Archive | March, 2002


12:51 am
March 2, 2002
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The Role for Universities in maintenance and reliability education

Traditionally, U.S. universities have shied away from education and research in the area of industrial maintenance and reliability. While many institutions have developed excellent capability in statistics, probabilities, and other mathematical approaches to the science of reliability, most have largely ignored the more practical areas of industrial reliability and maintenance, much to the detriment of the manufacturing and service sectors. (However, it should be noted that a handful of universities have been active in this area—some with educational pursuits and some with significant research pursuits.)

Whether maintenance and reliability has been deemed “unworthy” of consideration by university faculties or has simply been overlooked in the constant review of which important subject matters to include in an already compressed educational curriculum, academia generally has missed emerging opportunities to deliver in the area of good, practical maintenance and reliability know-how and education.

Change is not occurring fast enough
We have all heard of the various unofficial studies that indicate U.S. industry spends hundreds of billions of dollars (most say between $300 billion and $500 billion annually) on direct maintenance-related issues, and this does not include the resultant losses of production throughput followed by both profit and business loss. Further, industry practitioners suggest that at least one-third of those direct costs are wasted due to the performance of improper maintenance.

Surprisingly, and alarmingly, that percentage of wasted effort appears to not have changed significantly over the past several years, despite advances made both in production methodologies and in advanced maintenance and reliability tools and technologies. It would appear that the advances are being utilized only in small amounts or in narrowly focused applications. Thus, industry’s view of maintenance has generally remained characterized as “a necessary evil” or “a necessary cost drain.” Unfortunately, today’s engineers, business leaders, and other decision-makers have learned their view of maintenance and reliability on the plant floor from a culture that did not value it or realize its potential for strategic advantage.

A major factor in the inertia holding back the maintenance and reliability advances is the lack of appropriately educated engineers, business majors, and others entering the workforce. Typically, U.S. engineers and business majors have little contact with maintenance and reliability concepts during their undergraduate years. While engineers will see a bit of reliability statistics and probabilities in one or two of their courses, it is normally delivered in a very theoretical format that leaves students wondering why they are even studying it. Business majors may be taught that maintenance is considered a “controllable cost,” but hear little or nothing more about it.

Often, the new graduate’s first introduction to the real world of maintenance and reliability is “on the job” in a plant where the activity is led by and reinforced by the old guard’s philosophy of “maintenance is a necessary evil.” Thus, the opportunity to utilize their creative and energetic minds is immediately diminished and misled by their environment.

Industry is the “customer”
Universities should recognize that industry needs qualified graduates to bring about change in the workplace. Universities should recognize that improved reliability and maintenance is absolutely key to the long-term survival and health of our industrial and services base.

Universities should accept their responsibility to deliver graduates who can enter today’s business world and make a difference—and that includes modernizing and optimizing the approach to maintenance and reliability. Concepts, systems, and tools already exist to significantly improve present maintenance practices. Concepts, systems, and tools already exist to radically improve the reliability of equipment and processes. What does not exist is a large-enough pool of graduates educated in these areas to make the critical difference.

Universities also need to recognize and seize upon the opportunities that exist for doing research and technology assessment in these fields. Many of today’s advances have been brought about by practitioners in industry applying concepts and tools developed in other fields for other applications. While great strides have been made, the speed and amplitude of progress could be greatly increased by appropriate research and technology development directed toward maintenance and reliability. Understanding the fundamentals of vibration analysis, eddy current testing, signal conditioning, etc., could lead to further development of tools and systems directly applicable to industry.

Industry must play its part
Too often, industry takes university graduates “as they are,” assuming it will have to educate them in the “real world” after they graduate. And to a degree, that is true. You cannot put a lifetime of experience into a four-year university curriculum. Nor can you cover the specifics of every industry during the university years. But industry can influence what universities put into their programs. Industry can assist in introducing basic concepts of technologies and systems into university curricula.

Universities operate under the same universal law of supply and demand that industries do. As jobs and career opportunities change, so do university offerings. As industry demands students with knowledge and skills in the areas of maintenance and reliability, university programs will grow and improve to meet those demands. Industry needs to seek out and participate in dialogues concerning the future improvements to university curricula and programs. Industry can make a difference.

There is hope
I have painted a fairly bleak picture so far. However, there are some rays of light. A few universities are addressing some of these issues.

There are several graduate programs in reliability. There are a few undergraduate programs dealing with maintenance and reliability. Several business schools are introducing the theme of reliability and maintenance excellence through their Lean Manufacturing (or similar) curricula. There are several continuing education programs offering professional development through short course work. Several universities do research work that can be applied in this area. Future columns will address some of these programs as examples of what can be accomplished by those who wish to make a difference.

