Author Archive | Jane Alexander


1:12 am
January 18, 2017
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IDCON Grows Latin American Footprint with New Alliance Partner

Christer Idhammar, founder of IDCON INC., discusses his company's approach to maintenance maintenance productivity.

Christer Idhammar, founder of IDCON Inc., presents on his company’s approach to enhancing maintenance productivity.

IDCON Inc. (Raleigh, NC) has entered into a Latin American Alliance with the Cumbria Management and Projects group (Santiago, Chile). Terms of the agreement call for the two organizations to use IDCON’s philosophy, methodology, and documentation in providing professional services and training in the areas of reliability, maintenance, and asset management, for industrial clients across South America.

The newly established Latin American Alliance between IDCON and Cumbria will include Chile, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Guyana, Venezuela, Suriname, and French Guyana.

Screen Shot 2017-01-17 at 6.35.03 PMIDCON, which already has strategic alliances in Canada, Europe, Russia, Asia, and Australia to service its clients, provides management consulting in all sectors of the processing and manufacturing industries to reduce the overall cost of production through improved maintenance work management. All of these services are based on IDCON’s “Results Oriented Reliability and Maintenance (RORM)” approach that the company has developed over the years, through extensive project experience.

Screen Shot 2017-01-17 at 6.26.21 PMCumbria is in the business of providing professional services in Business Management, Project Management, Change Management, Organizational Development and Continuous Improvement Processes. Cumbria’s IDCON Alliance Brand names include “Cumbria an IDCON Alliance Partner” and/or “Cumbria e IDCON Avocados.”


9:40 pm
January 13, 2017
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Properly Align Variable-, Fixed-Pitch Sheaves

Aligning sheaves on equipment with multiple V-belts is more complex than aligning them on machines designed with single belts.

Aligning sheaves on equipment with multiple V-belts is more complex than aligning them on machines designed with single belts.

Variable-pitch sheaves are frequently used in air handlers. According to a blog post by Stan Riddle of VibrAlign (Richmond, VA,, they allow design engineers to increase or decrease the speed of the driven machine and, thus, provide:

• changes in motor amp draw to maximize efficiency

• increased or decreased static pressure and air flow.

Normally, a design engineer will specify the use of a variable-pitch sheave on the driver and a fixed-pitch sheave on the driven machine.

Performed on a single-belt machine, proper sheave alignment is simple, if a good sheave-alignment tool is used. When multiple belts are used, as they often are, proper sheave alignment can become more complex. A variable-pitch sheave can be adjusted to increase/decrease the sheave diameter. However, doing so also changes the sheave width, depending on the adjustment.

In his post, Riddle referred to a customer who was attempting to perform a sheave alignment on an air handler. The unit’s motor had a variable-pitch sheave, but the fan sheave was fixed. The customer stated that he could align one belt, but not the other.

As Riddle described it, the customer was struggling because the width of the fixed-diameter sheave was 1 5/8 in., but the width of the variable-pitch sheave was 2 3/8 in. Consequently, only one set of grooves could be aligned, meaning the other was out of alignment.

The key to properly aligning a variable-pitch sheave to a fixed-pitch sheave on equipment with multiple V-belts is to split the difference between the diameter widths of the two sheaves. In this example, splitting the difference between sheave-diameter widths of 2 3/8 in. and 1 5/8 in. would result in a 3/8-in. offset at each groove.

The key to properly aligning a variable-pitch sheave to a fixed-pitch sheave on equipment with multiple V-belts is to split the difference between the diameter widths of the two sheaves. In this example, splitting the difference between sheave-diameter widths of 2 3/8 in. and 1 5/8 in. would result in a 3/8-in. offset at each groove.

The solution

Riddle wrote that the solution to the customer’s problem was simply to split the difference between the width of the two sheave diameters, as shown in the following equation:

2 3/8 in. – 1 5/8 in. = 3/4 in. ÷ 2 = 3/8 in. offset on each groove

randmRiddle also noted that it’s important to keep in mind this approach will probably not align the components sufficiently to eliminate sheave and belt wear. In fact, such wear can’t be eliminated. Still, when it comes to aligning multiple V-belts on an equipment system, splitting the difference between the diameter width of a variable-pitch sheave and that of a fixed-pitch sheave to which it is aligned will make the belts wear evenly.

