Archive | January, 2006


2:59 am
January 2, 2006
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Solving Problems Today And Thinking About Tomorrow

Times have been tough on manufacturing facilities lately. Machinery performance demands have never been higher. Critical equipment continues to age. Retiring workforces leave widening gaps in maintenance and engineering expertise. Everywhere, industry, has been forced to streamline and accomplish much more with much less.

Today’s maintenance managers, in particular, have a difficult task. For a variety of reasons it may not always be possible to follow precision maintenance practices to the letter; equipment maintenance has become more complicated; environmental and safety regulations have grown increasingly strict. All the while, machine uptime must be maximized.

These factors have prompted many in management and maintenance to take a fresh look at how things have been done in the past—and how they can be done better in the future to help deliver required efficiencies and economies. To that end, they are considering how machinery components work together and, ultimately, influence overall equipment life. In other words, they are turning to “system approaches” instead of “quick fixes.”

Great headway in this quest has been made through programs aimed at managing assets to optimize their efficiency. Benefits have accrued with positive effects on profits, productivity and quality. Yet, in some organizations, actually achieving asset efficiency and keeping machinery up-and-running still present major challenges.

Few companies inherently possess all the resources or expertise to implement the rapidly developing new technologies, processes and cultural changes needed for timely and long-term success. Some begin the process, but become hindered by an incomplete strategy or insufficient planning or benchmarking. Others may discover they lack required knowledge about individual (sometimes complex) components and the role each plays in machinery health.

As a leader on the global manufacturing stage for almost 100 years, our company enjoys a unique position, especially at a time when reliance on supplier know-how is universally recognized as one of the most practical, cost-effective means to extend internal competencies.

We have cultivated a tradition of significant investment in research and development and remain committed to the application of new technologies and materials to enhance product design and quality. Close working partnerships with customers worldwide, too, have broadened our extensive insight about applications in virtually every industry.

Equipped with interrelated products and knowledge, we have taken our own “fresh” look at the industrial landscape and listened closely to customer concerns, interests and goals for multiple facilities and the single plant floor. We have thought long and hard about how we can respond with realistic “system solutions” incorporating all of our competencies to solve customer problems.

This process has led us to introduce strategic business “platforms” that are instantly meaningful (and useful) to all our customers, regardless of industry. These five platforms (Bearings and Units, Seals, Lubrication Systems, Mechatronics and Services) certainly enable us to communicate specific families of expertise. Moreover, they can be deployed not only to solve old problems, but to create new opportunities as well.

By enlisting diverse and synergistic expertise offering long-term reliability advantages, proactive maintenance managers can gain the ability to solve their immediate problems today—and think more practically about tomorrow. MT

George Dettloff is the president and CEO of SKF USA Inc. In this role, he coordinates a variety of activities for the SKF Group’s US-based operations, including its Aerospace, Automotive, Electrical, Industrial and Service businesses. E-mail:

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2:58 am
January 2, 2006
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The Financial Impact Of Inventory and Procurement

This month, we continue our ongoing discussion on the financial impact of maintenance and reliability by taking into consideration issues related to spare part inventory and purchasing.

Maintenance material costs are related to the frequency and size of the repairs made to the company’s equipment. The total number of parts, in addition to the stores’ policies, purchasing policies and overall inventory management practices, contribute to the overall maintenance materials costs. How, though, are cost-effective policies and procedures developed, implemented and communicated?

It all begins with a proactive maintenance organization and reliable equipment. This places emphasis on the preventive maintenance program to initially reduce the reactive work for the maintenance organization to less than 20%. It is at this level that effective inventory and procurement policies can be developed and implemented. An organization can never achieve cost-effective inventory and procurement practices in a reactive maintenance environment.

When an organization has proactive practices, it can focus on developing the lowest total cost for the proper max-min levels, reorder points, reorder quantities, etc. Proper inventory practices also will require appropriate storage areas that are well organized, easily accessible and environmentally appropriate for the items being stored.

While this may sound expensive, consider what the cost of NOT having a proper inventory and procurement function for MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) spares is. Consider, too, how having too high of a level of spare parts impacts the company’s profitability. The holding cost for spares may be as high as 30% of the cost of the inventory annually. So, for a $10M stores investment in stocking spare parts, the annual holding costs may be as high as $3M. This is why there is constant pressure on maintenance organizations to reduce spare parts.

The counter-point to reducing inventory levels is the probability and cost of a stock-out that is requiring the spare part and not having it available. In a breakdown mode, with production disrupted, the costs could exceed $10,000.00 per hour (or even more). Even with consignment arrangements and rapid delivery by suppliers, downtime costs may exceed the cost of stocking certain spare part items. Of course, the more proactive and mature an organization is, the more the effectiveness of inventory “Best Practices” will be enhanced.

What are the benefits that typically can be achieved? As far back as 1979, there was a study of companies (published in Industry Week magazine) that improved their inventory and procurement practices as part of a maintenance improvement initiative. The average results reported by the participating companies highlighted:

  • a 17.8% reduction in total inventory levels
  • a 19.4% lower material cost

Accordingly, if we use our $10M inventory example again, these results would translate into a $1.78M reduction in total inventory levels and a $1.94M reduction in annual material costs.

While the above figures would need to be scaled based on the size of a company’s inventory, the savings would be proportionate to the inventory investment. Clearly, the current condition of the organization would need to be factored into the study. The more mature the organization’s inventory and purchasing practices, the lower the savings. On the other hand, if the organization had few controls in place, its potential savings could approach the results reflected in the referenced study.

So far we’ve examined labor and material expenses for the maintenance organization. Next month, we’ll begin examining the cost impact that maintenance has on overall company expenses. MT

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2:55 am
January 2, 2006
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Reliability Activities And Their Impact On Weibull Shapes

There’s been a shift in the maintenance and reliability marketplace towards more analytical software that takes predictive maintenance and equipment history data and then provides optimum solutions for a company’s assets.

The Weibull distribution is a widely recognized statistical model created by Swedish-born Waloddi Weibull to describe life distributions. Its primary advantage is that it requires very small amounts of data when compared with other forms of statistical analysis. It could be said that the primary job of physical asset managers is to prevent failures. Stated another way, the primary job of physical asset managers is to develop and then analyze data points for improved decision making. A statistical method that is effective using small amounts of data is a very useful tool. There is a direct relationship between maintenance and operating activities performed on equipment and the Weibull shapes that are developed for the equipment. This article discusses basic Weibull shapes, how operating and maintenance activities impact the reliability of equipment and the steps organizations can take to change those shapes to meet the needs of the business for equipment availability.

