Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

Episode 27: When to Use Condition-Based Monitoring at your Facility with Maureen Gribble

Ryan Chan

On this week’s episode of Masterminds in Maintenance, Maureen Gribble, Director of Marketing at UE Systems, shares her knowledge on the benefits and even the potential drawbacks of condition-based monitoring. Listen today!

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00:05 Ryan Chan: Welcome to Masterminds in Maintenance, a podcast for those with new ideas in maintenance. I’m your host, Ryan, I’m the CEO and Founder of UpKeep. Each week, I’ll be meeting with a guest who’s had an idea for how to shake things up in the maintenance and reliability industry. Sometimes the idea failed, sometimes it made their business more successful, and other times, their idea revolutionized an entire industry. Today, I’m super excited, we’ve got Maureen Gribble on the show. Maureen Gribble has been working as director of Marketing for UE Systems since 2012 and has been in the maintenance and reliability field since 2006. In her role at UE Systems, she’s overseeing marketing efforts, as well as working closely with training and sales departments.

00:44 RC: She organizes the annual UE Systems user conference, UE World, as well as other regional events throughout North America. In her role, she attends numerous industry events and also has been a featured speaker. She serves on the board of SMRP directors as the education director, and in this role, she provides strategic oversight over all the educational programs and offerings, including the annual conference, which brings together over 1000 maintenance and reliability professionals around the globe. Maureen is a certified maintenance and reliability professional, CMRP, and certified level one in ultrasound. Wow Maureen, you’ve done a lot. Welcome to the show, I’m really looking forward to this conversation.

01:27 Maureen Gribble: Great, yeah, thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to it as well.


01:30 RC: Alright, so the way that we always kick this off, maybe you could just share with us a little bit about your background as well, and how you got started in this field of maintenance and reliability.

01:44 MG: Yeah. Well, I kinda fell into it, it was not what I went to school for, but you know how things go. But in 2006, I started working for SMRP, actually, Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals, fell in love with the industry and with what the professionals in this industry do. And so, after working at SMRP for about six years, I ended up getting to hop over and work for UE Systems, and that’s where I’ve been ever since and I love it, so I love our customers, I love our technology and what it does, and it’s just a great, great industry, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

02:23 RC: That’s awesome. So it sounds like you started your career, basically, at the SMRP. I’m curious, and you mentioned that it was an accident, how did that all happen?

02:34 MG: Yeah. Well, so my initial work out of college, which I went to Virginia Tech, and go Hokies, was working in association, so that was my first foray into SMRP. I was working at another organization, another membership organization, ’cause that, in and of itself, is a skill, helping to run non-profits and membership organizations. And then, I got the opportunity to work for SMRP, and so where I kinda started as an association professional, obviously, my interests shift and now I’m more a maintenance and reliability professional.

03:13 RC: Alright. So yeah, it sounds like you got started through association, and then it sounds like you love the industry so much that you decided to go into UE Systems, what was that leap like?

03:27 MG: Yeah. Well, it was great going from a membership organization, where everything is ruled by committee, and you’re waiting to make decisions and things can be a little slower to happen. At UE Systems, the very first day, the message was, “Go do something, even if it’s wrong. Ask for forgiveness later, just take your ideas and try and make them fly, and if they don’t, hey, that’s okay, at least we gave it a shot.” So it’s a really cool environment to work in, where you have that ability to take some chances, and help to make some fun projects work, and learn from things that maybe didn’t and move on that way. So it’s been a really cool organization to work for, and I love, our customers are fantastic, and they really appreciate the work that we do and the support that we provide, so it’s good knowing that we’re working, I’m working for a company that really cares about our customers and cares about the industry as a whole and wanna do our part to help make it better.

04:27 RC: That’s awesome. So now you’re at UE Systems, which I learned right before this show stands for Ultrasound Equipment. I’m curious, I know a little bit about UE Systems, but I would love for you to explain to all of our listeners as well, what is UE Systems? When do you use an ultrasound equipment for continuous monitoring, and what are all the different applications?

04:55 MG: Yeah. So UE Systems, so we’ve been around for over 40 years now. We’ve got offices, our headquarters are in New York, I’m here in my home in Virginia, outside of DC. But we’ve got, just like a lot of companies these days, interspersed throughout the country and globally as well, we’ve got offices all over the world, which is really exciting as well. And yeah, our number one thing we do, and the only thing we do, is ultrasound, so we have everything from hand-held ultrasound equipment to, as you mentioned, continuous monitoring sensors, things like that. So anything and everything ultrasound, that’s us. Ultrasound, really versatile technology, got our start in leak detection, which is still a great application and a really quick way to get an ROI on the equipment and technology so you can then move forward with some of the other applications. So electrical inspection, so huge safety application, ’cause we’re able to listen for, safely, for arcing, tracking, corona, and so, that’s a great safety application there. Steam traps, valves, and now our biggest application is rotating equipment, so monitoring and trending your bearings, knowing when your bearings need lubrication, ultrasound-assisted lubrication being a huge application and a really quick win, and a good way to keep those assets healthy and up and running.

