Archive | January, 2009

205

6:00 am
January 1, 2009
Print Friendly

Publisher’s Notes: Who Can You Trust?

0109-publishers-notes1

Bill Kiesel, Vice President/Publisher

I would have preferred to start out with a cheerier “Happy New Year” message. But, let’s face facts: we have a real challenge on our hands. Stock market turmoil, mortgage meltdowns, credit crises, plant closings, crooked investment advisors, you name it, the hits just keep coming.

Over the last few months, as the economic news has gone from incomprehensibly bad to incomprehensibly worse, you’ve probably wondered, more than once, if you can really trust anyone or anything anymore. I believe that you can, and I offer Applied Technology Publications (ATP) and its brands as examples.

World-class companies don’t have knee-jerk reactions to economic conditions. If at all possible, they take advantage of slow times to stay ahead of their competition, by innovating and investing in their products and capitalizing on their reputations and strengths. That’s what we are doing at Maintenance Technology. We look at these tough times as an opportunity to grow by building on our 22 years as the number one publication in the “Capacity Assurance” marketplace. By doing so, we’ll be able to better serve both our readers and our advertisers during this current downturn, and even more so as the economy rebounds.

  • We’ve added to our editorial staff and are constantly striving to improve content and develop new, value-added print, electronic and educational offerings. Watch for them.
  • We are continuing to grow our BPA-audited circulation—despite the high cost to do it—and mailing our publications free of charge to almost 60,000 readers every month.
  • We’re pulling out all the stops—despite bleak times—in presenting MARTS 2009 to meet your ongoing professional development needs.
  • We are working with more leading industry groups than ever, including the Fluid Sealing Association (FSA), Motor Decisions Matter (MDM), Pump Systems Matter (PSM), MIMOSA, ISA, SMRP, ARC and Infraspection, just to name a few. These partnerships (and others in the works) are all focused on providing more and more value for our readers going forward.

Your interest in/need for capacity assurance solutions doesn’t stop based on Wall Street’s gyrations. We won’t stop supplying that information to you. As for some specific people you can trust to do the job, please refer to the adjacent staff masthead. The individuals on it are working tirelessly to produce the quality publications and products you’ve come to count on from us. Like me, they greatly appreciate you, readers and advertisers alike, and look forward to delivering for you now and in the better times ahead! MT

Best Wishes for 2009!

0109-publishers-notes2

Continue Reading →

622

6:00 am
January 1, 2009
Print Friendly

MT News

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

HUNTINGTON PROMOTED WITHIN SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC

The Schneider Electric North American Operating Division (NAOD) has promoted Amelia A. Huntington to the position of chief operating officer (COO) NAOD and president of Schneider Electric USA, effective Jan. 1, 2009. In her new role, Huntington will have NAOD managerial responsibility for the United States, Canada, Mexico, Juno Lighting Group and several other core division functions and business operations.

Huntington’s promotion was announced by Chris Curtis, who will remain CEO of NAOD, as well as assume additional responsibilities in leading the corporation’s global Building Automation and Energy Efficiency business. Curtis also is a member of the Schneider Electric Executive Committee.

GRUNDFOS ACQUIRES YEOMANS CHICAGO CORP.

One year after international pump corporation Grundfos added Peerless Pump Company to its portfolio, it now has acquired Yeomans Chicago Corporation (YCC) of Aurora, IL. YCC sells products under the Yeomans Pump, Chicago Pump and Morris Pumps brands and focuses primarily in the wastewater and sewage markets. Speaking about the acquisition, Jes Munk Hansen, president of Grundfos North America, noted: “The synergies with the Peerless, PACO, Yeomans and Grundfos brands will provide an immediate positive impact. There is no doubt that all of our customers will benefit from this powerful combination.”

