Archive | July, 2006


5:56 am
July 2, 2006
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World-Class Simplicity (From The 14th Century)


Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

World-Class Simplicity, a term that we coined in 1996 to describe what a top NASCAR Race Team was doing to achieve the highest levels of performance and reliability, is based on the teachings of a 14th century English logician and Franciscan monk, William of Ockham (1285-1349).


Known as “Occam’s razor,” these teachings stated, in part, that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible. This principle also is known as “the law of parsimony,” “the law of simplicity,” or just plain “keep it simple.” Interestingly, William of Ockham’s 14th century thinking and writing, considered to have laid the groundwork for modern scientific inquiry, makes sense for today’s maintenance and reliability.

Our world of maintenance and reliability, manufacturing reliability and lean production systems often becomes unnecessarily complicated, confusing, fragmented and costly.Countless attempts to improve performance are based on opinions, assumptions and gimmicks rather than objectivity, evidence and facts. Improvement programs requiring “a leap of faith” frequently prevail over fact-based, simple solutions. Too often, complex solutions are developed to address relatively simple problems (“accidental complexity”). But, sometimes “simple solutions”will not adequately solve complex problems as well as more complex solutions (“essential complexity”).

Now is the time to seek “world-class simplicity” as a response to exponentially accelerating global competition. In an era of growing skills shortages, nations that embrace “world-class simplicity” of their advanced manufacturing systems and equipment reliability rise to the top.

Our ability to anticipate, innovate, think outside the box, be flexible and respond quickly have made our nation and economy strong.Yet, today, foreign competition and outsourcing to offshore manufacturing are all too common. More and more companies, however, are discovering (to their great dismay) that outsourcing is NOT a benefit when delivery times are slower, domestic inventory levels are higher, defects are more difficult to resolve and lead time to make improvements is huge and costly. Accidental complexity?

We have to get back in step with our heritage of a well-trained workforce, experienced leadership, focusing on results, using the right tools and doing things right the first time.History shows that we know how to do it.We just have to make a conscious effort to do it now. And we CAN do it!

Why is it that an American workforce in 27 foreign auto plants and hundreds of suppliers operating in the U.S. can out-produce the traditional “American” auto makers and suppliers? Why are so many of our traditional manufacturing plants over-capitalized and underutilized, operating flat out, but only at 50% efficiency due to quality issues, unreliable equipment, inefficient work methods, old work rules and complex processes?

The answer is itself quite simple. The principles underlying the Toyota Production System, Lean Manufacturing, Total Quality and Total Productive Maintenance are ALL based on the concept of “world-class simplicity”-not on assumptions or accidental complexity.

Beware the “Tool heads,” those purveyors of tools, silver bullets and cookbook approaches to reaching world-class levels of performance. If proposed solutions require a leap of faith and are not focused on fast and sustainable results, back away.

Assess the facts. Define the problem. Seek the simplest solution–then try it. Measure the results. If it works, learn from it. Leverage the new solution and the processes that got you there to solve other problems.

In other words, if you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras. Likewise, when your competitive advantage slips, look at your maintenance, reliability and manufacturing processes, not offshore outsourcing. That’s “world-class simplicity!MT

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10:15 pm
July 1, 2006
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Viewpoint: Maintenance Outsourcing – New Beginning Or Nightmare?


Stephen Rahr, Vice President, Service Processes, ABB Process Automation

The story goes that outsourcing began when a farmer’s ox ended up in a ditch on the way to market. Hopelessly stuck and exhausted from trying other alternatives, the farmer had no choice but to hire someone else to get his produce to market.

Once looked upon solely as an “ox in the ditch” option for companies in trouble, outsourcing of services has matured into a strategic tool for strong companies looking to become even better. As outsourcing has proven successful in non-core functions such as food services and facilities management, confidence has grown and business leaders are increasingly ready to entrust third parties with mission critical functions including IT, logistics, manufacturing and R&D.

Facing global competition, aging assets and a skills shortage, it’s no surprise that companies also are looking seriously at maintenance as a candidate for outsourcing. Indeed, the potential benefits are attractive: increased reliability, reduced inventories, access to resources, improved safety, higher OEE and lower costs. The value proposition to executives is compelling.

Knowing that maintenance outsourcing may be coming soon to a facility near you, the question becomes: “What do you do when you suddenly find yourself at ground zero in an outsourcing deal?” The answer? “Don’t panic!”

Outsourcing arrangements come in all shapes and sizes.

At the consulting end of the spectrum, a company determines that maintenance is a core competency and invests in consulting to further develop in-house capabilities. For a maintenance professional, this is good news. Aside from the disruption of meeting with outside consultants, it’s business as usual, with the upside benefit of improving the effectiveness of your maintenance programs.

Equipment management contracts represent the middle ground in maintenance outsourcing. In this case, an expert, often from the OEM, is hired for the unique knowledge, specialized equipment or economies of scale required to keep specific types of equipment operating safely, reliably and cost effectively. Properly executed, these contracts link the supplier to equipment performance and free in-house resources for other assignments. Again, a good thing.

Now for the nightmare–the one where you come to work and find your employer plans to outsource the maintenance function. It’s natural to dwell on the uncertainty, but focusing on what you know puts things back in perspective. You know that maintenance is still a critical function, you know the process and equipment better than any outsider, and you know maintenance and reliability skills are in short supply.

Without question, an incoming maintenance company is going to need skilled people to meet their performance commitments. So, even in the most feared scenario, the likely outcome is a new employer; one that is committed to maintenance and reliability as a core competency. With this commitment come investments in tools, training and advancement opportunities.

The degree of change and the impact on the individuals vary with the scope of the outsourcing agreement. In every case, for those willing to look, there is opportunity and a new beginning to be found. MT


The opinions expressed in this VIEWPOINT section are those of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect those of the staff and managment of MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY magazine.

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10:10 pm
July 1, 2006
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Hendrick Motorsports Leads The Pack With Innovative Asset Management

Lowes 48This article is a follow-up to MARTS 2006, where the emphasis was on the never-ending race for reliability. The Hendrick Motorsports and Invensys/Avantis teams were a very important part of the event’s success. Among other things, they brought in Jeff Gordon’s Car 24 and helped sponsor the keynote and wrap-up sessions featuring Fox Sports’ commentator, Jeff Hammond. Their participation is greatly appreciated.

Whether you’re racing the clock to meet production schedules or racing cars to the checkered flag, asset management can give your organization the competitive edge. It can improve equipment reliability, streamline operations and reduce operating and inventory costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Just ask the folks at Hendrick Motorsports. This company is in the business of winning NASCAR races and innovation has always been a driving force.Hendrick’s current application of Avantis enterprise asset management technology for NASCAR racing is one of the most recent examples of that innovation.

On its 65-acre racing complex in Charlotte, NC, Hendrick Motorsports designs, tests and builds racecars for such noted NASCAR drivers as four-time champion Jeff Gordon, twotime champion Terry Labonte and (as this magazine goes to press) the current points leader, Jimmie Johnson. Since 1984, Hendrick has grown from a one-car race team to a sixteam operation that has won five of the last nine NASCAR Nextel Cup (formerly Winston Cup) Championships. These include four backto- back titles–the sport’s first-ever in the premier Winston Cup Series.

