Archive | 2017


4:22 pm
August 22, 2017
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EcoStruxure Delivers Measurable, Profitable Asset and Operational Reliability

Schneider Electric's EcoStruxure products enable smart control, to empower the industrial workforce and optimize every industrial asset and asset set.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure products enable smart control, to empower the industrial workforce and optimize every industrial asset and asset set.

Schneider Electric introduced EcoStruxure software solutions, bringing measurably profitable asset and operation reliability to the industrial market. Plant personnel have traditionally focused on improving the efficiency of the industrial operations they control, which has driven plant assets to their reliability threshold, increasing downtime and safety risks along the way. However, with more robust IIoT technology available, including Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure architecture and platform, the industrial workforce is more equipped to control and improve the reliability and profitability of their assets and operations in real time.

EcoStruxure is the company’s IoT-enabled, open and interoperable system architecture and platform. Delivering Innovation at Every Level across Connected Products; Edge Control; and Apps, Analytics & Services, the EcoStruxure architecture enables scalable design and operation of connected systems with best-in-class cybersecurity built in at every layer.

The company’s EcoStruxure Maintenance Advisor software, with embedded EcoStruxure Condition Advisor, bridges the gap between operations and maintenance, providing predictive maintenance and decision support for plant-wide assets, including its EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS, EcoStruxure Hybrid DCS, intelligent field devices, drives and other wide-ranging automation assets. By providing early, actionable data and insight into abnormal operating and asset conditions, the solutions empower the workforce to make smarter, more targeted and more proactive maintenance and operating decisions that improve operational reliability and profitability. With mobile capability devices and embedded workflow options, it allows plant personnel to respond quickly to emerging conditions from anywhere in the plant.

“We have strategically aligned these new offers to ensure maximum complementarity and value for our customers, regardless of what type of control system they use,” stated Schneider Electric’s Jose Bonomo, vice president, Process Automation. “EcoStruxure Maintenance Advisor and EcoStruxure Condition Monitor can minimize or even eliminate unscheduled downtime and incidents on the plant floor, not only to improve ROI on CapEx and return on assets, but to drive measurable improvements to the reliability and profitability of our customers’ operations, safely. When applied correctly, these solutions will help convert their process automation into the profit engines of their business.”

EcoStruxure Maintenance Advisor and EcoStruxure Control Advisor are now available for hybrid and process industry customers. For more details and information about the company’s EcoStruxure process automation systems and solutions, please visit Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Plant webpage.


4:06 pm
August 22, 2017
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Siemens User Conference Highlights Connectivity, Visibility

Siemens Automation held its annual Users Conference the end of June at the Boca Raton Resort in Florida. Digitalization comprised the underlying theme, however connectivity technologies highlighted the important announcements and discussions.

MindSphere holds the top place as the most important Siemens technology at this time. Users and Siemens professionals highlighted two use cases at the conference both centering on condition monitoring / predictive maintenance.

The other connectivity announcement concerned PCS 7, the Siemens DCS. The company unveiled new I/O featuring Profinet connectivity. The new, denser I/O includes a user-configurable product, as well as traditional digital and analog modules. Ethernet connectivity featuring Profinet held center stage in the press announcement.

Siemens introduced MindSphere to me at Hannover 2016. Its evolution has been swift. Now dubbed an Internet of Things platform, it includes a set of APIs and libraries. It includes an App Store open to third-party developers in addition to Siemens apps. If you are a developer, just register an app and pay a royalty based on data or connections.

MindSphere placed in context is similar to what I’ve seen from Cisco, Dell EMC, GE, Microsoft, and SAP. I’m sure there are more and that we’ll see more in the future. Dell EMC’s platform is open source. MIMOSA, an industry standards organization provides a similar platform called the OIIE based on standards containing no proprietary components.

All of these platforms are important for maintenance and reliability professionals, as well as for plant management, engineering, and operations because of the increased data and visibility into operations and assets. This will result in improved planning, more efficient operations, and increased percentage of uptime.–Gary Mintchell


8:13 pm
August 15, 2017
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Video | Lower Cost Devices Have a Place with IIoT

This video from Schneider Electric discusses the ramifications of Industrial Internet of Things, lower cost devices and how enterprises are changing their view of what can be done on the plant floor or from the field. Three subject matter experts from Schneider Electric discuss the new opportunities for visualizing data on the floor but also how customers are assimilating new and older technology.

