Archive | 2003

182

2:55 pm
December 1, 2003
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Strategies for an Effective Airborne Ultrasound Program

It would be great if every piece of technology ever bought paid immediate dividends. And if every tool or instrument purchased lived up to its initial billing and was implemented full scale to perform the jobs it was purchased for. The reality is that everyone has made a purchase or implemented a plan with good intentions but never realized the full benefits. This happens for a reason: going forward with no strategy.

Integral to maintenance
Airborne ultrasound inspection is an important part of any company’s predictive maintenance practice. Savings in energy costs, downtime reduction, catastrophic failure avoidance, predictive lubrication procedures, improved product quality, improved building safety and efficiency, and increased employee awareness are some of the benefits of a good program. Despite the obvious benefits, too many companies have invested in this technology with poor results. They had a good idea, but they did not have a good plan.

During a plant visit, it is customary for a vendor to be invited out to the plant floor after a brief presentation of the technology to show the customer the equipment in action. It does not take long after the customer handles the equipment to see how easy it is to find a compressed air leak in a noisy plant environment. Perhaps a faulty steam trap is identified. One customer found a serious and dangerous fault in a high voltage switch panel the first time he picked up the equipment.

These immediate findings are impressive, and often enough justification for a purchase. But finding a faulty steam trap or a compressed air leak does not save a company any money or improve the efficiency of the facility. It just identifies a potential problem. A strategy must be in place to repair the problem once it is found, or even assess if the problem is worthy of the cost of repair.

Setting up a program
Assembling a team and identifying the needs of an airborne ultrasound program is an important first step as it serves two ends. First, it will be immediately discovered that the primary reason for initializing a program is only a small portion of the final needs list. And, it is a way to bring pessimists and doubters onboard. If the strategy does not include a way to convince all those opposed to the project, the project stands little chance of succeeding.

An airborne ultrasound program can address a number of issues in a facility:
• The compressed air system is full of leaks and compressors are at full capacity.
• The insurance company wants to see monthly PM on electrical systems.
• Overlubrication in rolling element bearings is causing unnecessary outages.
• The company wants to implement a simple but effective condition monitoring program.
• The vacuum on key processes cannot be held.
• Faulty steam traps are taxing the boiler room.
• Premature pump failures are attributed to cavitation.
• Leaks in building envelope raise HVAC costs in summer and spring.
• The company wants predictive maintenance in the hands of many rather than a few.
• Troubleshooting complex hydraulic systems will reduce overhaul time.
• The company wants to integrate technology to complement its infrared thermography and vibration analysis programs.

Understanding the full scope of ultrasound applications will triple or quadruple the size of the needs list. See the accompanying section “Steps To Set Up an Airborne Ultrasound Program.

Make the case
After the general need for an airborne ultrasound program has been identified and all the key players are onboard, the next step is to refine the needs and justify the reasons to proceed. Bring together all the key players and form a task force or decision team. Carefully examine the needs list point by point, evaluating the relative merits of each item. Capital will be needed to make the project work and in most cases that will mean selling the idea to a higher level of management.

Because the initial list is exhaustive and quite possibly long, it may be overwhelming to upper management. Decide whether it makes sense to present the entire list or to key on one or two hot points to sell the project. If the latter makes more sense, then choose one or two (or three at most) applications and demonstrate how improvements would be justified with an inspection program in place.

One of the easiest methods to justify ultrasound inspection is leak detection in a compressed air system. If 40 percent of compressed air capacity is lost to leaks (the industry norm if no leak program is in place) and that can be cut to 10 percent (the industry target with a leak program in place), compressor energy consumption and wear and tear will decrease by up to 30 percent.

Bearing failures are another means of justification. Can key machines that will shut down production in the event of failure be identified? A $35 bearing can stop a production line as quickly as a $35,000 bearing. Whatever the justification that is presented to management, be sure to make a solid business case and have everyone onboard.

Set goals
Establishing goals for the program shows that the project is well organized, the participants are serious about making it work, and everyone agrees on the direction and scope of the program. Using the same example of compressed air leaks, the goal can be as simple as reducing leakage from 40 to 10 percent. Another objective may be to move one compressor to standby service. How about reducing or eliminating all bearing failures related to improper lubrication?

Wherever the targets are set, they must be realistically attainable, easily benchmarked, and not carved in stone. Goals exist to add purpose to a project. Making the goals too rigid or unattainable can have a negative effect or even kill the program. It is recommended that plateaus be set for each goal and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the program is on course and that the goals still fit the program. Good and realistic goal setting will aid the next part of the strategy—measuring the return on investment of the ultrasound inspection program.

Return on investment
In the first part of the strategy it was suggested to identify all the reasons why an ultrasound program should be established and then zero in on one or two key reasons and use those for the justification. If it was rationalized that an ultrasound inspection program would save the company money by improving the steam delivery system, a strategy needs to be in place to back up that claim. How will success be measured? Brainstorm as a team and come up with some suggestions. Here are a few examples:

Steam traps
• Identified and replaced 25 faulty steam traps
• Increased quality of steam at process end
• Reduced energy consumption in the boiler room by 15 percent

Air leaks
• Found and tagged 75 compressed air leaks in first month
• Repaired 90 percent of leaks during planned outage.
• Took electrical readings at the compressor and noticed amp reduction of 28 percent for a savings of $35,500.

Purchase equipment, establish training
Before selecting ultrasound equipment, arrange an in-house demonstration and take the instrument to task. Be sure to have a clear understanding of equipment capabilities, and attempt to get out onto the plant floor and try the equipment in real-life situations. The section “Equipment Selection Guidelinesoutlines some features to look for in equipment.

Lack of training is the single biggest killer of airborne ultrasound programs. Users need to be aware of the vastness of applications for airborne ultrasound. “You mean you can scan electrical switchgear with that thing?” or “We bought it to find compressed air leaks and had no idea we could use it for that” are comments heard frequently.

It is proven that certified airborne ultrasound graduates go back to their respective companies more confident and more resolved to get results from their program. Knowledge is gold and without it your program is dead.

Certification training should not be restricted to the operators. Both end users and managers should become certified to at least Level 1. It has been noted that an ultrasound program would be better served if the managers received some instruction and understanding about the technology.

Choose a leader
Leadership qualities often emerge from unlikely candidates. Everyone possesses the characteristics to become a leader, but is not always thrust into a position that allows leadership qualities to come through. Based on experience, companies that have implemented successful and effective airborne ultrasound programs did not have to look for a leader. After the team was assembled and needs were identified, a leader emerged by default.

