Author Archive | Kathy


7:39 pm
May 5, 2009
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Part I… Building Cultures Of Reliability-In-Action

Development of effective decision-making skills and behaviors is the foundation of human reliability. This human element is crucial to your equipment and process reliability.


Process-oriented organizations drive value by improving their business processes and equipment performance. At the same time, however, a number of applications, including asset management, work process improvement, defect elimination and preventive maintenance, among others, can be powerful but incomplete applications when seeking to sustain a competitive edge.

To implement and sustain high-performing, reliable cultures, managers need to be as rigorous about diagnosing, designing and implementing changes to the human decision-making process as they are with their business and equipment processes. Equipment and process reliability ultimately rest with human reliability. Thus, cultural change at its deepest level requires examining human reasoning and its resulting decisions.

To establish a culture-of-reliability requires going beyond the traditional stew of copycat approaches and learning how to: (1) use actionable tools to implement and sustain reliability improvements and bottom-line impact by (2) collecting cultural action data and (3) learning how to use that data to uncover hidden bottlenecks to performance.

In the quest for high performance, well-intentioned managers often launch cultural change efforts using what they believe to be applied methods, like employee surveys, team building, empowerment, leadership style, systems thinking, formal performance appraisal, 360° feedback, you name it, only to be disillusioned in the end by the fact that more change efforts fail than succeed. Although they may be well-accepted, traditional change methods are not precise enough to create and sustain cultures-of-reliability and typically evolve into the next flavor of the month.

The learning exercise
For the past 16 years I have been conducting a specific learning exercise related to cultural change. The purpose is to help participants understand why implementation is so hard. There are five objectives for the session:

  1. To discover root cause of implementation barriers;
  2. To illustrate the interdependent relationship between learning and error;
  3. To determine how participants personally feel when they make mistakes;
  4. Based on their experience of error, to understand how humans design a culture-in-action to avoid errors and mistakes; and
  5. To determine the costs of error avoidance to business and human dignity.

To start, participants construct a definition of competitive learning which, at its root, is defined as the detection and correction of mistakes, errors, variance, etc., at ever-increasing rates of speed and precision—the heart of reliability. Through poignant illustrations, they learn that their organizations tend to focus on making fast decisions (“time is money”), timelines, milestones etc., but at a cost to precision, the quality of the decision.

Based on that definition, the participants are asked to reflect on a recent performance mistake they have made on the job or in life. The response from hundreds of them—male and female, Fortune 500 executives, managers, supervisors, engineers, technicians and craftsmen—are very consistent. When they make an error they feel: shame, anger, frustration, stupid, embarrassed, inadequate with an impulse to hide the error and, at the same time, a desire to fix it. The result is an emotionally charged picture of wanting to fix mistakes coupled with an overwhelming response to hide them for fear of blame.

As the exercise unfolds, participants gain insight into how learning and mistakes, trial and error shape performance and how ineffective learning patterns persist for years. For example, individuals from process industries have revealed they’ve known that less-than-effective outages and turnarounds have existed for years; that “lessons-learned” sessions don’t successfully address operations and maintenance infighting and squabbles over what quality work means and the validity of data; that stalled work management initiatives or reprisals for management decisions are a fact of life; etc. The list goes on and on. Discovering why his division had not been able to penetrate a market for over 20 years, one vice president-level participant summed up the dilemma this way: “The costs [of ineffective learning] are so high, they are un-estimateable.”

Through collective reflection in a larger group, participants come to realize that they all experience learning in very similar ways. They also come to learn that their reasoning is very similar. They typically espouse that continuous learning is important and mistakes are OK, but, in the final analysis, mistakes are categorized as critical incidents on performance appraisals or simply seen as ineffectiveness.

When performance appraisal is tied to pay, rewards and promotion, participants indicate that they would have to be foolish, if they “didn’t put the best spin” and save face at any cost. “I have a mortgage to pay” is how many respondents put it. At the same time, they acknowledge learning does occur, but at a rate that leaves much to be desired. “It’s not all bad,” is how many participants put it. Yet, this is not really a case of being bad. Rather, it is a case of sincere, hard-working people unknowingly designing a culture with a set of unintended outcomes.

At this point, participants begin to gain insight: they say one thing and do another. Moreover, they come to understand that it is easy to see defensive patterns in others, but not so easy to see defensive patterns in themselves. Not surprising, being defensive is espoused as not ok. Hence, good team players should be open to feedback. Not being open would be admitting a mistake, the very essence of pain.

In the final phase of the learning exercise, participants come to recognize that they have a strong desire to learn and they seek noble goals, but that fears of retribution for telling the truth, blame, fear of letting someone down or fear of failure, whether in substance or perception, contribute to a sense of loss of control. Unfortunately, this situation violates the first commandment of management: BE IN CONTROL.

