Archive | December, 2003


3:05 am
December 2, 2003
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Preparing for a Maintenance System Upgrade

Roles, responsibilities, and policies have to be defined to manage the risks of software installation.

A new software installation is one of the most difficult challenges for an organization. There are many considerations in managing the selection-purchase-implementation of a modern system. Buying a new system or developing a program in-house carries several risks that must be realized. Understanding the risks up front is the first step to overcoming them. Here are several key steps to make sure your project goes well.

Custom or off the shelf?
In the past, most companies had an information services (IS) department that had a number of programmers who were able to slowly incorporate managers’ ideas into an existing system to provide better reports. The system was completely customized to meet the needs of the managers and unique to that specific organization.

There are two primary concerns with these highly customized systems. First, the hardware is becoming obsolete and there is a lack of replacement parts. The second issue is that the computer language that the software was written in is often no longer the preferred method. The old languages do not provide the flexibility and strength that newer coding allows. Even if an organization wants to stick with the old system, schools are not teaching the old languages and it is difficult to find people to keep an old system running.

This dilemma leads organizations to a fork in the road. How do they go forward? One way suggests they task the IS department to write a whole new program that does everything they want it to do while keeping the existing system up and running. Often the expense of system maintenance plus new system development is too great. The second path is to scrap the old system and buy a commercial off the shelf (COTS) solution. This path leads to many choices, new risks, and integration issues with other packages. The fact is that there is no system available that will do business exactly like an organization does it now.

Minimizing risk
Either choice is expensive and both have significant risks. Business leaders of large organizations have to decide how to face this situation and minimize the risk. Smaller organizations probably have no IS department and cannot even consider the first path, so they have the risks of only the second path.

The path to a COTS package has obstacles, too, but there are a number of ways to avoid those obstacles. Begin with a detailed needs statement. This statement will help guide other decisions.

If an organization has most of its internal processes detailed in standard operating procedures (SOPs) or detailed work instructions, the first hurdle to a COTS selection has already been eliminated. However, experience shows that only 20-25 percent of businesses have this level of detail prepared in advance.

If there are no SOPs, a plan needs to be developed to document the roles and responsibilities for each person who will be even remotely associated with the software change. Do not shortcut the list. The time going back to revise the list will be exponentially more expensive than doing it right in the first place.

Documenting roles, responsibilities, and policies
For each person’s role, be sure to include everything that may be related to the new software. See the accompanying section “Roles and Responsibilities List” for an example.

The associated policies also must be collected and sorted. Policies are the laws, regulations, and company rules. There may be guidelines or rules that have been institutionalized and have been part of the program for years but have no real value. These should be identified and considered for change in the new system. All of these policies should be listed for each major area of the business being affected. Collecting these three items will empower your organization.

Collect the information and display the information in small workgroups. Let them review the bigger picture that goes on outside their individual roles and responsibilities. Several positive things will occur.

First, coworkers will realize the connections and relationships their work has in ways they have never seen. Second, they will likely identify some paths of workflow that do not make sense. And finally, any errors in recording the roles and responsibilities will be identified and a final edit of the documents can be made.

Even if SOPs are completed, go through this procedure of reviewing the documented processes. More than 90 percent of businesses operate outside their SOPs, usually because the business rules, tools, or software does not help them get the job done efficiently.

Evaluate workflow
Take some time with these workflow discrepancies. Find out why the list is wrong or why the employees feel a workflow does not make sense.

Ask if there are any ideas on how to make a job easier. During a recent project at a public transit authority, the opportunity was taken to identify what they do, identify best practices for those processes, and implement as many of those best practices as possible with the new software installation. In this case, the COTS selection was to replace the maintenance and inventory system, which had to interface with financial and HR/payroll systems. The organization decided to research similar businesses to see how they performed maintenance and inventory management and found 15 best practices that they wanted to install as soon as possible.

The best practice research was an up-front expense to the process, but it offered some surprises. Using the best practices resulted in a multimillion dollar return on their investment. The research also identified frustrated business leaders from the research group itself who were interested in making similar improvements. The return on investment paid for more than half the cost of professional services and the entire cost of the system purchase.

Taking this process seriously can pay off. The risk is to underestimate the importance of knowing, reviewing, and improving the processes. If these steps are not completed in advance of the installation, the software vendors who typically charge for these services will have to do the research to find the same answers.

Starting ahead
One of the primary risks in implementing a COTS package is that the software may dictate certain processes. Consider the following example. The normal process for adjusting maintenance technicians’ payroll issues at one company is to wait until all employees have entered their times in the system and then make adjustments to any exceptions on the last Wednesday of each month before the monthly payroll is sent out.

The COTS system selected allows for adjustments for only three days after each person enters his data. The business processes were never reviewed in advance and, when the vendor came in and demonstrated all the new features, no one thought to ask about the time sheet exception process. Suddenly, the organization is sitting on a huge investment that either cannot be used or is so painful to use, everyone hates it. Does this sound familiar?

Every software vendor has a closet of skeletons. The closet has a list of past sales that were implemented poorly for multiple reasons. When this happens, employees have to work in frustration and likely have dual processes going on to get the job done. It is common to find organizations doing the same process twice—usually electronically and an identical paper trail—to make sure everything is complete. This is a big opportunity for organizations to streamline operations and get the job done right the first time.

