Author Archive | Jane Alexander


10:58 pm
May 24, 2016
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Schneider Electric Extends Universal I/O Capability for Foxboro and Triconex

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.25.03 PMSchneider Electric Connect 2016 has rolled into New Orleans in a big way this week. Organizers of this four-day automation conference at the Marriott New Orleans promised a busy, information-packed week for attendees, and if the event’s first full day is any indication, they’ve come through. In addition to an extensive slate of compelling keynotes, technical presentations, and workshops, the company is introducing several new products and technology enhancements.

Among the product announcements is today’s news of an update to the Foxboro Intelligent Marshalling solution. The new FBM 248 offering now includes redundancy capabilities that eliminate the costly, labor-intensive marshalling process traditionally required for control systems and further enhance the reliability and efficiency of control system design and operation. The company has also enhanced its Tricon CX compact safety system with the addition of the 3902X TMR universal I/O module.

Foxboro Evo FBM 248 and Tricon CX 3902X remove the dependency among control and safety system design and the installation of I/O systems. Universal I/O offerings for Foxboro Evo and Triconex enable process automation professionals to seamlessly adapt to last-minute I/O design changes and provides backup to eliminate the impact of any process downtime. of an update to the Foxboro Intelligent Marshalling solution.

Intelligent Marshalling with universal I/O and software-configurable modules allows users to configure I/O points from anywhere in the plant or in the world. They also enable flexible options for future expansions and upgrades, as well as significant cost savings by reducing marshalling infrastructure, increasing I/O density per cabinet, reducing field and maintenance labor costs and drastic reductions in the need for onsite replacement inventory.

For more information on the Foxboro Intelligent Marshalling solution, CLICK HERE.

Schneider Electric Connect 2016 continues through May 26. To learn more about it, CLICK HERE.


6:43 pm
May 19, 2016
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Mitsubishi Introduces Higher-Payload RV-F Series 6-Axis Robots

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 11.48.29 AMMitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc. (Vernon Hills, IL) has expanded its RV-F Series 6-axis-robot offering with 35, 50, and 70 kg-payload models. Commanded by the company’s MEFLA Basic V programming language and coupled with its optional iQ control platform, these high-capacity units are said to be “as intelligent as they are strong,”

The recently released models extend Mitsubishi Electric’s RV-F Series product line to address applications that require higher payloads and longer reaches, including CNC-machine-tending, large material-handling, and assembly applications.

Key Benefits
According to Mitsubishi, its new  RV-35F, RV-50F, and RV-70F  robots are particularly well suited to the automotive, food and beverage, and electronic-manufacturing sectors. Capabilities and features include, among others:

  • Higher payloads. Allows applications that require heavier parts and tooling to be robotically automated.
  • Long reach arm. Allows tasks to be spread farther apart and accommodates larger parts and processes with the ability to extend up to 2050 mm.
  • Seamless integration with the Mitsubishi Electric Factory Automation (MELFA) hardware ecosystem. Easily connects to MELFA’s extensive offering of integrated automation products.
  • Multiple environmental protection ratings. Available in IP40 and IP67 protection ratings to conform to various application requirements.

For more information on Mitsubishi Electric Automation and its complete line of factory solutions, CLICK HERE. 


4:42 pm
May 19, 2016
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Schneider Electric Foxboro MagPLUS Flowmeters Solve Problems for Global Water/Wastewater and Food & Beverage Sectors

The recent introduction of Foxboro MagPLUS Magnetic Flowmeters by Schneider Electric (Foxboro, MA), represents a comprehensive lineup of flexible, easy-to-use, and reliable solutions for the water, wastewater, and food and beverage industries.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 11.21.01 AMIncorporating multiple flow-tube sizes and an array of transmitter configurations, the new MagPLUS family allows precise, bi-directional metering of a wide range of fluids, from beverages and processed foods to potable water, industrial water, and wastewater. Units feature robust, fully welded construction, a selection of global standard flanges and end-connections, rugged liners suited to all water and wastewater applications or hygienic sanitary design, and durable exteriors suited to underground installation and constant flooding (IP 68-rated enclosure).

According to the manufacturer, an innovative virtual grounding feature in these Foxboro MagPLUS flowmeters eliminates the need for grounding electrodes or rings, thus reducing installation complexity and cost, while increasing process reliability.

Startup and commissioning is said to an easy matter given the fact all MagPLUS transmitters share a common operating concept, feature displays in 14 operating languages (including Russian and simplified Chinese), and come with a Quick Start configuration menu.

