Closing the Maintenance Management Loop | Automation.com

Closing the Maintenance Management Loop

May 262015
Closing the Maintenance Management Loop

Insights from the Fluke Measure of Innovation Event 2015

By Bill Lydon, Editor

Fluke is making significant investments in a maintenance management software alternative for industrial users. Their intention is to close the maintenance management loop between the maintenance technicians and operations/business management.

Wes Pringle, Fluke’s President, opened their recent Measure of Innovation Eventby describing how the company is focused on helping maintenance management people solve their problems and keep the world up and running as productively and safely as possible. Pringle stated, “We view ourselves as an industrial maintenance solutions company.” He noted that they are creating a new direction for the company. Pringle reaffirmed Fluke’s commitment to provide the best tools to meet customer needs “on a single tool basis.” However, he also believes the company is in a unique position to help customers get to another level of understanding and optimizing their maintenance routines.

The new Fluke Connect Assets cloud software leverages the cloud for secure data storage and allows universal team access from the field. Fluke is now building out their offering with features to make predictive maintenance practices possible for maintenance managers using Fluke Connect-enabled equipment. The objective is to empower maintenance managers so they can rapidly deploy maintenance management solutions with minimal investment and no need for support from IT departments.

Pringle described the value of documenting and bringing together time-stamped measured information. We assign data like thermal images, power quality, vibration, and other measurements to assets, and make annotations about what is going on in the factory, and then share it with anyone in the world. Over time this provides a way to observe shifts over time and overlay information for various assets to understand how they interact. With the wide range of Fluke measurement tools being used he sees an opportunity to provide meaningful solutions for a wide range of users. This starts with Fluke Connect-enabled products that wirelessly share measurement data though a smartphone which functions as a user interface and gateway to the Fluke cloud application.

The Fluke Connect smartphone application has been downloaded more than 40,000 times and he expects the number of Fluke Connect-enabled devices to double in 2015 to 45-50 devices. Pringle is excited about what Fluke has now but they are just getting started and will be adding more tools and software. He explained that Fluke Asset management makes it easy for a maintenance manager to set up asset records and deploy Fluke tools to their maintenance staff. Within a day, users can capture more reliable data and make informed equipment health decisions, reduce downtime, and enhance team efficiency.

I asked Pringle if Fluke has an open source published API for Fluke Connect that other software developers can use. Pringle said they do not have one now, but they are strongly considering it.

When asked if they are developing a cloud-based maintenance management solution, Pringle stated, “We are determined to bring as complete a solution as possible to our customers as we can possibly can - a set of solutions that are not a data island that sit on separate systems and don’t integrate into other systems.” He further explained that they are working to determine what the company should develop, what companies they might purchase, and what companies they should partner with.

Fluke Connect

Last year Fluke introduced Fluke Connect, a system that allows maintenance technicians to wirelessly transmit measurement data from test tools to smart phones. It features one-touch measurement transfer from more than 30 Fluke Connect-enabled test tools, eliminating manual recording of measurements.

Fluke Connect Assets

Fluke Connect Assets is made up of cloud-based software and Fluke Connect-enabled devices. It offers these key features:

  • Maintenance managers can analyze multiple types of predictive data (for example, electrical, vibration, infrared images) all in one program side by side.
  • An Asset Health Dashboard presents a hierarchy-based overview of aggregated status over time, aggregated alarms over time, and equipment status timeline with drill downs to show more details.
  • An Asset Status Dashboard allows managers to quickly scan the most recent status updates for key assets so they can better monitor team and equipment activity.
  • An Asset Hierarchy and Test Points that allows managers to create inspection routes, schedules and instructions to assign technicians to measure specific test points to create repeatable, comparable data.
  • Mobile Alarms are generated to notify the team when measurements exceed a user defined threshold.
  • The TrendIt Plus function allows multiple session graphing and permits the generation of detailed graphs while in the field for compliance and work proof purposes.
  • AutoRecord automatically records measurements from Fluke Connect-enabled test tools and then uploads the data to Fluke Cloud storage for sharing and analysis.
  • Technicians can collaborate to discuss problems while sharing data and images in real time with ShareLive video calls.

Thoughts & Observations

I think Fluke Connect is brilliant. I personally spent part of my career troubleshooting and diagnosing field problems. I would write notes about meter readings and other test equipment data on a stack of 3 x 5 inch cards in my shirt pocket. I took notes in an attempt to correlate information and understand why systems had problems. Later, I would review the findings with others and write reports.

Test tools, like those provided by Fluke, have been traditionally used for troubleshooting, diagnosing problems, resolving breakdowns, and repair. More recently there is the realization that “breakdown then fix” maintenance is extremely costly and lowers equipment life and productivity.

Because of their roots Fluke is approaching maintenance management from the bottom up. Traditional asset and maintenance management systems approach from the top down, and they are based on scheduled maintenance and inspection with front office generated information. Additionally, they rely on manual feedback of real world information entered by maintenance people. Manually entered information is always prone to problems. Closing the maintenance management loop between the maintenance technician and the operations/business management certainly can improve maintenance productivity.

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