Archive | September, 2008

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September 1, 2008
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Solution Spotlight: Equipment Reliability Made Visual

Seeing is not only believing, it’s about doing things right!

We’re seeing it throughout industry. In lean operations, where a major focus is on maximizing overall equipment effectiveness, reliabilityfocused maintenance practices have taken their place alongside 5S and Standard Work concepts as a cornerstone of world-class organizations. Just as 5S is used to stabilize the work environment, and Standard Work is used to stabilize work practices and procedures, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is used to stabilize equipment performance and reliability.

Visual devices are widely used in 5S, Standard Work, Quick Changeover, Kanban and other lean techniques. They also should be considered as an important component of proactive maintenance strategies.

Incorporating visual devices into an operation’s reliability program can help lead to many benefits, including simplified training; improved quality; faster troubleshooting andrepairs; fewer unplanned MRO purchases and reduced inventory; and improved safety and employee morale. Plus, virtually anyone has the ability to detect abnormalities. And, it’s easier than you might think.

0908_solution1Simplify preventive maintenance
A good starting point is to use signs and labels to identify preventive maintenance (PM) points and to provide basic cleaning, inspection and lubrication instructions.

Using visual devices to identify PM points and provide detailed instructions is especially important if your company has implemented an autonomous maintenance program. When responsibilities for routine care and inspection are transferred to equipment operators instead of trained maintenance professionals, it’s critical to clearly define tasks and checkpoints.

For example, improper lubrication—too little or too much—is a major cause of equipment failure. A simple lube label can save a company significant costs in motor repair and replacement. Color-coded markings can be applied to zerk fittings and grease guns to guard against using the wrong type of lubrication. Oil level indicators can be applied to sight tubes to simplify oil management. The use of green and red striped labels placed behind the sight tube lets the operator easily detect when oil levels are too high or too low.

Optimize predictive maintenance
Even when maintenance personnel retain control of predictive maintenance (PdM activities—as opposed to equipment operators— the use of new and relatively inexperienced technicians can lead to an increased risk of errors and omissions. Maintenance workers also must learn how to use an ever-growing, increasingly advanced number of sophisticated PdM technologies such as vibration analysis, ultrasound and thermal imaging.

When performing predictive maintenance, it’s critical to take measurements at the same exact place each time. To ensure that the location for readings remains consistent—regardless of who conducts the inspection—you can apply predictive maintenance targets on your equipment systems.

Reliability technicians often use inspection routes to streamline their PdM tasks and maximize efficiency. One drawback to this approach, however, is that a technician may not be familiar with each and every piece of equipment, and the proper readouts may vary across different machines. Gauge labels help to alleviate this obstacle by making it clear to anyone at a glance whether a temperature or pressure is within normal operating range. These types of visuals make it so easy to detect abnormalities that anyone walking by a piece of equipment becomes a potential inspector, facilitating early detection of potential problems.

For example, visuals can help to detect when chain tension is too loose—as well as when to replace the chain. When tension slackens, links from the chain should be removed, and the adjustment block can be shifted to restore proper tension with the shorter chain. Once a specified number of links have been removed, the edge of the block extends outside of the green area, clearly indicating that the chain should be replaced.

Speed troubleshooting and repair
Visuals also can speed troubleshooting and repairs. Including “to” and “from” information on equipment ID labels can make it easier to trace lines in electrical systems and pipe networks. As a result, repairs can be completed faster and the risk of errors and potential injury to personnel can be reduced.

You can make repairs even more efficient by ensuring that the proper replacement part and its location in the storeroom are clearly identified, ideally by putting the information right at the point of need. To reduce search time—and ultimately reduce downtime—clearly label shelves and bins in stock rooms and tool cribs. Where possible, use graphics and/or photos on your labels for faster recognition and to help avoid pulling the wrong part.

To enhance safety and reduce hazards, many companies are posting graphical lockout procedures, including instructive photos, right on or at their equipment. Posting hazard warnings and safe work instructions directly at the point of need is the most effective way to reduce accidents and injuries at your plant—and is as important (if not more so) than classroom or computer-based safety training.

Promote error-free setup
When restoring equipment to operation, how can you ensure efficient and error-free setup? Visuals are the answer. Operator control panel labels and alignment aids help to simplify machine settings and positioning. Labeling the rotational direction on gears and shafts, for example, will help you avoid costly setup errors that can damage or destroy motors and drive systems.

Make your own visuals
You may be surprised to learn that all of the industrial-grade visuals referenced in this article can be created using Brady’s MarkWare™ Lean Tools software and GlobalMark® printers—at a fraction of the cost of having them printed by an outside vendor.

MarkWare software uses template wizards to speed and simplify the design and layout of custom visuals. The software includes over 1000 safety and industrial pictograms, and even lets you import your own logos or photos. Data imported from spreadsheets and databases can even be included on your labels.

The GlobalMark line of printers can print multiple colors without manual ribbon changes, and can even print photographic images. These printers output to a wide variety of media, including permanent- and repositionable-adhesive labels, tags and kanban cards, magnets and more. The printed visuals stick to a wide variety of surfaces including floors and walls, and they withstand harsh industrial environments and outdoor conditions. GlobalMark printers are also available with a built-in plotter cutter that allows you to easily create cut letter door signs and even paint stencils.

With these capabilities and more, it’s easy to see why the Brady system is the ultimate make-it-yourself visual workplace for lean and world-class operations everywhere. MT

Brady Corporation
Milwaukee, WI

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September 1, 2008
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Continuously Monitoring A Hungry Giant

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Even though it’s the smart thing to do, in many applications and locations, continuous remote monitoring of critical equipment hasn’t always been feasible. Those days are gone.

Holland, MI is home to a regional leader in the recycling and processing of metal, paper and plastic. This company services the area of western Michigan with approximately 400 employees. An important business segment for this recycler is the wholesaling of ferrous metal scrap, as well as waste and secondary nonferrous metals.

To process metal scrap for sale, the company uses a monstrous shredder, known in the industry as a hammermill— the primary purpose of which is to turn large pieces of metal material into small pieces. It’s essentially a steel drum containing a horizontal rotor on which freeswinging pivoting hammers are mounted. The rotor is spun at a high speed inside the drum while material is fed into the drum. Material fed into the unit is impacted by the hammers, shredded into small pieces and expelled through screens in the collection drum.

Because it’s required to shred large items like cars and structural steel scrap, this hammermill is particularly large and powerful (4000 hp)—and capable of withstanding considerable stress and abuse during operations. Tom Spettel is quite familiar with the machine and its operations. The president of Predictive Maintenance Services, Incorporated (P-M-S-I), he and his company provide engineering and maintenance reliability services for a wide range of industrial rotating machinery—including the large shredders at the Michigan recycling facility. According to Spettel, “this particular mill is about 10 years old with 34 heavy rotating hammers, each weighing 240 to 250 pounds. The metal is fed into the machine while the hammers rotate at 720 RPM.”