SMRP support
The Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) is trying to help bridge the maintenance and reliability gap between universities and industry. They have recognized the need for universities and colleges to develop programs supporting maintenance and reliability.

They have supported a SMRP student chapter at one university and provided scholarships at two different universities for students studying in the field of maintenance and reliability. They have given various faculty members the opportunity to present papers at their annual conference. They have agreed to sponsor students at their annual conference. And they have encouraged their members to become active with universities to promote maintenance and reliability programs.

Individuals can help
What can you do to make an impact? Actually, you can do more than you probably realize. While there is truth in the notion that academic programs are somewhat rigid, hard to change, and subject to faculty desire, there is also truth in the law of supply and demand.

If industry sincerely raises the demand for graduates with education and training in maintenance and reliability, then universities will respond to meet that demand. Universities—faculty, administration, and students alike—are very aware of and sensitive to market forces and what disciplines are in demand. Make your voice heard—through advisory boards, through personal contacts, and through your hiring practices. You can make a difference.

The challenge to work together
A huge gap exists today between universities’ offerings and industry’s maintenance and reliability needs. This is due both to universities generally shunning this area of educational responsibility and to the general reluctance of industry to address the opportunities in this area. Only a small percentage of companies have truly tried to deal with maintenance and reliability as an investment opportunity.

However, the demands of today’s world of manufacturing and services dictate that maintenance and reliability must be treated differently. This is an almost-unparalleled opportunity for universities and industry to move forward together and fill the gap through the right combination of education, research, information exchange, and business support. Step forward and be part of grasping this opportunity. MT
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10:38 pm
March 1, 2002
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Choosing a Full-Service Lubricant Supplier

In a complex manufacturing operation, commodity lubricants bought from multiple suppliers are easy to take for granted. But this approach can compromise productivity and profitability. The consolidation of lubricant purchasing with the right supplier can help manage and enhance this important maintenance function. However, the selected vendor must offer a complete solution in the form of a full line of lubricants and fluids backed by local distribution and technical support.

Maintenance professionals interested in tapping lubrication consolidation for savings opportunities may find it helpful to think about the following questions when evaluating potential suppliers:

How complete is the supplier’s product line?
The suppliers best equipped to meet requirements for diverse lubricating solutions are those offering a complete line of industrial lubricants, not just a wide range of products. Fluids for high-volume applications include hydraulic, compressor and vacuum pump, gearbox and chain, and multipurpose oils. Specialized industrial compounds such as greases, pastes, anti-friction coatings, and dispersions must be added to the mix.

In addition, a wide range of base stocks is essential. Synthetics provide excellent resistance to emulsification and last longer to extend maintenance intervals. Ultra-high purity mineral oils also resist emulsification and promote improved additive performance, which results in longer life than conventional mineral oils. The full-line supplier also must be able to draw on functional additive technologies including anti-oxidant, anti-wear, and extreme temperature additives.

How well does the local representative understand my needs and the lubrication requirements of my equipment?
Effective lubricant consolidation demands technical support from local representatives who understand both lubricants and the operating conditions in common industrial equipment. Air compressors, for example, put unique demands on lubricants. Typical operating temperatures around 210 F accelerate reactions between compressed oxygen and impurities, especially those found in mineral oils. The resulting rapid oxidation causes a sudden increase in viscosity and lubricant failure. Mineral oils in air compressors generally last only 1000 hours. By comparison, a synthetic compressor oil, specially formulated for air compressors, lasts around 12 times as long.

Other applications impose their own requirements. Equipment subject to daily wash downs, for example, requires gearbox and conveyor chain lubricants that resist emulsification. Knowledgeable consolidated lubricant suppliers understand such applications and know the right lubricants to use at the right time. Their expertise helps maintenance professionals avoid mistakes in lubricant selection and application that can shorten equipment life and stop production. They also can help install lubrication management software and show how it can help achieve additional efficiency improvements.

Does the supplier offer oil analysis?
To gauge the condition of industrial lubricants in service, an integrated oil analysis program is essential to compare each lubricant with its own performance benchmarks. Effective analysis tracks multiple critical wear-related characteristics of oil in service by comparing the results with previous reports, and notes the trends. As an essential part of a lubricant consolidation program, oil analysis helps identify contamination, lubricant degradation, and abnormal machine wear. Industry-accepted tests reveal the presence of metal particles, water, and other contaminants.

The wise use of oil analysis data can play an instrumental role in significantly lowering overall costs associated with oil changes and helping to extend equipment life. Analysis, for example, can prevent needless, costly oil changes dictated by simplistic predictive time interval schemes while, in other instances, it can provide criteria that may lead to savings by extending oil drain intervals. In addition, trend data can provide criteria for the design and rationalization of preventive maintenance routines that lend themselves to computer-based management.