06:23 RC: That’s awesome. So I gotta ask the question too and play a little bit of devil’s advocate. When do you use ultrasound over different types of continuous monitoring, like vibration, thermal, temperature, and all the other different types of condition monitoring.

06:39 MG: Sure. Yeah, so we always say the best condition monitoring programs are gonna have more than one technology. So we love to play nice with others, we all learn that in kindergarten and we keep that lesson going. But yeah, I think ultrasound is a great… They all… All the technologies complement one another very well. There are times where ultrasound would be a great first indicator of potential failure. So on that P to S curve in regards to rotating equipment, you’re gonna find those anomalies or those early failures with bearings just a little bit sooner than some of the other technologies, but it’s a great way to pinpoint where an issue is and then come in with your vibration and do an even deeper analysis on what the actual issue is, if it’s not just lubrication related. So they really complement one another very well. As I mentioned with the electrical inspections, obviously infrared is great for that. There are times where ultrasound is gonna hear things that infrared isn’t gonna take up, but again they complement each other very well. Yeah, so we never wanna say, us versus them, it’s always us with them and help build a really great program.

07:55 RC: That’s awesome, so what it sounds like is ultrasound’s a good first stab to help identify problems, and then you layer in additional condition-based monitoring techniques to help get even more clarity, fidelity into what the problem is.

08:10 MG: Yeah.

08:11 RC: Got it.

08:11 MG: Yeah, exactly, yeah, yeah.

08:13 RC: So you’ve been working with UE Systems now for it sounds like about eight years, I’m sure you’ve seen hundreds, maybe even thousands of different customers, use your Geyser systems. Can you tell us any success stories that you’ve had with using continuous monitoring, condition monitoring and maybe even more specifically ultrasound.

08:34 MG: Yeah, so I mean, yeah, exactly. We love hearing from our customers and getting those case studies, and that’s one of the reasons why we have our conference every May because we do bring customers in and they share their success stories and it’s really great to hear. With leak detection that’s always one of the biggest ones, is just the cost savings that folks are able to do. That compressed air is not free. People love to think it’s just, that it is, and yet it is one of our most expensive utilities. So being able to find those leaks, fix them and know those cost savings is huge. We’ve got a presentation that’s gonna be at the conference this May, where in one year they found a million dollars worth of savings by utilizing the ultrasound on their… For leak detection.

09:21 RC: Wow.

09:22 MG: So that’s huge. And what we love even more, as I mentioned a little bit earlier, is being able to start with something like leak detection and now you’ve got that million dollars in cost savings. And now what else can you go tackle? What other technologies? Now, maybe you can buy that infrared camera or you can set up that vibration route or continue to use ultrasound on other applications. So we hear a lot of success like that, again, with the lubrication and folks being able to understand where those bearings are and when they need lubrication, and getting it done correctly and just avoiding that unnecessary downtime and expensive repairs. We hear that daily. So yeah, it’s a really quick win type instrument or technology rather, get on-board. [chuckle]

10:09 RC: So we’ve talked a lot about the benefits of condition-based monitoring, the benefits of ultrasound. Again, to play a little bit of devil’s advocate here, who should not be using ultrasound, when is it not the right time to use condition-based monitoring, what are you seeing in the industry when you actually guide prospects and say, “Maybe you guys aren’t the best fit for ultrasound?”

10:37 MG: Yeah, well, I think probably the best answer there is, anybody who doesn’t have the proper systems, procedures, plans, cheerleaders in place. It doesn’t matter how great a technology is, it’s not gonna work. So that’s the biggest thing with us is everybody likes to buy new shiny tools and have these fun toys, but if you don’t have a system in place where the use of that instrument or that technology is gonna be supported, it’s never gonna work out. And those shiny tools are gonna start collecting dust, which we never like to see. So I think the biggest thing is, is just knowing why you’re gonna be using a certain technology, reporting back the success. If you’re not going and sharing that million dollars worth of savings that you’ve got, showing the successes and cheering those things along, again, you’re just gonna be wasting your time. So if you’re not at that stage where you’re ready to really go all in and put a whole program in place, then it’s not worth your time or investment. And we would counsel that way. So yeah.

11:42 RC: Absolutely. I mean, what I’m hearing is, it doesn’t matter if you have the tool, it doesn’t even matter if you use it, what matters the most is what kind of action you take off of the data, off of the actual results. And if you don’t have the team to actually execute on figuring out all of the action plans with all this data, then it just becomes, a little bit, sounds like useless almost. [chuckle]

12:13 MG: Yeah, just another shiny toy that gets tossed aside yet. So that’s why we’re really big on support and making sure people get their route set up, get their software set up, understand the wins that they’re gonna see, and how to report those back with different dashboards and things like that. So we wanna make sure folks are successful and can continue on and add to their program and not have to take away.