Hendrick's manufacuring complexHendrick’s manufacturing complex encompasses six separate buildings, each with its own inventory warehouse. These include individual racing team facilities, such as the 24/48 Shop (Jeff Gordon/Jimmie Johnson); the 5/25 Shop (Kyle Busch/Brian Vickers) and the Busch Grand National Team Shop, as well as the engine shop, body shop and chassis shop. Each car must be tested and modified for optimum performance on varying racetracks. Parts that are used and replaced must be monitored, and the performance of different racecar configurations must be documented.Hendrick Motorsports had been performing all of these activities manually, which was tedious, time consuming and costly.

Scott Lampe, chief financial officer at Hendrick Motorsports (HMS), is responsible for ensuring that the organization is optimizing resources to maximize performance and cost efficiencies. Toward this end, he has implemented the Microsoft Business Solutions Solomon financial system and his new challenge was to integrate a compatible enterprise-wide system that would manage inventory, track parts usage, and maintain an historical profile of how cars performed with different configurations. Accomplishing this required overcoming challenges in three main areas.

First was the fact that each of the six warehouses operated as an independent entity. Warehouse managers would manually do their own inventory assessment, requisitions, purchase orders, expediting, receiving and submission of invoices for payment.

When a part was requested, the manager would go into the warehouse and locate it. If the part were out of inventory, the manager would call other warehouses. If they had it, the person requesting the part would have to travel from his shop to pick it up, which was a time consuming process.

Trackside monitoring and tracking of parts presented a second set of challenges.

There are approximately 80 components on each car that need to be monitored by condition (when a component reaches failure condition), or usage (cycles or revolutions of engine, laps of track, etc.). This is critical to maximize utilization of each part without jeopardizing performance.Keeping detailed manual records of this voluminous data became a very time consuming and intensive responsibility. As a result, capturing this data was prone to errors, which affected accurate analysis.

The third challenge was the need to monitor usage of each part to assure performance reliability. HMS substitutes parts at the track to accommodate changing conditions. Each part has a racing life based on a number of criteria including laps, miles, engine revolutions, or other basis. The organization needs to be able to track these metrics in order to determine when a part should be replaced. This process is complicated by at-track changes that can occur during the race weekend. For example, a team will switch gears or shocks several times to find the winning combination.

The successful solution
Supported by his company’s culture of innovation and continuous improvement, Lampe looked into implementing an enterprise asset management system. After reviewing the feasibility and options available, HMS chose Avantis.

The initial focus was on establishing a central inventory management system to document the inventories available in each of the six warehouses. By centralizing and automating inventory management, each team now has online access to a single inventory database available throughout the Hendrick complex.

Dupont 24“Since the Avantis solution is Microsoft-centric, it readily interfaces with our Microsoft Business Solutions-Solomon financial system to seamlessly track transactions from initial order to end use and boosts efficiency by providing real-time data access.What this solution accomplished with a single system, could have taken us four separate systems,” says Lampe.

In addition to the resulting direct cost savings, HMS realizes a projected cost savings from not having to add resources.”We anticipate a 10% increase in parts orders this year,which would have required additional resources in purchasing, accounting, warehouse management and work order deployment. This would have added up to more than $175,000,” says Lampe.

Racing against the clock
HMS also faced the challenge of time. Its new asset management solution had to be up and running within four months of the August contract signing. December and January are the busiest months for HMS. All testing, including validating and implementing new designs, is done during these months. Purchasing activities are more than double what they are the remainder of the year.

The Avantis InRIM™ (Industrial Rapid Implementation Methodology) made it possible to meet the critical deadline by cutting implementation time in half compared to competitive systems. This proprietary methodology is a very structured and organized approach that accounts for every detail and defines the parameters of implementation activities, as well as responsibility, timeline and deliverables.

Having met the critical December deadline, the Avantis team moved on to work with the 24/48 team to address parts and configuration tracking. The selected solution allows monitoring of approximately 80 components on more than 30 cars of the 24/48 team. HMS can now readily track the configuration of the vehicle specified for the race and changes made during practice before the race. At the end of the race the team has a well-documented history of the vehicle configuration. This allows HMS to duplicate the configuration if the car finished first–or make necessary modifications if the car needs improvement.

Avantis also facilitates tracking the use of parts to assure reliability. HMS’ general practice is to substitute parts at the track to accommodate existing conditions.When a part is replaced, it is identified and assigned a use value. The Avantis solution now allows HMS to accurately track component usage to assure parts reliability. “We achieved an immediate $60,000 savings by integrating this asset management solution with our existing business operations.Within nine months we reduced our cash outlay by $400,000 by optimizing our inventory procedures. But even more important than cost savings and cash flow is that we have data to make more informed business decisions. This is priceless,” says Lampe. MT

For more information on Hendrick Motorsports, visit

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10:02 pm
July 1, 2006
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PdM Strategy Helps New Zealand Energy Supplier Maximize Output

0706_predictivemaintenance_img2Genesis Energy’s operations cover a lot of ground. Ensuring optimal availability is no easy task. The company’s approach to the predictive maintenance of its most critical equipment relies on state-of-the-art solutions for which failure is not an option.

With breathtaking terrain ranging from snow-capped mountains to lush lowland plains, New Zealand often is described as a paradise by those who have experienced its unique beauty. Approximately 2,000 kilometers east of Australia, across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s isolated location and rich natural resources have fostered a self-reliant culture.

Unable to tap into the power generated by neighboring countries, New Zealand must locally produce the electricity to meet its consumer and industrial needs which, in 2001, was approximately 34.88 TWh. As the country’s industrial sector continues to develop and the population continues to grow, so does the demand for electricity. In fact, even now, New Zealand’s power generation capacity is continuously strained.

Tasked with keeping the supply side of this equation in proper balance is Genesis Energy, the country’s largest provider of natural gas and electricity. By investing in new facilities and technology upgrades for existing facilities to increase capacity, Genesis is addressing the long-range needs of its island nation.However, that strategy doesn’t address the challenge the energy provider currently faces. If a major interruption in production were to occur due to equipment failure at any one of its facilities, Genesis could be forced to purchase energy from other suppliers at the current spot price to make up the shortfall, putting the company at risk for financial penalties imposed by the system. Loss of a typical hydro unit could mean a loss in revenue of between $40,000 and $1,000,000 per day depending on the time of year and the spot price. As a result, maintaining power availability and optimizing the generation process is a core business goal. Through a reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) program supported by Rockwell Automation, Genesis can predict and prevent failures from occurring and extend the life of capital assets.

No room for error
One of three state-owned enterprises, Genesis supplies 20% of the country’s electrical needs through a diverse electricity generation portfolio that includes Genesis’ flagship thermal facility, the Huntly Power Station, five hydro power plants and various wind farms and cogeneration facilities at large industrial sites.With the majority of Genesis’ output generated from Huntly Power Station and the hydro plants— some of which have been operating for more than 60 years—keeping these facilities properly maintained and operating at full capacity is key to achieving the company’s business goals.

Huntly-With a current output capacity of 1,040 MW, Huntly is New Zealand’s largest power station. The facility consists of four separate conventional boiler and steam turbine generation units, capable of burning coal, natural gas or a combination of the two. In 2005, the 22-year-old facility recorded 84% availability, but as the plant continues to age, higher levels of maintenance are anticipated to meet a sufficient level of production output. Recently installed on the same site is a 40 MW simple cycle gas turbine generator.

As part of its growth strategy, Genesis is building a high-efficiency combined-cycle gas turbine power plant that will increase production capacity at the site to 1,425 MW. It also is retrofitting the existing control and instrumentation system — which involves migrating one unit from analog to digital controls during the 2005/2006 shutdown and the remaining 3 units in the next three years.