This person played the largest role in identifying the right equipment to purchase, and excelled during Level 1 training. After the program was implemented, results were benchmarked and successes were rewarded. When there were doubts, the leader provided or found an honest and useful answer.

People can lead when called upon as long as they conduct themselves honestly, have confidence in themselves, can execute with passionate conviction, and, while able to work in a team environment, ultimately are willing to be fully accountable for failures within the program. There will be no shortage of people willing to take credit for the successes.

Reward success
As important as it is to benchmark results to validate the program, it is equally important to validate the efforts of the people making it all work. Rewarding successes can have a motivational effect that will propel the project forward and ensure its survival during lean times.

One agenda for the regular maintenance meeting should be to establish a reward structure that is fair and fun. It does not have to cost a lot of money—or any money at all. It could be as simple as a posted notice on the lunchroom bulletin board or a mention in the monthly company newsletter.

Review to maintain commitment
As part of the regular maintenance meeting, time should be set aside to review the progress of the project. This process should not be difficult. Pull out the written strategy and goal sheet and one by one address each point to ensure everyone is on target.

Are goals being reached or do they need to be revised? Are the goals set too low? If so, revise them with more challenge, and therefore more positive impact for the project. Acknowledge participants who have given more effort than required and open the floor to allow a free flow of knowledge exchange. Use this forum as an opportunity to share new ideas and new uses for the tool.

Document the findings and contact the equipment supplier to write a case study. Getting published in a nationally distributed trade journal can be a satisfying and motivational experience. Publish the review on the company intranet. Frequent review of results will ensure that everyone involved is 100 percent mentally invested in the success of the program.

Airborne and structure-borne ultrasonic inspection provides industry with an efficient solution for all kinds of preventive and predictive maintenance functions. It is considered by some to be the most important reliability tool based on its versatility, low cost, and ease of use. It is a tool that can be used right out of the box with immediate success and payback. A program strategy based on the steps outlined in this article will ensure the success of ultrasonic inspection in virtually any industry. MT


Information supplied by Allan Rienstra, SDT North America, P.O. Box 682, Cobourg, ON K9A 4R5; telephone (800) 667-5325

STEPS TO SET UP AN AIRBORNE ULTRASOUND PROGRAM
• Assemble a team and identify needs for a program
• Justify needs by recognizing key areas where improvement can be benchmarked
• Set written goals for the program
• Establish how ROI will be measured
• Purchase quality ultrasonic inspection equipment
• Invest in certification training at both management and user levels
• Choose a leader to technically carry the program forward
• Establish a system to reward the successes
• Frequently review the progress as part of regular meetings
• Ensure everyone involved is 100 percent mentally invested in the program’s success

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EQUIPMENT SELECTION GUIDELINES
• Quality: A first class program needs first class equipment.
• Accuracy: The strategy is dependent upon benchmarking so whatever data is collected needs to be accurate.
• Repeatability: Monitoring the condition of rotating equipment involves trending and comparing data that is repeatable.
• Digital: Choose equipment that uses current technology. If the equipment is not true digital it cannot be used for accurate data trending.
• True RMS: How the signal is measured is as important as how it is stored. Equipment with true RMS capability provides a signal that is linear and stable for accuracy and repeatability.
• Easy to use: Controls should be logical and accessible.
• Upgradeable software: Can the system be enhanced with future upgrades?
• Route capable data collection: This is necessary for benchmarking.
• Multi-functional: Some manufacturers offer sensors with added functionality such as temperature guns, tachometers, noise sensors, and flow meters.
• Warranty: Extended warranties are often available.
• Training: Look for equipment that offers certification training. A 2½ day ASNT approved course is normally sufficient to get users and managers up to speed.

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212

3:09 am
November 2, 2003
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Developing an EAM Ecosystem

An implementation matrix shows how each module affects others and helps in maintaining balance.

Defining enterprise asset management (EAM) can be difficult. The answer depends on whom you ask. If you ask a strategist, a consultant, RCM/TPM specialist, or an industrial asset management professional to define EAM, the answer might include key performance indicator (KPI) tracking, reliability based maintenance, and/or Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). Or, if you ask the same question to a corporate process specialist or consulting firm that specializes in MRO, the answer may encompass the portfolio of MRO or asset management work processes.

If the same question is asked of an IT applications professional or software vendor, the response will likely be that EAM is a category of enterprise software that includes maintenance, asset management, and other types of plant applications. In contrast, a group of engineers (either internal or contract service) may respond that EAM is descriptive of the capture and maintenance of copious amounts of asset, inventory, and other data that allows an organization to establish and manage its installed asset base.

Each of these answers is technically correct. However, the true meaning of EAM encompasses all of these answers. Taken individually, each represents a partial answer, but in totality they describe the integrated concept of EAM.

The asset manager understands this integrated concept of EAM. This is the person who perspires the most whenever key EAM issues are discussed. It is also the individual responsible for maintaining maximum production capacity from installed assets at the lowest possible operating cost balanced with safety and regulatory imperatives.

This person might be a corporate officer, a manufacturing executive, a plant manager, a maintenance manager, an engineering officer on a military ship, a facilities manager at a university, or any of a number of positional descriptions.

System components
There are a number of core components of EAM:

• EAM strategy defines how a company expects to produce the highest capacity at the lowest cost. Normally this includes measurement and tracking of continuous improvement-based key performance indicators integrated with resource and planning optimization strategies such as reliability centered maintenance and/or TPM. Strategy is exceptionally important in the overall concept of EAM because it sets the direction and tone for all the other elements.

• MRO processes describe producing maximized efficiency and results in the myriad major and minor processes. Some of these processes include inventory management, work planning and estimating, MRO purchasing, calibration management, capital projects, and scheduling, as well as other major and minor processes. In order to get the maintenance work accomplished, support EAM strategy objectives, and capitalize on installed EAM technologies, these processes must be engineered to the highest degrees of efficiency and common sense.

• EAM technologies constitute major enablers. They span the spectrum from high-end, enterprise-wide computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to calibration management software, pressure vessel and valve tracking applications, predictive maintenance software, handheld applications, and many more. The chief function of these applications is to use basic engineering data in order to provide an automated tool set to support MRO process operations, while simultaneously producing empirical data suitable for analysis and KPI tracking.

• Engineering data content represents the element-level electronic information that defines an organization’s asset base, inventory stock, operations, resources, and maintenance procedures. Engineering data serves as the basic building block of the overlaying technology tools, which in turn are used to support MRO processes. Fundamental EAM strategy execution is impossible without the data, systems, or processes.

