Archive | July, 2008


6:00 am
July 1, 2008
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Part II: Using Oil Mist On Electric Motors

0708_oilmist_img1As the reader will recall from Part I of this two-part article, dry sump oil mist on electric motors represents wellproven technology. In the mid-1960s, oil mist—a mixture of 200,000 volume parts of clean and dry plant or instrument air with one part of lubricating oil—gained acceptance as the ideal lubricant application method on rolling element electric motor bearings in several major United States oil refineries. Since then, this lubrication method has gained further acceptance at hundreds of reliability-focused process plants in this country and overseas and, as of the late 1990s, many thousands of electric motors were being lubricated by dry sump oil mist. Remember: Whenever oil mist is used for pump lubrication, its extension to cover electric motor drivers will be very inexpensive.

The right bearing and correct installation
Oil mist cannot eliminate basic bearing problems— it can only provide one of the best and most reliable means of lubricant application. (Refer again to Fig. 1.) Bearings must:

  1. Be adequate for the application, i.e. deep groove ball bearings for coupled drives, cylindrical roller bearing to support high radial loads in certain belt drives, or angular contact ball bearings to support the axial (constant) loads in vertical motor applications.
  2. Incorporate correct bearing-internal clearances.
  3. Be mounted with correct shaft and housing fits.
  4. Be carefully and correctly handled, using tools that will avoid damage.
  5. Be correctly assembled and fitted to the motor caps, carefully avoiding misalignment or skewing.
  6. Be part of a correctly installed motor, avoiding shaft misalignment and soft foot, or bearing damage incurred while mounting either the coupling or drive pulley.
  7. Be subjected to vibration spectrum analysis. This will indicate the lubrication condition in regard to lubricating film, bearing condition (possible bearing damage) and general equipment condition, including misalignment, lack of support (soft foot), unbalance, etc.

0708_oilmist_img2Additional considerations when converting electric motors that are already in use 
When converting operating motors from grease lubrication to dry sump oil mist lubrication, consider the following measures in addition to those mentioned in the previous list:

  1. Perform a complete vibration analysis. This will confirm pre-existing bearing distress and indicate if such work as re-alignment and/or base plate stiffening is needed to avert incipient bearing failure.
  2. Measure the actual efficiency of the motor. If the motor is inefficient, consider replacing it with a modern high efficiency motor, using oil mist lubrication in line with the aforementioned recommendations. This will allow the capture of all benefits and result in greatly enhanced return on investment.
  3. Last, but not least, evaluate if the capacity of the motor is best suited for the application. “Best suitable” typically implies driven loads that represent 75% to 95% of nominal motor capacity. The result is operation at best efficiency. Note that converting an overloaded, hot-running electric motor to oil mist lubrication will not usually be of economic benefit and will lead to marginal improvement at best.

Regarding explosion-proof motors
Although explosion-proof motors have been successfully lubricated with pure oil mist for at least three full decades, questions are occasionally raised as to whether explosionproof (XP) electric motors are suitable for this mode of lubrication.

Dealing with codes and practices…
The selection, operation and even maintenance of industrial equipment in the developed countries often are influenced by industrial standards, regulatory agencies and certain applicable codes. Major companies, though, superimpose their own design standards, specifications and best practices. It can be shown beyond any doubt that many of these practices reflect advanced thinking that is often years ahead of current regulatory edicts. Nevertheless (more recently), some of these practices have come under scrutiny. In the case of oil mist applied to explosion-proof electric motors, the scrutiny was not prompted by any safety incidents. Rather, it has been brought on by the fact that we live in litigious times and lawsuits are costly.

It appears that the acceptability of dry sump oil mist on explosion-proof motors relates to third-party approval and the original equipment manufacturer’s certification of the motor. For years, users have provided all except their explosion-proof electric motors with a small (3 mm) weep hole and have given XP-motor drains closer attention. The latter are furnished with either an explosion-proof rated vent or a suitably routed weep hole passage at the bottom of the motor casing or lower edge of the end cover. Intended to drain accumulated moisture condensation, the vent or weep hole passage will allow liquefied or atomized oil mist to escape. Note, however, that explosion-proof motors are still “explosion-proof” with this passage. (For example, Baldor • Reliance Motors [formerly Reliance Electric] tackwelds an explosion-proof “XP-breather drain” to the motor brackets. The suitability of this line of motors for Class 1, Group C and D locations was specifically re-affirmed by the manufacturer in July of 2004.)

Not being familiar with dry sump oil mist, though, causes some motor manufacturers and third party validation providers to take the position that explosion-proofmotors lose this “listing” once any modifications are made to the motor.

