Archive | February, 2007


6:00 am
February 1, 2007
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Uptime: We Can Do It!


Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

 I was overwhelmed and pleased by the feedback regarding my previous column, “The Most Productive Nation,” in the January 2007 issue of this magazine…

The United States IS the most productive nation in the world. BUT, we are going to lose our lead BIG TIME unless we wake up to the fact that our competitive edge is slipping as a result of political bickering, flawed assumptions and outdated thinking by many top decision-makers in education, government and business.

We are productive for many, many reasons. Our skilled and knowledgeable workforce continues to show that we can take old plants and make them very competitive. We can take advanced manufacturing practices and leap so far ahead of our competition that it will take them years to catch up-then we’ll be just that much further ahead. We can take up a challenge and rally to win in light of seemingly hopeless odds. To do so, however, we have to consciously choose to do things differently.

I recently have seen textile plants and furniture factories in the U.S. that outperform their peers and continue to defy the odds of plant closings and outsourcing. I have seen auto manufacturing plants and suppliers all over the U.S. outperform many of their “Big Three” peers. I have seen young people excited about their jobs in manufacturing and industrial maintenance. I have seen plants where a “can do” attitude prevails, where “whatever it takes” is the motto and where there is real “hustle” in the way people work.

We CAN do it! There is living proof all over America that we can create productive workplaces with meaningful and rewarding careers when:

  1. there is a burning desire to do it;
  2. leadership provides the necessary resources;
  3. organizational teamwork focused on common goals truly exists.

Yet, we continue to be sabotaged by our troubled vocational-technical education system and fl awed perceptions about careers for our younger generations and those who are already working.

Our education system
Many school boards, administrators, teachers and counselors, state and federal education departments, government agenicies, politicians, institutions of “higher learning” and our society as a whole are missing the point. They seem to have lost sight of what it took to build-and will take to maintain-our “Most Productive Nation” status.

Look at our junior-high and high-school programs today. In fact look at these programs for the past 20 to 30 years. What has happened to career education, industrial arts and vocational education for the trades? We, as a nation, have almost completely gotten away from promoting careers in manufacturing. We have avoided discussing careers in industrial maintenance.

Time and again, our news media focuses on “manufacturing job losses” in ways that sound like plant closings rather than productivity improvement and up-skilling of jobs. When manufacturing jobs are transferred (outsourced) to domestic contractors, they are removed from the “manufacturing” roles and added to the “service industry” roles-which makes them appear to be lost manufacturing jobs. This has happened for years with engineers, accountants, information technology (IT) staff and maintenance. Consequently, we are largely becoming an unsustainable “service economy” by default. In turn, our educational leaders respond by de-emphasizing jobs in manufacturing and maintenance, to name but a few.

A college education
In general, our society has assumed and testified that “a college education is essential to get anywhere in life” BUT, at the same time, it has failed to recognize the fact that a post-secondary vocational- technical education, or a certifi cate- or degree-granting program also is a type of “college education.” What’s wrong here? We focus intently on making sure a generation of children and young adults can pass a test showing the effectiveness of their teachers and their schools, yet many colleges and universities have had to establish “remedial”
classes to compensate for the shortcomings in our
public school programs.

Societal influences
Plato’s concept of a fair and just society was one in which all people were able to achieve their potential. Look at how our society promotes that “a college education is the key to success in life.” About half of our high school students, however, are NOT “college bound,” not prepared for college and will not benefi t from a solid career preparation before they graduate from high school. Thus, this “forgotten half” is being robbed of their true potential. Career education, industrial arts, vocational education classes that prepared many of us “Baby Boomers” (and many of our parents) have almost disappeared. Emphasis on “no child left behind” and college tracks has left little room for educational preparation across the full spectrum of successful, rewarding, meaningful careers.

Let’s reflect for a moment on the insights of John W. Gardner, who served as secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the Johnson administration and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor. He once said:

“We must learn to honor excellence in every socially accepted human activity, however humble the activity, and to scorn shoddiness, however exalted the activity. An excellent plumber is infi nitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society that scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” (Published in the Saturday Evening Post, December 1, 1962.)

My own pressure for a “college education” was launched almost half a century ago. In 1962, I made the decision to defy my high school counselors (oops, I dated myself). They were pushing me into “college preparation courses,” but I chose BOTH college prep AND shop classes, forgoing recommended electives and study halls. I subsequently received my college degrees and then went into teaching students in vocational-technical subjects as a career.

What about today’s “humble activities”-our jobs in manufacturing and maintenance? How would you explain what these jobs are, what it takes to be successful and what the rewards are? I guarantee that you and I would most likely answer these questions differently than many of our educators and counselors, politicians and business leaders would.

Occupational outlook
Let’s look at the jobs of “Industrial Machinery Mechanics and Maintenance Workers,” as defi ned by the 2006-2007 U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Occupational Outlook Handbook. Here, we fi nd the following statement:


“Highly skilled mechanics usually learn their trade through a 4-year apprenticeship program (usually sponsored by a local trade union), while lower skilled maintenance workers receive shortterm on-the-job training in order to perform routine tasks such as setting up, cleaning, lubricating, and starting machinery. Employers prefer to hire those who have completed high school or technical school and have taken courses in mechanical drawing, mathematics, blueprint reading, computers and electronics.”