>> Related Content | Companies Focus on IIoT Networking

>> Click here for more IIoT related developments



4:14 pm
August 14, 2017
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Uptime: Manage Development of Asset-Management Skills


By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Businesses gain a significant strategic advantage by developing and deploying targeted skill sets within their organizations. It only makes sense since there is no worthwhile substitute for a competent, engaged group of people focusing on strategic improvements.

One of the biggest challenges is that of limited resources to develop and conduct training in the workplace, including staff to develop, time to deploy, and time to train. However, the lack of formal and structured training often leads to human variation and errors, resulting in unreliable equipment and work processes.

While formal training is a must-have process for assuring equipment reliability, we should also recognize that traditional approaches to training may no longer be efficient or effective. Now is the time to find ways for training on a strategic employee-qualification process—one that builds individualized workplace competence toward strategic goals. Let’s explore how training and development processes can become part of the systems approach to asset management and conform to the ISO 550001 Standard.

Competency development

Begin by thinking beyond the activity of training to the goal of training, which is to build competence. Competence can be defined as “a cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge, and skills enabling people (or organizations) to act effectively in jobs or situations.”

So, what would a systematic approach to competency-based training, education, and development look like? Start with these recommendations for six basic elements of a Competency Development System based on ISO 55001:2014 Asset Management Standard requirements. These elements aren’t sequential or linear. They’re interdependent.

Organizing for Training Management. Strategic alignment assures that training is truly focused on business goals. Components should include:

• a strategically focused training organization charter
a training- and development-systems leader
training-program and materials developer(s)
records management, document control, and change management.

Defining Development Roles & Responsibilities. Training and development activities for building asset-management competence must be directly linked to business goals and specific job-performance requirements. Actionable components should include:

• overview, i.e., job role, classification, qualifications
asset-management competencies (see “IAM Competencies Framework,” from the Institute of Asset Management)
general duties, i.e., responsibilities, accountabilities
• specific asset-management-related job-performance requirements

• duty-task analysis (duty-task list), frequency of performance, difficulty/criticality ratings
• standards, references, and resource materials, i.e., policy, procedures, job methods, work instructions, certifications, and license
• updating of asset-management-related job methods and procedures.

Establishing a Training & Qualification Process. The most intensive element is dedicated to training activities and assuring qualification of individuals completing the training. Components should include:

• skills/knowledge verification, assessment

• qualified to perform
• development opportunity.

• training and development plan/schedule

• business priorities and needs
• individual needs
training/development schedule.

• job-role instruction

• assigned instructor/trainer/coach/mentor
duty-task referenced, i.e., standards, references, and resource materials, job-task breakdown
job instruction/development, i.e., classes, on-line instruction, seminars/workshops, self-study, on-job training/development.

• on-job performance qualification

• duty-task referenced
performance demonstration
qualified/not qualified
periodic re-qualification.

• training and qualification documentation

• individual skills and qualification profiles
• individual training and development plans.

Establishing an Asset-Management Training-Program-Development Process. Training-program development is a multi-faceted process designed to assure consistent and standardized approaches, coupled with strategic alignment. Components in this element that drive various components in Training & Qualification Processes include:

• alignment with asset-management-system requirements, i.e., asset-management organization structure, Strategic Asset Management Plan, business priorities, individual roles and responsibilities (new employee, experienced employee, contractor, vendor, supplier)

• alignment with asset management life-cycle organization requirements, i.e., design engineering, procurement, construction, installation, startup, commissioning, operations, maintenance, decommissioning/restoration.

Recruiting & Selecting the Right People. Formal recruiting and selection is essential regardless of whether the right people are identified from within the organization or hired off the street. Components for success must include these considerations:

• job-performance-based requirements
related experience and competency demonstration
work-group and organizational-culture compatibility.

Monitoring Training & Development System Effectiveness. The systems approach to asset management requires regular reviews and audits of the effectiveness of the business and work processes. The following components are recommended:

• periodic training-and-development-system review, performance evaluation
identifying and pursuing improvement opportunities
incident investigation (failure analysis)

• qualification-requirement verification
training-and-development needs
training-and-development-improvement opportunity.