In business for more than 110 years, Yeomans operations will become part of Grundfos North American operations and overseen by the Peerless group based in Indianapolis, IN. Peerless president Dean Douglas will become CEO of the combined Yeomans and Peerless operations.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The $2 billion North American wastewater pump market driven by aging infrastructure, changing demographics and changing discharge regulations is expected to grow at a minimum of 5% annually.)

FLOWSERVE OPENS A NEW MIDWEST VALVE SERVICE CENTER

Flowserve has announced the opening of a new Quick Response Center (QRC) for valves in Portage, IN. QRCs are maintenance, repair and manufacturing operations strategically located throughout the world to supply Flowserve customers with a range of local services that help support the reliability of their rotating equipment. The 10,000-sq. ft. Portage QRC, the newest such facility in the Flowserve network, will be supplying full machining, welding and service capabilities for Valtek and Kammer valve customers in a six-state region, including Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

ASSOCIATION NEWS: ASE LOOKS FOR THIS YEAR’S STARS OF ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Have your battle cry heard—your energy efficiency battle cry—or help put a deserving spotlight on someone else’s. The Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) is inviting individuals and organizations to submit nominations for this year’s round of its prestigious”Stars Of Energy Efficiency Awards.” Categories include:

  • Charles Percy Award for Public Service: This award recognizes an individual for an outstanding public service contribution and/or a lifetime commitment to energy efficiency.
  • “Galaxy” Star of Energy Efficiency: Nominees with more than $150 million in annual revenue are eligible.
  • “Super Nova” Star of Energy Efficiency: Nominees with less than $150 million in annual revenue are eligible.
  • “Andromeda” Star of Energy Efficiency: Nominees with less than $10 million in annual revenue are eligible.
  • “I-Star” Award for Energy Efficiency: This award recognizes the outstanding contributions to energy efficiency achieved through special projects or activities overseas that are led by nominees based outside of the U.S. territories.
  • “Innovative” Star of Energy Efficiency Award: This award recognizes an emerging technology or service that has the potential to transform a sector of the energy efficiency market but which, given the early stage of the innovation, has yet to generate proven savings.

These awards will be presented at ASE’s “17th Annual Evening With The Stars of Energy Efficiency Dinner and Awards Ceremony,” slated for Sept. 17, 2009, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, in Washington, DC. For more information on this prestigious program, or to make a nomination, visit www.ase.org/dinner or contact Audrey Cotton at acotton@ase.org. MT

Your News Is Our New!Our Readers Want To Know All About It! Send MT News Items To: jalexander@atpnetwork.com

Continue Reading →

161

6:00 am
January 1, 2009
Print Friendly

Communications: The Accounting Partnership

0109-communications

Ken Bannister Contributing Editor

Interested or not, most of us are becoming quite familiar with the concept that “accounting makes the world go around.” In recessionary economic times like these, corporate fiscal restraint is inevitable. That makes it tough to push new initiatives to the starting gate and, more importantly, to defend spending on initiatives already in motion.

In both our business and personal lives, good accountancy is essential for well-being. It also provides early warning for any needed change to protect that state of well-being. When affairs are awash in red ink, it is difficult to approach any activity in a proactive manner.
Many business decisions are based on simple accountancy criteria requiring validated answers to such questions as:

  • “What is the total cost?”
  • “What is the return on investment (ROI)?”
  • “Are we within budget?”
  • “Can the budget be cut?”

As with every other corporate department billing to a cost center or project, the maintenance department must provide answers to the accounting department—the holder of the corporate purse. These answers are what justify each application for capital expenditure, budget expansion or simple budget retention!

Defining roles
For most maintenance practitioners, the perception of a maintenance/accounting relationship does not exceed recording and passing along time and material expenses against a G/L (General Ledger) account code number, from which an annual maintenance budget may be formulated. Often, the accounting department’s perception of maintenance is equally vague. That’s because accounting may perceive maintenance purely as a statement of debit against the corporate ledger — which is a legacy of historically having been viewed as a cost center and rarely as a profit center.