You and I probably would dispute the DOL job description, as well as the education and training requirements it notes, as we refl ect on our own advanced manufacturing practices, equipment reliability problems and/or the shortage of skilled maintenance people in the local labor pools. Trade unions have been in decline for over 30 years. Apprenticeship training programs, union or not, in mechanical maintenance also have declined over the past 30 years. Does that mean that most of our “Industrial Machinery Mechanics and Maintenance Workers” have been trained(?) as “lower skilled maintenance workers with shortterm OJT?”

Following people around and picking up on their knowledge and their methods is unacceptable in today’s competitive environment. However, OJT can be very effective, as long as it is formal, structured on-job learning with a skilled coach or trainer and related studies in concepts and theory.

Unfortunately, our 2005-2006 “Status of Maintenance Training in America” survey indicated that most employers listed “informal OJT” as the most used training method measured by “informal performance assessments by supervisors” for maintenance job roles with “no formal skills and knowledge identified.”

Most small employers (under 500 employees) seem to struggle with the available time and fi nancial costs of formal workplace training. The largest group (47%) of employed Americans work in establishments ranging from 20 to 249 employees where training budgets largely have been decimated over the past decade or two. (By the way, most manufacturing plants and utilities are considered “small” operations.)

We must prepare for the future success of America now! We must bring formal, structured education and training into the workplace. We must change the course of our public school systems. We must do this to retain both our standard of living and our “Most Productive Nation” status.

The future we are creating for our children and grandchildren is at risk because we are not paying attention to our revenue-producing capital assets and our national infrastructure. Four of the occupations having the “largest numerical growth between 2004 and 2014,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor, are Maintenance & Repair Workers, Electricians, Auto Service Technicians and, yes, most defi nitely, Plumbers. Not one of these occupations requires a “college degree” in the traditional sense. So what? The more that these workers are formally prepared, educated and trained, the more successful they and their employer companies will be-and the more secure our Nation and our standard of living will be.

The time for action is now! Let us know what you are doing to meet the challenge.


Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

I was overwhelmed and pleased by the feedback regarding my previous column, “The Most Productive Nation,” in the January 2007 issue of this magazine… Continue Reading →


6:00 am
February 1, 2007
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Precision Alignment And Balancing

Proper application of state-of-the-art tools and techniques in this area can help save time, money and, most importantly, equipment.

technologyupdate1Misalignment and unbalance are two major causes of vibration in rotating equipment, vibration that means increased maintenance and reduced machine life. With proper alignment and balancing programs, reductions in maintenance and operating costs can easily reach into six figures per year.

When shafts are misaligned, forces are generated that can produce stresses on the rotating and stationary components. Even when couplings do not fail from the stresses produced by gross misalignment, bearings and seals will most certainly fail under these conditions. In extreme cases of misalignment, even the shafts may fracture and break.

Shaft alignment
Shaft alignment is the positioning of the rotational centers of two or more shafts so that they are collinear when the machines are running under normal operating conditions. Proper alignment is not dictated by the total indicator reading (TIR) of the coupling hubs or the shafts, but rather by the proper centers of rotation of the shaft supporting members (the machine bearings).

There are two components of alignment: offset and angular (see Fig. 1 and Fig. 2).

Offset alignment, or parallel alignment is the distance between the shaft centers of rotation measured at the plane of power transmission. It is typically measured at the coupling center. The units of measurement for offset alignment are mils (1 mil = 0.001 in.).

Angular alignment is the difference in the slope of one shaft compared to the slope of the mating shaft. The units of measurement are comparable to the measurement of slope; that is, rise/run. The units for angular alignment are mils/in.

There are also two planes of potential misalignment: horizontal and vertical. Each plane has both offset and angular components. Thus, there are four alignment parameters: horizontal angularity (HA), horizontal offset (HO), vertical angularity (VA), and vertical offset (VO).

Alignment methods
Of the many methods available to measure shaft alignment, the two most popular are dial indicator alignment and laser alignment.

The two most popular methods of dial indicator alignment are the rim and face method and the reverse indicator method. The rim and face method takes an offset reading with a radial indicator and measures the angularity with an axial indicator. The reverse indicator method measures offset at two different locations along the axis of the shafts, thereby allowing the angularity to be calculated.

If used correctly, dial indicators can be an effective means of shaft alignment. However, the process of taking readings, calculating results, making corrections, and repeating the process can be very time consuming.

Laser alignment offers the potential for much greater accuracy than dial indicators, as well as considerable time savings. Several laser systems are available. Some use a single laser and detector configuration, others use a reflected beam approach, and still others use a dual laser configuration that works along the same principle as the reverse dial indicator method. A good laser alignment system will have an accuracy of at least 0.0001 in.

A major advantage of laser systems is that foot corrections and alignment data at the couple are provided almost instantaneously. They also will accommodate much longer spans than dial indicators. The major disadvantage is cost, with systems running anywhere from a few thousand dollars to more than $20,000. But these upfront costs are typically easy to justify through reduced maintenance costs, extended equipment life, and shorter downtime.

Out-of-balance machine components are a principal cause of machinery vibration. The condition often is caused by less-than-perfect manufacturing, and it is routine for rotating equipment, reciprocating machines and vehicles. Mass balancing may be necessary if an operation or product requires quiet operation, high speeds, long bearing life, operator comfort, controls free of malfunctioning or a quality feel.