Hydro-Approximately 60% of New Zealand’s electricity is generated by hydro production. Within Genesis, the company’s hydro generation capacity consists of five power plants operating from three remote sites within the country. Commissioned between 1923 and 1983, and with a production capacity of 498 MW, these plants continue to serve as a vital source of electricity for the country. Because of their geographic isolation, several of the hydro power plants are controlled and monitored from other locations.

Formulating a maintenance strategy
In 1999, when Genesis was formed out of the Electricity Corp of NZ,New Zealand was experiencing an energy surplus, so the need to prevent downtime wasn’t as critical for Genesis. As a result, the majority of the company’s maintenance efforts were focused on preventing major catastrophes. However, as demand changed in subsequent years, so did the role of maintenance. Today, across the organization, Genesis engineering and maintenance personnel are focused – around the clock – on ensuring maximum plant availability.

At Genesis, improving performance is not just the responsibility of the maintenance personnel but also engineers and operational staff. Employees work together to share information, prioritize activities and identify potential issues. As a result, the decisions they make have a greater impact on production capacity and performance.

Genesis is investing heavily in maintenance tools, technologies and personnel. For the greatest impact and return on investment, the company has adopted a maintenance strategy that seeks to maximize asset performance by applying the right activity to the right asset at the right stage in its lifecycle. Because maintenance activities can be tied directly to production output,Genesis’ goal is to identify and plan for maintenance needs in a way that best optimizes production and extends equipment life.

In developing its maintenance strategy, the company sought to incorporate an optimum mix of predictive, preventive and reactive activities that corresponds to the criticality of the equipment, the failure modes and the costs associated with failure.Using a reliability-centered approach to maintenance, the type of maintenance activity is determined based on the overall impact and cost of downtime resulting from a failure. (During winter, the high demand period, there is virtually no spare generation capacity in New Zealand. Thus, the loss of a generator has an immediate consequence for the whole country. The generators must be available and reliable).

This strategy places an increased focus on using predictive and preventive techniques on core production assets and their supporting auxiliaries, many of which have 100 percent duplication but a failure increases the risk of production loss. On small low cost non critical plants, a run to fail approach can be adopted.

0706_predictivemaintenance_img3Combined effort
Within Genesis, a core group of engineers and maintenance personnel is intimately involved in the development and implementation of the company’s maintenance strategy. Before any maintenance activities are determined, a team of Genesis engineers and maintenance personnel evaluate each phase and element of the production process at each of its facilities to determine the criticality and the probability of failure.Using a combination of technologies, including vibration and oil analysis, Genesis conducts an exhaustive evaluation of each piece of equipment.

The team looks at all potential failure modes to determine the risks for each, possible downtime costs, and potential safety concerns to outline failure scenarios. It then determines whether failure detection is possible and the types of technology necessary for detection. The most critical element of this risk assessment process is estimating the cost of failure, the replacement cost of the equipment, the potential damage to other equipment, and the financial ramifications of lost power generation.

The wide range of people involved helps ensure the team has a balanced perspective in terms of how they address and respond to different scenarios. This cross-team collaboration and input helps to balance decision making so that they consider both or immediate and short-term needs, as well as their long-term production requirements.

Once the assessment is completed, various points of data are inputted into a reliabilitycentered software program (available commercially and installed by Genesis) for more detailed analysis.

Predictive activities that measure the condition of equipment, such as vibration analysis, oil analysis and thermal imaging, represent nearly 60% of Genesis’ overall maintenance activities. The predictive techniques are primarily focused at the Huntly Power Station, where approximately 400 pieces of equipment (mostly rotating equipment) are monitored, including boiler fans, boiler feed pumps and auxiliary generation units. At the hydro plants, predictive technology is used to monitor the main generators.

Before there was a great deal of unnecessary routine strip down (preventive) maintenance carried out, which is both a waste of resources and does not prevent failures. Today, the predictive tools allow Genesis to be more strategic and planned in its approach. The beauty of predictive maintenance is that the company is no longer caught napping when disaster is rapidly approaching. The value this technology provides is tremendous, particularly when the fault has the potential to reduce the generation capacity at a time when the spot price is high.

Solving the isolation issue
The remote location of the company’s various hydro plants posed a unique challenge for the Genesis team. If a failure occurred at one of these plants, it could take up to six hours to drive to the location and assess the situation. In some cases, production at the facility could be down for days before the problem was corrected.

After reviewing all available options, the team determined that an online vibration monitoring and protection system would best meet Genesis’ needs. More specifically, the monitoring system needed to be user-configurable and able to store data for post-event analysis. It also needed to be compact and easy to install and expand.

0706_predictivemaintenance_img4At first, the Genesis team didn’t know if technology that could meet their specific condition monitoring requirements was even available. That was until they discussed what they needed with Colin Gracie, president of Inspyre Reliability Solutions, an independent sales engineer, who told the team about the unique capabilities of the Allen-Bradley XM Series monitoring and protection system.

Once team members were informed about the unique attributes of the XM system, they immediately saw the possibilities. Of particular interest to the team was the system’s capacity to provide diagnostic protection and real-time data, as well as its ability to be easily integrated into the existing infrastructure.

Equally important in this case was the ability to monitor the equipment at various isolated locations. By connecting the equipment to a wide area network, the team would be able to analyze data from these remote plants and identify problems far in advance of a failure. As an added benefit, the time normally spent driving to the individual plants to gather vibration readings could be better used for other maintenance activities.

Installation of the XM Series on 13 generators at the company’s five hydro power plants was scheduled to be completed in early 2006 . At the Huntly Power Station, the XM modules are monitoring 11 cooling tower fan drives, two 1.3 MW pump motors and the 40 MW gas turbine generator. The modules also will monitor the larger BOP (Balance of Plant) system on the plant’s new 385 MW combined cycle gas turbine unit. Just on the hydro plant equipment alone, the system will collect more than 800 points of data in a fraction of the time to manually collect the information.

As part of the upgrade, Genesis replaced its analog network with a digital network that allows for more cost effective remote analysis— as well as the ability for the company to easily expand to more plants using only one server and database. A server installed at the Huntly facility communicates to the XM modules via a wide-area network. The data in the modules is downloaded according to a programmed schedule–every five minutes for normal data (within specifically defined parameters), every 10 minutes for triggered data and every 24 hours for transient data.

Just because a problem gets diagnosed, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a need for immediate action. The predictive technology lets Genesis identify a potential failure before the problem affects productivity or performance of equipment. It then can track progression of the fault and schedule the repair or replacement when it is convenient.

As part of its maintenance strategy, Genesis also performs preventive maintenance on a time-based or convenience basis depending on the type of equipment, performance specifications and operating conditions.

Genesis uses traditional predictive maintenance techniques—vibration and oil analysis, thermal imaging and ultra-sound signature analysis—to monitor various parameters on a preventive basis. These tools complement the predictive maintenance tools that the Genesis maintenance team employs.

For example, oil analysis checks the percentage of metal in the oil used to lubricate gearbox bearings—a symptom of metal fatigue or excessive wear. If metal is reported in the oil, maintenance can more closely monitor and trend equipment operation to determine the root cause and take corrective action before affecting production. Genesis uses thermal imaging to detect hot spots in rotating equipment and ultrasound monitoring to detect changes from the norm, which would trigger the need for closer analysis.

