Author Archive | Jane Alexander

34

2:16 pm
May 18, 2017
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On The Floor: Reports from Ground Zero — Growing a Skilled Workforce

vocational student learns air conditioning repair from an experiBy Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

The cover and several pages of May’s Maintenance Technology might give you the impression that we had a common theme in mind: workforce matters. It wasn’t by design; it just worked out this way. The following MT Reader Panel question fit the theme nicely, though. Our Panelists began answering early and enthusiastically. The bad news, again, is that we couldn’t include all of their responses in the print issue. The good news is that we have this expanded version of the discussion here on maintenancetechnology.com.) Here’s the question:

Q: How were their organizations (or client/customer organizations) helping to develop, empower, and enable skilled workers for today’s and tomorrow’s industries? 

The following responses have, as always, been edited for clarity and brevity.

Industry Consultant, West…

Only a couple of my clients are addressing this issue. The ones who aren’t seem to think they’ll be able to entice employees away from companies that are actually finding a way to train the workforce. Development of workers seems to be the largest challenge at this time. Workers hired out of high school have few or no skills that translate to industry, other than moderate computer abilities. Workers hired with tech-school training seem to be hit and miss. Some have valuable skills, but lack work ethics; others have neither.

One client has created a tiered system that has some similarities to previous apprenticeship programs, but the tiers are self-paced, allowing more ambitious workers to advance (and make more money) more quickly. So far this has been successful, to a degree, but a stumbling block seems to be that Millennials do not work for goals that are two or three years away, but want results in one year or less. They also seem to feel that if another employee gets a raise, they deserve one as well, no matter if they’ve completed the same requirements as the other worker. While there are exceptions to this, the situation can lead to  friction in the workforce.

Most of my clients seem to be doing well when it comes to empowering and giving all workers a voice. And most appear to be enabling their workers much better than in the past. This helps retain the long-term employees they have.

Maintenance Engineer, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…

Our plant has begun retraining senior maintenance personnel to adapt to the ever-increasing automation of our production machinery. We’ve also started training some maintenance apprentices to begin refilling the pipeline to replace aging in-house staff (average age in our facility is around 50). We’re using the vocational school in our area on basic skills (welding, shop equipment use, power transmission, and electricity) for apprenticeship candidates and other technical specialists who want to participate. The program is going into its second year, and the only issue we’re working through is putting apprentices in situations where they can use their newly found knowledge in practical settings.

Maintenance Supervisor, Process Mfg, North America…  

Unfortunately, our organization is moving away from technical training for our maintenance people. It has imposed a limited budget for training across the corporation and is using it to train upper management on aspects of contract negotiations and employee interactions. I only have one technician scheduled for training on a PLC course. Nothing else has been approved. This is not an optimal situation, as technicians only buy into their jobs if they can be shown that the organization is interested in keeping equipment working and running at optimum production levels.

Reliability Specialist, Power Sector, Midwest…

Our organization participates in job fairs at the high school, trade school, and university levels. We are active members on curriculum boards at two trade schools in the state. We assist with training recommendations, and provide tools and equipment to the union-trades training facilities. Our organization has an in-house apprenticeship training program, heavily invested into continuous training of all personnel to maintain a highly skilled workforce and encourage training for future positions using in-house training and college tuition support. We also participate in high school-through-college job shadowing programs and internships.

Sr. Facilities Engineer, Discrete Mfg, Southeast…  

Our facility has become involved with Junior Achievement. A variety of our personnel spend predetermined time at local schools leading classes that focus on possible vocations, working as part of a team, and other things to help students understand more about what work will be like. We also hire summer interns, usually in some engineering position. We’ve had chemical, mechanical, and electrical majors.  This year we’ll have an environmental science student to help with some environmental updating. This will be good for us and offers good experience for the intern. The position is paid.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

We have a Civil Service System, and tradesmen/women must meet all the qualifications and experience before being interviewed. The system has drawbacks, but as a whole, our hires are very qualified. It also allows people to move to other positions by attending classes or studying until they meet the qualifications for a higher position. Some employees who started out as janitors later became laborers, then stationary firemen/women, then building engineers, even an assistant chief engineer.

Technical Supervisor, Public Utility, West…

This is a real problem for the hydro and power-generation industry. We’ve not had good luck “stealing” experienced journey-level employees from other utilities lately. We’re part of a state system, and drastic reductions in various benefits over the past decade have removed the incentive for such personnel to “jump ship” and join our organization.

We’ve developed detailed system descriptions of our project, so if we bring in personnel from the non-power industry, they have a training road map/program with lot of hands-on training.

Our experience with a somewhat expensive service that puts former military personnel into industry jobs has been varied. We’ve been bringing in student interns to support our engineering departments for several years, and have hired one full-time.

Industry Consultant, International…

Concerning this question, I have seen both short- and long-term approaches among my clients. As an example, one operation has chosen to contract out skill sets and hold down costs with a minimum of on-site crafts personnel or crafts-qualified supervisors. This tends to be a bit short-sighted but is “OK” short term.

Those taking more of a long-term approach include a major utility that has chosen to partner with local crafts unions such as IBEW, IAM, Iron Workers, etc., to develop an in-house apprenticeship program. Training is done at the local union facility for one-half day and on the company site the rest of the time, with company crafts Journeymen as mentors. Progress is monitored every six months in a formal joint union and company meeting, and raises are given for progress to a four-year Journeyman status. This type of program, which is administered by HR, works well for companies already operating in a union environment. (Non-union operations I’ve worked with have set up up similar in-house training with local colleges and trade schools, sometimes using local union Journeymen as instructors or evaluators.)

