Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

S2:E12 Ultrasonic Technologies Driving Meaningful Impact with Adrian Messer

Ryan Chan

Adrian Messer is the Director of US Operations at UE Systems, where he assists and supports current users of ultrasound technology to help improve overall plant and facility reliability!


In this week’s episode Masterminds in Maintenance, we are exited to have Adrian Messer, Director of US Operations at UE Systems, on the show! With over 17 years of experience working with ultrasonic technologies, Adrian shares with us how these technologies can be used to positively impact maintenance teams everywhere! Listen today!

Episode Show Notes

  • When should you use ultrasound technology?
  • Is ultrasound a reactive or preventative solution?
  • How can you drive meaningful action off ultrasound data?

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00:02 Ryan Chan: Welcome to Masterminds in Maintenance, a podcast for those with new ideas in maintenance. I’m your host, Ryan and 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 Adrian Messer here on the show. Adrian is the director of US Operations at UE Systems where he assists and supports current customers, users of ultrasound technology to help improve overall plant and facility reliability. Welcome to the show, Adrian. I’m really excited to have you.

00:39 Adrian Messer: Thanks, Ryan, I appreciate that. I’m equally as excited to be here.

00:42 RC: Start us off by sharing a little bit more about your background and how you were first introduced to this field of maintenance and reliability.

00:49 AM: I wish I could say that I had a storied background in engineering from a highly accredited university. But it’s kind of unconventional, I guess, along with lots of other people in the industry. I guess that’s what makes our industry unique. I graduated from Clemson University in 2001, so Go Tigers. I majored in management with a concentration in human resources. When I was in college, I was working in a grocery store of all places. And so I had aspirations of when I graduated from Clemson, I wanted to get out of the store level and kinda go over to the corporate office. When I realized that the transition from the store to the corporate office wasn’t gonna happen as quickly as I thought it should, I just started looking around. So I got on and came across an ad for UE Systems and I applied for what we call a regional manager position, and my official start day with UE Systems was October 6, 2003. So here we are now almost 17 years later. When people ask me what I do, I will usually tell them that I live the TV show How It’s Made. I get to go into a lot of cool plants and factories and facilities and see a lot of neat things, so it’s been a great journey.

01:58 RC: We’re probably on podcast episode number 30 or 40, maybe even 50, at this point. What I’ve learned is that no one has a common story of how they got into this industry. Everyone’s so unique.

02:10 AM: Yeah.

02:11 RC: Let’s talk ultrasound because that’s what UE Systems is all about. That’s what you spent the last 17 years thinking about. So when is it the right time to use ultrasound technologies? When is it the right time for maintenance and reliability department to pick up an ultrasound device to help them drive better reliability root cause analysis using ultrasound?

02:33 AM: It’s always a great time. But I would say if there’s people out there who aren’t currently doing anything, and you’d be surprised at how many plants and factories that, not just myself but, our people go into who aren’t currently doing any kind of predictive maintenance or condition-based maintenance. Ultrasound tends to be a really good fit in those kinds of environments because the versatility of ultrasound, the same tool can be used for a multitude of applications. They can use the same tool for air leaks or the same tool for steam traps or bearings or electricals. So we tend to be really good fits in those kinds of environments.

03:09 RC: Give us a few examples of how some of your customers have been extremely successful using ultrasound. And you mentioned a few steam traps and air leaks. We’d love to learn more.

03:21 AM: I mentioned those two applications specifically because they’re the easiest applications to deploy airborne instruction with an ultrasound on, and they’re the two applications that have the quickest return on investment. So I’m talking about compressed air and gas leak detection and steam trap inspections. A lot of people wanna focus solely on energy conservation or sustainability and we make it easy for them to do that because we can actually quantify the losses from those systems. So we can actually put a dollar amount to how much that air leak is costing, or we can put a dollar amount to how much that steam trap is costing if it’s leaking by or failed open. So just those two applications alone, again, it’s a great place for people to start. So if they’re looking to utilize ultrasound in their CBM programs, then they’ll typically start with those two applications just because right out of the box, sometimes within a few minutes you can document enough savings to have more than paid for the cost of the tool.

