Bill Myers spearheads an Electrical Maintenance Program that helps AstraZeneca’s West Chester, OH, facility become safe and reliable.
Bill Myers learned the hard way that sometimes we are taught more by our mistakes than our successes. In the end, he was able to learn from both.
“Ten years ago, a small mistake was made with an electrical connection, and it turned into a big issue,” said Myers, AstraZeneca’s senior engineering technician at the West Chester, OH, facility. “In this line of work, mistakes are dangerous. You must learn from them, and quickly.”
The biggest mistake, he said, was not having a program in place to prevent small mistakes from becoming big ones. So he did something about it.
Myers found inspiration from a Winston Churchill quote, “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” He began creating and implementing an Electrical Maintenance Program that includes data collection and visual and infrared inspection. “This program has been instrumental in identifying electrical issues that would have impacted the facility,” Myers said. “Early detection provides the time needed to make repairs before a breakdown.”
For the past decade, Myers has been responsible for maintaining the facilities/utilities equipment that serves the two-building, 550,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing campus. The main product at this location is used to treat patients with Type 2 Diabetes. There are more than 2,000 assets in the sterile manufacturing facility. “Within the different elements, there are many, many details that must be considered to make a safe electrical program,” Myers said.
Myers’ electrical career began in 1998 when he worked as an apprentice installing wall receptacles at a local elementary-school project. Throughout the past two decades, his career has evolved into developing critical strategies that help identify issues with technical equipment and planning the downtime needed for repair. Along with a team of five technicians, he uses technologies such as infrared thermography, precision alignment, ultrasound, and vibration analysis.
Myers refers to the incident that occurred 10 years ago as the inspiration for building the Electrical Maintenance Program. “It was a bad connection, but we realized we could have found it and prevented it if we only had a program in place.”
Developing the program took a few years from start to finish and was fully in place by 2013. “It has evolved and now we use it very effectively,” he said. “We now dictate to the machine instead of the machine dictating to us.”
This program consists of making regular voltage, amperage, and resistance measurements and then entering the data into the CMMS. The Electrical Maintenance Program includes visual inspections and thermal imaging. The program was applied to all critical electrical-distribution systems, as well as critical equipment used to support manufacturing. Many issues have been discovered and resolved solely because of this program, he stated.
Around the same time, the Facilities Engineering team worked together to set up a vibration-analysis program. The program has also created significant improvements in the department’s ability to provide uninterrupted utilities to manufacturing, identifying motor issues, and making repairs before a catastrophic failure happens. It also helps identify equipment that may need precision alignment to improve efficiency and increase reliability.
Electrical readings are taken for panels and motors, including high-voltage readings. “One thing we look for is voltage unbalance,” Myers said. “The industry standard is 3% unbalance. This is significant enough to cause additional heat and reduce the life of a motor. We track these readings. If unbalance is found, further investigation is performed to determine the root cause.”
Myers’ involvement in electrical reliability doesn’t end there. He also works with the company’s Electrical Steering Committee. The goal of the committee is to ensure that procedures are in place to maintain electrical safety, such as ensuring an arc-flash analysis is completed and posted at the equipment, reviewing energized electrical work permits, and drafting or revising any electrical-related SOPs.
“Several years ago it was evident that there was a need to better manage electrical safety,” Myers said. “At AstraZeneca, we regularly evaluate electrical safety and constantly make an effort to update how we manage it. So the current Safety Health and Environment (SHE) director created the team and asked me to be a member. Shortly after that, I took on a very large task, to build a custom electrical test board and design a test that all technicians that work on electric equipment in their departments would have to take.”
This test was designed to comply with NFPA 70E regulations and determine if an employee is electrically qualified. As a result, the site has had no electrical injuries.
Myers also serves on the Electrical Improvements Team, which was formed to reduce any impact on manufacturing caused by the electrical system. An example of one effort was a project to ensure the panel schedules match the field tags, and that when the breaker is turned off it actually goes to the appropriate equipment.
“You would be surprised how many discrepancies are found during this process,” he said. “The team also looks to increase its robustness and reliability by ensuring electrical feeds come from different switchgears when it makes sense. A couple of examples would be that we have many environmental chambers that house product and samples of product. They are very critical to the site. Some of the critical units have two feeds—a primary and a secondary. It was discovered that both feeds came from the same panel. This was identified as an issue because electrical maintenance is performed on switchgears every three to five years. When the switchgear would have been de-energized for maintenance, power to the chambers would have been lost, potentially putting all that product at risk.”
To resolve the issue, a plan was engineered to change the secondary feed to a panel from a different switchgear. This solved the problem and has provided redundancy for the system. The team has experienced issues where redundant feeds were not an option to the equipment. “We found this on our freezer that houses very critical contents,” he explained. “To resolve this issue, I came up with a plan to install an ATS (automatic transfer switch). This switch uses the original feed as the primary feed. A secondary feed was provided from a different panel that was also from a different switchgear. This has given the site confidence in the electrical system.”
Best practices and challenges
Myers said his overall maintenance/reliability philosophy is to strive to be proactive and predictive. He uses the “Five Whys” technique to determine failure, data collection, CMMS use, and when to use predictive-maintenance technologies. “It’s important to just continue to ask as many ‘Whys” as possible until you get to the root of the problem,” he said.
Myers is part of a team that includes five technicians, each with specific skills—electrical, mechanical, HVAC, boiler operation, and the lead technician. “Most issues require some combination of people and their skills to quickly solve the issue the first time,” he stated.
The 42-yr.-old Myers finds inspiration from his wife of 16 years and two children (ages 13 and 9). He entered the electrical field after serving in the Marine Corps. “A high-school friend was working as an electrician at a local union, and I was very interested in the electrical field and in learning more about how electricity works,” he said. “After an apprenticeship, I was inspired to learn more about reliability when I saw several electrical issues causing unnecessary downtime.”
Now, with 19 years of experience, he clearly sees how a focus on reliability can truly make a difference.
“I like the fact that I can work with many different systems and equipment at our facility,” he said. “Each has its own unique characteristics. This helps keep the work new and interesting.” MT
Bill’s Top 5 Tips for Effective Reliability
• Collect data.
• Lubricate properly.
• Keep your equipment clean.
• Train employees.
• Make a commitment to your programs, and stick with it.
Michelle Segrest is president of Navigate Content Inc., and has been a professional journalist for 28 years. She specializes in creating content for the industrial processing industries. If you know of a maintenance and/or reliability expert who is making a difference at their facility, please email her at email@example.com.