If maintenance is to be judged fairly and have any chance of receiving reasonable access to scarce funds, it must define a proactive role in the maintenance/accounting departmental relationship through exploration within the following areas:

  • Work with the accounting department to determine any relevant financial information and data useful to facilitating accounting activities, currently collected as part of the CMMS data, and deliver weekly or monthly reports from the CMMS. Such financial information can include monies spent on parts, internal labor, external labor, by project, account code, contractor, etc.
  • Determine how maintenance can support accounting in its preparation of budget planning. This can include forecasting PdM and PM contracts with third party contractors, investigation of preferred supplier contracts and Vendor Managed Inventories (VMI) arrangements.
  • Work with accounting to determine ROI parameters required to ensure successful submissions of cost/benefit analysis reports for special funding or budget extensions.
  • Include the accounting department in all relevant maintenance communications.

While it is the maintenance department’s role to furnish budget plans to the accounting department, it is the role of the accounting department to assist and provide the maintenance department with quality feedback. Both parties must work together to establish guidelines for budget submissions to ensure submission consistency.

Submission guidelines need to be published and circulated to all accounting and maintenance personnel for future reference.

As with all departmental relationships, it is incumbent upon the maintenance department to learn how the accounting department likes to receive information. The maintenance department may be successful in attracting the favor of upper level management with an improvement proposal, but unless the accounting figures are complete, and fall within the corporate funding guidelines, the new program or purchase could continue to be nothing more than a proposal.

Past performance
During the infamous 1990s downsizing era, the majority of maintenance departments were subjected to deep budget cuts. At that time, most were not ready to defend their programs. Consequently, these departments suffered huge losses in capital expenditure budgets and major losses to maintenance operating funds—for what should have constituted acceptable maintenance expenses.

In the early 1990s, maintenance departments that could articulate in “bottom-line” terms the economic consequence of deferred maintenance as a direct result of the budget slashing didn’t merely save their existing budgets. They also were able to capture additional funding for cost-saving initiatives. The tool these successful organizations used was the “Cost/Benefit Analysis” report. This is a report prepared by maintenance to show the impact of maintenance budget cuts.

Any report prepared for the accounting department should allude directly to profit and loss and ROI. By preparing a statement of record and using terms such as “return and investment,” the maintenance department does not only reflect good business practices, it also demonstrates a desire to contribute to the corporation’s bottom line. Clearly, this type of statement requires upfront research and planning. The effort, though, is worthwhile if your submission receives serious consideration from management and accounting alike.

The real ROI
To invest in something is to dedicate funds and/ or time to a project expected to yield a profit or income—profit or income only commencing once the initial funding or capital has been paid for. The time period between the release of funds and the payback of the funds through the profit or generated incomes is the “Return On Investment” period. It could range from minutes to years and varies enormously depending upon the application or project. Generally speaking, the faster the ROI period, the better chance the program or purchase has.

If a maintenance department is to survive recessive times, it must understand ROI and work intensively to understand the fundamentals of a partnership between itself and the accounting department. MT


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

Want more Ken? Then don’t miss the chance to hear what Ken Bannister and many of our other great contributors have to say in person, at MARTS 2009. Visit www.MARTSconference.com for details.

Continue Reading →

4

6:00 am
January 1, 2009
Print Friendly

Uptime: Lessons From Auto Manufacturing

0109-uptime

Bob Williamson Contributing Editor

In May 2007, this column carried an installment entitled “The Rise & Decline of Auto Manufacturing.” It pointed out how the “Big Three” U.S. auto manufacturers seemed to be on the way to repeating the mistakes of the British auto industry and government in the 1970s—something that led to that industry’s demise in the 1980s. Now, in light of current economic conditions and discussions of government financial involvement with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, the U.S. automobile industry finally may be at the point of no return.

