Future of Engineering Technology and Disruption to the Maintenance Industry

Nov 30, 2017

Kelly Potter

Kelly Potter

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The National Facilities of Maintenance and Technology (NFMT) conference two weeks ago in Orlando focused on the top trends in technology and software implementation for facility managers and engineers. Mintek spoke at the conference and discussed how future technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and how IoT will transform the way maintenance engineers interact with assets and facilities. Just like most things there are drawbacks and benefits from these advances, so let’s take a deeper look at both.

Past and Present Technologies

In order to see our future, we have to take a look at our past. The first tool was created over 2.6 million years ago called the Oldowan tool from Tanzania progressing into the stone, bronze, and iron ages.

The stone age itself lasted 3.4 million years with advancements in several tools and leading into metal working.

Metal working led into the first steam-powered vehicle large enough to transport people and cargo in the 18th century. This advancement in transportation led to several adaptations and eventually the first mass-produced car which was the Model T Ford in 1908.

2017 Mustang GT

Now fast-forward 47 years, and the Ford Mustang costs $25,185 compared to the 1908 Ford costing $850. The 2017 model also gets 18-27mpg (35-100% increase compared to the 1908 model), 300 horsepower (150% increase from 1908 model), and air-conditioning, anti-lock brakes, stability control, front, side, overhead and knee airbags, security system, and a 5-star crash rating.

Automobiles have obviously improved over the years in speed and efficiency however not at the same speed as computers, and their affect on humans. As Bill Gates said, If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 MPG.

Cars are continuing to make strides such as the Tesla and other models in the electric and hybrid space, but computers are advancing more quickly and at a rate that is affecting humans nows instead of later. Let’s take a look at the evolution of the computer and its continual change.

The first mechanical computer was created in 1822 by Charles Babbage which led to the first electronic digital computer, then the first programmable computer and then about 45 years later the first super computer was developed. The advancements in the computer happened more rapidly than the progression in cars.

For example, the first super computer the Cray-1 in 1976 cost $8,860,000 with 244 Mhz where as the iPhone 8 in 2017 costs $699 and has 850 Mhz; that’s four times the speed of the super computer and it’s in the palm of your hands.

These advancements are leading us into the future of AI, IoT, AR, VR, and Machine Learning that will impact many industries and have already begun to in the fields of medicine, banking, manufacturing, and more.

Let’s dive into AI and the industries it’s already affecting.

We use artificial intelligence everyday whether you realize it or not. Everytime you ask Siri for help, ask Alexa to turn on your favorite song, when Netflix makes a new movie recommendation, those are all forms of AI impacting your life.

These are minor examples of how AI is helping our day to day but AI is making breakthroughs in industries such as medical, banking, and manufacturing.

For example, the American Heart Association uses a 8-point checklist to accurately detect patient’s heart risk by 72.8%,however algorithms used through AI outperformed the 8-point checklist by 7.6% and raising 1.6% fewer false alarms. You could say that AI can predict heart attacks more accurately than doctors. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what the medical field is doing in terms of technology. Check out 8 ways technology is improving your health.

JP Morgan Chase and Co. uses automation software in their banking practices to help interpret loan agreements in seconds what took lawyers 360,000 hours; their goal is to have robots handle 1.7 million access requests in 2017, doing the work of 140 people. This could be looked at in one of two ways: the robots are alleviating tedious tasks for lawyers enabling them to focus on more pressing ventures or the robots are ‘taking over’ the work of people replacing them essentially.

Automation is also seen in manufacturing in places like China on a larger scale. A factory called Changying Precison Technology has 60 robot arms working 10 production lines and has 3 human workers monitoring their effectiveness and accuracy. Before the robots arrived, the factory needed 650 human workers now it only needs 30. The defect rate also dropped by 400%.

Technology is a blessing and a burden at least from the human side of things. Humans may be looking at these advances as helpful or harmful when it comes to their job. According to the LA Times, 38% of U.S. jobs will be taken over by robots within 15 years. However, the jobs being replaced may be ones that could alleviate danger for workers and also mundane tasks to allow workers to explore other fields or talents.

Let’s explore how technology and humans are working together to better their working environment.

Technology in the Workforce

Augmented Reality DAQRI for industry leaders

Infrared thermography allows engineers and mechanics to see electrical systems, mechanical equipment, building applications, and fluid systems through the use of thermovision. Engineers can spot faulty connections, abnormal motors, pipe temperatures and tank levels through this equipment showing different colors without having to touch the equipment. This reduces the risk of engineers getting hurt on the job.

A company called DAQRI is focused on AR technology and developed a wearable AR tech smart helmet for industrial use. Engineers can see 4D images above assets in their facilities that prompt them with instructions and also give them a mapping of all asset functionality. This wearable technology allows engineers to discover asset information faster and closes the knowledge gap for new hires.

Another company called UpSkill connects the workforce through augmented reality in its wearable technology guiding technicians in real-time to complete tasks, checklists, work orders, and send media to managers.

This equipment is becoming more prevalent and as more machines becomes connected to the internet, approximately 50 billion machines will be connected on the internet by 2020 it becomes imperative facilities and industries adopt these devices and make them apart of their facility operations.

CMMS has the capability to provide maintenance management and staff with an automated tool capable of scheduling inspections, preventive maintenance, managing inventory, work orders, and retrieval of recorded asset history.

Technicians can perform actual work with instructions on handhelds, enter how long it takes to complete work orders, filter through past work orders, and close out of the system. All the information is recorded in real-time, so managers can access the information instantaneously.

The ability to track your work, document it, and send it to managers could be paired with wearable technology, like the companies above, to get engineers an elevated view of assets through thermal technology or the ability to see instructions on assets and use that data to train new hires and not have to worry about on-boarding.

CMMS could also benefit from machine learning using algorithms to monitor assets like meter readings and the ability to calculate readings by the second which would be humanly impossible to do; this will cut down on extraneous labor costs and allow facilities to allocate dollars elsewhere.

The possibilities are becoming endless when it comes to how IoT, AR, VR, and Machine learning can help facilities with energy savings, labor savings, employee safety, and more. The future is a scary and exciting thing but ultimately inevitable for change.

Kelly Potter

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