There are three types of balancing machines: static balancing stands, hard bearing machines, and soft bearing machines. Static balancing stands do not require spinning up and can correct for static or single-plane unbalance only. They feature low cost and safe operation.

Hard bearing balancing machines have stiff work supports. They have low sensitivity and sophisticated electronics. They require a massive, stiff foundation where they are permanently set and calibrated in place. Background vibration can affect balancing results. They are used mostly in manufacturing production operations where fast cycle time is required.

Soft bearing balancing machines have fl exible work supports. Their sensitivity is high and electronics simple. They can be placed anywhere and moved without recalibration. Their fl exible work supports provide isolation from ambient vibrations. A belt-driven soft bearing balancing machine can always achieve fi ner balance results than a hard bearing machine.

The two main types of fi eld balancing instruments are tunable fi lters and digital analyzers.

Tunable fi lter instruments are easy to use, affordable, and capable of measuring to fi ne levels. They use a strobe light for phase measurement that requires visual access to the rotor in subdued light.

Digital analyzers are more complicated, prone to operator setup errors—and usually more expensive. They generally use a photoelectric sensor for phase measurement that is safer because the operator can stand back and close the door.

Tunable fi lter instruments only take measurements; the balance calculations must be done separately. Digital analyzers combine measurement and calculation.

With either type of instrument, the knowledge and experience of the instrument operator is the most important factor in achieving good results. It is vitally important for these individuals to be able to recognize a non-balance problem and abandon the balance job in favor of some other solution.

Importance of training
Experts agree that thorough training is paramount to achieving the best results in alignment and balancing. Remember that even the most sophisticated instruments are no substitute for a highly trained and experienced specialist. Besides the initial training necessary when equipment is purchased, technicians should receive additional training to better apply their knowledge as their experience grows.

Supervisors and managers also should be involved in training so they develop a better understanding of the problems faced in the field and the time required to do the job right. The list on the following page refl ects some of the leading suppliers in this marketplace. MT

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6:00 am
February 1, 2007
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Solution Spotlight: Making Better Connections In Wastewater Treatment

Lift stations and portable generators equipped with a combination plug/receptacle and disconnect switch are helping the Watertown, WI, wastewater treatment plant make motor and generator connections safe, fast and easy. The city of about 23,000, located midway between Milwaukee and Madison on the Rock River, is underlain by 105 miles of sewers that collect wastewater from a 12–square-mile area. The system also includes 18 remote lift stations that use submersible pumps to elevate the wastewater in the sewer lines and facilitate gravity fl ow to the treatment plant.

solspotlight_meltricA power failure may make it necessary to bring the department’s portable generators to those lift stations not equipped with stationary generators and connect them to power the pumps until service is restored. Previously, these stations were equipped with conventional pin and sleeve connectors. Unfortunately, they could not be easily locked to prevent tampering or injury to children or vandals who might try to remove the plug. Assistant water systems manager-wastewater Kevin L. Freber explains, “The generators deliver 100 amp service, and with the plugs we had before, there was no way of locking the two parts together. Any child could walk up and pull them apart.”

To solve the problem, the utility replaced the connectors with Meltric Decontactor™ Series switch-rated motor plugs that allow workers to safely make and break electrical connections, even under full load, and also provides the NEC-required “line of sight” disconnect. Breaking a connection is a simple operation that is initiated by pressing a pawl on the Decontactor, which causes it to break the circuit and eject the plug to its rest position. Then, a simple quarter-turn of the plug allows it to be totally withdrawn from the receptacle in complete safety, since the circuit is already dead. When the plug and receptacle are separated, a safety shutter prevents access to live parts. Freber points out that the Decontactors are easy to lock to prevent tampering and also are safe when they are separated. He states, “You have to twist it to open it, and even if someone could get it apart, they never could get at the live contacts.” This is because of their dead-front construction and enclosed arc chambers. Easily accessible contacts on the previous connectors had the potential to expose workers or others to live power, so
switching to Meltric’s Decontactors also helped
the utility to simplify compliance with NFPA
70E arc fl ash requirements.


Pumps are now easier to replace
Shortly after operations at the 5.2 mgd plant began in 2004, one of the hard-wired submersible mixers in its aeration basins had to be replaced. This put the tank out of service for about a day while the mixer was disconnected and a new one re-wired. To prevent delays on future mixer replacements, the facility installed DSN30 (30A, 480V, 10 HP rated) Decontactors on all its aeration tank mixers.

These devices allow the mixers to be connected and disconnected safely with plug-and-play simplicity. Now, mechanics can easily replace or service the mixers without needing an electrician and without the need for cumbersome electrical PPE (personal protective equipment), as required by NFPA 70E. Freber explains, “When the first mixer failed, we had to shut everything off and disconnect all the wiring before we could pull it out and drop in a replacement. If one failed on a weekend, the weekend staff couldn’t handle it, so we either had to wait until Monday or call in an electrician. Now we just pull the plug, crank the mixer up and plug in a new one. We’re ready to go in minutes, and there’s never any exposure to live power.”

The Decontactors incorporate spring-loaded, silver-nickel butt-style contacts that provide consistently superior electrical performance over thousands of operations and are resistant to wear, corrosion, oxidation and other factors that contribute to premature failure of pin and sleevetype devices. Freber confirms that the silvernickel contacts up well to the corrosive gases in the plant. “They have been online for more than a year without any problems,” he notes.

