Archive | October, 2013


7:17 pm
October 9, 2013
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For On The Floor: Skills Shortage As Real As Ever

rick carterBy Rick Carter, Executive Editor

We’re told to embrace change because it’s coming (like it or not). But for those affected by the U.S. skills shortage, change has so far been a no-show. Consistently ranked a top challenge for industry, the shortage of skilled labor for key manufacturing positions has received a lot of coverage and well-meaning attention in the past half-decade, yet still shows little improvement. 

Our Reader Panelists confirm this disturbing fact—again. Three years have passed since they were last asked about their skills-shortage problems. With few exceptions, the new responses on the subject, below, virtually match the old ones. I regret the repetition. I also hope another three years won’t pass before the news improves.

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7:15 pm
October 9, 2013
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Automation Insider: Flexible, Scalable Fieldbus For Asset Performance

garymintchellBy Gary Mintchell, Editorial Director

Welcome to the fourth column in this series covering industrial networking and how these networks benefit maintenance, reliability and operations functions in a plant. I have previously covered HART Communication Protocol, Foundation Fieldbus and the FDT standard for displaying status and diagnostic information from the field. This month’s topic is “all things Profi.”

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7:07 pm
October 9, 2013
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Lubrication Checkup: Single-Point Lubricators

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By Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor


“We’ve begun using a variety of single-point lubricators for remote plant bearings on HVAC rooftop units, cranes, conveyor drives, etc. While our bearing failure rate has decreased drastically, we still experience failures. Is that normal for this type of automated lubricator?”


Automatic single-point lubrication (SPL) devices are relatively inexpensive, compact and easy to operate when engineered and set up correctly. They can continuously deliver full-film lubrication to single or multiple bearing points for up to two years on one lubricant charge. There are four major SPL types:

1. Mechanical: Grease-gun-filled and reusable, spring-actuated; relies on atmospheric and system backpressure to slow lubricant release.

2. Chemical: Pre-filled single-use; employs a chemical reaction to generate expandable gas acting on a flexible diaphragm to push the lubricant into the bearing; once invoked, can’t be stopped or influenced until all lubricant is discharged. 

3. Electro-Chemical: Pre-filled single-use; employs a battery-operated programmable timer that sends an electrical charge into an electrolyte to produce an inert expandable gas that acts against an expandable bellows to push out lubricant.

4.Electro-Mechanical: Battery-operated, motor-driven device attached to a small positive-displacement piston pump; fully controllable and refillable; higher discharge pressure allows coupling to “splitter” devices and lubrication of numerous points simultaneously with one pump.

Each type demands different set-up and maintenance procedures. Their success relies on the user understanding exactly how to install and operate the chosen type, compensating for ambient condition factors and performing regular preventive checks while the SPL is in operation. Lack of discipline in this area can easily lead to incorrect use and bearing failure.

A second reason for bearing failure can be attributed to use of the wrong grease. Many SPLs come pre-filled with a specified lubricant that can easily be mixed and/or mismatched when units are taken from inventory. Be careful.

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Keep your approach toward SPLs simple and consistent: Choose a design that best suits the application and use only that type of lubricator. Closely read and follow the OEM’s instructions for setting up, operating and maintaining the unit. Then train all staff on its use. Good luck! MT

Lube questions? Ask Dr. Lube, aka Ken Bannister, author of the book Lubrication for Industry and the Lubrication section of the 28th edition Machinery’s Handbook. He’s also a Contributing Editor for Maintenance Technology and Lubrication Management & Technology. E-mail:

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7:01 pm
October 9, 2013
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A Perspective On Electrical Training


By Ron Spataro

As your workforce continues to turn over, are your new hires prepared to avoid the hazards of electricity?

If there is an electrical accident in your facility, or you are in a high-risk industry, you’ve got pretty good chances of getting a visit from OSHA.

In a one-year period, OSHA issued $26,460,902 in penalties for violations of electrical requirements. Because OSHA regulations are not updated with industry standards, when a violation of a recognized hazard occurs, OSHA’s inspectors will issue citations under the General Duty Clause. This clause requires employers to provide a workplace free from “recognized hazards,” as identified by industry consensus standards such as the NEC, NFPA 70E and IEEE. 

On-the-job apprentice training is a proven, effective method of growing your staff. The new technician can learn a lot from the experienced ones, but what do you do when veteran electrical maintenance personnel are leaving the job market in waves? Burdening your experienced technician with a “less experienced” apprentice can lead to gaps in the knowledge transfer and can be dangerous.

