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Exploring New Technologies for More Efficient Operations


Paul joins us again for a peek into the future of some exponential technologies that may soon make jobs easier and more efficient. 



Welcome to the Operate Intelligently Podcast, the podcast for all things operations. 


We have a great topic to talk about and guest. Paul LaChance, Senior Manufacturing Advisor here at Dude Solutions is joining us to talk about exponential technologies. Paul, welcome back to the podcast. Thanks, Brian. It's always great to be here. So Paul, exponential technologies are definitely something we have to keep up with. So, Paul, how can you keep up with changes and new technologies and industry today? 


The whole concept of exponential technologies, which is sort of a different way of saying the 4th industrial revolution or industry 4.0 is a whole series of different technologies that we're going to start to see in our everyday life and our personal life, as well. 

In our in our business lives and in our company lives, as well. And any time I like to talk about exponential technologies or industry 4.0 I I always like to paint a little bit of a picture about where we are in time. And I think some of this stuff is is very telling about how fast things are changing. And I'm going to kind of go in a different direction here. Try to hang with me on this because I don't think you probably have talked about the dinosaurs much in your previous podcasts. But these are to see where we are on a map. But do we know where we are in time for example, on this planet. We've had we've had life on this planet for hundreds and hundreds of millions of years the first brain life. And if there anybody on this podcast who are scientists or apologists and I have these dates wrong, I apologize. I'm doing this more for directional and to prove a point.  

But for about 550, 600 million years, we've had life on this planet that had some version of a brain dinosaur then here 200 plus million years, 230 plus million years, we've had human life people on this planet for more than two and a half million years. And we as a species, Homo sapiens have been on this planet for at least 200 to 300,000 years. The fossil evidence shows that where it really becomes interesting as we as humans on this planet, how fast things are moving for the first 200,000 years we were here, it's not a really correct phrase, but we say the stone age and I'm going to use that phrase for now where we basically hunter gatherers, we figured out how to utilize fire repeatedly. We got great with stone tools. We got to the point where we started making some paintings on caves, you know, that was that was the progress you've made over 200,000 years. But if you look at the last say, 10,000 years, that's we became an agricultural society and that's where things really started to settle down societies formed the first industrial era started only 200 years ago. 

Today, you start to see this real compression of time, the last 200 years have changed the face of how we as humans on this planet. Now look at the technology era, 60 years ago, approximately when the first computers and they filled a gymnasium, they were so big and still had an incredibly small fraction of the power that we have in our own personal devices, watches and so forth. But that was only 60 years ago. And what's really exciting and where these opportunities exist, is what's going to happen next. So you see this compression of time, these exponential technologies that we're going to start to see are not going to take 60 years to become commonplace.  


I agree, exponential technologies are rapidly increasing. And, you know, the computers are a great example of how that's happening. So what are some of the top technologies that you're excited about today? 


I'll focus more from the standpoint of say the manufacturing environment of factories work and especially as it relates to maintenance operations and maintenance software. But there are numerous ones, but the ones that excite me the most that are probably going to have a sooner impact or a higher impact. The big one that we've been talking about for several years now is the industrial Internet of Things. And that's a technology that's been around a while we won't really talk much about in this today's conversation, but others that are part of that grouping are things like artificial intelligence, including machine learning, advanced analytic, the interface of things. 

The interface of things include items such as virtual reality, augmented reality, assists, assisted reality, wearables, gesture recognition, all of these areas are going to have an impact on us but down the road later and again, I'm speaking more specifically to maintenance operation but things like 3D printing additive manufacturing to be able to print up spare parts, blockchain, cybersecurity, digital design. 

 All these are things which are going to have varying impacts in different ways are going to change the way that we do maintenance as we move forward. 


All those are some interesting technologies. How can these be used to kind of create efficiencies? 


Let's go through a couple of examples how these technologies are going to make our lives better. Let's start off with the interface of thing. You know, that's a different IoT. I'm not talking about the Internet of Things, the sensors that's an amazing technology, but the interface of things. So we'll go through a couple of examples. 

The interfaces things is typically wearables, virtual reality headsets, headsets, augmented reality headsets, or assisted reality assist. The reality is a good example. And that's probably one of the one of the closer ones that will impact this day to day. So these are those devices that you kind of where maybe with your hard hat it has a little heads up display a little teeny monitor that's in a view that can kind of flip up when you don't need it. It also has a camera, a little microphone. It's basically a little portable computer that you were as a rig and some of the great uses of this or things like remote mentorship.  