In Canada, I’ve seen several  companies join together with the First Nations Reservation groups to set up specialized schools that provide not only training in  crafts along typical apprenticeship lines, but also for special or heavy-equipment operators, miners, and staff clerical/medical personnel. These companies usually have requirements to staff with as many locals as possible. To meet this requirement, local training and personnel/crafts development is a must. In some of these remote locations, outside sourcing of competent Journeymen is difficult.

Based on personal observations, I’ve found that HR and Operations/Maintenance Management working in conjunction with local craft unions and in-house Journeymen as mentors tend to produce the best and most likely to “stay” new craftsmen, These people are already in the company and are familiar and “at home” with their local environment.

Engineer, Process Mfg, Southeast…

Our plant is a founding member of [a not-for-profit regional workforce-development alliance]. The organization engages in activities to improve the overall training and skill level of [the region’s] craft persons and trade persons and promote consistent application of skill standards in the industrial and contractor workforce. It also works to provide, develop, and implement training programs to ensure consistent skill-level designations for trade persons.   Partnering with educational institutions and others, it provides information and assistance with career and skills assessments, training programs, certification standards, and accepted credentials for skilled crafts persons and trades persons. Coordinating with local industry and employers, it assesses present and future needs for skilled workers and develops and implements initiatives that alleviate shortages.

Industry Consultant, International…

Concerning this question, I have seen both short- and long-term approaches among my clients. As an example, one operation has chosen to contract out skill sets and hold down costs with a minimum of on-site crafts personnel or crafts-qualified supervisors. This tends to be a bit short-sighted but is “OK” short term.

Those taking more of a long-term approach include a major utility that has chosen to partner with local crafts unions such as IBEW, IAM, Iron Workers, etc., to develop an in-house apprenticeship program. Training is done at the local union facility for one-half day and on the company site the rest of the time, with company crafts Journeymen as mentors. Progress is monitored every six months in a formal joint union and company meeting, and raises are given for progress to a four-year Journeyman status. This type of program, which is administered by HR, works well for companies already operating in a union environment. (Non-union operations I’ve worked with have set up up similar in-house training with local colleges and trade schools, sometimes using local union Journeymen as instructors or evaluators.)

In Canada, I’ve seen several  companies join together with the First Nations Reservation groups to set up specialized schools that provide not only training in  crafts along typical apprenticeship lines, but also for special or heavy-equipment operators, miners, and staff clerical/medical personnel. These companies usually have requirements to staff with as many locals as possible. To meet this requirement, local training and personnel/crafts development is a must. In some of these remote locations, outside sourcing of competent Journeymen is difficult.

Based on personal observations, I’ve found that HR and Operations/Maintenance Management working in conjunction with local craft unions and in-house Journeymen as mentors tend to produce the best and “most likely to stay” new craftsmen. People trained this way are already in the company and are familiar and “at home” with their local environment. MT

If you’re interested in becoming an MT Reader Panelist, email jalexander@maintenancetechnology.com.

Tip of the Month | May 2017

“Once you’ve tightened a bolt to the correct torque rating, use colored nail polish to paint a straight line across its head and onto the bolted equipment. If this straight line ever appears broken, it’s an indicator that the bolt has loosened. This extremely inexpensive vibration-monitoring technique provides an important visual cue that operators can easily detect during daily checks and, in turn, leads to fast maintenance response.”

— Tipster: Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK), CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor

What about you?
Tips and tricks that you use in your work could be value-added news to other reliability and maintenance pros. Let us help you share them. 

Email your favorites to MTTipster@maintenancetechnology.com. Who knows? Like this month’s featured tipster, you might see your submission(s) highlighted in this space. (Anyone can play. You don’t need to be an MT Reader Panelist.)

51

6:39 pm
May 15, 2017
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Understand Motor/System Baselines

Want to get the most from your electric motors? Think of St. Louis-based EASA (Electrical Apparatus Service Association,  easa.com) as a treasure trove of practical information and its members as a “go to” source for help with specific applications. Consider this insight on motor/system baselines.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

According to EASA’s technical experts, changes in motor/system vibration readings provide the best early warning of developing problems in a motor or system component. Other parameters to monitor may include operating temperature of critical components, mechanical tolerances, and overall system performance, including outputs such as flow rate, tonnage, and volume.

Motor-specific baselines incorporate records of electrical, mechanical, and vibration tests performed when units are placed in operation or before they’re put in storage. Ideally, baselines would be obtained for all new, repaired, and in situ motors, but this may not be practical for some applications. These baselines typically include some or all of the following:

randmLoad current, speed, and terminal voltage

Changes in these parameters usually indicate that a vital system component is damaged or about to fail. Other electrical tests may include insulation resistance, lead-to-lead resistance at a known temperature, no-load current, no-load voltage, and starting characteristics.

QUICK TIP: Some changes in the current and speed may be normal, depending on the type of load.

Motor current signature analysis (MCSA)

This test diagnoses squirrel cage rotor problems, e.g., broken bars or an uneven air gap. It’s more accurate if a baseline is established early in the motor’s life.

Mechanical tests

These normally consist of measuring shaft runout (TIR) and checking for a soft foot.

Vibration

Although overall vibration readings can be used as baseline data, Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) spectra in all three planes at each bearing housing are preferred (see “Vibration Analysis” on page 22). Shaft proximity probes can be used to determine sleeve bearing motor baselines.

Infrared thermography

This tool can detect changes in the operating temperature of critical motor components, especially bearings.

New-motor baselines

Comparing factory terminal winding resistance and no-load amps with data taken under load can be useful when monitoring the condition of a new motor or troubleshooting system problems. Factory baselines are often available from the manufacturer or its website. The accuracy of factory data depends on how it was obtained, but it’s usually sufficient for field use.