Meltric Corporation
Franklin, WI


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6:00 am
February 1, 2007
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Keeping The Pressure On Reliability With ODR

New ways of thinking and new types of technologies are helping rewrite the rules on who does what and when in an industrial environment. Involving the “eyes and ears” of your plant (your operators) in the proactive maintenance of its “heart” (your pumps) can provide countless benefits.

pumpstrategiesskf1Lately, there has been a stream of visitors to the Dearborn Stamping Plant (DSP) housed in the historic Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn,Michigan. What’s the attraction?

The DSP operation, which manufactures sub-assembly doors and hoods for the popular Ford F-150 pickup truck, achieved a perfect score in a recent independent audit of its weld effectiveness. That makes the plant best in company- perhaps the best period-when it comes to the precision with which it forms and welds sub-assemblies. Executives from Ford Motor Company corporate offices and management from other Ford operations want to know how they do it.

A significant factor is a condition-monitoring program using thermography or thermal imaging. Thermography itself isn’t new to DSP, or new to Ford operations, but the DSP thermography program is unique. After only 30 days, the program scored higher in an insurance audit than any other Ford thermography program had ever scored. It continued to work even when new thermography team members came on board.

The ODR process, supported by enabling and ever-advancing technology, relies heavily on the “eyes and ears” in a plant, the machinery operators who are in daily contact with the equipment, to help detect equipment faults before problems can escalate. Many plants have been able to increase the uptime of their pumps, processes and other machinery and realize bottom- line benefits by implementing a carefully coordinated ODR program.

A case in point: A major petrochemical refinery recently adopted ODR to improve overall equipment reliability (process pumps included), enhance the timeliness and quality of feedback to and from operators and foster cross-functional teamwork and communications. Additionally, the refinery sought to inspire a culture of “ownership” and accountability among operators for the equipment they run.

Measurable goals for the refinery’s process pumps broadened to include improving their MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) and reducing the associated costs of maintenance. As subsequently documented by the refinery, the ODR program delivered increased revenue, reduced costs and minimized paperwork and redundant reporting, while providing quicker access to data for faster business decisions. An intangible benefit was a more cooperative culture that emerged in a workforce mutually focused on reliability-based activities. As a result, within the first year of ODR implementation, MTBFs for this refinery’s process pumps improved 15%, while the cost to maintain the pumps decreased 12%. Within the same time period (and also attributable to the ODR program), total maintenance spending decreased 10% and accumulative specific operator finds exceeded $350,000 in cost avoidance— in just 12 months.

Coming to terms with ODR
The term ODR refers to maintenance practices that are owned, managed and routinely performed by operators. It encompasses operators observing, recording and responding to machine health conditions. These practices often can be predictive and preventive, thus allowing companies to optimize the life cycle and efficiencies of their pumps and other assets by helping identify opportunities for reliability improvement—more quickly than in the past. Equally important, ODR includes teamwork and interaction with Maintenance and other departments impacting plant-wide equipment reliability. Under ODR, operators perform basic maintenance activities above and beyond their classic operator duties. ODR enlists them to observe and record the overall health of pumps (or other assets) by checking for leaks, listening for noises, monitoring temperature, lubrication and vibration, and taking responsibility to identify any abnormal equipment conditions and, in some


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6:00 am
February 1, 2007
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Building Strength-Based Organizations

History has provided us with a couple of very powerful examples of what happens when the “right” people fill the “wrong” roles. Avoiding this mistake is a key to organizational effectiveness.

managestrategiesHistory buffs often point to General Ulysses S. Grant and Winston Churchill as strong leaders. Were they, really?

The biographies of these men are immensely intriguing-and, in some aspects, eerily similar. Both had extremely successful wartime careers followed by far less successful civilian lives. Grant’s presidency became mired in scandals and a five-year economic depression. Churchill failed to prove himself as an effective peacetime prime minister and resigned from office in 1955. What could they have done to be better leaders after their respective wars?

If Grant had only prosecuted his corrupt cabinet members or more skillfully addressed the issues that fueled the nation’s lingering economic woes…? If Churchill had only been more diplomatic within his own country…? If they had, history might view their peacetime accomplishments more favorably. In the end, however, we remember them simply as two great, larger-than-life wartime heroes who failed to live up to their leadership potential later on. Could their biggest mistakes simply have been in believing that they actually had any talent at all for leading people when the fighting ended?

Right people, wrong role
In building an organization, how do you avoid mistakes like these, where the right people end up in the wrong role? It is especially important to realize that the misplacement of a person is two mistakes, not one. Not only is the person NOT in a role where he/she can excel, but he/she also is preventing that role from being filled by the right person. From an organizational design point of view, the classic model calls for management to:

  • Define the required activities necessary for each role.
  • Assign individuals to execute these activities.
  • Monitor performance of individuals and address problems.

How does this prevent the wrong person from getting into the wrong role and put the right person into the right role? It doesn’t. Instead, this model relies more on trial and error and disregards the single most important aspect of great performance- individual talent. A much better model would be one that begins with individual talent and builds on strengths.

