Interview with Jason Tranter, CEO & Founder of Mobius Institute

Tell us about your trajectory and beginnings before Mobius

Mobius Institute was founded in 1999, but I was first involved with vibration analysis in my first year out of university (electrical and electronic engineering). I have been involved with vibration analysis, reliability improvement, and software development since that time.

At the ripe old age of 23, in 1986, my partner Georgie and I started a company called ARGO (you may know the story of “Jason and the Argonauts”). ARGO was focused on vibration analysis and the development of condition monitoring software. Back in those days, it was tremendously difficult to acquire measurements, perform analysis, and generally perform effective and productive vibration analysis. Our “ALERT” software was focused on changing that.

In 1990, we sold the technology to a company called DLI Engineering (which has since been bought and sold a number of times and is now known as Symphony AI) and moved from Melbourne, Australia, to Bainbridge Island on the Puget Sound across the water from Seattle.

How was Mobius born and where is the company headed?

For many years I was focused on developing software that would make it easier to perform vibration analysis. I spent countless hours thinking up new graphical and computational methods to extract useful information out of all that complex vibration data. But one day I realized that one of the biggest challenges was to ensure that our customers fully understood the failure modes, the instrumentation, and the science behind vibration analysis.

Thus, the idea of Mobius was born.

Rather than continuing to develop smarter software, I thought I could turn the process inside out and create training material that utilized software simulations that made it clear how the vibration would change as the machines failed, how the data would change with different analyzer settings, and ultimately how to be successful in vibration analysis.

So, we moved back to Australia and started the Mobius Institute.

Our first product was called iLearnVibration. Rather than delivering live training courses, I created a highly interactive e-learning system so that, rather than attending a training course for three or four days and trying to understand everything, our customers could continue learning all year long.

While I thought it was a fantastic idea, it took a little while to become successful… They were very challenging years.

By 2004, the ISO standard 18436-2 was released, which defined how vibration should be taught, and the requests for live training courses were becoming more and more frequent. We therefore decided to find qualified partners around the world who could deliver training courses with our unique training tools and our material that met the requirements of the ISO standard, which would therefore enable far more people to be trained than if I were to deliver all the training myself.

We now have over 150 partners in over 60 countries, and we train 6000 people per year.We also realized that we had a tremendous responsibility to the people we were educating and certifying; thus, the difficult (and expensive) decision was taken to split the business between Mobius Institute (primarily responsible for training and the delivery of the exams) and the Mobius Institute Board of Certification (MIBoC), which is run by independent committees in order to define and administer the entire certification process. Our certification programs are all accredited to ISO/IEC 17024, which I believe is tremendously important but possibly not fully appreciated by everyone in our industry – I discussed this point in more detail in my answer related to certification.

But just as I was frustrated that vibration analysts did not understand the software I was developing, I then became frustrated that vibration analysts were frequently detecting the same fault conditions on the same machines. In the majority of cases, those fault conditions were avoidable.

So back in 2010, I decided to expand the role of Mobius Institute into reliability improvement. We developed iLearnReliability so that people could teach themselves and provide awareness training to others in the organization, and then, with the assistance of the reliability improvement committee of the Mobius Institute Board of Certification, we established the Asset Reliability Practitioner (ARP) training and certification program. 

The goal is to provide a growth path from basic reliability education (ARP-A) through technically detailed reliability engineering education (ARP-E) through to genuine leadership training to help people implement a successful program (ARP-L).

Given that so many reliability programs had failed, I also spent many years developing the Asset Reliability Transformation (ART) process to help people implement successful programs. I have since written three books and have others under development. 

Our ultimate goal is to help everyone involved with condition monitoring and reliability improvement achieve their goals. We want them to have the education so that they are confident and competent, and we want them to become certified in a way that is respected, meaningful, and internationally recognized.

What are your next career goals?

I am no longer young, and thus my career goals are simply to ensure that the Mobius Institute delivers the highest level of education and the most respected certification in condition monitoring and reliability improvement.

Having been involved in the practice of vibration analysis and the development of a wide range of condition monitoring software, what are the biggest challenges you have faced?

There have been so many challenges, it is hard to whittle it down to a short, readable list.

Running a successful business over 22 years presents all manner of challenges, especially when you are working directly in over 50 countries with customers that come from over 150 countries. Every single staff member has their own hopes and aspirations, and it is my responsibility to ensure they can achieve their goals within our organization. 

Traveling, developing the training, and running a business while also trying to raise two wonderful boys was certainly challenging.But it is also my goal to create training that makes it as easy as possible for everyone, regardless of their prior education or their language, to learn the complex fields of condition monitoring and reliability improvement. Finding ways to create animations, and especially the software simulations, has been truly challenging. I could not count the many, many hours spent designing and developing those animations and simulations.

It has also been challenging to spread the word about what we are trying to achieve and the value of high-quality education and respected certification. It is very easy for someone to put together a PowerPoint presentation and a quick test in order to sell “training and certification.” It takes a long time to get the word out in so many countries that we do things differently, and we would like to think that we do it better.