Using a combination of predictive and preventative maintenance, Genesis maintenance team members can more accurately target the work that needs to be done during the annual shutdown.With the trending data they collect, they can strategically go in and make the corrections or change out equipment. This allows them to make more effective use of their time during the shutdown.

0706_predictivemaintenance_img5Through its reliability-centered approach to maintenance, Genesis has greatly reduced the amount of reactive maintenance performed. Today, reactive maintenance represents only 10% of activities. For equipment not determined to have a high degree of criticality and low replacement costs, Genesis does not perform routine maintenance; instead, it simply replaces or repairs the equipment when obvious problems occur.

With 70 maintenance personnel covering six major energy production facilities, along with numerous cogeneration facilities at industrial sites scattered across the region,Genesis has to prioritize its activities. Team members have calculated that the capital expense of replacing non-critical equipment when it fails is evenly balanced against the cost of implementing a predictive or preventive program for this equipment.

Even before the company’s latest predictive equipment was completely installed, the XM Series modules demonstrated their ability to quickly detect and diagnose equipment failures.

Shortly after Genesis installed the 40 MW gas turbine unit, the equipment unexpectedly tripped on high vibration. Since it was still under warranty, the manufacturer insisted that a full inspection be conducted. That meant several days.While they waited, maintenance team members decided to install the XM Series system as an informal test of the technology. Following the inspection (which found no obvious problems), the turbine was returned to service.But, the high vibration was still apparent. Looking at the spectra available from the XM120, though, it was quite clear that the high vibration was, in fact, due to a transducer fault. Further investigation showed that one of the vibration transducers had a broken connection and furthermore it was found that the transducers on the turbine were cross-connected. If the XMs had been installed at the onset, the team would have saved several days of downtime—which, in turn,would have paid for the XM installation.

As the XM Series continues to prove its value, Genesis anticipates that there will be other opportunities to apply the technology through the company’s various power plants. If early indications mean anything, it should prove to be a valuable tool in Genesis’ predictive maintenance program—as well as in the growth of New Zealand.

Simon Hurricks has worked for Genesis Energy and its predecessors (NZED and ECNZ) for 34 years, and has specialized in vibration analysis and balancing for 28. Based at the Huntly Power Station for 25 years as a machine dynamics engineer responsible for condition monitoring, including vibration analysis and balancing, he also has carried out vibration analysis and balancing at many other hydro installations across New Zealand.Hurricks is a member and the current treasurer of the Vibrations Association of New Zealand, as well as a regular presenter at the organization’s annual conferences. MT

Ralph DeLisio is business manager of Integrated Condition Monitoring Solutions, Rockwell Automation. In this role, he has global responsibility for driving product and service development and management for the company’s portfolio of condition monitoring products and services. Telephone (513) 576-4229; e-mail:

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9:45 pm
July 1, 2006
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Maintenance Log: Using Regression Analysis To Improve Data Trending Sensitivity



Fig. 1. One of the plant’s two condensate pumps

Trending data to determine the health of equipment can be challenging to say the least. No single technology or equipment performance parameter can tell you everything you need to know about the equipment’s condition. When you are involved in this type of activity, the biggest mistake you can make is to miss an adverse trend on critical equipment. To be effective (i.e. ensuring there are no unpredicted equipment failures), you must integrate predictive diagnostics with trending equipment parameters and time-based maintenance. This article describes how regression analysis, a statistical tool used to investigate the functional relationship between two or more variables, was used to monitor the condition of a condensate pump at a nuclear power plant.0706_maintenancelog_img2

The challenge(s)
Fig. 1 shows one of the plant’s two 50% capacity condensate units used to pump condensate from the main condenser to the feed water system. It’s an Ingersoll- Rand (Model 36APKD) three-stage, vertical centrifugal with a Siemens-Allis 6.9 kV – 2000 hp air cooled induction motor. Pump and motor are coupled with a flanged hub-style coupling.

The pumps and motors on these units are monitored by predictive technologies that include vibration analysis and oil analysis. Performance parameters, such as flow, pressure and bearing and stator temperatures, also are trended.Vibration data is collected monthly on the motor housing, as shown in a simplified diagram in Fig. 2.

The vibration data is normally trended versus time, comparing the data with established limits. During routine monitoring on April 21, 2005, the vibration was observed to increase 0.04 ips on the ‘B’ pump motor housing at the lower motor bearing. Fig. 3 is the trend chart for the overall vibration on the motor lower bearing. As indicated in the trend chart, the change in vibration was small and within the established Alert Limit of 0.3 ips. All other monitored parameters on the pump and motor were normal. Ten days later, though, on May 1, 2005, the motor shaft failed, causing a plant shutdown.

The motor on the ‘B’ pump was installed in October 2001- as part of a time based motor refurbishment strategy. The root cause analysis that was conducted on the failed shaft determined it sheared due to circumferential crack that developed near the top of the motor coupling hub. The crack had propagated from a subsurface defect (i.e. lack of weld fusion) in the shaft material. The shaft had an inadequate weld repair many years earlier. The postrepair examination of the shaft did not detect a sub-surface flaw in the weld.

During the course of the root cause investigation, the motor was replaced with a spare and the plant was returned to full power operation. The subsequent extent of condition evaluation identified the root cause also applied to the ‘A’ condensate pump motor that was in operation. The same weld repair was conducted on this motor shaft. The weld repair was performed by the same company and the same personnel. The problem, though, was how to monitor this pump motor for any indication of a developing shaft crack while ensuring safe and reliable plant operation until the next opportunity to replace the motor in April 2006. This was quite a challenge, especially in light of the fact that the routine vibration monitoring had identified, but not diagnosed, a shaft crack on the ‘B’ pump motor.

Those who have monitored equipment with vibration monitoring know that diagnosing a shaft crack on a vertical pump can be very difficult—particularly with the type
of limited vibration monitoring that was available on the motor in this case study (i.e. housing sensors). Fortunately, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is conducting tests on torsional vibration monitoring for vertical rotating equipment to improve the capability of shaft crack detection. As indicated in EPRI’s research, notable changes in vibration occur only after the crack has propagated ~50% through the shaft. At this point, the shaft stiffness decreases and the vibration changes in magnitude and phase at 1X and 2X operating speed. Periodic monitoring of the equipment on a monthly frequency, however, was not adequate to identify this failure mechanism. As indicated by the small change in vibration (0.04 ips) prior to the ‘B’ pump motor failure, the monitoring would need to be very sensitive to any changes.


A previous Maintenance Log article (“Get ‘Control’ of Your Data Trending,” pgs. 56-59, Maintenance Technology, November 2005), discussed using statistical control charts to trend equipment performance provides an especially sensitive method for identifying equipment degradation. This method also was employed in monitoring the ‘A’ pump.

0706_maintenancelog_img5As shown in Fig. 4, the vibration on the ‘A’ pump began to trend with a step change increase. The change in data was a concern because it was not initially known if this was a crack propagating in the shaft or some other unknown effect influencing the data. If it were a crack, prompt action would be crucial to prevent a catastrophic motor failure- and subsequent plant shutdown. If the data was being influenced by some other effect or was dependent on another parameter, it needed to be identified and accounted for so it would not hinder personnel in diagnosing an actual shaft crack. The trend also presented a complication in the use of control charts. Data dependence violates a fundamental rule in applying control charts that requires the data to be ‘in statistical control’ or independent of any other influence.

An investigation into the data trend was initiated by site personnel. The motor component engineer and vibration analyst observed a perceived relationship with ambient temperature.

