Jan-M Brandt, PhD, P.Eng (left) and Jeff Guerin, BMath (right) at the Wind Summit in Hamburg, Germany in 2018.

Big problems need big ideas

Imagine having a technology that told Ontario wind operators when a wind turbine will break down before there was any detectable inclination of a problem.

London-based company 4LinesFusion has made this technology a reality for large pieces of industrial machinery such as those used in wind turbines. By combining AI-related algorithms, molecular and across-scale modeling, 4LinesFusion's SeerWorks™ Reliability solution provides proactive recommendations to enhance the reliability of any lubricated engine/machine in wind, marine, automotive, and mining applications (only to name a few).

Founded in 2016 by Jeff Guerin (CEO & President) and Sean Volkaert (CTO), 4LinesFusion takes a holistic approach to tribology, the science of friction, wear and lubrication. And the idea for their technology first came from a rather unsuspecting angle. "Both Sean and I are the owners of another business in the medical field", says Guerin. "It's a database application where we collect and analyze a lot of data with respect to healthcare, and through this we've actually looked at some complex analysis of how knees and hips are lubricated. Looking for stress points within a complex mechanical system isn't all that different from a human. We've built SeerWorks™ Reliability to look for those stress points and interpret what they mean."

Guerin and Volkaert began applying this principle to wind turbines, marine drives and mining applications to help provide recommendations that are specific to each purpose – and they've seen success in their digital industrial analytics technology. "We've come to a point where our evaluation is showing greater than 85 per cent of validation with respect to assessing risk with specific, irregular bearing failures and variants", Guerin explains.

4LinesFusion's technology is saving companies a lot of headaches – and a lot of dollars. "One of our major markets is the wind industry. If a bearing on a wind turbine were to fail offshore, a replacement can cost between four to seven million dollars. We're also working with the marine industry. Large ships often use systems that are roller bearing driven and have multiple propellers. We can proactively assess the risk of bearings while they're in operation – the last thing a company needs is their ship floating around in the ocean somewhere because of a [failed] bearing."

One of a kind technology

4LinesFusion has certainly found their niche. In fact, they are the only company in the world doing these types of reliability assessments. "In the area of tribology, there is nobody doing this. Nobody has the ability to assess failures like we do from a holistic, proactive approach", says Guerin. "We assess machine reliability following the same principles as in precision medicine. We decipher the chemical compounds of the lubricant and the interface and provide proactive prescriptions to guarantee machine reliability before any damage occurs. In the same way genetic analysis is used to allow proactive predictions in human health, we holistically assess the lubricated contact (i.e., bearing surface, material and lubricant composition) to deliver precision machine reliability. We have a unique selling proposition - we're the only company in the world that can predict this catastrophic type of failure in bearings that occurs randomly, irregularly and suddenly. Our technology is unique and very focused, promoting evidence-based rather than calendar-based maintenance schedules thus reducing operating and maintenance costs and reduce the environmental CO2 footprint.

News of 4LinesFusion's one-of-a-kind technology is spreading. "I think it's a lot of word-of-mouth. When you prove yourself with a couple of major multi-national companies on key projects then the referrals come naturally", says University of Waterloo Alumni, Dr. Jan-M Brandt, Business Development Manager.

Ontario and abroad

Deciding upon a location from which to operate their business wasn't difficult. As Guerin states, "we have established our first, healthcare related company in Ontario over 20 years ago and couldn't think of a better place to conducted business than in the Windsor-Toronto technology/start-up corridor. Businesses in [Ontario] Canada are highly pioneering and innovative compared to what we find elsewhere. That's an advantage to us because we can collaborate with like-minded people here."

The company is now looking to expand into new territory and using Ontario talent to do so. "We're working with the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa to create a go-to-market strategy to promote our product in Asia", says Guerin. "It's part of the Executive MBA program, so there's a team of candidates that are developing a marketing plan and value proposition. We are really targeting the European and Malaysian market as it shows a great potential for future growth for industrial analytics."

Predicting their future

When it comes to predicting system failure, 4LinesFusion has it covered. But they also feel confident about their own future. "Our main goal is to provide industrial analytic solutions to our customers to massively adding value to their current product offerings. We're definitely continuing to build and improve our technology and product", says Guerin. "We want to go deeper into interpreting other risks companies face and refine our holistic approach." "Our algorithms play a big role in our business application – this is what we want to push in the future."

April 24, 2019

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