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NextGenerationEAM – Visualization or a Picture is Worth A Thousand Words !

In our first installment of NextGeneration EAM we spoke about the up and coming worker.  What’s different and what to expect when “installing” this new resource type into our organization and machinery.  These NextGen workers are expecting more and more from our organizations, the tools we use and the processes that we support / automate or enable via information technology.

In this week’s blog, I would like to explore the expectations and the solutions that are available to address yet another critical node of our NextGenEAM Mind Map.  For a quick refresher, let’s revisit it before diving head in.  The NextGenEAM Mind Map was an exercise in mapping the key ideas that support the concept of NextGenEAM.  The Worker, the Visualization, the Data and Mobility.  The MindMap below shows the structure and a couple of the minor nodes are specifically called out.


When we start the discussion of Visualizing EAM content we must first recognize that not all technicians use information in the same ways.  Perhaps older experienced workers, have seen the insides of the oldest of our assets and could sketch out the innards from memory.  As well some of the old guard may have liked to “collect” the pen and ink drawings from the vendor manuals and stashed them away for special occasions.  Still I would argue that nothing beats having the latest images available for use in planning the package, holding pre-job briefs and in the midst of the disassembly or reassembly when that last part on the shop rag remains to find its home inside our machine.

Recent studies have shown that an additional 80% more information can be derived from a work package that combines imagery and text over plain text packages.  The answer should be evident as we have all heard the old adage, that a “Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”.  Now that I believe we have the background, let’s talk a bit about the current possibilities for NextGenEAM using SAP with Visualization technologies.

Since the late 90’s when the US Federal Government de-milaritarized the constellation of geo-synchronous orbit satellites that provided highly accurate latitude and longitude information, the use of Geospatial Information Technologies (GIS) have exploded for the consumer and commercial market.  Historical maps where limited in resolution, coverage and detail, not to mention timeliness in updates.  Todays GIS powered maps provide seamless navigation across the territory, sub meter resoultion, multiple layers of information and practically instant updates from the back office and field users.

When we add into the map base the tool sets that allow us to further manipulate the data the possibilites increase.  Take the GIS visualization of spills or plumes that are driven by the local data gathered and loaded into a spatial database.  What emerges is the ability to see the picture of how broad, deep, concentrated or high the impact of the spill goes.  Without the picture provided by these tools, we would be left to our imaginations or a big bundle of colored pencils and Zip-a-Tone.

Let’s take this a step further, augmenting the tabular EAM data that captures nameplate data, outstanding or current work request/orders with the local images yields to the user the ability to activate their devices camera and pan across the substation to reveal the image of a icon that represents the outstanding work issue hovering on top of the real time image itself.  This type of “Augmented Reality” can be further enhanced with technologies such as thermal imaging, Doppler or ground radars to deliver a Geordi La Forge type of insight with out the crazy Star Trek visor.

Bring this discussion back down to Earth a bit, most images in the past where religated to the flat page along with the requisite two dimensions of height and width.  The NextGenEAM practitioner need not be so constrained!  With the abundance of CAD systems for designers to use the tools now exist to take not only the new or existing vendor 3D images, but to take legacy 2D images and uplift them to 3D.  Couple this technology with animation tools and now we have a virtual assembly or disassembly procedure complete with stop action and replay.  Of course these drawings have more to them then just nice pictures.  The images can be rotated, zoomed or even hot linked back to the companies’ data catalogs for traditional namespec data or even linked to parts catalogs.



Recently I had the chance to speak with a field user about the power of using 3D and an interesting use case came out of the conversation.  We talked about how the newer technicians are being sent to field locations to perform maintenance on equipment that they have never seen before.  How are they to possibly understand what the top of a 25 foot tall transformer looks like ?  The task calls for the check of a bushing, yet they don’t know where to place their ladders or staging.  With the ability to use 3D Visualization they are able to rotate the transformer virtually to give the proper perspective on the top without needing to have a bucket truck of man lift on site.  The use case is to have a virtual look around before beginning the task.

Given the vast improvement in comprehension when a work package utilizes Visualization techniques and the expectation of the NextGenEAM Worker why wouldn’t we take advantage of this benefit? 

In our next part we will cover the topic of mobility.  Certainly you are using a mobile phone, who isn’t?  Still many are stuck on old school thinking when it comes to the idea of mobility.  What does that actually mean for the NextGenEAM’r ? – Follow this blog and see what to truly be mobile is all about.  Until then let’s keep the lights on!

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