The bathtub curve
The bathtub curve consists of three distinct regions. Each region contains its own unique values for the Weibull parameters, Eta, Beta, and Gamma. The Weibull parameters provide insight into the failure mechanism that is present. (See Table I.)

What Beta values tell us
Beta values are extremely important because they tell us the failure behavior of the component. Knowledge of the failure behavior will lead us down a certain path when trying to improve overall reliability and availability. This will aid in decisions as to whether to apply preventive or predictive maintenance techniques to the equipment component.

Infant failures
Beta less than one, or infant failure, indicates that there may be a quality issue present among our maintenance, operating or spare parts acquisition programs. There is not a time-based maintenance activity for these types of failures until the root cause or causes of the infant failures are determined. The goal is to eliminate or minimize the high early failure rate represented by the curve.

There is a large laundry list of possible causes of infant failure mechanisms. Table II gives examples of the sources of infant failures. When examining these failure causes, it we can readily see that there is little benefit from investing in advanced predictive technologies to prevent infant failures.

High failure rate random failures
Random failures are characterized by a Beta value of approximately one. High failure rate random failures have a shorter than expected, or shorter than desired characteristic life, or Eta. Random failures typically lend themselves to either route-based, or constant condition monitoring, but still may have a greater than desired negative impact on the goals of the organization if the failure rate is too high.

Random failures are usually caused by some outside action that induces failures into the component. The organizational activities listed in table three are some likely sources of higher than expected or desired random failure rates. When examining the failure causes for random failures, it is easy to see that increasing the focus on the preventive maintenance program, particularly the basics, would eliminate many random failures.

Short life wearout failures (early wearout)
Generally, wearout failures lend themselves to some type of time-based replacement or overhaul strategy. While wearout is predictable, it can have a significant negative impact on the goals of the organization if components are not lasting as long as expected or desired. This is the area where a substantial return on investment can be realized when deploying predictive maintenance tools and techniques.

Early wearout is often caused by a lack of understanding of the stresses present in the equipment during the design phase, but there also are organizational activities that can lead to early component wearout. Again, the proper utilization of predictive techniques, such as vibration analysis, thermography, and spectrographic oil analysis can provide significant benefits.

How you know what you have (build-ing Weibull shapes without data)
Many companies do not have the complete data to perform a full Weibull analysis on their failing components. They do, however, have some data from their CMMS/EAM system, their predictive software systems and even information from experienced maintenance and operations personnel who are knowledgeable about what fails—and how. The trick to building Weibull shapes without complete CMMS/EAM system and predictive system data is to learn what questions to ask the maintainers and operators.

This isn’t perfect
The questioning method for building Weibull shapes is not a perfect replacement for a CMMS/EAM system or predictive system data. Still, it does provide a good starting point until an organization is able to build a complete database. The goal should be to eventually develop a database of predictive information that will allow for the development of maintenance tactics and strategies to eliminate undesired failures that keep you from meeting your business goals.

The key things to remember here are that the failure mechanisms present in equipment are a reflection of the maintenance, operating and procurement activities present within your organization. Furthermore, there is a direct link between best maintenance and operating practices and changing the Weibull behavior of your equipment. As an organization develops the preventive and predictive maintenance data necessary to properly analyze, it will progress to using analytical predictive software. The Weibull techniques discussed in this article help provide an understanding of how the analytical software utilizes this data to optimize preventive and predictive maintenance policies and procedures. MT

Bill Keeter, CMRP, is president of BK Reliability Engineers, Inc. (BK). Based in Titusville, FL, BK provides services that help facilities improve asset performance through Weibull analysis, RCM, availability simulation and life cycle cost analysis. Keeter has over 25 years of experience in maintenance engineering and management. He has successfully implemented maintenance improvement programs in a variety of manufacturing and production facilities, across a range of industry segments, and has authored and presented a number of articles and papers on practical applications. He holds degrees in Business Administration and Electrical Engineering. Telephone: (888) 673-8360 ext. 3; Internet:


Table I: Weibull Parameters
Weibull Parameter Description
Gamma (g) or Location Parameter Gives the location of each section of the Weibull curve. Gamma 3 is particularly important for items with a wearout mechanism because it marks the beginning of the zone of increasing failure rate.
Beta (b) or Shape Factor Beta values are an indicator of the failure behavior of the component. Beta values less than one represent infant failures, Beta values equal to one represent random failures, and Beta values greater than one represent wearout failures.
Eta (h) or Characteristic Life Eta gives an estimate of how long components might last after being put into service. It represents the point in time where 63.2% of the components in service are likely to have failed.


Table II: Potential Organizational Causes for Infant Failures
Source Causes
Maintenance Activities
  • No or inadequate quality of work control procedures and policies
  • Unskilled or untrained maintainers
  • No or Poorly written maintenance procedures
  • Poor organizational communication
  • No focus on precision maintenance
  • Inadequate Maintenance Supervision
Operating Activities
  • No or inadequate operating procedures, especially start up procedures
  • Unskilled or untrained operators
  • Inadequate Operations Supervision
Procurement Activities
  • Procurement focused solely on price
  • No or inadequate quality control procedures for incoming spares, especially custom manufactured parts from third party vendors
  • Parts procured from a wide variety of vendors


Table III. Potential Causes for High Random Failure Rates
Source Causes
Maintenance Activities
  • Lubrication routes not well designed
  • Inconsistent torque applied to bolts
  • Poor maintenance cleanliness practices
  • Inadequate lightening protection
Operating Activities
  • Equipment occasionally operated outside its design envelope
  • Process upsets created by inadequate quality control of incoming raw materials
  • Process upsets created by unskilled or untrained operators
Procurement Activities
  • Parts procured from a wide variety of vendors
  • Parts specifications not clear


