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Listening To Your Assets

Industrial equipment manufacturers expanding with asset management services.

As manufacturing companies look to squeeze more from their assets, managers are seeking to track machine performance and increase uptime. Fortunately, equipment makers and service providers are answering that challenge. For instance, consider FREEDOM E-LOG from machine tool manufacturer Cincinnati Machine. "FREEDOM E-LOG really started out as a covert project, an attempt by our Cincinnati Machine salesman, Steve Leiding, to help us access performance data," says Tony Goff, plant manager, Oilgear Co., maker of hydraulic equipment and systems. Little did Leiding realize that the problem was common enough that that it would give Cincinnati Machine entree into the asset-management services business. Goff needed the performance data to track and monitor machining centers being added to Oilgear's Freemont, Neb., plant. The company was paying more than $600,000 per machine, yet the primitive reporting software meant Goff would spend hours calculating utilization, efficiencies and effectiveness. By the time Goff took delivery of his fourth machine, Leiding's efforts evolved into a software package that made performance data -- things like alarms, cycle times and downtime -- readily available. In addition, operators could log in comments right from the machining centers. Goff could even access machines from home via the Internet. He says machine utilization has dramatically increased since the addition of the software. Strategically, Cincinnati Machine's initiative is a move toward services. Such a move has to be an essential element to the growth strategies of industrial machinery companies, says Chris Shoup, partner, industrial equipment practice, at Accenture, the Chicago-based management consultant. "To survive long term, product makers must [also] become service providers." (See related article, Maximum Return.) At Rockwell Automation, a growing asset-management initiative seems to be affirming Shoup's assertion. Rockwell's focus: helping manufacturers control the costs of maintaining production assets. Rockwell's services are complemented by product offerings. For example, the Milwaukee-based company announced Entek SM Series, described as the industry's first modular and open distributed machine monitoring and protection system. "The distributed and real-time monitoring of the SM Series gives companies a much broader level of connectivity and provides access to more extensive machinery data," says Rick Schiltz, vice president, capabilities and engineering. Shoup says a fast-growing means for delivering asset management continues to be telematics -- the wirelessly enabled two-way communication between equipment and asset managers.

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