Variable-pitch sheaves are normally used to balance a system and achieve proper static pressure and speed. When that’s determined, according to Riddle, the variable-pitch sheave should be replaced with a fixed-pitch sheave of the proper diameter to match the desired speed and pressure. Once both sheaves are fixed-pitch, proper alignment can be achieved. MT

—Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Stan Riddle, a technical trainer for VibraAlign, has spent more than 36 years aligning industrial machinery. For more information from him and other technical experts with the company, visit


9:30 pm
January 13, 2017
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On The Floor: 2016 Regrets, 2017 Hopes

This month, the MT reader panelists share their 2016 regrets and the plans they have for 2017 success.

This month, the MT reader panelists share their 2016 regrets and the plans they have for 2017 success.

It’s that time again, when most of us make an effort to seriously consider what we didn’t get done in the past year and what we’re bound and determined to get done in the new one.  That also includes mulling over regrets and hopes in our work lives—which is what we wanted our MT Panelists to do this month. We asked them two questions:

• What were their (or their clients’/customers’) biggest work-related regrets of 2016 and why?

• What were their (or their clients’/customers’) greatest work-related hopes for 2017 and why?

Here, edited for brevity and clarity, are the responses we received.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

REGRETS: A major project that began in 2015 was halted with less than half of the work done, causing many problems in the first few months of 2016. The project was restarted, then stopped again before completion, leading to problems in the entire building as a result of cold, rainy, and hot weather conditions.

Most of our key problems stem from [issues with] the state budget. As a result, training is only done in house, with employees as instructors, and parts are ordered only as needed. We try our best to make repairs and perform maintenance with what we have on hand. Although we’ve been under a hiring freeze for more than a year, we still lose employees, making us even more shorthanded.

HOPES: Fixing the state budget would, hopefully, start getting us back to normal, but that could take years. Other hopes for 2017 include solving problems we’ve put on hold due to lack of funds; making upgrades so we can operate better if something goes wrong with the budget again; getting breakdown maintenance back to a more preventive type; entering all of our main equipment into a computerized management system; and having trend logs to help monitor problems and reduce energy use campus wide.

We’re also hoping our past problems will help management understand the importance of only starting totally funded projects and that dividing large projects into two or three phases could keep from leaving a building at risk. This approach alone would have saved all the money we spent on damage done by completing only part of a project.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Mfg., Midwest…

REGRETS: I really can’t think of any regrets. The main reason being that, despite having struggled with our PMs in the past, our preventive maintenance and reliability projects are showing improvements. The numbers associated with proactive versus reactive work are starting to flip flop (definitely trending in the right direction). The team bought into a new that approach management offered and finally took ownership.

Our maintenance team has been together for a couple years and members work well with each other and are sharing knowledge. Training has also been occurring more than in the past.

HOPES: My hope for 2017 is to keep the system that we now have in place. It’s working well and showing improvements.

Industry Consultant, West…

REGRETS: Among my clients, the biggest regret seems to be PM/PdM (preventive/predictive-maintenance) compliance: not doing what they planned to do to prevent breakdowns. Measuring and publicizing the shortcomings have not corrected the issue. The PMs/PdMs have not been elevated enough on the radar to make them a priority.  Frequently, the Root Cause Analysis of repeat failures points back to incomplete or ignored preventive maintenance.

HOPES: My largest client is hopeful about a maintenance-worker-effectiveness study that it’s undertaking to help understand why productivity is dropping year after year. Although the organization has increased training and invested in maintenance employees, the returns haven’t been realized.

Technical Supervisor, Public Utility, West…

REGRETS: No real regrets. Staff training was very successful for 2016, and there were no issues with any other CBM (condition-based maintenance] projects. We filled a vacancy and purchased new handheld vibration equipment. We’re also in the process of upgrading our main GSU transformer partial-discharge, bushing-monitoring system with new acoustic monitors.