Table IV. Potential Causes for Early Wearout
Source Causes
Maintenance Activities
  • Under-Lubrication of bearings
  • Using Incorrect Lubricant for the Service
  • Over-Lubrication of bearings
  • Service intervals too long for:
    • Lubrication
    • Adjustments
  • Consistent Over Tightening of Belts
  • Consistent Over-Torquing of Bolts
  • Using Parts Below Required Specifications
Operating Activities
  • Consistently operating the equipment outside its design envelope
Procurement Activities
  • Purchasing spares below needed specifications


Table V. Some Simple Questions for Determining Weibull Failure Mechanisms
Question Answer What The Answer Tells Us
1. How many times have you repaired this particular failure in the last three years? Three or Four The answer gives us an approximation of the mean time between failures or the characteristic life. It may not be exact, but it will be close enough for us to make a reasonable decision.
2. If you work on it today do you know you have to warn others that you worked on it because it may not get through till day after tomorrow? Yes There is probably an infant failure mechanism present. You will need to do some Root Cause Analysis (RCA) to determine why and eliminate the cause.
3. If you work on it today do you know you won’t have to come back to work on it again until sometime near the mean time to failure you determined in question one? If you wait too long after that will it probably fail? Yes This is probably a wearout failure. It can most likely be addressed with a time based replacement or overhaul strategy, but RCA should be performed to find root cause if the wearout is occurring sooner than desired.
4. If you work on it today is it likely to fail sometime between now and the mean time to failure determined in question one, but you can’t be certain that it will last that long? Yes This is most likely a random failure. It can be handled by condition monitoring unless the failure rate is higher than is tolerable for the organization. If the rate is too high, then RCFA should be performed to find and eliminate cause.

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2:47 am
January 2, 2006
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Recommendations For Survival: Skills Training Approaches For Fast & Sustainable Equipment Reliability

Forecasters have long warned us about a “perfect storm” bearing down on industrial America. Now, it’s upon us and your operations are right in the eye of it. Fueled by a growing underskilled and, inexperienced workforce and little emphasis on skilled trades training, conditions are bad (and due to get worse).

What if we train them and they leave? What if we don’t and they stay?” “Who’s got the time for training? We have equipment tearing up left and right!” “Training takes a long time—some say three to five years before you see results. We just can’t wait that long.”

Many small- to mid-sized plants and facilities are wrestling with these same train-or-not-to-train questions. Intuitively we know that the higher the level of maintenance and operations skills and knowledge the more reliable the equipment will be.

It makes sense doesn’t it? If we have trained operators to properly operate the equipment and maintainers to properly maintain and repair the same equipment it should run better and last longer. Operating costs will be lower and injuries will be fewer. Products will be shipped on time and with zero defects. It’s common sense. . . but, unfortunately, not common practice.

Far too many operators and maintainers in small- to mid-sized plants and facilities are not formally trained in their jobs or their crafts. Many have only had fragmented training through courses, workshops, vendor programs and the like.

Far too many maintainers are neither products of formal apprenticeship-type training programs nor graduates of vocational-technical programs for their line of work. Today, maintenance education—including the transfer of crucial trade and craft skills and knowledge—continues to be the least defined of all industrial activities. The bottom line here? We have to find a way to make our equipment-related training fast, focused and sustainable IF we are to improve our equipment performance and reliability, become more competitive and address the skills shortages. Traditional approaches to maintenance and operations training under which we’ve been working may no longer be effective.

Since the early 1980s, apprenticeship programs in this country have all but disappeared, vocational training programs have fallen by the wayside, companies have downsized their training capabilities and machines have gotten “smarter.” Yet, interestingly, these so-called “smart machines” still incorporate the same basic bearings and seals, gaskets, valves, gear boxes, couplings, motors, hydraulics and pneumatics as their predecessors.

Today, many equipment-intensive businesses and facilities are feeling the pinch—or the pain—of declining skills in their maintenance workforce. Junior-high and high-school shop classes are few and far between. One- and two-year technical certificate and Associate Degree programs have nearly vanished. The generation of newer/younger maintenance people is sizably smaller than the “Baby Boomers” who will be retiring in droves over the next five to 10 years. Furthermore, this younger generation has not been exposed to the same technical skills training and development opportunities as their parents.

We have a real challenge ahead of us in the maintenance and reliability arena. We are truly in a “perfect storm” when it comes to an under-skilled, inexperienced workforce poised to inherit critical maintenance and reliability jobs. [Ref. 1, 2, 3.]

“Developing ‘human capital’ must be a priority.”
The above subhead was a headline from a November 22, 2005 press release of the National Press Club. In the release, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Consulting stated, “The serious shortage of qualified employees that a vast majority of U.S. manufacturers are now experiencing is taking an increasingly negative toll on America’s ability to compete…” In their “2005 Skills Gap Report – A Survey of the American Manufacturing Workforce,” the group points to a number of statistics that should have all of us extremely concerned—and rapidly preparing to meet new challenges in the workplace [Ref. 4].

For example, the findings noted, “More than 80% of manufacturers surveyed are experiencing an overall shortage of qualified workers that cuts across industry sectors. The pain is most acute on the front line, where 90% report a moderate to severe shortage of qualified skilled production employees, including machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors and technicians.”

Not a new warning
While the referenced “Skills Gap Report” is new and a must-read for all of us, the message it carries is not new. In 1983, the U.S. Department of Education published a report entitled, “A Nation at Risk.” In 1986, “Toward a New Era in Manufacturing: The Need for a National Vision,” a joint project of the Manufacturing Studies Board, the Commission on Engineering & Technical Systems and the National Research Council was published. In 1987, the Hudson Institute gave us similar insights in its study report, “Workforce 2000,” and again, in 1997, in “Workforce 2020.” In June 1990, “America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages” was published by the National Center on Education and the Economy. These researchers, educators and others have been telling us about the significant need for workplace skills and knowledge improvement for decades. Likewise, from an anecdotal perspective, many small manufacturers and facilities have been experiencing growing skills gaps for the past decade or more.

We are now in a crisis that will likely get worse before it gets worse, if we don’t do something about it starting NOW!

Surely, we in the U.S. are responding to skills shortages and looking for ways to develop and encourage “skilled trades” training to address this maintenance and manufacturing dilemma. A Google search of “skilled trades training” and then “legislation,” however, reveals that Canada is actively pursuing legislation around this problem at a 15-to-one ratio to U.S. legislative activity.