Highlighting oil mist for XP motors 
As the name implies, explosion-proof motors are intended for use in hazardous areas. The majority of hazardous areas in hydrocarbon processing facilities are designated as Class 1, Division 2, Groups B, C and D.

The Class 1 area designation indicates that either a flammable liquid or vapor or both are present. (Class 2 designations are reserved for areas where combustible metal, carbon fines or other combustible dusts such as grain flour or plastic are present).

The “Division” label is used to better describe the probability of flammable gases or vapors being present in a Class 1 or Class 2 location.

  • Division 1 is intended for locations where ignitable concentrations of flammable gases or vapors can either exist under normal operating conditions, or might be present while the equipment is undergoing repair or maintenance.
  • Division 2 defines the area or location where the flammable liquids or vapors are possibly present and/or:
  1. Normally confined within closed containers or closed systems and are present only in case of accidental rupture or breakdown of such containers, or in case of abnormal operation of equipment; or
  2. Where ignitable concentrations are normally prevented by positive ventilation; or
  3. An area adjacent to a Class 1, Division 1, location.

The “Group” designation has four subgroups, or gas groups—appropriately called Groups A, B, C and D. Determining the proper group classification for flammable gases and vapors requires monitoring and describing explosion pressures and maximum safe clearances between parts of a clamped joint under certain prescribed conditions whereby a test gas is mixed with air and ignited.

The test values obtained for a reference gas are compared with the gas or gases of interest; these must now be tested under the same conditions. Gases having similar explosion pressures are grouped together. However, Groups C and D contain the majority of flammable gases and vapors. Group A only contains acetylene, while Group B generally contains hydrogen and other hydrogen-rich gas mixtures, plus a few other flammable gases.

An important concession is made by the National Electrical Code (NEC) for equipment used in Division 2 areas, where flammable gases are normally not present, i.e. a refinery or petrochemical plant under normal conditions. If they meet stipulated criteria, the NEC allows the use of certain types of devices and materials that may not be listed by third party, or “listing” agencies. For instance, these exceptions to the NEC’s general code requirements permit general-purpose enclosures if the electrical current interrupting contacts are:

  1. Immersed in oil; or
  2. Enclosed within a chamber that is hermetically sealed against the entrance of gases or vapors; or
  3. In non-incendive circuits; or
  4. Part of a “listed” non-incendive component; or
  5. Without make-and-break or sliding contacts.

Except for the above exclusions, the National Electrical Code/NFPA 70 (“NEC”) requires that all electrical apparatus installed in classified (hazardous) areas must be approved for use in the specified Class and Group where it is to be used. Once an electrical apparatus is described as “explosion-proof,” it is implied that the device has been evaluated and approved for use in a particular Class and Group. The evaluation or approval agency was earlier called a “third party.” In the United States, third parties include Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Factory Mutual (FM) and others. Once an apparatus or device has been evaluated and approved for a particular Class or Group, it is labeled “listed” by the agency.

In most Class 1 Division 2 hazardous areas, the electric motors are not, and do not need to be “explosion-proof.” The overwhelming majority are non-arcing induction motors that meet the requirements of the applicable and allowed exceptions. These non-explosion- proof motors can be adapted for dry sump oil mist lubrication by simply connecting oil mist supplies and vents to the existing connections used with the explosion-proof units. Because these motors are non-arcing and an explosion-proof housing is not needed for Division 2 service, the case drain fitting can be removed and a drain can be installed without in any way affecting the suitability of the motor for Division 2 service.

Safety of XP motors for Class 1 Division 1 service
Regrettably, some listing agencies in the United States seem to believe that oil mist applied to the bearings makes the motor different from what was originally approved. Not understanding oil mist, they take the position that by in any way adapting plugs and drain fittings to oil mist application, mist venting and mist draining, the safe clearance requirements between clamped components used in the original design requirement may have been changed. Therefore, they consider the approval listing void and claim the motor is no longer suitable for use in Class 1 Division 1 service. In view of this stance taken by third parties, even a major provider of oil mist systems in the United States does not allow its employees to make on-site modifications to convert or connect an explosion-proof motor to oil mist. That said, a number of clarifications are in order here.


