Archive | January, 2014


8:00 pm
January 31, 2014
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Festo names new distributors

festoFesto has named three new western-states distributors, including Denver-based Consolidated Parts, Inc. for Colorado product distribution, Salt Lake City-based Pro Automation, Inc. for Utah, and Custom Fluid Power, located in Nampa, Idaho, for distribution of Festo products in parts of Idaho, Oregon, and the state of Montana. In addition, the company has named Iowa Fluid Power, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, its newest product distributor to the IFP customer base in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas, as well as selected counties in western Illinois and Missouri. In addition to IFP’s sales staff, the company employs 17 engineers. IFP’s approach offers a greater level of design, documentation, and state-of-the-art solutions to meet its customer’s needs.

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3:57 pm
January 31, 2014
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Life Cycle Engineering Offers ISO 55000 Asset Management Workshops

Life Cycle Engineering, Inc. (LCE) has announced that it will offer three workshops on the International Standard for Asset Management (ISO 55000). The workshops will be offered through LCE’s training entity, the Life Cycle Institute. The ISO 55000 workshops will educate leaders and the workforce on how to align business objectives with a risk-based asset management strategy and implementation plan to maximize value to the organization. The workshops will enable executives and managers to lead asset management activities through hands-on ISO 55000 planning activities specific to each organization.

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5:32 pm
January 29, 2014
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New Platform For Linking Manufacturing and Internet of Things

I talked yesterday with Guido Jouret, general manager of Internet of Things Business Group, at Cisco about a new product/platform that combines networking and computation bringing new capabilities to the support of the Internet of Things.

“Cisco is very excited to accelerate innovation in the Internet of Things by delivering IOx, which provides the ability to combine computation and communication on our ruggedized routers and other devices. We believe that this turns the network into the fourth platform for computing (in addition to PCs, mobile and cloud), which will unleash new applications in manufacturing, transportation, smart cities and many other industries”.

He was keen to emphasize the possibility of the platform to unleash new innovations relating to the entire burgeoning Internet of Things trend. This, of course, has great potential for manufacturing. Therefore it is not surprising that companies such as Rockwell Automation and OSIsoft figured prominently into our conversation.

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9:07 pm
January 28, 2014
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Emerson Process Management and RtTech Software to jointly develop enhanced energy-management information system

Emerson Process Management has announced an agreement with Canada-based software firm RtTech Software to jointly develop an Emerson Energy Management Information System that will provide real-time monitoring, analysis and detection of excessive plant energy consumption.

This collaborative development initiative is the next step in Emerson’s commitment to improving industrial energy utilization globally, known as Smart Energy Management.

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10:39 pm
January 27, 2014
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Tri Tool Launches New Brand Identity

tritoolTri Tool Incorporated has introduced a new brand identity for the privately-held company. The double “T” symbolizes the company’s name, and the new tagline, “Building Performance,” reflects their dedication to building high-performing quality tools, services and teams.

“We needed a brand identity that exemplified who we are as a company and what we do for our customers,” said Debra Scherber, Vice President of Marketing. “Building Performance is our promise to continually deliver the highest level of safe, reliable, quality tools and dependable on-site services to our customers and distribution partners.”

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3:30 pm
January 27, 2014
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Don’t Procrastinate…Innovate!: Minute Maintenance, Part 1

ken bannister thumb thumb thumbBy Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor

With skilled workers no longer the renewable resource they once were, maintenance departments everywhere face a serious challenge for the future: Increasing quality-of-service and demand levels will significantly stress their ability to deliver unless a new work model is devised. That’s where innovation comes in. Innovation takes full advantage of the attributes that set us humans apart from other life forms (i.e., reasoning, problem solving, communicating through complex, nuanced language forms, abstract thinking, using tools, etc.), especially where adversity looms.