In May 1999, the U.S. House of Representatives authored a bill to amend the IRS Code of 1986 “to allow long-term training of employees in highly skilled small business trades.” It did not pass into law. In the summer of 2004, our political parties again deadlocked on jobs training legislation.

In March 2005 the House of Representatives passed a Jobs Training Bill (H.R. 27) by a vote of 224 to 200 that would renew the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 for Federal jobs training programs. (The Senate has yet to draft its version.) This WIA funding historically addresses community colleges, two-year institutions and local workforce investment boards in every state, but it appears to be underutilized, unknown and obscure to business and industry in many states or regions.

In a July 2004 letter from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce, Representatives Boehner (R-OH) and McKeon (R-CA) to then Senator Tom Daschle noted, “Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says strengthening worker training and education programs is critical to putting Americans back to work and creating jobs. In testimony Mr. Greenspan stated that ‘rigorous education and on-going training to all members of our society’ is essential for future job growth and worker security.”

Again, going to the bottom line. . . there is much noise with little substantive action on the part of our Federal Government to address the skills shortages. Now, we are in a crisis situation that will only deteriorate unless action is taken on numerous front lines: employers (small and large), professional associations, community colleges, technical schools, high schools, and local workforce investment boards, to be specific.

Taking action
Training is no longer an option, it’s a requirement. So, what can. . . what should. . . what MUST be done if we are to survive this perfect storm converging on all of us? We could oversimplify and say, “Train, train, train, then train some more.” But, that doesn’t really tell anyone how to get it done, let alone how to get training started and how to make sure it is the right training in the most efficient manner. In the interim, the following presents a 10-point set of initial recommendations (a detailed process will appear in the next part of this series to be published in the February 2006 issue of Maintenance Technology).

First. . .
Recognize that education and training come in many, many different forms. Most of us think “classroom” or “OJT” (on-job training) when we hear the word “training.” There are, though, any number of diverse training approaches that can be used depending on the plant or facility needs, including:

  • Classroom training. Small groups of 3 to 5 or larger sessions with 20 or more in sessions that meet for several hours weekly, for several days, or for several months to a year in length.
  • Seminars or workshops. Typically one- to five-days in length with lecture, demonstration, and some hands-on exposure to the subject.
  • Formal on-job training. In-plant with an assigned OJT Coach (or mentor), detailed task list, objectives, step-by-step job task procedures, and training instructions.
  • Self study materials. Video programs, computer-based/CD-ROM programs, on-line training over the internet, print workbooks or manuals. . .
  • Performance demonstration. Re-gardless of the training approach, participants should be able to demonstrate the newly-learned skills and knowledge on the job in a formal and documented manner. After all, that is why we train in the first place—to improve job performance.

Remember, adults learn best by doing—and in maintenance, it is critical to the learning process that the training have a direct application to the job requirements in the plant. Training that results in “passing a written test” is not necessarily a good measure of a person’s ability to actually perform the job in the plant, on your equipment. Training that results in a performance demonstration (training for proficiency) is quite often the best.

Second. . .
Identify the type and magnitude of a skills and knowledge deficit in your company, in your plant, in your department. Back that gut feeling up with some data.

Consider the following signs of a severe training need:

  • One of two of your top skilled maintenance techs (or mechanics or electricians) accrue lots of overtime working on a critical few systems.
  • The maintenance manager or engineering manager is called out to troubleshoot problems and tell the maintenance techs what to do.
  • Repairs that used to be routine seem to take much longer and result in an increasing number of reworks.
  • Shortly after a PM is completed, the equipment fails.
  • Your facilities and equipment investments are expanding at a faster rate that you can maintain them.
  • Breakdowns and failures are on the increase.
  • A posted or advertised maintenance tech job has been open for more than 90 days and you can’t find an applicant who has a hint of qualification for the job.
  • The average age of your top skilled maintenance technicians is over 55.
  • The average age of your newest maintenance techs is mid-30s.
  • You’ve recently lost top skilled maintenance techs to newer companies in the area.
  • The turnover rate of maintenance technicians is more than 5% per year.

Remember, it is important to quantify, document and specify the magnitude of your skills shortage and/or training problems. Have evidence, testimonials and the best data you can collect to make the case for improving your maintenance training capabilities.

Third. . .
Identify a starting point for maintenance and reliability training. Keep in mind that between 50 and 90% of equipment losses are outside the direct control of the maintenance department.

Consider the following:

  • Focusing on a compelling business case for training. Look for areas of the plant that have high maintenance costs, high downtime, production constraint, the most critical equipment, potential for environmental or safety incidents, vulnerable or obsolete equipment, etc.
  • Following “Lean” initiatives. If your plant is aggressively pursuing “Lean,” piggyback on those efforts. They will inevitably face equipment issues that they are unprepared to address. Are the maintenance department and maintenance technicians prepared to respond with a “zero breakdown” strategy for the targeted equipment?
  • Core craft skills training. Develop the essential maintenance skills and knowledge base for critical equipment or processes.
  • Procedure-based training. Promote the mastery of standardized procedures, or “best practices” for operating, maintaining, and repairing your most critical equipment.
  • Cross-training current maintenance techs. Address areas of the most severe skills shortages. This could target an area of the plant (equipment or process) or a set of skills that might have a broader application (electrical, instrumentation, alignment, predictive maintenance, etc.).
  • Apprenticeship training. “Grow your own” maintenance techs over the next three to five years. This can address off-the-street applicants who have potential or an aptitude for success, as well as individuals from within the plant, including production/operations, for example. To assure success, it’s important to assess the participants’ aptitude, learning ability and literacy skills.

Fourth. . .
What is the size of the training effort? This one deals with the shear numbers of people who will participate as “trainees.”

  • Small plants may have the ability to allow one or two maintenance techs to be off in training at certain times. In some plants even this can be a real challenge.
  • Medium- to large-sized businesses may allow 5- to 10- to 20-percent of the population to be away for training at certain times.

Fifth. . .
When should training be performed?

  • During normal work hours (paid work time).
  • After normal work hours (paid overtime or unpaid time).
  • Half during and half after work hours (half paid/half unpaid time).

Sixth. . .
On average, how much time can the maintenance technicians afford to be away from the job for training?

