July 4, 2013 - EPTDA (European Power Transmission Distributors Association) says it has digitalized its communication tools and strategies in an effort to better serve its connected members. The EPTDA Blue Book, the association’s membership directory which also acts as a reference guide of the mechanical Power Transmission and Motion Control (PT/MC) industry, is now available on the corporate website and mobile devices. The new web-based Product Locator connects more than 210 distributor and manufacturer companies—all EPTDA certified members—in the PT/MC market, and features 16 main product categories, including: bearings, gears, chains, seals, hydraulics, electronic drives, and other key components. EPTDA’s upcoming 2013 Convention has also been digitalized—from registration to on-demand meetings at the event, EPTDA members and non-member delegates can keep tabs of their own agenda and priorities with the EPTDA Convention App. Registered delegates/members can connect personally with other attending companies, set up appointments, send instant messages, submit live feedback to the speakers, and more on their mobile devices.
Ralph Rio, research director, stated, “The pace of technology evolution continues to accelerate. Now, cloud, mobile, social, analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and 3D are impacting industrial concerns for improved business processes and enhanced business models.
“Technology adoption is not an option. Each of these major technology groupings involve multiple specific technical skills. GSPs have access to a diverse set of skills, and can map them into a project as needed for lower cost, less risk, and faster time to benefit.”
GSP selection has become mission critical. The needed services include application and IT infrastructure development, roll-out, and maintenance. The companies have become complex and decision making involves a range of capabilities from specific technologies to managing major programs. Suppliers have specific domain expertise, geographical presence, and knowledge of certain industry dynamics.
The ARC STAR Supplier Evaluation and Selection Service guides users through a step-by-step process of selecting and evaluating suppliers against specific technology, application and industry requirements. The process guides the user through the project and team definition, reviewing and editing ARC-provided selection criteria and supplier questions, weighing selection criteria, developing a supplier Request for Information (RFI) list, evaluating supplier responses, and developing a final ranking of RFI results. ARC STAR then fully documents the process and results for management review and approval.
According to Carol Owens, president, “Our new site highlights DPSI’s mobile and cloud-based offerings, as well as our expertise in the manufacturing, facilities and fleet markets. We also offer improved navigation, in-depth information on our products and easy-to-find downloads, all wrapped in a more contemporary design. We have streamlined the information gathering process for visitors, even as we provide them access to more information about DPSI, our products and markets.”
Powerful search tools make it easier for users to find relevant industry information and to locate distributors and manufacturers throughout North America and beyond. A fresh, mobile-friendly design makes the site accessible for those on the go as the new site displays well whether users are on tablets, cell phones or desktops.
In addition, the site offers loads of industry-specific content. While some of it is accessible only to members, much of the information — such as guidelines and formats — is publicly available with just a few additional steps. PTDA members can now quickly access and update their online profiles.
PTDA’s Communications Committee and its Website Redevelopment Task Force provided input during the website redevelopment process. Their time and efforts not only made the new site possible but also helped ensure the new site meets members’ needs.
Founded in 1960, the Power Transmission Distributors Association (PTDA) is the leading association for the industrial power transmission/motion control (PT/MC) distribution channel.
Proteus MMX Mobile allows technicians to update work orders, asset information and other critical data in real time via smartphone or tablet. By staying out in the field with their mobile CMMS, technicians can spend more time maintaining equipment and completing work orders without having to travel back to their home office or computer. Asset and work order data can be accessed wherever they are, 24x7. Since data is communicated real-time, the minute a technician updates a work order, adds a new asset or closes a PM, managers can use this data to make facility-wide decisions or issue new work orders to technicians in the field.
The application is very user-friendly, with large buttons and a clean work flow. Each day, technicians can quickly gain access to their work orders. Once a work order is selected, they can access tasks, parts, assets, schematics and more to complete the work order. Harshad Shah, president of Eagle Technology, states, “Accessing comprehensive maintenance data while in the field allows maintenance professionals to instantly update records, record conditions, and flag necessary alerts without having to return to their home base.”
Proteus MMX Mobile can be implemented in a fraction of the time of other systems. Since Proteus MMX can be hosted at Eagle’s site, all technicians need is their phone or tablet, and the free Proteus MMX Mobile app, and off they go. It is the perfect tool for a mobile workforce, including field technicians, campus maintenance staff, and mobile users around the facility.
Proteus MMX Mobile gives technicians the assurance that all of the information they need is accurate and up-to-date as possible and accessible at all times. Proteus MMX Mobile is available as an add-on module for Proteus MMX, and runs on Android phones, iPhones, and Windows Mobile 6.5 phones as well as tablets running the Android or iOS operating systems. The app is available in the Android Marketplace and the Apple Store.
