ActiveUptime™ Offers Digital Visualization for Your Equipment

Michael Trumm is a senior principal engineer who leads testing on the cutting edge of medical technology. While driving unparalleled levels of validation to ensure product safety, Michael has started integrating predictive maintenance to increase testing availability to help design engineers “fail faster.” We sat down with him to chat about how access to data has helped uplevel the role of test within his organization.

Doing Important Work

“What I do as a test engineer working at a medical device company has an impact on the lives of a lot of people,” Michael explains. His team makes it possible to provide safe and effective medical solutions and instrumentation to health care providers all over the world. “It’s very satisfying and motivates me day in and day out to do better with my aspect of the whole process, which is test. Because, in the end, we make products that are critical to the health and well-being of so many people.”

Data as the Birthplace of Decisions

Though you hear the term “big data” a lot, many struggle with what that means for their team. Over his two decades working with NI equipment and software, Michael has developed strategies to turn his data into information that optimizes process. “Data is everything now,” he elaborates. “You need to understand how to organize your data first, leverage it, and then turn it into insights.” To do this, Michael relies on connected solutions to digitize and connect the data. For him, digitization is the “first step to really move forward.”

Validation test is often feast or famine. Predictive maintenance can help us normalize the expectation of what our equipment can do and how long it can do it for. It allows us to be proactive, instead of reactive.

Why Predictive Maintenance?

Everyone—especially test engineers—would love to live in a world where nothing goes wrong. Of course, that’s not the world we live in, but embracing predictive maintenance technology might be the closest we can get. “In test, we’re the last step in the development process. That means we often get the least amount of time to do our part of the process.” That means it’s crucial that the test group is setup for success, which is where predictive maintenance comes into play.

“What it can do for us is provide objective information that we can use in the planning stages. When we know how the systems work over time, we can be confident that the test equipment will be able to run through the test without failure. The data tells us the optimal time to do preventative maintenance or a repair instead of finding the equipment has broken down when test schedules are strained,” he explains. Staying ahead of equipment failure makes for more efficient workflows.

Have you ever had a critical test go down because the test equipment failed at the worst possible time? I can answer—many times, yes.
ActiveUptime™ has the potential to predict when those failures are going to occur, so you can do the proper maintenance to make sure the equipment is ready when you need it.

NI’s ActiveUptime delivers condition monitoring and predictive maintenance for validation and production teams based on real-time continuous monitoring of their test systems, maximizing total uptime and eliminating unplanned downtime. When adding predictive maintenance to his test plans, Michael knew he needed a solution that was flexible, scalable, and modular to accommodate constantly changing development processes. “It’s called ‘digital visualization’,” he says. “You want to have a digital representation of what’s going on in the physical world. ActiveUptime gives us the connectivity needed and the capability to help turn our data into information.”

Expediting Discoveries

“One of the things we talk about in our test lab is how we want to help our design engineers ‘fail faster’,” Michael explains. “Your test samples are going to fail when you test, especially in a validation lab where you’re testing a lot of prototypes. What you want to do is get to that point of failure as fast as possible, learn from it, and iterate. The best way to do that is to ensure that your test system is NOT the cause of a test failure; rather, the test sample is. ActiveUptime helps us with that. With all the information it provides leading up to a test system failure, we can actively predict when something is about to break so it can be addressed between tests, not during them.”

Changing the Perception of Test

For Michael, utilizing predictive maintenance with ActiveUptime is just one part of a larger initiative to help change the narrative when it comes to how many perceive the role of test engineers. “Many perceive test as being equivalent to something like car insurance. If one could legally drive a car on the road without car insurance, I would suspect that many people would. But you need car insurance (legally - and for good reason). Car insurance is important, so is test, but there is a lot more you can get from test than just ‘insurance.”

Over the years, he’s been working to change that perception and have test be seen as a strategic asset. “When you involve test engineers early in the design process, we can help you get a clearer, more accurate picture of what your product is doing both internally and externally, and do it faster,” he adds. By using predictive maintenance technology, Michael can ensure the test equipment needed to accomplish this is ready and working properly when engineers need it.

The Bottom Line

“You’re going to have to do equipment maintenance,” Michael emphasizes. “There’s no getting around that. The test equipment will fail. ActiveUptime can help make it predictable so that our equipment is up and running when we need it.”

Just for Fun!

The Height of the Flagpole

A group of managers were given the assignment of measuring the height of a flagpole. So, they go out to the flagpole with ladders and tape measures, but they’re struggling to get the correct measurement—dropping the tape measures and falling off the ladders.

A tester comes along. After they see what the managers are trying to do, the tester walks over, pulls down the flagpole, lays it flat, measures it from end to end, then gives the measurement to one of the managers and walks away.

After the tester is gone, one manager turns to another and laughs, “Isn’t that just like a tester? We’re looking for the height and he gives us the length.”


The NI Podcast—Testing 1, 2, 3