Archive | February, 2009


6:00 am
February 1, 2009
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Uptime: The Terms We Use


Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

The capacity assurance world of maintenance and reliability is like most other professions with unique words, phrases and terminology. Many of us grew up with this “language,” which makes some of the jargon and acronyms second nature—”maintenance-speak.” But, when we interact with the uninitiated in the “outside world,” sometimes they think we are speaking a foreign language.

In fact, maintenance and reliability terminology differs from industry to industry and geographic region to region. In my travels around the world, all over North America, in more than 400 plants, across some 45 different industries, I admit that I, too, have been confused by some of the words and phrases used in maintenance and reliability discussions. When a “raw recruit” enters the mysterious world of maintenance and reliability you can imagine the communications gaps, the confusion and the errors that can be attributed to the words we use as second nature. Just to be able to communicate, my own daughter developed her own “glossary of jargon” when she came to work with me years ago. And, what about others, especially decision-makers in our own plants and facilities, who listen with frustration as we baffle them with our unique language? To borrow a quote from Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

Sometimes we use “maintenance-speak” to communicate something really important about why something happened, but the listener just isn’t listening. “What we have here is a failure to communicate! What? What we have here is a failure to communicate! Huh? I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening.” That was the disconnected dialogue between the prison warden and Johnny in the 1997 movie Johnny Bravo. OK. Go ahead. Make my day! Tell me you haven’t had similar situations in your routine communications about maintenance and reliability issues where you work.

A society of acronyms
We certainly are a jargon- and acronym-rich business. For example, we often have to determine what caused a problem with a critical piece of equipment. What happens next can begin the confusion. We can talk about root cause analysis, RCA, root cause failure analysis, RCFA, failure analysis, FA, failure modes and effects analysis, FMEA, finite element analysis, FEA… Only to hear words of frustration—”I don’t care what the heck you call what you’re about to do. I just want to know what caused this thing to stop in the middle of the day!”

Then we also have an alphabet-soup of three-letter acronyms (TLAs). You know them. They range from CBM and PdM to RCM and TPM, TQM and SPC to LCC and MDT. The list continues with two- and four-letter variants such as PM, BM, MTTR, MTBF, MTBM and CMMS… And we have to arrange these clever TLAs so there are NO vowels, so they cannot be pronounced easily—so we spell them out like PLC and DCS. Of course, vowels occasionally creep in with CAD, CAM, OEE and ERP. (Excuse me. It’s best not to pronounce that last two.)

Sometimes we also mix in letters and numbers. That’s our attempt to communicate something that must be really big and important such as ISO 9000, TS 16949, QS 9000, ISO 14000 and OSHA 1910.

In the past 20 years, Lean Manufacturing (LM) and Japanese and German words have crept into many companies—offering us even more ways to baffle ourselves and others with “lean-speak” mixed with our own “maintenance-speak.” We start with the basics of 5S, KAIZEN and TPS. Then comes KANBAN, TAKT, JIDOKA, HEIJUNKA, POKAYOKE (it’s not polite to use BAKA-YOKE). Then, the scientific Greek language creeps in with SIX SIGMA (the lower-case Greek letter s), which leads into ANSI/ISA 88, IEC 62264. These terms, subsequently, have to be followed up with Champions, Master Black Belts, Black Belts and Green Belts. But that’s not all. At this point we certainly cannot overlook the six sigma tools of DMIAC and DMADV or DFSS plus SIPOC or PARETO (named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto).

As the business of maintenance is connected to the business of the business we often hear (and sometimes actually speak) RONA, ROFA, RAV, ROCA, ROA, ROTA and other real and made-up terms to describe a financial return on assets of sorts.

This discussion of our terminology would not be complete without our professional associations SMRP, AFE, APICS and SME, to name a few, and their respective certifications CMRP, CPMM, CPE, CPS, CPIM, CSCP, CIRM, CFPIM, CMfgT, CmfgE and CEM. Put those certifications on your resume along with the colleges and universities you attended, and you get to add UTK, UofM, MSU, A&M, UCLA, MIT, UGA, AU, USC, ISU, UT, FSU and so on with BA, BS, AS, MS and/or PhD degrees. We are a society of acronyms!