The need for control translates into a hidden performance bottleneck, given the complexity of job interdependencies and systemic error. As one individual noted, “I can’t control what I can’t control, but I am held accountable. Accountability translates into who to blame.” Participants acknowledge that they subtly side-step difficult issues and focus on the more routine, administrative issues, thereby reducing emotional pain and conflict in the short term. They acknowledge that they bypass the potential for higher performance by not reflecting on gaps in decision-making.

Ironically, as these decision bottlenecks limit performance, expectations for better performance increase, often resulting in unrealistic timelines and more stress. Executives complain they just don’t get enough change fast enough, and middle managers and individual contributors complain of “micro-management.” Sound familiar?

The end result is that sincere attempts to improve the status quo slowly are cocreatively undermined and inadequate budgets and unrealistic timeframes are set. Good soldiers publicly salute the goals, but privately resist because their years of experience have taught them to think in terms of “what’s the use of telling the truth as I see it; this, too, will pass.” Ultimately, many see the “other guy(s)” or group as the problem and wonder why we can’t “get them” in line. This is the heart of an organizational fad—something that often is labeled as the lack of accountability.

Based on participants’ data generated from this learning exercise and action data recorded and collected from the field (see Part III of this series for the data collection method), a culture-inaction model, similar to that shown in Fig. 1, is created and verified with illustrations. Participants consistently agree this type of model is accurate and reflects their own current cultures-in-action.

Underlying assumptions…
The culture-in-action model is rooted in human reasoning. Given the assumptions of avoiding mistakes and being in control to win and look competent in problem resolution, the reasoning path is clear. The behaviors make perfectly good sense.

When seeking solutions, multiple perspectives will proliferate on which solution is best, some with more risk, some with less. Think of it as inference stacking. A complex web of cause and effect, solutions and reasons why something will or will not work are precariously stacked one upon the other, up to a dizzying height.

Determining whose perspective is right is problematic (“Your guess is as good as mine”). Hence, controlling the agenda to reduce frustration either by withholding information (“Don’t even go there”) or aggressively manipulating people to submit or comply with someone else’s views to get things done is a logical conclusion based on the underlying assumptions.

It is not surprising that executives seek to control their organizations and focus on objectives—and when they do this that middle managers privately feel out of control because they think they are not trusted to implement initiatives or handle day-to-day routines. This leads to the following managerial dilemma: If I voice my real issues, I will not be seen as a good team player. If I stay silent, I will have to pretend to live up to unrealistic expectations. Either way is no win (a real double bind).

To overcome this dilemma, people verify and vent their emotions one-on-one, i.e. in hallways, restrooms and offices. This way, they avoid confronting the real issue of how they are impacted by others, which is diffi- cult to discuss in a public forum (“Don’t want to make a career-threatening statement”). Instead, they seek thirdparty validation that their beliefs are the right ones to hold (“Hey, John, can you believe what just happened in that meeting? I don’t think that strategy is going to work; didn’t we try it 10 years ago?”). Even the best-performing teams demonstrate some of these performance-reducing characteristics. The culture becomes laden with attributions about others’ motivation, intent and effectiveness and it is labeled “politics.”

Routine problems often are uncovered, organizations do learn, but the deeper performance bottlenecks, hidden costs, sources of conflict and high-performance opportunities are missed because the focus is on putting the “best spin” on “opportunities for improvement” with a twist of language to avoid the “mistake” word. That’s because mistakes are bad and people don’t like to discuss them. Interestingly enough, there are even objections to using the word “error” during the process of the exercise. It is not surprising that when trying to learn and continuously improve a turnaround, business process or project, for example, people privately will conclude “Oh, boy, here we go again. Another wasted meeting debating the same old issues.” Negative attributions proliferate (“They don’t want to learn”) and underlying tension grows.

At this stage of the process, the pattern begins to repeat itself. As the project effort falls behind, expectations build. Typically, someone will be expected to “step up” and be the hero. With eyes averted, looking down, uncomfortable silence, someone “steps up” and often gets rewarded. Yet this heroic reward doesn’t address root cause (i.e. what accounted for the errors and frustration in the first place). Side-stepping or avoiding the more difficult-to-discuss issues don’t help uncover root cause, but, rather, lead to fewer errors being discovered. As a result, the business goal is pushed a little further out and economic vulnerability is increased.

If the market is robust, errors and mistakes may mean little to a business. The demand can be high if you have the right product, at the right time. As competition increases, however, or the market begins to falter, the ability to remain competitive and achieve what the organization has targeted is crucial. Competitive learning is the only weapon an organization has to maintain its edge in the marketplace.

