Pumps & Systems staff spoke with Kevin Clark, Director, Global Service and Alliances, Fluke Accelix at Fluke Corporation, about what the company expects in the new year.

What should end users know to be up to date on IoT/cyber security?

The process and manufacturing industries are still learning about the opportunities available to us with the IoT (or for us the Industrial Internet of Things—IIoT). For automation, control and process management, the industry has been collecting data and using it to inform actions for years. The “newness” of the IIoT is in where the data are stored and analyzed (of course in the cloud). However, reliability, maintenance and repair have not benefited as much from the collection and usage of cloud-based data. The majority of day-to-day maintenance and monitoring activities remain manual, particularly on non-critical equipment (in the Tier 2 and lower categories). This reality is slowly changing though. Today, the affordability and flexibility of sensors are opening new possibilities, including bringing automated and predictive maintenance data to cloud-based EAMs and CMMSs. The challenge has not been that the tools did not exist in a CMMS/EAM. The issue has been that the integration of this data, often from different sources and companies, has never been easy or cost-effective. Now that the technology has caught up, the tools are being considered. The cybersecurity concern is beginning to abate because of progress being made in this arena, but it is not going away. Large facilities, especially IT departments, continue to be cautious in the extreme about the software and systems they allow to connect to the network.

Are changes in the workforce affecting your company? What are you doing to try to mitigate issues related to the skills gap? What are you doing to attract millennials and younger workers to the field/your company?

While these concerns affect all manufacturing, we are finding ways to attract the younger generations to our company. One example is something we did during the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) this year in Kansas City. We sponsored four students from a local technical college. They attended the SMRP conference and stopped by our booth to learn more about Fluke and talked to some of our engineers. This was a great opportunity to open the door to four young men who may otherwise not know who we are. Finding these chances to introduce ourselves and our benefits will be something that we continue to do moving forward, and we encourage our colleagues in the industry to do the same. As a technology provider, we are focused on streamlining maintenance and reliability tasks. As the workforce ages and youth replaces, technology will become a tool in the toolbox, rather than an optional method. Millennials are highly accepting of technology. In fact, they demand it. Utilizing technology in our field becomes an attractive draw to our industry.

What keeps you up at night?

Helping our clients solve their next problem before it happens is what keeps me up at night. With the pace of technology and the speed and accuracy with which our industries must function, we can’t wait for a problem or failure to happen. We have to figure out what is about to happen and fix the issues before operations slow or come to a halt. We hope that, as we move into 2018, we continue to identify faults and weaknesses before they become production-stopping problems.

What are you most optimistic about in 2018?

We are optimistic that we have found the future of maintenance, today. The transformation — whether it’s called the IIoT, Industry 4.0, or the new industrial revolution — is rapidly underway. Today, few can outthink/out dream technology. Its transformation is at hyper-speed. Technology has decided that there are no barriers. The time has come for the maintenance and reliability world to reap the rewards of decades of investment, labor and pain.

What were the biggest lessons learned in 2017, and how will they impact the industry moving into 2018?

One holdback to embracing the IIoT for maintenance was that the technicians would be replaced, and this just isn’t true. What this technology does is help technicians work smarter, not harder. They have the hardware on their tool belts. We are offering them digital tool belts to help identify what problems exist and where. 2017 was a year of learning that our limited view of technology is NOT necessarily limited by technology, but more so by our experiences/hardships. Organizations repeatedly find themselves referring to past failures, significant costs, inability to integrate and lack of understanding, when many of these barriers have been eliminated or alleviated.

What else should the end users who read Pumps & Systems know about the year ahead?

Predictive analysis is here today, but in the near future, this outcome technology will drive our performance. Up to this point, we have been collecting, collecting, collecting, with little ability to analyze or take immediate action against these outcomes. The ability to predict and act upon failures will become paramount to establishing who will be competitive in tomorrow’s economy. To read more Q&As from industry leaders, click here.