• People are the final element of EAM. People are the obvious key ingredient in all aspects of the business function. People form and track the EAM strategy. People perform the MRO operations. People install, configure, and maintain the EAM technologies. People create and maintain the engineering data. Finally, people turn the wrenches that maintain the assets that are operated by people who generate the products or services for which the organization exists. People are the binding element, the glue that holds the entire structural integrity of EAM together. They need to be trained, organized, and deployed throughout the EAM function.

The EAM ecosystem
Having established the elements of EAM, the tools are available to discover why some organizations have been so successful with this endeavor and others have not.

What the successful companies all have in common is treating the function of EAM as an ecosystem. Just like a natural ecosystem, balance must be maintained. For example, if the algae population in a forest pond is wiped out, shortly thereafter the small minnows will die, followed by the frogs, larger fish, and local waterfowl population. Any disruptive influence on this balance produces catastrophic, unintended consequences to the whole.

Similarly, spending an enormous amount of energy and effort executing a worldwide EAM technology implementation is wonderful. However, it falls apart quickly when a company realizes that its legacy data is bad, or if its processes remained exactly as they were before, or the technology is incapable of producing meaningful KPIs.

Many well-intentioned organizations embark on significant EAM efforts, spending enormous amounts of money, time, and effort only to realize in the final analysis that their EAM function has not improved in any real sense. They realize their data is insufficient to support the technology functions. They realize they did not build in the capability to track mission-critical KPI information. Processes were redesigned without an eye toward how they would either improve capacity or save operating dollars. The list of possible failure scenarios is endless but in the simplest terms, each drives down to missing one or more components of the EAM ecosystem during the initiative.

Just like the pond analogy, EAM is a business system in which any effort, improvement, or modification has to be done from a balanced perspective, taking into account all of the components. The EAM ecosystem is composed of the previously discussed components and can be further divided according to common EAM functional areas depicted in Fig. 1.

Implementation strategy
Today, changes or improvements to the EAM ecosystem occur on an ongoing basis as companies deploy new strategies, processes, technologies, or other elements in an effort to improve their asset utilization or lower maintenance-based operating costs. This is an excellent development since EAM has historically been an overlooked function and most asset-intensive organizations have room to improve operations while also lowering costs.

As a result, many organizations are now deploying next generation EAM technology-based solutions. This allows them to implement asset management processes, and develop and integrate EAM strategies and other forward-thinking initiatives geared toward producing extremely efficient asset utilization and capacity.

However, it is crucial that each particular initiative be evaluated and planned up front, from the perspective of all the components of the EAM ecosystem. No single initiative is just process oriented, data oriented, or technology oriented. Each initiative impacts the others. Remember, EAM is not a technology, nor a process, nor engineering. It is all of these things combined with people. It is an ecosystem.

Implementation of a world-class EAM framework has to involve a balanced and thoughtful approach to these interdependencies or it is almost certain to fail. Implementation is further complicated by other factors including organizational structure, cost/benefit considerations, component vs functional deployment strategies, and others.

Fig. 2 describes a partial example of an EAM matrix implementation model. The five component elements of EAM serve as the vertical axis, while the major functional areas of EAM (partial in this example) are viewed horizontally. This breaks down the entire EAM model into modules, which then can be used to assist with conceptualizing, planning, tracking, and executing EAM initiatives. The matrix breaks a very big business area down into bite-sized pieces, which is often helpful.

A fully EAM-optimized organization would have produced a solution in each one of the modular areas of the matrix across its full enterprise. This might have been accomplished in one major overhaul or could have been the result of many independently originated initiatives executed over time. Of course, time does not stand still, so even a fully optimized organization needs to periodically reevaluate itself to determine if new room for improvement has emerged in any one or many areas.

Planning considerations
Producing and deploying an EAM optimization strategy across a large asset-intensive organization is no small task. However, approaching it piece by piece and considering four equally important planning considerations will certainly help:

• Precedence order. All of the pieces of the matrix have obvious interdependencies. However, looking both vertically and horizontally some degree of precedence order can be established. For example, it is more sensible to rationalize and optimize the asset management function and base prior to trying to tackle predictive maintenance, which is really driven by installed asset base. Or along the vertical axis, does it really make sense to develop an extensive EAM KPI-based strategy prior to ensuring the engineering data necessary to support this is available? When evaluating precedence order ask the question, “Is there another matrix piece I should do first which will improve my ability to implement the module I am considering?”

• EAM function vs EAM component focus. Will a functional or component-based approach be used? For example, implement completely optimized MRO inventory management across all components before worrying about predictive maintenance. Or separately implement MRO process engineering improvements across all functional areas prior to worrying about other components such as technology or strategy.

This is a complicated consideration and should be approached with three things in mind: modular interdependencies (do not go too far implementing an EAM technology prior to engineering processes, for example), ease/speed of implementation, and cost/benefit of the initiative.

• Deployment scale and schedule. The next consideration is one that the model does not necessarily depict, but is essential. Most organizations are made up of modules themselves—organizational divisions, geographic divisions, and/or separate plants. Consider how to roll out an initiative not just across the matrix, but also across this organizational or physical structure.

A pilot organization or plant may be chosen to fully optimize and then the initiative can be scaled across the full enterprise, or the EAM strategy component first may be optimized across the full enterprise and then another module or set of modules may be rolled out. Similar to the previous point, consider interdependencies, ease/speed, and cost/benefit.

• Cost, impact, and effort. The final consideration is cost, impact, and effort, vs intended benefit. This is the essence of the business decision-making process. Some areas of optimization have large costs and efforts associated with them. Other areas can be significantly disruptive to ongoing operations. Consider these impacts vs the intended benefits of the initiative and prioritize accordingly.

Now that these complex and seemingly contradictory considerations are on the table, it might be beneficial to go back to the starting point of the model. Take a simple approach to EAM optimization and then scale it accordingly. Stick with basic fundamentals. No one piece is any more important than any other. There is no magical elixir. MT


Rob MacArthur is chief strategy officer at GenesisSolutions, 100 Danbury Rd., Suite 105, Ridgefield, CT 06877; (203) 431-0281

 

THE EAM ECOSYSTEM

 

1103eamfig1

Fig. 1. An EAM is a business system in which any effort, improvement, or modification has to be done from a balanced perspective, taking into account all of the components.

 

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EAM MATRIX

1103eamifg2

Fig. 2. This matrix breaks down the entire EAM model into modules, which then can be used to assist with conceptualizing, planning, tracking, and executing initiatives.

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858

2:29 am
November 2, 2003
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Want to Contribute to an Open Source CMMS?

