Archive | November, 2006


2:19 am
November 2, 2006
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Turning Maintenance into a Profit Center

Most large plants invest hundreds of millions of dollars in capital assets. Effective management of these assets has a significant impact on both the balance sheet and income statement. While many organizations today are beginning to realize the massive amount of untapped value hidden in plant assets, until recently, maintenance was often overlooked during the corporate business planning process.

“From a financial perspective, it is difficult to reconcile management’s hesitancy to acknowledge maintenance as a viable business function,” said Mike Laszkiewicz, vice president, Rockwell Automation Services & Support. “After all, proper maintenance underscores a basic business principle: increased equipment reliability will lead to increased production and ultimately more product revenue potential.”

For more than 20 years, Laszkiewicz has been working with manufacturers of all sizes to help them identify solutions to improve production values like output, quality, time to market and cost. Although manufacturers are becoming more aware of the pivotal role plant asset management plays in improving business performance, many still fail to take the action needed to fully capture the benefits.

“As I talk to manufacturing executives, plant managers and maintenance managers around the world, I’m often asked what can companies do to stay competitive in today’s global economy,” said Laszkiewicz. “After they describe their business drivers and manufacturing processes, the first question I ask them is, ‘How is your maintenance strategy linked to your company’s overall business goals?’ Their answers reveal a lot about how they view maintenance within their organization and whether or nor they are focusing their efforts in the appropriate areas.”

Laszkiewicz says that in the last 18 months there has been a significant increase in the number of companies that have begun to shift their perception of maintenance — from one that sees it as a necessary expense, to one that views it as an opportunity to increase profits. The key, he believes, is getting management to think beyond the reactive, tactical approach to maintenance of ten years ago and look at it from a strategic, long-term, business-level perspective.

Houghton LeRoy, director of consulting enterprise applications for ARC Advisory Group, agrees. According to LeRoy, poor understanding of the issues at stake and a lack of the right metrics are two fundamental reasons management has often discounted their maintenance operations as overhead. “Historically, maintenance has been viewed as a liability and a cost center, and manufacturers were largely apprehensive in terms of making the initial investment of time and money to implement proactive programs,” LeRoy said. “However, when companies begin to view their maintenance activities in the context of a continuous improvement strategy, (instead of simply a repair strategy) they’ll be able to more easily connect these activities to improvements in productivity, competitiveness and the overall bottom line.”

Both Laszkiewcz and LeRoy believe that with the vast amount of a capital companies have tied up in fixed plant assets, they must evaluate and consider ways to maximize the return on these assets while optimizing production availability. In recent years, advancements in technology and new tools and specialized services are helping to dramatically improve maintenance functions, optimize performance and enhance profitability.

So how does an organization transition from a reactive, cost-focused maintenance approach to a more profit-oriented, strategic approach? Leading industry experts, like Laszkiewicz and LeRoy, agree that companies must first identify their performance and profitability goals and then develop a strategy that’s a ligned with these goals. By measuring the impact of maintenance initiatives against defined production and business goals, companies can better justify the value of their efforts and are able to realize just how central maintenance activities are to an organization’s profitability.

Developing a Maintenance Business Strategy

While it’s nonsensical to think that any company would attempt to operate without a viable business plan, the same goes for a maintenance department. In order to build an effective maintenance strategy, it’s important to first have a clear picture of what your maintenance needs are, as well as what and where your current maintenance costs are. This requires a broad-based assessment of your maintenance and engineering processes, as well as any activities that support the manufacturing process. The goal is to identify any factors that inhibit equipment or operator performance.

“Because the individual needs and maintenance dynamics are different for each customer, our philosophy is that you have to first understand and identify any threats to productivity,” said Laszkiewicz. “Once identified, we work with the customer to develop strategies that reflect the appropriate mix of predictive, preventive and reactive techniques necessary to protect and improve productivity while reducing overall costs. In some instances, this may mean implementing programs to reduce employee turnover, improve technology training, or engaging an outside service provider for assistance with routine maintenance activities.”

The assessment process identifies performance issues, establishes baseline metrics and outlines recommended corrective actions that can be implemented through maintenance initiatives (such as increased machine availability, reliability and safety). Moreover, this methodology provides the critical documentation needed to demonstrate the value of specific maintenance activities.

“The objective is to fully understand your priorities and expectations so that you can define a support program that will provide the best return,” said LeRoy. “Solid metrics enable you to justify your investment, and can be used as evidence to convince management and employees of the need for change. Metrics also enable you to set clear goals for change.”

LeRoy suggests that companies use their initial site assessment to formulate a clear strategy. “Once you’ve established your baseline, you can compare it against a benchmark,” he says, adding that companies should set their goals higher to achieve more. “One of the biggest mistakes many companies make is they measure against their own personal goals as opposed to world class benchmarks from other companies.”

What companies need to do, LeRoy explains, is strive for the ideal situation and keep measuring themselves against best practices and continuously improve. Even if companies lack the resources to implement maintenance changes, other options exist. For example, by engaging the services of outside partners to support non-core functions, manufacturers can maximize their production assets, cut expenses and adapt quickly to changing business conditions.

The Human Element

When maintenance is viewed from a business perspective, its scope isn’t confined to physical assets — it also encompasses the human assets of an organization. According to Laszkiewicz, a key component of the maintenance assessment that is often overlooked is analyzing and identifying how well employees are performing their responsibilities and job assignments.

The goal of the personnel assessment is to identify key maintenance team strengths and determine what areas might require additional support. At the engineering and maintenance level, this may mean looking at competencies, readiness levels, recruiting and/or hiring methods, and policies for retaining staff. Such information is also useful in recruiting and selecting the best people for each skill profile.

“In today’s high-tech world of industrial automation, it has become increasingly important for companies to closely match employee skill levels with the specific needs of the equipment and processes for which they are responsible,” says Laszkiewicz. “By continuously improving your most valuable resource — the skills and knowledge of your employees — you reap the maximum value out of your people, equipment and processes.”

Laszkiewicz suggests assessing employee performance levels to both identify maintenance team strengths and weaknesses, and determine the best possible methods of training. He advises companies to establish performance metrics that employees themselves can control. “The short-term benefit of investing in people is identification of opportunities throughout the organization,” Laszkiewicz said. “The long-term benefit is putting processes in place that improve productivity.”

Moving Towards Prevent and Predict

Laszkiewicz stresses that a maintenance strategy should be customized to the requirements of the application and contain an appropriate mix of predictive, preventive and reactive activities. Even though companies are moving towards more proactive maintenance activities that deliver increasingly more significant ROI, “things will always happen.” As a result, maintenance will always have a component that is reactive in nature.