First and foremost is the fact that explosion-proof motors were successfully converted to oil mist lubrication by undisputed best-of-class petrochemical companies three decades ago and have since given safe and reliable service. These forward-looking companies, for whom safety is of utmost importance, correctly reasoned that all electric motors, regardless of classification, were assembled and being operated in an ambient environment. Thus, they always are filled with ambient air; certainly none of these motors are provided with mechanical seals that would positively prevent an interchange or communication between motor-internal air and the surrounding ambient air. Should an explosive gas mixture prevail in the vicinity of such motors, there would now exist the possibility of the motor ingesting this explosive gas mixture. If, on the other hand, such a motor were filled with the demonstrably non-explosive oil mist at slightly higher-than-atmospheric pressure, the probability of the motor becoming filled with an explosive gas mixture would be greatly reduced. In other words, knowledgeable user companies have long recognized that an oil-mist-lubricated motor operating in a Class 1 Division 1 environment is safer than a conventionally lubricated electric motor operating in the same environment.

It also may be argued that item 2, and possibly one or two other items cited as exclusionary by NEC, allow the user to reason that oil mist existing at a pressure higher than atmospheric complies fully with the spirit of the listed exclusions.


  1. Bloch, Heinz P., and Alan Budris, (2006), Pump User’s Handbook: Life Extension, Fairmont Press, Inc., Lilburn, GA, 30047; ISBN 0-88173-517-5, pp. 265-290
  2. Bloch, Heinz P., and Abdus Shamim, (1998), Oil Mist Lubrication: Practical Applications, Fairmont Press, Inc., Lilburn, GA, 30047; ISBN 0-88173-256-7, Fig. 9-7, p. 109
  3. Shelton, Harold L., “Estimating the lower explosive limits of waste vapors,”Environmental Engineering, May-June 1995, pp. 22-25
  4. Lilly, L.R.C., (1986), Diesel Engine Reference Book, Butterworth & Co., London, U.K., ISBN 0-408-00443-6, p. 21/3

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


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6:00 am
July 1, 2008
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Come On Aboard: Solving Problems In Ethanol Plants


This forward-thinking supplier is taking the type of solutions that improve efficiency and help reduce operating costs directly to end users.

SEPCO® (Sealing Equipment Products Co., Inc.), a manufacturer of fluid sealing products headquartered in Alabaster, AL, has taken an innovative approach to providing sealing solutions to the ethanol industry. World demand for alternative fuel sources has produced rapid growth and expansion of ethanol facilities, all of which has presented new demands and challenges for support companies that serve this burgeoning industry.

To meet these new challenges head-on, SEPCO has dedicated full attention to the developing bio-fuels industry by using its Mobile Ethanol Support Unit—otherwise known as “MoE”—as a tool to share its products and programs through instruction, demonstration, plant support and training.

On-site with MoE
The Mobile Ethanol Support Unit takes SEPCO support programs directly to ethanol plants. The unit serves as a classroom for hands-on training of fluid sealing products which are used in operations. Ethanol plant employees are trained on SEPCO mechanical seals that include, but are not limited to, the hot oil Seal (HOS), double tandem pumper (DTP), cartridge grease seal (CGS) and many other fluid sealing products.

Another primary function of the MoE unit is to serve as a central point of support during plant outages and start-ups by providing inventory and technical assistance at the site. The MoE also can be used as a base of operations in performing plant equipment inventories/ surveys and developing fluid sealing applications to maximize equipment operational performance. Totally self-contained, the MoE has its own computer system, audiovisual equipment and graphics and product literature. Working models of pumps for training are onboard, as is an inventory of SEPCO fluid sealing products.

According to a SEPCO spokesman, this mobile support unit has been very well received by end users. Scheduling information may be obtained by calling the company. LMT

Sealing Equipment Products Co. (SEPCO®) 
Alabaster, AL

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July 1, 2008
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Viewpoint: PdM vs. Failure Avoidance

What a heresy to not “talk up” PdM (predictive maintenance) in a publication that deals with maintenance technology! Yet, I firmly believe that decades of primary emphasis on PdM have proved very costly for industry.

It has been said that PdM is like calculating and predicting when two trains moving in opposite directions on the same track will crash into each other. Knowing their respective speeds and the distance separating them will let you do that. A much more intelligent choice would be to know the distance to the nearest side spur equipped with a switch, and to then initiate appropriate changes in the speed of one train. The crash would be avoided and all involved parties would be better served.

In my opinion, as matters stand today, there is too much congratulating oneself for having accurately predicted the time and location of a disastrous crash. Only a relatively few companies realize that reliable process plant machinery is either available or feasible and can (usually) be cost-justified by due diligence.