  • Some companies plan 40, 60 or 80 hours per year per employee for job-specific skills training and development. This does NOT include regulatory or mandated training that’s necessary to meet company or governmental requirements.
  • Some companies average 5% -10% of annual work hours for employee training.
  • Workshops lasting several days.
  • Two-hour training sessions spread over several days a week, or over several weeks.

Seventh. . .
How much can you budget for maintenance training? What’s reasonable for training costs (travel, instructors, training materials, seminars, workshops, etc.)? Here are some basic guidelines:

  • 2% – 5% of payroll dollars.
  • 5% – 10% of scheduled work hours.
  • 5% – 15% of newly installed capital equipment cost.

Eighth. . .
Since the need for training can span a range of locations, where is the best place to do it? Many businesses have used all of the following options depending on the subject matter, the size of the group, etc.

  • In the workplace
  • Outside the workplace, but on-site (on or in company facilities)
  • Off-site at local colleges, tech schools, seminars, workshops

Ninth. . .
How can we keep track of training and qualification activities? It may sound like extra paperwork, but it is essential to improving performance. Take a chapter from improvements in quality, safety and on-time delivery.

Tracking current levels of performance and progress being made is a must. Most businesses already document regulatory training activities for OSHA, EPA, FDA, USDA, etc. Yes, I know, it is required. But, when you think about it, if training is essential to improving safety, why is it not essential for improving equipment performance and reliability—and not only keeping track of training, but also auditing employees’ work practices to assure the work is being done properly?

Some basic training tracking methods include:

  • Off-the-shelf training tracking software.
  • Personnel files and training activity files.
  • Training matrix charts and display boards.
  • Work orders. Create an “equipment history” record for each person and each training and qualification activity in your CMMS.

Tenth. . .
Who has the responsibility and the authority to manage the overall training and qualification process in your plant? Recently, many businesses have been cutting back or eliminating their training capabilities, budgets, trainers, instructors and training departments. That being the case, now is the time to bring back formal training leadership and management structures that are responsible for:

  • Planning and developing training.
  • Standardizing training and qualification processes.
  • Training trainers and coaches.
  • Purchasing and controlling materials and programs.
  • Keeping training records.
  • Scheduling training and qualification activities.

Putting it all together. . .
Training to drive out variation, failures and breakdowns
“Why don’t we have the time to fix it right the first time, but we have the time to fix it again and again?” There’s a very important “bottom line” to this. For equipment-related training, everyone who touches the equipment must be trained and qualified to properly operate, maintain and repair it.

Set-ups and change-overs must be done right the first time. Calibrations must be accurate. Programming must be error free. There is a compelling case for “standardizing” these procedures for our critical equipment first, then expanding standardization throughout the plant for “mission critical” equipment, machinery and processes.

Standardization of operating and maintenance procedures must be done BEFORE training. Why train employees in one method knowing that on the job they can use their discretion as to how the task is performed. All this does is introduce human variation, which , in turn, leads to inconsistent equipment performance and reliability.

Quality gurus such as Edwards Deming long ago reminded us that “you cannot improve it if you don’t first standardize it.” Therefore, if you want to improve your equipment performance and reliability, the first step is to standardize the work. Begin by identifying a “best practice” from those who currently are performing the tasks. (Avoid the traditional “industrial engineering” approach to standardizing the work—people support what they help to create). Once standardized, ideas for improvements now can be solicited from those performing the work. The revised procedure then becomes the way everyone does the task.

here is a long, proven history for “procedure-based maintenance” and “procedure-based operations” in the military and in industry of all types. Most maintenance jobs are repetitive in nature. However, the perception is the opposite, due to non-standard work methods and widely varying skills and knowledge resulting in equipment breakdowns and failures. Standardizing the “best practices” will lead to much less “reactive maintenance” or repairs. [Ref. 5]

Training in industry
In the 1940s, the U.S. Government established “Training Within Industry” (TWI) for the purpose of quickly training huge numbers of workers to perform new jobs. World War II forced U.S. manufacturers to re-tool for the war effort and, in many cases, to do it with a mostly new workforce—women.

After the war, from 1945 to 1951, the U.S. led the rebuilding of Japanese manufacturing infrastructure using proven TWI methodologies. The four interdependent methods included:

  • Job Instruction training (how to instruct).
  • Job Methods Training (improving job/task performance).
  • Job Relations Training (solving and preventing personnel problems).
  • Program Development (solving problems).

Many Japanese adopted TWI methodology, and still use it to this day! In fact, TWI is Toyota’s present-day training and development strategy in the automotive industry world-wide.

In the U.S. since WWII , though, TWI methods have been abandoned and lie dormant. [Ref. 6]

In an equipment-intensive operation maintenance and reliability must be as important as safety, environmental and quality in the formula for competitiveness. The American workforce is the most productive in the world. Look at all of the foreign-owned automotive manufacturers that set up profitable businesses here and rely on the American workforce to produce at world-class levels. In many businesses and industry sectors, however, we are rapidly losing our competitive edge because we are not paying attention to the basic rules of equipment reliability—proper operations and proper maintenance—doing things right the first time. Regardless of how computerized and how automated your plant and equipment may be, there is a fundamental, underlying need for reliable machinery and equipment components.

Focus on the basics of proper operation and maintenance first, then the advanced technologies can do their part. Many equipment-intensive companies could do more to get a bigger return on their investment through operations and maintenance training than through many of the currently fashionable “Lean, visual and 5S” training activities. MT

Suggested resources

  1. “Warning: Vocational Classes Falling Out of Favor,” Robert M. Williamson, Viewpoint column, Maintenance Technology, March 2005.
  2. “The Biggest Threat to Equipment Reliability: Skills Shortage,” Robert M. Williamson, Viewpoint column, Maintenance Technology, June 2005.
  3. “Lessons Learned from the Busted Knuckle Garage.” Robert M. Williamson, Viewpoint column, Maintenance Technology, September 2005.
  4. “2005 Skills Gap Report – A Survey of the American Manufacturing Workforce.” National Association of Manufacturers, Manufacturing Institute, DeLoitte Consulting LLP, November 22, 2005.
  5. “Procedure Based Maintenance,” Jack R. Nicholas, proceedings of IMC, December 6, 2004, and Reliability World Conference, April 27, 2005.
  6. Training Within Industry, Donald A. Dinero, Productivity Press, New York, 2005.
  7. “Maintenance Skills Shortage: Overcoming the Biggest Threat to Reliability.” Robert M. Williamson, proceedings of MARCON, May 4-6, 2005, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Like what you’ve just read? Want to learn more? Next month, in Part II of this series, the author will focus on the “Results Training & Qualification Process.” But it gets even better! You also have the opportunity to meet and learn from Bob Williamson in person at MARTS in Rosemont, IL, during the week of April 17. For full conference details, visit