The point of this exercise
Most of us have encountered someone who does not speak our language—for most of our readers, that’s American English—and we should remember what it’s like NOT to understand or to be understood. Awash with so many unique utterances and spoken shorthand elements that come to our lips as second nature, however, we often forget when we speak.

If you notice a bewildered look on the face of others as you speak the capacity assurance languages of maintenance and reliability, take a step back and think about what you are really trying to communicate. As a younger generation begins exploring careers in our field, it will have an overwhelming amount of skills and knowledge to embrace and learn—not to mention countless straightforward and valuable concepts that are promoted through confusing jargon and acronyms.

Near the end of the movie Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman, the reprobate inmate “Luke,” repeated the famous lines he learned from the guard, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” Let’s be careful not to be forced to utter—or to hear—those same words spoken around our plants and facilities. MT

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6:00 am
February 1, 2009
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Viewpoint: The Three-Person Boat


Christer Idhammar, President IDCON, INC.

Many years ago, one of my uncles asked me, “Christer, do you know what a three-man rowing boat is?” As I could not figure out the answer, he continued. “It is a boat with a crew of three. One rows, one is assigned to bail out the boat and one is crying for help.”

During my plant visits, I often hear the following comment from Maintenance employees: “Why do you talk to us about best maintenance practices? We know this stuff and we want to do all of it; the problem is within the Operations organization. They cannot count to more than one when setting priorities. They want everything ‘done now,’ so we don’t have time to plan work here.”

I, in turn, ask the questioners why they don’t just tell Operations that it will have to wait to get some work done. “Around here,” they typically answer, “we are told that Operations is our internal customer and Maintenance is a service to them. That makes it difficult to argue.”

“So who is responsible for the cost of maintenance?” I wonder. “I guess we are,” they say, “because if we spend more than what’s budgeted, we’re in the hot seat, and we ended there because we did what the customer requested.” In other words, these Maintenance staffs are in a very reactive state, which means they are trying desperately to keep their boats afloat.

From Operations, on the other hand, I frequently hear: “We do not understand what the Maintenance people do. We have many breakdowns and we often have to wait to get work done. They even work a lot of overtime. We agree with you, they should implement all of the best maintenance practices you talk about.” These Operations people clearly see themselves rowing their boats as fast as they can.

Then, from Plant Management, I’ve heard: “We agree wholeheartedly with you. Can you tell us how we can convince Operations and Maintenance? Sometimes we feel like we’re calling out for help from a sinking boat.”

The point is that Maintenance, Operations and Plant Management tend to agree that manufacturing organizations must change the old habits of departmental protectionism, differing objectives and blame. For your site (or company) to be successful, all parties must work together in a true partnership.

It is not enough to agree on this and then just hug each other. You must change the way you do business. You need to set one common goal to improve and that goal is manufacturing reliability. Improve manufacturing reliability and you will have faster throughput and lower costs for maintenance and manufacturing. Remember that you must agree to the partnership principle up front, then scrutinize the way you do business today and—more importantly—how you will do it working within the future partnership. MT

Christer Idhammar, president of IDCON, is a world-renowned expert and award-winning consultant on reliability and maintenance management best practices. He founded the Idhammar group of companies, in Sweden, in 1972, and IDCON, INC., in the U.S., in 1985. For more information on the strategies reflected in this article, e-mail: info@ Better yet, come learn from Christer Idhammar and other noted industry experts in person this April at MARTS 2009. For complete details, visit

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 →


6:00 am
February 1, 2009
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MT News

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


Honeywell has announced the appointment of Norman “Norm” Gilsdorf as president of Honeywell Process Solutions. He replaces Jack Bolick, who has retired from the corporation after 10 years of service, including six years as president of the Process Solutions business. Gilsdorf, most recently, had been vice-president and general manager of Honeywell Process Solutions in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Prior to joining that organization, he had been with the wholly owned Honeywell International subsidiary UOP, for which he had served in various executive capacities since 1977.