I, as a technician, say I've got to go work on an asset I've got to climb a ladder to get up and above this asset and I'm young I can go up there I don't know a lot about this app but I haven't worked on a lot but my boss who knows more about it than anybody in the entire company she's got bad knees she can't go up that ladder anymore she's in her office so I can climb up that ladder I can peer into this asset and my boss can be back at her desk see what I'm seeing and kind of coach me through the process and say okay I need you to remove that screw on that cover and open it up and she's like here I'm going to throw up on your screen is schematic of exactly where that is and then while you're working on it you can have this interaction with your supervisor who's back in her office and look at a lockout tag out procedures.  

Or look at a preventive maintenance procedure or see the part that you have to replace and put it in there recorded all and so it's essentially a hands-free mobile maintenance operation where you're interacting with other people in your organization. It's great for the aging workforce. It's just a great way to get maintenance son is we're starting to on board this younger generation of people who are working on those so that's one good example it you can take it to the whole next level with augmented reality. It's a similar concept except augmented reality headsets, their headsets that you can see through you can see your field of vision. And you may know the phrase Google Glasses that was an early generation augmented reality headset. And there's a whole new generation of these things coming out especially as these processors get faster and our ability to process this data get more but as a technician I can be looking at an asset and you know I'm looking at it physically in front of me but in my field of view what has been augmented is maybe the part that I need to replace as part of this PM digitally highlighted in my field of view.  

So I know specifically where I need to remove those bolts or where I need to replace that filter and say I go and go touch the wrong area, I might get some sort of an alert so it can really coach me as a maintenance operations professional to really approach that preventive maintenance, that corrective maintenance that work on that asset much safer, less risk quicker all through this concept of augmented reality. So those are some examples of day to day. 


Yeah, when you started describing that first example, Google Glasses came to mind and I think it's really interesting because when you know Google Glasses had a huge splash but you know, a lot of it was looking at like the cool factor and, and, you know, now you have, you know, computer on your glasses, but in reality, a lot of the real world applications beyond the consumer are kind of what you described being able to do field work or positions that require, you know, extreme circumstances, like climbing up a ladder, or getting in tight spaces, which a lot of facility management people have to do, and be able to have that coach on the line, getting the data and not having to carry that stuff in with you, and getting a flashlight out, and all that kind of cumbersome act of physically doing the work.  


Yeah, that's a good example. And, you know, Google Glasses was an early generation. And there's a whole new crop of this technology. And as computers get faster, and part of the exponential technologies are all-around high-performance computing and better data processing. And because it takes a lot to make these things work, we need these things to go faster. But that's happening. And you think about that compression of time where these technologies are getting less expensive, more powerful, faster. And again, I really look at the interface of things it's the whole next generation of mobile, you're not going to have to pull your mobile device or your phone out anymore, you're going to be able to do a lot more things. Just recognition hands-free by senior augmented reality and so forth. 


We've got an exciting programming announcement for our listeners there's another Brian at The Dude that we joining the podcasting family on a welcome Brian on Draco to come in and tell us a little bit about new program. Thanks, Brian. I've got some really exciting news, so we're actually launching a new series called The Gov Gab Radio Podcast will be talking to civic leaders around the country small population the very large cities and a lot of mayors and city managers just folks that are really out there trying to improve their communities looking at challenges that may be coming up and how do they actually solve those so some really neat stuff and excited to share that with everyone. Sounds great! How can people tune into Gov Gab Radio? Yeah, so actually will be slotted underneath the Operate Intelligently Podcast every other week, so every two weeks so you'll see it as a series. So I definitely encourage everyone to check it out. I think they'll be some great takeaways from it sounds awesome. Looking forward to it. Thanks, Brian. 


These are some good examples of day-to-day. But there are other examples for week-to-week, sort of how are you going to use these exponential technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning began with a more powerful computers, more data to work with these these more intelligent algorithms that are CMMS software vendors can work with can start to set up save more true predictive maintenance, auto setting reorder points for parts based on usage, going through a ton of data on the fly in dynamically calculate those things real time typically that's always been done as a specialized project offline because of the processing that's needed.  

Same thing with calculating upper and lower boundaries and thresholds on failure rate so you know when you need to create a work order dynamically and it’s all in the name of efficiency. But this concept of these exponential technologies around AI, machine learning, advanced analytics are going to take what we've done historically for years, in a CMMS, look at reports, and, and so forth, but take them to a whole other level. Given the power of what these computers these algorithms and the access to this data give us. 


I couldn't agree with you more. I mean, we definitely see in other industries around data and decision making. So it's just a matter of time. So how can listeners kind of prepare for, you know, the rapid change and what's coming with exponential technologies, you know, preparing for what's coming? 


There's a couple ways I like to look at this. First off, that the rate in which change is happening that's that compression of time. That's why I talked about that dinosaur stuff the beginning and you have to be thinking about these changes and when they're coming in. 