In applications where the criticality of the equipment and the impact and cost of unplanned downtime and quality are high, a maintenance strategy that incorporates a number of preventive or predictive components offers numerous advantages.

Case in point: A leading paperboard packaging producer has achieved impressive results after reassessing, and subsequently restructuring, its maintenance approach several years ago. The company’s Louisiana paper mill, which is the largest of four, produces high quality carrier and paper board for beverage packaging. To help reduce maintenance costs and improve uptime, the mill implemented a condition-based monitoring program that provides the plant with ongoing monitoring of critical machinery.

One of the core technologies the company uses is thermal imaging. Since nearly everything gets hot before it fails, using infrared imaging enables personnel to make well-informed judgments about the operating condition of electrical and mechanical components. To better maximize its production assets, the company contracted with Rockwell Automation to provide preventive maintenance planning, on-site support and information analysis. Information gathered from the machinery is channeled into a single location where Rockwell Automation experts analyze the information, identify developing faults in equipment and identify corrective activities that address the problem before production or safety is negatively impacted. The mill currently runs at 98.7 percent uptime, which management believes is about two percent better than industry standards. More importantly, however, this two percent equates to nearly a million dollars a year in production revenue for the company.

According to Laszkiewicz, Rockwell Automation has found that typical savings from a preventive maintenance program include a minimum total reduction in unplanned downtime, scrap and maintenance costs of 25 percent in the first year, with payback periods of less than four months. Many companies experience even better results, reducing unplanned downtime 50 to 95 percent in the first year. In fact, some companies that have had preventive maintenance programs in place since the equipment was installed have experienced only minimal downtime.

Justifying Your Efforts

To gain company support for your maintenance efforts, they should be presented in terms of long-term benefits (such as reduced downtime) and the overall impact they will have on company goals (such as maximizing uptime to boost profits).

In considering your measurement strategy, keep in mind that a key factor in the success of your plan is its ability to deliver early, tangible results. One thing you should try not to do is design a plan that requires a major up-front investment, but offers no evidence of improved performance until full-scale implementation is in place. Therefore, it’s important to come up with a series of short-term, easy-to-demonstrate wins. By promoting these wins as they happen, you can build momentum and support for the plan. Unless tangible benefits can be achieved early, previously enthusiastic supporters can become skeptical about whether the changes can, or ever will, be achieved.

In general, a maintenance strategy takes about six months to gain momentum, and ROI results will surface between one and two years, LeRoy said. Otherwise, something is wrong. “If you’ve focused on your critical issues and conduct the right performance measurements, there’s no reason why a ROI isn’t possible,” he said.

A well-crafted strategic maintenance plan allows the maintenance organization to become a full partner in business process improvement and key contributor to increased profitability. More importantly, it widens accountability for financial performance from the top floor to the plant floor – a trend that is certain to pay long-term dividends, while helping to change the view of maintenance from a cost-draining liability to a bottom line-boosting opportunity. MT

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2:12 am
November 2, 2006
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Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Confer (v): Present, talk, give, discuss, consult, put heads together, have a conversation…

Conference (n): Symposium, forum, meeting, convention, consultation, summit, alliance…

Do you attend conferences? Do you share what you learn with those who can’t attend?

Last month, the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) held its 14th annual conference, in Birmingham, AL. This event turned out to be bigger and better than any previous year. Back in 1993, when I attended the first SMRP annual conference in Nashville, about 200 of us felt a sense of camaraderie, a new sense of belonging, with a bit of apprehension often associated with anything new labeled “maintenance.” In subsequent years, our apprehension melted into an annual trek of renewal—that bit of maintenance and reliability “nutrition” we all need from time to time.

This year’s SMRP conference attracted nearly 1,000 conferees from around the world. They were practitioners, leaders, educators, consultants, suppliers and publishers representing a total cross-section of capital-intensive businesses. Beyond the powerful keynote and general sessions, 50 technical sessions, a variety of post-conference workshops, numerous SMRP update sessions and several exceptionally interesting regional plant tours were offered. In addition, nearly 60 vendors displayed their products, services and publications, demonstrating and discussing the latest they had to offer. All in all, knowledge-seekers had a veritable buffet of practical, down-to-earth offerings from which to choose.

The conference sessions provided particularly compelling insights in the areas of Manufacturing Process Reliability, Business and Management, Equipment Reliability, People Skills and Work Management. There was something of interest for everyone who attended.While most of the sessions provided case examples of improvement efforts and results, many others provided ideas: some inside the box, and some outside the boxes we find ourselves in.

One track (People Skills) was dominated by discussions on the imminent “Maintenance Skills Shortage.” A number of presenters from multiple perspectives echoed the concern that most businesses have already encountered, or soon will—”where will our maintenance people of the future come from?” This excellent information now needs to be translated into positive proactive strategies back at the plant. Now is the time to fundamentally re-think our approaches to applying the proven maintenance and reliability tools and techniques that we have honed, polished and fine-tuned over the years. But, enough on that topic for now…

The 11th Annual Lean Management Conference by Productivity, Inc. also took place last month, in Alexandria, VA. There, more than 300 conferees got to choose from another strong slate of keynote and general sessions, over 26 “knowledge transfer” workshops and 20+ company case studies on the basics of Lean, Six Sigma and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). Many presenters spoke of how they adapted, adopted and applied the fundamentals of the Toyota Production System or Lean Enterprise Management in their businesses with staggering results.Many company case studies explored the “Lean Journey,” as well as significant results and pitfalls along the way.

While the primary emphasis at this conference was on “Lean Tools, ” many also spoke about engaging “Business Leaders” and “Teamwork” to achieve fast and sustainable results. A number of sessions dealt with the successes of team-based maintenance and reliability strategies or TPM. The central concept of “eliminating waste to reduce manufacturing cost,” whether equipment- or work-process-related, permeated the sessions and workshops at this event.

At both conferences, the underlying emphasis from the keynote speakers was on PEOPLE: individuals, teams and leaders. At SMRP, Rocky Bleier, four-time Super Bowl Champ with the Pittsburgh Steelers, spoke on how ordinary people can become extraordinary achievers. Later, at the Lean Conference, professor Jeffrey K. Liker of the University of Michigan, author of the landmark book, The Toyota Way, stressed that “Toyota is especially good at developing exceptional people who want to learn and perform.”

Both conferences also emphasized the need to standardize and stabilize processes (reliability) to eliminate waste and achieve sustainable gains.While equipment performance and reliability improvement was the theme at SMRP, system and work process stability through standardization was the theme at the Lean Management event.What strikes me (and the keynote presenters emphasized it at both conferences) is how none of this “improvement” is possible without engaging people at every level of the organization – and LEADERS have to step up to the challenge.