Think about how most computerized maintenance management system software packages are developed. A software developer or a group of software developers are hired by BigTime-CMMS Inc., given a set of specifications, and set about writing all the code that results in the latest version of your CMMS.

In a perfect world, this would result in software that makes managing maintenance activities and maintenance information a breeze.

In a recent CMMS Best Practice benchmarking survey conducted at Reliabilityweb.com and Maintenancebenchmarking.com completed by more than 650 participants, only 20 percent reported satisfaction with their CMMS implementation. Over half reported that the CMMS failed to generate the expected return on investment. There is a severe disconnect between what the market wants and what commercial CMMS software delivers.

Now think about how many times your Windows operating system has crashed. If we are PC users, we all think that Windows is the only operating system we can use. We also know that we have very little influence on the quality and features of current and future versions of Windows. Mr. Gates has decided not to let us have access to the source code so we can change it or make improvements. That is perfectly within his rights as the creator and owner of the software.

Linux is open source system
If you read anything about computers, you have probably heard of Linux, a free “open source” operating system for PCs and Web servers. It is quickly gaining ground on Windows because in some ways, it is simply better. There is a thriving community of programmers who work on improving Linux in their spare time and they have created an operating system that poses a serious threat to Microsoft. IBM and Dell now offer Linux operating system options.

According to Eric Raymond’s “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”, “The developer who uses only his or her own brain in a closed project is going to fall behind the developer who knows how to create an open, evolutionary context in which feedback exploring the design space, code contributions, bug-spotting, and other improvements comes from hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people.

“Linux was the first project for which a conscious and successful effort to use the entire world as its talent pool was made. No closed-source developer can match the pool of talent the Linux community can bring to bear on a problem.”

Develops own CMMS
If you are now feeling inspired about open source software, meet Chris Morris, a plant engineer for a food company who developed an open source CMMS out of sheer necessity. According to Morris, “When the money for a commercial CMMS was chopped from my budget, I picked up a PHP/MySQL book and intended to write a bare bones work order system. I got a bit carried away and soon realized that the quality and functionality of commercial CMMSs were not beyond my reach.

“I decided to release the code as open source hoping that others would find the program useful and contribute to its development. Commercial CMMS packages typically cost upwards of $10,000. I think within a year, open source CMMS can implement 80 percent of the functionality of most commercial packages at (if my major in math serves correctly) 0 percent of the cost.”

Morris and a couple other maintenance managers/engineers are working on this open source web-based CMMS. If you are interested in a CMMS that costs nothing, comes with full source code, runs on a variety of platforms, and requires only a standards compliant web browser (IE, Mozilla, Netscape, Opera, etc.) on the client, then check out the project at http://free-cmms.sf.net.

This is not a hacked together MS Access program. It uses the PHP and MySQL database (both free, open source software packages).

In development stage
Morris asked us to mention that this is not a mature application ready for deployment (note that I said de-ploy-ment not de-velop-ment). It is currently a seed, developed as a proof of concept to attract developers and user feedback. Unless major resources are devoted to its development, it will probably take another year to get ready for general use.

Morris encourages readers to check out the application (there is a demo at the web site), then check out the code. PHP is an easy language to learn and modifications are encouraged. For those noncoders reading this, you should know that the open source nature of the project means that you will never be dependent on any single vendor to support the product. Feature requests and suggestions on the user interface and design are encouraged.

This open source CMMS is far from complete but, according to its authors, it can replace a paper work order system and scheduled PMs are coming soon. It is released under the GPL license, and is free to use and free to modify (see the GPL license at www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html).

If you have a knack for programming and are interested in an open source CMMS made by plant maintenance personnel for plant maintenance personnel visit http://free-cmms.sf.net. MT

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245

1:42 am
November 2, 2003
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New EPA Rule May Change Plant Cleanup

Maintenance staff needs to know proper procedures to avoid liability.

A company can use tens of thousands of disposable industrial wipers and rental shop towels annually to maintain top performance in a wide variety of precision manufacturing equipment and other maintenance operations. Industry sales in the U. S. for industrial wipers alone are more than $1 billion per year.

With this widespread use, and with new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), proper laundering and disposal practices need to be an important component of the maintenance technology manager’s toolbox, and knowledge of proper handling techniques is essential to avoiding environmental liabilities.

The EPA’s new rule spells out the environmental responsibilities for waste generators (i.e., companies that use wipers and towels). This rule places both rental shop towels and disposable industrial wipers under the same federal authority. Previously, rental shop towels were under local and state regulations, but not federal. Only disposable industrial wipers were under federal control.

Knowing the details of this new rule will help engineers and managers successfully integrate industrial wipers and rental shop towels into their environmental strategies and avoid liability for violations.

Who is responsible for environmental problems?
Liability for environmental violations rests on the waste generator—the company using the industrial wiper or shop towel—not the industrial laundry or the waste hauler. The common misperception among many companies has been that as long as they used rental shop towels and sent them to an industrial laundry, they were free of liability. This is not the case; companies have responsibility even after the towels and wipers have left their property.

But the good news is that compliance to the new rule will be relatively simple, as long as users follow a few procedures. See accompanying section “EPA Rule at a Glance.

Companies that generate less than 250 pounds of solvents per month are exempt from the rule. Companies with more than 250 pounds per month should note that wipers and rental towels follow different procedures depending on how the wipers are to be treated (i.e., municipal landfill, incineration, industrial laundry, etc.).

Under the new rule, pre-treatment practices are required when necessary to remove excess liquid on wipers and towels. Practices such as centrifuging, microwave extraction, gravity, or mechanical wringing are recommended. This allows maintenance crews to reduce the residue to EPA-approved limits before sending wipers and towels out the door.

Wipers and towels with grease and oil can be treated as regular solid waste if they meet the “no drip” rule. This literally means that if the item is wrung out, it does not drip. No special handling is needed before laundering or disposal.

Another key is storage and transportation. Traditionally, rental towels and wipers were often stored in open bins. They now must be stored and transported in closed containers. The EPA found that open bins of solvent-soiled wipers and towels, in particular, were one of the chief causes of indoor air pollution at plants. In addition, EPA notes that rental towels and industrial wipers stored in open containers also led to fires and other safety hazards. These issues of air quality and safety have now also become major concerns for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulators.

The maintenance equation
Quality maintenance and performance reliability must always be given priority when selecting tools and supplies. In the past, managers responsible for plant equipment maintenance tended toward rental shop towels because shop towels represented a “no hassle” approach. The industrial laundry, managers assumed, would assume liability once the towels left the plant. In addition, since rental towels were laundered and reused, managers saw this as environmentally preferable to disposables, which raised questions about resource conservation.

