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Eaton set to begin training classes for distributors

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Photo by RPN photo by Bruce Meyer Kelly Floyd, product manager for LifeSense and Synflex Hydraulic within Eaton's Hydraulics Group, demonstrates the LifeSense system.

MAUMEE, Ohio—Eaton Corp. P.L.C. will start giving training classes to distributors this year to learn how to assemble hoses with its LifeSense-brand hydraulic hose condition monitoring system.

The two-day training classes will be held at Eaton's site in Maumee and are scheduled for January, February, May and August, according to Kelly Floyd, product manager for LifeSense and Synflex Hydraulic within Eaton's Hydraulics Group.

Eaton first announced its LifeSense technology in 2011 and since then has been testing it in a variety of applications. LifeSense—available in either a wired or wireless version—detects “failure-related events within a hose and provides advance notification the product is approaching the end of its useful life,” according to the company.

Each hose fitting is equipped with a sensor that monitors hose conditions via electrical signals that go to a diagnostic unit, which interprets the data. When a hose is deemed to be compromised, the system generates an alert that the hose should be replaced.

Applications that Eaton has identified for LifeSense include oil and gas, alternative energy, manufacturing, agriculture and forestry, construction and mining, material handling, vocational fleets, and commercial vehicles.

The company claims the system can provide better than 50 percent more useful hose life, increase reliability, protect workers, reduce collateral damage, maximize uptime, improve the efficiency of maintenance operations and protect the environment, both from potential spills and from hoses being sent prematurely to landfills.

Floyd said the list of uses where Eaton has been testing LifeSense include refuse trucks, green rollers used at the Greenbrier Golf Course in West Virginia, steel mills in India and Brazil, on a rubber compound mixing machine in Germany, and as part of street security barrier systems in the Washington, D.C., area.

“We've got them in various places to prove it's a viable technology, and it's working well,” she said.

For example, the field test in the ref-use market has been running for two years. There have been 31 alerts, she said, the majority from abrasion, which is the top reason for failure of a hydraulic hose. There also were alerts related to duty cycle fatigue, the second most common reason for failure.

“We gave them pre-aged hose so we wouldn't have to wait so long,” Floyd said. “We've had zero field failure. They've all been detected.”

Special training needed

The various equipment utilized in the firm’s hose condition monitoring system.

Since Eaton first announced the technology, she said distributors have wanted to know if the LifeSense hose systems will be products they can assemble themselves, as they do with the Aeroquip and Weatherhead hose lines. Floyd said the answer to that question is “yes,” but distributors must go through the Certified LifeSense Distributor Training Program to be able to get the product.

“Because this product is going to alert you, and even though it goes together very similarly to every other hydraulic hose, there are some things you have to pay attention to while you're making it,” she said.

The training programs that begin next month in Maumee will include both textbook and hands-on training, according to Floyd.

“At the end, you have to individually make your own hose, hook it up to the power source and to the system, run the diagnostic unit through its check, and it needs to pass,” she said.

Eaton senses a good amount of excitement in the market for the technology, Floyd said. “Hydraulic hose failure has been a long-standing issue. They fail. They're out there day in and day out, and a lot of times they shut down. They get old and they have their issues, so this answers that in two of the most common failure modes.”

She said she believes there is high interest in LifeSense because it actually monitors the condition of the hose, rather than being a purely predictive model. It also potentially can save end users on several different fronts.

On the green aspect, she said some municipalities that operate their own fleets have told Eaton that they change every hose on every truck once a year to avoid issues.

“They all end up in landfills,” Floyd said. “This lets them get the most useful life out of their hose that they can.”

Kelly Floyd, product manager for LifeSense and Synflex Hydraulic.

Eaton also is trying to steer its customers toward more of an overall value proposition for its hose purchases, rather than just buying purely on price. A value calculator can help Eaton determine what customers can expect to save both in terms of getting more use out of the product and by avoiding the costs associated with hose failures.

Floyd believes there will be a lot of “pull-through” in the market by end users wanting LifeSense. She said there already is a cargo shipping company that wants to convert its 200-truck fleet to the technology, and a large municipality in California that wants its truck body builder to incorporate LifeSense.

Eaton currently offers it on three sizes of its two-wire braid hydraulic rubber hose. Floyd said in the future it will look to add the technology to higher pressure rated hoses.