Throwing money at any problem without a strategy to make far-reaching change typically does not work. While the Big Three have made 50% gains in manufacturing productivity since 1980, it may not be enough. What happens in 2009 probably will be the ultimate wake-up call for traditional automobile manufacturing in the U.S, including the Big Three and thousands of suppliers to the industry. Will history repeat itself? Will high fixed overhead costs sink one or more of the Big Three? What should we learn from this ordeal?

Profitability issues
Maintenance and reliability initiatives, continuous improvement processes and “lean” are proven methods for improving productivity. Productivity has increased significantly in the U.S. auto industry via many of these proven methods. According to the “2008 Harbour Report” on the North American auto industry, Toyota and Chrysler led the six largest multi-plant automakers in total manufacturing productivity, averaging 30.37 labor hours per vehicle. The difference is that Toyota primarily uses its own employees throughout the manufacturing process while Chrysler outsources many of the subassemblies from suppliers. (GM averages 32.29 hours per vehicle while Ford averages 33.88 hours per vehicle.)

Although productivity gains are essential to a company’s success, it is PROFITABILITY that keeps the business going and growing. That’s the problem with the Big Three—their profitability. Again, according to the “2008 Harbour Report,” Honda and Nissan led the industry, earning $1641 pretax profits per vehicle produced in North America. Toyota was number two in per-vehicle profit at $922. Sadly, Ford, GM and Chrysler LOST $1467, $729 and $412 respectively. The Harbour Report continues: “This reflects that the Detroit Three still pay more for health care, pensions and sales incentives…and support more dealers relative to their market shares than either Toyota, Honda or Nissan.” More dealers require more vehicle inventory waiting to be sold, which ties up cash and leads to sales incentives, which reduces profitability.

What about labor cost? Industry experts estimate that the labor cost accounts for about 10% of the cost of manufacturing and about 5% of the manufacturer’s suggested retail sales price (MSRP) of a vehicle. Roughly speaking, here, per industry insiders, are the auto manufacturing cost contributors to MSRP, highest to lowest: The number one cost is materials. Fixed costs (depreciation, R&D, pensions, health care, advertising and overhead) rank second. The third highest cost—dealer markup—is followed by number four—assembly labor and manufacturing costs. Fifth in line is price discounts and promotions. Sixth is transportation and warranty, followed by profit per vehicle at seventh.

Labor cost often is (mistakenly) a big target for reducing costs and improving profitability. We recently have learned of the huge labor-cost gap between U.S.-based foreign auto manufacturers and the Big Three. And, the union-represented labor force receives a total package (wages, benefits and other forms of compensation) nearly three times that of the average private sector employee in the United States.

While the Big Three have negotiated a “two-tier” wage system that pays newer workers lower hourly wages than more established employees, their overall hourly labor cost (including wages, benefits and other compensation) still remains high. When you look at labor cost PLUS the fixed overhead cost that includes significant benefits and perks for all employees, the actual “labor cost” per vehicle can get out of sight.

The real challenges
Despite all the hype, high hourly wages are NOT the big opportunity for improvement in the auto industry—or most other manufacturing industries in America. The biggest opportunities for improvement continue to lay in labor PRODUCTIVITY plus the very high FIXED (or overhead) costs. The Big Three automakers have amassed these huge FIXED “legacy” cost from years of negotiations for job protection, retiree heath care and unemployment benefits. These costs do not affect productivity or manufacturing costs at all. They are a burden that is added to the selling price of each vehicle. If the Big Three are to compete on selling price and profitability, they and their union leaders will have to find a way out from under these extra burdens.

While compensation costs and overhead/fixed costs cannot be changed overnight—even under bankruptcy reorganization—they can be avoided by up-and-coming manufacturers. What is most important about the North American automotive industry is that it HAS improved its productivity because there was a compelling business case to do so. Moreover, there were proven models to adapt, based on the Toyota Production System and, later, “lean manufacturing” and the “lean enterprise.” The Harbour Report states: “By comparison, the automakers in North America, on balance, have become very competitive globally, only slightly behind Japan, but ahead of most other regions. Although labor costs remain high, the weak dollar and new labor agreements have made North America a more attractive region for manufacturing.” Overall, the U.S. workforce is the most productive in the world because of our innovative use of technology and our individual worker productivity. PRODUCTIVITY, coupled with PROFITABILITY, reflects the real challenges for the Big Three.