When your experienced technician starts with a new apprentice, do they skip right to application? What’s the procedure for this, where to find it and what to do when this happens, etc.? While this type of focus is essential to continuing work during training, as a starting point for apprentices, it is fundamentally flawed. 

To grow an effective electrical maintenance technician, you must start by building a foundation of fundamental knowledge—those things veterans take for granted and may not adequately pass on. The following fundamental subjects should be covered in your apprentice program:

  • What is the difference between AC and DC electricity? 
  • How do you calculate voltage, wattage, resistance and current? 
  • How do you interpret the readings on a multimeter? 

A technician cannot fully understand the implications of changes he/she makes to a circuit without this fundamental knowledge.

All electrical maintenance boils down to one essential question: “It’s not working; why?” Each technician relies on troubleshooting procedures to locate the causes of failure—and there is a logical way to locate those causes without “chasing the voltage.” Inadequate troubleshooting skills can cost your organization. Staying compliant is very important, but worker safety is essential.

Ron Spataro is Director of Marketing, AVO Training Institute.

Sponsored Information

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7:00 pm
October 9, 2013
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Technology Showcase: Automation Solutions

1013techshowcompustreamPLC Boiler Controls 

Clayton Compusteam PLC Control Systems are standard on all modulating models of the company’s boilers. They are available in three basic levels (I, II & III) with various options for expanding system capabilities. Compatible with Modbus, Ethernet/IP and Bacnet protocols, these PLC controls increase system reliability by making operating parameters readily available. PLC interface capability also improves communications between the steam-generator controls and total plant monitoring systems, and enhances control for multiple-unit installations. 

Clayton Industries
City of Industry, CA


Power, Safety Features Added To Next-Gen Automation System 

Foxboro Evo is a new, next-generation process automation system from Invensys that features advanced tools and applications delivered across a high-speed, fault-tolerant, cyber-secure hardware platform. A leading supplier of state-of-the-art industrial software, systems and control equipment, Invensys has integrated the new system with its Triconex safety system, which is designed to improve operational insight and integrity.

The Foxboro Evo system can undergo major upgrades without halting operations. According to Invensys, because users can upgrade at their own pace, Foxboro Evo delivers the lowest total cost of automation and highest return on assets, compared with other systems. Its new applications also enable plant personnel to contribute toward the success of the business by streamlining and contextualizing the information they need to make the right business decisions at the right time.

Sharon, MA


Make Asset Health More Predictable 

The recently released update to Meridium Asset Performance Management (APM) software (v3.5.1) is designed to help users improve efficiency while reducing risk. Enhancements include new work-process dashboards for the end-to-end management of performance-improvement opportunities, as well as expanded monitoring policies that address process excursions and enhanced integration capabilities that enable machine-to-machine communications. It also includes a new analytical model that lets users visualize the impact performing an inspection has on an asset’s risk ranking. This functionality is expected to improve efficiency by optimizing inspection intervals.

Dashboards in the new v3.5.1 are mapped to each of the five Meridium APM Work Processes: APM Foundation, Failure Elimination, Asset Strategy, Mechanical Integrity and Asset Safety. Key measurements are displayed in an easy-to-use format for rapid information delivery across a wide range of computing platforms and mobile devices. This functionality allows users to have a 360-degree view of critical assets and their associated goals to increase equipment availability.

Meridium® Inc.
Roanoke, VA


Advanced Packaging-Line Integration 

New packaging-line integration technology from Rockwell Automation called RAPID Line Integration uses Packaging Machine Language (PackML) to enable easier linkage between machinery across an entire packaging operation. This allows plant managers to monitor machines in a connected and standardized format, giving them visibility into the throughput of each machine and a centralized view of overall line performance. Because packaging machines often are acquired from different OEMs, intermachine communication can be complex. RAPID is designed to simplify communication, as well as reduce startup time and integration costs.

RAPID does this by using a flexible approach to integrating packaging machines and lines by allowing a single location to set up, control and analyze the performance of an entire line. Users benefit from a configurable solution that provides instantaneous overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) reports and actionable error reporting. Unlike legacy systems that require lines to be stopped for each changeover, line-integration systems also allow operators to make seamless changes.

Rockwell Automation
Milwaukee, WI

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