Whether improving equipment or systems and processes, people must learn and apply new ideas to make business results happen. Unfortunately, many companies and businesses are focused on implementing powerful maintenance and reliability tools or powerful “Lean” tools. If these tools are not embraced by the business AND by the people who should use them, they, too, become “wastes” that achieve neither lower costs nor improved performance. Thus, these tools may go the way of many of the improvement programs of the past three decades–unless they focus on business results and make sense to the people.

Suggestion to Leaders: Take what you learn from conferences and workshops you attend. “Confer”with the folks back at work who could not attend and learn what you learned. Hold a “mini-conference” to share the most applicable information. Then, look for problems, losses, wastes in your facility where these tools could be put to use to eliminate the problems, now and on into the future. MT

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2:08 am
November 2, 2006
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Water System Flows Solution Spotlight: With Automated Scheduling And Mobile Maintenance

1106_problemsolvers_img1Southern Nevada Water System (SNWS), a department of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, currently has 12 technicians running PDAs (Personal Data Assistants) with maintenance scheduling and management software. What’s especially interesting about this situation is the fact that the organization expects to save about $50,000 a year in improved maintenance work order processing and reduced administration because of it.

The problem
SNWS manages two treatment plants with a combined capacity of 900 million gallons of water per day, 28 reservoirs, two ozone treatment facilities and 14 tanks with more than 150 million gallons of combined storage capacity. Thirty pumping stations distribute this water across 163 miles of pipeline.

“Maintaining a system of this magnitude is an enormous undertaking, requiring mechanical skill, system performance monitoring, information analysis and efficient resource deployment. Efficient planning and scheduling is the key,” notes Jeffrey Deitch, business systems analyst with the Technology and Special Projects Division of SNWS.

The solution
SNWS took its first step toward automated maintenance planning and scheduling in 2000 with the installation of Avantis.PRO enterprise asset management software from Invensys. The Avantis.PRO software provides comprehensive functionality for maintenance management including automated work order, entity and inventory management. This resulted in significant streamlining of operations in management and administrative offices; however, once the technicians left the building, they were still working with paper.

1106_problemsolvers_img2When Deitch learned that Invensys had created an Avantis advanced planning and scheduling client that ran on a PDA, he seized the opportunity to leave the cost, inaccuracy and time-consuming aspects of paper processing behind him. ”Our primary objective was to reduce paperwork. Less paperwork means more wrench time for the technicians and that means more availability of equipment and better service to the Authority. Also, less paperwork in the back office frees administrative staff to perform other value-added activities to improve the efficiency of our operation,” says Deitch.

Deitch’s handheld solution involves a single planner/scheduler who coordinates use of Avantis VIP Advanced Scheduling software on HP IPAQ handheld computers. The software helps the planner/scheduler ensure that all people, tools, assets, parts and other resources needed for a maintenance project are lined up and available to the technician.A calendar wizard, for example, helps him schedule the maintenance and measures schedule compliance. It enables better employee work utilization and facilitates changes in plans and schedules.

With the new system, instead of receiving a paper stack of work orders for the day, technicians receive a PDA, which the planner/scheduler has docked to the network and loaded their work assignments for the day. At the end of their shift they hand in the PDAs, which are synched again to Avantis.PRO. The planner can then see exactly what got done the day before, what work is still outstanding, and what emergency or brake schedule work came in during the day. He then uses the VIP tools to coordinate sick call-ins or any other schedule changes that need to be made, reconcile it with new work orders that came in, and have updated PDAs ready for the crew when they report to work the next morning.

According to Deitch, there are side benefits in addition to eliminating paper shuffling. “You avoid problems related to lost or inaccurately competed forms,” he explains. “You save cost of producing filing and sorting work orders, and you have better tracking of employee performance and equipment status.”

“I might hand a technician a month’s worth of preventative maintenance work orders,” Dietch continues, “which could include hundreds or even thousands of tasks, hundreds of work orders, hundreds of pieces of paper. He might just bite away at this load day to day and at the end of the month come back with a stack of paper and say everything is done. That’s not a bad way to operate if you are not concerned with tracking his progress, but if you want more timely input on his performance or on the status of your equipment, you need input more often than every 30 days.”

Through the display, Dietch can see daily or weekly availability of his entire crew in a single Gantt style chart. Color coding tells him where they are, what work has been started and what has been completed. It is accurate up to the preceding day. “Getting that kind of information,” he says, “would otherwise require a tremendous administrative effort, which would take away from wrench time. The software also helps make better use of the new time the crew has available.”

As an example, Dietch points to a typical work order to rebuild a motor. This type of work order would enumerate a number of steps and require logging of how much time each step took. The electronic system not only provides an easy way to log progress in that job, it also provides a very effective checklist that ensures that each step was completed correctly and in the proper sequence.

The payback
Running Avantis VIP advanced planning and scheduling software on PDAs has proven to be a multipart solution for SNWS. It helps to plan and schedule field maintenance, communicate schedules to the technicians on a timely basis and get accurate and timely records back into the enterprise system. In the first year of operation, the SNWS is expecting to save about $17,000 in work order processing and $33,000 in reduced administrative costs. MT

Invensys Process Systems, Avantis
Burlington, ON, Canada

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2:02 am
November 2, 2006
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Achieving World-Class Maintenance Status

1106_maintenancestrategies_img1What does such a designation really mean, and how do you derive the type of performance standards that let you know when you have arrived?

“World-class” performance marks an organization as a leader in its industry and sets it apart as the ultimate achiever. But, what is world class and, how can it be achieved? Is there a “yardstick” by which an industrial organization can measure the relative performance of its maintenance activity and compare it with performance levels that universally identify world-class status? Are there financial formulas, achievements, evaluation techniques, or indices that provide this yardstick?

The challenge is to determine what constitutes a world-class maintenance organization and then derive a specific set of performance standards that, if honestly met, universally identify the qualifying organization as worldclass within its type of industry (food processing, mining, pulp and paper etc.).

Most maintenance organizations admit a need to improve.With worldclass performance as a target, they should take steps to assess their current performance status and to determine what they must improve to meet the target. Evaluation is the first step of improvement. An evaluation establishes the current performance level by identifying those activities needing improvement as well as those being performed well.

The evaluation results are the basis of the improvement plan in which specific improvements are accurately identified and priorities established. The improvement plan sets forth the procedures for implementing improvements, monitoring their success and assigning improvement responsibilities.

The most important byproducts of a well-conceived and effectively conducted evaluation will be: (1) the education of personnel about specific improvements and their purpose; and (2) obtaining their genuine commitment to help achieve the desired improvements.

Evaluating against standards
An effective evaluation must compare the demonstrated performance of the organization against a comprehensive set of standards that are consistent with the type of industrial maintenance organization being assessed. The evaluation procedure should be an established management practice that initially sets the organization’s as-is performance level and then, at regular intervals, measures progress toward meeting the standards.