Productivity improvements in these capital-intensive businesses depend on reliable, high-performing equipment and maintenance and reliability for capacity assurance—that’s OUR niche! We know how to make equipment last longer and run more efficiently, and how to sustain new levels of performance with preventive and predictive maintenance methods. We also know that maintenance alone cannot make equipment reliable. It takes the entire organization from operations and spare parts procurement to engineering and programming, and more.

“Made in Mexico” and elsewhere
Mexico is currently one of the world’s major automotive manufacturing nations—as well as part of the North American auto industry. Considering productivity alone, Mexico’s plants are very lean and competitive, producing high-quality products with much less automation than in comparable U.S. facilities. I personally have experienced the great results with a Dodge truck I purchased in 1993 (and still drive) and with a 2008 Saturn Vue, both made in Mexico. And I’m not alone. Countless cars and trucks traveling on U.S. roads today, including Ford Fusions and Chrysler PT Cruisers, have been manufactured in Mexico. “Much less automation” in Mexican plants means much less high-tech maintenance and repair expertise is needed to keep those operations reliable. In an era of “skills shortages,” this is crucial.

Remember, high-tech alone—much like higher wages alone—is not necessarily the answer to improving productivity. Consider the following case in point.

Roger Smith, the CEO of General Motors from 1981 to 1990, had a vision for technologically revolutionizing auto assembly. His GM-10 plan and his drive for modernization in the mid-1980s that called for nearly 14,000 robots in seven of his North American assembly plants has been characterized as “the biggest catastrophe in American industrial history.”

GM simply was not ready for all the new technology it got. After three years—and spending nearly $35 billion on 21st century modernization attempts—the company’s highly unreliable robots were mostly removed and assembly reverted to a level of technology that could be sustained.

Mr. Smith summed up the situation quite succinctly:

“Without paying attention to the people and training, all this new technology has allowed us to produce scrap faster.”

I was working with GM at the time to develop and implement new skilled trades training programs in two of the seven GM-10 plants. New job responsibilities had to be negotiated to enable union workers to be trained to work on these welding and assembly robots—WEMR, or “welder equipment maintenance and repair.” The skills required included a blend of electrical, electronic, mechanical and hydraulic. This was a slow, long, drawn-out process AFTER the equipment was installed! We learned then, and it applies now: New technology alone does not improve plant performance unless is can be operated and maintained to ensure sustained reliability. Without changes in training and job classifications— and sometimes compensation—innovations often fail.

No simple solution
We also have learned from the Big Three’s recent pleas for a financial bailout that the solution is not going to be simple. Their problems stem from a combination of complex, long-term strategic errors, traditional industry paradigms and governmental legislation. Because the industry runs as a single system, it is only as strong as its weakest link. Consequently, all parties that have been involved in creating the present situation also must be involved in the development and implementation of a sustainable solution—that means employees, retirees, labor unions, creditors, suppliers, dealers and shareholders.

Let us not forget government’s role in this mess, either. State, local and federal government entities all had a hand in getting the Big Three to where they are today. As part of the problem, appropriate government also MUST be part of the solution.

For example, our 1970s energy policy continues to haunt the Big Three, which, year after year had helped fuel America’s seemingly insatiable demand for inefficient, gas-guzzling behemoths. The 1975 CAFÉ (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards developed to conserve high-priced oil after the 1973-74 Arab Oil Embargo were designed to double the fuel mileage of new cars manufactured for sale in the U.S. by 1985. In addition to Congress setting the annual fuel mileage standards, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were charged with implementation and enforcement. Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it? Not really. Since 1983, automakers have paid more than $500 million in civil penalties for NOT meeting the CAFÉ standards. Add to that the expense of lobbying Congress for relaxed standards and you come up with a lot of money spent by the automobile industry for the sake of inefficiency.