12:40 RC: Awesome. So you mentioned that programming, going all in. So as a facility that says, “We wanna invest in continuous monitoring solutions, we wanna invest in ultrasound.” What does that program look like after we’ve made that commitment? Does it involve getting a single person, five people, 10 people on-board? Typically, how do you guide your Geysers customers after they’ve purchased a really expensive ultrasound system?

13:13 MG: Yeah. Well, first thing I’ll say is the good thing about… One nice thing about ultrasound is it’s not that expensive. And with our continuous systems, our forecast which is 24/7-very monitoring, you really just have to set aside one asset that you find super critical, and it’s four points, one box that you don’t have to put in. It’s very scalable in that sense. You don’t have to run sensors on an entire route, you can pick and choose which assets really require it, what are the ones that are keeping you awake and would really cause heartache and headaches and massive money if they were to go down when you didn’t want them to. So that’s a really nice thing about ultrasound, and with our equipment, it’s not such a huge investment. But of course, it still is an investment, and it’s still investment of time and resources as well. So I think, again, it’s just making sure the folks that are involved in maintenance, your plant managers, things like that, are on-board with putting these systems in place. And again, that you’re reporting those wins and the saves back up the ladder. So that again, you can get that support to continue doing what you’re doing and to continue adding to it. So it just takes… Usually, it just takes one champion and making sure that they get everybody else on-board.

14:37 RC: That’s awesome. So again, what I heard is like prioritized critical assets, and maybe it’s just a single one, then apply the continuous condition-based monitoring using either ultrasound whether it’s vibration, whether different condition-based monitoring solutions and have that champion build the use case, then roll it out to the broader organization in different assets within the plant. I think that’s a great strategy. I think that’s something that we commonly hear time and time again to be the most effective. Because if we go out asking for 100 different assets to be fully monitored and the price is absolutely off the wall, that’s much more difficult to sell than, “Hey, let’s purchase one. Let me prove value, and if it works, if I can show you the value of one, then we would be in a position where we can roll it out to the other 99 assets that we have.”

15:44 MG: Yeah. Yeah, it’s all about seize that success, and you always say, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” And same thing here, and I think people can get really bright-eyed and really excited about these systems and sensors and wanting to put sensors on everything and data, data, data, and sometimes, it’s okay to just take a step back and say, “Okay, well, wait. Let’s not overwhelm ourselves, because then it could deter the program right there if you’ve got too much going on.” So I think get those quick wins, build the business case, then kind of build your program one step at a time, I think it’ll be a lot more successful that way.

16:26 RC: Awesome. So, Maureen, you’ve been in the industry for over a decade now, I’m sure you’ve seen so many different changes over the last decade in the maintenance and reliability industry, what stands out to you as some of the most impactful changes you’ve seen over the last 10 years for this space?

16:45 MG: Yeah. So I mean, as we’ve talked about a lot today, are these continuous monitoring systems. So as we’ve increased our safety standards and added more shielding and guarding to our assets, it’s really made it challenging for folks to get to the test points to do their condition monitoring to run their routes with the traditional handheld instruments, and so that’s made us all have to kind of think on our feet and come up with solutions. So we’ve started with sensors, and then from there, putting these continuous monitoring systems in place to make it easier to still monitor those assets especially those critical ones and allow folks to still get data and know where their equipment is in their life cycle.

17:31 MG: So that’s been huge. I think, to see the amount of data that we’re able to acquire has obviously increased which can also be kind of a bad thing. Sometimes, I think we can get a little inundated, so to trying to find our way through what data is actually important, what do we need to be listening to, especially as it comes to ultrasound, I think that’s kind of the navigating all of that and trying to find a way. I think one of the things that we see a lot is there are all these really cool new technologies, you’ve got the virtual reality and augmented reality, and these really cool things we’re seeing, and I think those are all really neat, and they’re gonna have a place, and some of those technologies already do. But I think trying to help still maintain practical solutions for our customers, not everybody’s ready to dive into some of those really cool, futuristic solutions, so they’re still trying to find a way to kinda move the needle and move people closer to those but with practical solutions that they can get approval for and have the funding for and understand how it’s gonna impact their operations.

18:45 RC: Yeah. So what I heard was you’re starting… We’re starting to see the shift from handheld condition-based monitoring tools to now continuous based monitoring, and we talked a little bit about the future, we talked about AR and VR and practical applications in the industry. I’m curious, Maureen, what are some of the most exciting technologies that you’re excited about for the future in this industry?