Major culture-in-action features
In summary, the major features of a true culture-in-action are:

  • Avoidance of mistakes and errors at all cost;
  • Little active inquiry to test negative attributions;
  • Little personal reflection (i.e. “How am I a part of the problem?”);
  • Little discussion of personal performance standards by which we judge others; and
  • Little agreement on what valid data would look like.

As the exercise winds down, it’s not long before someone asks, “So how do you get out of this status quo loop?” When this question comes, because it always does, I turn it back to the group and ask how they would alter this cultural system? The reaction is always the same—silence and stares. No wonder. The answer is not intuitively obvious, even to the most seasoned of practitioners and theorists.

The short answer is rather than “get” anyone anywhere, change has to be based on individual reflection and actionable tools driven through collaborative design and invitation. These actionable tools balance the playing field, at all levels, by helping create informed choice through daily decision-making reflection. Traditional intervention methods focus on changing behavior, learning your style or type, building a vision, etc. There are any number of approaches, all very powerful but incomplete without addressing the underlying reasoning (root cause) that is informing the behavior in the first place.

Coming next month
In Part II, a culture of reliability will be defined, as well as the role of reflection in organizational performance and the actionable tools of collaborative design. MT

Brian Becker is a senior project manager with Reliability Management Group (RMG), a Minneapolis-based consulting firm. With 27 years of business experience, he has been both a consultant and a manager. Becker holds a Harvard doctorate with a management focus. For more information, e-mail:

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8:09 pm
April 29, 2009
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Going Wireless: Wireless Technology Is Ready For Industrial Use

Wireless works in a plant, but you’ll want to be careful regarding which “flavor” you choose

Wireless Technology now provides secure, reliable communication for remote field sites and applications where wires cannot be run for practical or economic reasons. For maintenance purposes, wireless can be used to acquire condition monitoring data from pumps and machines, effluent data from remote monitoring stations, or process data from an I/O system.

For example, a wireless system monitors a weather station and the flow of effluent leaving a chemical plant. The plant’s weather station is 1.5 miles from the main control room. It has a data logger that reads inputs from an anemometer to measure wind speed and direction, a temperature gauge and a humidity gauge. The data logger connects to a wireless remote radio frequency (RF) transmitter module, which broadcasts a 900MHz, frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) signal via a YAGI directional antenna installed at the top of a tall boom located beside the weather station building. This posed no problem.

However, the effluent monitoring station was thought to be impossible to connect via wireless. Although the distance from this monitoring station to the control room is only one-quarter mile, the RF signal had to pass through a four-story boiler building. Nevertheless, the application was tested before installation, and it worked perfectly. The lesson here is that wireless works in places where you might think it can’t. All you have to do is test it.

There are many flavors of wireless, and an understanding is needed to determine the best solution for any particular application.Wireless can be licensed or unlicensed, Ethernet or serial interface, narrow band or spread spectrum, secure or open protocol,Wi-fi…the list goes on. This article provides an introduction to this powerful technology.

The radio spectrum
The range of approximately 9 kilohertz (kHz) to gigahertz (GHz) can be used to broadcast wireless communications. Frequencies higher than these are part of the infrared spectrum, light spectrum, X-rays, etc. Since the RF spectrum is a limited resource used by television, radio, cellular telephones and other wireless devices, the spectrum is allocated by government agencies that regulate what portion of the spectrum may be used for specific types of communication or broadcast.

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) governs the allocation of frequencies to non-government users. FCC has limited the use of Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) equipment to operate in the 902-928MHz, 2400-2483.5MHz and 5725-5875MHz bands,with limitations on signal strength, power, and other radio transmission parameters. These bands are known as unlicensed bands, and can be used freely within FCC guidelines. Other bands in the spectrum can be used with the grant of a license from the FCC. (Editor’s Note: For a quick definition of the various bands in the RF spectrum, as well as their uses, log on to: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary. com/radio+frequency )

Licensed or unlicensed
A license granted by the FCC is needed to operate in a licensed frequency. Ideally, these frequencies are interference-free, and legal recourse is available if there is interference. The drawbacks are a complicated and lengthy procedure in obtaining a license, not having the ability to purchase off-the-shelf radios since they must be manufactured per the licensed frequency, and, of course, the costs of obtaining and maintaining the license.


License-free implies the use of one of the frequencies the FCC has set aside for open use without needing to register or authorize them. Based on where the system will be located, there are limitations on the maximum transmission power. For example, in the U.S., in the 900MHz band, the maximum power may be 1 Watt or 4 Watts EIRP (Effective Isotropic Radiated Power).