Interestingly, Asian manufacturers have consistently met CAFÉ standards over the years and, thus, have not been penalized. But, therein is another issue. While most of the recent debate has focused on bailing out—or NOT bailing out—the Big Three, it’s important to remember the thousands of suppliers that provide parts and services to the “Big Six” (GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Nissan) and other auto manufacturers in North America (BMW, Mercedes, Kia, Hyundai, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Isuzu, VW). They are at risk, too.

Many suppliers perform work for multiple auto companies and would be seriously hurt if one or more of the Big Three are allowed to fail. Over $150 billion of our country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per year is related to automotive manufacturing—not to mention billions and billions of GDP dollars associated with transportation engineering, professional-technical, administrative, warehousing, health care and financial services.

What we must do now
Historically, the auto industry has set the stage for manufacturing strategies across many other non-auto businesses. History repeats itself and often tells us why things are the way they are today. Status quo, complacency and ignorance can kill a once thriving business. We can — and we should — learn from history to avoid common pitfalls that have hurt businesses and their workforces.

Successful businesses and workforces help communities and nations thrive. Let’s do our part in our businesses, plants, departments and crews to remain competitive and prosperous. Let’s also keep the millions of automotive manufacturers’ and suppliers’ employees in our thoughts and prayers as we begin the New Year. MT


Suggested reading

  1. The Rise and Decline of the British Motor Industry, 1995. Roy Church
  2. The Machine that Changed the World, 1990. Womack, Jones, & Roos (Chapter 2: The rise and fall of mass production)
  3. The Harbour Report North America 2008, Harbour Consulting
  4. Factory Man (publication date: February 2009), James E. Harbour. Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)

Continue Reading →

199

6:00 am
January 1, 2009
Print Friendly

Viewpoint: If Not Now, When?

0109-viewpoint

Dr. Klaus Blache, University of Tennessee

“The most cost-effective increase in U.S. manufacturing capacity may well be achievable through improved maintenance practices for existing equipment.” That was a quote from a 1991 National Research Council book (The Competitive Edge – Research Priorities for U.S. Manufacturing). Unfortunately—or fortunately—this statement is still true today (and probably more so, given the current need for lean solutions). The only caveat that I would add is that this opening quote should have referred to “improved reliability and maintenance practices.” The study did, though, recognize that a comprehensive approach is necessary, with an emphasis on changing culture.

Although many say “maintenance” and “reliability,” most companies focus mainly on “maintenance” versus “reliability” practices. To counter this, I would recommend (1) instilling a culture that supports problem solving and continuous improvement; (2) establishing a robust reliability process that provides data/feedback for improvement decisions; and (3) implementing a maintenance process to support 1 and 2. During my professional career, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and benchmark facilities around the world. The best ones have several key elements in common, including:

  • Numerous highly engaged teams wanting to make a difference (relentless in implementing lean solutions);
  • Plant-wide common problem-solving processes used by everyone (making decisions based on data);
  • Aligned Business Process Deployment goals at each layer of the organization (goals are understood and supported by each layer).

From a maintenance perspective, even if not all companies are doing it, most people “get it.” They know that more planned maintenance is better and that predictive technologies can help avoid breakdowns, etc. Where many companies fall short is in taking the next step and using the knowledge of data to standardize on a more reliable process, re-engineering a better machine, focusing on designed-in reliability and maintainability (ease of maintenance) and making life-cycle based purchasing decisions.