Once you have made the full list of roles, responsibilities, and department policies, develop high-level workflows for major tasks. Ask potential COTS vendors for a similar list of how the business will operate with their system. A common response will be that the system’s flexibility will allow you to configure the system in so many ways that they cannot give you that list. Insist on the list even if it has to resemble their best client’s site. With the two lists, differences can be analyzed.

Software selection
When the processes have been identified and the quality assurance is completed, the next step is to select software that fits the work as closely as possible. The term “as closely as possible” is used because there is not a perfect match from an organization’s model (the roles and responsibilities lists coupled with the policies) to any software. Vendors are designing COTS to fit specific niche markets but there will always be some percent of an organization’s model left out of the proposed system.

The “Current vs Proposed Processes” diagram shows an example of current processes and a proposed process by a vendor. In this oversimplified example of how payroll works, two processes are lined up side by side to reveal similarities and discrepancies; the discrepancies are highlighted in green. These highlighted processes are examples of discrepancies that an educated buyer of a COTS system will know about in advance of the final purchase.

The two examples also demonstrate how a discrepancy may not be a bad thing. The first highlight shows how time cards used to be typed in manually and now through the automation of scanning the time cards can be scanned in automatically. This change will likely be considered a preferred cost-saving process. The second highlighted example is the exception report. This exception report within the current process is conducted monthly. Perhaps the supervisors only have time to do it once a month due to some internal business rule. The proposed process shows the report running weekly. The business leaders of the company will have to decide on how to handle the differences. The power is knowing about these differences ahead of the purchase.

The next thing is to meet with the vendor representative and discuss the undesired discrepancies. This may be an area within the software that has great flexibility and modifying the report run times could be an easy fix. On the other hand, this may not be an area of flexibility; the company will need to decide whether to change processes or look for another software that better meets its needs.

Talk to users
A smart step before installing a COTS package is to go to one of the sites where this software has been installed and talk with the people who were involved in the process from beginning to end. Asking questions will provide a good idea of the product’s capabilities. Vendors will typically recommend only the best sites where their product has been implemented so ask the tough questions.

Remember, the issues in a successful installation are only a fraction of the issues in a bad installation. See the section “Site Visit Topics” for issues that should be explored when talking with current users.

There are cases where the buyer made the installation more difficult than necessary. Software capability is not usually the cause of poor installations. Take the advice of the software vendor coupled with the advice from the on-site visit and make a plan to install the COTS system with the very best effort.

If the company is short staffed or short on employees who can think out of the box to get this done the right way, seek out contractors who have real-world experience. The most expensive thing is to shortcut the process and face a failed implementation.

Have a change management plan
Remember that adjusting processes to meet the COTS solution should be well planned. No COTS solution can do everything the way a business currently does. There will have to be changes; with these changes there will be resistance. Having a strong change management plan is crucial.

With few exceptions, the most important assets of a company are its people. These critical assets are usually the most neglected during the installation if appropriate change management steps are not in place from the beginning. Managing attitudes and frustrations will accelerate the installation and overall success.

One of the most important lessons in managing change is getting employees accustomed to the concept that new ideas will be tested and some will fail. Failed attempts will be discarded and new ones will replace those left behind. Every opportunity to make people’s jobs easier should be incorporated. Gaining this buy-in will pay off as new roles and responsibilities are assigned with the installation of the new system.

As long as critical policies and regulations are followed, roles and responsibilities can shift to meet the new technology. Change management should be simple and easy to understand. If the organizational change management plan does not include assistance to ground floor supervisors and leads, review other plans. These lower tiered leaders will face the bulk of the attitude adjustments and will need real tools they can use to make positive changes.

Many organizations are looking to improve their business with new software. Taking these steps of mapping out how business is done and how the new software will help get to the next level is critical to making sure the risk of a failed implementation is dramatically reduced. Knowing and using these steps has saved organizations millions of dollars. Skipping these steps has cost many businesses the same amount while not achieving the desired result. MT

Joe Mikes is a consultant in improving company performance. He can be reached at 8534 Tambor Way, Elk Grove, CA 95758


Plant Maintenance Manager
Role: To assure the optimal performance of the plant equipment, including major systems; air, steam, power, water; and building structure as well as production equipment. Oversee the well-being of all maintenance employees.

Equipment availability
Strategic and tactical planning
Budget/capital expenditures
Policies and procedures
Reporting results to plant manager
Training/mentoring/team building
Evaluate employee performance
Work reviews
Employee discipline/grievances
Authorize purchase orders
Work orders/backlog management
Coordinate with public utilities
Communication (staff, plant, corporate)
Customer service/interpersonal relationships
Assist in equipment emergencies
Construction/maintenance contractors