According to management guru Peter Drucker, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Translation: If maintenance organizations are to perform work in an environment where time and skill resources are budgeted, they must begin to evaluate their proactive methods and revise them for efficiency and effectiveness. One method I have devised for doing this capitalizes on a combination of problem solving, communication and abstract thinking: I call it the “Minute Maintenance” approach to proactive work.

Minute Maintenance is the pursuit and implementation of proactive methods, processes, techniques and tools designed to reduce or eliminate non-value-added (waste) maintenance activity to produce an efficient and effective result in minutes. It very much reflects a lean maintenance process.

Time is the most precious of commodities. When treated as such, it changes the way one views and approaches maintenance work. Any activity that doesn’t add value takes away meaningful utilization of the maintainer resource.

Take, for example, very large plants or where a maintenance department serves multiple sites/facilities: A centralized maintenance-shop approach means substantial staff time will be spent in back-and-forth travel. Adopting a decentralized or zone deployment system can help to reduce travel time and reclaim precious maintenance resource minutes. Similarly, use of cached inventory locations rather than a large central storeroom can reduce the time spent waiting for parts. In an advanced maintenance state, both strategies can be expanded upon with devices like smartphones and tablets to schedule just-in-time work orders, thereby eliminating time-consuming return trips to central maintenance for new work orders.

Another strategy involves issuing parts to convenient locations near job sites—or having them kitted, staged and drop-shipped internally or by a third-party supplier to the actual job site. This type of inventory transaction has long been associated with small auto-repair shops. Such businesses rarely carry inventory, preferring to place calls to parts-suppliers minutes before items are needed. A supplier, in turn, will kit the needed part(s) and deliver them to the shop in a matter of minutes. Although these are sophisticated strategies and processes that require highly disciplined planning and scheduling, there are many simple activities, techniques and tools that can add value and free up maintenance personnel for deployment where they can be better utilized.

The process in brief
Minute Maintenance achieves results through the introduction of innovative methods, processes and tools at the design phase of an asset or through systematic review, analysis, design and implementation of maintenance improvements to existing practices. In both cases, it is imperative that maintenance be involved in the process.

The Minute Maintenance process adopts a similar approach to the successful review, analysis and design process used in SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Die), a lean process developed by Shigeo Shingo in the late 1950s to reduce time waste during a production line changeover (i.e., achieve a line change in 10 minutes or less). It begins with the maintenance team performing an existing process or PM job planas they typically wouldwhile timing and filming it. The team should include those normally involved in the referenced process, including the planner, scheduler, supervisor, maintainer(s) and operators.

Members of the team then reconvene in a facilitated brainstorming session to critically review the written flow diagram or PM instruction and recorded work session for waste (usually measured based on effort that produces little or no value) and propose improvements. Each idea is captured and reviewed for cost vs. practicality, expected return on investment in time and availability/reliability results. To be clear, some of the recommendations coming out of these brainstorming sessions will require reengineering and involve input from others.

Unlike a production department that may have one line and a handful of processes to consider, a maintenance organization can have hundreds of things to deal with. Expediency, therefore, would typically demand that maintenance departments begin by streamlining their major processes like planning and scheduling and inventory transactions. Or they can start with their most common and repetitive PM tasks like bearing lubrication or pulley and belt inspections.

Activities, techniques and tools
Efficiency and effectiveness is achieved through consistency. Consider a typical lubrication PM asking personnel to place a grease gun on a bearing and pump grease into it. If the job task simply states, “lubricate as necessary,” no two PMs will be completed the same way. With no control parameters specified, the PM would rely solely on the person performing it to understand if the correct grease is being applied in the correct amount to the correct number of bearings. To reach certain bearings, equipment may need to be taken offline and require lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures and machine-guard removal. These are all time-consuming elements, none of which guarantees the equipment will be lubricated correctly every time. Taking a Minute Maintenance approach to this type of PM could result in numerous improvements at different levels.