Baseline data for a newly installed motor could reveal an error, e.g., misconnection for an incorrect voltage, and prevent a premature motor failure. Rather than simply “bumping” a motor for rotation before coupling it to the load, operate it long enough to measure the line current for all three phases, as well as the voltage and vibration levels.

QUICK TIP: Comparing the baselines of a failed motor and its replacement could reveal application- or process-related weaknesses in the system.

Repaired motor baselines

Service centers usually provide no-load and/or full-load (when stipulated) test data for repaired motors, including voltage, current, and vibration spectra. Comparing these results with historical baselines and those obtained on site when the motor is returned to service may confirm the quality of the repair or possibly reveal underlying system problems. For example, increased vibration levels in on-site tests might indicate a deteriorating motor base or a problem with the driven equipment rather than a balancing issue with the motor.

With newly repaired motors that have been in operation for many years, baseline comparisons are invaluable in root-cause failure analysis and may even expose consequential damage from certain kinds of failures, e.g., a broken shaft. To correctly identify cause and effect and prevent recurrences, always investigate equipment failure at the system level. MT

For details on using motor/system baselines, as well as expert advice on a wide range of other motor-related issues, download Getting the Most from Your Electric Motors, or contact a local EASA service center.

92

6:11 pm
May 15, 2017
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Slurry-Pump Tips: Extend Mechanical Seal Life

Selecting the right pump with the right type of mechanical seal is the first step toward slurry-pumping success. (Photo copyright ITT Goulds Pumps)

Selecting the right pump with the right type of mechanical seal is the first step toward slurry-pumping success. (Photo copyright ITT Goulds Pumps)

Although you may consider mechanical seals to be relatively small components in slurry-pumping systems, they can be the crucial bridge between failure and success. An incorrect or poor seal selection can cause major damage to the pumping system. The bottom line: If your operation wants to get the most from its slurry pumps, the choice of mechanical seals is crucial. Fluid-handling experts at Crane Engineering (Kimberly, WI, craneengineering.net) offer several tips for extending the life of these components.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Seal Considerations

As discussed in a recent blog post on craneengineering.net, increasing slurry-pump reliability starts with an understanding of the challenges involved in moving highly abrasive fluids such as manure, cement, and starch. These pumps clearly have their work cut out for them. Thus, when selecting a mechanical seal for slurry service, pay attention to these details:

randmRobust design characteristics. Heavy slurry usually involves a high solid content. A seal design that can withstand erosive impacts while protecting the seal faces is a must. Specially designed seals for slurry applications typically feature durable construction materials, hardened faces, and heavy-duty springs to ensure the seal faces have the correct pressure setting to seal the system.

Restriction bushings. When pumping a slurry mixture, process pressure will naturally drive the particle-filled fluid into the sealing interface, causing abrasion and accelerated wear. A restriction bushing isolates the mechanical seal from the harsh process so that the seal is mostly sealing the cleaner, cooler flush fluid.

Proper flushing. A proper flushing plan will keep abrasives away from the seal faces. Seal flushing also keeps things moving in the stuffing box to prevent solids stagnation and build-up. As with any pumping application, you should always avoid dry running conditions.

Additional Considerations

Choosing the proper seal for a slurry pump is just part of the equation. It’s also imperative to select the right pump for the job and to maintain it properly.

As with other pumping systems, poor equipment conditions caused by bad bearings, cavitation, excessive impeller loads, and misaligned shafts can lead to excessive vibration and shock to the mechanical seal. A slurry pump running under these conditions will generate more heat and more opportunity for abrasives to enter the sealing interface. MT

Lubricating Film Matters

According to Crane Engineering’s fluid-handling experts, regardless of your pumping application, a lubricating film at the sealing interface is always needed.

A film that is too thick will increase leakage and may allow particulate between the mechanical seal faces, increasing wear from abrasion. Conversely, a film that is too thin will generate heat and degrade materials. Keeping the sealing interface cool and clean will promote longer seal life.

Crane Engineering is a distributor of industrial-grade pumps, valves, filters, wastewater-treatment equipment, and other fluid-processing technology. Services include repair, corrosion-resistant coatings, and skid-system design and fabrication. For more information and instructional videos, visit craneengineering.net.

49

5:48 pm
May 15, 2017
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Get Your Cybersecurity Off the Ground

Hacker HackerangriffImplementing cybersecurity defenses for industrial-control systems can seem intimidating. The right initial actions are crucial. Alexandre Peixoto, cybersecurity expert for the DeltaV distributed-control system from Emerson (Round Rock, TX, emerson.com), urges users to look closely at these seven key areas. They can offer a good defense-in-depth strategy in the short term:

• Workstation hardening: Ensure that the workstation configuration meets security policies.
• User-account management: Maintain unique user accounts and password-change routines.
• Patch/security management: Keep hardware and software up to date.
• Physical security/perimeter protection: Limit physical and electronic access to system networks.
• Security monitoring/risk assessment: Develop security policies and system-monitoring behavior.
• Data management: Develop guidelines for secure data creation, transmission, storage, and destruction.
• Network security: Ensure that system networks are properly segregated and protected.

For organizations wanting to get new cybersecurity programs off the ground fast, Peixoto recommends starting with the first three items on this list. Inexpensive to implement, they typically can be completed in-house.

—Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

randmWorkstation hardening

Workstations are usually the entry points to isolated networks. New installations run at peak security but, over time, changes intended for temporary use, such as a remote access or use of removable media, are not reversed. These changes increase the system’s attack surface, especially if the allowed remote connections aren’t monitored or periodically audited.

