Enabling technologies let today’s workers do their jobs effectively from anywhere. It’s a capability industry could only dream of in the past.
By Jane Alexander, Deputy Editor
In fast-paced maintenance environments, what’s really trending now is anything “mobile” that helps personnel do their jobs correctly, efficiently and, as required, from any place at any time. The industrial mobile revolution has helped birth countless technologies (digital and portable) that deliver real-time operational intelligence (RtOI) to support and empower the workforce.
What this means for maintenance departments pounded by the ongoing skills crisis is that significant relief is available today—possibly in the palms of their team members’ hands. Sources are plentiful. In fact, the marketplace looks as if a maintenance team ever “dreamed” of a compelling mobile application, one or more manufacturers may have already turned it into a productivity-enhancing mobile technology—or will do so soon. Consider the following:
“Pressure to reduce labor costs and increase productivity is fueling the need to facilitate proactive decision-making on the move,” says Jamie Stapleton, Technology Manager–Asset Management, for Schneider Electric (schneider-electric.com). Stapleton says Schneider, which recently acquired Invensys, has noted a growing trend in maintenance-team mobility, especially in sectors with heavy focus on cost and efficiency.
The ability to receive real-time information regarding the health of the plant and act on it without having to return to a control room or central hub, Stapleton explains, is paramount to any company wishing to maximize both plant availability and profit. “Mobility,” he says, “is an underlying requirement for this.” As an example, he points to open touch-enabled technologies, such as HTML5 and others, which support highly functional but simple interfaces that can be launched on a Web browser, from any site-connected mobile device or desktop computer.
Stapleton also characterizes mobility as a critical component in effective predictive-maintenance strategies that increase the volume of data with which maintenance personnel must deal. A mobile solution for this task might involve managing the generated data with Enterprise Asset Management software like Schneider Electric’s Avantis EAM software and storing it in cloud-based historians.
Saadi Kermani, Schneider Electric’s Product Manager, Cloud and Mobile Solutions, says today’s maintenance professionals are looking for “the sweet spot between the mobile-app consumer experience that brings simplicity, ease of use and readily accessible information without a PC or VPN, and the business peace of mind that comes with enterprise-class support, security and compliance.” He cites his company’s Wonderware SmartGlance software as an example of that type of sweet spot.
A native mobile reporting app available for all major mobile platforms, SmartGlance software can feed near real-time charts, tables and alerts based on various industrial data sources, including popular CMMS or EAM systems like Avantis software. The app can be downloaded from any app store for viewing, analyzing and collaborating around process or operational data, metrics, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and reports, anywhere, anytime and with any device. That capability is key, according to Kermani.
“The speed of business is accelerating and expectations are higher for everyone concerned,” says Kermani. “Engineers who are fighting to stay on top of it all are finding that traditional, paper-driven processes lack speed and efficiency. What they need, are tighter and leaner feedback loops and solutions they can download and try immediately.”
Fluke (en-us.fluke.com) says its recently introduced Fluke Connect system allows maintenance technicians to wirelessly transmit measurement data from their test tools to their smart phones for secure storage on the cloud and universal team access from the field. To date, more than 20 Fluke tools connect wirelessly with the app, including digital multimeters, insulation testers, process meters and specific voltage, current and temperature models, as well as infrared cameras like the company’s new Ti90 and Ti95 units that feature wireless connectivity and extensive SD memory systems.
Leigh Copp, Engineering and Business Unit Manager, Linamar Advanced Systems Group, views the new technology as a “natural evolution of earlier wireless systems,” one that’s making his life making his significantly easier: “Fluke Connect allows me to be in three places at once, “ he says. “I can monitor multiple parts of a large system while staying clear of arc flash or other hazards. A two- or three-person troubleshooting task becomes possible with a single tech, and measurements can be easily saved or shared to document the results.”
Among other things, according to Fluke, technicians can AutoRecord measurements and infrared images to Fluke Cloud™ storage from wherever they’re working, without writing anything down. Everyone on the team with a smartphone and the app can see the data. Team collaboration is accomplished via ShareLive video calls, where technicians can share measurements with others in real time, get approvals for repairs or get questions answered without leaving the field.