Companies that do due diligence (i.e. engaging their brains to the fullest) are the ones that understand and reward the best choice in terms of equipment life cycle cost. They try never to automatically reward the lowest bidder with their purchase order. Instead, these smart purchasers get superior machines by expending additional design, engineering, fabrication, installation, maintenance and—above all—educational effort. Those that really get results use a combination of planning, sound specifications, well-formulated procedures and intelligent work processes. There are many reasons why these intermeshing activities are rarely in place and to list them would fill countless pages.

Suffice it to say that another key ingredient, accountability, is lacking in many instances. Many project executives are allowed to concentrate merely on cost and schedule. In essence, they are being rewarded for picking the cheapest equipment and getting it delivered in record time. From that day on, someone else is being rewarded for cobbling together the failed machine in record time. The overwhelming majority of plants then experience repeat failures—no wonder, since the reward system encourages a never-ending cycle of such failures.

Ready for a radical proposal? Start insisting on people reading books and articles that describe how the best of the best do the literally hundreds of tasks that ultimately lead to equipment uptime extension. Let them report to a designated and accountable individual on how the designs, engineering features, fabrication and installation procedures, work processes and whatever else is done at your facility differ from what can be gleaned from this incalculably important reading. Then have individuals explain the ramifications of doing it one way vs. another way.

Set realistic goals for your workers and for yourself. Aspire to a higher standard and hold people accountable for understanding how often your pumps fail—and how often they fail elsewhere, at a best-of-class facility. Then ask them what it would take to move a bit closer to the failure avoidance achievements of those “other” facilities. Follow this roadmap for everything and accept the premise that there is no other way to get there. Trust me. MT

Bloch, H.P., Improving Machinery Reliability,
(1998) 3rd Edition, Gulf Publishing Co. (1988),
Houston, TX, ISBN 0-88415-661-3

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July 1, 2008
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Capacity Assurance Marketplace

0708_armstrongWireless Steam Trap Monitoring

Armstrong Smart Services Group offers the SteamEye® Starter Kit for trial of wireless steam trap monitoring or expansion of operations to include additional traps. The SteamEye system provides updates every three minutes and can detect both “failed open” or “failed closed” traps. The starter kit contains all components required to begin wirelessly monitoring critical applications, including four SteamEye URFC4700 transmitters, one SteamEye 4000 Series Gateway and one SteamEye 4000 Series repeater.

Armstrong International, Inc.
Three Rivers, MI

0708_baldorEnergy-Efficient Gearmotors

Baldor has introduced the Dodge QUANTIS GOLD, an energy-efficient C-face gearmotor that combines Dodge QUANTIS ILH (In-Line Helical) and RHB (Right Angle Helical Bevel) C-face gearmotors with Baldor•Reliance Super-E Premium Efficient Motors. QUANTIS ILH and RHB reducers are engineered for flexibility and greater torque density in a compact housing. Both feature NEMA clamp-collar design, foot mounted housing configurations, standard inch output shafts, nitrile input and output lip seals, A1 mounting and Mobilegear 600 XP 220 oil. Super-E Premium Efficient Motors offer 1800 rpm, 60 Hz, with voltages ranging from 230V to 460. Inverter-capable, they’re suitable for use on inverter drives in variable torque and 20:1 constant torque applications. Motor and gearbox combinations up to 10 hp are pre-selected.

Baldor Electric Company
Fort Smith, AR

0708_smith_flowValve Interlocks Reduce Errors

Smith Flow Conontrol’s (SFC) valve interlocks systems control the sequence that process equipment is accessed and operated. The SFC QL interlock fits all types of lever-operated quarter-turn valves, including ball, butterfly and plug. The GL interlock is made for handwheel-operated valves including gate, globe and gear-operated units. The DL3 interlock, made specifically for pigtrap/pressure applications, is adaptable to all types of vessel or access closures. Constructed of stainless steel, all of these products are lubricated for life.

Smith Flow Control USA
Erlanger, KY

0708_wright_toolBolting Made Easy

Wright Tool’s line of torque multipliers includes three styles: universal tube, plate reaction and foot reaction. These tools range in output capacity from 750 to 8000 foot-pounds. Their compact, rugged, one-piece design is easy to handle and, according to the company, operators rarely need to apply more than 200 footpounds of input torque to achieve their output goal. A torque conversion chart is attached to each of these multipliers to show the input torque required for any given torque output.

Wright Tool Company
Barberton, OH

0708_electro_staticBearing Protection

Electro Static offers two AEGIS SGR Split-Ring Bearing Protection Kits™ (one for NEMA motors and one for IEC motors). They’re designed to provide clearance for shaft shoulders, slingers and other endbell protrusions while k e e p i n g b e a r i n g s safe from e l e c t r i c a l damage caused by circulating or shaft currents. Split-Ring Kits are ordered by motor frame size. Standard-size kits fit NEMA-frame motors with shaft diameters from 0.625″ to 3.375″ and IEC-frame motors with shaft diameters from 19mm to 95mm.

