I returned from Hannover with a notebook filled with Internet of Things platform notes. Then I attend a teleconference press conference last week—and here is Internet of Things meets Maintenance Management. (OK, sounds like a B movie title, but it’s actually cool.)
Fluke acquired eMaint late last year and last week unveiled the fruit of that union. Fluke has been diligently working to connect its wide product line to the Internet (see this video podcast, for example). This announcement takes connection to the cloud.
Fluke Accelix (Accelix) is an open, cloud platform that connects maintenance software, equipment, and critical plant systems. Accelix integrates Fluke’s portfolio of wireless tools and condition monitoring sensors to eMaint, Fluke’s leading SaaS CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System), and shares information with enterprise solutions of choice.
Accelix will help maintenance teams access the benefit of connected equipment, tools, measurement data and software systems by eliminating common barriers many customers face to implementing a comprehensive, affordable reliability program.
“The latest trends in maintenance solutions make great promises, yet are often too expensive and time-consuming for most organizations to implement, especially on second- and third-tier equipment,” said Brian Samelson, Fluke’s President of Digital Systems. Mr. Samelson continues, “This means that an overwhelming amount of maintenance activity happens in a black hole. Accelix solves this prevalent problem with a combination of familiar and trusted tools that connect seamlessly and are cost-effective to implement. We have removed the barriers that often separate the promise of advanced technologies from the reality of most maintenance and reliability professionals, for virtually any size operation.”
“Maintenance managers are constantly looking for opportunities to improve productivity, lower costs, and save time. This is increasingly important as teams have fewer resources to do the same job, and they need better insights into resource allocation and asset health,” said Paul de la Port, President of the Industrial Group at Fluke. “Industry data proves when managers can monitor machine health they allocate their teams more effectively and prevent serious problems from happening – all while improving safety, productivity, and uptime. In the end, equipment life is extended and savings are quantified; we believe this value proposition is sought by maintenance professionals everywhere.”
Fluke has drunk the Internet of Things kool-aid. It has taken a portfolio of measurement products and technology and connected them. I’ve followed it for a few years. It has recently announced an expansion of its cloud-based monitoring platform.
Fluke Connect reliability platform now offers cloud-based condition monitoring.
Monitoring plant equipment is crucial to avoiding costly downtime, but it is often too expensive, impractical, or complicated to capture performance data from all critical assets. The latest addition to the Fluke Connect reliability platform, Fluke Condition Monitoring, solves these problems with a new system of rugged voltage, current, temperature, and power sensors that can be moved from asset to asset or left in place for continuous monitoring. With Fluke Condition Monitoring, maintenance teams get a practical, scalable system that delivers the continuous data and alarms they need to prevent equipment downtime without costly equipment retrofits or specialized training.
“Adding Condition Monitoring to Fluke Connect revolutionizes maintenance workflows,” said Paul de la Port, President, Industrial Group, Fluke Corporation. “One system now manages the entire process — from equipment inspection and monitoring to setting alarm thresholds and assigning repairs. Certain types of plant equipment have fallen outside monitoring until now; the ROI just wasn’t there to retrofit with permanent sensors. The Fluke Condition Monitoring setup is so flexible and easy to install that technicians can put it wherever they need additional eyes on their equipment. And the new sensors funnel data into the same Fluke Connect reliability platform as all of our other connected test tools. With this system, technicians collect more data and engineers analyze more data in less time, with less work.”
Fluke Condition Monitoring consists of wireless sensors and a gateway that receives signals from the sensors from up to 30 feet away and works seamlessly with trusted, award-winning Fluke technologies, such as iFlex current probes, current clamps, temperature sensors and three-phase power monitoring.
Maintenance technicians can set the system up and begin monitoring in a matter of minutes, with the sensors transmitting measurements to the cloud as frequently as one measurement per second. Equipment data and alarm notifications are viewed through the Fluke Connect platform on a smartphone or web browser.
With this addition, the Fluke Connect reliability platform now compiles measurements from both the Fluke Condition Monitoring sensors and Fluke Connect wireless tools along with a history of work orders to create a comprehensive view of equipment health. The wireless, cloud-based solution overcomes legacy system silos and IT conflicts, works on any equipment type and helps teams stay effective while monitoring issues in different locations.
“The 3500 FC Series sensors operating with Fluke’s already well-established IIoT platform, Connect, create a strong value proposition for manufacturers, which seek to benefit from IIoT insights without a rip-and-replace greenfield buy,” said Christian Renaud, Research Director of 451 Research’s Internet of Things practice. “Products that are quick and easy to install and provide simple-to-determine ROI metrics should appeal to manufacturers.” 451 Research is focused on the business of enterprise IT innovation within emerging technology segments and provides timely insight to end user, service provider, vendor and investor organizations worldwide.
Enabling Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Reliability, Scalability, and pursuing Real ROI encompass the current mantra of Fluke. Maybe you only know that company for its multimeters or infrared cameras. Well, there is much more behind the curtain.
The company has focused product development on mobile solutions, wireless communications, and data. This quarter’s product releases reflect all of that.