Cybersecurity isn’t a set-and-forget type of initiative. Operations should monitor and maintain all workstations using the initial configuration as a baseline. System administrators should keep records of their system’s security policies and develop policy guidelines surrounding what can and cannot be changed.

Dedicated applications are available to help audit essential files and services running on each control-system workstation. These applications can be valuable tools in assessing cyber-threats within an industrial control-system environment.

User-account management

Individual user accounts with appropriate permissions should be part of every organization’s security policy. Properly assigning user permissions also has a strong impact on cybersecurity. While it may seem easier to give every user high privilege access to the system, this approach increases the impact of a cyberattack, no matter which account is stolen. Developing and applying guidelines for user accounts is the first step, but setting a strategy for account management, based on those guidelines, is key to long-term control-system cybersecurity support.

Strict enforcement of password complexity and change routines will make it harder for unauthorized users to gain access using stolen passwords or brute-force attacks. A best practice is for each user to have a unique username and password for the control system that is distinct from those they use on enterprise business systems.

Patch/security management

Properly maintaining a control system means keeping hardware and software up to date. When a system is unpatched or outdated, the organization is exposed to cyberattacks.

Organizations need to keep track of operating system updates, antivirus updates, and software hotfixes that are available for their systems and regularly apply these patches. Unpatched systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks that are based on known vulnerabilities. Appropriate, timely patch management can be accomplished internally or by using support programs available from automation-system vendors.

Bottom line

Not only is it easy to overlook cybersecurity, it’s difficult for plants to justify allocating resources for it if they’ve never been attacked (or have been, but don’t know it). Unfortunately, when security vulnerabilities are exploited, the costs required to recover a system are high and the impact widespread.

Focusing on the right first steps today can help secure your industrial-control system and develop an internal cybersecurity posture in your organization. MT

For more information on cybersecurity, go to emerson.com/cybersecuritymanagement.

136

5:06 pm
May 15, 2017
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Training Today’s Workforce for Tomorrow’s Needs

Just as the Internet of Things (Iot) is transforming industrial operations, maintenance roles are also being transformed.

Just as the Internet of Things (Iot) is transforming industrial operations, maintenance roles are also being transformed.

With equipment and building systems growing smarter, those who operate and maintain them must do likewise.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Although we’ve heard that the Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to transform the industry, in some cases, it already has. Today, more and more businesses are implementing IoT-enabled equipment and generating an ever-growing influx of data that has the potential to transform their operations. For industry applications, the value of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is expected to continue to grow at an astounding rate. While that should come as no surprise, there is one important caveat.

According to Mohamed Shishani of Schneider Electric’s Building & IT Business (Nashville, TN, schneider-electric.us), IoT-driven data can help reduce reactive maintenance, boost preventive problem solving, and improve efficiency and productivity, but only when the workforce is prepared to use the insights to make better decisions. “It’s imperative,” he stated, “that plant operators and facility managers ensure their electrical-maintenance personnel are trained and prepared to operate and apply IoT-driven data to improve operational performance. If not, they’ll surely be left behind.”

As Schneider Electric’s “IoT 2020 Business Report” noted, operational and management professionals in buildings, factories, global supply chains, and cities must be able to turn data into actionable insights about the efficiency of machines or production lines. Collecting and analyzing this operational intelligence can help the workforce improve business strategies that drive performance and sustainability.

Shishani reports that industry is already seeing the effects of an internet-connected, internet-dependent world—and that business leaders are paying close attention to its impact on their operations. In fact, based on Schneider Electric’s research, 70% of decision makers have seen the business value of IoT through its ability to create new opportunities for their companies, improve the efficiency of their businesses, and deliver long-term business benefits.

‘Smart’ systems require a smarter workforce

Shishani pointed to circuit breakers as a good example of evolving technology. As he described the situation, “Once upon a time, a circuit breaker was just a circuit breaker, an innocuous black box that was rarely considered in the day-to-day operations of a plant or facility. Today, though, IoT-enabled circuit breakers can provide real-time and historical trending data, allowing facility managers to easily monitor their plant or building’s electrical systems.”

These smart systems provide improved visibility into operations and allow users to control everything from specific lines of equipment to the entire industrial process, locally and remotely. Proactive maintenance, based on predictive decision making, lets personnel troubleshoot and remedy issues in real time, before operations are affected. That approach reduces system downtime and opens the doors for more regularly scheduled preventive maintenance.

The collected data can provide a wealth of useful information, including circuit-breaker status, energy use, and important system notifications. With just a simple Internet connection, the information is readily available on an operator’s computer screen. Cloud-based solutions provide personnel with access to data through apps on their mobile devices, making the decision-making process even faster and more reliable than is possible with conventional systems.

Note that while IoT-enabled tools such as these offer great potential to improve a plant’s productivity, they can only be maximized if personnel are able to properly use them. As plants and facilities evolve to require constant monitoring, maintenance staff must be trained to use stationary and mobile equipment. Decisions, in turn, can be made anytime and anywhere, saving time and eliminating the need for on-site visits.

IoT-enabled-tool training

With data becoming more useful, traditional methods of performing work may no longer be relevant. The increase in data, in general, suggests the volume of it specific to electrical systems is likely to increase as well. Furthermore, just as the IoT is transforming industrial operations, the role of maintenance personnel is also being transformed.

Consider, for example, building systems that control a plant’s power, automation, safety, communication, and security. According to Shishani, the fact that such systems are becoming more integrated means electrical contractors and maintenance technicians are becoming even more pertinent to the industrial system. In his view, as their roles and responsibilities continue to expand and involve functions beyond traditional electrical work, they should be encouraged to:

• Use new skills to gather and analyze data to ensure decisions are made quickly and accurately.
• Offer solutions that take into account the energy usage of a  particular process or facility to ensure energy efficiency and sustainable operations.
• Embrace the transformation of their role as IIoT-solutions providers by expanding their knowledge of IoT and how to use the resulting data.