19:11 MG: Yeah, well, I think, and I did mention them in the virtual reality and the augmented reality. I think where I’m seeing it, and I can really see how it would be used and be practical for folks is really in the training field, folks being able to kind of get their hands on assets and equipments without physically having to do it, so in a very safe and controlled environment but still getting that hands-on experience, especially as we’re all seeing are the training and the skills gap, I think that’s gonna be a huge way of getting folks where they need to be as far as their training. So I think that’s a really cool way that I’ve seen, especially the augmented reality being used, and I can see how it’s something we could use even at UE Systems for our customers. So I think that’ll be really cool to see how that continues to impact that skills gap and how we can help make sure we’re training the next generation of maintenance and reliability professionals.

20:14 RC: Absolutely, I might be so, so far off here, but you got me thinking about how pilots are trained in these really cool simulation of crashes and emergency situations. What if we could make that much cheaper, much less expensive for people who work in this field, in this industry to use really awesome technology and handle emergency events without actually having… Without having them in the first place.


20:45 MG: Right. Exactly, plus I think, as we’re trying to excite the next generation of folks to get into crash skills and maintenance and things like that, you’re gonna have to find flashy fun ways to do it. And I think having VR and AR as a part of that puzzle I think is gonna be really helpful.

21:06 RC: Yeah absolutely, that would definitely get me even more excited than I am right now.

21:10 MG: Yeah, exactly.

21:13 RC: So Maureen, what’s one thing you wish more people knew about within this industry after working in the industry for over a decade? What’s one thing that you wish more people would know?

21:26 MG: Well, I think if you’re looking at it from the outside I would… Again, talking about the next generation that it’s just a really great industry, so diverse in what you can do, so many opportunities, especially for your career, and just getting to see people. They obviously have TV shows like, How It’s Made for a reason. People love seeing that stuff, so why not actually be a part of how things are made? Get in there and get a career in this field and you get to actually live it. I think that’s one thing, that it is a really cool. I think people just picture an assembly line and just how boring that must be, but that’s not the case. There’s some really cool work that can be done. So I think that’s one thing that it is a really exciting industry, and it’s not going anywhere, so it’s just something good to know there. And I think also, again, kind of as we were talking about what’s next in the future, I think also remembering that there are things you can do every day to improve maintenance and reliability at your facility and it doesn’t have to include… It doesn’t even have to include predictive technology, just improving your process of making plans to communicate better, educate yourself.

22:46 MG: I think every day you can be doing something to move the needle and it doesn’t have to be these grandiose things. Of course, those are nice, but there’s something you could do every day, in your facility to make it a little bit better. And what a cool thing, right?

23:01 RC: Absolutely, what we always say to everyone that we talk to in this field, it’s not always about trying to go from crawling to sprinting. If we made our facility run just a tiny bit better than it was yesterday, that’s a win. And if we keep doing that every single day, man, we’re gonna have one of the best running facilities on the planet, I believe.


23:31 MG: Yeah, exactly.

23:34 RC: So Maureen, what’s one of your favorite books to read from and learn from whether it’s in the industry, outside of this industry? What’s your favorite book to read from?

23:45 MG: Yeah, so well, my typical response as far as within the industry, especially those who are thinking about getting their CMRP I think, Ron Moore’s Making Common Sense Common Practice is just a fantastic book. As far as being a technical book, it reads like a novel so it’s a really easy read, but you learn a ton. So I always recommend that to folks and then my other answer would be, I’ve become really much more a podcast person, I don’t read as much as I should, and part of it is just because I end up falling asleep, [chuckle] I’ve got two kids, two dogs, full-time jobs, so podcasts are really more in my feed, I listen to them as I’m walking my dogs, so I just love… I love listening to podcasts to learn, I love listening to podcasts for entertainment. So I think that would be more my suggestion, especially if you’re trying to get motivated to be more active, that’s kind of my trick, is if I’m out there getting active, I can listen to my podcast.

24:51 RC: Alright, well, I think all of our listeners would agree to that one. [chuckle]

24:55 MG: Yeah. Exactly.

24:57 RC: Awesome, so Maureen can you share with all of our listeners, all the different ways that they can connect with you?

25:04 MG: Sure, so I’m on LinkedIn, Maureen Gribble you can find me there, I love to connect, you can get me on Twitter. It’s Maureen Gribbs, G-R-I-B-B-S is my Twitter handle, and if you wanna email me, it’s just [email protected]

25:22 RC: Well, thank you so much Maureen for joining us, thank you to all of our listeners for tuning into today’s Masterminds in Maintenance. I learned a ton from you Maureen. I’m excited about the future of condition-based monitoring, the future of technology, whether it’s AR and VR and all that good stuff. My name is Ryan Chan, I’m the CEO and Founder of UpKeep, you can connect with me as well on LinkedIn or you can also contact me directly at [email protected], until next time, thanks everyone.

25:51 MG: Okay, thanks, guys.


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