The new Fluke Ti450 Infrared Camera takes focus to a new level of clarity with MultiSharp Focus. An out-of-focus thermal image can give you data that may lead to misdiagnosis — potentially costing you thousands — with no way to correct it once it has been captured, short of taking new images. This new infrared camera solves this problem by delivering images automatically focused throughout the field of view.
“We are excited to announce this new technology, because it makes a real difference in situations where you have objects at multiple distances that you want in focus. Places like substations, motors driving a long production line, or electrical panels with components at varying depths,” notes Chris Rayburn, thermography business director.
MultiSharp Focus is a new technology that rapidly takes multiple images and combines them to produce one in-focus image. The advanced focusing system enables users to capture an automated, focused image of multiple targets at once, delivering the image clarity needed by professional thermographers and maintenance managers to produce top-quality results and avoid costly rework.
Today’s industrial machinery is more reliable and efficient, but can also be more difficult to troubleshoot because of the complexities of its advanced systems. The new Fluke ScopeMeter 120B Series Industrial Handheld Oscilloscope features Connect-and-View technology that recognizes signal patterns and automatically sets up the scope’s triggering, amplitude, and time base eliminating the typical trial-and-error setup process. Once the waveform is captured, the new IntellaSet intelligent measurement detection automatically selects key measurements based on the acquired waveform type and displays the most relevant measurement values (for example, Vrms and Hz for a line voltage signal, or Vpeak-peak and Hz for a square wave), helping technicians easily identify and characterize potential signal faults.
The 120B Series also features Event Capture function that captures and identifies elusive intermittent events and lists all those events that exceed a predetermined threshold. This lets technicians identify key events quickly, rather than combing through large data sets, reading by reading.
The Industrial Internet of Things is all about connections and data. As part of Fluke Connect— a system of wireless test tools that communicate via the Fluke Connect app, or Fluke Connect Assets software, a cloud-based solution that gathers measurements to provide a comprehensive view of critical equipment status — the 120B Series can automatically record waveform data to the Fluke Connect app on smartphones or tablets ensuring accuracy and eliminating manual recording of data. Those measurements are then wirelessly uploaded to the cloud and can be combined with measurement data from multiple Fluke Connect test tools to create and share reports from the job site via email and collaborate in real time with other colleagues, increasing productivity in the field. Storing then comparing and contrasting waveforms of specific asset test points over time enables maintenance engineers to better identify and troubleshoot conditions that can lead to failures.
Fluke introduces Work Orders, the latest enhancement to the Fluke Connect Assets, an asset management software solution that works with the Fluke Connect system of wireless test tools. Using this new Fluke Connect Assets feature maintenance managers can:
- View complete work order history coupled with measurement data related to a specific plant asset
- Create work orders from anywhere
- Confidently assign the job to the appropriate technician and balance the task with other work orders in the system.
Technicians are provided with actual measurement data right in the work order allowing them to better understand the problem and work instructions.
The Fluke Connect system allows entire maintenance teams to capture and wirelessly share data via their smartphones. Using the AutoRecord feature measurements are transferred directly from Fluke Connect wireless test tools – eliminating transcription errors – and can be uploaded to FlukeCloud storage. Measurements can be assigned to a specific asset for sharing and analysis. Technicians can collaborate with their colleagues to discuss problems while sharing data and images in real time with ShareLive video calls, which speeds problem solving, decision-making and approvals.
Often the most frustrating task for electricians and maintenance technicians is to troubleshoot intermittent faults because they rarely occur at convenient times. The new Fluke Connect-enabled 370 FC Series Clamp Meters log measurements to pinpoint intermittent faults precisely without the need for the technician to be present. Those measurements are then wirelessly transmitted to the Fluke Connect app on smartphones or tablets and automatically uploaded to the cloud, keeping technicians outside the arc flash zone and away from dangerous moving machinery, improving safety.
The CAT IV 600 V, CAT III 1000 V safety-rated clamp meters offer advanced troubleshooting performance to capture a wide range of measurements with a single tool, including:
- Proprietary in-rush measurement technology to filter out noise and capture motor starting current exactly as the circuit protection sees it;
- Integrated variable frequency drive low pass filter (376 FC and 375 FC models only) for accurate motor drive measurements;
- True-rms voltage and current for accurate measurements on non-linear signals;
- 500 mV dc measurement range to interface with other accessories (376 FC and 375 FC models only);
- Expanded measurement range to 2500 A ac with the iFlex flexible current probes, which provide access to large conductors in tight spaces.
As part of Fluke Connect— the industry’s largest system of software and more than 30 wireless test tools — technicians can wirelessly transmit measurement data from the 370 FC Series clamp meters and other test tools to their smartphones for secure storage on the Fluke Cloud and team access from the field. With the Fluke Connect smartphone app, technicians can combine measurement data from multiple Fluke Connect test tools to create and share reports from the job site via email and collaborate in real time with other colleagues with ShareLive video calls, increasing productivity in the field.