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Current process


Proposed process

Hours are written onto time cards


Hours are written onto time cards

Time cards are handed in at end of each shift


Time cards are handed in at end of each shift

Hours are typed into HR payroll system


Hours are electronically read by the new system

Shift summary report is run at the end of each day for supervisors


Shift summary report is run at the end of each day for supervisors

Overtime is approved or disallowed each day


Overtime is approved or disallowed each day

Last week of each month exception report is run on Wednesday


Exception report is run weekly

Last Thursday of each month supervisors review any discrepancies


Last Thursday of each month supervisors review any discrepancies

Final time summary is sent to outside payroll company to process checks


Final time summary is sent to outside payroll company to process checks

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• Installation time
• Vendor’s project management
• Customer service after the sale
• Ease of configuring the software
• Vendor’s ability to stay on budget
• Buyer’s ability to stay on budget
• Questions that should have been asked before buying
• Required support from the buyer’s group to keep the system running
• Software shortcomings
• System upgrades since the purchase
• Availability of 24 hour service assistance
• Software warranty
• Capabilities to run reports
• Ongoing user-group assistance
• Special hardware requirements
• Special database requirements
• Ability to work on the system over the Internet
• Business process change surprises
• Other questions specific to a company’s circumstance

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2:27 am
December 2, 2003
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Good Vibes on the Web

Using specialized sensing technologies for machinery condition based monitoring (CBM) or predictive maintenance (PdM) has long been documented as a beneficial part of a machinery reliability strategy. According to, world class companies often devote up to 50 percent of their entire maintenance resources to condition based monitoring and the planned work that is required as a result of the findings.

Although there are a number of technologies that should be part of any CBM program, vibration analysis is the most predominant for maintaining and troubleshooting rotating equipment. Vibration analysis resources on the web are hard to find using search engines as all the commercial resources are getting top billing. I have compiled some vibration resources on the Internet that range from full blown online training to pages that include links to other vibration analysis resources.

Training resources offers vibration analysis training on the web so you can access the lessons on your personal computer any time of the day or night. The site plans on offering live, web-based, and instructor-led courses in 2004. also offers an active e-mail discussion forum that allows you to share your experiences, ask questions, or simply sit back and read as hundreds of your peers discuss many of the same issues you face and share solutions that you can use. The forum is noncommercial and list members have no patience for vendors pitching products or services. The VibeTalk e-mail forum explores all types of machinery condition monitoring issues and technologies including vibration, ultrasound, infrared, motor testing, and oil analysis. To join send an e-mail to and type subscribe in the subject line.

The Vibration Institute web site also includes a threaded vibration analysis discussion board in addition to many other resources and links.

The SVD Classroom offers a suite of vibration and signal processing educational courses. The site includes more than a dozen Flash movies that stream easily over a 56k or faster Internet connection.

Brüel & Kjær offers live instructor-led, one-hour training on the web at no cost for subjects like modal analysis, transducers, and FFT analysis basics.

There are also two excellent tutorials “Introduction to Vibration Analysis” and “Time Waveform Analysis” at These programs require a media player for narration playback.

Articles, case histories, book excepts, and a Vibration Analysis IQ Quiz can be accessed at the vibration analysis knowledge base.


SIGVIEW is complete real-time spectral analysis software with a wide range of powerful FFT spectral analysis tools, statistics functions, and comprehensive visualization system. SIGVIEW is distributed as shareware—you can download a completely functional version and use it for 21 days to find out if it is the right solution for you. If you decide to use it after that period, you must purchase a SIGVIEW license for $79. With its unique user interface and philosophy, SIGVIEW gives you freedom to combine different signal analysis methods in any possible way; there are no artificial rules and limitations. Once you get the basics, everything else follows the same logic.

Visit for artful vibration humor and utilities, balancing calculators, and free downloads.

Link sites is another useful site dedicated to vibration analysis resources.

MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY publishes a comprehensive suppliers guide online and offers a literature request service at

The future

You can get a glimpse into the future of vibration analysis and condition based monitoring at the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems and from the CBM Lab at the University of Toronto. Both of these sites may seem academic at first glance but digging deeper for serious research and application information will be worthwhile. MT

Internet Tip

Add your favorite e-mail newsletters to your approved list if you use a spam filter to make sure that you do not eliminate sources of new ideas and information for maintenance improvements.

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9:03 pm
December 1, 2003
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Extending Pump Motor Life In Liquid Level Applications

Many process systems operate by the storage, transfer, metering, and disposal of liquid materials. The pumps that move the liquid materials represent a point where maintenance failure can halt all other processes. Extending the service life of these critical process components can significantly reduce process as well as maintenance costs.

Most often the decision to turn pumps on and off is based on the level of a liquid in a storage vessel. Fig. 1 shows a simple single point float switch. When the level of the liquid falls below the float switch, the pump motor is turned on to bring the level high enough to open the switch and stop the pump. This maintains a constant level.

(Safety note: Pump motor operating voltages such as 110/220 V ac should not be run directly through liquid switches. Low voltage control signals should be used to operate relays that switch the pump motors on and off.)

The Fig. 1 application is well suited to keeping a constant level and it is relatively low in cost and installation. However, from a maintenance point of view, the pump motor is being run frequently and for short periods. This provides for the greatest pump impeller and pump motor bearing wear.

Also, from a process design perspective, the single point level control may not provide the fluid turnover desired and could lead to a buildup of sludge or other material.

Fig. 2 illustrates an application that uses two float switches. A high and low level can be selected that reduces the wear on pumps and motors as well as insures a high level of liquid turnover. In this application the pump turns on when the low level is detected and turns off when the high level is detected.

In some critical applications an additional switch is installed to detect a high level above the pump shutoff point. This can help prevent costly overflow or spill conditions.