See my August ISO 55000 Asset Management column for more on applicable elements. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and member of the Institute of Asset Management, focuses on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


3:53 pm
August 14, 2017
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Don’t Let Tribal Knowledge Slip Away

The loss of invaluable ‘tribal knowledge’ at a site is inevitable over time, but not insurmountable.

The loss of invaluable ‘tribal knowledge’ at a site is inevitable over time, but not insurmountable.

Tribal knowledge, i.e., unwritten rules or information not known by everyone in an organization, typically resides in the minds of long-term employees. Garnered over time through the school of hard knocks, most of this invaluable, undocumented knowledge is lost when those employees retire. While this may not have been much of problem in the past, it’s now hitting a crisis point, given the perfect skilled-workforce storm bearing down on plant maintenance departments everywhere.

Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, notes that the Millennial generation, which, so far, has tended to avoid the types of jobs that keep plants up and running, will comprise approximately 50% of the workforce in 2020. With the number of industrial-mechanic positions projected to grow 16% from 2014 to 2024, it’s imperative for maintenance organizations to move quickly to develop adequate talent pipelines. According to Billy Hamilton, senior vice president of Human Resources for Motion Industries (Birmingham, AL), operations that aren’t proactive in this regard could find themselves facing devastating levels of production downtime.

What can you do?

“As it turns out,” Hamilton explained, “there are a number of steps a site can take to mitigate the issue at hand.” Among them:

First, partner with your human-resource department to determine if the skill sets you need now are the same ones you will need in the future. If so, sit down with your plant-maintenance personnel and determine a likely timeframe for retirements. Waiting until an employee tells you that he or she is retiring is far too late. Create a part-time program for those who think they are ready to retire. You might be able to keep them engaged for   several years.

randmIn addition to discussing retirement with maintenance-team members, start documenting processes in detail, preferably through video recordings. The cost associated with recording these processes is minimal if the data accelerates the learning curve of new employees.

Next, reach out to your already-retired maintenance personnel. Many retirees find themselves bored six months to a year after leaving the workforce. You might be surprised to find a number of highly skilled workers willing to work part-time, even if it is only a few weeks a year during a plant shutdown or major overhaul. In light of the lessons these people might pass on, a flexible work arrangement with them would be well worth having.

Finally, work with your local high school, vocational school, and/or community colleges to develop a certification program. Offer apprenticeships and help with obtaining the necessary equipment for the school. Again, there are upfront costs involved, but over the long run, they’re minimal if you develop a skilled workforce that meets your needs.

Don’t wait.

Hamilton acknowledges that there’s no silver-bullet solution for the problem of lost tribal knowledge. “But,” he said, “being proactive, flexible, and creative in your planning for this loss will certainly lessen the pain. The key is to start as early as possible.” MT

Billy Hamilton has 26 years of experience in the field of human resources, which includes his current role with Motion Industries, Birmingham, AL, and, prior to that, work with companies such as Overhead Door Corp. and Lockheed Martin. For more information on a wide range of plant-maintenance topics, visit


3:43 pm
August 14, 2017
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It’s Time to Inspect Your Steam Traps

Any steam system can leak, and any trap can potentially waste steam. Properly performed, well-planned, routine system inspections are crucial.

Any steam system can leak, and any trap can potentially waste steam. Properly performed, well-planned, routine system inspections are crucial.

Savvy maintenance teams are consistent and persistent in following a protocol that monitors plant steam systems. According to a Steam Trap Inspection Guide from UE Systems (Elmsford, NY) these systems should be inspected routinely—and for good reason: Faulty steam traps not only waste energy, they can contribute to pipe erosion, negatively affect product quality in various processes, and even play a role in environmental pollution.

To be clear, the frequency of steam-trap inspections is often determined by application. For example, steam systems used just for facility comfort, i.e. heating, are usually inspected annually (in the fall), while those associated with production operations might be inspected biannually or quarterly, depending on the impact of steam on the process.

Ultrasonic inspections

Ultrasonic testers translate the high-frequency emissions of a trap down into the audible range where they are heard through headphones and seen as intensity increments on a meter. Some units have frequency tuning to filter out additional signals and to tune into the sounds of steam and condensate while others have on-board recording and data logging.

