Expert Interview: Chris Colson, Principal – Allied Reliability

July 11th, 2017

Chris Colson of Allied Reliability had an attention-grabbing opening to his presentation at Reliable Asset World IV in Clearwater Beach, Florida, this past May: "Who wants to be a superhero?" As it turns out, the human brain is capable of performing "heroic" acts all on its own – you don't need superpowers to harness that mind's prowess. Chris pointed out that the brain can make 10 million observations in a second – but we can only keep track of about 40 cognitive tasks.

How does this relate to reliability? Chris's talk focused on how to select the right KPIs so you can identify areas for improvement. Continuous improvement is the name of the game – without insightful KPIs to benchmark, you won't know where you need the most work.

We followed up with Chris after the conference to learn more about him, his relationship with predictive maintenance and his thoughts on Ultrasound World and Reliable Asset World.

How were you first introduced to reliable maintenance?

I started back in high school as a 17-year-old becoming more cognizant of the industrial world. I worked for an electrical mechanical contractor and got a lot of experience before I was allowed to work in a manufacturing plant (in Indiana, you had to be 18). From there I knew I wanted to be an electrical engineer. Over the next 10 years I went to college, got my Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, all while working for that same electrical contractor as I learned more about practical applications.

During this time, I became exposed to predictive technologies. For the first 12 years of my career I really only used these tools for troubleshooting. Around 12 years ago, when I went to work with Allied Reliability, I learned more about the proactive uses for predictive technologies – including those supported by UE Systems. During that first year with Allied, I was learning a different methodology for applying these technologies. Specifically regarding ultrasound, I was using the technology to find leaks, to improve safety while opening electrical enclosures, while reaching out and meeting with UE Systems' experts to find out how I could better leverage their tools.

As I've continued my career with Allied, I've been a huge advocate of continuous education to my colleagues and people I encounter. One of my preferred avenues to obtain such learning is by attending multiple training sessions each year to not only stay current with new developments but to learn things I may have overlooked or missed previously. Technical training, such as that provided by UE Systems on their ultrasound tools, is vital for continuous business improvement. 

By surrounding ourselves with thought leaders, there are so many takeaways that we can use to provide our organizations and customers the best information possible.

Chris Colson got his start as an electrical technician.Chris Colson got his start as an electrical technician.

What's your basic elevator pitch for Allied Reliability?

We offer a holistic approach to integrated asset reliability and protection solutions. First of all, we'll evaluate how you maintain and operate your equipment today – is your strategy based on failure modes or ad hoc recommendations? We help organizations understand what they should be doing and optimize their systems to make sure their maintenance strategy is failure-mode based, which is the most cost-effective method. From there, we go through and help them prioritize the work that needs to be assigned to their equipment, including resource allocation, and deploy each of the core five predictive technologies: vibration analysis, infrared, motor circuit analysis, ultrasound and oil analysis. Whether it means coaching their people, or offering those services ourselves, we make sure they have those operations in place.

Additionally, we can develop and install online monitoring systems. Instead of just having people onsite collecting data, we put the hardware and software platform onsite to help identify defects and assist in planning and scheduling the work to repair defects. Finally, we provide talent acquisition services to help our customers find the best resources for their organization.  We have the experience and ability to find and place the best technicians, planners, schedulers, supervisors, or even plant managers.

What's next with your career?

A few years ago, I worked with my esteemed colleague Doug Plucknette to co-author "Clean, Green and Reliable." Doug is an RCM practitioner who developed the RCM methodology "RCM Blitz". He has a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience across multiple industry sectors. Doug had the idea for the book and approached me for some input. We felt like there was a huge opportunity for those organizations that may not be involved in reliability directly but are interested in leveraging clean, green, and sustainable processes to drive their business improvements. So, with our combined experience in maintenance and reliability, we made the connection between energy efficiency and reliability.

"We need to do the right work at the right time for the right reasons."

If the end goal is profitability, sustainability and to be an energy-leading company, we need to do the work at the right time for the right reasons. It's more than having the most energy-efficient equipment – it's about maintaining and managing those assets to get the most efficiency out of them. We help track that with all of our customers and help break down those silos.

So, what's next? Doug and I are currently working on a revision of that book to shed more light on the topic and share many more examples and case studies. We've been working closely with another conference veteran, Dr. James Neale (University of Waikato, New Zealand) to highlight additional focus areas and bring to light the strategic approach to plant optimization. We aim to produce an additional seven or eight chapters.

When was the first time you attended Ultrasound World?

I've been numerous times – I think 2007 or 2008 was my first year. I gave a small presentation, most likely specific to combining infrared with ultrasound. From there I became an annual face at the conference – I've presented six or seven times, and other years I've simply attended and soaked up as much information as I could get.

What advice would you give to a new attendee?

The single most important piece of advice from my perspective is to resist the urge to spend all your time on the beach during the day! Take in all the learning sessions, the pre-conference workshops and all the exhibitors. The conference is held in a beautiful location, but there is plenty of time in early morning hours and evenings for you to enjoy the area.

Also, the last session on Friday is really valuable. Some people like to use that as a travel day – I've certainly done that – but if you stick around, UE Systems offers a deep dive into their software platform. Even if you're familiar with it, there are updates every few years.  It's also helpful to sit down with the experts and other users who can shed light on questions you may have or provide you with tips to bring more efficiency and effectiveness to the work you perform.

Thanks for your time, Chris!

It's worth noting that Chris has completed 10 full marathons over the last four years and finished his first triathlon this June. His goal is to complete an Ironman Triathlon by October of 2018. We wish him good luck!

Make sure to check out the rest of coverage from Ultrasound World and Reliable Asset World at our website!

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