HOPES: [We hope to] continue technical and operations training for new staff. Changing dynamics in our state’s power industry, due to the ongoing addition of residential-, commercial- and utility-grade renewable-energy (wind and solar) projects, is depressing prices paid for power generation.

Being able to ramp up and down to back up the renewables is quite valuable. The depressed pricing is making gas-fired-combustion turbine plants un-cost-effective.

Maintenance & Reliability Specialist,
Engineering Services, South…

REGRETS: We had more to be grateful for than we had regrets, but we did need training on an upgrade to one of our software programs that we weren’t able to obtain. This means we will be behind the learning curve when the new upgrade is implemented, which, of course, means it will take us longer to get the most out of the software.

HOPES: One of our biggest hopes for 2017 is the potential to share our on-line CBM (condition-based-monitoring) program with other groups across the enterprise. We want to leverage our enterprise-level packages and lessons learned with several other groups in an effort to cost share and allow consistency across the core.

Industry Consultant, Northeast…

REGRETS: With regard to my clients, one of my biggest 2016 regrets was the same as the year before. Specifically, I’ve been working with a medium-sized company that has slowly been going downhill. It’s basically selling a commodity item and, since I don’t work with the sales side of the organization, I can’t comment on that aspect of its operations.

What I do see, however, is the manufacturing side of the organization, where, regrettably, capital expenditures and skilled personnel are continuing to be cut under the direction of a president who is a great cheerleader, but never seems to get out of his office.   

HOPES: I’m quite hopeful, though, for another client: a successful manufacturing organization, about the same size as the first, where the president actually has an office on the manufacturing floor. This business is growing, partly because of an aggressive sales organization that, like my other client, is selling a commodity item, but also because the company has been able to separate itself from the pack by emphasizing quality at a competitive cost. Trying to keep that momentum going, this client has recently been working on a product-reliability improvement program involving just about everyone in the plant, including engineering, customer relations, the production group leaders, etc.

Sr. Facilities Engineer, Discrete Mfg., Southeast…

REGRETS: My biggest disappointment of 2016 is the lack of initiative toward new projects of products.  Status quo will get us nowhere.

HOPES: My biggest hope for the coming year is for success in our TPM initiatives and a successful migration into our new CMMS system.  Both are going to take a lot of cooperation from multiple groups.

The impact of politics

It’s worth noting that only one Panelist pointed to the possible impact that the recent election could have had on regrets and hopes of reliability and maintenance professionals. An industry supplier from the Midwest, he suggested that the development of many 2017 plant budgets might have been put off until the results were in. 

“There’s a ‘buzz’ in the air,” he wrote, “as people are optimistic about 2017 and beyond, right now, but waiting for the presidential switch. Many plants that were idled are coming online, and we’re seeing monies being spent to bring equipment back from [the effects of] lackluster maintenance budgeting or operations that were being run by spreadsheets and not by reliability requirements.”

“Seems like a positive movement,” he opined, “but time will tell once we see January hit.” As he explained, he’s not seen a lot of changes or new implementations of late, “but more just trying to take equipment in dire need of upgrades or maintenance and finally allocating funds for those repairs.” MT

(EDITOR’s NOTE: This post is a slightly  expanded version of the Dec. 2016 print version of “On the Floor.”)

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.


9:20 pm
January 13, 2017
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Choose to Fuse (And Why)

Designed as sacrificial devices in electrical systems, fuses protect costlier components in those systems from the damaging effects of overcurrent. They can also make control systems UL- and NEC-compliant.

Designed as sacrificial devices in electrical systems, fuses protect costlier components in those systems from the damaging effects of overcurrent. They can also make control systems UL- and NEC-compliant.

Fuses are sacrificial devices that help protect costlier components in an electrical system from the damaging effects of overcurrent. (They can also help make control systems UL- and NEC-compliant.) To be sure, there are many other solutions for protecting electrical gear from overcurrent, including circuit breakers and protective relays. Information from Cumming, GA-based AutomationDirect (, though, lists 10 reasons why end users also should consider fusing.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Overcurrent protective devices that have tripped are often reset without first investigating the cause of the fault. Electromechanical devices may not have the reserve capacity to open safely when a second or third fault occurs. When a fuse opens, it’s replaced with a new fuse, meaning the protection level is not degraded by previous faults.