In light of the aging workforce, industries will be challenged to engage personnel in new technologies while training newcomers—who most likely will be Millennials—to build on existing digital skills and apply them to a new environment that is always on, constantly connected, and moving quickly.

“Whether IoT will drastically reshape the industry can no longer be questioned,” Shishani explained. “The workforce must be surrounded by the right tools and training to be able to harness all the possibilities IoT has to offer.” MT

Mohamed Shishani is go-to-market strategy and launch manager for Schneider Electric’s Building & IT Business. For more information, visit schneider-electric.us.

Tools for Success

By Mohamed Shishani, Schneider Electric

Training personnel to interpret the influx of data produced by IoT technology is critical to ensure businesses are prepared for an evolving industry. As younger workers enter the workforce, businesses must evolve with the types of resources they are providing their employees. With the right training and digital tools, companies can set them up for success.

The first step is to provide employees with the knowledge they need—right at their fingertips. In the age of IoT, giving the workforce access to the right information when, where, and how it’s needed will be paramount to the entire operation’s success. Businesses are using innovative digital tools to make sure information is readily available and easily accessible. With online portals, personnel will have access to product information, training, and technical support tools designed to make the information-gathering process easier so they can get back to their jobs more quickly. Through a combination of apprentice libraries, videos, interactive technical support, training materials and up-to-date information on the latest codes and standards, the workforce will be equipped with all of the information needed to generate informed operational decisions.

In addition, design and/or implement the right types of programs to train and develop your workforce. For businesses with an eye on IoT, training programs should be deployed to keep employees on their game. It’s important that new employees be trained to leverage tools to help them interpret data. An emphasis should also be placed on providing existing employees with training on new technologies to ensure they are able to complete their jobs with the efficiency needed to keep up with IoT technology.

Finally, incorporate safety into ongoing training. When a job involves electrical equipment, it’s imperative that safety be part of the ongoing discussion. Safe electrical practices, such as how to approach a tripped circuit breaker and how to mitigate arc-flash hazards, can be the difference between a near-miss incident and harmful electrical accident. Emergency response and CPR training are also extremely relevant and important for plant and facility operations employees. OSHA and other regulatory agencies require emergency-response training for specific occupations every one to
two years.

98

4:47 pm
May 15, 2017
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Beware Self-Inflicted Reliability Problems

modern manufacturing industry and mechanization concept, abstrac

Think of this expert advice as a reality check for your operations and take action accordingly.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

The root cause of poor reliability can come from many sources, including aging plant assets, poor design decisions, even disregard for reliability by those who built and/or installed the equipment. Then, there are the many other reasons outside of your control that could be contributing to the reliability problems your site is experiencing today. While any reliability-improvement initiative will require that all of those issues be addressed, according to Jason Tranter of Mobius Institute (mobiusinstitute.com, Bainbridge Island, WA), operations must first deal with those of the “self-inflicted” variety.

Don’t think you have self-inflicted reliability problems? Tranter begs to differ. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but yes, you do,” he said. “That’s good news, though, since it is much easier to deal with the self-inflicted root causes than the inherent reliability problems you adopted.”

What does Tranter mean by self-inflicted? To determine why equipment fails prematurely and/or why you experience slowdowns, safety incidences, or quality problems, he explained that personnel could go through a detailed reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) analysis process, or perform root-cause failure analysis (RCFA) after each failure occurs. “Better yet”, he said, “they can learn from the experience gained at thousands of plants around the world and consider some of the most common root causes of equipment failure.”

Focusing on rotating equipment, Tranter outlined those types of problems as follows, starting with the most obvious and working backward to their root causes.

#3. Cause of Reliability Problems: Imperfect operating and maintenance practices

Most of the equipment in a plant or facility, i.e. motors, pumps, fans, compressors, and turbines, is designed to run for many, many years without unplanned downtime. While those types of assets may incorporate some components that wear out, many items, such as bearings and gears, are designed to provide years of trouble-free operation. This, however, assumes that all of the parts were installed correctly, the components are precision aligned, the bearings and gears are correctly lubricated, all fasteners are tightened to the correct torque, there is no resonance, belts are tightened to the correct tension, and the rotors are precision balanced.

It also assumes that the equipment is operated as designed. Pumps, for example, should be operated at their best efficiency points (BEPs). “If you are unsure these types of situations are occurring,” Tranter cautioned, “then they almost certainly are.” He pointed to several areas where seemingly minor issues could be causing serious problems:

1705fvibration2

Just 5/60th of a degree of angular misalignment can cut bearing life in half. (Reference: Harris, Tedric A., A Rolling Bearing Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1984.)

Shaft alignment. When two shafts are “collinear” (no angle or offset between their centerlines) it reduces stress on the bearings, couplings, shafts, and the rest of the machine components. Research has revealed that just 5/60th of a degree of angular misalignment can cut bearing life in half (see Fig. 1).

If you use laser alignment with appropriate tolerances, and you remove soft foot, then this will not be a source of poor reliability. By the way, just because your vibration analyst does not detect misalignment does not mean that your machines are precision aligned.

The life of a bearing is inversely proportional to the cube of the load.

The life of a bearing is inversely proportional to the cube of the load.

Balancing. When you balance to ISO 1940 grade G 1.0, the cyclical forces on the bearings, shaft, and structure are minimized and you gain reliability. If you do not have a balancing standard, then unbalance will be a root cause of failure. If you wait until the unbalance generates “high” vibration, then you will have reduced the life of the equipment and supporting structure. That’s because the life of a bearing is inversely proportional to the cube of the load (see Fig. 2). Tranter noted that, while this calculation sounds very complicated, it basically means that if you double the load, a bearing’s life will be reduced to an eighth (23).