1106_maintenancestrategies_img2There are differences in applicable performance standards among types of industries and the environments in which they operate (a food processing plant versus an underground coal mine, for example, or an industrial plant versus a commercial or institutional campus).

The inevitable question is what standards and who says they are the right ones? In an era when maintenance people in the same organization even have trouble agreeing on what constitutes preventive maintenance or whether modifications should be capitalized, establishing the right standards by which an industrial organization can evaluate itself is a task that requires full, across-the-plant participation. But, if done well, the result will be the right evaluation technique that accurately points the way to improvement— and world class status (see Fig. 1.) Developing the right standards is a task that must precede any evaluation effort that compares current performance against them. The standards must be based on a well-conceived, fully documented, well-understood, and effectively executed maintenance program.

Evaluating in context
Successful maintenance is not a stand-alone activity. Nor will any plant operation achieve world-class status if the perception is that maintenance can improve without the help of every department. The determination of whether world-class maintenance status is met must include a broad examination of every aspect of plant operation that affects maintenance performance.

Using consultants
We often think of consultants as evaluators. They can be neutral third parties with experience in various types of operations. But, their evaluation could come with a huge price tag and might cause prolonged disruption of plant operations. Plants should choose wisely if they want consultants to evaluate them.

If a plant uses a consultant for evaluation, plant personnel might become spectators rather than participants in the evaluation process. Thus, employees’ unique, pertinent and factual knowledge of actual plant circumstances could be overlooked.Despite their willingness to contribute information that affects their own futures, employees may instead resist the consultant’s improvement recommendations.

Yet, there are other evaluation techniques, just as effective as those provided by consultants, that are less disruptive and costly and capable of producing reliable results.

Using plant personnel
A self-evaluation, assuming it contains the right standards, has considerable, direct improvement potential. Personnel know the plant well. They are familiar with people in other departments and how they must interact successfully. As they rate the standards, they are likely to be frank and objective in identifying and prioritizing actions or procedures that should be changed or improved.

The plant population has the performance facts. A cross-section of plant personnel rating maintenance against a series of performance standards can be effective. Such evaluations should touch on everything from plant management to production cooperation to staff department support to preventive maintenance, planning, scheduling, and effective use of information.

If that cross-section consists of managers from all departments that interact with maintenance, it is possible to obtain a good picture of actual performance. Moreover, if each group is represented by a vertical slice of its personnel, the results should be even better.

Most importantly, the self-evaluation allows dedicated, skilled craftsmen and others to participate in the assessment process. They seize the opportunity to offer frank and objective assessments knowing that otherwise they might never have been asked.

They know that they are going to be directly affected by the potentially beneficial outcome they visualize. They concurrently make a genuine commitment to help implement changes they see as practical and necessary.Unlike spectators to third-party evaluations by consultants or employees who simply observe the irate plant manager’s demand for more planning, participants in self-evaluation can impact their own futures directly- and they know it.

When all of the responses of the cross-section of the plant population are combined, the result is a reliable assessment with specific insights into the right corrective actions.

Benchmarking is the “systematic process of searching for best practices, innovative ideas, and highly effective procedures that lead to superior performance.”1

In short, a benchmark is a standard by which others may be measured. The goal is to answer the perennial question, “What is it that other organizations do to get results so much better than ours?”2

There is much to be said for the benefits of learning from the experiences of others and adapting them to one’s own situation. This can save time, avoid trial and error, or speed up the process of change. But, benchmarking alone will not bring about the improvement necessary to achieve world-class performance. Benchmarking is helpful along the pathway to world-class performance status, but only in a supporting role.3

Using KPIs
Serious flaws exist in the prevailing notion that key performance indices (KPI’s) are an effective performance measurement tool and that actions based on their results can help a maintenance organization achieve world-class performance status. Key performance indices are useful in revealing a trend toward realizing a visualized performance target. However, unless the monitoring organization can verify the validity of the ingredient data, the resulting indices may be suspect. Agreement on which performance indices best reveal actual circumstances can be difficult and the logic for their inclusion questioned. Inconsistencies abound. For example, one popular index is the amount of work that a maintenance organization plans. Preventive maintenance, for instance, is often considered to be planned and scheduled. In reality,PM services were planned when the PM program was initially developed. Thus,PM services are repetitively scheduled, not planned on a week-to-week basis as is other work embraced by this index. Therefore, the interpretation of indices must be established with care.

While a typical manager who looks at an array of performance indices can observe relative scores, he often cannot direct a specific corrective action as a result. By contrast, an evaluation technique built on a cross-section of plant personnel rating a series of appropriate, pertinent performance standards will identify exactly what is in need of improvement and establish the proper corrective actions-by urgency and priority.

Performance indices are often limited to examining only direct maintenance activities, like planning,without assessing underlying factors that influence the success of planning, such as the quality of material support provided by warehousing or purchasing.

From the plant manager’s view, the contrast between looking at indices and reviewing the details of a wellconceived self-evaluation is the difference between looking out the window to guess how you are doing versus “management by walking around.”

A self-evaluation against a series of pertinent standards provides a wide range of interested, knowledgeable plant employees with the opportunity to report accurately on improvements they know are necessary. Moreover, these participants also are making an initial, genuine commitment to help achieve the improvements they have accurately identified and prioritized with their ratings.

The plant manager is the direct recipient of this performance information from his own people. They are the best source of information and their futures are directly affected by their correct identification of the right improvements and their commitment to successful implementation.Accordingly, the manager can be confident in acting on their recommendations.

Evaluation frequency
The repetition of weekly indices soon loses it appeal. Such procedures often get off to an enthusiastic start but quickly deteriorate into a “pencil whipping” exercise that is soon abandoned. Problems revealed in this week’s index are seldom able to be acted on in the short interval. By contrast, a self-evaluation procedure applied at longer intervals (every six months, for example) is less intrusive and something people can look forward to.

Following the initial effort, a periodic repeat of the evaluation acts as a report card on improvement progress. This report card should be welcomed, because it represents the progress made by the same personnel who identified necessary improvements at the start of the self-evaluation process.

Laying the foundation
For maintenance departments without a well-defined and effective maintenance program (see Sidebar), life is difficult. Developing standards is out of the question, and attempts to adopt advanced strategies like reliability centered maintenance (RCM) or total productive maintenance (TPM) fail most of the time. Similarly, implementation of modern techniques for improving equipment reliability likely will fail as well.