Level One Improvements: Rewrite the PM job task using objective language. Identify and number all lubrication points on a schematic drawing that can be printed on the PM and/or laminated and attached to the equipment. Identify the grease to be used on the PM task and on the schematic drawing. Calculate the amount required for each bearing, translate into grease-gun strokes and identify on the PM and schematic—for every numbered bearing.

Level Two Improvements: Perform Level One Improvements. Review guard-access issues and design/install remote lubrication line extensions from guarded bearing points to outside the guard, eliminating the need to take off and reinstall guards. If there are many points behind one guard, review the possibility of redesigning it to a 30-second hinged guard (more about this in Part II). Negotiate to perform this PM during a production break so no downtime is encountered.

Level Three Improvements: Perform Level One Improvements. Design and install a centralized lubrication system with all lines connected to an engineered lubrication divider block mounted on the perimeter of the machine. A grease gun can now be attached to the divider block and pumped until an indicator pin visually indicates to the operator that all points have received an engineered amount of lubricant. While this level requires an inexpensive engineering modification, it allows an unskilled operator to perform the greasing—and does not require LOTO or equipment to be taken out of service to perform the PM. Accordingly, what could have taken an hour to complete can be accomplished in under five minutes.

This particular lubrication task could be taken to a fourth level through a fully automated centralized delivery system or by adding a pump and controller, eliminating the PM entirely. This would require another PM: to check that the system is operating correctly and the reservoir is always charged with grease.

Each level incrementally increases efficiency and effectiveness through waste elimination. The level chosen for adoption will depend on many factors—including the budget and the return-on-investment factor.

More tips and techniques will be covered in the March issue.

Ken Bannister will speak on “Minute Maintenance” at MARTS 2014, as well as conduct a Pre-Conference Workshop on its use in lubrication fundamentals. For more, visit

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3:25 pm
January 27, 2014
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Uptime: Is Your Workforce Engaged and Inspired?

bob williamson thumb thumbBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

High-performing, productive, innovative, conscientious and safe employees are typically engaged with their work and with the mission and goals of the company. They are inspired to go beyond the status quo. While we would like to believe that many of our employees are engaged, evidence suggests that they’re in the minority in the American workplace, historically ranging no higher than 30%, according to Gallup research.

What would happen if we could truly engage our workforce to eliminate the causes of poor-performing and unreliable equipment? Better on-time performance, lower operating costs, fewer defects, less waste, a safer workplace and more. But what if we can’t engage this workforce, and those in it become actively disengaged?

Gallup’s report on the State of the American Workplace – Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders (2013) provides valuable lessons learned and suggestions that make sense, especially considering the state of flux in manufacturing, maintenance and reliability (i.e., an aging workforce, skills gaps, lack of skills-development infrastructure). It states that on average, 30% of the U.S. workforce IS engaged and that the remaining 70% are not reaching their potential at work. This 70% is divided into two categories: 52% are not engaged and 18% are actively disengaged.

What should really concern us are those who are actively disengaged. Per Gallup’s survey, these are the people who aren’t just unhappy at work, “they’re busy acting out their unhappiness.” Every day these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish. The 52% who aren’t engaged have “essentially checked out, they’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time—but not energy or passion—into their work.” These are the workers who seem to be on top of things, show up to work on time and aren’t disruptive. Their minds may be elsewhere, however, planning for the evening or next weekend.

One of the most important findings spelled out in the report deals with the extremely positive benefits of engaged employees. In addition to being high-performers, as discussed above, they are actively contributing to increasing their companies’ earnings per share and the country’s Gross Domestic product (GDP). 

The question is, why are so many employees NOT engaged and others dangerously disengaged? The answer is that leadership and work cultures are getting in the way.