There are some applications where it is not possible to mount float switches at the desired points in the vessel wall. For these situations float switches can be suspended from the top of the storage vessel as shown in Fig. 3.

For applications where the liquid material may foul a mechanical switch, alternative sensing can be used. It is possible to mount a pressure sensor at the bottom of the vessel as shown in Fig. 4. A control is needed to convert the pressure information into level information and to program the high and low setpoints. An ultrasonic sensor also can be used to determine the level of a liquid.

Regardless of whether the high and low setpoints are mechanically determined or programmed into a control, they need to be selected with a view toward keeping pump motors from the frequent start and stop cycles that accelerate wear, failure, and consequently, maintenance. MT

Information supplied by Tim Froehlke, applications engineer, EMS Sensors, 2600 Salem Ave., St. Louis Park, MN 55416; (952) 922-2028;


Fig. 1. Simple single point float switch turns on the pump motor when the level of the liquid falls below the switch.

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Fig. 2. Two float switches which allow a high and low level to be selected can prevent overflow or spill conditions.

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Fig. 3. Float switches can be suspended when it is not possible to mount them on the vessel wall.

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Fig. 4. Pressure sensors can be mounted at the bottom of a vessel along with a control to convert the pressure information into level information. An ultrasonic sensor also can be used.

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7:16 pm
December 1, 2003
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The Medium Matters in Training

While e-learning initiatives abound, traditional methods still form the core of training for maintenance personnel.

Training professionals generally agree that different people learn in different ways, and the most effective training matches the delivery method with the needs of each student. But whatever the method, the best technical training encompasses four key factors: interaction, application, practice, and feedback.

At one time, it was thought that on-the-job training (OJT) offered the best way for people in industry to learn a job and become really proficient through practice under a watchful eye. But many of the veteran workers who were expected to train newcomers either were not very good trainers—or did not want to be. As a result, erroneous “tribal” information frequently was passed down from generation to generation.

When new technologies come into the plant, OJT is often inadequate. Some type of formal training is necessary to ensure that a plant gets the most from its technology investment. For this, companies have developed a blend of instructor-led training to impart essential technical information followed by hands-on workshops designed to help students learn the skills needed to do a job.

A variety of approaches
Still, this combination of personal instruction and hands-on experience may not be the best way to present every subject, appropriate for every circumstance, or the most economical approach. Plant managers and maintenance supervisors are seeking less costly ways to train as many employees as possible, and those of us in the business of training continue to look for alternate solutions to the ever-growing need in industry to upskill a downsized workforce for improved job performance. Of course, the ultimate objective of industrial training must be to enhance performance in the workplace.

With the advances in Internet technology, several training methods have evolved in recent years that offer specific benefits for maintenance personnel. Let’s take a look at what seems to work best with certain topics or for various types of jobs and what employees can expect when they participate in an instructor-led course emphasizing hands-on learning, take self-paced training using a CD, take a course based on process simulation, or get training via the Internet.

Instructor-led training
A maintenance engineer who just completed a 3-day class commented, “I learned more today than I ever imagined. If I had come here for this training three years ago, I could have been doing a better job.” That’s a typical reaction, because instructor-led technical training provides a special learning opportunity that just does not exist elsewhere.

The highly qualified instructors, other experts, and facilities equipped for hands-on training provide a unique environment for learning advanced maintenance procedures and techniques. Students learn what it feels like to tear down and set up control valves, configure field instruments, troubleshoot control loops, etc., while receiving continuous feedback from the instructor. Many classes can be packaged and shipped, allowing the training to take place at a customer’s site or some other convenient location worldwide.

Among the compelling reasons to enroll employees in this type of training are the wealth of application information available, the opportunity to learn and practice essential skills, feedback from experts in the field, and interaction with others doing the same kinds of jobs with other companies.

Of course, the instructors are the heart of this training. They must possess a deep knowledge of their subjects and an ability to connect with classes. It takes an exceptional individual to tailor presentations to the level of the trainees in each class while making certain that all learn and understand the material. Instructors sometimes must win over a reluctant participant or tone down a “know-it-all” student without causing embarrassment. However, persons attending these courses are generally very receptive because they know it is important to their careers back home.

Hands-on workshops
Jobs that require manual dexterity and good hand-eye coordination are generally best learned through experience, including almost all mechanical maintenance and repair jobs. It seems easy enough to find a piece of equipment that is not being used, and let people tear it down and put it back together.

However, once they get it apart, will they know where to look for signs of wear or fatigue? How will they know what to fix on the inside? And will they be able to figure out the tricks involved in getting a complex assembly back together and functioning? Capable mechanics generally can do these things through trial and error, but most manufacturers cannot spare the time for on-the-job tinkering, and they cannot afford the possibility of an error causing a serious production problem.

Training courses designed to teach the skills needed by maintenance personnel must provide an opportunity for application of the information, practice, and feedback. This requires making available all the components personnel will encounter along with an instructor who can lead them through step-by-step procedures and be there as they practice. This is true whether the components are mechanical, i.e. valves, motors, pumps, etc., or electronic. Training equipment is continually updated with newer models, and the necessary tools, test equipment, and software also must be provided.