However, as the EPA began to look more closely into environmental issues of rental towel laundering, it found that when rental shop towels from industrial plants were laundered, the solvent and oil-based wastewater put burdens on municipal water systems, requiring extra resources for clean up. According to the EPA, in some cases the polluted wastewater overflowed into drinking water.

Points to consider before selection
When plant maintenance and reliability engineers consider whether to use a shop towel or disposable wiper, the new regulations should be used as a guide for determining the benefits of each option.

Performance and cost are obviously key issues. Today when managers must do more with less, the cost of each option becomes very important. What is the cost to buy vs cost to rent? For rentals, are there environmental or disposal fees for laundry sludge? Are there lost or replacement fees? Are there fuel or energy surcharges? For disposable industrial wipers, are there cost/performance benefits to buying different task-specific sizes and textures, rather than renting one-size, one-texture shop towels?

With safety issues, if rental towels are used, what is the track record of the laundry? Has it delivered towels that have contained leftover residue of solvents or metal chards that did not wash out from a previous use? Since laundries contract to deliver a specified number of towels each week to each customer, but not the same towels back to the same customer, residue can be a problem. If disposable wipers are used, will the supplier guarantee consistent quality and competitive pricing?

Finally, which method, rental shop towels or disposable wipers, represents an acceptable environmental position for the company? Rental towels are reusable, but generate polluted wastewater. Disposable industrial wipers are sent to the landfill; but according to an EPA study prepared by Lockheed Martin Environmental Services, wipers contribute less solid waste by weight in the landfill than rental towels.

The new EPA rule is expected to appear in the Federal Register within the next 60 days, and should go into effect shortly thereafter.

With the new EPA regulations, this is an important time to re-examine maintenance policies. Doing so now will ensure that plant equipment can be maintained with the proper product that meets corporate environmental objectives. MT


Bernard D. Brill is executive vice president, SMART, 7910 Woodmont Ave., Suite 1130, Bethesda, MD 20814; (310) 656-1077. Martha Parker is an environmental writer.

EPA Rule at a Glance

1. Disposal industrial wipers were covered under EPA regulations prior to this new rule, while rental (laundered) towels were not. Instead, rental towels were governed by a wide variety of state and local laws. Impact: Bringing both rental towels and disposal wipers under one rule replaces a hodgepodge of regulations, making it easier for companies with multi-state locations to comply with regulations.

2. End-users (the operating facilities, not laundries or third-party haulers) are responsible for pollution discharges. Impact: Operating facilities need to closely monitor laundering or disposal of wipers and towels.

3. Companies that dispose of less than 250 pounds of hazardous waste per month are exempt from the following regulations. Companies that generate more than 250 pounds per month must adhere to these regulations. Impact: Plant operations should now include pre-treatment technology.
a. If waste is sent for disposal through a licensed combustion waste facility or to a nonlandfill facility, then the wipers must have “no free liquids.” In other words, although the wipers may have more than 5 grams of solvent on them, the wipers must be wrung to eliminate dripping liquids. Hand wringing is not permitted. Pre-treatment such as centrifuging, microwave extraction, or gravity draining are acceptable methods.
b. If waste is sent to a municipal or nonhazardous waste landfill, the wipers must be in “dry” condition, meaning that they contain less than 5 grams of solvent and are free of dripping liquids. Substances on the EPA list of “11 solvents of concern” may not be sent to these landfills under any conditions.
c. The EPA “11 solvents of concern” are: 2-nitropropane, nitrobenzene, MEK, methylene chloride, pyridine, benzene, cresols (o,m,p), carbon tetrachloride, chlorobenzene, tetrachloroethylene, and trichloroethylene. Nonhazardous substitutes are now available for some of these chemicals. Facility managers should contact their industry association for more information.
d. If a rental shop towel program is used, then free liquid must be removed before being sent to the laundry.
4. Wipers with solvents containing more than 5 grams of solvent must be stored in closed containers while at plant sites, rather than left in open bins where these pollutants can escape into the air. Impact: Indoor air quality at plants should improve.

5. Wipers with solvents must be transported in closed containers. Impact: To avoid environmental fines, managers must ensure that contractors comply.

6. Wipers and towels with grease and oil can be treated as regular solid waste if they meet the “no drip” rule. This literally means that if the item is wrung out, it does not drip. No special handling is needed before laundering or disposal. Impact: Treatment is simplified.

7. Recovery and recycling of spent solvents is encouraged, and most can be reused for industrial cleaning. Impact: Expect to save money on cleaning supplies.

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9:33 pm
November 1, 2003
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Motor Testing Proves Successful

At its primary location in Indianapolis, IN, Allison Transmission, part of General Motors Corp., uses the Total Motor Maintenance (TMM) concept every day from motor inventory and delivery to testing and reliability of motors.

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PLANNED MAINTENANCE PROCESS Fig. 1. Twelve linked elements of planned maintenance are integral to a successful process.

Quality network planned maintenance
Allison Transmission follows the General Motors North American (GMNA) United Auto Workers Quality Network Planned Maintenance (QNPM) process. This program provides a common process and consistent structure to ensure that equipment, machinery, tools, and facilities operate in a safe manner and are available to competitively produce the required products to meet customer needs.

Operating principles that define the direction the QNPM common process takes were referenced throughout the TMM planning and implementation process to ensure that all activities focused on accomplishing these objectives:

•  Provide on-going support and direction at the plant, division, and GMNA levels.

• Ensure that manufacturing is the champion and owner of the planned maintenance program.

• Create opportunities for all employees to participate in the process

• Implement the operator involvement concept

• Pursue proactive maintenance

• Achieve world-class performance in safety, quality, throughput, and cost

• Support continuous improvement

There are 12 interdependent elements in planned maintenance that are integral to a successful process. Each element contributes to and provides support for the others. The linked elements, in total, provide the base for the Planned Maintenance Process (Fig. 1).

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SUPPLIER PROGRAM COST SAVINGS, 2002 Fig. 2. Allison’s primary motor supplier reports on hard and soft savings monthly.

Supplier partnership
Commodity management is the term that Allison Transmission uses for the partnership program with its primary motor supplier. Key results from the program include improved quality of service and reduced operating and inventory costs. Allison spare inventoried motors are kept at the supplier’s warehouse. The supplier meets monthly with Allison personnel and reports on purchases, replacements, delivery time, and hard and soft savings (Fig. 2).