Gallup’s survey is based on its pioneering Q12 methodology that encompasses 12 observable and actionable workplace elements. Understanding these 12 elements is the foundation for understanding the basic leadership behaviors and work cultures that promote (or stifle) engagement. The company has used a standard set of questions since the late 1990s to survey over 25 million employees in 189 countries and 69 languages. The following list is a summary of Q12 items that serve as the best predictors of employee and workgroup performance. Regarding engaged employees:

1. They know what is expected of them.

2. They have the materials and equipment needed to do their work.

3. They have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.

4. They receive recognition or praise for doing good work weekly.

5. They have someone who seems to care about them at work.

6. They have someone who encourages their development.

7. Opinions seem to count.

8. They feel that their jobs are important.

9. They have associates or fellow employees committed to doing quality work.

10. They have a best friend at work.

11. They have had someone talk to them about their progress in the past six months.

12. They have had opportunities to learn and grow within the past year.

These seem like straightforward actions and behaviors that employees should have come to expect. Unfortunately, they’re not that common today. Employees’ impressions of their work and their companies are heavily influenced by their immediate managers or supervisors and the behaviors of senior executives with regard to their subordinates. (Interestingly, even something as simple as just using the words “superior” and “subordinate” can imply a command-and-control workplace and leadership style.) The bottom line is that how people treat each other in the workplace has a significant effect on their levels of engagement and disengagement.

Leadership engagement pays dividend
Employee engagement applies to supervisors and managers—not just the hourly workforce. As Gallup points out, “managers and leaders play a critical role.” Leadership, managers and supervisors are in positions to nurture employee engagement or smother it. Thirty-six percent (36%) of the managers and executives surveyed in the U.S. in 2013 were engaged. Research also pointed out that “managers who focus on employees’ strengths can practically eliminate active disengagement and double the average of U.S. workers who are engaged nationwide.” That is an astonishing finding.

Managers and supervisors who are able to identify an employee’s strengths and engage him/her in using those strengths in the workplace hold the key to workgroup, company and national productivity. Being able to identify strengths, however, doesn’t necessarily come easy: Some employees are good at hiding (or not flaunting) their strengths as they conform to workplace norms. Thus, leadership engagement is essential to improving workforce engagement. A company policy stressing engagement principles, however, is not the solution: Selecting the right leaders is.

The key to improving engagement is top-down at the local level (as opposed to merely putting an emphasis on engagement in the corporate headquarters). Local workgroups and their leadership must be empowered to make great strides in what they do and how they do it—to be engaged not just in work, but also engaged with the business.

Plant-floor engagement
Some the referenced survey findings relate to the types of work and businesses of our readers. The 2013 Gallup research found that in the category of “installation or maintenance workers,” 29% were engaged, 51% were not engaged and an alarming 20% were actively disengaged. Given these figures, one has to wonder how many of our equipment and facility failures are purposely caused by maintenance workers who are actively disengaged. In large physical plants, it takes many people with a wide variety of skillsets on multiple shifts to maintain and repair equipment. Based on Gallup’s findings, 29% appear to be part of the solution, but 20% could be part of the problem with unreliable equipment systems, processes and facilities.

Yet another interesting finding is related to what Gallup classifies as “manufacturing or production workers.” The survey found that this group was among the least engaged: 24% were, 50% were not and 26% were actively disengaged. These numbers could explain erratic product-quality issues and higher manufacturing costs, as well as equipment problems and unreliable processes. Manufacturing processes rely on uninterrupted flow of production through the plant and across all shifts to be competitive. Actively disengaged workers can easily interrupt these processes.

A picture of workgroup engagement  
Imagine what it would be like to have a group of engaged employees focused on achieving 100% reliability of your most critical processes—managers, supervisors, technicians and support staff alike. Collectively, they would be involved in solving and eliminating problems and routinely looking for ways to improve their performance and productivity for the betterment of the business. This workgroup would strive for perfection, even though they knew they could never truly be perfect. “Right the first time, every time” would be their mantra.

This engaged workgroup would be cross-training in the critical skills and knowledge needed to accomplish their goals. Members would be committed to not only doing the right things efficiently, but also be committed to each other and making sure the entire group wins together.