04:22 RC: And I’ve seen your guys’s solution, the handheld device. It’s pretty cool.

04:26 AM: Thank you. It’s come a long way. I’ll tell you that. [chuckle]

04:29 RC: What I’ve noticed is that a lot of people are really interested in the newest technologies, especially ultrasound is one of them. But they don’t know necessarily exactly how to utilize that information and data. I’m curious, Adrian. How did you learn about how to take an ultrasound device and be able to look at all the data that it’s showcasing and drive meaningful actions off of all of that?

04:54 AM: Yeah, that’s a great question. And it’s a question we get asked more and more from our users is, “What can we do with our ultrasound data?” It used to be really simple. You would basically communicate from our software like our Ultratrend DMS or our UE Spectralyzer software to the handheld Ultraprobe. But now with so many platforms like UpKeep, people want to do more with their data. That’s one of the things that we are constantly working on at UE Systems. We’ll work with anybody. If people want to do something with their data, we’ll work with that company where they wanna take that data to, or that platform, I should say. We have a new product that’s gonna make it a lot easier. We released that product just a couple of months ago, but it’s called the OnTrak. But it’s basically a 24/7 bearing condition monitoring system that comes readily available for basically plug and play for just about any kind of IT type of platform where they wanna send that data to. So that’s a great question, and people want to continually use their data for other things aside from just trending.

05:56 RC: Who are the common folks that use the ultrasound device? Is this the reliability engineer, is this technicians on the ground, or is it the supervisors? Who’s the one typically responsible for running these checks? And also I wanna ask the question. What are the common plans, preventative plans that you recommend to all of your customers to use an ultrasound device?

06:19 AM: So again, we see the gamut of who’s using our equipment. I would say on the average, it’s probably your maintenance technicians, your PDM techs, sometimes even reliability engineers. We see some operators, if somebody has operator care installed in their plant, we have what I would say, are operator-friendly instruments that someone could take out and just do some basic troubleshooting with, maybe they’re doing quality checks, so we’ve got one customer that comes to mind in particular, they build 18-wheelers, tractor trailers, so on the assembly line, they have one of those operator-friendly instruments that they go around and they check all the pneumatic systems on the 18-wheeler, to make sure there are no pneumatic leaks, so it ultimately just depends on the application, what type of data they wanna get out of it, but the majority of our users, I would say, are some sort of maintenance or reliability tech.

07:12 RC: Do you recommend using… I’m gonna guess the answer here, but using ultrasound as either a reactive solution to help you diagnose problems, or a preventative solution to help prevent problems?

07:26 AM: To kinda lead into that. We see more and more people using ultrasound as the first line defense, so I would say, a more preventative tool, and we see that, in a lot of cases, where ultrasound is being used, before other technologies, that have been traditionally been used, to do the same types of things. And I always use vibration analysis as the example, but we see more and more people who are using our equipment, who come from extensive vibration background. So for us, as a company, it’s very rewarding to see that, because I remember when I started, some of the hardest people to talk to about ultrasound for monitoring and rotating equipment, were vibanalysts. They were just so entrenched in vibration analysis, they did not want to be open to using other tools, and I can’t say that I blame them, because if somebody’s been using vibration analysis for 20 plus years, it’s what they know, it’s what they’re comfortable with, it’s been proven.

08:24 AM: But again, fast forward to today, we see a lot of people use an ultrasound first, and it’s just for the simple fact of, it’s easier to collect the data, it’s easier to interpret the data, and we think about trending the decibel level on a bearing, for instance, if we’re trending the decibel level of that bearing, if that decibel level starts to increase, it indicates a change has taken place, so it’s gonna alert us early, that we have a potential problem, so then, that vibanalyst, instead of taking vibe data on everything, they can go out to just the points where ultrasound has indicated a potential problem and then, they can confirm and diagnose exactly what the problem is.

09:02 RC: So it sounds like a little bit of both, and that’s kind of what I presumed. Any memorable success stories of some of your customers, of one of your customers, where they utilized ultrasound to drive really meaningful impact?

