It used to be that an airport could only monitor a certain number of its assets. It took a lot to make sure each fuel tank was being managed correctly. That was until earlier this year.
Highland Tanks, headquartered in Pennsylvania, recently released a product that can help a company keep track of its critical assets. Not just airports, but any company needing to manage its field management technology, water base technology, wastewater treatment, storm water management and code compliance. The new system is called the High-LINK.
To learn more about the High-LINK system, I sat down with Michael Gauthier, Technical Sales, Water/Fire/ASME.
Kyle Milnamow (KM): Can you tell me about the High-LINK system?
Michael Gauthier (MG): High-LINK is a combination of hardware and software built to oversee a company’s critical assets. It deals with monitoring, management and reporting the status of a Highland Tank (HT) system(s). It’s basically supervising the assets of the company as it relates to functionality.
KM: How long has this product been in the works?
MG: If I told you that it has been in the works for six months, you probably wouldn’t believe me. It’s something that I think evolved over time. About 9 or 10 years ago, we really got a lot more involved with pumps and controls. That brought us into the programmable logic controller (PLC) arena, which kind of brought us into the whole web-based monitoring rather than the building-based monitoring. Web-based monitoring just seemed like it was a lot more flexible. There is no need to tap into critical aspects of the buildings internal (IT) controls system. It’s a lot more secure.
KM: What were the inspirations behind the High-LINK system?
MG: We were working with a vendor in Florida, SCI Co., on a specific project. It’s a fuel-based management company, and the team had asked about what we offer on the control side because they were going to integrate a lot of their equipment in our fuel storage tanks. We were concerned on a couple different levels saying, “What are you going to do with the stuff?” They realized an opportunity to partner with HT and share their knowledge of fuel management know-how, and it just clicked.
We saw a huge opportunity to run the technology across all four of our divisions and expand the intelligence of all our packaged systems — basically generate another revenue source. I think at the end of the day, to be a tank manufacturer in this environment, you have to be competitive, but you’ve got to be innovative as well. That’s always been our vision.
KM: You just mentioned each division of Highland Tank being involved with the High-LINK system. What did each division do to help the project?
MG: Although each division is unique in its product offerings, the focus for High-LINK was to add value when designing a packaged turn-key system. By monitoring the various products in each division, we enhance the products reliability based on using predictive maintenance in lieu of preventative maintenance.
KM: What are the benefits of the High-LINK system?
MG: An airport, for example, has multiple tanks that are holding all different types of liquids, like glycol for de-icing, or have all different types of functions, like an oil-water separator for storm water compliance. The benefits are that all the control functions can be integrated into one single platform with the High-LINK system and monitored/managed accordingly. It all goes onto one server, one station, and it can be accessed from that one platform.
KM: What types of technology work with the system?
MG: All different types of technology — any type of pump, flow monitor or level control out there. If it has any type of local signal, 0-10VDC, 4-20 mA or wireless signal, it’s able to supply an input to a PLC, and then, from there, the High-LINK determines what that output function is going to perform or what you want that actual state of the equipment to be.
KM: How has SCI helped throughout the process?
MG: SCI has helped us immensely. Obviously, it brings some hardware to the table, meaning, it has a solid state controller, level sensing technology that is pretty mainstream, cameras/DVR, and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. But basically, what it brought to the table was the software, analytics and business intelligence.
SCI has been working on the development of this type of software since 2001. What happened is you have this controller that has all these inputs and outputs, and we have this software that is analyzing all this data, so it’s analyzing any kind of anomalies that may be detected within that data sets to say, “something is not right.” The software is powerful in that it can be tailored to whatever the customer needs but also has the capabilities to grow with the customer’s needs. So, SCI really brought some of that big data analytics platform to us, and we are slowly unlocking the product’s potential as it relates to HT products and services.
KM: What has been some early feedback from customers?
MG: Early feedback has been really good. People were surprised that we were jumping into something like this. There is no tank manufacturer doing what we are doing, let alone integrating software, monitoring and management tools within our day-to-day offerings. I think our customers are excited that we are doing this with a lot of our products.
KM: Who has stepped up or invested the most in the project?
MG: The easiest rollout was the fuel systems. All the work has been done from the SCI standpoint. The company has been in business since 2001 and manages 500 million gallons of fuel every year. It’s incredible to think about the amount of monitoring/managing it has done with customers. The water side of it was the second easiest because we already had sophisticated controllers in our arsenal. It was just a matter of their control guys getting with our control guys and determining the best way to communicate between the modules.
KM: Will there be updates along the way?
MG: Yes. It’s evolving. As we learn more, and as we can communicate more about our day-to-day business to SCI, we’re bouncing ideas off each other all the time. What I do is try to translate how our business model functions, how our equipment works and why we do certain things in our space.
We go to SCI saying, “Hey why are you guys doing this?” “Why are you guys using this type of technology?” and “How can we complement each other’s product offerings?” There are software updates that can be done in real time, and a customer might not even know it. It’s like when Microsoft says, “Hey we’re updating your software to the latest and greatest or adding a feature or a function.” So, yeah, it’s pretty incredible technology, and it’s limitless. The sky’s the limit.
To learn more about Highland Tanks and its High-LINK system, visit www.highlandtank.com.