A need for continuous predictive maintenance
Spettel explains that because the shredder is a bruteforce machine, there always are going to be mechanical issues impacting its uptime. For safety reasons, no one is allowed to be on or near the shredder while it is running. Consequently, past mechanical problems often had gone unnoticed until there was significant collateral damage or a breakdown. “They had me coming up on a periodic basis to take vibration readings with the mill at idle, as well as when an operator thought there were vibration problems,” Spettel says. “It was a cumbersome process. Each time the customer thought there might be an issue, I would take measurements and analyze the cause of the increased vibration amplitude.”

Because of the critical nature of this machine and concern that he may not always be available on a moment’s notice to deal with potential problems, Spettel recommended installing an ITT Goulds Pumps brand ProSmart® condition monitoring system to help keep watch on the machine on a continuous basis. With this system, the focus of a Predictive Maintenance Program (PdM) can change from data collection to analysis and improvement activities. In addition, by continuously monitoring rotating equipment, the system can proactively warn of on-setting machinery problems.

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The installation of ProSmart on the shredder was intended to measure the various causes of possible vibration, including rotor imbalance and bearing failure. The shredder does not lend itself to monitoring the unfiltered vibration amplitude with a simple vibration transmitter that provides a 4-20 mA signal. That’s because a bearing defect doesn’t generate enough vibration energy to cause a change in the overall vibration signal that could be as high as 1.0 in/sec during normal operation. Using the ProSmart system’s capability to set independent alarm levels in up to 10 user-defined frequency bands, the machine can be monitored to alarm on a bearing amplitude of 0.10 in/sec and an imbalance at 1.0 in/sec. Spettel notes that it typically is an 8-to-10- hour job to change out a bearing. If, however, the bearing spins on the shaft, the repair time could be more than two days. “There is a lot of consequential damage if you do not detect a problem in time,” he says. “ProSmart has a significant advantage over other monitoring systems because of the band alarming capability.”

This remote monitoring system also incorporates wireless technology for sending machine health data over the Internet. When machine vibration, temperature or any other process parameter exceeds established limits, ProSmart provides notification within seconds by e-mail or phone. Should there be a potential problem, Spettel receives an e-mail via his cell phone. “If I have a concern about a particular frequency band,” he continues, “I fire up my laptop so that I can request a spectrum and perform analysis without ever going on-site.”

Imbalance leads to alarm
Recently, ProSmart alerted Spettel while he was in Detroit; about a four-hour drive from the recycling facility. Coincidentally, he was teaching a vibration seminar when increased vibration triggered an alarm condition, and thus was unable to quickly get over to the site. With ProSmart, though, he was able view the data and perform the analysis remotely—during a coffee break, in fact.

The problem was an imbalance. Inspection revealed that two 35-pound caps protecting the bolts that held the hammer shafts in place had broken free and were shredded right along with the rest of the scrap. This threw the machine badly out of balance. As the vibration increased, ProSmart notified Spettel to request shutdown of the machine. Upon inspection, the two caps were found to be missing.

This giant shredder clearly qualifies as a critical machine. For it, and other critical equipment, Spettel maintains that continuous monitoring is the smart thing to do, and at this busy Michigan recycling operation, ProSmart is the way to do it. MT

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September 1, 2008
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Communications: The Peer Partnership

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Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor

“Equipment Maintenance problems do not belong to the maintenance manager; equipment maintenance problems do not belong to the maintainer; equipment maintenance problems, once accepted for investigation and repair by the maintenance department, belong to the maintenance team.”

One of the hallmarks of a successful maintenance operation is its cognitive ability to recognize and responsibly manage its customers’ needs and requirements, and its own. Today’s maintainer usually is well aware of the benefits of teamwork wherein the sum of the whole—or combined team strength—surpasses any person’s individual strength. Ask any maintainer who has belonged to a “winning team” in the past about that experience and he/she usually will characterize it as nothing less than “magical.”

So, if teamwork and its benefits are so desirable, why isn’t every maintenance department consciously striving to develop a winning teambased approach? The answer is simple. In any form of chaotic working environment—devoid of any process or procedure—in which individual maintainers operate autonomously, acting as their own parts buyers, planners and schedulers, it is extremely difficult to find time to communicate with and relate to maintenance peers in a proactive manner.

The benefits of teamwork can only be reaped through understanding, recognition of need to change and structured peer communication. By allowing and encouraging an open communication environment, acknowledging and capitalizing on each other’s strengths and working toward clearly defined goals, we can foster true teamwork. Peer connection—or intra-departmental communication—is vital for maintenance department success, which precedes and provides the essential ingredient for successful inter-departmental connections, or partnership relationships previously addressed by this column.

Promoting peer connection
Many maintenance departments struggle with the concepts of system management, job planning/ scheduling and open information sharing. Sometimes they appear content to simply fall back into a known path of working in a total reactive environment based on personal agendas and limited responsibility. Under such a regime, cliques that encourage maintenance individuals or groups to work against another often are formed. When this happens, all maintainers complain of lack of respect and low morale.

Breaking out of a destructive pattern like this calls for a time-lined, structured maintenance management program that recognizes both the present and future state of maintenance. This type of program incorporates a management action plan to achieve both corporate and maintenance department goals within a stated time frame. Any maintenance management program implemented along these lines will promote peer interactivity through the following:

  • Building on existing knowledge: Industrial equipment is idiosyncratic in nature; similar equipment will perform differently dependent upon usage patterns and maintenance history. Certain maintainers become expert at understanding this idiosyncratic nature and are able to diagnose and repair specific equipment problems faster than others. Involving these individuals and their expertise in a PM optimization program harnesses and shares their unique understanding of certain equipment pieces in the development of meaningful PM job tasks. Allowing them to build the program in conjunction with other maintainers opens up a forum for the sharing of strengths and knowledge, as well as an avenue to informal peer training sessions. The result is a consistent maintenance approach based on the equipment’s needs in its working environment and a shared responsibility among all maintainers.
  • Sharing of failure information: Implementation and utilization of fault or failure analysis programs enable maintainers to succinctly define and share equipment failure data with one another. Defining and capturing failure information on the closed work enables maintainers to research equipment history and quickly determine if the equipment failure is repetitive or not. This allows the maintainer to better perform a planned repair at the root cause level, thereby reducing downtime and eliminating unnecessary repairs.
  • Adopting a consistent approach: Working together to develop policies, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and standardized work processes allows the maintenance group to work and bond as a team and develop consistency and trust in each other’s approach to the maintenance process.
  • Promoting peer interaction: New communication tools (e-mail, CMMS, white boards, etc.), increased self-esteem and pride in workmanship all work to promote peer interaction at shift changeover time when work is passed from one shift to the next shift. Efficient work completion and improved work quality are more likely to result with improved shift changeover communications.
  • Setting and surpassing goals and targets: With a Management Action Plan in place, maintenance successes can be tangibly tracked and reported to management. Nothing stimulates both self-esteem and respect more than being on a successful winning team, which in turn promotes healthy dialogue and the open sharing of information among peers.