Using motor circuit analysis (MCA) as one of the technologies (along with infrared, vibration, ultrasonics, etc.) in the motor program, Allison can more accurately serve its customers’ needs and expectations. A technician, even with limited experience, can test a motor in minutes prior to removing it and sending it to a supplier’s motor repair shop.

Root cause analysis plays a large role in evaluating the motors with both internal MCA testing and on the supplier’s end. Upon completion of the motor repair, the supplier provides Allison with a Repair Report and a Reason for Repair Report. If the fault is due to contamination, a sample of the contamination found inside the stator windings is collected by the supplier and passed on to Allison’s technology department for lab analysis. All of this information assists the company in resolving the root cause of the motor problem and failures.

This partnership with the motor repair shop has proved to be effective. Allison can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have a stored motor delivered and on its dock within two hours. The response time has been invaluable in planning production schedules. Allison also has access to the motor supplier subject matter experts. As a result, the supplier is considered part of our reliability toolbox.

In the end, the motor supplier answers to Allison Transmission’s commodity management team, which includes the QNPM representative, electricians from the motor shop and reliability department, the spare parts team, maintenance supervisors, and individuals from the finance department.

MCA overview
Allison Transmission’s motor program is a crucial component within operations. With MCA, motors that have problems can be tested to confirm the fault before being removed and sent out for repair. If a motor problem is not found, the electrician helps the service technician find a root cause. Motors that are difficult to install are tested prior to calling machine repair personnel for installation. Motors in the supplier’s warehouse are audited on a quarterly basis with an MCA test.

Some test routes have been established because of repetitive motor failures, and these motors are tested and trended monthly as part of the MCA process. Motors with pumps are tested prior to rebuilding the pump in order to determine if it is more economical to replace the motor-pump combination than to rebuild it.

Motor circuit analyzers
After attending a motor circuit analysis seminar at the 2001 GM QNPM Symposium, Terry Bowen, Allison Transmission QNPM co-champion, believed the company could benefit from implementing an MCA program in its technology department. Prior to purchasing the ALL-TEST motor circuit analyzers from BJM Corp., Old Saybrook, CT, analyzing motors involved a lot of guesswork.

Occasionally, motors would be sent to a supplier without a complete problem diagnosis. After testing by the supplier, a report would be sent back indicating that no problems were found. Now with the MCA program in operation, Allison sees more uptime on machinery and a decrease in the “no problem found” reports.

Approximately 50 Allison skilled trades personnel are being trained in the application and use of MCA instruments via an internal eight-hour course. The trades involved in the training are electricians, powerhouse stationary engineers, and air conditioning and maintenance supervisors.

Motor problems identified
Motor stator faults found by using MCA vary from turn-to-turn, phase-to-phase, coil-to-coil, ground faults, and rotor faults. Rotor faults, which are more common in 4160 V motors than 480 V motors, include broken rotor bars, eccentricity, and casting voids. Looking at the phase angle and current frequency on the MCA unit can identify stator faults. By comparing the winding resistance of each phase to one another, high resistance connections can be seen.

Ground faults can be seen by the insulation-to-ground test. By comparing the impedance and the inductance readings to each other, contamination can be observed and can range from coolant fluid, oil, and water to overloaded windings.

The contamination on servo motors will start showing its ill effects months prior to failure. The general trend is that there will be service calls indicating an overcurrent condition on the panel. After tracking work orders through the Allison computerized maintenance management system, the overcurrent fault will most likely appear more frequently, requiring a work order to change servo motors.

Area planners have received communication alerting them to the overcurrent condition and how it can be detected before a servo motor has completely failed. Compared to a reactive course of action, planned maintenance provides for cost avoidance. A clean dip and a bake from the motor shop are cheaper and more efficient than a complete rewind.

The applicable cost avoidance spreadsheet is sequentially shared across the QNPM network according to the following:

• An MCA work order is dispatched

• An electrician responds to the motor site

• An MCA test is conducted and analyzed and a determination is made

• An action plan is implemented.

For example, if a servo motor tests good using MCA, a root cause investigation is initiated to check for other causes of the fault such as a blown fuse, SCR, drive, cable, or connecter to the motor. If a cable is replaced, a cost comparison between proactive and reactive maintenance is documented based on maintenance history (Table 1).

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MOTOR CURRENT ANALYSIS COST AVOIDANCE, 2002 Fig. 3. The total cost savings avoidance attributed to the motor current analysis program.

Allison Transmission prefers proactive to reactive maintenance, particularly from a financial perspective. As shown in Fig. 3, the total cost savings at Allison attributable to the MCA program in 2002 was $307,664.

Single phase testing
When testing three-phase motors, the MCA unit works well when performing comparisons between windings. But what about testing single phase?

Allison uses dc motors, which have a set of field windings (two wires) and the interpoles and armature (two wires) for many applications. The engineering test department uses eddy current dynamometers in order to put a simulated load on all manufactured transmissions for testing purposes, which also have two sets of windings with just two wires.

How are these two wire devices compared? First an MCA test is performed on the winding, then the information is stored in the database along with the nameplate information to identify like motors. Finally, the winding with problems is compared to like windings to reveal problems.

MCA in action
Case Study 1: Infrared Thermography (IR). An electrician running a predictive IR route noticed a hot motor. The motor was a 7.5 hp coolant pump in a group of five identical machines.

A work order was submitted for a motor circuit analysis to be conducted and subsequently the MCA was completed and analyzed showing no problems with the motor. A work order for vibration analysis was written, and the results determined that the temperature was being driven up due to a bearing fault. The coolant pump was replaced and the temperature was in line with the group of machines.

This particular machine is a machining center for transmission cases. When a coolant pump motor fails, historically there would be a loss of production and possibly an assembly operation shut down.

Case Study 2: MCA vs DMM and insulation-to-ground test. An electrician running a predictive IR route noticed a hot 5 hp motor on a machine with 4 drill heads that performs a drilling operation. The MCA was performed and analyzed, and the impedance and inductance readings, clearly not in parallel, were compared. The results showed the motor windings were contaminated.

Impedance or inductance cannot be seen with a digital multimeter (DMM) or an insulation-to-ground tester. Both the resistance and the insulation-to-ground test were good. The motor was sent for repairs as this model was not available in the warehouse. MCA was performed to determine the reason why the motor had this contamination. The motor shop did a full autopsy on the motor and, after cracking open the end bells, it was obvious that the problem was fluid in the windings.

The unknown liquid was poured into a sample bottle. The motor shop did extensive repairs on the windings, and also applied an epoxy seal to the area after determining the liquid was a mix of coolant and hydraulic oil. The motor was returned and installed in less than 24 hrs. This machine drills a series of holes on the carrier for the transmission. If the machine had run to complete failure, it would have shut down the assembly line. Order time on a new motor was estimated at 3 days.