Keep in mind that the fundamentals of maintenance management are never mastered. A totally reactionary maintenance organization can never hope to achieve world-class status. But, the organization that has a well-defined program can establish the standards it must meet and, with an established self-evaluation procedure,move toward and achieve world-class status. That organization will yield reliable equipment consistently and help guarantee effective plant operation and the satisfaction and profitability associated with world-class status.

An evaluation that covers hundreds of performance standards, all rated by a cross-section of knowledgeable, caring plant personnel, will help propel maintenance toward positive corrective actions leading to the real attainment of world-class status. Repetitions of the evaluation at thoughtful intervals act to measure interim improvement progress toward that goal. MT

1. Christopher E. Bogan and Michael J. English, Benchmarking for Best Practices- Winning Through Innovative Adaptation, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, pgs. 1-2.

2. Juran, J.M., Quality Control Handbook, New York, McGraw-Hill, pgs. 95-96.

3. Tomlingson, Paul D., Equipment Management-Breakthrough Maintenance Management Strategy for the 21st Century, Kendall-Hunt, 1998, pgs. 479-486.

Paul D. Tomlingson is the principal consultant of Paul D. Tomlingson Associates, Inc., based in Denver, CO. He is a veteran of 38 years of world-wide maintenance management consulting. E-mail him directly at

Defining The Maintenance Program

The maintenance program is the soul of the overall maintenance effort. It defines the basics of what maintenance does, who does what, how they do it, and why. When the program is well conceived, fully documented and clearly understood across the operation, it will be effectively executed and produce quality results. By sharp contrast, a maintenance department uncertain of these basics cannot determine how it will organize or even select the right information system—much less use it effectively. The end result is a totally reactionary maintenance effort.

A well-defined and effective maintenance program spells out the interaction of all departments as they request or identify work, classify it to determine the best reaction, plan selected work to ensure it is accomplished efficiently, and schedule the work to ensure it is performed at the best time with the most effective use of resources. In addition, the maintenance program specifies how work is assigned to personnel in a way that assures each person has a full shift of bona fide work.

As work is performed, the program establishes work control procedures to ensure quality work, completed on time. In addition, the program specifies how completed work is measured to ensure timely completion, under budget, with quality results. The maintenance program should also prescribe a means of periodic evaluations to identify and prioritize improvement needs.

A quality maintenance program is fundamental to the development of performance standards and to the ultimate success of maintenance. Regrettably, few maintenance organizations have such programs, fewer yet have documented them and very, very few have bothered to explain how they do their work, even to their own people. Customers in operations and supporting departments such as warehousing guess at what is expected of them, fail to be of proper assistance to maintenance and, in exasperation, usually ask, ‘what program’. Plant managers often express the same frustration.

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1:59 am
November 2, 2006
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Communications: When Maintenance Partners With Production/Operations


Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor

Arguably the most important of all manufacturing intracorporate partnerships, the relationship between production/operations and maintenance is often a bittersweet accord, in which both teams continually struggle to define their roles. For those who do manage to do so and build a working relationship, the results are often no less than spectacular, being recognized as one of the major hallmarks of a world-class organization.

In order to synergize energy and work together as a unified manufacturing team, both maintenance and production/operations must realize and accept the fact that”maintenance is as integral to the production process as production is to the maintenance process.” This statement underpins all of today’s major management methodologies, including Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), Total Quality Management (TQM), ISO 9000, Six Sigma, etc.. The premise is simple in that to achieve maximum equipment availability and reliability, maintenance must be proactive and work with operations to develop an engineered maintenance approach that respects operations’ need to deliver high-quality product at a consistent rate of throughput. This calls for development of a reliability program in conjunction with the operations team, as opposed to the old approach of building a preventive program in isolation and expecting operations to cooperate without understanding the maintenance process or position.

Maintenance has traditionally been poor at communicating the why and the how of the maintenance process, and is typically considered to be ignorant of operations’ needs. Building a combined proactive approach to reliability allows operations to understand why equipment needs to be monitored and maintained on a regular basis. At the same time, maintenance learns to appreciate problems from the operations side.

Examining the typical complaints from both partners’ perspective can lead a workable approach that allows both departments to focus their efforts on the equipment’s ability to produce consistent product without taxation.

The following represent the top complaints voiced by both maintenance and operations:

1. Operations:A machine is only broken when it can’t produce parts anymore!”
Operations will only hand over equipment for scheduled maintenance once it dies.”

Defining failure is the first task in building a reliability- based approach to equipment management. In TQM and RCM, the key performance measurement for success is Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) that views the relationship of equipment availability, rate of manufacturing throughput and rate of product quality. OEE will suffer terribly if maintenance is not allowed to ensure that the equipment is capable of manufacturing product at its minimum specified rate of product throughput, just as it will if operations continues to operate the equipment in an obvious state of disrepair. Both scenarios adversely affect quality. Setting and defining an agreeable minimum rate of throughput that is well within the design specification of the machine, and working together on a strategy to consistently achieve a higher measure is the first stage in combating catastrophic equipment failure, production slowdowns and poor quality. This minimum machine throughput rate becomes the threshold failure point at which both teams mobilize together.

2. Operations: We can’t afford to shut down operations to allow maintenance to perform PM”
We couldn’t get the equipment, so we will perform PM on the next PM cycle.”

PM should not be an intrusive operation requiring equipment shutdown and lockout to perform.Utilizing a perimeter-based maintenance approach, equipment can be redesigned at virtually no cost to be more interactive, allowing both operations and maintenance to perform rudimentary PM without slowing the equipment.

All visual checks of fluid levels, performance output (gauges) and cleanliness levels can be set up with visual management devices set up to reflect predetermined levels of variance acceptability. Thus, the person doing the checking only needs to take action if a NO-GO (out-of-acceptable variance) state is found; predictive maintenance can be set up for remote sampling at the machine’s perimeter.

With a reliability focus, the old way of performing overhaul maintenance will be virtually eliminated, allowing new thinking toward scheduled maintenance requirements that will include subassembly cassette-style component replacement and instant accessibility from 30-second articulated guarding.Working together to determine agreeable time slots for performing short-burst planned maintenance events will allow development of a”Pit-Stop” maintenance-style approach.

3. Operations:Downtime is a maintenance problem, not a production problem!”
Maintenance: We always get the blame for equipment downtime!”

Solution… Deflecting and placing blame is a favorite human pastime. Taking ownership and being accountable requires us to determine what we are responsible for and managing that part of the equation, while advising those responsible for the areas we cannot manage of their current status.Maintenance cannot and does not manage everything that affects its daily operation. Through development of fault codes used on work order completion, equipment failures can quickly be categorized into maintenance and non-maintenance related failures. Specific non-maintenance related failures, such as waiting for production, operator error, raw material blockage, etc., can be reported and communicated to the production team.

4. Operations:When we try to tell maintenance about a machine problem they ignore us!”
Maintenance: Production doesn’t know anything about maintenance.”