Holding approvals for electrical and sanitary certifications and drinking water applications,MagPLUS devices are available in a wide range of sizes, with large diameters for large-scale production plants.

For more information on the MagPLUS family, CLICK HERE.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For help with selection and sizing of any Foxboro flowmeter product, CLICK HERE for the online FlowExpertPro tool



3:49 pm
May 16, 2016
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On The Floor: Maintenance-Scheduling Triggers — Part 2 of 2

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

As noted in the April issue’s introduction to this, two-part “On The Floor,” when it rains, it pours. The overwhelming and detailed number of responses we received from our Reader Panelists regarding maintenance triggers simply wouldn’t fit in two pages. Alas, even with this second installment, we regret that we haven’t been able to capture all comments. To recap, we had asked these questions:

  1. What triggers our Panelists’ maintenance scheduling, or if they are consultants or industry suppliers, that of their client(s) or customer(s)? Sensors? OEM recommendations? Daily walks/PdM tool data? Word of mouth? A combination?
  2. Which approaches work best for them, and why, and vice versa?
  3. Would Panelists (or their clients or customers) want to change their current maintenance-scheduling process(es), and could they? If so, what would they do?

Edited for brevity and clarity, here are several additional responses.

College Electrical Laboratory, Manager/Instructor, West…

In our organization, we have different levels of maintenance staff. The maintenance crew ranges from technicians who have been at the job for 22 years to the college grads with two to three years on the job. Their diagnostic methods are very different. The operation uses a CMMS program to track the health of all process equipment. The seasoned technician walks around and touches all of the equipment at least once a day, checking for temperature, vibrations, loose parts, and strange smells. The newer technician uses some state-of-the-art test equipment: infrared heat sensors, vibration monitor, and sound-level indicators. All data go into the system so any potential problems can be handled.

The process that works best varies because experience comes into play. Some pieces of equipment are very old and have their own personalities. Test equipment does not always catch some of the problems, but the experienced maintenance staff seems to be able to diagnose a pending problem through their touchy-feely methods. Keeping track of this history has reduced downtime on most of the equipment. Education on all processes and updated technologies has added to our success.

We’ve been able to add preventive-maintenance hours to the schedule when we have tooling changes and other production breaks. Each experienced technician has a newer technician assigned to him for in-depth training. Every shift has a 15-min. maintenance-planning discussion before starting the daily operations.

Sr. Maintenance Engineer, Process Industries, Midwest…

[At our plant] it’s a combination. Before last year, it was mostly set frequencies based on historical failure data, daily walks, or OEM requirements. Now, we have tied our real-time data-collection system to our EAM software and are doing more and more condition-based scheduling using online temps, vibes, run-hours, levels, etc. We still do “all of the above,” but have become more well-rounded.

I’m not sure there is a best approach. Any of them work. It’s dependent on the situation. In some cases, walk arounds are the best because the equipment is new, or not in a harsh service, or has no failure history. In other cases, we have to monitor key operating metrics very closely to detect slight changes that signal the start of the failure curve. The best approach is often learned from past results.

It would be great to have everything monitored online and condition-based, but it’s not feasible, so, we continue to be flexible and adjust where necessary, using all forms of monitoring to gather the needed data.

Planned Maintenance, Supervisor, Midwest…

Our maintenance is scheduled through a combination of methods. Sometimes maintenance, such as filter replacement, lubrication, and some oil changes, is performed after the equipment has operated a predetermined number of hours. Other areas we have been able to extend oil life through PdM methods such as oil sampling and analysis data. The majority of scheduled maintenance is the result of condition-based monitoring through our scheduled PM inspections. Sadly, the dreaded, unexpected equipment/component failure too often determines scheduling for us.

Lubrication best practices, combined with using the run-time hours of the equipment to determine lubrication frequency, have made a positive impact. Predictive oil sampling and analysis activities have given us a better understanding of the condition of our gearboxes and air compressors. Performing condition-based inspection tasks is key to allowing us to schedule maintenance in a timely manner that helps us avoid extended and untimely equipment outages. Of course, for all of the obvious reasons, the reactive, “repair after failure” type of work on production equipment should be avoided at all costs.

I hope to see more of our maintenance activities scheduled as a result of PdM activities. These include expanding and improving our oil-sampling program and developing and expanding the thermal-imaging best practices we are just getting started. I am convinced we would benefit from vibration monitoring and analysis and would like to see it added as one of the predictive techniques we use. I support these types of practices and the need to get key personnel formally trained to fully realize the benefits of these activities.

Sr. Facilities Engineer, Discrete Manufacturing, Southeast…

We basically begin with OEM recommendations and add to them as we learn more about the equipment.