But sadly, over the years we have had employees suffer serious health issues, we have been through global economic crises and pandemics, we have had companies try to cheat us, and I even suffered a very serious health issue – they have all been extremely challenging.

There have been plenty of challenges, which makes it all the more rewarding when customers write to us with such positive comments about what we have helped them achieve.

What are your predictions for the future of Industry 4.0?

When I polish my crystal ball, I see some customers unhappy because they were sold on the promise of Industry 4.0 without truly understanding the challenges.

I like to say that as long as customers and vendors take a realistic approach, and they remember that Reliability 4.0 is required to achieve the goals of Industry 4.0, then it will be possible to:

  • Reduce the cost and reduce the measurement interval of the collected data with wireless sensors and fast (secure) networks
  • Automate more and more of the screening process (identifying the equipment whose condition has changed) with artificial intelligence (AI) via machine learning (ML)
  • Automate more and more of the analysis process with AI and ML, while still having trained specialists available to verify the diagnoses

What are Mobius’s goals for Latin America?

We will do everything we can so that every aspiring reliability and condition monitoring practitioner can achieve their goals. We will help them to become educated so they are confident in their roles, and we will enable them to become certified under an accredited process so that they can be respected for their accomplishments.

We employ a great team of people who are focused on helping our customers and training partners be successful in Latin America. Thanks to that team, Latin America has been our fastest growing region over the past five years.

In your opinion, what is the importance and value added by certification?

At the one extreme, a person can attend a commercial training course, learn “something” that will be “hopefully” beneficial in their future, hopefully not listen to too many sales messages, and then take a very basic and probably easy test, and then call themselves “certified.”

That exists in our industry today.

Other organizations recognize a standard, say they “follow” it, but in reality, follow a subset of the requirements. They do not subject themselves to independent auditors, so no one is the wiser.

This is very common in industry.

At the other extreme, a person can attend a training course with content that has been defined by an international independent standards committee (at the ISO) in order to ensure that a person is comprehensively educated to perform their job. And then, to be certified, they will prove that they have experience in the field, prove that they have been trained, and prove via a rigorous examination process that they have understood the majority of the topics covered. 

And when the entire process is thoroughly examined and frequently audited by an independent, government-appointed accreditation organization that follows an international standard (ISO/IEC 17024), then I believe that a certified person can hold their head high in the knowledge that their certification truly means something. The same is true for the organizations that employ the certified practitioners and the organizations that engage certified consultants – they can have confidence in the capabilities of that person.

Certification should mean something. 

I can certainly say, hand on heart, that we have done everything at Mobius Institute to meet the highest standards possible. People should be proud to say that they are certified by Mobius Institute.

Who was your hero when you were little? Who is now?

I have to be perfectly honest and say that I cannot think of anyone other than my father who I would have considered a hero when I was growing up, and even in recent times. 

There are people I admire because they have made amazing technological advancements. There are people I admire because of their charity work. And there are people I admire because they have been patient with me over my life, sharing what they know about their unique industries and how they overcame challenges. I love asking questions, and I am eternally grateful to the people who were willing to provide answers.

What are your favorite books?

I love to read, and on the long flights, and (in more recent times) during the long drives into the mountains, audio books make it easier to find the time to read/listen to books.

Here are some of my favorites – I know I will think of others later that should be on this list:

  • All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
  • A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
  • The Secret River – Kate Grenville
  • Educated – Tara Westover 
  • Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy (and many more of his books)

(The books by Cormac McCarthy are not “nice” books – they are dark and quite nasty, but he is a brilliant author.)

What is the most important thing for you in life?

When I was 17, I was very fortunate to meet Georgina Breedon. We have been together now for 42 years. My family is the most important thing in my life. We have two terrific boys, James and Michael, who are the most wonderful young men you could ever meet. I am so proud of them both.

As the owner of Mobius Institute, I feel a tremendous responsibility to our employees and to all of our customers around the world. 

By educating and certifying reliability and condition monitoring practitioners, we are helping them be successful in their roles, achieve promotions and new job opportunities, and in some cases, keep their existing jobs. If we do our job well, our customers will keep rotating machinery and other critical assets running so that their plants can deliver on their promises to their customers. Of course, that can range from pharmaceutical companies to oil and gas offshore platforms, battle ships, wastewater treatment plants, and so many other organizations that deliver vital services, keep large numbers of people employed, and keep their employees, customers, and the environment safe from potentially deadly harm.

That responsibility weighs heavily on my shoulders and has been the driving force in investing in advanced training material that incorporates amazing 3D animations and software simulations.

In my personal life, I am passionate about surfing and getting out into nature, as far away from other people as possible. That may not sound like a very “social” thing to say, but thanks to Mobius’s success, we now own land in a very remote but beautiful location. I love traveling to that land, watching the kangaroos and other wildlife, and just being able to breathe deeply without the stress of deadlines and responsibilities. I can just be me.

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