Enter EAM software platforms, which can do all that and more. Using these programs is recommended in PAS 55 (the Publicly Available Specification: 55-1:2008 for Asset Management), which is rapidly being recognized around the globe as the best guidance for optimizing asset management (AM) systems and processes. “For asset-intensive businesses to effectively adopt PAS 55,” a recent PAS report states, “they need a standardized method for identifying, tracking and managing the condition of every known asset, managing risk before it becomes a problem, standardizing the asset-registry process and generating reports that show compliance to plans and strategic direction.”
While widespread use of EAM is still to come, PEM has sought out the perspectives of three providers about what these systems can provide, and how to best integrate the use of the software — from the day a piece of equipment is installed until it’s time to replace it.
One of the most valuable aspects of EAM software platforms is their ability to analyze large amounts of data and provide solid automated AM decisions.
“We now have the convergence of real-time operational data from an asset — conditions monitoring data gathered with mobile devices or gathered automatically, and so on — with transactional data, which is baseline data indicating how a machine should optimally be performing,” says John Benders, vice-president of product management at Ventyx (parent company ABB). “We want companies to look at their production targets and how various assets support that, and based on that, what assets are considered critical.” Unexpected downtime with these assets must be avoided, and he says EAM software is the best way to assess their condition and manage them appropriately. “The power of such software is found is its ability to focus in on which parts of the information coming in is critical, and pick up on the important trends,” he notes. “It’s not just about gathering more data, but analyzing it efficiently.”
Kevin Price agrees the data-integrating power of EAM software is what makes it worth integrating. “When an asset is commissioned, it is relatively easy to keep it running and thoroughly maintained for the first while, but efficiency declines,” says the director and senior product manager for Infor’s Infor10 EAM software product suite.
“Preventive time-based work orders ‘reenergize’ the asset, but EAM software allows you to go beyond this. It will integrate and analyze everything, and may determine that preventative maintenance should be accelerated.” He calls this next level of AM ‘predictive,’ where preventative maintenance schedules are integrated with analysis of heat/vibration/oil, ongoing inspection and assessment data, power consumption anomalies, and manufacturers’ specifications.
“The result of the software’s use is that theoretically, the asset will run as it was when it was first operated,” Price notes, “which is the ultimate achievement.”
Energy consumption by assets is something often not examined, according to Price — and it should be. “ ‘Consumptive asset management’ is a way to diagnose asset health by looking at energy consumption,” he explains. “The City of Des Moines is a case-study customer of ours. It has 60,000 pumps in their water and sewage system, and using consumptive asset management with our software, they’ve saved a lot of money not just on asset management itself but with savings in energy consumption. We look at power or water, air, gas, consumption, either from sensors on the asset, or even from readings of the consumption of your plant lighting circuit or HVAC circuit at various intervals.”
The value of EAM software is also found in its inherent centralization of all data, says Patrick Zirnhelt, director of sales (asset-intensive industries) at IFS North America. “You certainly need the right data-gathering technologies and systems in place, but ideally, EAM software provides that critical one place for data to be held and worked with, that everyone who’s in the company or who comes in from outside to work on assets interacts with, and that’s centrally updated on an ongoing basis over the entire asset life cycle.”
It’s tremendously risky, he says, when workers have to go to different sources (binders, files or computers) for information on assets. “Millions of dollars can be lost in wasted time, and in sub-par asset management decisions,” he asserts. “It’s truly shocking how many companies are still using spreadsheets, tons of them, and sometimes they’re not on networked computers.
“This means data access can be limited for those who need it, and it poses security risks and the risk of data loss as well.”
EAM software, such as IFS Applications, features project management as an integrated component. This supports phases of an asset life cycle, including equipment or asset design, construction and commissioning — or decommissioning and asset retirement. Secondly, it allows for effective management of plant shut downs and other large projects that take place during the asset life cycle. And finally, it allows the entirety of an asset life cycle to be managed as a single years- or decades-long project that executives can manage for profit.
IFS has worked with several clients where EAM software replaced thousands of spreadsheets. “That’s a lot of threat eliminated,” he says, adding, “It’s also very hard for executives to be able to estimate the value of their equipment in this type of situation and with EAM software, you can do this analysis with complete confidence.”
Benders foresees that mobile computing will become more and more important in effective asset management — and in maximizing the benefit of EAM software. “When personnel are doing manual maintenance inspections, it takes a while sometimes for this information to make it into the CMMS and there might be input errors made, undermining people’s confidence in the information,” he notes. “Mobile device are less subjective, allowing a worker to choose a level, like low, or medium or high from a drop down menu, or to gather an actual number value from a mobile sensor device — and it’s also available to the software to analyze right away or very quickly.”