Most of my career has been spent developing and implementing lean manufacturing processes and solutions. This includes many years in reliability and maintenance at plant and corporate levels. Having just retired, I was looking for how I could share my knowledge and worldwide benchmarking background and continue in my areas of interest, while helping companies become more competitive. For me, the Maintenance and Reliability Center, working with the College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee (UT) is providing that opportunity. This unique, results-oriented program bridges the gap between industry and academia and offers the chance for member companies to take advantage of targeted learning, networking, information sharing and more!

The collective reliability knowledge of industry-focused professors integrated with practical applications is a powerful combination when it comes to implementing real-world reliability, maintenance and lean manufacturing solutions. With all of the current pressures upon organizations to reduce cost, what is it that you need to take the next step and make a difference? We want to help you take that step.

I invite you to learn more about MRC, then, join us on our journey in bringing reliability to the forefront and finally re-writing the 1991 findings I referenced at the start of this article. If not now, when? MT


Klaus Blache is the associate director of the Maintenance & Reliability Center (MRC) and associate research professor of Information & Industrial Engineering at the University of Tennessee. Telephone: (865) 974-9628; e-mail: kblache@utk.edu

The opinions expressed in this Viewpoint section are those of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect those of the staff and management of MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY magazine. Continue Reading →

209

6:00 am
January 1, 2009
Print Friendly

My Take: Whatever It Takes

jalexander

Jane Alexander, Editor-In-Chief

Bright spots in these gloomy times have been few and far between. When I hear about them—even anecdotally—I can’t wait to share them. Here’s a couple.

Consider 3-ply toilet paper, which (forgive me), was first rolled out last September. One of the most expensive bathroom tissues ever, its sales, apparently, have been booming.

More good news closer to home (at least as far as this magazine is concerned) comes from Inpro/Seal. Sales of its bearing isolators reportedly are up by 14% over the same period last year. Just goes to show that some products are recession-proof. The right one at the right time always will find a market. Reliability is one such product. There always will be a demand for it and for you, the individuals who deliver it day in and day out. That said, too bad Washington and Wall Street haven’t turned to you for assistance with the deteriorating economy—which, at times, has seemed to bear quite a resemblance to a huge, failing, critical equipment system.

Under-monitored and under-maintained, running too hot and too fast for too long, is it any wonder that our once-shiny economic engine has begun experiencing a string of catastrophic breakdowns… that these events have led to an almost complete shutdown in some areas…that this type of unplanned outage will be extremely costly to turn around?

Oh, if you had only been involved from the get-go. You would have quickly determined the root cause(s) of the meltdown and gotten us back on line a heck of a lot sooner than the financial wizards who still haven’t done it. Instead of pointing fingers, you would have worked feverishly, 24/7, to get things back up and running—yesterday. Repairing, replacing, rebuilding—improving—you would have done everything possible to fix the problem efficiently and effectively and develop measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Alas, you probably won’t be getting that call for help anytime soon. That’s no reason to sit on your hands, however. Until a “Whatever It Takes New Deal” (as some call it) begins breathing life back into our economy, there are plenty of ways smart companies—and real smart reliability and maintenance teams—can spend their downtime.

Try to improve your maintenance efficiency. Whittle down the backlog of deferred maintenance you’ve been building. Don’t simply maintain—train. Even today, there’s a gross shortage of well-qualified capacity assurance professionals. Don’t hamper your organization’s ability to grow with a recovering economy. Catch up on your critical training needs. NOW. There’s something else you can do.

By the time you read this, a new President—elected on a promise to restore our hope, confidence and potential—will have been inaugurated. Whatever your politics, please set them aside. Urge Congress to stop bickering with each other and the new Administration and just get ‘er done—whatever it takes to put people back to work and our economy back on track. NOW.

My take on all this is quite simple. Everyone is entitled to a seat on the big bus headed for the American dream. While we may have hit a pothole along the way, throwing fellow passengers under the bus won’t help any of us reach our destination. We fell into this ugly situation together; we’ll need everyone working together to dig out of it. MT

jalexander_signature

Continue Reading →

Navigation