Truly automated meter readings
Meter readings are an incredibly useful part of maintenance. Without them, knowing whether or not something needs repairs would be based on if smoke is coming out of the machine or not. The dials and flickering lights on machines give us the ability to keep track of the state of our equipment and spot issues before things become dangerous. So, what if you could track all your meter readings without a person ever having to look at a dial? Instead of mechanics wandering from station to station, filling out spreadsheets of data, trying to keep track of everything, what if all of the meter readings were stored in your maintenance and asset management software in real-time? And, what if they were accessible to all those mechanics at any time, any where on any device? What if one of those meter readings was the internal temperature of a manufacturing device and when it got too hot it sent a work order to a technician alerting him of the problem? Imagine the amount of time and money that would be saved, and how much more efficient and productive that scenario would be. The Maintenance Assistant Labs team is working towards realizing that dream.
Using Maintenance Assistant’s API, I managed to create a program that is the first step to making the dream of truly automated meter readings a reality. MA Labs is proud to offer the Automated Meter Reading File Handler, a program that runs in your browser, reads CSV files, and sends meter reading data from the files directly to your CMMS. This means that you no longer need to even open the MA CMMS to put data into the system, let alone input readings individually. Just drop a file in the folder, let the program do it’s work and forget about it. The program was made with non-programmers in mind, so that it could be used by anyone. All you have to do is go through a step-by-step initial setup, put your excel files into the folder, and run the program. After that, the program will just keep running until it’s closed and will alert the user to any errors it comes across while uploading the data. You can continue to add more files to the folder while the program is running and it will read them when it finishes with the others.
Triggering the dream
What’s more, the MA CMMS’ scheduled maintenance functionality also works with the program file reader. The scheduled maintenance module takes note of all the meter readings the program tosses at it and triggers related work orders based on the data. Dropping a file in the folder could tell a technician that the second conveyor belt at your packaging station in the assembly line is close to overheating, list the maintenance steps needed to fix the problem, give the estimated time needed, its priority among all the other work orders, and the parts needed for the maintenance repair. That’s pretty well automated. The Automated Meter Reading File Handler is also open source, so if you’re a developer, or have one on-hand, the code is documented and ready to be changed to meet your needs. You can easily host the program using an external program, but any way of putting it on a server works, so long as the folders and files are intact.
A technician’s job is to keep equipment in peak condition, but that can get slowed down by constantly trying to figure out just what needs fixing. Even if the technicians never have to walk around writing down the meter readings, those meter readings still must be looked through, every reading considered and accounted for. Humans are naturally prone to error. Numbers and words on a spreadsheet can blend together if you stare at them long enough as our eyes get tired, potentially missing what could be a critical issue that’s about to occur. This is where automation becomes so important. A program won’t skip lines or get tired and it won’t forget what’s important and what isn’t. Instead, a program will pick through every last piece of data, and if anything is out of the ordinary, it will report the issue, all at the speed no person can match. The technicians who used to have to sort through all the data could instead dedicate 100% of their time to doing the job they trained to do – fixing the equipment when it needs fixing. In my next post we’ll talk about the next phase of collecting meter readings with machines so that your maintenance team doesn’t have to. In the mean time, are you ready to take the first step to automate your meter readings?