How good is the supplier’s lubrication management software?
Dedicated lubrication management software is a powerful tool to schedule, supervise, and record a consolidated lubrication program. It exploits and complements oil analysis by collecting trend data and developing responsive lubrication schedules. By enabling maintenance managers and workers to schedule and record lubrication changes for specific equipment, lubrication software automates the lubrication management function.

While general maintenance work management software cannot manage complex lubrication programs, dedicated lubrication management software can generate actionable lubricating information. In so doing, it helps reduce lubrication errors by automatically generating information that helps coordinate daily maintenance routines in the most efficient manner possible. The software also identifies opportunities to more efficiently schedule lubricant orders and reduce inventory.

Be sure the dedicated lubrication management software provides the following functions:

First, it should centralize lubrication requirements and protocols for an entire plant. It should catalog what lubricant is required when and how it should be applied for every lubrication point in the plant. The database should provide a proactive preventive maintenance tool that can save time, reduce risk of errors, and make it easy to record completed lubrication tasks.

Second, effective lubrication management software should help create and schedule lubrication routes for thousands of points within a plant. In addition, scheduling software can generate lubricating work orders and monitor the performance of lubricants and maintenance employees.

Finally, dedicated lubrication management software should help broaden lubrication schedules and records to cover multiple sites. MT

Information supplied by Jim Stutelberg, lubrication channel manager, Dow Corning Corp., Midland, MI; telephone (800) 637-5377

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8:12 pm
March 1, 2002
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Leveraging time with technology


Robert C. Baldwin, CMRP, Editor

In “Where To Place Your Bets In 2002,” my Uptime editorial for January, I noted that requests for maintenance and reliability funding must be made carefully. I went on to ask if anyone has a system guaranteed to beat the odds.

James Taylor, president of Vibration Consultants, Inc., Tampa, FL, responded, suggesting that rules-based expert systems would be a good bet. He noted that his company’s system contains rules that assist in diagnosing imbalance, bent shaft, misalignment, gear problems, and more. The user can use the built-in rules or develop new ones.

A short time after Taylor’s letter, I had an opportunity to chat with Ken Piety, vice president of CSI Division of Emerson Process Management, in his office in Knoxville, TN. He noted that the advanced capabilities available with his company’s latest vibration data collector and analyzer can save time and increase accuracy of the vibration analyst’s diagnoses.

Both systems would be good maintenance and reliability investment candidates because they save time and increase accuracy. However, expert systems, like other advanced technologies, are often underutilized. The reason, as best I can deduce from conversations with users and suppliers, is that the systems are not trusted by the people they are designed to assist.

The best human experts don’t trust the systems because they know as much or more than the person who wrote the rules for the system. They also get a large amount of satisfaction from the “saves” they make by personally diagnosing problems from the raw data.

The human experts of lesser skills don’t always know how to apply the system and may not want to admit that the software could “know” more than they do.

Both types of human experts, I think, are off target. Expert system software is designed to assist human experts, not displace them.

Technology forecaster Daniel Burrus has said that “time is the currency of the new economy” and people can leverage their time with technology.

If what Burrus says is true, the maintenance and reliability practitioners not using available expert systems are burning money. On the other hand, maybe things are running so smoothly for them that they have plenty of time on their hands and don’t need any help from the experts. MT


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8:10 pm
March 1, 2002
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How valuable is your Network?

How valuable are the people you have influenced or who have influenced you in the maintenance and reliability profession? What is the intangible value to you, your company, and your professionalism of the numerous contacts you have made over the years? Have you even considered a network as part of your career development?

I am constantly blessed by my network. I did not even consciously build one; it just happened. Writing this column has given me occasion to reflect and pass along some things I learned about creating a valuable network:

  • Give of yourself without expecting anything in return. Like just about anything else in life, giving is more precious than receiving. People recognize when you freely and sincerely give of your time, talents, knowledge, and practical experience. One of my wisest past supervisors advised me: “If you see a void, don’t just call it to someone’s attention or pass it off; take the initiative to deal with it.” How many times have I wished people working for me had done the same. Those who did built a special credibility with me. Their reward came along.
  • Take responsibility for learning. Many companies today have recognized that continuous learning is a key strategy in staying competitive for the long haul. Participating in company-sponsored seminars, outside symposiums, etc., presents great opportunities for meeting professionals from diverse backgrounds.
  • Be active in your professional community. ASME, IEEE, AFE, SMRP, and NACE, to name a few, all have committees that pertain to facilities and maintenance. Don’t just join a professional organization; step up and provide leadership, especially at the local level. Give a talk, hold an office, or take on a special project. Is there a national-level committee that can benefit from your experience or particular skills?
  • If your company is considering best practices committees, highly consider getting involved. There are two types of best practices committee members: those who have expertise and want to find ways to share it, and those who are seeking expertise and want to understand and deploy it to help their business or plant. Volunteering for committee work should be taken on only if you expect to freely give it your best capabilities and your extracurricular (personal) time to accomplish the mission.
  • Learn to speak in public and accept the honor whenever asked. It is a high compliment that you should be asked to share your knowledge. The greatest growth in my professional maturity came when I made the decision to overcome my fears of giving talks.

