Archive | May, 2003


2:33 am
May 2, 2003
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What The Internet Isn't

In America, if something is important, it is often mistaken for having an extraordinary economic value. The Internet is one of the most important communication and productivity tools since Gutenberg invented the printing press. It allows the democratization of information by providing it to everyone, everywhere, at the same time, at almost no cost. No one owns it and everyone can use it and add to it.

Many businesses exhaled with the dot com bust. It was as if they already had enough to worry about and now they did not have to include the Internet on that list. Most businesses had the equivalent of an electronic brochure and an e-mail link on their web sites, so they thought they had covered their bases.

The mistake of simply offering customers an electronic version of a company brochure is highlighted at The site states that a powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies. Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.

John Gilmore, one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) states, “The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” Companies can no longer be in exclusive control of information relating to the application of their products and services. With hundreds of formats available for information exchange, consumers can access an unlimited amount of information on the products they are interested in and the companies that provide them, often at independent web sites. This information flow allows the balance of power, once controlled by the supply side, to shift to the demand side, creating tremendous benefit to end users and consumers.

According to Doc Searls and David Weinberger at the web site World of Ends, the true nature of the Internet isn’t hard to understand. In fact, they have reduced the Internet to a simple 10-item list:

1. The Internet isn’t complicated.
2. The Internet isn’t a thing. It’s an agreement.
3. The Internet is stupid.
4. Adding value to the Internet lowers its value.
5. All the Internet’s value grows on its edges.
6. Money moves to the suburbs.
7. The end of the world? Nah, the world of ends.
8. The Internet’s three virtues: No one owns it, everyone can use it, anyone can improve it.
9. If the Internet is so simple, why have so many been so boneheaded about it?

Visit World of Ends for No. 10 and more detailed explanations.

If you publish a web site, make it easy and make it informative. Provide visitors with a way of interacting with you and possibly with each other.

When was launched, we had no idea if maintenance and reliability professionals would respond positively. After all, everyone is busy and Internet access was severely restricted inside most maintenance departments.

Now, our online community has grown to more than 10,000 maintenance and reliability professionals from around the world. Most have joined the online reliability discussion e-mail forum that allows them “to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed” as envisioned by the folks at Cluetrain. You can be part of the information revolution that includes empowerment through information access and networking. All you need to do is to log onto your favorite maintenance web site today.

We are proud of our association with MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY magazine and for the incredible support they have provided as we make our own journey to reliability with you online at and MT

Is there anything more inconvenient and aggravating than Spam? Recently we discovered something worse—spy-ware that installs itself on your computer without your knowledge. Spy-ware reports every web site you visit to an unknown advertiser who will pop up ads and send e-mails based on your surfing habits.

If you see new toolbars in your browser that you did not install, if your browser crashes, or if your browser start page has changed by itself, you probably have spy-ware.

Even if you do not see anything you may be infected, because more and more spy-ware is emerging that is silently tracking your surfing behavior to create a marketing profile of you that will be sold to advertising companies.

Antivirus applications do not cover spy-ware. But you can check for spy-ware and eliminate it by downloading a free copy of Spybot–Search & Destroy which will detect and remove different kinds of spy-ware from your computer.

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9:55 pm
May 1, 2003
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Creating Reliable Electrical Connections

Cleaning, filing, and abrading surfaces are among the options.

One of the important ingredients for making and keeping a reliable electrical connection is clean contact surfaces. The other important ingredient—force—was covered in “The Trouble with Torque in Electrical Connections.”


RESISTANCE VS. FORCE Fig. 1. Contact theory says that contact points are actually cold welds. If the high contact force is decreased, the contact resistance remains constant and does not increase until a much lower force is reached.

When initial contact is made between electrical contact surfaces, no matter how smooth and level the surfaces, only a few high points touch. As the contact force increases, more points make contact until at optimum force most of the metal-to-metal contact has been accomplished. Contact theory tells us that these points are actually cold welds.