In terms of the future, Benders adds, “The volume of data with asset management will only increase, and the shift to using computer power to analyze and filter this information to get optimized automated decisions has only just started.”
Treena Hein is a freelance writer based in Pembroke, Ont.
The Work Management application provides graphical job cards where asset management professionals can access assigned work order details, critical asset specifics, part lists, and instructions. With the application, field engineers and technicians can create work orders at the point of origin and update, complete, and submit planned work orders to their EAM system of record. They can also log details like failure codes and closing comments to capture critical downtime data that can improve asset reliability. Blue Dot has developed the application using hybrid HTML5 and native Apple iOS standards. Work Management can be accessed whether connected or disconnected (offline) to meet the demands of industries who manage remote work in the field or harsh manufacturing environments.
Blue Dot even created an early adopter program where two selected global customers in vastly distinct industries provided critical feedback during the development cycles on usability of the application, durability of the iPad device in their unique industrial settings, and integration of the application with their core enterprise applications and strategies. These customers have already begun the rollout of the application in their organizations.
The application is available through Blue Dot in a stand-alone mode requiring integration with your applicable ERP/EAM/CMMS systems or purchased with a pre-packaged adapter for Infor10 EAM. Shortly, Blue Dot will be delivering the Work Management solution for Apple’s iPhone.
The mobile version operates in a hierarchical structure, providing easy access to key product information, PDF files, an easy contact page, and the location of all Renold sites worldwide with addresses, contact details, directions and maps.
This will be particularly useful for engineers working on large sites needing quick information on a Renold product while away from a computer, and for engineers on the go. David Turner, Renold Chain’s marketing communications manager said: “It’s a bit like having a whole load of information on Renold products in your pocket. It’s easy to use, simple to navigate and we hope it will make Renold more accessible to all our customers.”
For example, the BCS reads virtually any barcode, vital when scanning building components or mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) equipment to access essential information, such as commissioning and installation data, maintenance schedules and startup procedures.
(Read a recent PEM cover story about the advent of mobile computing devices in maintenance, including an interview with Motion Computing.)
Built on the foundation that purpose-built integrated tools maximize the benefits of tablet PC deployments, SlateMate was designed to enable the future delivery of new integrated configurations that meet the needs of users across vertical markets.
Motion CL900 is a durable, lightweight and highly-mobile tablet PC that provides up to eight hours of battery life. In combination with SlateMate, the CL900 provides users with security, connectivity and the flexibility of fewer devices to manage. Benefits across vertical markets include:
- Rapid data acquisition for improved documentation
- Real-time access to customer and inventory availability
- Improved customer service due to insight into up-to-date data from any location
- Faster turnaround times through improved collaboration and connectivity
“While extended battery life still tops the list, integrated tools, outdoor visibility, durability and touch-screen capabilities are all key considerations for mobile productivity solutions,” said David Krebs, director of the mobile and wireless practice at VDC Research. “With the CL900 SlateMate, Motion offers an innovative mobile platform that addresses the performance and functionality needs of today’s mobile professionals.”
The first in what will be a family of integrated expansion options for the CL900 Tablet PC, the Motion CL900 SlateMate with MSR and BCS is now available through Motion’s network of resellers and distributors. The CL900 SlateMate is not sold separately and is only available at the time of product purchase.
“Mobile solutions are a fundamental change for field and plant workers, because they provide access to the office computer, other company personnel and the internet — but also because they revolutionize the old world of manual data collection,” says David Berger, founding president of the Plant Engineering & Maintenance Association of Canada and a consultant with Western Management Consultants. Technicians are now using mobile computing power to do things undreamed of a decade ago: collect equipment performance data like pressure and temperature readings or send a picture with a message to a manager or co-worker for advice. With mobile devices, technicians can also handle work-order details more efficiently, transfer information to their CMMS database in real time, or search vendors’ websites and make direct inquiries without office support.
Early challenges with mobile computing have been overcome, and the full capabilities of hardware and software are now being realized. “The first step involved software firms providing some version of what you had in the office on a mobile device, but usage was clumsy,” Berger says. “There were issues with operating systems in that sometimes you could only view things instead of use them, you had to scroll around a lot, and the units weren’t rugged enough.” He notes that now systems are readable and usable on small screens, and workers have access a large range of powerful tools, from cameras, RFID/bar-code scanners and GPS to a scribbling function and the ability to hold a conference call.
Being connected to a company’s CMMS at all times (or most of the time using a store-and-forward function where data is collected, stored and sent when the device encounters a Wi-Fi or cell network) can result in productivity improvements of anywhere from 10 to 30 percent. “New instructions can be sent to the technician based on data the technician has sent in or a change in priorities on that day,” notes Kris Bagadia, president of PEAK Industrial Solutions. Having the data collected in real time also means workers can be alerted and respond on the spot. “An immediate reaction to a reading that’s out of the normal range can save a significant amount of money,” he says.