As I wrote the previous paragraphs, it came to me: I’ve seen such workgroups before. They do exist in the real world. While 100% engagement of a workgroup may seem unrealistic, it still can be a goal. Likewise, while 100% reliability may seem unrealistic, sometimes the consequences of failures make 100% reliability a requirement.

Where I have seen basically an entire group of engaged employees—from com-
pany owners to top leadership, from front-line leaders to plant-floor workers
—should come as no surprise to readers who know me and have followed my own research and writing over the years. The summer I spent documenting the inner workings of Hendrick Motorsports (one of the most successful, long-running NASCAR race businesses ever) opened my mind to what’s possible when employees at all levels of an organization are truly engaged and inspired to excel. That’s what workgroup engagement would be like!

In summary
I encourage you to download and digest Gallup’s comprehensive State of the American Workplace – Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders report for yourself at Its findings and insights are quite timely for the future of our nation’s business and industry, not to mention the future of many of our workplaces. The report offers a good read and a great way to start the New Year! MT&AP

Robert Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facil-
ities across North America. Email:

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3:20 pm
January 27, 2014
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Forward Observations: Calling Out the Man

rick carterBy Rick Carter, Executive Editor

Except for one thing, William Marsh’s story is not so unusual. The owner of American Bar Products, a Pennsylvania-based maker of cold-finished steel bars, Marsh was fined $8000 by OSHA in 2011 for lockout/tagout deficiencies. Though reduced from $20,000, the fine was tough on his small company and a blow to Marsh’s pride. The fact that the investigation was triggered by a disgruntled employee’s false claims about company safety was also disturbing, and a foreshadowing of things to come.

When the same employee was fired in 2012 for cheating on his time card, Marsh warned his team to expect another visit from OSHA. “I thought it would take two weeks,” he said. “It took two days.” And here’s the twist: “This time I didn’t let them in. I said they needed a warrant, and that when they returned, to bring the area supervisor, and that my congressman and an agent of the press would be here.”

After that, nothing—until late last year when OSHA returned, unannounced, to check plant noise levels. “They were just in the neighborhood,” said Marsh, “but they had no formal complaint, so I denied their entry again. And they got a warrant, which listed ‘probable cause’ as their reason for entry.” When OSHA declined to explain the cause, Marsh decided to take his case to the world.

“I invited members of the local news media to tour our facility,” he said, “and they ran stories about what was going on.” He also invited two state senators, one of whom was quoted saying OSHA’s actions sounded like “an agency gone rogue.” But the officials could do nothing for Marsh, nor could the local-business owners who called and emailed their support after the articles appeared. When Marsh asked them to join him at a press conference he was planning, all politely declined.

Marsh held the conference anyway, in early December, the day before the warrant-authorized inspection was scheduled. Posted on YouTube (search “William Marsh standing up to OSHA”), the event shows a passionate company owner who believes in his ability to run his business properly and safely, with his experienced staff, without government intervention. When I spoke with Marsh on the day of the inspection, the agent had already found several instances of missing paperwork. Marsh was not encouraged. “I expect to be fined heavily,” he said, “probably $10,000 to $20,000 from OSHA, in addition to my legal fees. And my plant will be no safer for it.”

At press time, Marsh didn’t know the official outcome of the inspection. In our conversation, he stressed that while his shop’s heavy-industry environment is not pristine, “it is not unsafe. For what we do,” he said, “it is an exemplary manufacturing facility.” And I don’t doubt it. The unfortunate lesson here, however, is that government regulations have evolved to where they are because not every business owner is as capable or trustworthy as William Marsh may be.

With his David/Goliath approach and belief that his property was searched unreasonably, it’s hard to be totally critical of Marsh. Yet it’s harder still to watch him take another hit for something he could easily correct. His small operation may lack “the ability to finance a paperwork engine,” as he claimed, but if he wants to stay in business he will probably have to get that engine going. Better to bring on part-time office help than hand over big money in federal fines. As everyone else Marsh looked to for help seemed to already know, that’s a sure way to bring his story to a quick end. MT&AP

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