The strength-based model
A strength-based organization is built upon three premises:

  • All people are born with talents.
  • Strengths are built on talents.
  • Roles must play to strengths.

We see talent around us all the time-the musician who can quickly learn any instrument; the natural athlete who rarely loses; managestrategies2the attentive salesman who makes the buying experience enjoyable; etc. We see these people in action and think to ourselves, “I wish I could be like that.” This is true almost any time we see someone do particularly well at something. But, there are only two important differences between us and them: (1) they have a talent that we don’t; and (2) they have put years into developing their talent into strengths and we have just put in years.

Studies indicate that by age 15, individuals have become “wired” a certain way. Someone who is “Analytical” at age 15 will be “Analytical” at age 85. Someone who is strong in “Command” at age 15 will still be strong in “Command” at age 75 (where “Command” is the natural ability to take charge). Any naturally occurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior are what we generally call a talent. The kid who is naturally good at math or the writer who can easily find the perfect combination of words have “talents” and, for better or for worse, such talents are not learnable or transferable.

Could you have “learned” to be good at math in high school? Yes-sort of-but to what level? Was studying hard ever going to make you as good as the math wizard who sat two rows ahead of you in class-especially if he/she ALSO was studying hard? If so, you should have studied harder, hoping that the math wiz wasn’t studying harder as well. In fact, why didn’t you give up your entire social life and study nothing but math? Yes, you would have gotten better at it-but to what level? On the other hand, what if your real talent were in writing? Spending hours getting “better” at math would have meant that you were NOT spending hours getting “great” at writing-where your true talent really might be.

Running the real numbers
In Nebraska, in the 1950s, a program was instituted in the public schools to test the relative effectiveness of three different reading-improvement methodologies. The program was particularly interesting in that it resulted in three discoveries:

  • All three methodologies were equally effective.
  • There were significant differences among the teachers (i.e., some teachers were better than others). (Gasp!)
  • The greatest improvements were made by students who were already the best readers. (Double Gasp!!) Top students showed improvement of over 900% (from 300 wpm to 2900 wpm). Slower readers also showed improvement, but it was small in comparison.

This last bullet-pointed discovery was a big surprise to many people, primarily because it had been so easy to believe that the greatest opportunity for improvement would have been in the area of weakness. Instead, as we now have begun to understand, an individual’s true chance for greatness lies in his/her focusing on areas of natural talent. In other words, find what you are good at and focus on getting great at it.

An abundance of talent
It is easy to believe that talents are rare, probably because we have more nontalents than talents. It is only in comparison, however, that talents are rare. The truth is that we are surrounded by an abundance of talent. Unfortunately, most of us in positions of management have been trained to focus on weaknesses as our greatest opportunity of improvement-mainly because weaknesses are easy to see and the perceived gap is more obvious. Talents, in contrast, often are hidden or unrecognized when glimpsed.

To build a strength-based organization, it is important to raise our skill level in recognizing talent. Signs of talent include:

  • Rapid learning: The ability to quickly master an activity is a classic indication of a natural talent.
  • Satisfaction: Finding satisfaction in either performing a task or in the successful accomplishment of an activity is another talent clue.
  • Yearnings: A strong desire to try something also can signal underlying talent.

Building talents into strengths
Imagine if you have the opportunity to send only one of your employees to a training course. Would you be better sending your lowest performer to a remedial course or your best performer to an advanced class? If your goal is to have everyone meet a minimum standard, then “fixing”‘ the lowest performer may be what’s required. But, if your goal is to increase your competitive edge, you need to send the best performer to the advanced class.

Quite simply, focus your training budget on your highest performers and build their talents into strengths. This does not mean that you should ignore weaknesses-they must be identified and addressed. Remember, though, that the core of a true weakness is a non-talent.

In most cases, a non-talent is irrelevant. We all have lots of non-talents and, for the most part, no one ever notices. It is only when we put a non-talent on display that it becomes a weakness. If a shortcoming in an individual’s performance is found, is it based on lack of talent (a true weakness), lack of skills or lack of desire? Lack of skill and/or desire can be addressed directly-but a lack of talent is different. You can’t really fix a lack of talent, or, to be blunt, put in what God left out. When faced with a lack of talent, the options include:

  • Getting good enough to get by: It is not that a person can’t improve in an area of non-talent, it is just that the improvement will be hard to come by and take greater effort. If someone is not a good public speaker but needs to be able to address a group, then practicing enough to get by may be necessary.
  • Creating a support system: If a person knows where he/she needs help, it is important for him/her to develop a support system on which to rely for assistance.
  • Finding a partner: Great partnerships are incredibly effective. A classic example is the technical visionary partnering with the savvy business manager.
  • Redefining the role to exclude the non-talent: Enough said.

0207_managementstrategies_img5Matching strengths to roles
The third characteristic of a strength-based organization is the matching of strengths to the role. This generally is done in one of two ways.

In the first way, many roles (especially unique roles/single-person roles) can be redefined to exclude individual non-talents. A business unit leader might be wonderful at managing the people in the group, but less talented at recognizing market trends. This situation calls for redefining the role and assigning strategic planning elsewhere.

The second way to match strengths to roles is to ensure that a role has clearly defined outcomes and very fl exible methods. The classic example where this is done right is in sales (i.e., “Role-Salesman, Goal-$500K monthly sales”). Someone could be a “numbers-game” salesperson who makes as many calls as possible in an hour or a relationship builder who focuses on select opportunities. It doesn’t really matter, as long as he/she consistently meets the $500K monthly sales goal.