Tablets offer more
Up to this point, PDA-style handhelds have been more common than tablets — and are still the number one way of collecting data, notes Florian Lenders — but their limitations have put the focus on tablets. “The small screen size of handhelds makes it hard for technicians to see the text, especially in poor light situations, and workers are also looking for more information access on-screen,” says Lenders, the vice-president at Ivara Asset Performance Management Software in Burlington, Ont.
“There is a shrinking market for cheap ($500 to $600) PDA-style handhelds with only a handful of suppliers providing ruggedized, units at a price equal or higher than the latest tablets.” He adds, “There’s also concern about the life expectancy of the current PDA operating systems, as Android and other options gain ground.”
Besides, whether you use a handheld or a tablet, both hands are needed — and while handhelds can more easily be clipped onto a belt, tablet portability has come a long way. “They’re stored and are brought out like a clipboard when needed,” says Scott Ball, the Canadian business development manager for Austin, Texas-based Motion Computing. “They can also be attached to a shoulder strap during climbing.”
The greater amount of information that can be accessed with a tablet is critical for technicians and managers. “They have the capacity to contain CAD diagrams and full electronic versions of a manual,” he observes.
The computing power of a tablet is also important, allowing things like saving multiple trips to a given area of the plant or field site. “The software supported by a tablet can analyze a given reading and determine whether, for example, an oil sample should be taken,” Lenders says. “And once the data is automatically transferred or downloaded later to your company’s CMMS back at the office, the system automatically plans the next work order, alerts the lab that an oil analysis request is coming, and so on.”
However, Bagadia points out, “As long as you have Wi-Fi and your CMMS system is web-connected, you don’t need additional programming for your mobile device. You just collect it, send it, your CMMS system does the analysis and any needed results come back.”
Tablets, beyond providing accessing to more data and providing more computing power, also provide another advantage. “To be useful to maintenance personnel, the more things a device can do, the better, and tablets can do a lot,” Ball says. “Our tablets have a bar code reader, camera, GPS, wireless capability and other things, that are now all considered standard features.” (He notes that they are all integrated into the device because attaching items to one another is a potential failure point.) He adds that outdoor-screen technology, which makes it easier to read a screen in direct sunlight, is also becoming standard.
“Most customization of mobile computing solutions for each client is therefore all about the software,” he says.
The first step is to speak to a well-established company about your needs. “You should choose a device that meets or exceeds the software vendor requirements for memory and accommodates the intended use,” Bagadia says. “Managers need to consider the benefit of enough memory to download large amounts of information to the portable device — for example, making the entire equipment or inventory available for technicians.” He adds that in order to help technicians with trouble-free data capture and recording of work progress, the device should give them the ability to choose from lists of pre-defined codes and phrases.
Costs kept low
The best news of all is that the cost of tablets has dropped enormously in the last 12 months. “The release of the Apple iPad has put a huge amount of pressure on manufacturers to lower their prices,” Lenders says. “The cost of a rugged tablet is now $1,000 to $1,500, which is 50 to 75-percent less than about a year ago.”
Bagadia says the overall price of instituting mobile computing at a company will not be as high as one thinks. “Most people have the misconception that if you have 50 technicians, you’ll need 50 mobile devices,” he notes, “but depending on factors like what your technicians are using them for and how many shifts you have, you’ll end up needing only a percentage of that number.”
Ball says service providers generally set up a pilot test with one or two devices where everything from applications to connectivity is examined. (This will also give a company a good idea of how soon cost return can be reached.) “Interference issues where the wireless signal drops off can exist in plants,” he notes, “but wireless infrastructure is not the barrier it used to be. Store-and-forward is there if you need it.”
Bagadia agrees connectivity is becoming less of an issue by the day: “Widespread wireless access is everywhere now. In the very near future, it’ll be hard to imagine anywhere, even two floors down, where Wi-Fi won’t reach.” However, Lenders is less optimistic. "Remember, most industrial plants are usually in the middle of nowhere," he says. "I have customers who still don’t have cell coverage at the plant site, and this gap is not going to be bridged easily. The cost of industrial Wi-Fi is very high and no one I know is pushing for it. The future is a wired industrial world, but it's a few years away as far as I can tell."
When asked to speculate about the future, Ball says he foresees even lighter and more rugged devices, with more battery life. “I can see more use of speech recognition too for some things, but ambient noise can be an issue with that.”
Treena Hein is a freelance writer based in Pembroke, Ont.