For example, when the area temperature conditions were warmer, higher vibration readings were observed. To validate this perception, a regression analysis was conducted on the pump historical vibration and the various temperature parameters that are related to pump motor operation. (Refer to the simplified model shown in Fig. 2). The temperatures considered included: service water temperature (used to cool the pump bearing lube oil); motor stator temperature; bearing temperature; ambient temperature.

As noted in the simplified model, the stator, service water and bearing temperatures all varied with ambient temperature. This indicated that the ambient temperature was the independent variable of interest.As the regression analysis was conducted, the best correlation was obtained with ambient temperature. Additionally, a 24-hr. average ambient temperature was used, since there was no practical means to measure the temperature right at the pump—and the structural influence from temperature would be a lagging effect.

0706_maintenancelog_img7Fig. 5 shows the regression of pump vibration to the 24-hr. average ambient temperature from May through November 2005. The May through July data is shown by the dark diamond symbols on the scatter chart. As the ambient temperature increases the vibration increases, indicating a direct relationship. The ‘Goodness of Fit’ statistic of 0.76 indicates an acceptable correlation between these parameters.With this relationship identified, the step increase in the vibration was validated to be a result of seasonal changes in ambient temperature and not a developing shaft crack. With this relationship identified, the regression line was used in the monitoring of the motor for a developing shaft failure.0706_maintenancelog_img6

0706_maintenancelog_img8As the pump motor was monitored through the summer of 2005, the data followed the same regression line until late July, when the data started to deviate from this known relationship. The late July and August data is shown by the purple square symbols in the scatter chart. Once again, an investigation was conducted into the data deviation. A walk-down of the equipment identified the upper bearing reservoir as being two inches below the fill mark on the local site glass. A small oil leak that had developed and gone unnoticed by Operations personnel had slowly decreased the oil level. It was later estimated that about 1/2 cup of oil a day had leaked from the 10-gal. reservoir. Since it was a small leak, the impact on bearing temperature only amounted to ~ 5 F over a two month period. This change went undetected with normal temperature trending (i.e. plotting temperatures versus time). Once oil was added to the reservoir, the vibration and temperature relationship returned to normal, as shown by the September data (triangle symbols) in Fig. 5.

As the pump motor was monitored through the fall of 2005, the vibration began to deviate again in October. The deviation from the known relationship is shown by the circle symbol in Fig. 5. The oil level was checked and found to be within an acceptable operating range.Further evaluation was conducted on the bearing temperature. The data of bearing temperature versus service water temperature was plotted on the XY scatter chart shown in Fig. 6.

The bearing temperatures were not following the known relationship with service water temperature. This can be observed through comparison of the 2004 and 2005 data in Fig. 6.There was a ~10 F lag in temperatures from 2004 to 2005. As the seasonal temperatures decreased, there was not the same corresponding decrease in bearing temperature. Further investigation determined that this ‘lagging effect’ was caused by degrading lube oil cooler performance.High magnesium levels in the lake water, used by the service water system, were plating out on the lube oil cooler tubes. The fouling reduced the lube oil cooler performance and resulted in the higher bearing temperatures,which indirectly affected the motor vibration.

The conclusion(s)
The use of control charting and regression analysis provided the sensitivity that was required for monitoring the motor condition of the nuclear power plant’s condensate pump. As noted, the control chart coupled with regression analysis identified equipment performance issues that would normally have gone undetected with normal trending data versus time. This approach, coupled with conservative decision- making, provided plant personnel and management a reasonable assurance that a developing shaft crack could be detected and acted on before catastrophic failure and a resulting plant trip. As a result, the plant was operated safely and reliably under the root cause extent of condition on the ‘A’ pump motor.

The ‘A’ motor was operated until April 2006 when the plant was shut down for a planned refueling outage. The subject motor was then replaced with a spare. MT

Daryl Gruver is a senior consultant with First Energy. Formerly a supervisor of Component Engineering at Progress Energy’s Shearon Harris facility, he has a B.S. in Nuclear Engin-eering from Penn State and an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Cincinnati.He holds a Level II ASNT certification in Vibration Analysis and Thermography. Phone: 440-280-5934; e-mail:

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9:35 pm
July 1, 2006
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Optimizing Radial Shaft Seal Performance Enhances Machine Reliability

Careful evaluation of your application is part of a holistic approach to seal specification. This is no time to take shortcuts.

Radial shaft seals retain lubricants in and exclude contaminants from bearing housings, ensuring the reliable operation of mechanical power transmission devices, such as gearboxes, pumps and motors. More than a quarter of mechanical failures in these kinds of machinery are attributable to bearing malfunctions, 80% of which are caused by contamination of the bearing housing. A methodical approach to seal selection and application assessment will eliminate the risk of contamination and optimize the service life of machinery.

Design selection based on application
In selecting a seal, its general design must be suitable for its application and operating conditions. There are several application criteria to consider, including surface speed, misalignment, temperature, pressure and fluid compatibility.

Surface speed. . .
Radial seals offer three types of lip design—plain, wave or helix—to accommodate different surface speed ranges. The operator or maintenance technician should consult the manufacturer’s data to determine which design is suitable for the application’s surface speed. If the surface speed exceeds the limit for which the seal is designed, the lip will fail to control fluid.

Most rubber radial seals range from 3,500 to 5,000 feet per minute (fpm), or 17.78 to 25.40 meters per second (m/s). In general, as surface speed increases, other capabilities, such as run-out allowance, decrease. Additionally, friction from oil shear and other factors increase underlip temperature as speed increases.An increase in shaft speed of 800 fpm (4.06 m/s), for example, can increase underlip temperature by 25 F (40 C). For an optimum balance of capability and seal life, always evaluate speed in context to the other operating conditions.

0706_equipmentreliability_img2Misalignment. . .
Radial seal designs tolerate a limited range of shaft deviation from the true center, or shaft to bore misalignment (STBM). Also, radial seal designs can tolerate some dynamic run-out (DRO), expressed as total indicated reading (TIR), the degree to which the shaft diameter does not rotate in a true center. The manufacturer determines limits on both STBM and DRO. Beyond these limits, however, excessive STBM misalignment can crush the seal lip and cause rapid wear or create a gap through which fluids may leak. High DRO typically causes a uniform, but wide, wear band, ultimately resulting in premature failure.

Temperature. . .
Each seal material has an optimum temperature range. Exceeding the range creates thermal stress that may harden or degrade the seal material. Heat aging is a more common cause of ultimate failure than wear among seals composed of nitrile (NBR) rubber. Typical evidence of this kind of failure includes radial cracks. Ambient heat, surface speed, sump temperature and lubricant viscosity all contribute to the overall thermal load for the application.

With NBR, an increase of underlip temperature of 25 F (40 C) can reduce seal life by half. Seals made of fluoropolymers or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) offer a higher thermal limit and are used for many high-temperature applications. But even these materials have practical limits. (And these limits must be observed.)

Pressure. . .
Normal system conditions or faults within a system, such as a plugged vent, may cause pressure loading. This will mechanically distort the lip profile, accelerating seal wear and failure. In general, pressure capability and surface speed are inversely proportional. The design of standard radial seals typically permits about seven pounds per square inch (psi) or .05 mega Pascal (MPa). Specially engineered profiles and materials offer solutions to compensate for pressure and, in some cases, achieve a pressure X velocity (PV) of 300,000. For contacting radial lip seals, though, such extreme values are only possible at lower surface speeds.