I believe that, over time, knowledge is gained that must be implemented into the scheduling. Each user has different issues with the equipment and the OEM specs are just a jumping off point. How critical [certain] equipment is to your operation also comes into play.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

Our building engineers make daily rounds of all their buildings and track how long belts and air filters have been installed. Greasing equipment and any oil changes are done per OEM instructions, as best as we can. Our utility laborers change air filters, as needed, when asked by the engineer in each building.

We try to avoid breakdown maintenance as much as possible. Our chillers are rodded out at least once a year, and as needed. A contractor does winter maintenance on all stand-alone chillers, and we clean stand-alone cooling towers as needed after cleaning for season start-up.

We have several dual-temperature water buildings and normally only change each one from winter to summer and summer to winter annually. We try to do heating repairs in summer and cooling in winter. About 80% of our buildings use steam/chilled water from our utilities plants. Our plate and shell and tube heat/cool exchangers are cleaned/rodded as needed. We monitor our systems on CMMS as much as we can. About 60% is in the CMMS, but not all systems have full controls.

This approach works very well, considering how much equipment and how many employees we have. We take care of approximately half of a university campus, i.e., 7 to 8 million sq. ft., spread over about 40 buildings. We cover these buildings 24/7 with a combined crew of about 45 building engineers, laborers, and supervisors.

We’ve only had minor changes to our approach in the [many] years I’ve been here. The fact that all employees are taught it from day one seems to be the main [reason for its success].

And now, some final food for thought

Acknowledging that he has no current clients, a retired industry consultant still wanted to weigh in on the topic of maintenance triggers. His comments seemed to be a good way to bring closure to this two-part Reader Panelist discussion. Or maybe they’ll keep the discussion going in other places.

“I don’t have any current clients, (retirement tends to slow things a tad),” he wrote, “but those I had tended to perform as-per-schedule tasks, with reactive tasks done to fix the squeaky wheel.”

According to this respondent, only two of his major clients actually performed effective scheduled maintenance regularly. “The rest always seemed two steps from panic. Even with CMM programs and sensor-indicated needs, most were always attempting to catch up, typically complaining that a lack of staff or supplies was holding things up. Major contributors included poor problem-solving skills, fixing symptoms, not looking for root causes, or an attitude of ‘why mess with it while it’s working.’”

In his opinion, these problems are ongoing, in industry and elsewhere. “It seems that this is an international issue,” he lamented. “Worldwide, no one asks ‘why?’ Even here at home, life-style poor health is blamed on others (bad genes are becoming vogue, bad advice runs a close second), ignoring the basic fact that we are what we eat and modern North Americans have better choices than most medieval kings.” MT

About the MT Reader Panel

The Maintenance Technology Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed and their responses are not necessarily projectable. Note that our panel welcomes new members. To be considered, email your name and contact information to with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.


4:07 pm
May 5, 2016
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Beckhoff ‘Azure Certified’ I/O Modules Simplify Microsoft Cloud Connectivity

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 7.58.27 AMThe EK9160 IoT Bus Coupler from Beckhoff Automation (Savage, MN) connects EtherCAT I/Os with the Microsoft Azure cloud directly and without the need for a specific control program. This capability, in turn, allows simple and standardized integration of I/O data with cloud-based communication and data services. According to the company, the “Azure Certified” status of the device fulfils an important requirement in this regard for a seamless and easily configured connection by way of an integrated website to the Azure IoT Hub.

Storing and analyzing process variables, such as energy or condition monitoring data, in the cloud, can enhance predictive maintenance efforts and increase the availability of monitored systems.

Beckhoff notes that the straightforward connectivity to Azure cloud services provided by its technology has benefits for applications throughout all industry sectors, from linking modular sensor technology and integrating industrial robots, to managing machinery and systems, such as wind turbines, buildings, and urban infrastructure, among others.

For more information, CLICK HERE.




5:29 pm
May 4, 2016
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United Electric Controls Offers 316 SS, Explosion-Proof Junction Box

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.46.51 AMWatertown, MA-based United Electric Controls (UE,) has announced the availability of a 316 stainless steel, explosion-proof junction box with global approvals for HazLoc switches and transmitters.

With the release of this product, the company now offers complete, all-stainless, corrosion-resistant switch/transmitter units suitable for use in Class 1, Div. 1 environments. Available assembled with other UE stainless steel products, including the compact, dual-seal certified, explosion-proof 12 Series pressure and temperature switches, and hermetically sealed TX200 pressure transmitters, it also can be purchased separately as as a kit.