Tiny 3-µm particles cause more damage than 40-µm and 10-µm particles (Reference: A Study by Dr. P. B. McPherson)

Tiny 3-µm particles cause more damage than 40-µm and 10-µm particles (Reference: A Study by Dr. P. B. McPherson)

Lubrication. When you correctly lubricate bearings and gears, whether with grease or oil, and that lubricant is free of contaminants, you will achieve maximum life. But if bearings are not adequately greased, their life will be reduced. If the oil is contaminated, the viscosity is incorrect, or additives are depleted, then the life of gears and bearings will be greatly reduced.

Research was performed to determine which particles caused the greatest damage. It wasn’t the 40-µm particles or the 10-µm particles, it was the tiny 3-µm particles (see Fig. 3).

By the time you can see water in oil, the life of the bearing has been halved.

By the time you can see water in oil, the life of the bearing has been halved.

According to Tranter, personnel may think that if they can’t see water in oil then the oil must be fine. Sadly, that is not correct (see Fig. 4). By the time water can be seen in the oil, the life of the bearing has been halved. “We could continue the discussion,” he said, “but suffice it to say that there is a great deal we can do to avoid problems that arise due to imperfect maintenance and operating practices.”

#2. Cause of Reliability Problems: Desire and organizational culture

It’s one thing to understand all of the above root causes. “It’s another,” Tranter observed, “to obtain approval to establish standards and purchase all of the tools, such as laser-alignment systems, that enable technicians and operators to do their jobs correctly. But owning the tools and having standard operating procedures won’t solve the problem.” As he put it, the problem will only be solved when technicians and operators want to use those tools properly and are given the time and encouragement to do so.

Thus, the issue of “desire” and its link to organizational culture must be considered as a root cause of self-inflicted reliability problems and addressed accordingly.

#1. Cause of Reliability Problems: Inadequate management support

Tranter believes a strong case could be made that the root cause of all failures derives from lack of senior-management support for a culture of reliability. Without their support it will be impossible to change the culture and thus change behavior.

“Think about initiatives to improve safety at your plant,” he said. “If senior management didn’t support them, would those initiatives have been successful? Senior-management support leads to people being employed in safety roles, investment in training and tools, and posting of signage that provides warning and feedback on progress, among other things. It also keeps sites from cutting corners that would risk safety, and it makes it clear how important safety is to the future of the organization.”

According to Tranter, the type of management support that drives safety at a site needs to be leveraged to drive reliability improvement. “Everyone within the organization,” he said, “needs to understand that reliability is critically important to the organization and that senior management will stand strong when shortcuts that compromise reliability are available.” Without adequate senior management support, he concluded, meaningful culture change won’t occur, and reliability-improvement initiatives won’t be able to eliminate self-inflicted root causes of problems. MT

Jason Tranter, BE (Hons), CMRP, VA-IV is CEO and founder of Mobius Institute (Balnarring, Victoria, Australia, and Bainbridge Island, WA). For more information on this topic and other reliability issues, including vibration monitoring and training and certification of vibration analysts, contact him at jason@mobiusinstitute.com, or visit mobiusinstitute.com.

Where Does Condition Monitoring Fit?

By Jason Tranter, Mobius Institute

Condition monitoring plays several crucial roles in the battle against self-inflicted reliability problems. For example, providing an early warning of impending problems minimizes the impact of premature failure, and detecting and eliminating the root causes ensures that we achieve the greatest life and value from our precious assets.

Many plant personnel, however, believe that if they have a condition-monitoring program in place, equipment reliability will be optimized. That, unfortunately, is not true.

Most detected faults are avoidable. While it is important to get an early warning, it is much more important to avoid the problem in the first place. Condition monitoring can help by detecting the root causes of failure, including misalignment, unbalance, lubrication issues, and looseness, among others. If those problems are cost-effectively nipped in the bud, then we avoid future failures.

Another way condition monitoring plays a role in plants is in acceptance testing. As part of the purchase agreement, condition-monitoring specialists can perform tests to ensure the new or overhauled equipment is “fit for purpose.”

You may be surprised at how many problems you actually bring into your plant.

114

2:55 pm
April 18, 2017
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On The Floor: Management Rapport? Thumbs Up and Down

Mechanical and electrical plant roomsBy Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

For some reason, the following question about management rapport really kicked MT Reader Panelists into high gear this month. Lots of them (more than usual) wanted to express their opinions (some in far more detail than they typically provide). The result is that we can’t include all responses on these two pages. 

Q: What was the state of rapport between their sites’ plant-floor reliability and/or maintenance teams (or their clients’/customers’ teams) and upper management, and why?

Here are a few of the responses we received. As usual, they’ve been edited for clarity and brevity.

Industry Consultant, West…
Management rapport [with maintenance and reliability teams] is one of the main indicators I use when working at a new [client] site. If there’s tension between these departments, there will be communication breakdowns—virtually every time.  Performance will suffer greatly, and each group will blame the others.

In general, I find a good, strong, open, and honest working relationship in less than 30% of my clients’ operations.  If I can resolve issues between the groups, and improve relationships, the parts of the maintenance and reliability puzzle fall into place rather easily. In the age of e-mail, texting, and voicemail, however, it’s much easier for silos to exist and not handle issues face-to-face.  In my opinion, it seems to be getting easier to let site relationships erode rather than repair them.

