A professional in the audience during my presentation on digital technologies (networking, fieldbuses, OPC, MES, diagnostics and the like) at last week’s MARTS 2013 Conference, interrupted my presentation with a question.

I didn’t mind the interruption. In fact, I prefer them. Unless I’m trying to psych people up, I’d rather engage in a conversation than just talk at people.

Fact of the matter is, I always have trouble visualizing my audience at MARTS (Maintenance and Reliability Technology Summit). There can be quite a difference between maintenance and reliability people. Then, there are many management-type people there. And that’s a slightly different audience, too.

“Are all those technologies real?” he asked.

Wow, that stopped me. One person in the room was up to date with the benefits of using Foundation Fieldbus or Profibus PA. One other person voiced some outdated information that had survived.

In this person’s case, engineering (or someone) had told him that it was impossible to extract diagnostic data from all the HART devices they had in the field. That they could not feed an MES system with data so that his maintenance crew could get more information than just alarm data from operations before going out to check on the problem.

We had quite a discussion–except mostly me explaining about all the people I’ve talked to over the past few years who are, indeed, using technology to make their lives better. No matter what department or function.

It is real. Some may be harder to implement than others. That’s up to the engineers.

Failure to utilize all the tools that technology offers is a recipe for a failing plant.

Watch for the launch of The Manufacturing Connection coming soon. “Connecting things, data and people in a digital world promoting manufacturing excellence.”

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