Understanding the concept of the “strengthbased organization” and the foundation of great team performance built upon individual talent makes it easier for us to understand the dilemmas faced by Grant and Churchill as they tried to lead peacetime societies. If they could join our discussion today, no doubt they, too, would readily admit that they were much better suited to filling their wartime positions. It is pure conjecture as to what drove Grant and Churchill and their desire to seek the high offices they did at the conclusion of their wars. If we could hazard a guess, though, it would probably be that it was the lure of the offices rather than a love of the actual day-to-day execution of a political system that drove them. The continual compromises and deal-making necessary to be effective in a peacetime environment played to neither man’s aggressive, “total victory” nature. In fact, both men struggled in their respective systems during their careers prior to their wars. It was only in wartime environments that their strengths were perfectly suited for their respective roles.

If Grant and Churchill had been truly honest with themselves, they would likely have realized that peacetime politics was not their talent and continued pursuit of high office was in neither their nations’ nor their own best interests. How are you and your organization building on your strengths? MT

Scott Franklin, vice president of Life Cycle Engineering, Inc. (LCE), has over 20 years of experience in organizational design, change management and a dedicated focus on delivering sustainable improvements. He brings specific expertise in the areas of creating a combined learning organization in parallel with a strength-based organization, while simultaneously creating a culture of execution. Telephone: (843) 744.7110; e-mail:

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6:00 am
February 1, 2007
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Reducing Downtime With The Right Balancing Solution

Even when it enjoys a healthy market share, what organization can afford to ignore 200 hours of unscheduled downtime and associated labor and material costs annually?

0207_maintenancelog_img1When your company is responsible for supplying 25% of the cement used in the UK, a smoothly running production process is critical to success. That’s why having to go off-line for about 200 hours each year for unscheduled kiln shutdowns can be so costly to an operation. Such was the case for the Ketton Works plant of Castle Cement (“Castle”) in Lincolnshire. Open since 1929, the plant now has an annual production capacity of 1.3 million tons of clinker per year, or 4,200 tons per day. Despite the high demand, production operations haven’t always run as smoothly as they could. To be specific, the site’s kiln pre-heater ID fan suffered from a continual buildup problem stemming from dust and particulate exiting the pre-heater with the hot gasses that are then drawn through the fan. The particulate would stick to the fan rotor, causing it to become unbalanced-especially when large chunks of the buildup would break off.

In 2005, the buildup became so great that the fan reached excessive vibration levels on multiple occasions. This led to unscheduled shutdowns for grit-blasting and cleaning about once a month. That year alone, the resulting downtime totaled more than 200 hours. By the time the Castle team reheated the kiln and restarted operations after each cleaning process, significant labor and materials would have been expended-and countless hours of production lost. Furthermore, the kiln’s protective refractory lining also was being subjected to failure because of the repeated heating and cooling of these unplanned fan shutdowns.

“Shutting down is a serious process that typically takes several hours to allow the kiln to cool off, and another couple of hours to conduct the cleaning process,” says Mike Hart, a mechanical engineer with Castle. “But, our only other option was running the fan at reduced speed, which also greatly decreased our production capacity. Regardless of the solution, the staff often was taken away from regular duties to troubleshoot vibration problems.”

Searching for an answer
Castle had begun looking for a balancing solution in 2000, but hadn’t found what it needed. By the time operations manager Mark Cox joined the company in 2003, the problem was seriously impacting production. Fortunately, Cox remembered reading an article about a technology that might be able to resolve the situation. Castle contacted LORD Corporation (“LORD”) and Andy Winzenz, LORD sales manager, with the UK Distributor TEVA.

Winzenz visited the plant and confirmed that the main problem was in fact the product buildup in the kiln ID fan. “The cement manufacturing process is dependent on the performance of the ID fans and the ability to maintain process air fl ow,” he notes. “Our goal was to implement a solution to keep the fan running smoothly and reduce kiln downtime.”

After analyzing the problem and the fan specifications, the recommendation was to install a permanently-mounted device that continuously monitors fan vibration levels and corrects for unbalance while the fan is running. Although LORD has a variety of vibration control products, this particular type of balancing system was recommended because of its ability to make rapid corrections and withstand the harsh environment surrounding the ID fan.

The system is set up to monitor fan bearing vibration levels and the vibration phase angle in order to automatically correct for unbalanced conditions. This is done while the fan is running at operating speed, eliminating costly downtime to clean and manually balance the unit. Once levels reach a pre-set high trip point, the system switches on, commanding balance mass inside the shaft-mounted system to adjust as needed to counteract the unbalance and reduce the vibration.

The balancing ring of the system mounts directly to the fan shaft and houses counterweight masses that can be repositioned to offset the unbalance detected in the fan rotor. Utilizing vibration sensors, the system monitors the fan bearing vibration. Vibration signals are received and processed by an “Adaptive Infl uence Coefficient” control system, which then determines the balance adjustments that are required. The controller relocates the counterweight masses to the desired position to minimize the vibration levels. This process continues until the controller senses that balance has been restored. Typical balance cycle times range from 30 to 120 seconds, depending on operating speed.