As stated at the beginning of this article, equipment maintenance problems DO NOT belong to any one individual, but rather to the maintenance department as a whole. If maintenance problems are to be successfully resolved, it will be accomplished most efficiently through departmental teamwork, promoted by a healthy peer partnership. MT


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

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September 1, 2008
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Uptime: Training, Qualification, Multi-Skill & Pay-For-Skills…

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Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

The 1980s saw record levels of industrial-based skills training and development. The WWII generation was reaching retirement age and Baby-Boomers were moving into jobs vacated by their parents. This generational handoff left industries that had not seriously prepared for the transition with a looming “skills shortage.” The resulting “training boom” spawned countless training departments, training programs, training media and training manager positions, as well as the careers of training consultants like myself. These were heady times, indeed, for industrial and workplace training.

During this era, the trend was away from “trade-based” apprenticeship programs in many industry sectors and toward “multi-skill” maintenance training. Considerable research and development, article-writing, presenting and consulting—including much of my own—focused on “training, qualification, multi-skill and payfor- skills” initiatives. We learned from several proven approaches—“instructional systems design” models, WWII “training within industry” (TWI) on-job-training methods and competencybased education/training. Then, during the late 1990s, this movement seemed to stall. This had nothing to do with ineffectiveness. Rather, due to the amount of cost-cutting, down-sizing, mergers and acquisitions taking place, training—and to a large extent maintenance—took a huge hit in many sectors. The thought was “since everybody was trained up, why do we need so much on-going training?”

Well, here we go again! As we Baby-Boomers ease into our later years, retirement and/or late-inlife career changes, the workplace training monster is rearing its formidable head again. This time, however, conditions are much worse than they were in the ‘80s! The “Perfect Storm” discussed in last month’s column was only a “tropical depression” in the 1980s! Much of the infrastructure to support workplace training, much of the career education and much of society’s emphasis has changed dramatically.

Workplace training is no longer an option for successful capital intensive businesses, it is a MUST! Unfortunately, the traditional approaches to education and training are no longer effective or affordable—or available. So, let’s rewind this story and look back at some of the strategies from the 1980s for addressing skills shortages.

Training and qualification
Traditional training in the 1960s through the 1980s tended to be based on “educational” and “academic” principles—pedagogy (child education) and andragogy (adult education). Then, Training and Qualification models emerged. These were based on formal job duty-task analyses, a blend of classroom training, workshops and self-study, followed by structured and formal on-the-job training (OJT). The duty-task analyses identified the job-performance requirements— what people need to know and do to successfully perform job role requirements. Performance objectives outlined both instructional objectives and on-job performance objectives or expectations—onjob- performance qualification (OJPQ) following the formal training processes. OJPQ was not a written test (we avoided these like the plague!), but rather a formal, structured skills demonstration with a simple score: Qualified or Not Qualified. Developed properly, this valid form of workplace “testing” has withstood the test of law since the late 1970s.

Qualification was based solely on being able to demonstrate specific skills and demonstrate specific knowledge required in the actual workplace situation. Written testing cannot prove proficiency in the typical plant maintenance and operations job roles. From a training perspective, we wanted people to successfully perform the tasks on the job. Taking and passing a written test was not important.

Written testing
In certain situations “written assessments” were used to determine reading, writing and math skills, mechanical aptitude, etc. If we labeled them “Tests,” the workforce would freak out! The term “assessment” let us discuss the prescriptive nature of the process rather than a grade or pass-or-fail score.

Training and learning progress “quizzes” were used to determine how effective the instruction was. These quizzes provided both the training participant (trainee, student) and the trainer with insights for improved training and skills building. Neither scored nor graded, in many cases they were “self-check” quizzes.

Again, a major goal of workplace training in the ‘80s was “qualification to perform the task on the job, flawlessly.”

Multi-skill, multi-craft jobs
From the ‘60s through the ‘80s, traditional job roles in maintenance-related jobs tended to be fall into the categories of “craft or trade based” (millwright, machine repair, electrician, pipefitter, welder, instrument tech, etc.) or “general mechanic.” Multi-skill and multi-craft maintenance job roles emerged in the 1980s—something that generated significant confusion, debate and development.

“Multi-craft maintenance” implied a “jack of all trades and master of none.” In both union and non-union plants, it was discussed as “breaking down the traditional job classifications and jurisdictional lines.” The debate was predictable and obvious. “The person will know enough to be dangerous on the job.” “How do you pay a “multicraft” person?” “There’s no way a person can truly master all of those craft or trade skills.” In many cases, what resulted was a “general mechanic” and a truly multi-craft worker. A spin-off of this concept was “multi-craft crewing.”

“Multi-craft crewing” was an approach that some larger companies explored—with significant results—while retaining traditional single-craft job roles. Rather than crews and supervisors (or foremen) for each craft, the new crews contained representatives from multiple crafts under a single supervisor. (I recall having numerous discussions with plant and maintenance leadership at that time, while they were attempting to build the skills of their new “multi-craft supervisors.” They were concerned about the role of the supervisor being transformed from a “technical or craft leader” to a supervisor who relied on the technical skills of the individual craftworkers. This was not an easy transition for many supervisors at that time.) The other obstacle related to workplace safety and the supervisors’ roles in assuring the safety of those employees in their crews. The new “multicraft crew” supervisors felt very insecure in their knowledge outside of their traditional craft backgrounds. Still, some companies managed to make this transition; when they did, both maintenance productivity and equipment uptime increased.

“Multi-skill maintenance,” on the other hand, implied a “blending of skills” rather than a wholesale combination of crafts skills and knowledge into a single job role. This was much easier to sell, to develop and to deploy in the workplace of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The “skills blending” concept was based on several well-founded assumptions, including the fact that all persons retain their “primary skill” (or “primary craft”) such as electrical, mechanical, millwright, instrumentation, etc. Their primary proficiency lies in that domain. In addition to their primary skill or craft, they were expected to master skills and knowledge related to 1) their primary skill and 2) the job-performance requirements.

The “multi-skill maintenance” job design would facilitate a “whole job completion” as much as possible. For example, a machine repairman who removes and replaces electric motors would also be skilled at electrical disconnects, terminating wires in the new motor, rotational and pre-start motor checks, related electrical safety tasks, plus millwright lifting and rigging tasks, and crane operation. Likewise, an electrician also could remove and replace a motor while performing the related machine repair and millwright tasks. Formal training and qualification processes made all of this work very well.

Pay-for-applied skills
From the ‘80s through the mid-‘90s, there was a substantial support among compensation specialists for “paying for the person” versus “paying for the job classification.” This strategy was based on the premise that many qualified people in a job classification and pay grade were higher-level performers than their peers receiving the same pay for the same job.

The “pay-for-skills” concept allowed different rates of pay depending on the skills and knowledge that each person brought to the job. For example, top-performers in a maintenance mechanic’s job could receive higher pay because they were qualified to perform skilled work and apply knowledge well above that of other maintenance mechanics.

