Intelligent Maintenance Systems Meetng 131206The 26th Industry Advisory Board meeting of the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems convened in Ann Arbor, MI the past two days. Needless to say, I was there. I have only been able to make it to about half of its meetings, but I always walk away with a better understanding of the needs of industry and the wish that I could remember all that math (one Ph.D. student presented some research using partial differential equations).

Professor Jay Lee, Center Director and engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati, was his usual energetic and evangelistic self leading the discussions. Kudos to the University of Michigan and the students who ran the research and poster board presentations on day 2 who kept the more than 20 speakers on time and moving quickly. Yes, they throw a lot of information at you, but there is ample time to talk with the researchers.

One topic Prof. Lee discussed specifically was cyber-physical systems, and one researcher discussed some upcoming research on constructing cyber-physical systems incorporating the Center’s Watchdog Agent.

The Center is NSF funded and does research for manufacturing (and production if you are a terminology purist) companies and also works with supplier companies. Several large manufacturing companies were represented, as well as several smaller companies. National Instruments and Emerson were a couple of supplier members. The universities in the Center are the University of Cincinnati, University of Michigan, Missouri University of Science and Technoology (previously Missouri-Rolla), and a recent addition, the University of Texas at Austin.

A representative of one company present stated that over the years the company has saved tens of millions of dollars due to projects begun with the Center. It’s well worth the investment.

Needs and Vision

Presentations on the first day centered on what companies saw as their immediate needs and what they saw coming in the near future. Many of these fit right into trends I’ve seen developing from supplier companies over the past couple of years. One speaker noted that the Center needed to further productize its Watchdog Agent technology. It fit within his vision of needing tools rather than turnkey solutions.

Aware of all the information available from sensing and instrumenting machines and processes, most speakers discussed Big Data and the need for analytics to handle that.

Another topic broached was “situational awareness” where the data is presented according to the situation of the person.

More work on multivariate control as well as degradation of components is needed.

Sensor diagnostics requirements were noted.

One company summarized with a continuum of local monitoring and remote monitoring with diagnostics and prognostics; managing data and predictive algorithms as big challenges. For the  future: predictively warn of failure; provide meaningful service recommendations; remote access to experts; monitoring, maintenance and repair services with minimal end user interaction.

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