Robert (Bob) Williamson is a workplace educator with more than 35 years or experience helping companies and workgroups improve the performance of their equipment and work processes through applied education and training. His background in maintenance mechanics, special machine and tooling design and leading vocational/technical courses has prepared him for a career that has taken him into well over 400 plant and company locations developing operations and maintenance training, Total Productive Maintenance, multi-skill maintenance job design, pay-for-applied skills design, and “Lean Equipment Management.” After 24 years in post-secondary technical education and plant engineering/construction he formed Strategic Work Systems, Inc. in 1993 to focus on the people-side of world-class manufacturing and maintenance. For nearly 10 years, he also has been studying and teaching “team-based reliability” principles from NASCAR Racing. Telephone: (828) 894-5338; e-mail:

Cases In Point

Case example #1: Plant A had an extremely high rate of scrap from one line caused by only one type of machine in the line. There were eight of these machines in the line, most built in 1939, overhauled in 1970. On these, two flat drive belts were observed to be slipping and wearing out at a high rate. During a training analysis, causes of the belt slippage were determined to be a binding of the gear/chain drive due to excessive build-ups of fibers and debris on the gears, chains and sprockets. Historically, maintenance craft skills training here had emphasized oiling chains and greasing gears. The Preventive Maintenance tasks (PMs) also reinforced this oiling and greasing practice. However, the manufacturer’s manual written in 1939 contained a note: “Warning: Do not grease these gears or oil these chains. Fibers will cause jam-ups which will lead to intake roll belt slippage and will result in off quality product.” In this case the equipment manufacturer’s recommendations were the opposite of the typical craft skills training.

Case example #2: Plant B had a constraint piece of equipment in one of its highest-volume product lines. Pressure was on to improve a five-year-old “Cutter Machine 3,” a highly automated material handling, cutting, orienting and delivery system. The central part of this machine was a precision “shear” that cut the raw materials to precise tolerances. Multiple maintainers had responsibility for this piece of equipment: Central Maintenance mechanics and electricians, PM crews, a Lubricator and, of course, operators. The most problematic assembly of this machine was the “shear.” During the training analysis, it was determined that the reasons for much of the failures were related to the upper and lower shear blades set-up, alignment, cleanliness conditions, sharpness, etc. The findings: there were no lubrication diagrams or instructions being used; the set-up was done by memory; blade conditions and failure data were not tracked; there were no PM instructions for the entire “shear” assembly itself. Despite the very detailed equipment manufacturer’s manual, most work was done from memory and “just like we do on all the other Cutters in the shop.” Equipment-specific training was not done since this machine was like all the others that “we’ve had for years.”

Case example #3: Plant C had a very large, seven-year-old, automated manufacturing machine that covered a 40,000-ft. area. The products from this machine were “sold out” for the next two years and the customer was hinting at a 20% increase next year. The problem? This machine was running at 51% availability on a 24/7 schedule. A training analysis pointed to one part of the machine as the most problematic (call it the “consolidator”). This consolidator unit had been extensively modified by the plant over the years. Debris built up under the conveyor belt, contributing to off-quality production and jamming the unit because a modification had partly disabled a belt cleaner. A “central vacuum system” would be hooked to the consolidator to remove any excess fibers and prevent defects and jam-ups. The cleaning and PM instructions stated “clean the conveyor roll and the central vacuum system.” These instructions were grossly over-simplified. The central vacuum system included a bag house, a huge fine-debris removal system that discharged into a centrifugal separator and collection bag, as well as a large bin. The multiple fans that powered this system were driven by motors using twin v-belts. The training analysis pointed to the absence of detailed PM work instructions. Observations noted the absence of proper v-belt maintenance—slipping/squealing belts, overheated and worn sheaves, misaligned shafts, chunks broken out of the belts and mismatched belts. No procedures were available for the inspection, cleaning or maintenance of these critical systems. Operators and maintainers relied on their own knowledge and experience. When new belts were installed the alignment was not checked and the belt tension was not reset. The causes of belt wear and damage were not explored. Fixing it fast was more important!

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2:45 am
January 2, 2006
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Energy Management For Electrical Systems

Doing more with less seems to be the order of the day (and the future) for most companies. Technology that helps you kill several birds with one stone is a good way to be getting it done.

The cost of doing business is not getting any cheaper, especially for energy-intensive industrial businesses. To remain competitive in an environment of ever-increasing operational costs, large processing plants and factories are finding new ways to do more with less.

Whether processing petroleum or manufacturing automobiles, the goal is the same: improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase productivity. One way to do all three is through improved electrical energy management practices. Although the cost and quality of electricity can significantly affect operations and profits, it has traditionally been accepted as a non-negotiable business expense—the utility bill is paid each month without question and the cost goes unchallenged. But energy is not a fixed cost—it can be controlled. In fact, recent advances in enterprise energy management (“EEM”) technology are helping businesses to control costs, optimize processes and prevent downtime.

Energy management systems use a combination of advanced metering hardware and software to monitor a facility’s electricity usage, identify inefficiencies and pinpoint potential threats to reliability. This type of system can provide facility managers with the information to make informed decisions, from both a functional perspective and a financial one.

On the functional side, plant managers can efficiently monitor power quality and energy usage in real time to increase productivity, improve efficiency and maintain reliability. On the business side, corporate energy managers can review the historical consumption data provided to predict energy usage for the month, allocate costs by department and identify waste. A detailed understanding of the facility’s electrical energy requirements over time also can help managers spot recurring trends, simulate alternative rate structures and negotiate better power-supply contracts.

Regardless of the type of facility monitored, the tools used to effectively manage and control electrical energy usage on a full-time basis usually consist of three main components: meters, software and communications.

EEM system components
An enterprise energy management system typically consists of a network of intelligent energy meters linked to a centrally located server running the EEM software.

Each meter monitors a specific location or activity, while the head-end software continuously retrieves, aggregates and processes the information.