ASCO Numatics (ASCO), an Emerson Industrial Automation business, has announced the start of its 2009/2010 academic-year application period for two $5000 scholarships available to U.S. engineering students pursuing careers in industrial automation-related disciplines. ASCO also will make $1000 grants to the engineering departments of the colleges in which the winners are enrolled.

These scholarships are merit-based and will be awarded based on the candidate’s potential for leadership and for making a significant contribution to the engineering, instrumentation, systems, electrical, mechanical and automation professions, particularly as they relate to the application of fluid control and fluid power technology. A panel of ASCO Numatics and independent judges will select the finalists.

Applicants must be enrolled full-time in an undergraduate or graduate program in an engineering, instrumentation, systems, electrical, mechanical or automation discipline at an accredited U.S. educational institution for the 2009/2010 academic year. At the time of application, they must have completed at least their sophomore year in a bachelor’s degree program, have at least a 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale, and be a U.S. citizen or legal U.S. resident. For details and application forms, visit


American Superconductor Corporation, a leading energy technologies company, has announced that it has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and its National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) to validate the economics of a full 10 megawatt (MW) class superconductor wind turbine. AMSC is separately developing full 10 MW-class wind turbine component and system designs. A CRADA allows the Federal government and industry partners to optimize their resources, share technical expertise in a protected environment and speed the commercialization of technologies.

Under the 12-month program, AMSC Windtec™, a wholly owned subsidiary of AMSC, will analyze the cost of a full 10 MW-class superconductor wind turbine, which will include a direct drive superconductor generator and all other components, including the blades, hub, power electronics, nacelle, tower and controls. The NWTC will then benchmark and evaluate the wind turbine’s economic impact, both in terms of its initial cost and its overall cost of energy.

Direct drive wind generator systems utilizing high-temperature superconductor (HTS) wire instead of copper wire for the generator’s rotor are expected to be much smaller, lighter, more efficient and more reliable than conventional generators and gearboxes. AMSC estimates that its superconductor technology will enable a 10 MW-class generator system that would weigh approximately 120 metric tons, compared with approximately 300 metric tons for conventional direct drive generators with this power rating. In addition, direct drive generators eliminate the need for massive gearboxes, the component with the highest maintenance costs in conventional wind turbines. This will open up the opportunity for the development of wind farms in more areas on land and offshore.


The Center for Maintenance Optimization and Reliability Engineering (C-MORE) at the University of Toronto has signed a long-term agreement with Applied Technology Publications (ATP) to partner on future educational and developmental opportunities. The first event on which the partners will collaborate is IMEC – The Asset Management Conference, (, scheduled for September 9-11, 2009, in Toronto.

According to Ali Zuashkiani, Ph.D., C-MORE’s director of Educational Programs, this newly announced agreement formalizes a mutually beneficial partnership that connects C-MORE’s leading research and training in the area of asset management with the vast marketing and industry reach of ATP, a respected publisher of high-quality information for asset management practitioners in North America.

Prospective conference speakers and exhibitors should contact Bill Kiesel, Vice President and Publisher, Applied Technology Publications, at, or visit for more information.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Applied Technology Publications is publisher of a number of trade journals, including Maintenance Technology and Lubrication Management & Technology, and the producer of MARTS [the Maintenance & Reliability Technology Summit].)


According to a recent survey sponsored by Rockwell Automation and conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe, among other things, that safer, cleaner and more energy-efficient production are the most important manufacturing issues in today’s economy. Commenting on the survey’s findings, Rockwell chairman and CEO Keith Nosbusch said: “Whether it’s toys, peanut butter or pet food, product quality is top of mind for Americans. Consumers recognize that government incentives to invest in more highly automated, modern factories can both stimulate U.S. economic growth and lead to safer, cleaner and more energy-efficient production at the same time.”Nosbusch also noted that while most Americans think incorrectly that the U.S. is no longer the world’s largest manufacturer, they feel there is an urgent need for government stimulus. “Government incentives to modernize manufacturing will help create highly-skilled, higher-paying jobs upgrading and operating more automated U.S. factories for many years to come,” he stated. “The technologies are cost-effective and ready to be deployed today for benefits that are both immediate and sustainable.”