One of the newest approaches to training is eLearning, using the computer as a means of conveying information to individuals and helping them learn. Among the characteristics of eLearning are speed of delivery; message timeliness, accuracy, and consistency; and overall convenience, because the information can be accessed at any time from nearly any place. Many people can be trained at a relatively low unit cost without sending anyone away to attend a training program.

eLearning can be applied to a variety of general subjects with broad applications as well as specialized technical topics. Thus it can be used for management and supervisor training as well as for operators and technicians. In many cases, trainees can select specific topics from a menu, rather than having to take an entire course. Students can refresh their memories by referring back to the training materials at a later time.

eLearning methods include CD-based or self-paced training, distance learning, simulations, and Internet-based training.

CDs are a very effective medium for teaching individuals how to use software or to learn new versions of software with which they are already familiar. They can be mass-produced inexpensively and are compatible with any computer equipped with a CD-ROM drive. All the tools and resources necessary to learn and use a new technology are provided, enabling trainees to make the most of their training time. Sometimes whole classes can take self-paced training under the guidance of a certified instructor, who answers questions, provides feedback, and helps each student move ahead.

Distance learning involves establishing an interactive learning environment between an instructor in one location and students gathered at a remote site. In some cases, they communicate via simultaneous two-way video and speakerphone hookups. Students and the instructor can see one another and engage in normal classroom activities. Distance learning can be especially beneficial for crews in remote locations, and when employees cannot leave the plant, distance learning is a good alternative to classroom programs.

The use of computers to simulate plant conditions and events is a more promising idea, and computer-based simulations for training on specific processes are available. These tend to be in the area of operator training, where a number of individuals must learn to interact with a process by observing a display and using a keyboard and mouse to respond. Students can be exposed to a wide range of conditions, including emergency situations, to which they must react, and they can practice over and over until they learn how to respond quickly to whatever the process throws at them. Simulations also may be useful for maintenance personnel, especially for troubleshooting, but a hands-on element must be added to enrich the learning experience.

Using the Internet for training may be the most promising advance in the realm of eLearning. Internet-based instruction is not expected to replace currently available training courses, but it will augment those offerings. It can be an instant source of “help” information on a specific process or type of equipment and can be especially useful to refresh individuals following an in-depth course.

The Internet is a perfect medium for transmitting newly developed information quickly to a widespread audience. This could include the latest engineering information, technical advisories, or troubleshooting tips.

The online format also allows more interactivity than other forms of eLearning. A person can communicate with an expert, ask a question, make a comment, or even enter a chat room set up for individuals interested in a specific issue, with the Internet serving as the medium for learning.

Blending the methods
Internet-based training offers many benefits and can be used to complement traditional instructor-led, hands-on classes, but eLearning will never replace the classroom experience.

One way to blend the best of the Internet with expert hands-on training would be to create core courses of basic subject material and make them available to the widest possible audience via the Internet. This could provide a uniform foundation for individuals who later will pursue higher-level courses in the classroom/workshop environment. MT

Dorothy Hellberg is director of Emerson Learning Solutions, Emerson Process Management, 205 S. Center St., Marshalltown, IA 50158; (641) 754-3700

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7:15 pm
December 1, 2003
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Professional Development: Alive and Well (or at least Getting Better)

Diagnosis: Among the victims of the economic slowdown over the past few years have been many professional development programs. Companies and individuals alike have been rather reluctant to “invest” (I believe PD is an investment, not an expense) significantly in training or educational opportunities.

While many of us would agree that this has often been shortsighted, we probably would also agree that limited finances require prudent controls and reduced cash outflow. Difficult decisions have to be made and perhaps we in the profession need to do a better job of helping companies and individuals understand the long-term value of developing the professional skills of our people and ourselves.

However, there is good news. This situation appears to be changing as the economy seems to be headed toward better times. And as the old adage suggests, “a rising tide floats all boats.” Thus, things are also looking better for the world of professional development.

Conferences: Recently I attended the SMRP annual conference in Indianapolis. This year it had record attendance, essentially double what attendance was a few short years ago. These attendees were primarily practitioners looking for knowledge, information, networking—in other words, looking to develop their professional skills and stature.

There are several other conferences that are being planned and advertised by various entities for next year. Let’s hope that the attendance increase the SMRP conference experienced is also reflected in these other conferences. These are great places to quickly gather information and develop some excellent ideas to enhance your performance and that of your business.

Certification: Just over 100 people took the SMRP Certifying Organization’s exam at the conference, attempting to become Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (CMRP). To date more than 600 people have taken this exam. The successful ones who pass the exam gain recognition of their own personal professional development. And the unsuccessful ones learn of their areas that need improvement and can use that information to seek further training or education.

Exams such as this help us develop our capabilities by pushing us to excel and to succeed. Other certifications also exist throughout the industry and serve to push us forward toward professional excellence. Those who choose to participate in these types of certification programs improve their own capabilities and then are prepared to transfer those improvements into their businesses.

Education: Those of you who have read my column before know that I am a strong proponent of having more university involvement in the maintenance and reliability field. Wes Hines from the University of Tennessee gave an excellent presentation at SMRP outlining current U.S. university participation as well as a comparison of the U.S. approach to that in other countries.

He also discussed the quickly growing and improving techniques of delivering educational programs to off-campus sites such as the student’s home or workplace. Watch for this area of education delivery to expand rapidly.