    I cannot begin to tell you how painful public speaking was for me. Fortunately, my employer gave me multiple opportunities to get training in this area. It was not until my career path forced me to do it with some routine, however, that I finally overcame my fears. A Dale Carnegie 12-week night course on public speaking and human relations was my most valuable preparation.

  • Find ways to participate in benchmarking events. These opportunities are unique whether internal (e.g., plant, business unit, corporate initiative) or external (through a professional organization). Your learning curve will accelerate tremendously, not to mention the benefit of sharing ideas and opinions with your benchmarking peers.

I have come to appreciate these benefits:

  1. Professionals on whom you can rely to give straight answers to technical questions. They will often bend over backward to assist you, including plugging into their own network.
  2. As you extend your network, the speed with which you can locate expertise or specific answers increases dramatically. I have witnessed huge company savings from the hands of the network locating obsolete spare parts. This was not a purchasing network, rather an intra-company maintenance professional network.
  3. Gratification that you are a member of a larger community that extends beyond the boundaries of your immediate job responsibilities. A sense that we all face the same challenges, both technical and organizational, enables us to temper our shortsightedness and sustain a broader vision of the value-added possibilities.
  4. Your network contains a cache of references for your character, leadership, and technical prowess. Some can lead to rewarding job opportunities.

In the spirit of participating in the race, e.g., NASCAR: Gentlemen and ladies, “Start your network!” MT
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7:18 pm
March 1, 2002
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A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Good news! The chairman and the president of your company have just called to say they will be visiting your plant within a half hour. They requested that you present all the ideas you have to make your maintenance program world class. Do you:

a) Speed read several books on maintenance management?

b) Make a bulleted list of everything that you can remember about maintenance management?

c) Ask the person at the desk next to you for advice?

d) Create a mind map of a maintenance strategy?

If you chose d) you would quickly outline your ideas for communication in a coherent and organized manner and have 25 minutes to spare!

What is a mind map?
Mind mapping is a technique developed in the late 1960s by Tony Buzan. It is designed as a more creative and innovative approach to thinking that taps the entire brain (not just the 1 percent that most of us use every day) and allows projects to be organized in minutes. Mind maps use associations connected to each other just as the brain does. Pictures, symbols, colors, keywords, and codes are all key elements in a mind map.

To create a mind map, you would start with a drawing or graphic at the center of a piece of paper that represented your plant or the maintenance program. Next you would draw lines and note whatever associations come to mind for you on each emanating spoke. Additional ideas, related phrases, drawings, keywords, or codes would be noted on sub spokes and so on. This would continue until you had a representation of everything you know about the subject displayed in front of you.

A mind map is like a road map as it provides an overview of a large subject area. It makes thinking, planning, and problem solving a lot more fun. Until recently, the main tools for mind mapping were paper, pens of different colors, and your mind. You still need your mind; however, the Internet allows you to download free mind mapping software, take online training courses, and read how-to articles about mind mapping.

Maintenance applications for mind mapping include planning, project management, running meetings, preparing presentations and abstracts, and solving complex problems. According to SimTech-USA, Boeing Aircraft uses a 25-ft long mind map to enable a team of aeronautical engineers to learn in a few weeks what would have taken a few years.

Free trial software downloads
For those who are ready to jump right in, there are numerous software programs available for free download and/or trial use. Each title has slight differences so it may be worthwhile to find a system that best suits your style.

Try these sites for free program downloads:

  • SimTech-USA offers a good deal of how-to information, Mindmapping samples, and case histories as well as free and professional versions of its Mindmapper software. It even offers a Mindmapper junior version for the kids.
  • Mindjet is very focused on project management and offers a special version of its software for operation on a Palm Pilot. Another system for PDAs can be found at Step-by-Step.
  • Other free download sites include Visual Mind, Ygnius (formerly Ygnite), and Concept Draw (includes a Macintosh version).
  • For those who require heavy math, MindPlugs’ Plug-in for Mind Manager allows live calculating of formulas.

Resources and how-to sites
Peter Russell
offers great advice and explanations for using mind maps as does Charles Cave.

Read the book

For those seeking to know more about this fascinating subject, I recommend the book that started it all: “The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential” (Plume; ISBN 0452273226). Of course it is available online at or Barnes and Noble.

As always, please let us know what you think of this column, how it helped you, and what subjects you would like us to cover in the future. MT

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