Among the statistics…
When considering a manufacturing company, survey respondents said some of the most important attributes included being able to:

• Provide safe, quality products (86%)

• Provide a safe workplace (84%)

• Use natural resources efficiently (80%)

• Produce minimal waste (71%)

• Keep current prices or reduce prices (59%)

Despite the economic downturn, this survey found that support remains strong and unchanged from a similar survey last summer for government incentives to U.S. companies to invest in technology and automation to remain competitive and keep manufacturing operations from moving overseas. More than three-quarters (79%) said the government should provide such incentives and that U.S. manufacturers need to invest in automating and modernizing their factories in order to:

• Use energy, raw materials or natural resources more efficiently (92%)

• Continue to remain competitive and grow (89%)

• Minimize waste and other environmental impacts (86%)

• Provide safer, high quality products (85%)

• Respond more quickly to customer demands (85%)

• Provide a safer workplace (83%)

The telephone surveys on which this research was based were conducted January 15-18, 2009 and May 2008. To review the full survey, please visit


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6:00 am
February 1, 2009
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My Take: Get Back On Your Pony


Jane Alexander, Editor-In-Chief

Watching wave upon wave of terrible economics news roll in over the past few weeks has had me thinking back to the Christmas when Santa Claus left two weary-looking Shetland ponies for my brothers and me. I had just turned nine, and money was pretty tight for my South Texas farm family. Santa, though, was a consummate bargain hunter. He cut a deal with an even more cash-strapped carnival operation that was wintering near our home on the Mexican border and managed to deliver on every child’s dream—or so we thought.

Bless their insolent little hearts, unlike some big, sleek, even-tempered horses that had roamed our place in better times, these creatures were short, scraggly and downright mean. Having escaped bleak lives in which they were expected to shuffle endlessly around in circles with exuberant, often ill-behaved brats on their backs, they had no intention of pursuing the same goals as the four hopeful and excited little heathens that came with their new digs.

We kids could easily picture ourselves riding like the wind across the fields behind the house— the ponies couldn’t. It was a point they made abundantly clear by constantly snorting, stomping, snapping, biting and kicking at us. Even worse, every time we managed to get up on their backs, they would immediately begin bucking and twisting and throw us right off. Things certainly weren’t going as planned. After a few painful hours on Christmas Day, we all were ready to give up.

Our bruised behinds and even-more bruised egos, however, didn’t elicit much sympathy from our folks. It didn’t matter how loudly we wailed or carried on, “Get back on your pony and ride,” was all they would say to each of us, over and over. “Right now!”

And we did, of course. We had to. In fact, by early spring, when the carnival—along with our ponies—headed north for its annual swing through the Midwest, each of us had become quite proficient at hanging on and guiding our stubby little steeds in directions that they might not actually have chosen for themselves. In retrospect, though, I don’t think anybody in the family really missed the Shetlands after they left. They were, after all, very obstinate critters.

On the other hand, my brothers and I did learn some valuable lessons from this episode—lessons that have served us well any time a situation or event in our lives has “thrown” us. The most important of these is that no matter how scared, how tired or how hurt you are, you can’t stay down. Whatever it takes, you have to get right back on whatever “pony” bucked you off, hang on as tight as you can and ride wherever you really want to go. Which brings me back to the worsening global recession…

More individuals, institutions and industries than we can count have been thrown violently by or from something in the past year. Today, as I write this column, hardworking people and companies all over America are STILL waiting for the House and Senate to pass a compromise economic stimulus package. While this “pony” may not be as perfect as some might like, it could be just enough to spark the type of hope and confidence that will help put workers and businesses across all sectors back in the saddle again. With their energy, enthusiasm and ability to innovate, you can bet that they’ll get our economy where it truly needs to be. All they need is the pony. MT


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