Case Study 3: #8 Air Compressor, 4160 V, 1000 hp. On June 18, 2003, the power house tradesmen provided data to the reliability department for review and clarification of MCA readings on the 4160-V, 1000-hp motor on the #8 air compressor. A resistive unbalance of 84.5 percent was found.

The motor was tested at the motor control center then at the motor connection lugs. The bad connection at the lugs was found and corrected, reducing the unbalance to 0.17 percent. This case again showed that MCA is useful, as the 4160-V connections at the compressor did not have to be taken apart and put back together. The motor did not have to be removed and sent to the motor shop supplier. This saved the cost of an unnecessary motor repair and the loss of compressed air for some of the production machines.

MCA has made a definite impact at Allison. With the NFPA 70E personal protective equipment issues approaching, off line motor circuit analysis continues to be valuable and safe. The motor world will now be viewed differently from the days of just using a multimeter and an insulation-to-ground tester. Allison Transmission believes and trusts systems that consistently contribute to proactive maintenance. MT


Information supplied by Dave Humphrey, a journeymen electrician with General Motors Allison Transmission, Indianapolis, IN

TABLE 1: PROACTIVE VS REACTIVE SAVINGS

Proactive Reactive
Conduct MCA test Remove old servo motor
Replace cable Send out for repair
Re-test motor Install new motor (have not gotten to root cause yet)
Labor man-hours – 6 Labor man-hours – 15
Machine downtime hours – 4 Machine downtime hours – 8
Loss of production hours – 4 Loss of production hours – 8
Cost of cable Cost of servo motor
Problem solved Problem not solved

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1912

6:37 pm
November 1, 2003
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Maintenance and Six Sigma

Suggestions for using this methodology to improve department practices

Since the 1980s, Six Sigma methodology has been applied in a growing number of companies. However, as with any tool of quality or methodology, it must be adapted by a maintenance department to successfully reach its individual goals. Initially, a work group’s excellence level must be observed and verified before implementation. To achieve success with Six Sigma, basic day-to-day maintenance procedures and techniques have to be in place.

If a company believes that Six Sigma will bring success, it will be necessary to look for Black Belts or Green Belts (professional leaders who specialize in this methodology) for assistance. They will be capable of setting goals in Six Sigma, adapting it to specific needs, and obtaining sustainable results.

Quality tools and Six Sigma integration
Six Sigma does not create new tools but uses existing ones. The flow and sequence of these tools and statistical techniques is important in the search for excellence in products and services, for cost reductions, and, consequently, shareholders return.

The main methodologies of Six Sigma are Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control (DMAIC) and Design for Six Sigma (DFSS). This article will deal with DMAIC applied to existing processes, as opposed to DFSS, which is used in the implementation of new products or services. It is important to use creativity to mold expectations about Six Sigma. The methodology is flexible and will not replace or diminish any technique or tool already used, but will add to them. This fear is common and must be prevented to avoid resistance that will destroy the program.

DMAIC in maintenance
To apply Six Sigma in maintenance, first find work groups that have a good understanding of preventive maintenance techniques in addition to a strong leadership commitment.

The methodology is divided into five distinct phases:

  • Phase D (Define). Establish the objectives of the department and identify the critical-for-quality processes. In this phase, leaders, planners, maintenance staff, Black Belts, and Green Belts need to work together to set departments goals. As there will be a large number of ideas, the first job of this team is to organize with the use of the Y=f (X) (where X represents the input of the process, Y the output of the process, and f the function of X). This is the most difficult stage because targets, problems, and goals may not be clear or easy to identify. It is a difficult job, and the team must remember that the steps for the next phase will be drawn from its initial work.
  • Phase M (Measure). After teams choose the vital few of the trivial many, the indexes, data collection plan, and analysis method can be chosen. Some common indexes include frequency of preventive maintenance, frequency of predictive maintenance, productivity, number of corrective occurrences, maintenance costs, downtime, pulse survey, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), etc.
  • Phase A (Analyze). Teams will use analysis graphs (Pareto, scatter, run chart, box plots, etc.) to visualize trends and to search for root causes.
  • Phase I (Improve). An action plan and failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) can help in the action definition to improve the performance of the chosen indexes.
  • Phase C (Control). Teams will outline a plan to retain the gains after the conclusion of the project. The finance department can assist in investment calculations, profits, ROI, etc. Each problem raised can be dealt with individually as a project to be led by a Black Belt and Green Belt, or a macro approach can be used—whichever is the best way to get the best performance in the maintenance department. This work usually takes from 4-6 months.

What must be done
Some points are important for a healthy maintenance program:

  • In the first months of Six Sigma deployment, everyone in the organization must be informed and involved. If only top management and operations participate and managers or supervisors are not involved completely, the program may fail.
  • Roles and responsibilities should be clearly and absolutely defined.
  • Compensation, career plans, and retention plans of those involved in the program must be defined. Keep in mind that you are preparing people with high potential who deserve special benefits.
  • It is important to find the commonalities among distinct groups (quality control people, managers, supervisors, controllers, etc.).
  • Targets need to be established and coherent goals set.
  • A strong Black Belt and Green Belt selection process should be set up to search for the best talent in the company. Many managers fear losing their best professionals and tend to select the wrong candidates. The human resources part is important.
  • A strong commitment from top leaders is essential.
  • Extra programs should be developed as shadows or reverse mentoring so company leadership can be made aware of Black Belts and Green Belts.
  • Future activities should be defined for Black Belts after the learning phase as they will be in a special position to influence the department structure.
  • Support should be available for the jobs and projects. Green Belts assist Black Belts and they do not work full time. Experience shows that not all trained Green Belts develop and complete projects. Remember that resources are being expended in the program and good results are expected.
  • If the maintenance department is already involved in advanced techniques of maintenance (TPM, predictive maintenance, CMMS, etc.), it will be easier to apply Six Sigma as there is a good base from which to work.
  • Departments that are led by managers or supervisors with no vision or goals are not environments that will stimulate the growth of the program. Culture change may be necessary.
  • The maintenance department must be strategically located within the organization because it will be in the spotlight.
  • Work groups need to be able to function independently and be results driven. The degree of specialization and job time sometimes works against new practices. Leaders must establish a way to become professionals.
  • Finally, the most important thing is creativity. Projects, activities, methods, programs of quality, etc., in maintenance areas may not be well understood. Adaptation is the key for success.