This sounds logical because if the high contact force is decreased, the contact resistance remains constant and does not increase until a much lower force is reached. See Fig. 1. This would be expected with welding, not with a spring-like mechanism. For cold welding to occur, clean surfaces and massive distortion are required. This is accomplished by proper contact preparation, abrasion from relative motion, and volume reduction during the high forces.

As this discussion implies, the true contact area is where we have the welds. For example, a 4 in. wide bus bar with a 4 in. connection overlap does NOT produce a contact area of 16 sq in. (4 in. x 4 in.). If the connection is made with a single bolt in the center, the contact area is under the head of the bolt. If a large diameter, thick washer is added, the contact area then is increased to the washer area. Note that NEMA Standard CC1, Electric Power Connection for Substations, specifies four bolt holes for a 4 in. wide bus.

Get surfaces clean, level
From a practical standpoint, try to make the contact surfaces as clean, smooth, and level as possible. Dirty or oily surfaces should be cleaned with a solvent. Rough surfaces should be filed and/or sanded. For most surfaces, abrading with a wire brush, sandpaper, or steel wool and removing loose particles is sufficient. With stranded conductor, try to use fresh portions and wire brush the outer strands. When pressure is applied to the conductor, the strands abrade each other.

With copper conductor, it is usually easy to see how the cleaning is going. With aluminum this is more difficult since the oxide coating is colorless and starts to reform after cleaning. Therefore, extra care must be exercised with aluminum. The oxide film is initially weak and thin, so right after cleaning, apply a joint compound to bus bar contact surfaces or, if cable, to the outer strands. Then immediately tighten bolts or compress the connector. Tests have shown that this procedure results in a good connection.

If the contact surface is plated, try not to remove the coating. Solvent cleaning is usually sufficient.

Years ago a common recommendation for aluminum was to apply the joint compound prior to cleaning and to abrade the surface through the joint compound. This messy procedure is not required if the compound is applied immediately after cleaning. In a cable connection, the compound will be forced between the strands when pressure is applied. The joint compound should not be relied upon to clean the contact surfaces; its purpose is to surround the cold welds to prevent the ingress of harmful matter such as air, moisture, and contaminants.

Check contact resistance
Checking an electrical connection is difficult. Ideally, a contact resistance reading is best. But with high current connections we are dealing with micro-ohms, hard to read in the field and masked by nearby bulk resistance. This makes the contact resistance hard to determine. If possible, make trial connections in the shop and check as follows:

• Bus bar connections. Place a die penetrant or a pressure sensor film in the contact area prior to tightening the connection. Contact area and/or contact pressure is determined after disassembly.

• Cable connections. Cut through the crimped or tightened section of the connection and then prepare like a metallurgical specimen. All strands should be distorted and no air spaces should be evident. This technique also is useful for failure studies.

Analysis of these results can assist in specifying the connection procedure and in improving the proposed connection. MT

Norman Shackman, P.E., is based in Kent, CT. He conducts in-house seminars on electrical connections and can be reached at or (860) 927-4067.

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7:15 pm
May 1, 2003
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Are You the Entrepreneur to Lead Innovative Solutions?

Today, most maintenance organizations lack entrepreneurship. What do I mean by this bold statement? Looking at the rate at which organizations adopt new technology, we see a wave-like pattern of personalities:
1. Leaders: a few innovators and visionaries who are early adopters
2. Followers: a considerable number of pragmatists who are the majority adopters
3. Laggards: a number of conservatives who are late adopters
4. Unbelievers: a few skeptics who may never adopt the technology.

Why does this delay in the adoption of technology occur? We certainly cannot blame it on a lack of technology or information available to us. The Internet, along with other technologic advances, have allowed for information to be far more readily available than it has ever been before. In order to cope with this overload of information we often tune it out, but at what cost?

If we turn our focus to business, in order to be successful, we do not have the luxury of ignoring the masses of business information and data that we produce, disseminate, and receive. Instead, we must learn not only how to deal with this information, but also how to manage it, and how to use it effectively to try to gain the upper hand on the competition.