LORD developed and patented the actuator coil assembly used in their balancing system. The actuator coil is traditionally mounted to support brackets located on the bearing pedestal. The non-contact power supply used in the actuator coil eliminates the need for maintenance, sending power across an air gap between the stationary actuator coil and the rotating balancer ring.

Implementing the solution
According to Mike Hart, Castle opted to install the balancing system during a regularly scheduled shutdown in February 2006. The two-plane balancing system was installed on the company’s #8 Kiln ID Fan (Solyvent Fan), which is part of a 3,000-ton-per-day process. The installation, performed in concert with the TEVA organization, involved moving the motor out of the way, pulling the coupling and bearings off the fan shaft, installation of the balance ring, reassembly of the bearings and coupling and then reinstalling and aligning the motor. Other tasks, such as running conduit and cables between the balancer and the controller and mounting the controller in a dustproof, waterproof box near the fan, were completed in advance of the shutdown.

John Hall, TEVA’s business development manager points out that although Castle was confident the balancing system would counteract the vibration problem, nobody was sure how long it would be before sandblasting was necessary. As such, operations manager Cox and his staff watched the buildup rate very carefully. Luckily, the new system proved so effective in correcting the unbalance that in the first six months of operation, the maintenance team experienced no unscheduled shutdowns at all.

“Building on this success,” says Hall, “we are in the midst of installing and commissioning a single plane balancing system on Castle #7 Kiln ID Fan (F.L. Smidth Fan), which is part of a 1,200-ton-per-day process.”

Proof in the numbers
The results of the project are compelling. Hart says that this process improvement has added up to big savings for Castle, and it paid for itself in just six months. Not only is the plant now able to run the kiln with no unscheduled production interruptions, it also is greatly extending the life of its equipment and minimizing wear and tear on the fan bearings.

The vibration figures speak for themselves. Before installation of the new balancer, the fan registered as high as 9-millimeters-per-second within 30 to 60 days of sandblasting. Today, however, Castle reports vibration levels of less than 2.5- to 3- millimeters-per-second within the same timeframe thanks to the fan balancing system.

Winzenz says that Castle Cement’s success is no aberration, either. Rather, it’s just another example of the returns that are achievable from this fan balancing system. Dozens of installations of the system on kiln ID and preheater fans in the cement industry, he explains, have proven that thousands of dollars per year in maintenance costs and lost production can be saved. This solution to a chronic problem is allowing individual plants and the industry as a whole to recognize increases in production that allow them to meet new demands. MT

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6:00 am
February 1, 2007
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Failure Avoidance Vs. Failure Prediction


You,re playing in the high-rollers’ room, now, where the stakes are greater than ever. This veteran of the reliability game deals you in on how to build a winning hand. Heinz P. Bloch, P.E., Process Machinery Consulting

To some of us, Maintenance Technology is more than just the title of an important journal. It’s a vocation…a craft…an attitude…a mindset… and a host of other things. More than a mere cookbook of procedures to follow, Maintenance Technology should be a thought-generator. Just as it should adjust the reader’s focus to recognize that failure prediction is more valuable than incurring failures without advance warning, the Maintenance Technology concept should remind us that failure avoidance is-in many, but clearly not all instances-the most cost-effective approach.

Based on experience
So as not to get hung up in the semantics and arguable definitions of the issue, let us start with a personal recollection. In 1979, the plant to which I had been assigned in Texas was about to commission six major turbo-compressor trains ranging up to about 60,000 HP and approximately 5,600 rpm. Because the equipment trains incorporated contoured diaphragm couplings, the chief machinery engineer at company headquarters asked me to cooperate with his plans to develop coupling condition monitoring devices. He was thinking of non-contacting telemetric means of detecting crack formation and crack propagation in the alloy steel diaphragms. My position was to, in the future-as had been done in this instance-purchase couplings with generous service factors. Such couplings were known to have torque load capacities far in excess of those delivered by the steam turbines driving the various compressors. In essence, building safety (failure avoidance) into the basic design at low incremental cost will very often allow us to dispense with some, presumably necessary, and sometimes “traditional,” surveillance requirements.

To be realistic, we concede that in the real-world environment, the reliability professional is rarely in a position to implement best practices by himself/herself. But, we still see it as his or her mission in life to move entire organizations in the right direction and to find tactful ways of questioning the erroneous mindset of the generally indifferent crowd. There is always a management component involved and managers often only pursue short-term interests. Short-term interests are inevitably repair-focused.

Consistently good performance and high profitability, however, require that industrial enterprises totally abandon their repair focus and unequivocally endorse the reliability-focused approach. Predictive maintenance should not be embraced without forethought, because it often drifts into a “repair” focus. Modern, reliability-focused plants must adhere to a well-formulated or even formalized management philosophy. This is an indispensable requirement if tangible and lasting equipment reliability improvement results are expected.