Operators instinctively know when their machines are no longer on the”sweet spot,” but often are not able to successfully articulate the problem to maintenance, who quickly can lose patience and choose to ignore complaints. In setting up a proactive approach by working together as a team, many early detection failure warning signs and events can be pre-determined and written in a language that is understandable (and trainable) to all current and new operators and maintainers. This machine language then can be tied into the evaluation of when a failed state is near or has occurred.

When a cooperative environment is created between maintenance and production/operations teams, levels of appreciation for each others’ role is elevated significantly, resulting in an effective maintenance approach that delivers consistent throughput at a high level of quality. MT

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1:56 am
November 2, 2006
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The Similarities Of Maintenance Planning And Zoo Keeping

This author compares asset management to the care and feeding of, and sometimes keeping endangered species alive. Compelling analogy, isn’t it?

When was the last time you visited a zoo and enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the exhibits, during which you interfaced with the various fauna? For the visitor, a zoo can be a quiet, relaxing place for reflection. For the animals, the zoo is a home. For the zookeepers and all the others involved in its day-to-day operation, the zoo is a job. Granted, most of the zookeepers are there because they consider this a true calling-something that fulfills their strong desire to ‘be there and do that.’ Take the staff of the zoo in my hometown, Columbia, SC. It is a wonderful place that is well-run, well-managed and well-maintained by competent, enthusiastic people. They are people who basically live and breathe for the existence of the zoo and the well-being of the animals and plants that inhabit it.

1106_bestpractices_img1Consistency is key
Have you ever considered whether a zoo just exists, much like the animals and plants that exist in the wild, or whether there may be a rhyme, rhythm and reason to the organization?

What would happen if we were to put the lions in the polar bear exhibit (without the bears, of course)? Or, what would happen if we moved an ostrich into the seal pool? Such situations clearly would be recipes for small-scale disasters.

Then there are the nutritional aspects to consider.Would the chameleons stay healthy on a menu of nothing but tsetse flies? Would the elephants thrive on a constant diet of sugar cane? Probably not.

Consistency is an important element in almost any successful operation, be it a zoo or, in our case, a maintenance organization. Just like zookeepers, we maintenance professionals have a fairly constant set of parameters within which to exist. For example, due to the living organisms and constant changes in a zoo environment, zookeepers must continuously evaluate the health, sanitation, nutrition, environment and social structure of their charges-some of which may include truly endangered species.

Likewise, we, as maintenance professionals also may be keeping individuals of an endangered species alive. There are all sorts of carnivores out there just waiting for us to become weak enough for them to swallow us! If we are lucky, they’ll swallow us whole; if we’re not,we will be ripped asunder and many good people and their value will be lost. The future of a maintenance organization, therefore, depends on how well the health, well-being and environment of our flora and fauna are managed.

Best practices
How exciting would a visit to the zoo with your family on a warm, spring afternoon be if the zookeepers had not followed the plan, schedule and procedure for feeding the lions for several days? Wouldn’t those young, tender morsels of fresh meat tagging along behind you look particularly appealing to the hungry lions? Keep in mind the fact that the lions don’t have highly developed thought processes that allow them to discern the difference between your tasty morsels and ones that the zookeeper should have fed them. Your family’s relaxing afternoon at the zoo could suddenly become quite exciting,much like a rolling mill when there is a bearing failure, or a winder when a journal breaks at 9000 fps! Much like a rupture disk doing just what it was designed to do, only at an unplanned time! In a plant environment, such excitement occurs because we don’t have-or didn’t pay attention to and follow—the processes and procedures necessary for Reliability Excellence.

Maintenance planning and scheduling, coupled with Best Practices and a concerted effort toward Reliability Excellence, can help ensure that your day-to-day operation and production are like a pleasant visit to your favorite zoo. Best Practices for zoo keeping dictate that the animals be fed routinely, consistently and efficiently. Best Practices for industrial processes dictate that equipment be maintained through routinely, consistently and efficiently applying preventive maintenance (PM), predictive maintenance (PdM) and corrective repair.

We can appease hungry lions for a bit by tossing a side of beef over the fence, just as a good shot of grease will appease the growling of a bearing. This, however,will only work for a short time! You should only think of a side of beef and/or a shot of grease as interim, temporary solutions to problems.

The bearing will need to be identified and tracked by some means, typically in the form of a work order. This work order will need to be planned, that is, looked at by knowledgeable people who develop a plan for the efficient, effective and quality repair of the failing equipment. It is much easier, more cost-efficient and less labor-intensive to capture knowledge and effect a repair on a planned and scheduled basis, rather than waiting for equipment to fail.

Generally, if a critical piece of equipment fails, it is at the least opportune time and causes an amount of collateral damage that could easily have been avoided with the proper planning and scheduling of corrective repair work. Similarly, it is more effective to feed lions in a consistent, routine and efficient manner than to have them roaming around looking for a meal. Anxiety tends to increase when one is facing a hungry lion or when there is a total loss of production in the middle of the night, or on a weekend when there has been a big party and few individuals are in any condition to respond to a call-in!

Easy justification
A planned and scheduled asset repair typically requires one-third the labor cost and one-third the asset downtime of an unplanned and unscheduled repair. The materials cost will be less, too, simply because of the reduction in collateral damage.

Equipment should be taken off-line before it is allowed to self-destruct and waste more money, lose more production, affect quality and fuel customer dissatisfaction. When a repair is properly planned and scheduled and the appropriate communication, coordination and cooperation are employed, equipment downtime, loss of production and inefficient use of resources are minimized!

Managing the system
But, back to the zoo. . .How are animals fed and cared for in a routine fashion? How does the flora get fertilized, watered, pruned, staked and beautified in a systematic and effective manner? You can bet on the fact that a zoo will have an overall, ongoing plan for these processes. The folks in the background, those not as visible as the zookeepers working directly with the animals, are the strength of the system.Compare this system to a proactive operational environment.

The reliability and maintenance engineers, the materials management folks, the purchasing folks, the crafts persons responsible for the care, feeding and well-being of the preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance programs are the strength of the system. The planners utilize the tool of their job, the Computerized Maintenance Management System(CMMS), to publish the schedule of when the specific animals are going to be fed, when the water system is actuated,when the pruning will take place,when the specific animal environ will be cleaned, when the diets will be reviewed for effectiveness, etc.

When there is a system in place that manages the care and feeding of the animals (i.e., equipment assets), and when that system is a proactive system in the maintenance environment, it allows for age considerations to be addressed. Do diets and maintenance processes remain the same over time? The correct answer is, “Not likely.” As many of us older maintenance professionals can attest, diet and health needs change drastically!


