EASA webinar explains useful finer points of the method
Mention remote condition monitoring to someone and the first things they might think of are the hardware and software needed to integrate a customer’s machines with a monitoring network — the digital nuts and bolds, if you will.
But at a recent webinar conducted by members of the Electrical Apparatus Service Association’s Ad Hoc Committee on Emerging Technologies, participants expressed more curiosity about dealing with vendors and customers than about which tools to use.
The webinar, held Jan. 11, was moderated by committee chairman Justin Hatfield, president of HECO in Kalamazoo, Mich. The other participating committee members were Bjorn Eirik Mjaatveit of EMR Consulting AS in Bergen, Norway; Mike Huber of American MTS in Monroe, N.C.; and Thomas Schardt of Nidec St. Louis. A recording of the webinar may be viewed by EASA members at <I>www.easa.com.<P>
Hatfield walked participants through a PowerPoint presentation that described various maintenance philosophies and some business models. He also described sensor and gateway hardware and software and explained where sensors might be placed in an industrial process.
It was during the question-and-answer period that it became apparent that participants are equally — if not more — concerned with dealing with vendors and customers.
One participant asked if he could get the names of vendors supplying EASA members with sensors. Hatfield said, understandably, that this was a question EASA and the Emerging Technology committee would prefer not to address. He did say, however, that “I would expect to see sensor prices drop.” He also encouraged participants to look to EASA associate members as suppliers of IoT hardware and software.
Another participant asked what the panel’s experience has been in maintaining the sensors. A lot of the sensors are throwaways with non-replaceable batteries, he was told. Much depends on the service provider’s business model. Are you selling the customer hardware, or is the customer on a subscription model where you provide the assurance of keeping machines up and running?
In response to another question, one panelist recommended investing in a portable data plan, bringing your own modems to the work site, and connecting to cell towers. The customer’s wi-fi network might be unreliable. Also, “the customer’s IT department is not your friend,” participants were forthrightly told. “They don’t want you on their network.”
When selling remote conditioning monitoring as a service, one should first approach the executive level, not the maintenance manager, the panel advised. The top person will see the monetary value of remote condition monitoring, while the maintenance guy you work with on site will be afraid he’s going to be replaced.
Maintenance managers should be assured that remote condition monitoring isn’t a threat to their jobs. Point out that you seek to provide tools with which the same team can handle more assets and pro-actively take control of maintenance.
The panelists agreed that he biggest pushback from customers arises from their concerns about cybersecurity. When pitching a remote condition monitoring plan, explain in detail the security features of all hardware and software. Vendors are aware of this concern and are prepared to answer questions.
In putting together a remote condition monitoring plan, participants were advised to start small. If your client has 1,400 motors, there’s no need to begin by monitoring all of them. Start with a small nucleus of machines. Find a solution that works on a small population, working out whatever idiosyncrasies you may encounter, and then scale up from there.
Perhaps most importantly: Keep in mind that you’re selling a service, not just hardware and software. As one panelist said, “The more value you can provide, the more margin you can make.” — Kevin Jones, EA Senior Editor