Focus on uptime improvement
Adapting the thinking of W. Edwards Deming, the noted American statistician whose teachings on quality and profitability often were neglected at home, but venerated in post- WW II Japan, we give the following advice to the interested manager:

  • Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product, equipment and service. Implement whatever organizational setup is needed to move from being a repair-focused facility to a reliability-focused one. Do this by teaching your reliability workforce to view every maintenance event as an opportunity to upgrade. Furthermore, make them accept the premise that component upgrading often results in total failure avoidance.
  • Never allow costly experimentation, or “reinventing the wheel,” when there is proof that an upgraded component, a good technical text or an experienced mentor could point the way to a proven solution [Ref. 1].
  • Upgrading must result in downtime avoidance and/or maintenance cost reductions. Insist on being apprised of both feasibility and cost justification of suitable upgrade measures. A professional’s best guess is acceptable; the claim that no data are available for equipment such as pumps-among the simplest machines on the face of the earth-shows indifference or lack of being informed.
  • Unless your problem machine is indeed the only one in the world delivering a particular medium from “A” to “B,” insist on determining the operating and failure experience of satisfactory machines and mechanical components elsewhere. That implies working only with experienced, cooperative vendors and a well-motivated reliability workforce.
  • Adopt a new philosophy that makes mistakes and negativism unacceptable. Ask some serious questions when a critical process compressor or pump repair isn’t done right three times in a row. Hold the responsible party accountable.
  • Ask the responsible worker to certify that his or her work meets the quality and accuracy requirements stipulated in your work procedures and checklists.
  • End the practice of awarding business to outside shops and service providers on the basis of price alone. Ask your reliability staff to use, acquire or develop, technical specifications for critical or high reliability components. Inspect the work product of your suppliers- you get not what you expect, but what you inspect.
  • Constantly and forever improve the system of maintenance quality and responsiveness of contract/outsourced service providers. You must groom in-house reliability specialists- they must have competence in gauging the adequacy of maintenance quality and outsourced services. Make them the pseudo-owners (the accountable parties) of the equipment or service at issue.
  • Allow global procurement based on adherence to sound specifications for critical components. These specifications must be used by your purchasing department. Accept cheaper substitutes only if it can be proven that their life-cycle costs are lower than those of the high-reliability components specified. Translation: Don’t tolerate reliability professionals seeking cover under the “global procurement” excuse [Ref. 2].
  • Insist on daily interaction of process/operating, mechanical/maintenance and reliability/ technical workforces. Institutionalize root cause failure analysis (RCFA) and make joint RCFA sessions mandatory for these three job functions. Do not accept this interaction to exist only in the form of e-mail! Until you have groomed a competent and well-trained failure analysis team, consider engaging an outside expert on an incentive-pay basis.
  • Institute a vigorous program of training and education. As an example: For decades, the mechanic/machinist has been allowed to find and replace the defective pump component. Consequently, he or she has become an entirely repair-focused parts-changer. Train your engineers, technicians and maintenance workforce members to be reliability-focused! Firmly subscribe to the belief that repair-focused plants will soon perish!
  • Institute leadership. Give guidance and direction. Impart resourcefulness to your reliability professionals. Become that leader or appoint that leader. The leader must be in a position to outline and delineate the approach to be followed by the reliability professional in, say, achieving extended pump run length-the subject of many relevant texts [Ref. 3].
  • Drive out fear. Initiate guidance and action steps that show personal ethics and evenhandedness that will be valued and respected by your workforce. Institute both fairness and accountability at all levels. As a manager, take the lead. Eliminate roadblocks and impediments to progress. Realize what it is you are trying to do: Obtain a quantifiable increase in plant-wide equipment uptime, in pump MTBF, or whatever. Accept the premise that these aims are not utopian; they have long since been accomplished elsewhere. With good leadership, your organization can achieve these goals as well.
  • Break down barriers between staff areas. Never tolerate the ill-advised competition among staff groups that causes them to withhold pertinent information from each other.
  • Eliminate numerical quotas. No reasonable person will be able to solve 20 elusive pump problems in a 40-hour week. If a problem is worth solving, it’s worth spending time to solve the problem. Don’t use a 50-cent solution to solve a million-dollar problem.
  • Accept the premise that an intellectual laggard “working” 70-hour weeks may not be as productive as a resourceful individual who really does perform in the standard 40-hour week. Realize that the 40-hour person, perhaps, operates at peak efficiency because he/she recharges his motivational batteries in his off-hours, whereas the laggard feeds his brain on figurative junk food.
  • Remove barriers to pride of workmanship. Don’t convey the message that jobs must be done quickly. Instead, instill the drive to do it right the first time and every time. To that end, make available the physical tools, written procedures, work process definitions and checklists used by Best-of-Class companies.

Going all in bestofclass2
Now, let’s get back to the earlier reference about diaphragm couplings…Over many decades, there never has been any problem with the ones alluded to in this brief overview. It’s just one of numerous examples proving that failure avoidance trumps failure prediction.


  1. Bloch, Heinz P., Machinery Reliability Improvement, 3rd Edition, 1998, Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, TX (ISBN 0-88415- 661-3)
  2. Bloch, Heinz P., and Alan Budris, Pump User’s Handbook: Life Extension, 2nd Edition, 2006, Fairmont Publishing Company, Lilburn, GA (ISBN 0-88173-517-5)
  3. Bloch, Heinz P., and Fred Geitner, Machinery Uptime Improvement, (2006) Elsevier-Butterworth- Heinemann, Stoneham, MA (ISBN 0-7506-7725-2)

Frequent contributor Heinz Bloch is wellknown to Maintenance Technology readers. The author of 17 comprehensive textbooks and over 340 other publications on machinery reliability and lubrication, he can be contacted directly at:

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