Fluid compatibility. . .
If the seal lip material is not compatible with the fluid being retained or excluded, the fluid may chemically attack the seal. Swelling or softening is often an indication of media incompatibility. Additives used to improve fluids and lubricating oils may be incompatible with seal materials. Disulfide-type additives, for example, reduce wear on mechanical components, but also may advance the cure state of the seal element, resulting in accelerated hardening.

Nitrile rubber compounds. . . NBR, a synthetic co-polymer of acrylonitrile (ACN) and butadiene, is the most common elastomer compound. It is economical and has an elastic recovery, resiliency and pliability similar to that of natural rubber, but is more oil and abrasion resistant and offers longer service life and higher reliability. Its temperature range is minus 65 F to 250 F (minus 54 C to 121 C).Use with a polar solvent such as acetone, however, will result in catastrophic swell, which will soften and eventually destroy the seal. NBR also does not withstand weather aging very well; extended ozone or ultraviolet light exposure results in surface cracking and hardening.

Hydrogenated nitrile (HNBR) offers increased tensile strength and heat, abrasion, hotoil, ozone,weather and ultraviolet resistance. Its temperature range of minus 40 F to 300 F (minus 40 C to 149 C) is wider than that of NBR. Carboxylated nitrile (XNBR) is another NBR compound that offers greater abrasion and wear resistance than standard NBR, but not higher thermal capability. Both HNBR and XNBR cost more than standard NBR.

Fluoroelastomer compounds. . .
Fluoroelastomer compounds include fluorocarbon (FKM) rubber. FKMs are premium elastomers that offer excellent wear properties, an extended service life and resistance to degradation from chemically aggressive lubricants, corrosive media and weathering effects. They have a temperature range of minus 40 F to above 400 F (minus 40 C to above 200 C).

PTFEs (polytetrafluoroethylene) are in a class of chemically inert plastics. Resistant to a wide range of aggressive media and high levels of contamination, they also offer a very extended service life and tolerate more physical stress, including PV factors in excess of 250,000. Temperature range of PTFEs is minus 400 F to 500 F (minus 240 C to 260 C).Due to their relative stiffness, though, seal lips constructed of PTFEs require extra care in assembly. Furthermore, to deliver their full potential, they need a high-quality countersurface and high shaft hardness values, depending on application conditions. They also typically are made to order and considerably more costly than nitrile seals.

Dimensional data
After identifying the correct seal design for the application, the hardware dimensions must be confirmed. Seals usually are press-fitted into the bore, so the outside diameter of the seal must be larger than the bore diameter. The seal’s dimensional system, however,must be a correct match for the mating hardware.

0706_equipmentreliability_img4English standard vs.metric. . .
In selecting the correct dimensions, use the same system of measurement (English standard or metric) as used for the hardware. Typically, equipment manufactured in the United States still uses English standard (inch) dimensional data (though metric measurements are being introduced), while equipment manufactured elsewhere predominantly uses metric dimensional data.

Ranges for English standard (RMA) bore tolerances include both plus and minus values, but metric standard (ISO, DIN, JIS) tolerances typically have only a plus value, with the minus side being zero. The difference in tolerance ranges can create an improper interference (or press) fit if a metric size is selected as a substitute for an English-standard-sized seal (or English standard for metric). Being
close enough for a specific size may not hold
true in another installation.

The reason is that a metric seal, for example, is not designed for a minus value in the bore, and may work free of the housing during the operation of the equipment or be damaged during installation. This is a potential problem, especially if the housing dimension is undersized and the seal’s outer diameter is at the high end of its tolerance, which will result in excessive interference stress. Shaft tolerances generally are not as critical, but the correct measurement system should be used for optimum seal performance and service life.

The designer or maintenance technician should seek the guidance of the seal manufacturer in selecting the proper English-standard or metric shaft and bore dimensions as compliance with established tolerances for radial seal dimensions is the responsibility of the manufacturer.

Surface finish. . .
Shaft surfaces that appear smooth to the eye are actually textured with peaks and valleys, and an out-of-specification shaft is second only to heat damage as the most common cause of leakage. If a shaft surface is too smooth, the absence of asperities will fail to maintain a lubricant film (typically 0.00001 inch, or 0.25 micron, thick) and the underlip temperature will increase. If the surface is too rough, however, high peaks will project through the lubricating film and abrade the lip.

The seal manufacturer should provide grinding specifications based on industry standards, usually RMA or DIN. A good target is a shaft roughness value of eight to 17 μin Ra (.20 to .43 μm). Electronic tracing instruments can accurately assess surface finishes, including other key roughness parameters. Gauges also measure approximate Ra values.

Even if the roughness is correct, a shaft can have directional lead, which is a spiral pattern created by transverse movement of the cutting tool or grinding wheel during the initial preparation of the surface.An inward lead might be beneficial, but an outward pattern may cause more oil to auger under the lip than the seal’s pumping action can control.

Plunge grinding is often the recommended method for achieving lead-free shafts. The RMA lead standard is less than 0 plus or minus 0.05 degree. If carefully done, a simple string and weight test will confirm the presence of shaft lead. Along with roughness, shaft leads that exceed recommended limits frequently cause lubricant leakage. Housing bore roughness is less critical as 100 μin Ra (2.5 μm) or smoother is acceptable.Here, lead is not critical.

Hardness. . .
Opinions vary concerning the value of shaft hardness. On one hand, shafts with low hardness are cheaper to produce and, under relatively clean conditions, shaft hardness itself does not automatically result in better seal function or life. Still, seals are vulnerable to handling damage and possible wear. Generally, a shaft hardness value of Rockwell C scale (HRC) 30 or higher eliminates the risk of seal failure. Even though particle contamination often is harder than most steels, some seal designers recommend a Rockwell hardness in the contact zone of HRC 45, and 60 in abrasive or high-speed (2362 FPM or 12 M/S) environments.

0706_equipmentreliability_img5Installation and assembly
Both the shaft and bore should have lead-in chamfers of 15 to 30 degrees or a smooth radius. Square corners often cause a rolled lip or bent seal case. All contact surfaces should be free of burrs and nicks that could cut lip elements or score seal cases.

Seal failure often is the result of improper installation. The lubricant should be the same for the seal as it is for the machinery in which the seal is installed. The seal also must be installed square to the bore. When installing the seal with an I.D. lip, direct all force to the outer diameter of the seal case only. Use only an arbor press and a tool specifically designed for seal installation.

A hand tool, such as a hammer, is appropriate only if buffered with a block of wood; hammer strikes directly on the seal case may distort the seal profile and a strike near the inner diameter of the metal case may displace the rubber element.

Additional sealing options
Besides conventional elastomer radial shaft seals, there are specialty and alternative designs to meet the severe demands of many industrial applications or improve the performance of a radial seal.

V-ring seals. . .
Basic V-ring seals are constructed entirely of rubber materials, with nitrile as the standard and fluoroelastomers available in many sizes. The seal mounts directly to the shaft by hand and is pushed axially against a counterface, housing, bearing race or similar surface. Axially contacting V-ring seals function like slingers and exclude particle and fluid contaminants. Offering very high surface speed capabilities, V-ring seals can operate dry or with minimal lubrication. Minimal friction and heat accumulation result in an extended seal life.