Training: One of the things very obvious at the SMRP conference was the great number of companies offering training in the maintenance and reliability field. A number of exhibitors extolled their capabilities in providing both specialized and general training. Several of the presenters alluded to their internal and external training programs.

One needs only to look through the advertisements in this magazine to realize the diversity and number of offerings. Or, one can follow the various summaries of training opportunities that appear in this PDQ section each quarter.

Prognosis: Professional Development programs appear to be gaining strength and growing stronger, following along with the economy. This is a great sign for the profession. Only as we as individuals, and as the maintenance and reliability field, continually develop ourselves in our professional lives will we truly become professionals.

If we want maintenance and reliability to be included in the leadership of our businesses, we must achieve professional stature and be recognized for it. I believe that Professional Development in our field is alive, is getting better, and can “get well” if we all push forward by participating in the ways described above. MT
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6:31 pm
December 1, 2003
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The Reliability Paradox

For the most part, we can describe in fairly exacting detail the functional components of a strong reliability program. Moreover, we are confident that implementing these reliability practices will yield results that benefit virtually every aspect of our business (cost, quality, service, safety and environmental performance, and capital turnover) and provide distinct competitive advantage. However, we seldom see these reliability practices and results in an operating plant. This is what I call the Reliability Paradox.

This is worse than the usual “knowing-doing” gap because of the certain knowledge that implementation will bring a definite step improvement in business results. It is almost as if reliability professionals are trying to give away $100 bills, but for unknown reasons there are few takers.

It is a real paradox, and one that we must resolve.

We know what to do, we recognize the benefits, but we just do not practice what we know. The question is why? Why is there such a large gap between knowing and doing when it comes to reliability? Here are 10 reasons in increasing order of importance:

10. “Sins of the past” take time to correct. In some plants the impact of poor reliability practices has accumulated over a lengthy period—and will not be reversed in short order.

9. Reliability is truly an integrated discipline among engineering, production, purchasing, and maintenance (in addition to information technology, human resources, and finance) but is seldom practiced this way. Reliability is unfortunately often synonymous with maintenance only.

8. Reliability does not come equipped with a widely accepted set of simple metrics and structure that are broadly understood throughout the organization.

7. Reliability structure and jargon have not been standardized and are often confusing to the layman, most notably managers and senior executives whose support is critical to success.

6. Many managers and supervisors are unable to recognize good (or bad) reliability practices when they see them.

5. Even when they can distinguish good from bad practices, many supervisors and managers have too high a tolerance of poor performers and poor reliability practices.

4. Most organizations have a distorted view of reality and are not nearly as good as they think they are.

3. Reliability initiatives are seldom justified in business terms and, thus, fare poorly against competing initiatives.

2. We often have the wrong focus for reliability improvement (doing things right instead of doing the right things). We would improve reliability results significantly if we spent more time removing the need for maintenance vs simply rendering maintenance work more efficient.

1. Our understanding and skill at engaging organizational change is woefully lacking.

This last reason provides the greatest opportunity. Most of us developed our careers believing that if we made our arguments clearly and logically and we had the best interest of the organization at heart, our ideas would be accepted willingly. This is simply a myth.

Resistance to good ideas, including the introduction of sound reliability practices, can take many forms— from requests for endless detail to outright silence, and from sophisticated intellectual arguments to misleading compliance, etc. The underlying causes for resistance are lengthy and center on two main areas: Loss of control and feelings of vulnerability. We have to understand these dynamics to facilitate change.

Of course, dealing with feelings and emotions and trying to understand the nature of resistance to change are not generally the currency of reliability professionals and they are not addressed too well in the content of most reliability programs. Yet, these are skills that can be learned.

It is clear that the leadership role in addressing the reasons for our reliability paradox must come from the reliability professionals, for no one else is up to the job. No other group has the broad understanding of all of the issues.

The task of educating, collaborating, simplifying the metrics, identifying the need in business terms, etc., is the responsibility of reliability professionals. If we do not do this, we will always be on the periphery of the real game while others take center stage and the business falls well short of achievable results.

Reliability is core to manufacturing-based businesses, and reliability professionals must take the lead in having this widely recognized. No one else can or will. MT
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6:29 pm
December 1, 2003
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Nearly Seduced by the Dark Side


Robert C. Baldwin, CMRP, Editor

Rockwell Automation Fair, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Rockwell’s Allen-Bradley brand, drew more than 14,000 people (customers, speakers, exhibitors, and Rockwell personnel) to Milwaukee in mid-November.

Displays of advanced technology covering embedded sensors and adaptive control (including a lubrication sensor for monitoring the health of critical fluids), diagnostics and prognostics (including adaptive control for motors, pumps, and fans), open system architecture for condition-based maintenance (leveraging IEEE and MIMOSA standards), agent-based recon-figurable systems, integrated information systems, and wireless communication were quite impressive.

No less impressive were pavilions featuring more traditional products and services, including information and communication technology that can enable reliability personnel or anyone in the plant with appropriate access to a browser on the network to query, monitor, measure, trend, and analyze a host of data inputs: speed, cycles, time, pressure, temperature, vibration, current, force, process recipes, production rate, analytical reports, inventory, order status, and more.