According to the manufacturer, the new junction box holds a variety of worldwide certifications, including cCSAus, ATEX, IECEx and PESO. It also has IP 66 certification, representing resistance to dust and inclement weather.

The unit can be ordered as junction box option M432, with ½-in. NPT threads, or as option M433, with M20 threads. Either option can be skid- or wall-mounted.

For more information on United Electrical Controls and its comprehensive product lineup, CLICK HERE.



11:33 pm
May 3, 2016
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Schneider Electric Rolls Breakthrough Premset MV Switchgear into U.S. Market

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 3.38.37 PMSchneider Electric (Andover, MA) has announced the U.S. availability of Premset, the company’s breakthrough lineup of shielded, solid insulation, medium voltage (MV) switchgear solutions for power-distribution management.

According to the company, as the first global product of its kind, the earth-shielded Premset system offers unprecedented safety, i.e., reduced internal arcing risk, along with increased efficiencies and ease of use. The main circuit components are insulated by a layer of solid material covered by an external conductive coating with ground potential. There’s no electric field in the ambient air, because live conductors and the ground are confined within the switchgear enclosure.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 4.56.15 PM

Built with embedded smart technology for critical applications such as those found in data centers, industrial operations, and healthcare facilities, Premset offers, among other things, the following features and capabilities:

  • Shielded Solid Insulation System (SSIS) and screening of all live parts, ensuring exceptional levels of safety and reliability.
  • Simple, flexible, modular design with standardized dimensions, a reduced footprint, and front-accessible power connections that’s easy to install, upgrade, and maintain.
  • Advanced protection, control, and monitoring technology fully integrated for higher reliability and energy efficiency.
  • Automated redundancy (Auto Source Transfer) with pre-engineered, easily applied solutions.
  • Load management with integrated, smart metering.
  • VIP self-powered protection and communication relay for higher MV network availability.

Product Support
In addition to standard electrical, mechanical, and visual equipment inspections, to ensure equipment and components are functioning properly, Schneider Electric offers optional start-up and commissioning services for all Presmet purchases, including:

  • Confirmation that the system is installed properly and operating as specified.
  • Collection and evaluation of initial operational data to check insulation, current path, functionality, and sequencing to minimize future downtime and expenditures.
  • Verification of correct operation of interfaces between new and existing equipment.

Beyond the standard 18-month equipment warranty, Schneider Electric Services also provides a one-year extended warranty for all commissioned Premset devices at no additional cost.

For more information on Premset switchgear, including technical specifications, CLICK HERE.



6:32 pm
May 2, 2016
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Lubrication Scientifics’ Efficient MDL Dual Line System Delivers in Industry’s Toughest Applications, Harshest Environments

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 1.24.11 PM
The MDL (Modular Dual Line) lubrication-delivery system from Lubrication Scientifics LLC  (Irvine, CA) is designed for the types of heavy duty grease and oil applications found in steel production, pulp and paper mills, cement manufacturing plants, mining, metal processing, sugar-cane refining, and other tough operations.

According to the manufacturer, dual line lubrication systems are well suited for such operations because they are capable of servicing hundreds of lubrication points over long distances, in harsh environments, and at low temperatures. Dual line systems are also simple to design, have adjustable lubrication outputs, and can be easily expanded.

How the MDL Works
Lubrication Scientifics’ MDL product line has been specifically engineered to provide the functional advantages of traditional designs without the high cost of system maintenance.

The company notes that traditional dual line lubrication-delivery systems utilize one-piece metering devices that contain between two and eight pistons/spools. When installed, those devices are connected, with pipe or tubing, to both the supply lines (2 to 4 connections) and to the bearing output lines (1 to 8 connections). Should a single piston fail to cycle, the entire metering device must be replaced, even if all remaining pistons are properly cycling. In addition to the cost of the replacement valve, each of the pipe or tube connections must be removed from the failed valve and attached to the new one. Depending on valve size and location, a typical dual-line metering-device replacement could take hours.

The MDL’s design overcomes such challenges with a modular sub-plate that can have an unlimited number of bearing-point outlets.  Because the piston section (valve) is separated from the manifold connections, the manufacturer says if a piston fails, it can be removed and replaced with a new section in less than two minutes. No supply or bearing-point connections need be removed to return the system to full function.

These products are available in both plated carbon steel and 316 stainless steel for high corrosion applications. All plated carbon steel MDL products come standard with stainless steel hardware, including adjustment housings.

For more information on Lubrication Scientifics’ MDL offering, CLICK HERE.