An early 1990 example of this was in a union plant with traditional maintenance job roles—mechanic, electrician, instrument tech, lubricator, forklift mechanic and facility maintenance. Over time, all of the senior maintenance employees found themselves at the top pay level. Thus, the top-skilled instrument techs and mechanics were paid at the same rate as the senior lubricators and forklift mechanics. This situation led to the top instrument techs and mechanics seeking employment elsewhere because they were in demand. Union and management had no solution to the loss of the top people until we broached the topic of both “multi-skill job classifications and pay-forapplied- skills compensation.”

Multi-skill jobs and pay-for-applied skills
The fundamental, non-negotiable concept here was that NOBODY would have his/her pay reduced or lose his/her job classification. This meant that the new pay-for-appliedskills system had to build on top of the existing pay grades. Basically, to get to the next higher pay grades, there were specific requirements for:

  • Being proficient and qualified in one’s current job classification;
  • Meeting the requirements for entering the multi-skill job classifications—reading and math levels, learning ability and mechanical aptitude;
  • Being able to learn and demonstrate mastery of the new skills and knowledge for the higher multi-skill, pay-for-applied-skills pay level—on-job-performance qualification.

10 critical success factors
We developed these multi-skill, pay-for-applied-skills training and compensation systems in a wide number of facilities in the ‘80s and ‘90s—and the results were very positive. Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest. Some of the critical success factors of these very effective job, training and compensation systems are that:

  1. A compelling reason to change the existing approach to job design, training and/or compensation levels must exist.
  2. A duty-task analysis must be performed to identify all job-performance requirements of the targeted job roles. The duties and tasks must be job-specific and validated for the plant.
  3. Training in specific skills and knowledge must be based on both a) the specific requirements for improving plant performance, and b) the needs of the individual employee and training must be made available in a combination of during and after work hours.
  4. Four areas of training and qualification must be addressed: a) basic skills and knowledge; b) core skills for the job role; c) multi-skill tasks; and d) equipment, process and plant-specific skills and knowledge.
  5. Supervisors must take a lead role in formally determining the skill levels and developing training plans for individual employees in their work groups.
  6. On-job-performance qualification (a formal objective and documented demonstration) plus continuing application of the new skills are required to advance in pay.
  7. Pay increments must be meaningful, based on the degree of difficulty to learn and perform the new duties. Ten cents per hour may not be worth the effort and two dollars per hour may be more than can be justified financially.
  8. All employees in the targeted job roles must have the opportunity to participate.
  9. Compensation system managers in the plant must be willing and able to support an objective “individual compensation” approach versus a traditional subjective group classification and compensation approach.
  10. Job content validity must be respected. Qualification processes, whether tied to a pay-for-applied-skills compensation system or not, must be consistent with the requirements stated in the 1978 “Federal Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection Procedures.” (Refer to www.spb.ca.gov/WorkArea/downloadasset.aspx?id=2560 for a summary.)

Now is the time
We must seriously consider dusting off some of the “old” proven approaches to workplace training and qualification and pay-for-applied-skills compensation. Many of our current approaches to skilled employee recruitment, training and retention will not work well in this era of skills shortages, lack of comprehensive vocational-technical training in many schools and experienced employees preparing for retirement. MT

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September 1, 2008
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MT News

News of people and events important to the maintenance and reliability community

IRISS ANNOUNCES TIM ROHRER AS NEW VP OF SALES & MARKETING

IRISS inc. has promoted Tim Rohrer vice president, sales & marketing. In his new position, Rohrer will be responsible for IRISS® brand marketing and sales initiatives, managing a worldwide sales team, with an emphasis on new client acquisition and customer satisfaction. He also will focus on development of additional industry sectors and new international opportunities.

BALDOR ELECTRIC ANNOUNCES ACQUISITION OF CANADA’S MASKA

Baldor Electric Company has announced the recent acquisition of Poulies Maska, Inc. (Maska) of Ste-Claire, Quebec, Canada. Maska is a designer, manufacturer and marketer of sheaves, bushings, couplings and related mechanical power transmission components. It has 180 employees, primarily located in Canada, and a new facility in China. The company’s 2007 sales were approximately $33 million.

DRESSER-RAND ACQUIRES CERTAIN ASSETS OF UK’S PETER BROTHERHOOD

Dresser-Rand Group Inc. has announced that its UK subsidiary, Dresser-Rand Company Ltd., has completed the acquisition of certain assets of Peter Brotherhood Ltd., which specializes in the design and manufacture of steam turbines, reciprocating gas compressors, gas engine packaged combined heat and power systems (CHP) and gearboxes. The company’s primary clients are in the worldwide oil and gas industry, specifically marine and floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO), refinery, petrochemical, combined cycle/co-generation and renewable energy industries. This transaction is consistent with Dresser- Rand’s business strategy to focus on acquisitions that strengthen and enhance its core capabilities, add new products, services and technologies, and provide access to new markets or enhance current market positions.

HK SYSTEMS STARTS FACILITIES SERVICE BIZ

Milwaukee-based HK Systems, Inc. a leading provider of automated material handling and supply chain software total solutions, has announced the launch of HK Facility Services (HKFS). The new division delivers comprehensive services to manage and/or support facility equipment and facility maintenance. In addition to operations, maintenance and repair, HKFS offers facility audits, project management, CMMS solutions and condition monitoring services, among other things.

VILYUS IS BIG WINNER IN FLUKE SWEEPSTAKES

Fluke Corporation has announced that Tim Vilyus was the Grand Prize Winner in its “We’ve Got You Covered” Sweepstakes. An electrical engineer from Bay Village, OH, Vilyus, was selected in a random drawing from among thousands who participated in the nationwide sweepstakes that was offered through authorized Fluke distributors and online between March 1 and May 31, 2008. The grand prizes offered were a 2008 19-foot BAMBI Safari SE Airstream™ Trailer worth $50,000, or $40,000 in cash. Vilyus chose the cash prize.

COOPER BUSSMANN PUTS $500K INTO IEEE/NFPA ARC-FLASH RESEARCH

Cooper Bussmann recently contributed $500,000 to the Arc-Flash Collaborative Research Project organized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This Platinum Level sponsorship will help expand the knowledge of the electric arc-flash phenomena with the objective of advancing Codes and standards for greater workplace safety. The multi-year, collaborative project is expected to cost a total of $6-$7 million. “Electrical safety and knowledge of the hazards associated with arc-flash has come a long way since arc-flash tests were initiated in 1996 at the Cooper Bussmann Gubany Center for High Power Testing,” said Kevin Stein, president, Cooper Bussmann. “That groundbreaking research led to the award-winning IEEE paper Staged Tests Increase Awareness of Arc-Flash Hazards in Electrical Equipment and has since improved arc-flash understanding exponentially. Cooper Bussmann has led the industry with our Safety BasicsTM electrical safety training program, so it is only natural that we continue to lead as a Platinum Level contributor for the latest round of electrical safety research.”