Fuses typically are the most cost-effective means of providing overcurrent protection. This is especially true where high fault currents exist or where small components, such as control transformers or DC power supplies, need protection.

randmHigh interrupting rating
With most low-voltage current-limiting fuses (< 600 V) having a 200,000-A interrupting rating, users are not paying a high premium for a high-interrupting capacity.

Fuses have no moving parts to wear out or become contaminated by dust or oil.

North American standards
Tri-National Standards specify fuse performance and the maximum allowable fuse Ip and I²t let-through values. Peak let-through current (Ip) and I²t are two measures of the degree of current limitation that is provided by a fuse.

Component protection
The high current-limiting action of a fuse minimizes or eliminates component damage.

Extended protection
Overcurrent-protective devices, with low-interrupting ratings, are often rendered obsolete by service upgrades or increases in available fault current. Updated NEC and UL standards are fueling the need to install potentially expensive system upgrades to non-fused systems.

Fuses can be easily coordinated to provide selectivity under overload and short-circuit conditions.

Minimal maintenance
Fuses do not require periodic recalibration. That is not the case with some electromechanical overcurrent-protective devices.

Long life
As a fuse ages, the speed of response will not slow down or change. A fuse’s ability to provide protection will not be adversely affected by the passage of time. MT

Fuses 101

Fuses consist of a low-resistance metal or wire that is used to close a circuit. When too much current flows through the low-resistance element of the fuse, the element melts and breaks the circuit. This keeps the excessive current from continuing down the circuit to more expensive equipment.

For more information on a range of automation-related topics and solutions, including current-limiting fuses that meet UL and NEC codes, visit or


9:14 pm
January 13, 2017
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My Take: The Case for Change


By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

How did you spend the past holiday season? I took some time to read and ponder a recent series of related articles and posts about the impact of automation on the human workforce by Claire Cain Miller, in “The Upshot” section of The New York Times. But that material was just the tip of an iceberg.

I also read most of the reader comments associated with those articles and posts, including (as of Tuesday, Jan. 3), the 550 regarding Miller’s feature published on Dec. 21, 2016. Titled “The Long-Term Jobs Killer is Not China. It’s Automation,” the piece seemed to have touched a lot of nerves. In it, among other things, the writer described the situations of two individuals, who, after losing their jobs to automation, have been unable to find new work in industry.

To her credit, the woman Miller quoted (who had actually lost two jobs as a result of automation) eventually enrolled in a computer class at Goodwill to improve her job prospects. For some reason, her strategy didn’t work. As she explained, “The 20- and 30-year-olds are more up to date on that stuff than we are because we didn’t have that when we were growing up.” She’s now on disability and living in a housing project.

The gentleman that Miller referenced, a former supervisor at an aluminum-extrusion operation (for a decade), lost his job to a robot about five years ago. Since then, he’s been scraping by with odd jobs. Unfortunately, as the article noted, despite the fact that many new factory jobs require technical skills, this person doesn’t own a computer and doesn’t want to.

These stories with their element of hopelessness and giving up touched my heart — greatly. Been there. Done that. Or, at least, fell into a similar, uncomfortable hole, from which I had to dig myself out. Twice. Thus, I line up with “Oscar,” another reader of Miller’s job-killer article, who posted the following comment: “The world changes. You change with it or get left behind. This has been true since long before we had robots and computers to worry about.”

Automation is changing the world and we should be prepared to change, too.

Automation is changing the world and we should be prepared to change, too.

Which gets me to thinking about something else I did during the holidays: I spent time on ordering copies of the book Frugal Innovation, by Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhus (2016, Economist Books, London), for several of my loved ones (old and not so old). I hope it gets them thinking as well — outside the box and elsewhere.

This 2016 CIM Management Book of the Year is full of insight, backed by case studies from developing countries on how, when resources are limited, businesses and individuals can turn adversity into success by tapping into the most abundant of all resources: human ingenuity. (In his Ted Talk on creative problem solving in the face of extreme limits, author Navi Radjou likens this ability to alchemy, i.e., turning something of little or no value into something of great value. And what’s not to like about that?)