As was explained at the Fair, the right system programmed with the right alarms can tell you when and where to do maintenance. Sounds like a neat trick. And it is.

These systems provide answers to a number of advanced maintenance challenges. I’m fascinated by their potential in maintenance and reliability. But am I, in my enthusiasm, becoming like Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars, in danger of being seduced by the dark side of the Force and turned into a Darth Vader? Almost, but not quite.

As intriguing as these systems are, they are only part of the equation. How do you determine the alarm level? How do you reduce the number of alarms? How will you respond to the work orders that system kicks out? How do you reconcile maintenance and production requirements?

Now you are back on the hard-core maintenance engineering side. The control system can be a powerful tool, but it must be made to serve the maintenance side of the Force.

Control and automation engineers can be your allies and help you get the information you need to do the right maintenance if you can get them to understand the full scope of maintenance engineering.

We must induce them to come over from the dark side. But, which side is the dark side? It is always the other side. What we really need is the power of logic and smart business management to enlighten both sides and build a team to serve the enterprise. MT


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4:52 pm
December 1, 2003
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Making a Solid Business Case for a Maintenance Plan

Success factors for a business-based approach

While most maintenance professionals understand the untapped value hidden in plant assets, making the case to corporate leadership for maximizing these assets is an ongoing battle. Perhaps the biggest problem with maintenance is its historically negative image that prevents it from getting the respect it deserves. As a result, maintenance is often excluded from the corporate business planning process.

Nevertheless, maintenance remains one of the few business areas where even a modest improvement can provide significant increases to company profits. Therefore, it might be assumed that gaining management support for maintenance initiatives would be easy. Instead, when maintenance presents its case, it is often met with indifference and detachment.

How does an organization move from an emergency-mode, fail-and-fix environment to a culture of predict and prevent? Management has to be convinced that maintenance is a critical business center that deserves prominent strategic consideration. A well-conceived plan is necessary to do this.

Developing a strategic plan
No company would attempt to operate without a viable business plan—the same applies to a maintenance department. As a strategic roadmap, the maintenance plan should accurately assess the current situation, outline what will be achieved, and explain how results will be shown. The plan should include documentation that supports the business case and demonstrates clear, measurable benefits. It should effectively articulate what will be accomplished and how the activities will relate to the underlying business goals. Finally, the plan should be logical, results-oriented, and have a strong sense of urgency.

Managing assets strategically requires that every organizational function work toward the same goals. Achieving organizational alignment requires building a case that motivates every level of the organization to become involved. This means constantly communicating and demonstrating the benefits of the strategy.

Equally important is the goal itself: the simpler, more focused, and more inspirational the goal, the greater the chance it will be achieved. Once a shared vision is established, this cohesiveness should lead to positive financial results, continuous improvement, and breakthroughs in creating value.

Which direction should the plan take? More specifically, what kind and how much maintenance should be done? The tactical direction of the plan should be based on critical departmental data, which often resides in isolated information banks. Understanding what data is available and where it resides provides a good grasp of whether current systems are delivering the needed capabilities.

One of the basic principles of effective maintenance planning is determining the right tools for the job based upon the goals and tasks to be achieved. A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), for example, offers an effective platform for sharing data across departments, streamlining reporting and event tracking, and helping maintenance focus on the right objectives.

Assessing needs
Before proposing any investments, first conduct a broad-based assessment of the maintenance and engineering processes, as well as any activities that support manufacturing. The assessment should identify performance issues, establish baseline metrics, and outline recommended corrective actions, such as increased machine availability, reliability, and safety, which can be implemented through maintenance initiatives. This methodology also provides the metrics needed to present the value of maintenance to management.

The assessment should highlight the most critical assets and identify any factors that inhibit equipment or operator performance. When evaluating equipment criticality, managers also must consider both the probability of failure and the consequences associated with it. This allows managers to align resources to provide more attention to high-risk assets and fewer resources to low-risk assets.

Considerations are given to the environmental conditions and maintenance history of equipment to produce a mean time between failure (MTBF) report that predicts how long each component should last, given its performance history and current working conditions. An asset evaluation provides recommendations for inventory levels to ensure that all critical parts are available when needed and excess items are minimized. Companies then can make informed decisions based on calculated maintenance needs and determine opportunities for improvement in spare parts inventory.

Benchmarking is another tool managers may use to assess maintenance levels compared to organizations of similar size and function. Keep in mind that benchmarking provides baseline comparisons with companies whose practices may or may not be more effective than yours. Moreover, with benchmarking, the practices under comparison are largely tactical and seldom reveal any measurable progress or change in a company’s financial performance.

Integrating the maintenance function
The ability to integrate maintenance with the rest of the enterprise is a key ingredient of a proactive strategy and is critical for long-term success. Only recently has the technology been available to reliably provide the integration necessary to leverage information across the enterprise. Open communication networks and advanced software platforms allow companies to improve flow of information throughout the plant in a cost effective manner, making the connection from CMMS to production, scheduling, and procurement.

For example, planning long-term shutdowns for capital repairs requires an understanding of long-term sales and operations planning. Likewise, the plant supply chain needs to consider and integrate the maintenance function in order to be responsive and proactive. This requires rethinking how maintenance functions are executed in an organization as well as providing support through integrated systems that unite the data requirements across plant-wide systems and processes.

