Author Archives: Brian Fenn

Home / Articles posted by Brian Fenn

Accessing the Far Netherworlds of Automation

Sometimes it seems like circumstances conspire against us and thwarts our efforts to help our customers. In particular, I’m thinking of a couple of our customers that we do break / fix support for. Since they don’t have strong IT infrastructure, any changes or troubleshooting has to be completed remotely. While it’s not that far to their location, because we have to deploy to engage, we are often called in onsite when they have no other options. That means the customer needs to fully identify the issue as accurately as they can, have different internal resources take a crack at it and then bring us in. While that may all happen in less than a day’s or shift’s time, that period that the facility is down or degraded versus the five minutes it sometimes takes us to get them up and running feels way too inefficient.
read more…

The Training without Application Blues

We’ve all been there. You receive some scheduled training (probably even had to travel for it), only to not have to apply it for another six months. Maybe that was the only time the training was available. But the session was a while ago and you weren’t able to start the work and apply the skill until today. By now, the vast majority of what you remember / scribbled down doesn’t mean a whole lot. You struggle through trying to make those notes from long ago coincide with the task that you are now presented with and it’s a bit painful. Maybe even more than a bit.
read more…

Manufacturing Data: “Like a Mule with a Spinning Wheel”

Manufacturing data. As The Simpsons’ Lyle Lanley once quipped to the assembled residents of Springfield, it’s “a little like the mule with a spinning wheel.  No one knows how he got it and dang if he knows how to use it.” Except this mule has, like, a LOT of spinning wheels. Industrial Historians are now ubiquitous at most manufacturers, data storage is cheap and many folks grab any and all tags they can find and send them to the Historian in case they ‘need them.’
read more…

Cheap and Easy Data Collection/Reporting

Inspector Gadget was impractical. You can’t have at the ready every conceivable device you might need for any possible (or even plausible) situation. And that’s before we get into the size of the contraptions that he seemingly pulled out of his chest.
read more…

SWANosaurus or How We Teach People to be Successful with Short Arms

At Avanceon, our people are our greatest asset. And that makes sense for a services company. After all, if you think about it, what you’re really selling, is your people (and their expertise and/or skills) in a wrapper of your company’s “special sauce”. But to make that sustainable, you need a continual supply of top-quality new people. In an industry such as ours, where niche technology paradigms (where else do you need to know a dozen different flavors and nuances of different manufacturer’s versions of ladder logic?) are intersecting with modern information technology approaches (analytics, machine learning, autonomous operation, AI, etc.), it borders on the insane to expect a regularly available talent pool possessing the essential skills you need, when you need them. Since we only beat our heads against the wall as a hobby and don’t like to do it full time, we really focus on building people at Avanceon.
read more…