Congratulations if you’ve received or read this book and/or if your own organization is already leveraging the management technique of frugal innovation (or “jugaad,” the Hindi term for an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness). To paraphrase “Oscar,” the commenter on the previously referenced article from The New York Times, the world changes. We can change with it or be left behind.

I look forward to hearing about the experiences (make that successes) of all you never-give-up alchemists out there. MT


9:54 pm
January 10, 2017
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HYTORC Adds Battery-Powered ‘LION GUN’ to Bolting-System Lineup

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-2-28-00-pmHYTORC (Mahwah, NJ) has announced the addition of the LION-.25 lithium-ion battery-powered torque gun to its lineup of industrial-bolting solutions. Also referred to as the “LION Gun,” the newly released tool is said to be first-ever consumer product from the company. Lightweight (7 lbs. with battery) and portable (with no attachments to hoses, cords, or compressors), it incorporates technology that keeps the unit free of loud noise and high vibrations that can lead to long-term health issues for users.

How It Works
Characterized by the manufacturer as ”the world’s first affordable precision-bolting system with built-in data recording.” the 18-volt, 4.1 ampere-hour  LION Gun is designed for applications with bolt diameters of 3/8 in. to 3/4 in. and the need for 25 to 250 foot/pounds (ft/lbs) of torque.

  • The user simply sets the desired torque output on the tool’s display and pulls the trigger to obtain fast, precise, repeatable torque without excessive noise or vibration.
  • The rotation angle can also be programmed for simple torque and angle bolting.
  • After tightening, the tool automatically releases for fast movement from nut to nut.

Once a bolting application is complete, the LION Gun can be connected to a PC or tablet to export the recorded data into an Excel-friendly format for reporting, storage, or additional analysis.

HYTORC notes that its LION Gun, for which there are hundreds of available accessories, is well suited for use in the aerospace, agriculture, aviation, marine, military, railroad, transportation maintenance, turbine, and utilities sectors.

For more information on the LION-.25 lithium-battery-powered torque gun (AKA “LION Gun”), CLICK HERE.


4:34 pm
January 10, 2017
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Fluke Introduces Online Motor and Drive Troubleshooting Course

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-10-16-13-amFluke Corp. (Everett, WA) has announced the availability of an online Motor and Drive Troubleshooting Course. Developed, like other Fluke training offerings, by the company’s subject matter experts, this learning option is designed for maintenance professionals who have a working understanding of motor-drive systems. The goal is to help participants gain practical diagnostic skills needed to better understand motor/drive system health and improve equipment reliability, including, specifically:

  • How to improve motor/drive inspection and diagnostic skills for quick repairs
  • How to evaluate component failure, installation issues, and deeper system-level issues
  • How to identify the root cause of failures

The Fluke Motor and Drive Troubleshooting Course is divided into three modules that can be taken separately or as a package. They include:

  • Module 1: How to assess erratic problems in motor-drive systems
  • Module 2: How to assess repeat problems in motor-drive systems
  • Module 3: How to prevent motor-drive problems from recurring

According to Fluke, while the three modules work best when taken together in sequence, participants are welcome to select only those that interest them.

Individual 1 ½-hr. modules are priced at $110 each. The full 4-hr. course is offered for $300. Participants who complete the full course (all three modules) and pass the final test will receive a certificate of completion.

For more information, CLICK HERE.


5:46 pm
January 4, 2017
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Emerson AMS 6500 Machinery Health Monitor Earns SIL 2 Rating

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-11-25-25-amEmerson (Knoxville, TN) has announced that its AMS 6500 Machinery Health Monitor is now certified for Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 2. The AMS 6500 provides predictive intelligence and protection capabilities that help sites achieve Operational Certainty through improved reliability and safety.

Whether operations need SIL- certified equipment to meet company guidelines or to comply with legal requirements, SIL ratings help evaluate whether a specific technology meets the selected risk tolerance for industrial applications.

Common examples of process applications where SIL 2 advanced safety integrities are needed are steam and gas turbines in power plants and critical refinery and nuclear industry assets.

For more information on the AMS 6500, CLICK HERE.