The same applies to the equipment that makes product for our customers. We need to evaluate, on a routine basis, the processes required to maintain aging equipment in a state capable of sustaining the defined production needs. We must consider the need for changes in frequency of the PM/PdM procedures, changes in the PM/PdM procedures themselves and changes in the materials required to maintain the equipment. In other words, changes, changes, changes! Someone has to remain abreast of and communicate the adjustments necessary to stay proactive and productive in the marketplace. Typically, this effort and responsibility fall to the reliability engineers and maintenance engineers. They are the first-line offense in the effort to constantly maintain the production level. Just as the elephant requires a diet change and a unique exercise regimen as he ages, equipment requires adjustments to the processes and procedures of the past in order to maintain the production capability and efficiency of the future. Reliability and maintenance engineers utilize historical information from the CMMS and work orders to design and develop changes to the maintenance procedures for continued pursuit of Reliability Excellence.

Beware the hungry lions
Who would have thought a zoo could be an analogy to an effective, proactive production facility? The similarities, while a bit lighthearted, are surprising; the environments may be different, yet the needs and requirements are much the same-across both types of operations.

Maintenance professionals, like zookeepers, should strive for consistency around the plant. Pay special attention to maintenance planning and scheduling. Moreover, stay alert and constantly look out for the hungry lions. Just consider the chaos that would ensue should one of them break out! MT

Al Emeneker is a consultant with Life Cycle Engineering (LCE). He has over 37 years of experience in maintenance planning and scheduling, working in the areas of aircraft electronics, nuclear and fossil fuel power generation, pulp and paper, construction, commercial business machines and small business maintenance. He also has been conducting educational seminars for over five years, helping others realize the impact of effective and efficient planning and scheduling. E-mail:

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6:00 am
November 1, 2006
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Lubrication Challenge: Tackling The Skilled Trades Shortage


Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor

The next 10 years could be the most critical in North America’s industrial history. If you’ve been to a maintenance conference recently, you know the top concern is the skill trades shortage issue.

The previous 15 years have seen the continued shrinking of what was once the world’s largest industrial engine—an engine that’s been literally traded to Indochina in favor of cheaper labor costs and higher profits. This, in turn, has caused company closures, relocations and drastic cutbacks in apprenticeship training programs.

The current lack of vocational training schools and a rapidly aging skilled trades workforce seeking and planning retirement in the next 5-10 years will likely cause an immediate and catastrophic short-term skills shortage in which the situation will get worse before it gets better.

In the past, shortfalls in the skilled labor market have traditionally been shored by the importation of European expertise–itself a rapidly shrinking market due to renewed economic wealth in Europe and the emergence of a booming global skilled trades marketplace. In this arena, both India and China compete with North America and Europe to attract the same valuable resources. This problem has manifested itself over a long period of time and there are no simple solutions.Moreover, we should not expect our governments to resolve this situation; the answers must come from industry itself.To that end, I would like to challenge industry to view this situation as an opportunity for change.

While working on longer-term strategies and programs to train new skilled trades replacements, we must better utilize the trades we have left. The obvious way to achieving this is to drastically increase trades effectiveness and wrench time through improved planning and scheduling techniques. The not-so-obvious way is through the understanding and prevention of mechanical equipment failure.With up to 70% of all mechanical failures resulting from ineffective lubrication practices, it is no secret that all of the major production and maintenance philosophies and methodologies promote lubrication and cleanliness (contamination control) as a fundamental element. With the implementation of an engineered lubrication and contamination control initiative as part of a reliability program, many mechanical failures can be eliminated and dramatically reduce the need for unplanned and unscheduled skilled trade intervention.

Any good lubrication management program begins with a Lubrication Operations Effective Review (LOER) to determine the current lubrication state, set program goals and build a management action plan to close the gap.A solid program will include a lubricant consolidation process, analysis of lubricant delivery effectiveness, delivery system automation, a contamination control strategy within the storage and handling process and a condition-based lubricant change-out process based on predictive sampling. This approach will require steadfast management commitment and the upgrading of any existing “Oiler” positions in favor of new “Lubrication Specialist” positions responsible for the well-being of lubrication programs.

With significantly less time spent on lubrication and contamination-related failures, precious skilled trades resources can be better utilized. Is your company ready to take on this lubrication challenge? Good Luck! LMT

Ken Bannister, author of Lubrication for Industry (published by Industrial Press), is the lead partner and principal consultant for Engtech Industries, Inc., a maintenance and lubrication program management consulting firm. Phone: (519) 469-9173;

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6:00 am
November 1, 2006
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Part I of IV… Justify Your Equipment Reliability Enhancements

1206_equipreliability_img1You’ve heard it before. It’s important that engineers learn to speak in terms of dollars and cents. They’re often the only things accountants and managers seem to understand. This four-part series is designed to help you improve your “language” skills.

True reliability professionals are known to be hard-workingand knowledgeable. But, they sometimes have difficulty quantifying the value of their efforts in monetary terms. They don’t always speak the accountants’ language and seem reluctant to calculate return on investment. As this four-part series will show, it doesn’t have to be that way. Most managers will cheerfully listen to and consider a few written sentences and a hand calculation showing simple payback. Let us alert you to a sampling of a few machinery-related reliability enhancements with calculated—and often proven—paybacks of 10:1 and more over the life of the equipment. Each of these case histories is thoroughly experience based and easy to implement, even on a tight budget. The different installments of this series address aspects of lube life extension, advanced lubricant application, rolling element bearing selection, energy conservation and cost-effective means to reduce valve failures in reciprocating compressors.

1206_equipreliability_img2Synthetic lubes for rolling element bearings
Equipment reliability is obviously influenced by the quality of bearing lubrication. For good reasons, then, the pursuit of quality lubrication has focused on application method, lube quantity, selecting the appropriate oil type and viscosity, properly storing and handling the lubricant, attending to bearing housing contamination issues and implementing appropriate oil change intervals. (Ref. 1) It makes sense to summarize good lubrication practices as: choosing the right oil, taking proper care of it and changing it on time. Yet, while good lubrication practices lead to improved equipment reliability by maximizing the performance of the oil selected, there are limitations. This is because in and of themselves good practices cannot impart lubricating properties that the oil perhaps never possessed in the first place. Thus, at issue is the definition of the right oil, or appropriate oil type. Putting it another way, improvements in lubricant quality can only be achieved by selecting and utilizing oils with superior lubricating properties.

High film strength synthetic lubricants
Synthetic lubricants offer the most obvious path for improvement. Even among prominent synthetic lubricants, however, oil performance can vary greatly based on the amounts and types of additives in the oil. At least one company combines synthetic base oils with advanced additive chemistry so as to realize greater film strength.Numerous incidents have been documented where advanced lubrication technology has significantly improved pump reliability (Ref. 2). While we will limit our coverage to just four examples in this topic category, formulators and marketers of synthetic lubes will be ready and able to furnish more data.