09:19 AM: We got called into a plant… This goes back to 2014, I believe. At the time, it was probably the dirtiest, nastiest plant I’ve ever been in, not gonna lie, this plant, they take compacted bales of plastic bottles, so they recycle plastic bottles, and they’re removing the labels, they’re removing the caps, they’re washing, they’re cleaning, and then they chip them up and then they extrude them back down into fiber, that goes into materials like the backing of carpet, or seat belts, or even some golf shirts, so you can imagine all of the stuff that gets mixed in with these compacted bales of trash, or bottles, that come directly from your recycling centers. They were having what I would call, a significant bearing failures, that would create downtime events on the average of once a month, they deployed ultrasound, we went and helped them set up routes, baseline readings on what I think they’re now taking a route at a 1000 points of data collection, using ultrasound, but since they deployed this and got their program up and running, to date, they have had no unexpected downtime events due to a bearing failure. The two people that called us into that plant, both of those individuals have extensive vibration background, so we’re talking like level three vibe analysts category, so…

10:39 RC: Switching from bearing failure once a month, to no bearing failures over the last… We’re coming on six years now.

10:47 AM: Yeah.

10:48 RC: How do you keep up-to-date with the latest ultrasound technology techniques? What are some best practices training teams, with how to use ultrasound?

10:57 AM: A lot of what I have been able to learn and come to know, over the years, comes from just simply talking to people out in plants. So that’s one of the best ways for me, to educate myself on how people are currently using ultrasound, is just simply having conversations with our users, which is something I absolutely love to do, I guess I’ll put a shameless plug-in for our website,, where we have our cap presentations on specific application, so how people are using our instruments, and software and reporting, and a lot of those presentations are from our actual users, they’re non UE Systems people, who are given that information. And again, that’s just the beauty of our industry, there’s so many people out there, who are willing to share their time, share their experiences, share their knowledge to help those who didn’t come from the technical background. So those are the two main ways that I keep myself up-to date.

11:50 RC: Absolutely, and thank you as well, for spending the time to share all your knowledge, this is such a great way to learn more about the different techniques about ultrasound. What’s something that you wish, more people knew, about the maintenance and reliability industry?

12:06 AM: Before I got into the industry, I was one of those people that took maintenance for granted. We think about… We come into our homes and we flip the light switch, we expect the lights to come on, we turn the faucet on, the water faucet on, we expect water to come out, it’s kind of the same way with maintenance and reliability. Unfortunately a lot of times, it takes something failing or something to happen, for people to notice maintenance, it’s unfortunate, but I wish more people would just be more aware of all the things that they take for granted on a daily basis, that if something happens with maintenance, that may cause an inconvenience for them. That’s just kind of what I wish more people would just realize, and think about the things going on behind the scenes, that people are maintaining things, to make our lives easier.

12:54 RC: Could not agree more, with that statement. And it’s something… I realize, coming into this industry too, is that, there’s so much work that happens in the background, and if maintenance and reliability does its job really well, then no one hears about you.

13:10 AM: I tell people, if there’s one thing that maintenance and reliability can do better, is showcasing exactly what it is that they’re doing, and that helps to create awareness and buy in, but also, it helps to just showcase exactly what they’re doing, so that way, if something fails, if you’ve got your proper reporting and documentation, you can back up your case, and that way, if somebody comes and says, “Hey, why did you let this fail? Well, we told you six months ago, it was gonna fail, but you chose not to do anything about it.”

13:37 RC: This has been wonderful, Adrian. Can you share with all of our listeners about the different ways that they can connect with you, follow you on your journey?

13:44 AM: I’m on LinkedIn seven days a week, just scrolling through and checking things out, so you can always find me on LinkedIn, I encourage you to connect up with me. If you have any questions, message me, and know that you’ll get a response fairly quickly, because I’m on there, I’ve kinda got it on my phone, I’ve got it in the background on my computer, so I’m always on LinkedIn, so that’s probably the best way.

14:06 RC: Thank you again, Adrian, for joining us, and thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in to today’s Masterminds in Maintenance. My name is Ryan Chan, I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. You can also find me in the maintenance community on LinkedIn, the largest online community for maintenance professionals in the world, where we also host weekly conversations, contests, all centered around maintenance. Hope to connect with you all, soon. Until next time. Thank you so much, Adrian.

14:29 AM: Thank you, appreciate it.

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