And you really need to rely on a number of ways to get that information. Trust your software vendors to be looking at this stuff, spend time to look and read articles, but I like to break it down into say, see differently, think differently and do differently. So when you're seeing things, you really need to cultivate an outside in perspective. Most manufacturers or large organizations I like to use the analogy is like an aircraft carrier. They've been they've been steaming along they've been doing it for probably decades with success to steer that ship. 

It takes a while these exponential technologies Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, whatever you want to call it. Changes are coming fast and traditional manufacturing organizations they need to see and recognize this stuff. It's going to be difficult for them to do it internally on their own. You need to have an outside in perspective. So that may mean adding talent that have experience around this, that may mean really paying attention to what your vendors, your technology vendors, like the solutions and CMMS and so forth are talking about and looking at, you got to identify opportunities where some of this technology might help.  

Some of the obvious ones are like the IoT. Why do you let your assets crash and burn? And that's when maintenance gets alerted? Why not let it tell you, why not let it Tell your work order system that it's in distress way in advance of major problems like that? Well, that's an awesome opportunity to identify where you can do better, but you got to create a vision that blends is innovation, continuous improvement, all with profitability in mind, so you can see things differently. 

Yeah, it's definitely a challenge. And I think the outside in approach is great because, you know, you have to be able to kind of look at it and say, you know, is this really going to benefit. This is a must-have application within what we're doing versus, you know, the shiny object syndrome where people are like, hey, there's this great new technology, we need to use it. But is it the right technology for us doesn't fit what we're doing and our specific business case scenarios. Well, that's very good point. Because the next thing is think differently. And that comes with solid research and planning. You don't just trust this stuff to happen you, you have to have solid research and planning. You have to have resources and people around you internally and your trusted partners, this change is good.  

You have to embrace this change. That's not easy when you're trying to steer a massive aircraft carrier that, you know, you're looking at some fairly radical changes, and it's going to take some time, but that solid research and planning and thinking differently, but eventually you're going to do differently. And I'm a big believer in thinking big, but starting small, I think most people would agree that quick wins will foster cultural change.  

So say that do you do that IoT example, the IoT example. It's a wonderful way it's got proven ROI. It will be better for your main operations start with it with an area that in the, in the world of exponential technologies and industry 4.0 that is becoming a bit more mature than some of these areas. But that'll that'll kind of get you to start seeing how when you can harness that data coming from those assets to tell you when to maintain them, that you can start to make some continuous improvements and small changes. And then you can tackle things like you will be easier to take on as an augmented reality initiative. When time is right. You don't have to be on the bleeding edge or even really the cutting edge for any of this stuff. But you should be watching closely identifying those opportunities, see differently, think differently and eventually do differently. And that's where you're going to see that those exponential technologies will really show there is great data that is really showing that organizations that focus on R&D around efficiencies, which that will always start to tie into some of these technologies. 

Exponential technologies in one form or another, but the organizations that do spend that, that those dollars that investment of time, energy and people into these things relative to their competitors, they perform better. This isn't just an academic exercise. It isn't just cool. Like glasses were eight years ago whenever it came out. But this, this has proven ROI at this point.  


Yeah, I would agree. And I like your approach because it's like that crawl, walk run approach where you don't have to, really kind of by the whole kit and caboodle, you know, test with small pieces, pilot small programs and kind of get the value and learning to make you much better informed and aware of going down the road as you kind of get deeper and deeper into it.  


Yeah, and I completely agree and you can't emphasize this. Most people are too busy with their day to day operational jobs to be studying this stuff. So you either have to create that as a role within your organization, but absolutely. Look and trust your vendors. Like we focus on CMMS, and we focus on maintenance management software for our customers. That is there a lot of elements and inputs in areas that touch on that, including mobile devices, IoT sensors, and all these other things like 3D printers, the ability to just print up a spare part as opposed to having to keep it stocked. I mean, that's got amazing ROI potential in reducing inventory, stock quantities on hand in stock outages. We have a stock out all these kind of things that show great ROI, but software, your software partners they are we are watching this kind of stuff and can help coach our customers to understand it. 


That's great information, Paul. And if you want to learn more about exponential technologies, Paul will be doing a webinar upcoming called laying a foundation for maintenance excellence today and tomorrow. We will have a link in our show notes if you want to participate. Paul, thank you again for coming in and talking a little bit about the future of exponential technology and how our listeners can benefit from it.  


And as always, great talking to you. Thank you, Brian. It's great being here. 


And until next time, I'm Brian McDonald coming to you from Dude Solutions. 

Thank you for listening to the Operate Intelligently Podcast produced by Dude Solutions. You can reach us by emailing dspodcast@dudesolutions. com or check us out on the web at 

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