Electro Static Technology
Mechanic Falls, ME

0708_automationUniversally Interchangeable Worm Gearboxes

has expanded its mechanical power transmission product line to include worm gearboxes in four frame sizes and six gear ratios from 5:1 to 60:1. Constructed of cast iron one-piece housings, the IronHorse™ worm gearboxes feature a C-flange input and carbon steel shaft with either right-hand or dual shaft output and double-lipped embedded oil seals to prevent leakage. Designed to change drive direction by 90 degrees, these products are mountable in any direction, except motor pointing up. The universally interchangeable compact design ensures easy OEM replacement.

Cumming, GA

0708_tricoLubricant Identification Tags

Trico’s Spectrum tags and labels help users avoid lubricant cross-contamination and misapplication by identifying lubricants from storage to point of use. Available in 10 colors, the tags are easily marked with up to four lines of information using a felt tip marker, crayon or Spectrum customized label and then sealed beneath a laminate sheet to maintain readability. Optional barcoding also can be added. The tags are made of 1/16″ UV inhibited plastic and designed to withstand harsh environments.

Trico Corporation
Pewaukee, WI

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6:00 am
July 1, 2008
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Solution Spotlight: Come On Aboard: Solving Problems In Ethanol Plants


This forward-thinking supplier is taking the type of solutions that improve efficiency and help reduce operating costs directly to end users in one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet.

SEPCO® (Sealing Equipment Products Co., Inc.), a manufacturer of fluid sealing products headquartered in Alabaster, AL, has taken an innovative approach to providing sealing solutions to the ethanol industry. World demand for alternative fuel sources has produced rapid growth and expansion of ethanol facilities, all of which has presented new demands and challenges for support companies that serve this burgeoning industry.

To meet these new challenges head-on, SEPCO has dedicated full attention to the developing bio-fuels industry by using its Mobile Ethanol Support Unit—otherwise known as “MoE”—as a tool to share its products and programs through instruction, demonstration, plant support and training.

On-site with MoE
The Mobile Ethanol Support Unit takes SEPCO support programs directly to ethanol plants. The unit serves as a classroom for hands-on training of fluid sealing products which are used in operations. Ethanol plant employees are trained on SEPCO mechanical seals that include, but are not limited to, the hot oil Seal (HOS), double tandem pumper (DTP), cartridge grease seal (CGS) and many other fluid sealing products. Another primary function of the MoE unit is to serve as a central point of support during plant outages and start-ups by providing inventory and technical assistance at the site. The MoE also can be used as a base of operations in performing plant equipment inventories/ surveys and developing fluid sealing applications to maximize equipment operational performance.

Totally self-contained, the MoE has its own computer system, audiovisual equipment and graphics and product literature. Working models of pumps for training are onboard, as is an inventory of SEPCO fluid sealing products.

According to a SEPCO spokesman, this mobile support unit has been very well received by end users. Scheduling information may be obtained by calling the company. MT

Sealing Equipment Products Co.
Alabaster, AL

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July 1, 2008
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Boosting Your Bottom Line: Making Energy A Management Priority

With rising oil, natural gas, and electricity prices swelling everyone’s monthly utility bills, interest in energy efficiency has never been stronger. While it is easy to focus on hardware, such as highefficiency lighting, motors and HVAC equipment, without leadership, planning and organization the benefits of one-time equipment upgrades are not sustainable. Management support is critical to make sure energy performance is considered on a consistent and continuous basis. This means incorporating energy into your organization’s goals, procedures, key performance indicators and into routine business decisions—such as if electric motors should be repaired or replaced.

Many companies are taking a top-down approach to energy management through corporate commitment programs. For instance, approximately 500 industrial companies have made commitments through EPA ENERGY STAR®. Under this partnership program, corporate executives have committed staff and funding to measure, track and benchmark energy performance in their plants and buildings, to develop and implement a plan to improve facility energy performance on a continuous basis and to educate staff and the public on the results. After obtaining a commitment, key next steps are appointing an energy director to lead a dedicated energy team, draft an energy policy and establish an energy management program. (See guidelines_index for details.)

Whether your organization opts for a topdown or bottom-up path, energy management is best approached at the facility level as a team. Although the exact composition and size of the team is up to you, it is important to include representatives from key areas, such as management, engineering, purchasing and operations and maintenance. These diverse perspectives will help ensure that the team’s recommendations are appropriate, achievable and—most importantly—are improvements your organization can sustain and continue to improve upon.

