By Jane Alexander, Deputy Editor
The Texas A&M Turbomachinery and Pump Symposia in Houston was full of it: the “R” word, that is. It showed up, in some shape, form or fashion, in technical sessions, networking affairs, casual conversations, printed and electronic materials, exhibitor-booth signage, you name it. Whether or not the event organizers planned it that way, “reliability” (or, more precisely, the endless quest for it) seemed to be an underlying theme among this year’s attendees and exhibiting companies—just as it is in your plants, day in and day out.
As an editor, I attend industry events like the Symposia for two main reasons: 1) to learn about and report on our readers’ concerns, problems and successes; and 2) to learn about and report on technologies and services that can address those concerns, solve those problems and lead to those successes. The good news, from what I gathered in Houston, is that suppliers are on the same wavelength. The marketplace is flush with offerings to help you achieve reliability across your operations. They’re the types of groundbreaking/game-changing technologies and services that we regularly feature in this magazine. Alas, I also have some bad news to report (although it’s probably not real news to you). Allow me to explain…
My favorite hangouts at technical conferences are the Discussion Groups. They’re where I key in on some of the most pressing issues you face. The Symposia program always offers several such sessions. One that I sat in on this year focused on “Monitoring Vibration and Other Critical Conditions.” Led by Bill Marscher, President of Mechanical Solutions, Inc., it opened up several cans of worms, including one I’ve heard debated again and again. As described by a long-time maintenance pro from a big—real big—company, it involved the selling of predictive maintenance to management (or, as he put it, the need to constantly be reselling the value of these programs to new managers). You would think, with so much involved in keeping critical equipment and processes humming these days, that maintenance and reliability teams would have something better to do than stay in a continuous selling mode.
It’s a real conundrum, isn’t it? Why do some new managers cut predictive maintenance programs and others buy in to them? As one veteran of the equipment-reliability wars later suggested to me, the real danger comes from unenlightened managers. What we need, he asserted, are more of the enlightened variety. How do you get them? That’s a problem in itself.
If you wish to start or keep the enlightenment ball rolling around your site, feel free to share this little nugget I picked up in the Discussion Group: As one rotating-equipment vendor in attendance volunteered (he didn’t represent a predictive-maintenance solution supplier), his company would be delighted to regularly sell new units to attendee companies that cut their maintenance budgets. Laughter rippled around the room, but it sounded like the nervous kind. MT