V-ring seals are comprised of a body, conical self-adjusting lip and a hinge. The elastic body fits to the rotating shaft, creating a static seal along the shaft plane. The hinge enables the sealing lip to apply very light face contact pressure against the counterface and compensate for some angular and axial movement. Minimal counterface or shaft preparation is necessary and simple turned surfaces usually are sufficient.

The elasticity of its rubber material enables the V-ring seal to stretch to 21/2 times its molded diameter and can be mounted easily without disassembling the shaft, including over flanges, steps on the shaft and other assemblies.Metalclad versions also are available with a metal shell press fit onto the shaft, providing physical protection for the rubber lip element.Applications for these seals include conveyor rollers, transport equipment, rolling mills, agricultural machinery, paper mills, grinding equipment and appliances.

Bearing isolators. . .
Bearing isolators are seals that use a labyrinth internal structure, instead of contact lips, to collect and eject contaminants, such as fluid spray and particles, and prevent their entry into the mechanism. The non-contacting rotor and stator sections are constructed of PTFE. O-rings, used to secure the stator in the bore and drive the rotor, usually are molded of FKM, providing overall chemical and temperature resistance.

Even though they have limited oil retention capability, bearing isolators feature outstanding protection of machine components while their service life rivals that of bearings. Applications include pump power frames, electric motors, fans, blowers, pillow block bearings, conveyors, rollers, turbines, centrifuges, gearboxes and many other kinds of plant equipment with rotating parts.

Selecting radial shaft seals through a methodical consideration of the system requirements, dimensions and operating conditions will ensure that the chosen seals will perform for their intended service life, reducing the frequency of maintenance procedures and the risk of machine failure. In turn, unplanned downtime will be minimized and productivity maximized.

A precise examination of the application parameters is part of a holistic approach to seal specification that takes the seal’s practical and technical limits into consideration.When failure does occur, a systematic approach to a diagnostic analysis will deliver an accurate and timely solution. MT

Glenn Gabryel is a product engineer at SKF Sealing Solutions.He has 30 years in the sealing industry, primarily working with products for industrial applications in plant operations and heavy machinery. E-mail

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9:30 pm
July 1, 2006
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Communications: The Maintenance Partnership



Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor

Does your maintenance department suffer the blame for ALL downtime and equipment failure? Do you find it difficult to schedule and complete a full repair? Is your department perceived as a drain on the corporate finances? Do you feel there is a lack of respect toward the maintenance department? Do you believe the rest of the corporation just doesn’t understand the maintenance process? Congratulations, if you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you have recognized your negative image and are ready to enter into a true maintenance partnership with your suppliers and customers!


According to the Encarta dictionary, a partnership is:

  1. the relationship between two or more people or organizations that are involved in or share the same activity,
  2. cooperation between people or groups working together,
  3. an organization formed by two or more people or groups to work together for some purpose.

0706_communications_img1To function professionally, a maintenance department must set up and manage multiple partnerships on a continual basis. Partnerships are relationships that live or die based on an understanding of the input and output communications required from both sides to make quality management decisions, and enable each partner to consistently deliver on their performance mandate.

Before maintenance can assess each relationship individually and determine suitable input/output matrices, it must first assess and understand what it can and can’t manage on a daily basis. Table 1 depicts major equipment downtimes attributable to maintenance and nonmaintenance causes. Maintenance caused downtime incidences are the direct responsibility of the maintenance department and its maintainers; its programs must be set up to work diligently on reducing / eliminating these types of downtime incidences. The non-maintenance caused downtime incidences are totally out of the control jurisdiction of the maintenance department – even though maintenance is charged with the indirect responsibility of restoring equipment uptime after a non-maintenance incidence has taken place.

0706_communications_img2Unfortunately, many maintenance departments fail to track and distinguish between maintenancerelated and non-related downtime incidences. Thus, they render themselves easy targets of blame for all downtime occurrences.

Through the utilization of good lubrication practices and the performing of effective planning and scheduling techniques, many maintenance- related downtime causes can be managed out with use of an engineered set-up of the computerized asset management system.

While working on these direct control issues, maintenance also must work on its relationships with non-maintenance downtime, causing partners to significantly reduce their impact on the maintenance budget by setting up a report system that classifies non-related downtime incidences and their impact on operations, and deliver these reports on a regular basis to appropriate partners. This is best achieved through the type of effective communication in which accumulated data from work orders, condition monitoring and predictive trending reports are synthesized and converted into management information that can be understood by the partner (outputs). For example, management may only need a conceptual “big picture” synopsis of the situation, whereas purchasing or HR may require a more detailed account of the situation. Conversely, maintenance must also inform its partners what information (inputs) it expects in return, how often and in what form, and validate how the information will be used. Often, many partners are blissfully unaware of their impact until informed by a maintenance department report indicating the consequences of their actions.

On any given day, the maintenance department could interact with up to 12 groups from within and outside the corporate organization. In a manufacturing or plant engineering environment, maintenance can expect to interact most with production, engineering, accounting and purchasing, and to a lesser extent with contractors, customers, vendors, HR, quality, IT and management. Table II shows a sampling of inputs and outputs required with many different partners in a typical day.

Subsequent articles will investigate the input / output relationship of 12 partners with which maintenance can expect to communicate on a daily basis. MT

Ken Bannister is the principal consultant for Engtech Industries Inc., a maintenance management consulting group. Telephone: (519) 469-9173; e-mail: kbannister

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9:28 pm
July 1, 2006
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Moving From A Reactive To Predictive State Of Maintenance

New technologies are re-energizing enterprise asset management.

Enterprise asset management (EAM) is hardly a new concept. Software solutions have been in play for over two decades with most tools offering similar core functionality. For solution providers, selling better architected, more user-friendly EAM tools to their existing customer bases has become the primary growth driver. Datastream, for example, reports that over 40% of its new installations are with existing customers upgrading their legacy client server solution to a Web-enabled one. Recently, emerging technologies also have been generating a renewed interest in the space. Consider technologies such as:

RFID and GPS that enable mobile asset tracking. An active radio frequency identification (RFID) tag can store and transmit asset information up to 30 feet away. Global positioning system (GPS) antennae and satellites can report location details anywhere in the world.Mobile assets can include anything from a fleet of trucks, trailers and containers to a hospital’s movable medical devices. The tracking of these assets continues to attract a good deal of market attention as security issues remain on the forefront of every firm’s agenda.

For example, a company like JR Freight, a Japanese railway transportation company, can pinpoint the exact location of a shipping container among the thousands in its yard by mounting a GPS antenna and RFID reader to the forklift, reading the tag details when the container is stacked, linking it to the GPS coordinates received on the forklift and sending it to the master tracking software. This not only reduces the time it takes to locate an asset, it also improves overall visibility throughout the supply chain.

GIS that makes it possible to view asset details geographically. Geographic information system (GIS) tools use location data to display assets on a computerized map. From the asset icon on the map, users typically can drill down to more information, such as open work orders and maintenance history, in a tabular format. This functionality is especially useful for utilities field service workers.

For example, using GIS technology, utility workers with Southern Company, one of the largest utility companies in the U.S., can answer questions in the field like,”Are there other open work orders within a two-mile radius of a utility?”Or,”What is the quickest driving route to my next work order?”This streamlines field service jobs and puts crucial information at the workers’ fingertips- thus, making them more efficient.

Rugged, wireless PCs and handheld devices that allow automated data entry. This technology continues to emerge in support of the distributed and disconnected workforce.EAM field workers stand to benefit from such technologies by being able to automate much of the manual data entry that is currently required of them when they are completing a work request. Within a facility, parts management clerks can significantly improve inventory accuracy by using handheld bar code scanners instead of dealing with the data manually.