There’s no shortage of credible resources to help your energy team to get started. In addition to the EPA ENERGY STAR program, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) offers a variety of helpful resources, including case studies, tip sheets, and diagnostic tools. For instance DOE supports a variety of software tools to help identify and assess energy savings related to pumps, fans, compressed air, process heating and steam systems. ( Motor Decisions Mattersm (MDM) has tools and resources to help manage your motor fleet, estimate costs for upgrades, and plan ahead for eventual motor failure ( In addition, many utilities, states and other public entities throughout the U.S. and Canada offer efficiency programs to support energy management goals, particularly at the plant level. Many of these programs are members of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) and can be identified through CEE’s Website.

When it comes to blunting the impact of high energy costs, securing management support is critical. Establishing an energy management team, educating your workforce about energy efficiency and taking advantage of the credible resources are great ways to get started. MT

The Motor Decisions Matter campaign is managed by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, a North American nonprofit organization that promotes energy-saving products, equipment and technologies. For further information about MDM, contact Ted Jones at or (617) 589-3949, ext. 230.

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July 1, 2008
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Communications: Partnering With Auditors


Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor

The customs, practices and behaviors exhibited within a workplace are termed “corporate culture,” with each corporation, company, even individual departments revealing and immersing themselves in their own unique cultures.

Living and working within a corporate culture rarely allows an individual the opportunity to perform a cultural self-assessment without bias. That old “I can’t see the forest for the trees” adage clearly sums up our self-assessment inadequacy. The ability to candidly rate ourselves is hindered for a number of specific reasons:

  • Lack of knowledge pertaining to a structured audit process
  • Clouding of personal judgment due to internal politics and misunderstandings
  • Lack of business process knowledge
  • Inability to successfully communicate with personnel at all corporate hierarchical levels

Thus, to obtain accurate, unbiased “present state” assessments, an organization will seek out and retain, or in the case of mandatory audits and some voluntary ones, “receive” the services of professional auditors.

How and why assess?
There are various reasons for assessing the current state of a corporate, company and/or departmental culture, including, for example: regulatory compliance, accreditation compliance, licensing compliance, continuous improvement, change management, etc. Most of these reasons will eventually lead to the services of an auditor.

Because auditors are trained in the audit process and are able to view the corporation or department from the “outside in”—without bias—they are better able to deliver a fast, accurate audit assessment. Audits can be divided into mandated and voluntary categories.

  • Mandated audits… are compulsory, with the scope of the audit being determined and directed by the regulatory agency performing the audit. Typical mandated audits include: tax audits by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); validation audits of pharmaceutical or food companies by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); licensing audits of nuclear power plants by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
  • Voluntary audits… are most likely to be selffunded with a self-determined scope. Typical voluntary audits include: ISO certification audits; present “state of maintenance” audits for companies by outside consultants; assessment audits of companies competing for awards by judging/jurying committees (the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award and North American Maintenance Excellence [NAME] Award are two that come to mind).

Audits—regardless of type—clearly are an important issue for a business. Since maintenance is an integral part of the business, its methods, processes and results can be subject to scrutiny or audit just like those of other departments—at any time. That said, any audit of a maintenance department will tax the organization’s resources. Understanding everyone’s role in the process, therefore, will optimize effort.

Whether working with an internal auditor (many external audits are prepared for by utilizing internal corporate staff to stage a practice or “dry run” audit prior to the real event) or with an external auditor, the maintenance department must communicate with the auditor prior to the event. This is done to determine two very critical elements:

  1. the audit scope and
  2. the auditor’s requirements.

What, where, how long and by whom?
Audit scope states exactly what is to be audited. In a mandated audit, the auditor will determine and provide the audit scope. For example, a nuclear power plant applying for an operational license can expect the NRC to determine the entire operation within the audit scope. On the other hand, the scope of an environmental spill audit initially will be confined to the immediate spill area.

In a voluntary audit, the corporation, company or department has the right to choose its auditor. Interviewing auditor(s) for suitability in terms of past experience, industry knowledge and their understanding of YOUR business needs is imperative. If two or more auditor candidates meet your technical needs, choose the one you feel the most comfortable partnering with, securing assurances that “who you see, is who you get” during audit time.

The next step is specifically determining and spelling out the audit scope to the auditor.

In a voluntary audit, the corporation determines exactly what is to be audited. For example, if you are undergoing ISO registration, you may choose to just register a single department, production line or process—not the entire plant. This being the case, the auditor will focus only on the methods, processes and records specific to the running and maintaining of that department, line or process.