Vision, goals, and success occur by leveraging and applying technological advancements. It is not the availability of advancements holding companies back, but rather the leadership necessary to implement and apply the advancements available to us. There needs to be an individual, a leader, an entrepreneur in the organization who stands up and says, “We need to take advantage of this innovative solution because it will allow us to be successful and gain the upper hand.”

Companies have recognized equipment reliability as a strategic component in their plans for future success, a way to gain a competitive advantage. Maintenance goals are now aligned with company goals to achieve higher returns on asset investments, to increase output and revenue, and to ensure safety and environmental integrity.

Now more than ever, with shrinking budgets and fewer resources, maintenance requires innovative solutions to maximize equipment reliability while optimizing cost efficiencies. Will it take the lead and adopt these innovative solutions? Let’s look at an example.
To improve reliability, most companies are using, or have experience with, various forms of information systems. All systems can create lots of data, but where does this data come from?
• 15 percent is from predictive technology
• 10 percent is numeric condition process data
• 75 percent is from qualitative descriptive inspections which are mostly recorded on paper check sheets that end up as clipboards hanging on walls. Others are filed away never to be looked at again.

All this data is critical and therefore collected, but it resides in different locations and databases, creating many islands of data. How do you manage it?

If you want to be a leader and recognize that equipment reliability is a strategic component to success within the solution, then you need to ensure that the reliability software you are planning to use does the following:
• Presents results visually through flashing alarms and trending graphs, identifying potential failures and recommending corrective actions—before the equipment fails.
• Uses single or multiple data points to analyze the data, applying defined rules and calculations to get a true picture of equipment health.
• Performs the calculations and conducts the analysis automatically.
• Collects equipment condition data from controls, sensors, data historians, predictive maintenance technologies, and visual inspections.
• Solves the problem of islands of data by directly linking condition information to CMMS and plant information management systems.

Reliability software is able to correlate the islands of data into one information system and turn it into actionable knowledge that feeds your CMMS the right work at the right time to optimize asset performance and extend asset life.

Like other innovations and advancements that will support companies in their quest for success and leadership, it will take an entrepreneur within the organization to stand up, be the leader, and make it happen. Might this person be you? MT
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7:03 pm
May 1, 2003
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Familiarity Breeds Content

People who really need information are more likely to seek it from other people—especially people they know.

bob_baldwinThat is what University of Washington researchers discovered when they tracked a group of engineers to find how they obtained information vital to their work. The engineers usually chose human sources over written ones and were three times more likely to choose familiar people over experts they didn’t know.
The study by UW Information School professor Raya Fidel and assistant professor Maurice Green is scheduled for publication in Information Processing and Management.

The researchers analyzed more than 600 pages of transcribed interviews to understand the engineers’ thinking and performance in doing recent work tasks:

  • Nearly all the engineers (97 percent) consulted another person at least once, while 77 percent searched the Internet and intranet sites at least once.
  • Among situations in which a person was the source consulted, it most often was a co-worker (31 percent of cases), followed by an outside expert (29 percent).
  • The most common reason for selecting a person as a source—by a factor of more than 3 to 1—was that the engineer knew the person.

“The human side of information-seeking is so important,” Fidel said. “This shows that companies would benefit from encouraging richer social connections.”

We would encourage everyone in a position to do so to in turn encourage maintenance and reliability personnel to expand their network of professional contacts by supporting their attendance to at least one respected industry event each year. MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY provides a list of major events scheduled for the next few months on the first page of its News section (pg. 9), and a more extensive list on our online calendar.

Knowing that trusted sites on the Internet are frequently consulted sources for helpful information, as confirmed by the research, we have enhanced the search capability of our web site to provide easier access to our article archives. Check out the story on page 9 for an overview of the improvements, or better yet, visit and give it a try.

Like the subjects of the research, we at MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY tend also to seek information from the people we know best. MT


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