The system logs the information in an historical database, responds to any alarm conditions by relaying notifications to operations personnel and displays the real-time status of each monitored area on the screens of one or more networked workstations. In short, the software compiles and analyzes data from multiple sources and acts as the central intelligence for the entire system.

The type and location of each meter is determined by the electrical system itself. For example, an advanced, utility-grade meter can be installed at the main substation to verify the quantity and quality of power delivered to the site. Simpler sub-metering devices can then be installed at key points around the facility to monitor individual buildings or processes.

Typically, the distributed meters communicate with the head-end software across the facility’s existing Ethernet-based local area network. If, however, the operation is geographically dispersed over great distances, telephone, wireless, even the Internet can be used. In some cases, the meters can use e-mail to send system updates or alarm notifications directly to facility personnel or even host a built-in web page accessible over any standard web browser.

Understanding how a factory or plant is currently using electrical energy is the first step to controlling the cost, quality and reliability of its power.

Controlling energy costs
The benefits of informed energy management increase with the amount of energy used and the relative cost of any interruption to productivity. By their very nature, industrial applications tend to incur considerable electrical energy costs during the course of business—with energy-intensive operations such as aluminum and chemical processing plants experiencing energy costs between five and 10 times higher than industry averages (Source: Department of Energy, Office of Industrial Technologies). Like any large business, industrial plants and factories need to take active charge of their electrical energy management and procurement, but however, to do so requires a full understanding of ongoing energy needs, and the ability to manage its use.

Relatively few facilities have the ability to verify the billing statements from their energy suppliers or to allocate the appropriate amounts to specific cost centers or processes within their operations. An EEM system can deliver the information needed to accurately represent the true cost of doing business, and help to identify procedures or areas that exhibit energy inefficiencies or waste.

With a high-accuracy revenue meter located at the utility service entrance, an EEM system can “shadow bill” overall electrical energy consumption. Automated reports can then help to verify utility bills, and identify any over-billing errors.

By allocating energy costs by department and using automated reports and alarm options to keep staff aware, an EEM system can help everyone actively reduce electrical energy consumption, increase efficiency and minimize costs within their individual departments.

With a network of meters reporting to one or more energy-management workstations, corporate energy managers have the tools to identify and monitor electrical energy requirements across the entire enterprise. This information can then be presented as a load profile—basically a snapshot of electrical energy consumption at all monitored locations throughout a typical day, week or month.

A load profile can illustrate how electrical energy is used throughout the facility, providing a valuable baseline that can help identify inefficiencies and evaluate improvement efforts. With an accurate understanding of electrical energy consumption, facility personnel can normalize usage patterns in conjunction with variables such as temperature, production rates and hours of operation to accurately benchmark and project electricity requirements.

An EEM system also helps energy managers analyze historical energy trends to accurately predict needs. With this information, “what if” scenarios can be developed to help managers optimize loads or processes and even negotiate better energy contracts. Accurate information on usage trends also can help discover unused capacity, which in turn can defer capital investment decisions such as building additional onsite generation.

Depending on the location, there may also be an opportunity to take advantage of demand response or load curtailment programs offered by electrical energy suppliers. These programs offer price concessions to the consumer, in return for the consumer agreeing to reduce its load anytime energy consumption across the power grid is at a critical peak. In this way, the consumer can also avoid incurring penalties from the utility for exceeding a maximum power demand level during peak times.

All of these opportunities are dynamic in nature. When electrical energy prices are high, or demand is rising too quickly, an EEM system can start a generator or dynamically shed non-essential loads to reduce the electrical energy drawn from the utility.

Furthermore, because utilities may also bill an additional surcharge for consuming electrical energy inefficiently below a minimum power factor level (typically caused by large motor loads), an EEM system(such as the one pictured in Fig. 2) can intelligently control capacitor banks to correct low power factor and again avoid penalties.

Power quality and reliability
When it comes to power quality, the cost of harmonics, sags, transients and outages can quickly become very expensive, not to mention disruptive.

Data may be lost, equipment damaged and procedures interrupted, resulting in costly downtime. Production lines are particularly vulnerable to power quality problems—power sags, transients and harmonics can result in device malfunction, downtime, damaged equipment and even lost product. Due to the interdependency of functions in a production line, these problems amplify the disturbance by “starving” all peripheral and downstream processes as well. The widespread adoption of automation within industrial processes means many organizations are now more sensitive to the quality of their electrical energy supply and continuous operation of critical equipment.

Recent studies indicate that the average industrial consumer experiences eight power-quality events each year (EPRI CEIDS, Cost of Power Disturbances), costing between $10,000 and $30,000 per event for pulp & paper processes and from $10,000 to $50,000 per event for plastics and semiconductor manufacturers (EPRI, PQ Applications Guide for Architects and Engineers). Affecting everything from computers to controls and motors, the aggregate cost of power-quality events is estimated at $300 million each year for continuous-process manufacturers (EPRI CEIDS, Cost of Power Disturbances). This represents a considerable opportunity for improved electrical energy-management performance.

When electrical quality problems occur, portable power-monitoring equipment can sometimes help locate the problem, but for a large facility, an EEM system with its network of permanent-mount meters installed at key locations can verify power quality around the clock. This solution combines fast desktop access to status information for the entire electrical system, with the ability to receive early warning alarms anywhere by e-mail, pager or cell phone.

Much like the “black box” used by the airline industry, the EEM system provides valuable forensic data after an event, to help personnel identify the source of an electrical disturbance, and take corrective action to help prevent a reoccurrence. Detailed power-quality reports also can help personnel correlate poor electrical power quality with negative impacts on operations and processes.

To help maximize efficiency, on-site generators can help cut costs by “peak shaving” peaks in demand and even converting waste heat to electricity through co-generation. A clear understanding of generator processes is crucial to the efficient and economical operation of the facility. In this context, an EEM system can provide a simple and efficient way to manage on-site generation assets, by profiling electrical energy requirements and managing generators or loads based on power reliability or economic conditions.

When considering ways to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase productivity across a large industrial campus, sound energy management practices should be a priority.

By monitoring consumption on an ongoing basis, corporate energy managers can predict electricity costs for the month, avoid penalties and verify each bill. Threats to reliability can be identified and corrected proactively, and poor power quality or disturbances can be dealt with promptly and efficiently to help prevent downtime.