The various parts of the Industrial Internet of Things ecosystem—smart devices, networks, databases, cloud, mobile HMI—really so help manufacturing and production operations, maintenance, and engineering perform better.
Fluke has made strategic acquisitions over the past several years that enhances its technology portfolio. It has brought together many of these technologies to make the IIoT useful. In the case of this new product, enhancing preventive maintenance.
Unplanned downtime due to equipment failure can cost manufacturers up to three percent of their revenue, according the U.S. Federal Energy Management Program. Manual methods of tracking equipment health to predict failures are time consuming and prone to errors and incomplete data, while existing computerized maintenance management systems can be costly and complex and often require significant IT resources to implement.
Fluke Connect Assets changes the way equipment maintenance is documented, reported, and managed.
Fluke Connect Assets is a cloud-based wireless system of software and test tools that gives maintenance managers a comprehensive view of all critical equipment — including baseline, historical, and current test tool measurement data, current status, and past inspection data — enabling them to set up and sustain a preventive maintenance (PM) or condition-based maintenance (CBM) system easily with minimal investment.
It features wireless one-step measurement transfer from more than 30 Fluke Connect wireless test tools, eliminating manual recording of measurements so maintenance managers can be more confident that the equipment history is accurate.
The system’s features allow maintenance managers to analyze multiple types of predictive data (for example, electrical, vibration, infrared images) all in one program, side by side, in a visual format that enables easy scanning. In fact, it’s the first software that allows you to compare multiple measurement types in one system, making it easy to see correlations and spot problems. This intuitive display of multiple measurements enhances the productive use of data and the ability to identify a problem, since each measurement type tests a different aspect of equipment health and together they present a more complete picture.
Key features of Fluke Connect Assets include:
- Asset Health dashboard — is a hierarchy based overview of the status of all assets over time, with drill-downs to the individual asset record for more details. This permits managers to identify anomalies or correlations across equipment.
- Asset Analysis – is a record for each piece of equipment that is the single source for all of its maintenance information. Managers and technicians can trend and compare thermal, electrical and vibration data over time for each piece of equipment in order to make optimal repair and replacement decisions.
- 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.
Entire maintenance teams can capture and share data via their smartphones regardless of their location using AutoRecord measurements to automatically record measurements from Fluke Connect wireless test tools, upload the data to Fluke Cloud storage and then assign it to a specific asset for sharing and analysis. Technicians can collaborate with their colleagues to discuss problems while sharing data and images in real time with ShareLive video calls, speeding up problem solving, decision-making and approvals.
With the Fluke Connect Assets system, maintenance managers and technicians generate more reliable data to make informed decisions about equipment health, reducing unexpected equipment downtime, improving costs, and enhancing the efficiency of their teams.
One more note from my visit with Fluke last week. The first day of meetings was devoted to a conversation/focus group with a number of customers, partners and “bloggers” (me).
Voice of Customer
We were introduced to the product development process for its latest vibration-sensing tool. Their process is iterative—discovering problems customers have, watching how people actually do things now, coming up with ideas for solutions, returning to the customers for feedback, then iterating again until the final product is released.
This “Voice of the Customer” is sacred within the company.
Fluke uses a technique called shadowing where Fluke team members follow a customer technician around and record how he/she uses the tool. They notice things like awkward angles or how they play with control buttons with their thumbs.
I’ve talked with another company in the past that sends all members of the executive team out annually to shadow a customer. It helps them see customer successes and feel customer’s pain. That was a great idea.
I’d suggest that Fluke take its shadowing methodology and expand it from development of a specific tool into a routine for senior managers as a way to get ideas and get a feel for the customers.
Otherwise, speaking as a guy with some product development experience, I like what I see.
Not every company is as sensitive to customers as Fluke.
I’m a coffee fanatic. I buy Fair Trade beans and have invested in a coffee shop that will source beans directly from farmers that our buyer has met. In a past life, I was a volunteer coordinator for an organization called Bread for the World. I studied the impact of corporate farms in developing nations.
I say that to explain my passion for a good cup of coffee. Keurig cup-at-a-time coffee makers have swept the nation in popularity. The company also invented and patented K-cups—the single use coffee container. But, I buy my own beans. I’d rather do that than be captive to whatever companies pay Keurig for the opportunity to sell through its distribution. So, I use the reusable metal mesh filter cup.
The K-cups are wasteful, add another layer of distribution waste and expense, driving down the revenue to the farmer.
They are also more expensive to the customer. Whenever technology and marketing come together, it seems that customer lock-in is the result.
Keurig decided to add a sensor, just like the ink jet printer people, that senses the presence of “official” K cups in its latest Keurig 2 machines. This is, of course, to force people to buy coffee only from them.
Sales dropped. The CEO last week said that evidently customers didn’t like that idea. “They like to buy their own beans.” Duh! A little bit of sensitivity to customers would have told them that.
Take a lesson from this tale of two companies. Be more like Fluke (and in the spirit of competition improve on its system). Don’t be the other “Rob Lowe”.
And if you are asked to participate, please do. Your experience will help the entire industry improve.