Fluke Corp., is known for its industrial test and measurement products, from vibration and laser alignment tools to thermometers, infrared cameras, and more. No doubt, if you have a job with the words “maintenance” or “reliability” in the title, you know Fluke.
A wholly-owned subsidiary of Danaher Corp., Fluke is a multi-national company headquartered in Everett, Washington, which is where I was last week attending the company’s Measure of Innovation 2015 summit, and where the message—at least in my mind—was “maintenance reinvented.”
In a quick tour of some of its newest products, including the Fluke 805 FC Vibration Meter designed for frontline mechanical troubleshooting; the Fluke 830 Laser Shaft Alignment Tool which performs complicated alignment calculations for you; and the Fluke Connect mobile app, which wirelessly shares data from Fluke tools to a cell phone and the cloud-- it became clear to me that Fluke’s new product line-up is addressing productivity and safety just as much as reliability.
Fluke Connect, for example, can use a smartphone to record and compare measurement results, email experts with a question and even share images or videos, and allow management to remotely authorize work orders. Today there are 26 tools tapping into Fluke Connect across a range of product categories and 40,000 downloads of the software, said Fluke president Wes Pringle in his opening remarks.
“We are excited about what we have right now, but we are also just getting started,” Pringle says.
Started-- in a bit of a new direction, that is. Next month the company will roll out Fluke Connect Assets which will provide a deeper view into how assets are trending over time to perform preventative maintenance. For example, a dashboard may have a status bar that shows the health of individual machines over the course of a year as a way to see patterns. Click on an image of a specific asset—say, a pump-- to see notes made by the technician. Then drill down to get vibration data and call up a screen that shows the conversation between the technician and the expert to understand what happened with the equipment.
Why is Fluke veering from its test and measurement roots?
“Think about the value of having images time-stamped and assigned to assets with the power quality or mechanical vibration data attached to it,” says Pringle. “Or, having annotations of what’s going on in the factory in the asset record to see how assets are interacting with each other in the context of the overall system. What’s the value of that?”
I’m betting the early adopters of Fluke Connect Assets will put a lot of value on it, specifically in the form of increases in productivity, money savings due to decreases in equipment downtime, and the softer ROI that comes with empowering young technicians to solve problems on the factory floor.
“The Fluke tools and Fluke Connect enable front-line screening,” says Tyler Evans, the company’s business unit manager for vibration and alignment. “It is an efficient way to understand the health of a motor and whether or not additional measurement or analysis is needed. Good, simple, easy pre-screening enables more people in the organization to be involved in predictive maintenance and [grow] the maintenance culture deeper within the organization.”
In essence, these new tools will enable a culture change that will help bridge the skills gap, but also enable an entire organization to use resources more efficiently—and where they are most needed.
Fluke is not trying to compete with its computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or enterprise asset management (EAM) partners, like IBM Maximo, but company officials did allude to the possibility of a light-weight CMMS-like system to accommodate customers without any asset management systems in place.
“Our intention is to integrate systems, but the challenge for us is in situations where the manufacturer hasn’t adopted a CMMS,” says Glenn Gardner, business development manager for Fluke Connect. “Then it is incumbent upon Fluke to try to come up with an answer to manage maintenance workflows.”
Pringle says the company is in the midst of building a software roadmap, and it will likely factor the Internet of Things (IoT) into the equation, something its partner IBM is excited about.
“Fluke Connect can play a big part in the business analytics picture,” says Mary Bunzel, IBM Software’s worldwide industry leader for manufacturing software. “If you could connect quality degradation back to the startup of equipment and fluctuations in energy usage, you could see all of the things together that are impacting product quality. This is the holy grail.”