ASSOCIATION NEWS: HYDRAULIC INSTITUTE NAMES NEW KNOWLEDGE & EDUCATION DIRECTOR

The Hydraulic Institute (HI) has named Mary K. Maul as its new director of knowledge and education. She will be responsible for developing, marketing and creating the funding for educational programs as well as certification and credentialing initiatives that advance the application, testing, installation, operation and maintenance of pumps and pumping systems. These functions, which also include the development of the organization’s short- and long-term educational planning strategies, will be coordinated directly with associated committees, volunteers members and HI’s sister organization Pump Systems Matter™ (PSM).

Maul brings considerable senior-level management experience to her new position, having spent more than 15 years driving the educational initiatives of several leading trade and educational organizations. Most recently, she served as the director of education at the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), which she joined in 2001. For five years, she directed all of the NSPE’s educational initiatives, including the development of new educational and e-learning products and services for more than 48,000 members, as well as coordinated with volunteer leadership committees to define strategic objectives and educational program priorities.

Before NSPE, Maul held the position of professional development & programs center manager at the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science in Alexandria, Virginia. For almost a decade, she supported the coordination of nearly 150 professional development programs in addition to preparing and continually updating the content of numerous career development certification programs.

To learn more about HI as well as upcoming meetings and technical events, visit www.Pumps.org, www.PumpLearning.org and www.PumpSystemsMatter.org. MT

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September 1, 2008
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Large Motor Maintenance: Basics For Machine Reliability

If your operations rely on these workhorse machines, you may want to brush up on their care and feeding.

The true workhorses of industry, electric motors, provide the means to convert electrical energy into a meaningful and measurable output. Because they are so prevalent and critical to industry, the ability to accurately diagnose, predict and efficiently deal with motor problems is essential to maintenance, engineering and operations personnel.

One of the bigger challenges is being able to recognize, diagnose and remedy an evolving motor problem—to the point that you can prevent an unexpected catastrophic event. Understanding the basic visual, mechanical and electrical maintenance techniques will help you in this quest to keep large electric motors on line and producing.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that approximately 63% of all electricity used in industry is for process motor system energy.

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(Refer to Fig. 1 for a breakdown of the percent averages by equipment type.) Industrial motor use accounts for approximately 25% of the total electricity usage in the United States. Thus, it makes sense that one would take all the necessary steps and precautions to assure long-term health and reliability of these vital machines, especially when they are of a larger horsepower.

Using guidance found within InterNational Electrical Testing Association (NETA) field-testing specifications, the ANSI/NETA MTS-2007 Standard for Maintenance Testing Specifications for Electrical Power Distribution Equipment and Systems, this article will discuss some of the available maintenance trends and techniques that can assist owners and users of large electric motors. The focus will be primarily on medium-voltage AC induction (2.3 kV – 13.2 kV) machines.

First and foremost: understand the hazards!
Working on or near electrical equipment is by its very nature a hazardous task. Before any equipment is inspected or any maintenance is done, the person performing the tasks must be qualified and able to assess all hazards associated with the scope of work to be performed. If the person performing the work is not qualified, the end results could be significant equipment damage or possibly serious injury or death to personnel.

Some maintenance tasks require the work to be performed on energized equipment while it is in normal operation. Personnel should be familiar with—and comply with—the applicable OSHA, NFPA 70E, plant-specific and other electrical safety rules and regulations.

Whenever performing de-energized motor maintenance—and before physically touching the motor—one should be sure that the unit in question does not present a shock hazard to anyone that will be working on that particular motor. At a minimum, the affected parties should be notified, the machine should be locked out/tagged out, tried out, checked for the absence of voltage (live-dead-live), and the proper personnel protective grounds applied. Again, the key is to have a qualified worker perform these tasks to assure those in the area that an electrically safe condition has been obtained.

Electric motor basics

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Basic components and their elements of failure…
The Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA) has several publications that can help users understand electric motor construction, repair and operation; for more information, visit www.easa.com. EASA’s Principles of Large AC Motors, Version 1.0, details nine key stresses that lead to failures across four key components of an electric motor. Understanding these elements of stress and the components they apply to is a key factor in being able to properly apply and prioritize the necessary maintenance decisions for large motors. The chart in Fig. 2, on the next page, illustrates the relationship between types of stresses and the four basic components of an electric motor.

An Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) study of electric motor failures indicated that 53% of electric motor failures are related to mechanical components and 47% to electrical faults (not including new and repaired equipment defects). See Fig. 3  for an example of a mechanical failure of a 1000 hp machine applied to a fan at an industrial facility. Mechanical defects have traditionally been detected using vibration analysis and infrared thermography, while electrical defects have been detected with resistance tests, insulation tests, high-potential tests, surge comparison tests and partial discharge testing. The failure in Fig. 3 was attributed to excessive vibration and heat from a defective fan shaft bearing.

Four basic electric motor components…
While materials and insulation systems have changed, the basic principles and operation of an electric motor have not changed very much over the last 100+ years. An electric motor is made up of four basic components:

  1. Stator winding
  2. Rotor assembly
  3. Bearings
  4. Shaft

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Fig. 3

these components are exposed to stress conditions, failure of the motor can occur. The nine key elements of stress that can lead to motor failure are:

  1. Thermal
  2. Electrical/dielectric
  3. Mechanical
  4. Dynamic
  5. Shear
  6. Vibration/shock
  7. Residual
  8. Electromagnetic
  9. Environmental

To counteract these stress elements, one of the key parameters to an effective motor maintenance program is to establish test and inspection procedures that allow the owner to trend data over time. It is this trended data that helps in diagnosing the overall health of the machine. Let’s look at the visual and mechanical tests/inspections and electrical tests that can be performed on large machines.

Visual and mechanical inspections

An important aspect of large machine maintenance is the visual and mechanical inspection.

  1. Inspect the machine’s physical and mechanical condition.
    • Check for signs of oil or water leakage.
    • Verify that air inlets are not plugged.
    • Check for abnormal sounds or smells.
    • Check the water and oil supply piping.
    • Check the drain piping.
    • Look at the condition of the foundation, grout, bed plates, anchor bolts, shaft extensions, couplings and guards.
    • Check the surroundings for any environmental issues that may affect performance or service life.
  2. Inspect anchorage, alignment and grounding of the motor, driven equipment and base.
  3. Inspect air baffles, filter media, cooling fans, slip rings, brushes and brush rigging.
  4. Inspect bolted electrical connections for high resistance.
  5. While the unit is under full load, perform a thermographic survey.
  6. Perform special tests such as air-gap spacing and machine alignment, if applicable.
  7. Verify the application of appropriate lubrication and lubrication systems.
    • Verify the bearing oil level.
    • Check for improper lubrication, oil of the wrong type, viscosity that is too heavy or too light.
    • Verify that there is sufficient oil in bearing bracket to cover bottom of rings.
    • Look for dirty oil or old oil (should be replaced and/or tested).
    • Verify that the oil rings are turning (especially at low temperatures).
    • Check for water or other contamination within the lubrication system.
    • Verify that the feed oil is connected to the correct ports When the bearing and seals are inspected the following should be considered:
    • Check for excessive bearing clearance.
    • Verify seal clearance and condition.
    • Make sure there is not improper seating of shaft journal in bearing or a bent shaft.
  1. Verify the absence of unusual mechanical or electrical noise or signs of overheating.
    • Check for pitting of bearing and journal surfaces due to bearing currents.
    • Verify integrity of bearing insulation.
    • Make sure there are no rough bearing surfaces due to corrosion or careless handling.
    • Verify that there is not excessive end thrust from the mechanical load.
    • Check for poor alignment.
    • Make sure that the bearing Babbitt has not been fractured or damaged due to impact or shock loading of the bearing journal.
  2. Verify that resistance temperature detector (RTD) circuits conform to drawings and are functioning properly.