Although there are a variety of trap designs, for purposes of inspection, there are basically two main types: continuous flow and intermittent (on/off). Each type has its own unique pattern. It’s important to listen to a number of traps to determine a “normal” operation in a particular situation before proceeding with a survey. Generally, when checking a trap ultrasonically, a continuous rushing sound will be the key indicator of live steam passing through.

randmThe most common method for ultrasonically testing a steam trap is to touch it on the downstream side. The technician should then adjust the sensitivity to the point where the trap sounds are capable of being heard. This is usually a setting at which the meter’s intensity indicator is in a mid-line position. Adjusting the sensitivity to levels that are either too low or too high will make the trap sounds difficult to hear. If frequency tuning is available on the instrument, choose 25 kHz.

Important considerations

• Since ultrasonic testing of steam traps is a positive test, it provides results in real time. The main advantage of this technique is that it isolates the tested area by eliminating confusing background noises. Personnel, in turn, can quickly adjust to recognizing differences among various traps.

• While performing a steam-trap survey, it’s important to note specific trap conditions on a chart. Every trap should have a tag with a corresponding identification code. Poorly operating units should be documented in a non-compliance report and follow-up procedures planned. Be sure to include digital photographs of traps. These reports should reference items such as trap number, condition, and date of repair.

• As part of a quality-assurance procedure, all repaired traps should be scheduled for re-test. A comprehensive report describing the results of a steam-trap survey is recommended. This report should include items such as the number of traps tested, the number found in good condition, and the number of faulty ones. A cost analysis indicating the gross amount of savings, repair costs, and net savings associated with the survey should also be included.

Keep in mind

Any steam system can leak, and any trap can potentially waste steam. If performed properly, a routine, planned program of steam-trap inspection and repair can continually pay for itself and contribute to a company’s bottom line in terms of productivity, quality, and energy savings. MT

For information and registration details regarding UE Systems’ September 2017 webinar series on steam-system inspections, email Adrian Messer at, or telephone 914-282-3504.


3:22 pm
August 14, 2017
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SAP Tips and Tricks: Put Variants and Layouts to Work

randmBy Kristina Gordon, DuPont

This month we answer the question: What variants and layouts does SAP offer and how can they help users?

SAP contains search screens on almost every transaction. This allows the user to establish variants by entering a set of criteria that can be saved and displayed each time the transaction is run, without reentering the criteria. This could be a group of work orders, functional locations, materials, or all objects in a date range.

There are ways that a dynamic date range can be entered. With this option, each time the transaction is run, it can start with the current day and go backward or forward by a prescribed number of days or you may want to look at the previous month or future dates. Regardless of the criteria, the dynamic date range can be set so your criteria run on that range each time you execute the transaction, without reentering the dates.

It is possible to create several different variants for the same transaction, based on the information you want to see. Variants are at the heart of effective use of dashboards. They are time saving and accurate, helping eliminate human error.

Layouts help, too

Layouts are a component of the variant that defines the information that will be displayed on the report, once executed. The layout controls the columns, sort order, format, and filtering options.

Layouts help control the look of your report, based on the selection criteria in your variant. Just like variants, you can create multiple layouts for the same transaction, depending on the audience and how you want your information to be viewed.

To create a variant, open a transaction and enter the search criteria you would like to see every time you execute. Select Goto from the menu, then select variants, then save the variant. If the system default variant comes up, make sure to change the name and not overwrite it.

In the variant name field, enter a name for your variant. You have two options for saving your variant. The user-specific option will be a personal variant, only seen by you as the creator. To implement this, you must enter the name of the variant in the format of U_SAP USER NAME. For example, U_EG8931.




The screen grabs above show the steps involved in setting up a user-specific variant.

The second option is a global variant that everyone can view. To create a global variant, you must start the variant name with a / then the description. If you check the box “protect variant,” only the creator will be able to change the variant.

Next, you can save your variant variables by selecting an object to create a dynamic range. In the example below right, due date was selected. Click on the selection variables button on the tool bar, then choose the value you want to save in your variant. MT

Kristina Gordon is SAP Program Consultant at the DuPont, Sabine River Works plant in West Orange, TX. If you have SAP questions, send them to, and we’ll forward them to Kristina.