A network of meters installed on enterprise-wide basis can help to allocate costs by department or function, and verify the impact of any new energy initiatives. Automated reports can keep staff informed, so they can actively participate in programs to reduce energy consumption, increase efficiency and minimize costs within their individual areas. In the long run, a detailed picture of overall energy requirements can help to identify opportunities for better supply contracts, alternative rate structures or new construction, such as on-site generation.

Energy management technology can monitor the overall “health” of an energy system and any related equipment, providing the information needed to prevent avoidable interruptions. In the event of a disturbance, this type of system can supply timely alerts and status reports to help plant managers get equipment up and running as quickly as possible. Afterwards, logged event data can be analyzed to help identify the cause, and thus help avoid future interruptions.

The place to start is with a clear understanding of energy usage across the facility over a given period of time. From there, assessments can be made based on fact, corrective measures can be identified and the relative success of improvements can be verified.

By supporting a continuous cycle of research, optimization and verification, an investment in energy-management strategies can open the door to a more efficient and cost-effective future. MT

Anthony Tisot specializes in the topics of energy management and control technology for Schneider Electric. His background includes more than 12 years documenting technological innovations within the public and private sectors.

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2:43 am
January 2, 2006
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What's New?


Tom Madding, Group Publisher

Moving into the New Year, just as it was coming out of the last one, among the most critical issues confronting our readers is that “perfect storm” brewing out there in the maintenance field. As contributor Bob Williamson notes in his article beginning on page 20 this month, an ill-prepared workforce in the skilled trades area has implications that will be haunting U.S. industry for years to come.

Throughout 2006, Maintenance Technology will continue to address these concerns through hard-hitting news, articles and commentary from industry experts. We’re also asking you, our readers, to get in on the act, as well, by participating in our online survey (through regarding the status of and support for comprehensive training programs (or lack of same) within your operations. It’s a great opportunity for you to weigh in and help your operations and others across the country in dealing with this crisis situation. To take part, please click here.

The survey runs through early April. We plan to compile the results and share the findings at this year’s Maintenance and Reliability Technology Summit (MARTS), in Rosemont, IL, the week of April 17. In the meantime, speaking of MARTS 2006, we know how limited many training budgets are today. One of the best things you, as a maintenance manager, can do for your company is to leverage precious training dollars through the significant training opportunities MARTS offers you and your staff.

We’re very excited about MARTS 2006, and we think you will be, too. That’s because the technical conference will bring together a wealth of fresh faces, fresh ideas and fresh solutions that are sure to benefit your maintenance operations. The best. The brightest. The newest. They’ll be at MARTS 2006.

For example, we’ll not only be offering the type of practical, solutions-filled technical sessions you’ve come to expect from past MARTS, we’ll also be rolling out two powerful new tracks.

  • Our new Energy Management Track will focus on strategies that can help you drive profits through energy efficiency. With energy costs skyrocketing, few facilities have not been required to seriously consider how energy consumption impacts the life of their equipmentÐand the future of their operations. As a maintenance professional, you no doubt already understand how the poor-maintenance/wasted-energy/reduced-reliability relationship works. But, do you know how costly it is for your company? In the MARTS Energy Management Track, you’ll learn how others are taking those costs off their books and actually enhancing their bottom lines.
  • Our new Executive Track will focus on management issues. Among other things, presenters will discuss best practices, KPIs, world-class manufacturing strategies and where the “real money” can be found in having a proactive maintenance program. The MARTS Executive Track is specifically geared to help “in-the-trenches” maintenance professionals like yourself “sell” the value of maintenance activities all the way up the ladder to top management. In fact, we strongly encourage you to invite executives from your company to join you for this dynamic offering.

There are a number of other “new” features at MARTS 2006, including the opportunity to earn continuing educations units (CEUs) in any of our nine workshop courses and two certification courses. And, you certainly want to see and hear our great Keynote Speaker, Jeff Hammond, current host of Fox Sports’ NASCAR show, “Hollywood Hotel,” and long-time Crew Chief for Darrell Waltrip!

You’ll find full details about MARTS 2006 later in this magazine, online at and at Please take the time to review the entire schedule of activities and make plans to join us for this important event.

We’ll look forward to seeing you there! MT

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2:41 am
January 2, 2006
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Predictive Maintenance: Ultrasonic Update

Based on a fairly simple principle, this PdM tool has a number of valuable applications. It often can alert you to equipment problems well before other technologies can.


Terry Wireman, C.P.M.M. Editorial Director

Ultrasonic tools are used primarily in leak detection, in determining the thickness of materials and in inspection of electrical equipment.

The principle of ultrasonics is simple. For example, when used for leak detection, the leak will emit a range of sonic signals. These sonic signals, when properly detected and measured, provide technicians with the severity and the location of the leak.

Leak detection applications
Common applications for ultrasonics in leak detection include pneumatic and other gas systems, vacuum systems, gaskets and seals and steam traps. Ultrasonics also can be used to detect value blow-through.

Since many small leaks are impossible to hear with the human ear, ultrasonics will allow technicians to detect very small leaks that will add up to significant losses over time. Any type of leak can be expensive, so using ultrasonics can achieve a quick return on investment in the detection equipment.

Material thickness applications
Ultrasonics also can be used to measure the thickness of materials. This is extremely useful in hazardous environments, where entry into the area is unsafe, unless time-consuming procedures are utilized. With ultrasonics, a sensor and transmitter can be employed to measure the signal and provide a thickness reading for the material. Pressure vessels, piping and tanks are all candidates for ultrasonic measurement.

Electrical system applications
Ultrasonics also can be used in a variety of ways for electrical systems. Loose connections in junction boxes or on bus bars can be monitored for the sounds of arcing, which will be detected by the ultrasonic equipment long before other measuring devices pick them up. This techniques is useful in power distribution centers and motor control rooms.

Ultrasonics also is useful for monitoring electrical switchgear and overhead transmission lines, where routine inspections are time-consuming and hazardous. These areas are monitored for corona discharge. When the discharge is detected, the technicians can quickly find the problem with little wasted time or effort. Thus the technicians find the problems while they are small, before they can cause a failure and subsequent equipment downtime.

Are you looking for more information on ultrasonics? The vendors, distributors and contractors on the following page should be consulted for additional details. MT

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