Electrical tests for AC induction motors
As mentioned previously, the collection of valid test data and the trending of that data are vital if overall machinery health is to be determined. Electrical tests performed on large motors can yield significant information as to the overall health of the machine.

Some of the more common electrical tests and procedures include:

  1. Resistance measurements taken through bolted connections with a low-resistance ohmmeter;
  2. Insulation-resistance tests in accordance with ANSI/IEEE Standard 43;
  3. DC overpotential tests on machines rated at 2300 volts and greater in accordance with ANSI/IEEE Standard 95;
  4. Phase-to-phase stator resistance tests on machines 2300 volts and greater;
  5. Insulation power-factor or dissipation-factor tests;
  6. Power-factor tip-up tests;
  7. Surge comparison tests;
  8. Insulation-resistance tests on insulated bearings;
  9. Testing and inspection of surge protection devices;
  10. Testing and inspection of motor starters;
  11. Resistance tests on resistance temperature detector (RTD) circuits;
  12. Verification of machine space heater operation, if applicable;
  13. Vibration testing of motor after it has started running.

In summary
Following a prescribed set of visual, mechanical and electrical tests such as the ANSI/NETA MTS-2007 standard can help a company keep its large rotating assets producing and reliable. The key is to perform the maintenance tests and inspections with qualified personnel who understand the safety considerations, as well as the collected data that will be used for trending in upcoming maintenance cycles. MT


Ron Widup is the executive vice president and general manager of Shermco Industries, Inc., in Dallas, TX. Shermco provides testing, repair, professional training, maintenance and analysis of rotating apparatus and electrical power distribution systems and related equipment for the light, medium and heavy industrial base nationwide. Widup is a NETA Certified Level IV Senior Test Technician, State of Texas Journeyman Electrician, a member of the IEEE Standards Association and an Inspector Member of the International Association of Electrical Inspectors. E-mail: rwidup@ shermco.com

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1145

6:00 am
September 1, 2008
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Maintenance Of Fuses & Circuit Breakers In Selectively Coordinated Systems

These systems are crucial for quite a number of reasons. Their regular maintenance should be a top priority around your operations.

As with so many other aspects of electrical systems, in order to ensure selective coordination in a system, the overcurrent protective device scheme must be properly engineered, installed and maintained. Even if a system is designed and installed properly, a lack of proper maintenance can negate the selective coordination scheme that may be vital for life safety or critical business reasons. The same applies to electrical safety for workers. (See Sidebar on page 44.)

What is selective coordination?
Th e way electrical distribution systems are laid can be likened to a tree. As depicted in Fig. 1, the building service is typically one large ampacity circuit (a tree trunk) that divides into a number of lower ampacity feeders (limbs) that further are divided into many still lower ampacity branch circuits (branches), which supply power to individual end-use equipment such as motors, lighting circuits, computers and HVAC units. Each segment of the electrical distribution system (service, feeder and branch) has a circuit breaker or fuse and sometimes a relay that provides overcurrent protection for its respective segment of the circuit. When overcurrent protective devices in an electrical distribution system are chosen by the engineer to be selectively coordinated, by design, whenever there is an overcurrent condition on a circuit, only the nearest upstream protective device should open for an overcurrent condition (Fig. 2). This is applicable for any overcurrent condition, whether an overload or short-circuit.

Most people assume that if there is a short-circuit condition on a 20A branch circuit, only the 20A circuit breaker or fuse will open and the larger 200A feeder circuit breaker or fuse will not open. This, however, is not always the case (Fig. 3). In some situations, if the engineer did not choose the proper overcurrent protective devices and/or specify the proper settings or amp rating, a feeder (limb) or even the service (truck) overcurrent protective device may unnecessarily open for a branch circuit fault. In the same manner, a short-circuit on a feeder circuit should only open the feeder overcurrent protective device and not cause the service overcurrent protective device to open.

Why is selective coordination important?
Selective coordination of all the overcurrent protective devices for the circuits supplying vital loads improves the reliability of the system to supply power. In today’s buildings and manufacturing processes, there is a far greater dependence on electricity.

The ability of the electrical distribution system to provide continuous availability of power to vital loads is ever more important. Worker productivity, industrial process loads, critical computer business system loads and life safety emergency loads, such as exit lighting and healthcare essential electrical system loads, depend on a continuity of power. In some cases, the unexpected loss of power to some industrial processes can be a hazardous condition. When there is a dangerous overcurrent condition, the overcurrent protective devices are expected to open the circuit. But, if a lack of selective coordination unnecessarily opens higher level upstream overcurrent protective devices, critical loads could be disrupted needlessly.

Selective coordination can be either a design consideration or a mandatory National Electrical Code® (NEC) requirement. The National Electrical Code has mandatory selective coordination requirements in 517.26 Healthcare Essential Electrical Systems, 620.62 Elevator Circuits, 700.27 Emergency Systems, 701.18 Legally Required Standby Systems and 708 Critical Operations Power Systems. Typically, these systems already have periodical maintenance requirements for generators, automatic transfer switches and other key components. This article is advocating maintenance of the overcurrent protective devices wherever selective coordination is an important consideration for the system.

How is selective coordination achieved?
Although it is not within the scope of this article to fully explain how to select fuses or circuit breakers to achieve selective coordination, some mention of this process definitely is in order here. Suffice it to say, in most cases, selective coordination must be designed in up-front for an electrical system. This is especially important with circuit breakers. In some cases with fusible systems, after the installation there is more flexibility to merely change to different fuse types to achieve selective coordination. The best practice occurs during the system design phase, when the electrical engineer does a short-circuit current analysis and coordination analysis of the electrical system. In this process, the engineer must select the proper circuit breakers or fuse types and amp rating/settings to achieve selective coordination.

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The engineer’s specification should provide a selectively coordinated electrical system. Yet, merely installing a system with the proper circuit breakers, fuses and relays that provide a selectively coordinated system is not sufficient. Proper maintenance of the overcurrent protective devices will help ensure that the system will perform as specified over its lifetime.

What maintenance is required?
Now that you have an idea what selective coordination is and what impact it has on the reliability of an electrical distribution system to deliver power to the loads, let’s focus on what maintenance needs to be performed on overcurrent protective devices.

