what they labeled “the world’s most comprehensive library of equipment failure modes used for preventive maintenance optimization in power generation, petrochemical, oil and gas, steel and other industries.”
That phrase stuck in our heads, so we connected with Mark Benak, formerly of Asset Performance Technologies / now with Uptake serving as vice president of business ventures, to provide a little more background. Take a look…
Smart Industry: Talk to us about the library.
Mark: We don’t want to confuse this with data. Data is great, but you have to make sense of it. The reason we call it a library is that it’s the knowledge and wisdom from the heads of experts on how equipment fails and what to do about it. It originated 25 years ago in the power industry, then branched out into oil and gas, chemical, steel production, etc. We’ve been growing it ever since. We think of it like a pyramid—moving up the pyramid you have data, then information, then knowledge, then wisdom. And this library is universal; it’s developed in a way that the information applies to just about every industry. We get push back from customers thinking that it’s not applicable across industries. I remind them that they are buying the same equipment from the same vendors. They’re just operating it differently.
Smart Industry: What Uptake doing differently in the world of data analytics?
Mark: Keep in mind I am relatively new to the organization. My sense is that Uptake has done an excellent job getting access to the data in industrial facilities and—more importantly than just their developments of analytics models and AI—understanding what the data means. It’s about actionable insights and outcomes for customers.
Smart Industry: Are there issues of privacy with this data you’ve been collecting for a quarter century?
Mark: We not collecting plant data. We’re talking with SMEs about equipment…the guys with gray hair. They are the experts on this.
Smart Industry: And they’re retiring. Is there a motivation to collect their knowledge before it walks out the door?
Mark: Yes. Part of the underlying reason for this library is to capture the knowledge of that aging workforce. Previously, nobody had a good way to structure that information. It’s all about asking the right questions and capturing the tribal knowledge between their ears.
Younger workers are generalists. There is not the level of depth there that the gray-haired folks have. And when a young engineer is starting in a plant and we can give him or her a library of all the ways the machinery could fail along with all the maintenance plans for how things should be running, I think they would find that very useful.
Smart Industry: In the announcement about the acquisition, you said “Adding AI is the next natural next step in the evolution of our technology.” Explain.
Mark: As a preventative optimization platform, it’s all about optimizing and maintenance. Am I doing the right maintenance at the right time for my business? I look at the bigger market; taking that point solution and adding a more complete solution with more smarts/AI behind it. Taking expert knowledge and making it part of the industrial AI system. We are activating wisdom to provide better outcomes for our customers.
Mark Benak is a technologist, entrepreneur, and angel investor with over 25 years of experience. He also serves as Board Advisor to the Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm and served as Chairman for Incitor (now xF Technologies), a novel developer of synthetic enzymes for biofuels. Mark co-founded InLight Solutions, developing optical solutions for Life Sciences problems. Previously, he was a staff scientist with the institute for fluid mechanics (LSTM) at the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg and a research engineer with the Daimler-Benz AG in Stuttgart. Mark received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.