SKF forms Reliability Systems business unit; launches decision-support venture


San Diego, Calif . - Efficient management and maintenance of assets in manufacturing plants is a growing concern for plant operators. The protection of valuable plant assets has become an issue just as important as the quest for new equipment.

Providing the tools and services for this arena is the goal of recently formed SKF Reliability Systems, a core business unit of SKF's Service Division ( ). Reliability Systems uni-fies several existing SKF operations that deal with equipment reliability, condition monitoring, and related services. Jon Brons was named president of the new SKF entity.

Also newly formed is a technology venture, named "@ptitude," that aims to develop industrial decision-support systems and reliability solutions by reducing plant variability and raising effi-ciency, according to SKF. @ptitude advanced decision support integrates the following elements and systems with the expertise of SKF Reliability Systems: condition monitoring, automated ma-chinery diagnostics, distributed control, computerized maintenance management, and Inter-net/intranet web sites for round-the-clock access.

Managing knowledge

Mr. Brons refers to this initiative as "Managing knowledge to optimize asset efficiency." Technology is employed in the development as a tool rather than an end to itself. "How to execute technologies to improve asset efficiency by combining all the knowledge is the key, " he says.

SKF's approach starts with plant personnel entering equipment operational data into handheld computers during their routine, daily data-collection rounds. SKF still considers operator collec-tion the most efficient data input method, even with newer techniques available.

Collected information is uploaded to the system database, which the decision-support tool taps for input. @ptitude interprets signals from the equipment-providing the user with maintenance advice, not just alarms. The tool advises operators on what to do, when to do it, etc. "Algorithms support reliability solutions, where the operator is the front-line force," adds Mr. Brons.

Unlike earlier, labor-intensive data analysis tools, @ptitude automates decision-support proc-esses. However, the specific tools are kept simple so users don't pay for unneeded functions. Eric J. Huston, vice president, Technology Ventures at SKF Service, considers @ptitude's asset knowledge to be unique, due to its practical rule-based diagnosis and fault-detection features. Moreover, SKF's approach differs from other existing tools because it's intended for maintenance personnel rather than scientists or engineers. Ease of use is stressed.

With increased knowledge about a plant's assets, "hidden capacity" can often be found, ex-plains Mr. Huston. The more predictable the plant, the faster the machinery can run, for example, to make the factory more efficient. SKF is a user of @ptitude technology in its own facilities.

Modular technology

@ptitude decision-support technology consists of several elements. Knowledge-based @ptitudeAlert system analyzes data from condition-based maintenance systems. It applies ad-vanced diagnostic methods to extract symptoms from measurements to indicate an asset's health.

@ptitudeView documents, prioritizes, and displays machine reliability and maintenance re-sults, allowing users to manage information for asset-efficiency optimization.

@ptitudeXchange is an online knowledge source (fee-based) that provides access to SKF's expertise worldwide, plus that of its alliance partners ( ).

Official launch of @ptitude advanced decision support took place in Sweden at the end of May 2002. It is now available in the U.S.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Frank J. Bartos, executive editor

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