Fuses…
The internal parts of modern current-limiting fuses do not require maintenance. There are no adjustments or settings necessary—or possible. However, like all electrical components, the integrity of fuses can be negatively affected by the surrounding environment and components. That’s why it is important to periodically check fuse bodies, fuse mountings/ clips and adjacent conductor terminations for signs of overheating, poor connections or insufficient conductor ampacity.

Always have spare fuses of the correct type and ampere rating readily available. For critical circuits, it is best to keep ample spares in a cabinet marked “spare fuses” near the electrical equipment. Also, label the equipment with the proper fuse type and ampere rating. Fuses from different manufacturers should not be mixed in usage since the claims for selective coordination by individual manufacturers are applicable only to their respective products. A continuity tester can verify that a fuse has not opened.

In addition, a resistance check of fuses can be made using a sensitive four-wire instrument such as a Kelvin bridge. The ANSI/NETA MTS 2007 ANSI/NETA MTS-2007, Standard for Maintenance Testing Specification has a guideline of 15% variance for fuse resistance. If the resistance of fuses checked in a disconnect deviates by more than 15%, further investigation should be made. Fuses that are within the manufacturer’s resistance tolerance and meet industry standards for performance may have resistance values that deviate by more than 15%. Highly skilled electrical maintenance contractors, though, have told this author that the 15% guideline works well for maintenance purposes. Generally, when they find a fuse out of tolerance, the percentage difference is far greater than 15% (an order of magnitude or greater).

Circuit breakers…
Circuit breakers are mechanical devices that require periodic maintenance to ensure proper operation. A popular misconception is that if a circuit breaker has not tripped due to an overcurrent it is in original condition. In fact, a circuit breaker that sits without opening over long periods can have performance issues. The lubrication of the mechanism, which is vital for its proper operation, can degrade or dry over time and affect the circuit breaker’s ability to operate properly. A circuit breaker also can be damaged or degraded after interrupting a fault.

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Good preventive maintenance for circuit breakers should include periodic exercise of the operating mechanism. A better practice is to exercise the trip latch mechanism since it can seize due to lack of use. The trip latch mechanism can be exercised by primary injection testing or, if a circuit breaker is equipped, by pushing the Push-to-Trip or similar button (usually red in color), which directly operates the trip latch. It is recommended that periodic circuit breaker maintenance include exercise (every six to 12 months), visual and mechanical inspections and calibration tests.

In addition, periodically check conductor terminations for signs of overheating, poor connections and/or insufficient conductor ampacity. The “as found” and “as left” records should be retained and trended for each circuit breaker’s condition and maintenance tests. When a circuit breaker is nearing the point where it requires repair or replacement, the trending of the test data tends to escalate.

For fuse and circuit breaker assemblies, as well as other electrical components, infrared thermographic scans are one method for monitoring conditions where loose connections or other situations may cause intolerable thermal conditions.

Relays…
Relays also should undergo period maintenance. Such maintenance should entail calibration; checking the relay power source; ensuring that all wiring schemes are correctly installed; and maintaining the disconnecting means that the relay will signal to open if there is an overcurrent condition that must be removed.

How often, etc.?
One consideration in maintenance of overcurrent protective devices is the frequency of maintenance. This is dependent on many factors including the device type, environment of the installation, usage, loading, age of equipment, prior maintenance data trends and necessary reliability. Your first source of information should be the device manufacturer’s maintenance manual. Other industry sources include NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance and Appendix B, “Frequency of Maintenance Tests” of ANSI/NETA MTS 2007 ANSI/NETA MTS-2007, Standard for Maintenance Testing Specification. The “Frequency of Maintenance Tests” provides a very useful matrix and schedule table for determining which maintenance activities should occur, as well as the frequency based on the condition of the equipment and its criticality.

The next question usually is what tests should be performed. Again the device manufacturer’s maintenance manual is the first place you should go for answers. Another excellent resource is ANSI/NETA MTS-2007, Standard for Maintenance Testing Specification for the prescriptive tests for all types of electrical equipment in an electrical distribution system. MT


Tim Crnko is manager, Training & Technical Services with Cooper Bussmann, where he has spent 22 years focusing on the application of overcurrent protective devices. Crnko received his B.S.E.E. and M.S.E.E. from the University of Missouri at Columbia. He is a member of IEEE, NEMA, NFPA and IAEI, as well as a committee member of the NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance. For additional information on selective coordination, visit www.CooperBussmann.com; for information on NFPA 70B, visit www.NFPA.org; for information on ANSI/NETA MTS-2007, visit www.NETAworld.org

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194

6:00 am
September 1, 2008
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Part II: How Clean Is The New Oil In Your Equipment?

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How much do you know about the blending process and its effect on oil cleanliness? Is that where the trouble starts?

There are many different lubricant blenders in the U.S.—some very large and some small. In this series, the general practices of large, major oil company blenders and some of the medium-size specialty lubricant suppliers are examined.

The blending process
The typical flow through a blend plant is characterized by Fig. 1. The process begins with receiving of the base stocks that are shipped to large facilities by pipeline, barge or rail. Smaller facilities receive base stocks by rail or truck.

Base stocks usually are not filtered before being introduced in the blend tank, but there are some exceptions. One blender company filters all base stocks shipped by barge, rail and truck with a 25 micron filter. Additives come in many package styles, including drums, totes and bulk. They typically are not filtered before being introduced in the blending tank. Hydraulic and turbine oils contain less than 1% additives, so cleanliness is not as important as it is for base stocks

0908_contamination2Base stock and additives are introduced in the blend tank and mixed together to make the finished product. Cleanliness targets are set by some facilities for turbine, hydraulic and other oils specified by large customers. The first filtration (which typically is a coarse one, perhaps through a bag filter) is from the blend tank to the finished product tank. The final filtration, which is to achieve a specific cleanliness target, is from the finished product tank into a bulk truck for customer or distributor delivery. Finer filtration also is performed from the finished product tank to the packaging operation.

There is a range of lubrication blenders—from those that provide very little to no filtration and no measurement of lubricant cleanliness, to those that have tight cleanliness specifications to meet specific customer needs. Hydraulic and turbine applications usually require cleaner fluids.

The following are examples of companies that have targeted cleanliness levels on oils shipped from their facilities.

