentration), and obtained a professional certification or license.

Although each of those factors seems to exert a positive effect most of the time, Hull and Dillon noted they are “especially powerful in combination.” They refer to this formula as “high credentialed,” a term they coined and introduced in the second installment of this report series.

What Hull and Dillon didn’t do at that time was distinguish between those who attended a two- or four-year institution (trade schools aren’t included in the list) or between those who obtained a degree and those who didn’t. This third and final report does, including emphasizing that, among the college-going groups, “no one enjoyed a greater likelihood of success” than four-year degree holders, who pulled in dramatically higher wages and contributed much more to retirement by the age of 26 than the average non-college goer.

These differences shrank, however, when four-year university graduates were compared against high-credentialed non-college goers, who reported similar success in many areas, i.e., job security, supervisory experience, and job satisfaction.

According to the report, the head start from high credentials helped members of the Class of 2004, no matter where they ended up in life. The greatest impact was seen in non-college goers, “who, on average, had the lowest chances of landing full-time employment, making a living wage, and receiving medical insurance.” Hull and Dillon conclude that, with rigorous, more-focused high school courses, those individuals are the biggest beneficiaries of a high-credentialed curriculum, “attaining greater levels of economic success than even those who went to college but failed to graduate.”

There are more highlights in this report than I can possibly cover in a single page. Why don’t you read it yourself? Find the entire series here.

I’ll be interested in your take on it. MT