Hot oil pump experience…
One chemical plant began to experience bearing failures in its 500 F hot oil pumps within 90 days of plant startup, despite the fact that the pumps were already being lubricated by a premium brand of synthetic oil. Root cause analysis determined that failures occurred because high temperatures had caused the synthetic oil to oxidize. All pumps underwent immediate oil changes with nine of the 18 hot oil pumps being converted to a superior film strength synthetic oil. Again, all of the pumps using the original oil required an oil change within 90 days. The superior film strength oil, however, proved to be a lubricant upgrade that eliminated the bearing failures and enabled annual oil intervals to be established for all of the hot oil pumps.

A four-fold extension of oil exchange intervals results in a 75% reduction of oil usage after changing over to the high-grade synthetic lubricant. The reduction in consumption makes up for the fact that the synthetic lube costs four times as much as the mineral oil used before. Tangible savings accrue due to 200 man-hours of maintenance labor being reduced to only 50 man-hours. At $50 per man-hour, yearly savings are $7,500. Although intuitively evident to exist, no additional credit was taken for the imputed value of reduced failure risk with superior film strength synthetic lubricants. Nor was credit taken for Cv, the gain due to pro-active use of the re-assigned workforce. In other words, the value of pro-actively employing 150 man-hours of freed-up manpower must logically be assumed to exceed $7,500—or else the plant would not make any profit.


Critical API pump experience…
Another refinery was experiencing high vibrations and an audible noise from the inboard bearing of a critical, non-spared pump in one of its process units. The refinery was able to avoid a unit shutdown by draining the oil while the pump was operating and replacing the quart (~ one liter) of ISO 32 synthetic oil already in the pump with a superior film strength ISO Grade 32 synthetic. The high vibrations disappeared (see Ref.1 for a technical explanation), as did the audible noise, and it was decided repairs to the pump were no longer necessary. The value of an avoided repair was estimated as $2,500 for a bearing change only, $13,000 for bearings and seals and $54,000 for a complete pump overhaul.Additionally, unit downtime would have amounted to $140,000 per day.

Whatever the differential cost of a quart (or liter) of high film strength synthetic, perhaps three or four dollars in 2006, it is simply insignificant compared to the value of a failure incident on critical, non-spared refinery pumps. Critically important and hot service pumps should, therefore, be lubricated with high film strength synthetic oils.

Hot water pump experience…
For years, a U.S.Gulf Coast chemical company had averaged two to three bearing failures every six weeks in its 30 hot water pumps. These pumps were lubricated by oil mist, using a premium brand synthetic oil. In an effort to improve pump reliability, the lubricant was changed to a greater film strength synthetic lube. In the three years since, only one pump failure has been reported and it was not lubrication related. While this may sound like a purely anecdotal report, we are including it here because it is quite representative of well over 100 similar case histories that users have shared and reported over the past decade or so.

Disc filter shower and bark booster pumps experience…
A Canadian paper company experienced frequent difficulty with two 3,600 rpm pumps. These difficulties have been eliminated by changing the R&O mineral oil lubricant to a synthetic with greater film strength. As is so often the case, the latter have the ability to avoid metal-to-metal contact and the resulting temperature reductions tell the story:

Temperature Readings, Disc Filter Shower Pump

Before After
Inboard Bearing 170 F 130 F
Outboard Bearing 185 F 160 F


Temperature Readings, Bark Booster Pump

Before After
Inboard Bearing 180 F 130 F
Outboard Bearing 170 F 114 F


With shower pump outages causing plant downtime, a pump repair incident cost the facility $35,600. A single instance of repair avoidance may make up for the incremental cost of supplying high film strength synthetics to an entire paper mill.


Similar temperature reductions were experienced on bark booster pumps. However, each booster pump failure was reported to cost only $3,600 because it did not cause a production stoppage.

These examples are but a few of the hundreds where lube selection was responsible for significant improvements in pump reliability. High bearing temperatures and vibration excursions related to elevated surface roughness of bearing metals can very often be cured by selecting and installing superior performing lubricants. Especially in problem pumps, upgrading to high-strength lubricants can improve equipment reliability in a manner unattainable by any other means.

Indeed, since oil changes are often feasible while pumps are on-line and running, using superior film strength synthetic lubricants often results in immediate payback. Virtually every cost justification calculation indicates unusually large benefits for employing these lubes on problem pumps and 10:1 payback in a single year is rather the norm.

Recip compressor valve experience…
A pair of reciprocating air compressors in a chemical plant were in alternating service (one week continuously on, then off), using an ISO 150 mineral oil (Ref. 3). Carbon deposits on discharge valves caused such operating problems that the machines required maintenance every three months.

In an operating test, one compressor was switched to an ISO Grade 100 diester synthetic lubricant. After more than six months, discharge valves on this compressor were substantially cleaner than they were on the unit that used mineral oil for four months.

The diester synthetic allowed compressor maintenance intervals to be doubled from three months to six, at a very significant saving in labor and materials. The comparison photos (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2) tell the story, as does the cost justification calculation in Table I.

As shown in Table I, the incremental amount of $320 for the superior lubricant saved the plant $10,130—which yields a payback ratio in excess of 30:1. It should be pointed out that in the overwhelming majority of gas services, similar advantages accrue when using the diester synthetic as a cylinder lubricant.However, just as not all process gases are compatible with mineral oils, so not all gases are compatible with every type of synthetic lubricant that is being marketed today.A reliability-focused user will keep this in mind, but will not hesitate to check into the applicability of modern cylinder lubricants.

In the reciprocating compressor example referenced here, shutting down one of the two compressors did not curtail plant production. Experience shows, however, that in process plants with “non-spared” reciprocating compressors, an outage event would interrupt plant production. In those instances, payback for using diester synthetic lubricants has often exceeded a 10:1 ratio each year.

Coming up
In Part II of this four-part series, the topic of pre-grouted baseplates will be covered. LMT

Contributing editor Heinz Bloch is the author of 17 comprehensive textbooks and over 340 other publications on machinery reliability and lubrication. He can be contacted as follows:, or via his Web site:


  1. Bloch, Heinz P. and Alan Budris, (2nd Edition, 2006), Pump User’s Handbook: Life Extension, The Fairmont Press, Inc., Lilburn, GA 30047, ISBN 0-88173-517-5
  2. Case Studies published by Royal Purple, Ltd., Porter, TX
  3. Bloch, H. P., Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities, 2000, ISBN 0-88173-296-6, The Fairmont Press, Inc., Lilburn, GA

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