  • A large major supplier of finished lubricants has established a reasonable target of 19/17/14 for its hydraulic and turbine oils. It normally will achieve a cleanliness level of 2 or more ISO codes below the target. This supplier filters with a sock filter from the blend tank to finished product tank, then uses finer filtration from the finished product tank to a truck or packaging line.
  • Another major supplier of finished lubricants has a program for its premium turbine oils. For an additional charge, the turbine oil is guaranteed to have a minimum ISO cleanliness of 18/16/13. (This meets General Electric’s cleanliness specification of 16/13.) This supplier also will guarantee hydraulic oils to an ISO cleanliness of 17/15/11—something that is achieved by having initial filtration with a 13 micron filter going into the product storage tank. This is followed by a 6 micron filtration from the product storage tank to a dedicated tank truck for turbine oils or the drum packaging operation to achieve guaranteed cleanliness targets. In addition, all drums for both the turbine and hydraulic fluids with guaranteed cleanliness are polyethylene plastic to maintain the cleanliness level. In most cases this supplier will be lower than the established cleanliness level.
  • A mid-size supplier of specialty lubricants has a guaranteed ISO cleanliness code of 14/13/11 for its ISO 32, 46 and 68 synthetic oils. This is for only plastic-packaged products (in drums, pails and totes). The main filtering step incorporates a product-holding tank with fine offline line recirculation filtration. This company also does bag filtration from the base stock tank to the blending tank. The fluid is recirculated until the required cleanliness level is attained. The plant has stainless steel dedicated piping that helps meet these cleanliness levels.
  • Another mid-size supplier of specialty lubricants has a program to supply hydraulic fluid for injection molding machines requiring clean fluid. This company supplies the fluid in plastic containers at a guaranteed ISO Cleanliness Code of 17/15/13.

Clean fluid shipped by the lubrication blender will require less or no filtration when it reaches the end user. Remember, though, there is a cost for fluid cleanliness. Some companies charge $.05 to $.20/gallon, which is well worth the cost to get a guaranteed cleanliness. Many blenders don’t measure fluid cleanliness as it leaves the plant and many do just a very coarse filtration—if any. Fluid cleanliness can vary by one or two ISO codes, depending on how it is measured—whether it is with a portable or online counter or sent to a laboratory for evaluation. (Part III of this series will address online versus laboratory particle counting.)

Lubricant evaluation
Do you really know how clean the oil is that you are buying? Is it clean enough for your equipment, especially hydraulics and turbines? With the exception of a few companies, no one publishes data that specifically points to a cleanliness rating for their products. The few that publish this information do so only for specific products. In order to shed more light on the subject through this series of articles, 17 oils were purchased and underwent evaluation for cleanliness and water content along with other oil analysis.

MRT Laboratories of Houston, TX was selected to do all the test work for
several reasons, including:

  • The lab’s proximity to sample collection, which minimized shipping;
  • The authors’ experience with the quality of MRT’s work;
  • The fact that this laboratory is ISO 17025-2005 accredited.

The following samples from four of the major lubricant suppliers and one
small blender were purchased from Houston-based distributors in five-gallon
plastic pails:

  • Four ISO 32 turbine oils
  • Four ISO 46 hydraulic oils and one ISO 32
  • Four ISO 100 R&O circulating oil
  • Four ISO EP 220 gear oil

The following tests were performed on the samples:

  • Particle counts as expressed as ISO 4406 Cleanliness Code with the use of an
    optical blockage counter
  • Karl Fisher Water Coulemetrically
  • Viscosity @ 40 C
  • Acid Number
  • Emission Spectroscopy for 24 metals.

Test protocol
The five-gallon plastic pails were delivered sealed to the laboratory. The pails were agitated, and individual samples were taken from the middle of each. A superclean bottle was used and flushed with four ounces of fluid before being filled. The samples were immediately run in the laboratory

Results Turbine oils…

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It is interesting to note that the only turbine oil packaged by a blender came from Supplier D; this sample was the cleanest of the group. The others had been packaged by the distributor/marketer. All of these oils were clean and very dry. (Product moisture has not been discussed but it is a very important property of a lubricant and should be monitored.)

Hydraulic oils…

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Supplier E’s product was an off-brand hydraulic oil purchased from an automotive parts store and 30% lower in cost than the premium hydraulic oils purchased through a distributor. There was no viscosity designation on the pail. It was called R&O hydraulic oil. This oil upon evaluation appeared to be used flush oil. It had 24 ppm of iron along with 41 ppm of aluminum. It also contained high levels of silicon, sodium and potassium. This indicated possible coolant contamination. In light of its high particle count and water content, this fluid should not be used in a hydraulic system. How would you know the low quality of such oil unless you ran oil analysis tests? It was observed that the oil was very dark and emitted a pungent odor. Low-viscosity hydraulic oils are not dark in color, nor do they have an odor.

There are many very good lubricants sold by compounder blenders. The evaluation of this low-quality oil should not reflect on the rest of the group. A lesson to be learned from this is that one should buy lubricant from a supplier with whom you are familiar—especially if it is used in a critical application like hydraulics.

Supplier D’s product was the cleanest of the group—and the only one packaged at a lubricant blend plant. The others were packaged by distributors. This is a common practice. Many distributors package their own oils in drums and pails—especially hydraulic and turbine oils. The only other oil that was marginal for a hydraulic system without further filtration was that from Supplier B—it showed a high amount of water and a high particle count, but all other tests revealed it was high-quality oil. The moisture and particles were probably introduced during the packaging process at the distributor.

R&O circulating oils…

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All of these ISO R&O circulating oils (which are used in compressors) were packaged at the blend plant. These oils were clean and dry. Supplier D again had the cleanest oils, but all the others also were high-quality and suitable for usage.

EP gear oils…

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All of the lubricants in the EP gear oil table are ISO 220, which is the most common viscosity grade for most gear reducers. Supplier B’s product was packaged by the distributor. The others were packaged at blend plants. Gear oils are not as clean as turbine or hydraulic oils, but these lubricants in many cases will be clean enough for unfiltered lower speed gearboxes, especially if this oil is added to existing oil in the reservoir, which is probably dirtier. In splash lubrication, the most common lubrication method for gearboxes, bearings also are lubricated by the same oil. Bearings require cleaner oil than gear teeth. This should be taken into consideration when determining the cleanliness targets for gearboxes and in some cases may require filtration to meet those targets.

Conclusion: encouraging results
The first key link in the cleanliness chain was examined by looking at the contaminant levels of various oil types from their respective blend plants. The results were encouraging. The major lubricant suppliers’ oils were clean and dry for most applications. Some suppliers offer further filtration to meet stringent customer requirements, but at an additional cost. This is particularly true for turbine and hydraulic oils where greater cleanliness is required. It also was encouraging to note that of the 17 oils evaluated for water, only four were higher than 100 ppm—and two of those were packaged by a distributor.

As a group, the gear oils evaluated here were not as clean as the other lubricant types. That was expected. They were, however, found to be clean enough for most applications.

One final word of caution: Be familiar with the lubricants you purchase! Use of that low-quality hydraulic oil previously cited could have caused equipment damage. Overall, though, rest assured that there are many reputable lubricant suppliers—both large and small—that furnish quality products. MT


Contributing editor Ray Thibault is based in Cypress (Houston), TX. An STLE-Certified Lubrication Specialist and Oil Monitoring Analyst, he conducts extensive training in a number of industries. Telephone: (281) 257-1526; e-mail: rlthibault@msn.com

Mark Graham is technical services manager for O’Rourke Petroleum in Houston, TX. Telephone: (713) 672-4500; e-mail: mgraham@orpp.com

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