The Fluke Connect app includes EquipmentLog history that allows technicians to assign measurements to specific equipment, creating a cloud-based history of test-measurement data for easy access during both troubleshooting and reliability maintenance. A TrendIt feature supports instant graphing of data, which leads to identification of trends and quick, informed decisions. The Fluke Connect app can be downloaded at no charge from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Fluke Cloud storage is built upon state-of-the-art security, including secure access, electronic surveillance, multi-factor access control systems, built-in firewalls and encrypted data storage.
Mobideo (mobideo.com) is a real-time operations-management software platform that delivers mobile solutions addressing the human-resource component of complex business operations in discrete and continuous process industries.
According to Greg Alvarado, who recently joined Mobideo as Senior Vice President for Process Industries (and is based in the company’s new Houston, TX, offices), a major challenge for companies everywhere involves the accurate capture of the myriad details of their operating processes. The forms and documents that typically contain this crucial information, including procedural manuals, Standard Operating Procedures, checklists and other task-specific formats, can be prone to error, difficult to use and insensitive to changing conditions in the field.
“Situations like these,” explains Alvarado, “can have significant impact on an organization’s workforce. They will lead to inefficiencies, risk exposure and compliance and safety issues.”
Mobideo’s patented software platform overcomes those types of problems with its ability to quickly and seamlessly convert documentation of any type and format along with information retrieved from ERP, EAM and other third-party enterprise software products into an automated, validated, guided business process. The program ingests the documentation and best practices as its starting point, then applies sophisticated tools to create a context- and content-driven application.
Alvarado says that Mobideo Mobile offers a range of benefits for workers in process environments. As an example, he cites results of a recent pilot project with the technology during a large oil-refinery turnaround (TAR) that indicated a 50% compression/reduction in response times for findings during the TAR and an overall 30% reduction in the length of the TAR.
Operating on any device by which personnel (in the field or plant) receive tasks, Mobideo Mobile incorporates an easy-to-use, intuitive graphical interface that lets the user see exactly what task(s) he/she needs to complete. Information is presented as a single, unified application comprised of forms and documents bundled with data populated in real-time from other enterprise software products. The application guides workers through the process of doing their jobs, and shields them from making errors and minimizes mistakes.
Depending on the data that serves as the foundation for an application, personnel can follow procedures, collect information, fill out forms and gather photographs, barcode scans, GPS locations and RFID tags. Time and location are captured through every screen-touch interaction with the Mobile application. All captured data is sent to the Mobideo Engine and analyzed in real-time on the Mobideo Portal.
Sorting Out Mobile-Device Concerns: COTS and BYOD
Can you afford to use off-the-shelf and/or employee-supplied smart mobile devices in your operations?
A recently released White Paper by Opto 22, the Temecula, CA-based maker of the groov technologies featured on page 31, discusses the benefits and risks associated with the use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products and workers’ personal smart devices, aka “Bring Your Own Devices (BYODs),” in industrial automation. That experience may have practical implications for readers in the maintenance arena.
The paper describes how automation engineers and technicians use COTS mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to remotely access equipment, commission and maintain systems, provide inexpensive machine operator interfaces and other purposes—frequently without problems.
However, Benson Hougland, a Vice President at Opto 22, cautions that use of such technologies can also lead to trouble, including breaches in system security. In the end, he says, four factors—environment, safety, security and connectivity—will influence the decision to use or not use mobile devices in industrial settings. The referenced White Paper considers each of those factors, reviews mobile-device trends and discusses the pros and cons associated with COTS devices.
According to Emerson Process Management, not all vibration-measurement technologies are the same. The company explains that its small, compact, easily-carried CSI 2140 Machinery Health Analyzer takes vibration measurements to the next level with simultaneous four-channel plus phase data collection and unique peak detection capabilities for the earliest indication of bearing and gearbox degradation.