Results
These results can be expected:

  • Sustainable results in short and medium timeframes.
  • Disciplined work groups.
  • Autonomy of the maintenance professionals.
  • Data driven maintenance.
  • Optimized resources.
  • Improved relationship between finance and operations.
  • Increased financial return.
  • High performance environment.
  • Creativity support.
  • World class maintenance. MT

Robson Quinello is maintenance planner and Black Belt at Ford Motor Co. Brasil in São Paulo; (5511) 9791-7209

What is Six Sigma?

According to Stan Grabill, a certified Six Sigma expert (Black Belt) writing for MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY’s Viewpoint column, Six Sigma focuses on reducing variation in a business’ internal processes using a rigorously structured, statistical approach that is tied to business results.

Six Sigma for asset dependability reduces the variation in design, procurement, installation, operation, reliability, and maintainability of equipment assets in order to provide predictable performance at optimal cost of ownership.

Think of Six Sigma as root cause variation analysis—where a different set of tools is used to identify sources of variation and determine a means to mitigate “bad” variation and control “good” variation to enhance output productivity. The reason to do this highly structured methodology is to reap the business benefits of reducing variation, which results in break-through productivity improvements.

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6:35 pm
November 1, 2003
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Focus on Results and Change the Culture Along the Way

bob_williamson

Robert M. Williamson, Strategic Work Systems, Inc.

“Here it comes again, another new maintenance program. I wonder how long this one will last?” Generally, every one of these initiatives has been well intentioned by the advocates, leaders, champions, and sponsors. What sets these ill-fated attempts apart from the initiatives that really worked?

Could it be that those initiatives actually showed a sizeable improvement? Most likely the people who were going to be affected were involved from the very early stages so they could influence their own future, and achieve the sustainable goals anticipated by the initiative.

But, the most important factor was that these initiatives led to sustainable business results that were undeniable. Executives, decision makers, mid- and first-line supervisors, and plant-floor people all saw results. They saw that they could make a difference. They changed their behavior.

There were high levels of buy-in, a sense of ownership emerged through involvement, and even some enthusiasm. Big business results were achieved and work actually got easier because the reactive nature of the old ways virtually disappeared.

Then, when we go back 5 or 10 years later little remains of the “initiative.” Did it fail? Probably not. Success truly happens when the new behaviors and work processes of the initiative are assimilated into the organization, into the work culture, and into individual behavior. The bells and whistles of the “initiative” disappear. The desired strategic goals and objectives, the tactics and procedures, the expectations and reinforcing behaviors have all been set in place and are part of the way everyone thinks and acts.

Without a doubt, equipment reliability is essential in an equipment-intensive operation. Reactive maintenance just won’t cut it any more—it’s too expensive.

So, how do you get everyone on board? Focus on results and change the culture along the way. I have seen this adage work many times in many different types of workplaces. These 12 steps really work:

1. Follow the money. Where are your highest equipment maintenance costs? List the top 10 equipment items.

2. Follow the data. What are the types of, or reasons for, failures? At this point “root cause” is optional information. List the top 10 reasons for the top 10 equipment items.

3. Follow the interruptions. Where is the highest amount of process downtime, or business/ flow interruptions? List the top 10 equipment items.

4. Connect the dots. Look at your lists (Pareto chart work well here). Identify the highest cost equipment causing the highest levels of downtime. This will give you the top two or three equipment items for focused equipment improvements.

5. Drill the data deeper. For these top three equipment items identify the types of, or reasons for, failure (Pareto chart work well here, too).

6. Follow the money (again). Look into the purchasing records and find out the parts used to address the top two or three reasons for failure.

7. Focus. Target only one piece of equipment based on the data and information you have accumulated.

8. Find the right people. Engage everyone who touches the targeted equipment, along with those who make decisions that affect the equipment performance, reliability, and costs. This group is the “team” who has enough power to make and sustain the necessary changes.

9. Focus on results. Use the “team-based” approach to make the problems go away using new skills and knowledge.

10. Set new expectations. Define in very specific terms what is expected of the entire team and of each person to move ahead with new and improved approaches to maintenance.

11. Accountability. Monitor the key performance indicators. Provide regular and timely feedback to the team. Recognize that the results of the equipment performance and reliability are direct consequences of how well the people, individually and collectively, are performing their new job roles (new behaviors).

12. Leverage the gains. Continue to make improvements on the targeted equipment as outlined in the previous 11 steps. When sustainable results can be seen review the data and begin addressing the next targeted piece of equipment using the same process.

I continue to be impressed with this approach. If it makes business sense, and if it makes sense to the people out on the plant floor, on the equipment, it will most likely be sustainable. MT Continue Reading →

193

6:33 pm
November 1, 2003
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Pets, Cars, and Plant Maintenance

bob_baldwin

Robert C. Baldwin, CMRP, Editor

I’ve been using the term “preventive maintenance” practically every work day since the founding of MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY magazine in 1988 and frequently during the preceding 15 years.

I’m so used to seeing preventive maintenance in this magazine and in the proceedings of the conferences I attend, I have almost come to believe that we, the practitioners of plant equipment reliability, maintenance, and asset management, have the exclusive right to those words.

With that in mind, I was astonished to see the words “preventive maintenance” on a large banner hung on the side of a building across the intersection where I was waiting to make a right turn out of a shopping center parking lot. The banner read: “Express Care Preventive Maintenance Center.”

The three-bay building housed a Valvoline Express Care instant oil change unit. It looked cleaner and brighter than many of the shops I see. I later found out that the “Preventive Maintenance Center” banner flagged it as an establishment with extended service offerings.

After ruminating on the picture of a preventive maintenance sign on the side of a building, I couldn’t help but be pleased with its mainstream use in car maintenance. After all, the maintenance schedule in the owners manual is the primary analogy I use when explaining preventive maintenance.

In that analogy, I note that some scheduled tasks will be done more frequently or less frequently than required by actual use patterns and driving conditions. The discussion can extend naturally into predictive or condition based maintenance by pointing out that the proper time to change oil could be determined by testing a sample of engine oil rather than relying on the published schedule.

When consumers faithfully follow the preventive maintenance schedule for their car, they do so because they expect to see a beneficial effect on the car’s performance and resale value. So why do some executives feel they can cut maintenance in an industrial plant or major facility and somehow escape without hurting the performance or value of the plant?

I’m reminded of that attribute of civilized human behavior often cited by suppliers of beauty and healthcare products: “We take better care of our pets than we do of ourselves.”

If that is true, perhaps it is also true that “we take better care of our cars than we do of our industrial plants.”

How is it with you? Which is better maintained—your car or your plant? MT

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