Maintenance Technician, Discrete Mfg, North America…
Not the greatest here (always a struggle because upper management is constantly looking to cut corners). They call it risk management, yet when something goes wrong, they panic. Some of our older equipment has been paid for many times over. Now, though, we’re into a stage where it’s hard to get parts for this equipment. We [our team] really tries to stress the importance of preventive maintenance (PMs) and taking care of things, as in “if you take care of your stuff, your stuff will take care of you.” But it becomes frustrating when that idea seems to fall on deaf ears and they [management] seem to dodge another bullet. (This opinion is based on personal experience; I’ve been working in this plant for many years.)

Industry Supplier, Southeast…
With regard to my customers, management rapport, in most cases, is still not very good. I work with a lot of plants where plant-floor staff need help, but must get upper management to buy in. Most preventive-maintenance (PM) personnel don’t have the knowledge to make their case. When I’m able to meet with both sides at the table and pitch ROI (return on investment), it seems that they begin to understand each other better, i.e., that the ROI for Management is dollars and the ROI of PM teams is reduced failures and workload.

Reliability Specialist, Power Sector, Midwest…
Our team has an excellent rapport with all levels of the organization.  The secret to good rapport is to not only talk the talk, but to walk the talk. The site’s PdM/PM program mission is to use our knowledge and appropriate technologies on the facility’s assets to provide the operating group safe, efficient, and reliable equipment.  In the same manner, we are to use our knowledge and available technologies to safely and effectively reduce the facility’s operating and maintenance costs.

Industry Supplier, Midwest…
It’s ugly (management rapport, that is)! Many of my plant-floor customers have lost budgets and been reduced to performing reactive work, as opposed to proactive maintenance. They’re dealing with plants that are already in bad shape and disrepair, and answering to management that still wants to run full production. They have no inventories, no spares, and no orders for items with extremely long lead times. It’s not a pretty picture. One ray of hope [a slight improvement] is that site management is now being forced to go to corporate for monies and also discuss why equipment was allowed to go so long without repair. The overall situation, though, leads to pain and agony for those having to do work, that, if it had been done when needed, would have been a simple fix, not a catastrophic fix.  

Industry Consultant, North America…
There’s no guarantee that upper management has a solid understanding of reliability excellence. This is especially true if no executive-level stakeholder exists. Quite often, the focus from the top is solely on cost management (not on failure prevention or defect elimination.) In my experience as a consultant, a common complaint at the working level has focused on incoherent, ongoing initiatives that aren’t solidly linked to goals. This issue could be resolved if long-range plans were created based, say, on ranking of each initiative by priority and benefit and then stretching them out over a period of time. Leadership should encourage these types of plans for excellence, and involve plant personnel in their definition.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…
As noted in some of my past Reader Panel responses, maintenance used to be the redheaded stepchild at our facility. The problem started with the fact that plant managers and senior managers seemed to come and go [change] frequently. Because of this, “flavor of the month” programs were the norm. This changed with the arrival of an outside consulting firm. When upper management listened to suggestions and our plant-floor personnel saw that their ideas were listened to, maintenance took ownership. This made a big difference with proactive versus reactive work. We’re now getting our preventive maintenance work done as well. Things are looking good.

Reliability Engineering Leader, Process Mfg, South…
If I had been asked this question a couple of years ago, I would have characterized the relationship between management and plant-floor teams as indifferent. It wasn’t adversarial, but more a matter of management viewing maintenance as a necessary evil than a competitive advantage.  That has changed significantly. Last year, leadership announced PM Completion Rate (with a target of 95%) as one of the top metrics for the company. That was a real game changer. Suddenly, everybody was interested in preventive maintenance—it had become part of their personal-performance expectations. Respect for the importance of scheduled maintenance compliance made a dramatic shift, and we exceeded our PM-completion target.  This coming year, unscheduled asset downtime is being added to the top company metrics and will be reviewed on a monthly basis by executive management. This is a clear example of how leadership from the top can really drive change. 

Industry Consultant, International
In answer to your question, this situation [management rapport problems] is brought on by local company politics, lack of training, and basic mismanagement among, other things.

While I’ve worked with various clients, including some where severe adversarial relationships existed between Maintenance and Production/ Upper Management, by coaching ALL responsible parties that state of the art reliability and maintenance saves money, increases OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), improves uptime, and increases productivity, etc. I have convinced maintenance and top management that maintenance/reliability is a business partner NOT a “ we break it/you fix it” stepchild.

After training of top-level maintenance, production and sometimes even general management personnel by professionals in reliability and maintenance management, common goals are identified and cooperation is much improved. Accountants watch the bottom line weighing these additional consultant/training costs against expense reductions and production improvements. Results are that teamwork builds and floor-operations to staff-level relationships smooth out.

“Equipment Ownership,” in selected cases, brings hourly production and maintenance crafts together and reinforces the hourly–personnel through management relationship. Although this has, at times raised, the eyebrows of union officers, they usually go along when the benefits to all are obvious.

Yes, I have seen too many operations where maintenance and production departments, which usually have the ear of top management, DO NOT have a smooth relationship. However, with the proper training and education of all concerned, this can usually be much improve to the economic and management benefit of all.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest
With regard to management rapport, for several months, maintenance (trades) forepersons at our institution have had to attend not only new-construction meetings, but even small-project meetings. The idea is that we (Maintenance) can add our concerns before, during, and after projects are completed. The problem with all this is how much time it takes. With so many projects and associated meetings [at our site] and the number of normal maintenance-type meetings we have, we almost always have at least one supervisor sitting in meetings 30 to 40 hours per week. Work for anybody attending these meetings gets pushed back and can delay repairs. It also creates more work for the people not attending.