In both mandatory and voluntary audits, once the audit scope is determined and understood, the auditor must be interviewed to determine the time and duration of the actual audit and the auditor’s requirements. What does he/she want to see? During actual audits, auditors typically have limited time on site. Thus, they often will detail lists of places or items they wish to review during their visits.

Places to see might include the MRO inventory crib or the maintenance tool crib. Items to see might include a Work Order Flow process map or a PM completion report. An auditor might even ask to interview a maintainer on how the maintenance department functions.

The bright side?
Fortunately for most maintenance departments, working with an auditor is an infrequent event. When it does occur, effective communication with the auditor will facilitate the audit process and help place maintenance in a position to grow as a result of the audit findings. MT

Ken Bannister is lead partner and principal consultant for Engtech Industries, Inc. Telephone: (519) 469- 9173; e-mail:

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July 1, 2008
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Uptime: Hanging On The Edge


Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Well, we’ve done it, again. This time, though, it was a veritable squeaker. The 520-page “Global Competitiveness Report 2007-2008” (the Report, by the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, states that of 131 national economies, the U.S. “is endowed with a winning combination of highly sophisticated companies… buttressed by an excellent university system, and a strong collaboration between the educational and business sectors in research and development… The United States (is) arguably the country with the most productive and innovative potential in the world.”

Impressive? Yes! But, we can’t afford to get comfortable or complacent with our past and current competitiveness position. Given faltering economic conditions, escalating global competitiveness and growing shortages of skilled maintenance and manufacturing people, we are a nation at risk. Couple this with the decline of the dollar and the price of crude oil and it’s easy to see that we are in the midst of an ever intensifying perfect storm. Let’s take a look at what the Report tells us about our competitive advantages and disadvantages, where we stand in relationship to other industrialized and developing nations and why we’re really hanging on the edge.

Pillars of Competitiveness:
The Report uses an assessment process built around 12 “Pillars of Competitiveness.” Here are just a few of the overall rankings based on the 12 Pillars and their 110 competitiveness criteria for 2007-2008:

1. United States (score 5.67 out of 7.00)
2. Switzerland (score 5.62)
3. Denmark (score 5.55)
4. Sweden (score 5.54)
5. Germany (score 5.51)
6. Finland (score 5.49)
7. Singapore (score 5.45)
8. Japan (score 5.43)
9. United Kingdom (score 5.41)
10. Netherlands (score 5.40)
13. Canada (score 5.34)
18. France (score 5.18)
34. China (score 4.57)
48. India (score 4.33)
52. Mexico (score 4.26)
98. Venezuela (score 3.63)

To fully understand these rankings, we should dig deeper into some of the trends and criteria for competitiveness.

Business Competitiveness:
Yet another interesting comparison is that of “Business Competitiveness” among 127 countries studied. The Business Competitiveness Index (BCI) looks at the “sustainable underpinnings of the national economy…” This is very important since it addresses productivity and generation of wealth as the fundamental underpinning of prosperity. The Report goes on to state that “True competitiveness is measured by productivity. Productivity supports high wages, strong currency, and attractive returns on capital—and with them a high standard of living.” (Underlining is my emphasis.) U.S. businesses rank as the most productive in the world. Since 2001, we have ranked at the top of the list for four out of seven years, with Finland replacing the U.S. as number one 2001, 2003 and 2004.

When we look at a number of other countries from this BCI perspective there are some very interesting comparisons from 2001 through 2007.

  • Japan has risen from 16th to 10th
  • Germany has risen from 5th to 2nd
  • India has risen from 38th to 31st
  • Canada has slipped from 11th to 14th in the BCI Index
  • France has slipped from 7th to 17th
  • China has slipped from 50th to 57th
  • Mexico has slipped from 52nd to 64th
  • Venezuela has slipped from 67th to 101st

Despite the claims of low wages that have attracted manufacturers to places like China and Mexico, these countries’ overall levels of business productivity and competitiveness have slipped considerably. China’s advantage simply is the size of its domestic and foreign markets. Its disadvantages, though, are rather serious: unsophisticated financial markets, unsound banks, weak higher education and training. As for Venezuela, while it’s a major oil producer and may have the lowest gasoline prices in the world, it still is in a downward spiral from a competitiveness and productivity perspective, slipping from 67th to 101st!

Not so surprising is the rising competitiveness and productivity of Japan, Germany and India. Among developing nations, India has another real advantage—it ranks 4th in the availability of scientists and engineers and 22nd in the quality of scientific research institutions. This clearly separates India from other developing economies.