Case study: Continental Tire
Continental Tire is a good example. As the fourth-largest tire manufacturer in the world, Continental Tire North America makes nearly 10 million tires annually. At the company’s Mount Vernon, IL plant, a steady flow of materials and strong inventory management are required to ensure maximum production efficiency.

Realizing the importance of streamlining its inventory and parts repair management process, the company implemented a comprehensive asset management program to improve equipment reliability and reduce escalating repair costs. Integrated inventory tracking helps consolidate repairs and track overall repair rates to identify areas where efficiencies can be built into the process. For instance, if a pattern of repairs occurs on a particular machine over a period of time, storeroom managers work with maintenance engineers to find the root cause of equipment failure.

“ We’ve learned to take an active role and develop creative solutions to address key issues,” said Ed Stoller, plant manager and head of engineering at the facility. “For instance, after evaluating a large volume of repairs and finding a correlation between repairs and increased inventory of spare parts, we knew we needed to reduce machine failures. We identified one of our repair vendors as the source and began to test part repairs before sending them to the plant floor. The solution enabled us to maximize our warranties and dramatically cut our maintenance expenses.”

Maximizing external resources
Maintenance departments often struggle with finding enough internal capacity to handle all their responsibilities. According to the “2002 Maintenance and Reliability Survey” conducted by Rockwell Automation and MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY, limited manpower (53 percent) and budgetary constraints (47 percent) are the two most common barriers that keep companies from implementing more comprehensive asset management programs.

By leveraging external resources to support noncore functions, companies can more effectively maximize their production assets and quickly adapt to changing business conditions. Whether applied across an enterprise or focused solely on maintenance, a collaborative strategy is preferable to reactive quick fixes, which are more expensive and less effective over the long term.

In practice, a collaborative maintenance strategy can include on-line condition-based or real-time process control monitoring; direct access to technical assistance, organization, or procedural changes; customized employee training; storeroom management; and onsite support or enterprise asset management integration tools. However it is implemented, the strategy is designed to isolate performance inhibitors and identify the main factors vital to productivity performance.

Case study: Air Liquide America
Air Liquide America, a leading supplier of gasses to a wide variety of industries, is expanding the scope of its predictive maintenance using condition-based monitoring to help reduce maintenance costs and improve uptime at its U.S. gas production facilities. The condition-based monitoring equipment enables the gas supplier to remotely monitor critical machinery and equipment.

Since the majority of its facilities operate automatically or with a single technician, the company lacked sufficient resources at each site to effectively use the information gathered from the equipment. The collected data now goes to a single location where the company uses outside experts to analyze the information, identify developing faults in equipment, and correct them before they impact production or safety. The centralization of the data allows the company to monitor for machinery trends or recurring equipment failure across all of its sites.

Measuring the value of maintenance
Developing a set of methodologies for measuring and communicating the return on investment is the final step in any well-built maintenance plan and will further support the case for new initiatives. To ensure success, agree with management up front on how performance will be measured. For example, while management and maintenance may both measure equipment availability, inventory turns, uptime, and meeting production goals, management may focus on production per unit of maintenance or uptime.

The number of parameters that can be measured in a plant is broad. However, when it comes to developing a strategic plan, less is more because the more indicators, the greater the risk that two or more will be contradictory. Then a significant amount of time and effort is spent trying to reconcile the differences, which distracts from the main task of improving performance. For maximum effectiveness, use a small number of easily understood measures that are relevant, timely, and tie closely with business goals.

Perhaps most importantly, the metrics have to be controllable by those who are being held accountable for performance. The strongest performance measures are owned by those who can influence performance and use them effectively to drive performance improvements.

The quality of effectiveness, such as the cost of downtime as a result of unreliable equipment, needs to be measured to get a true picture of success. The performance measures should reflect how the maintenance department is providing value.

Where to place maintenance efforts can be quickly determined by measuring the production value of downtime. This enables a more accurate focus on the planning process by identifying what costs the most. What are the patterns? Where should efforts be focused?

Return on assets (ROA) is another key indicator used to measure the impact of maintenance activities. ROA is a calculation of how well a company converts assets to sales and, therefore, profits. By definition, an asset is anything that has value. However, large numbers of assets tie up cash, increase the expense of carrying inventory, and reduce profitability. Improving maintenance can positively impact all sides of the ROA equation. This, in turn, can drive a company’s stock price and ultimately determine shareholder value—a metric that corporate leaders are sure to understand.

In considering a measurement strategy, keep in mind that a key factor in the success of the plan is its ability to deliver early, tangible results. It is not advisable to design a plan that requires a major up-front investment, but offers no evidence of improved performance until full-scale implementation is in place. It is important to come up with a series of short-term, easy-to-demonstrate wins. Promoting these wins as they happen can build momentum and support for the plan.

While a well-crafted maintenance plan will not solve all problems, it does provide a credible platform and the supporting documentation needed to be a full partner in the business process. More importantly, it widens accountability for financial performance from the top floor to the plant floor—a trend that is certain to pay dividends. MT

Mike Laszkiewicz is the vice president of the asset management business at Rockwell Automation, 1201 S. Second St., Milwaukee, WI 53204 Continue Reading →