Emerson says it designed the CSI 2140 to meet the toughest user challenge. In addition to delivering faster data collection that translates into less time in the field and/or more machines monitored, the multi-tasking unit incorporates ergonomic features that allow comfortable, single-hand operation all
Other features and capabilities include a battery life that lasts beyond a full shift (10+hours of continuous use); a bright, full-color touch-screen that auto-adjusts to every lighting environment; embedded analysis-expert capabilities to help even novice users with sophisticated troubleshooting tests; early bearing- and gear-wear detection with PeakVue technology; and sleeve-bearing analysis via dual orbit plots.
Routine data and corrective maintenance jobs can be uploaded to Emerson’s AMS Suite: Machinery Health Manager for additional analysis and reporting.
2. TAB@LIGN Laser Shaft Alignment from Ludeca
Ludeca’s tab@lign is an entry-level wireless alignment system for tablets and smartphones. Combining PRUFTECHNIK measurement technology with mobile devices, its lets users align horizontal machines in three simple steps: Enter dimensions, rotate shafts and display measurement result. According to the manufacturer, tab@lign’s standard features and capabilities include “Active Clock” measurement mode; “Live Move” for real-time corrections; a Bluetooth communication module; pre-assembled brackets for quick mounting; and the ability to measure, correct and save soft-foot findings. Measurement results can be emailed immediately as a clear single-page graphical report. The tab@lign App runs on Apple and Android mobile devices. It can be downloaded free of charge from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
3. Opto 22’s groov Box
Opto 22 has introduced a new groov Box (GROOV-AR1) that hosts the company’s groov mobile operator interfaces for virtually any automation system. The company’s groov technology is a zero-programming, Web-based way to build, deploy and view effective, scalable operator interfaces to monitor and control automation systems and associated components, equipment, and processes. These interfaces can be viewed on almost any mobile device or computer, regardless of manufacturer, operating system or screen size, and two-way communication allows remote control for authorized and authenticated users. With the new groov Box, users first connect their automation systems to groov, then connect authorized mobile devices to groov via a Web browser or app. This allows each device to interact with the automation system in a secure, predefined manner.According to the company, the groov Box is manufactured in and supported from the USA. Opto 22 product support is free.
4. ALL-TEST PRO On-Line II
According to the manufacturer, the ALL-TEST PRO Online II (ATPOL II) reflects two instruments in one: a complete Power Quality Analyzer (PQ) and complete Motor Analyzer (ESA). The unit’s wireless Bluetooth communication capabilities eliminate the need to run cables back to a PC and allow operators to test motors up to 10 meters away from energized equipment. The company says optional ALL-SAFE PRO connection boxes can be installed so the electrical panel doesn’t need to be opened for data collection. In addition to improving safety, the optional connection box can help a user test up to 100 motors per day. The ATPOL II is suited for use with equipment like AC induction and DC motors, generators, wound-rotor motors, synchronous motors, machine tool motors and transformers.
5. Benchmate’s PDA Module
The Benchmate PDA Module captures maintenance activities and equipment condition as the work is performed. The Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) lists jobs downloaded from Benchmate. As planned work begins, a Benchmate-printed equipment label is scanned to display job description and comprehensive details downloaded from Benchmate CMMS. The PDA’s integral bar-code scanner identifies parts used on each job
Unplanned or emergency maintenance requests are recorded by scanning the equipment bar code, which also captures the start date and time. After entering a brief description of the request or problem, labor, parts used and comments are captured as for planned jobs.
When maintenance data from the PDA is downloaded to Benchmate, it’s posted to the Service Log, the associated Work Order or Trouble Call is closed and PMs rescheduled.
Unplanned or emergency jobs are designated as unplanned. Recent Service Log activity can be displayed with one-click, allowing supervisors to review and sign-off on each job.
The PDA Module utilizes the Janam XM66 Mobile Computer with Benchmate software to capture data and scan bar codes. Benchmate CMMS controls communication with the device to capture maintenance activities from the PDA and load jobs into the PDA. MT