Another problem we have is that only the person attending the meeting knows what was discussed and/or is coming up. Consequently, that individual has knowledge that other supervisors don’t. The system would work a lot better if one person could attend all the meetings and email a recap of each event so every supervisor would know where each project stands and what’s coming up, whether in his or her area/zone or not.

While most meetings cover such a wide variety of subjects that only 10% to 20% of their agendas can be devoted to individual trades, attendees must listen to everything. It would be better, if you were going to have a one-hour meeting, to break it down into four parts, i.e., plumbing, electrical, mechanical, architectural/structural. This way, a supervisor could attend only the part of the meeting during which his or her area was discussed, not the entire meeting, and, if email recaps were sent out, could still keep up with everything that transpires.

Engineer, Industry Supplier, Southeast
Management’s responsibilities are meeting production deadlines and goals while keeping operating costs to a minimum. The relationship between management and maintenance depends on how management views their maintenance program. Some management personnel look at maintenance as a cost center while others recognize it as a cost savings mechanism or in best case, the profit center. Understanding that maintenance is a part of the cost of the product being created softens the financial burden but also gives management a better perspective regarding the value their maintenance teams bring to the table.

Ours is an equipment-service operation that’s deeply involved in working with our customers to improve their PdM programs. As such we continue to invest a great deal of time educating upper management regarding the benefits of early detection of issues that will lead to premature failures as well as on-going inefficiencies. The more informed management becomes about heading off potential problems, and the tools and preventive measures available, the more they become involved with their maintenance teams. Informed managers will interact with their teams quicker and to a greater extent. Sometimes comparing the benefits of outsourcing major PdM activities is more appealing and acceptable to management personnel as it leaves their operators and technicians time to complete their daily routine assignments.

Maintenance personnel generally understand the need for planned routine maintenance. Their relationship with upper management is greatly improved when their leaders are also informed. Education is the key to improving the relationship between upper management and their maintenance teams as well as a way of improving efficiency and operational success of the facility. MT

Tip of the Month

“Add RED and GREEN colors to the face of standard pressure gauges. This allows anyone who looks at or takes readings on a single gauge (or dozens) to tell right away if a pressure is too low or too high. I’ve worked on equipment and in test labs where this little addition could have saved a lot of time and money, and helped any operator.”

Tipster: Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest (an MT Reader Panelist)

What about you?
Tips and tricks that you use in your work could be value-added news to other reliability and maintenance pros. Let us help you share them. Email your favorites to MTTipster@maintenancetechnology.com. Who knows? You might see your submission(s) highlighted in this space at some point. (Anyone can play. You don’t need to be an
MT Reader Panelist.)

182

8:01 pm
April 13, 2017
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Listen Up: Stop Lube-Related Bearing Failures

Ultrasound technology can help reduce bearing and equipment failures associated with improper lubrication procedures.

Ultrasound technology can help reduce bearing and equipment failures associated with improper lubrication procedures.

Regardless of industry sector, lubrication methods are crucial to plant reliability and maintenance efforts. Consider the fact that lube-related failures account for 60% to 80% of premature bearing failures. While lack of lubrication and use of the wrong lubricant for an application have been cited as major causes of such failures, over- and under-lubrication are also harmful. Preventing those last two scenarios is one area where ultrasound technology can play an important role.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

According to UE Systems (Elmsford, NY), by using an ultrasound instrument to listen to a bearing while applying lubricant and then monitor, i.e., watch, the decibel level, a technician can determine when adequate grease has been applied and, just as important, the threshold at which over-lubrication begins.

In short, when bearings aren’t lubricated properly, friction can cause damage and threaten processes. Ultrasound equipment can read the decibel levels of over- and under-lubricated bearings and indicate to maintenance personnel if adjustments are in order. Consistent dB levels let a technician know that the level of lubrication is where it should be.

Experts at UE Systems describe three tiers of acceptable lubrication practices and where ultrasound technology fits into them.

randmGood practice

The baseline lubrication practice is to follow the bearing manufacturer’s recommendations to determine the exact amount of lubrication necessary based on bearing size, speed, and type, and rely on runtime and operating conditions to develop a lubrication schedule. While “good” is a starting place, there is room to improve.

Better practice

The next level uses ultrasound equipment for more exact lubrication procedures. These tools tell maintenance technicians when to stop lubricating a bearing, rather than hoping the schedule is accurate and guessing at bearing condition. Ultrasound can also inform technicians if there are other problems with the bearing, unrelated to lubrication.

Best practice

A best lubrication practice is to combine a frequency schedule and ultrasound tools with data collection and trend analysis. By examining the history of lubrication with dB levels and other sound files, maintenance technicians can begin to predict when bearings may be approaching failure and take preemptive action. Alarm levels can be set to alert technicians when lubrication is approaching dangerously low levels.

The best ultrasound programs allow easy integration of data analysis with probes, listening devices, and lubrication tools. MT

How Ultrasound Technology Works

Air- and structure-borne ultrasound is high-frequency sound that human ears can’t hear. These high-frequency sounds travel through the air or by way of a solid. The ultrasound instrument senses and listens for the high-frequency sound, and then translates it into an audible sound that is heard through the inspector’s headset. The unit of measurement for sound is a decibel (dB) level, which is indicated on the display of the ultrasonic instrument.

Ultrasound can be used in conjunction with (and is supportive of) vibration analysis and other predictive-maintenance approaches. In addition to mechanical inspections of rotating equipment and associated condition-based lubrication programs, applications for ultrasound include detection of compressed air and gas leaks; inspection of energized electrical equipment to detect corona, tracking, and arcing; and inspection of steam traps.

For more ultrasound information and to download a printable infographic on “3 Ways to Incorporate Ultrasound in Lubrication Testing,” visit uesystems.com.

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