Manufacturing comes home
Competitiveness (of countries and businesses) has an impact on productivity of local companies. Interestingly, we now are hearing numerous reports of U.S. manufacturers closing their plants or curtailing production in China and Mexico and returning production back to the U.S. Many foreign-owned manufacturers also are beginning to expand their U.S. operations.

Productivity and a national competitiveness environment are closely related. The Report makes the following point about company sophistication and productivity: “The productivity of a country is ultimately set by the productivity of its companies. Productivity rises as companies improve their operational effectiveness and get closer to global best practices.”

Senior management in many U.S. operations has been acquainted with “global best practices” whether related to general business practices, Lean Manufacturing, Lean Enterprise or maintenance and reliability improvement methodologies. There is, however, a huge difference among those companies that are aware of the best practices, those that take a “program of the month” approach and those that embrace and deploy global best practices in ways that make sustainable gains in their productivity—and, therefore, their competitiveness. This is where business and work culture changes can hamper or accelerate competitiveness.

Nation at risk
So, what’s holding us back from the brink of un-competitiveness? By all reports we are a nation at risk from a number of perspectives. The Global Competitiveness Report sheds some light on several competitive disadvantages. The 12 “Pillars of Competitiveness” are divided into three main groups: Basic Requirements, Efficiency Enhancers and Innovation and Sophistication Factors. A review of the U.S. rankings shows areas where we are at a sizeable competitive disadvantage. Here is where we are most at risk of losing our competitive edge against other countries:

  • Basic Requirements: U.S. ranks 23rd out of 131
  • Efficiency Enhancers: U.S. ranks 1st out of 131
  • Innovation and Sophistication: U.S. ranks 4th out of 131

The Basic Requirements criteria, where the U.S. records the most sizeable competitive disadvantages, include the first four of the 12 “Pillars of Competitiveness.” Here is where we stand compared to 130 other nations in the following areas:

Institutions: U.S. ranks 33rd

  • Favoritism of government officials (45th)
  • Wastefulness of government spending (53rd)
  • Business costs of terrorism (124th)
  • Business cost of crime and violence (74th)
  • Organized crime (75th)

Infrastructure: U.S. ranks 6th

  • Quality of railroad infrastructure (14th)
  • Quality of port infrastructure (11th)
  • Quality of electricity supply (18th)

Macroeconomic Stability: U.S. ranks 75th

  • Government surplus/deficit (91st) (repeated fiscal deficits & public indebtedness)
  • National savings rate (107th)
  • Government debt (89th)

Health and Primary Education: U.S. ranks 34th

  • HIV/AIDS business impact (86th)
  • Quality of primary education (28th)
  • Primary education enrollment (69th)
  • Education expenditure (43rd)

Beyond the Basics, among the Efficiency Enhancer Pillars, we also see some weakness in our Higher Education and Training (the 5th Pillar) with a rank of 5th. This Pillar notes “the importance of vocational education, continuous on-the-job training for assuring the constant upgrading of workers’ skills to the changing needs of the production system.” The most penalizing disadvantage is in the areas of “Secondary School Enrollments” (where the U.S. ranks 42nd) and “Quality of Math and Science Education” (U.S. ranks 45th). In the “Quality of Educational System,” we rank 17th and in “Extent of Staff Training,” we rank 11th.

As one studies the remaining Education and Training criteria, it is frightening how low our country ranks. Businesses and public education have missed the mark when it comes to providing the fundamental skills and knowledge for companies to be competitive and the workers to be productive.

What frustrates me about this 520-page Report are the competitiveness and productivity gaps that exist—many of which are PREVENTABLE—right here in the U.S. Remember: 1) the productivity of a country is ultimately set by the productivity of its companies; and 2) productivity rises as companies improve their operational effectiveness and get closer to global best practices. If that doesn’t get the attention of business and government leaders, nothing will!

What we know
We know what it takes to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our manufacturing plants and facilities, our utilities, our transportation systems and our infrastructure. But, for the sake of saving money here and there, spending on nonessentials and cutting budgets to make quarterly financial reports look better, we undermine the productivity of our workforce and hurt the competitiveness of our businesses and our country.

What we learn and how we learn it, how we work and earn a living, who we vote for and how we hold them accountable for doing what’s right are all crucial to maintaining our life styles and our standards of living. I encourage all of you who are reading this to spend time trying to understand what makes your job productive and your company competitive. Do everything you can do to help improve both. That’s how we’ll bring our nation back from the edge. MT

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