For example, Pratt & Whitney has implemented a wireless bar code based data collection system using Intermec’s mobile computers with integrated bar code scanners, significantly improving parts inventory data accuracy and streamlining the receiving process into the warehouse.

Seeking to meet evolving needs
The EAM solution market is highly fragmented with literally hundreds of niche vendors. Bestof- breed vendors like MRO Software, Datastream and Indus offer stand-alone solutions with outof- the-box ERP integration points. ERP suites like SAP, Industrial Financial Systems (IFS), Intentia, and Oracle all have EAM solutions within their larger ERP offerings.

As firms move to reduce the number of vendors they have to work with and standardize their technology stacks, many are looking to their existing ERP solutions to provide the needed EAM functions.

ERP vendors that do not have an EAM tool are working to fill that functional gap. A recent example of this was the March 2006 acquisition of best-of-breed EAM provider Datastream by ERP vendor Infor.

Reactive cultures hinder wide adoption
Based on Forrester’s interviews, we found that many companies are still struggling with dayto- day reactive issues. Because of this firefighting state, they are not able to make program improvements and move to a predictive strategy in maintaining their assets.

The three most commonly reported issues are:

1. Bad data and low user adoption of EAM applications. EAM users have reported that inaccurate and incomplete data is the most persistent problem they face. This is resulting in a lack of faith in the system and low adoption rates, compounding the issue even more. Some companies attribute problems to their existing processes or the lack of a dedicated owner/administrator of the data. Others point to their systems’ poor usability and tedious data entry requirements.

2.Poor inventory management of service parts. To keep operations up and running and avoid disruptive events like a plant shutdown, many maintenance managers opt to hedge in their requirements for parts safety stocks. Additionally, many facilities have yet to adopt robust management processes, such as bar code-enabled receipt, stocking and picking. This means that their EAM tools cannot rely on an accurate picture of what parts are really available.As a result, many firms are incurring higher inventory carrying costs with excess on hand.

3. The inability to create proper work schedules. Users also reported that allocating their ever shrinking labor pool between reactive, scheduled and preventive maintenance is one of their biggest challenges. The simple question of what work to do at the right time is still unanswered.When an organization operates in a reactive state, it becomes extremely difficult to plan for predictive maintenance. On the other hand, some companies opt to over-maintain their assets, to avoid machine failure or plant shutdown. Over time, this practice is often as expensive as the cost of recovering from that same disruptive event.

Focusing on adoption challenges
To address these challenges, EAM solution providers have worked with their customers to enhance functionality, offering incremental improvements over legacy tools. Specifically, they have:

Automated data entry and refined validation rules to address integrity issues. Bestof- breed applications now can run on mobile devices like Symbol’s rugged MC70 or MC9000 Series handheld computers and barcode scanners. This allows workers to complete work order details in the field or reference key asset information when making a repair. Barcode-enabled scanners are used to quickly identify an asset and bring up the relevant work order. This helps eliminate the need for a clipboard and avoids manual entry, which, in turn, improves the quality of the input needed by the EAM solution. Additionally, solution providers have embedded data-cleansing and validation utilities in an effort to address data errors. IFS, for example, has built-in validation rules where imported or manually entered records are checked for possible errors and duplicates. If the record violates any business rules, the tool alerts the user of the potential problem and does not update the production data until it is resolved.

Applied supply chain best practices to improve spare parts inventory management. To build efficiency gains by having the right part on hand for the needed maintenance, EAM providers now offer many inventory management features such as eCommerce cataloging and purchasing, inventory tolerance levels that trigger auto-requisitions and bar code label generation for receipt and cycle counting.

MRO Software’s Maximo Enterprise Suite solution, for example, has a built-in procurement module that offers automated materials requisitions based on maintenance schedules to ensure that the right parts are ordered at the right time. Providers also work with their clients to implement other inventory management best practices, including setting up the standard parts taxonomy and naming conventions along with the use of numbered inventory racks.

Added business logic to facilitate optimal maintenance scheduling. To help users build maintenance work plans based on factual assessment of priorities, EAM solution providers also have focused on offering easy-to-use scheduling functionality like a graphical calendar display or integration to thirdparty scheduling tools. Datastream 7i, for example, includes a built-in Microsoft Project interface that enables the planning of the schedule in Project using labor and task data from the EAM solution-without having to manually export and import the data each time. To prioritize tasks, solutions rely on past asset performance information to simulate a failure point. Based on this simulation, the tool then can recommend the timing of the maintenance, using the overall asset criticality and resource availability.

Moving upstream to achieve PdM
Although EAM solutions have seen progress in areas like usability and data validation, they still fall short of helping clients optimize their asset utilization.

To accomplish this, firms need tools to help them not only react to actual failure points, but to predict future failure points, as well as proactively recommend remediation.

This can be achieved by establishing a greater interoperability between asset monitoring/diagnostics solutions and EAM tools. To understand the total costs and ramifications of a scheduling decision, planners need access to a consolidated view of EAM data that includes labor, parts and downtime cost, in conjunction with asset monitoring trends and predictions- all in one application.

The integration of these systems not only offers advance identification of a required work order, it also manages the creation and scheduling of that order based on all the information available in EAM, such as previously completed maintenance and other task priorities.

RCM. . .the first step in EAM transformation
Facing new business requirements, such as higher service-level agreements or further decentralization of their operations, firms are looking to revamp their asset management practices. As with all process re-engineering efforts, the first challenge is to gain an accurate understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of current practices. This is especially important for companies that have grown through acquisition, inheriting new facilities and operations with different processes and systems. Practices that assumed a highly centralized organization might now be unsuitable to a distributed, loosely coupled operation.Without gauging the effectiveness of the”as-is”state, companies lack the foundation to define and detail the roadmap to the desired”to-be”state.

The challenge is that benchmarking efforts are often overwhelming to firms with already stretched maintenance budgets and limited personnel bandwidth. The good news is that there are a number of well-defined methodologies and tools to help teams streamline the process-namely Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) assessment methodology-to provide an excellent framework for the first steps in process re-engineering efforts. RCM helps define key performance metrics for the asset under review, as well as the reasons, likelihood and impact of possible failures. RCM also can help map out the preventive tasks that can minimize the likelihood of each failure.

RCM assessments, however, are beneficial to asset management transformation only if companies translate the findings into actionoriented recommendations and work orders within the EAM system. Specifically, they must use insights from RCM assessments to gauge the effectiveness of current maintenance practices and ensure that the new processes set up in the EAM system will only improve their overall return on assets. If old EAM data is simply exported into a new system without this assessment, all of the inaccurate and improperly prioritized tasks come with it. In the newly engineered process, the organization must allocate resources proportionate to the cost and yield of each maintenance task. By completing this exercise, a company is a step closer to ensuring that the right tasks are performed at the right time.

Companies should take the opportunity before system upgrades or new installs to conduct a complete RCM assessment and use the results to drive the new system requirements. Once the system is live in production, it becomes exponentially more difficult to make changes from both a process and application perspective. Many RCM assessments fall short today because the recommendations for making improvements are not translated into action-oriented tasks within the production system. However, if this analysis is completed on the front end of the implementation cycle, as a precursor to setting up an EAM system, the odds of success are increased significantly. MT

Patrick Connaughton is a senior analyst with Forrester Research. Telephone: (617) 613-6486;; Internet:

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