The advantages of using unlicensed frequencies are clear: no cost, time or hassle in obtaining licenses; many manufacturers and suppliers who serve this market; and lower startup costs, because a license is not needed. The drawback lies in the idea that since these are unlicensed bands, they can be “crowded” and, therefore, may lead to interference and loss of transmission. That‘s where spread spectrum comes in. Spread spectrum radios deal with interference very effectively and perform well, even in the presence of RF noise.

Spread spectrum systems
Spread Spectrum is a method of spreading the RF signal across a wide band of frequencies at low power, versus concentrating the power in a single frequency as is done in narrowband channel transmission. Narrowband refers to a signal which occupies only a small section of the RF spectrum, whereas wideband or broadband signal occupies a larger section of the RF spectrum. The two most common forms of spread spectrum radio are frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS), and direct sequence spread spectrum (DSSS). Most unlicensed radios on the market are spread spectrum.

As the name implies, frequency hopping changes the frequency of the transmission at regular intervals of time. The advantage of frequency hopping is obvious: since the transmitter changes the frequency at which it is broadcasting the message so often, only a receiver programmed with the same algorithm would be able to listen and follow the message. The receiver must be set to the same pseudo-random hopping pattern, and listen for the sender’s message at precisely the correct time at the correct frequency. Fig. 1 shows how the frequency of the signal changes with time. Each frequency hop is equal in power and dwell time (the length of time to stay on one channel). Fig. 2 shows a two dimensional representation of frequency hopping, showing that the frequency of the radio changes for each period of time. The hop pattern is based on a pseudo random sequence.


DSSS combines the data signal with a higher data-rate bit-sequence-also known as a ‘chipping code’-thereby “spreading” the signal over greater bandwidth. In other words, the signal is multiplied by a noise signal generated through a pseudo-random sequence of 1 and -1 bits. The receiver then multiplies the signal by the same noise to arrive at the original message (since 1 x 1 = 1 and -1 x -1 = 1).

When the signal is “spread,” the transmission power of the original narrowband signal is distributed over the wider bandwidth, thereby decreasing the power at any one particular frequency (also referred to as low power density). Fig. 3 shows the signal over a narrow part of the RF spectrum. In Fig. 4, that signal has been spread over a larger part of the spectrum, keeping the overall energy the same, but decreasing the energy per frequency. Since spreading the signal reduces the power in any one part of the spectrum, the signal can appear as noise. The receiver must recognize this signal and demodulate it to arrive at the original signal without the added chipping code. FHSS and DSSS both have their place in industry and can both be the “better” technology based on the application. Rather than debating which is better, it is more important to understand the differences, and then select the best fit for the application. In general, a decision involves:

  • Throughput
  • Colocation
  • Interference
  • Distance
  • Security

Throughput is the average amount of data communicated in the system every second. This is probably the first decision factor in most cases. DSSS has a much higher throughput than FHSS because of a much more efficient use of its bandwidth and employing a much larger section of the bandwidth for each transmission. In most industrial remote I/O applications, the throughput of FHSS is not a problem.

As the size of the network changes or the data rate increases, this may become a greater consideration. Most FHSS radios offer a throughput of 50-115 kbps for Ethernet radios.Most DSSS radios offer a throughput of 1-10 Mbps. Although DSSS radios have a higher throughput than FHSS radios, one would be hard pressed to find any DSSS radios that serve the security and distance needs of the industrial process control and SCADA market. Unlike FHSS radios, which operate over 26MHz of the spectrum in the 900MHz band (902-928MHz), and DSSS radios, which operate over 22MHz of the 2.4GHz band, licensed narrow band radios are limited to 12.5kHz of the spectrum.Naturally, as the width of the spectrum is limited, the bandwidth and throughput will be limited as well.Most licensed frequency narrowband radios offer a throughput of 6400 to 19200 bps.

Collocation refers to having multiple independent RF systems located in the same vicinity. DSSS does not allow for a high number of radio networks to operate in close proximity as they are spreading the signal across the same range of frequencies. For example, within the 2.4GHz ISM band, DSSS allows only three collocated channels. Each DSSS transmission is spread over 22MHz of the spectrum, which allows only three sets of radios to operate without overlapping frequencies.

FHSS, on the other hand, allows for multiple networks to use the same band because of different hopping patterns. Hopping patterns which use different frequencies at different times over the same bandwidth are called orthogonal patterns. FHSS uses orthogonal hopping routines to have multiple radio networks in the same vicinity without causing interference with each other. That is a huge plus when designing large networks, and needing to separate one communication network from another. Many lab studies show that up to 15 FHSS networks may be collocated, whereas only 3 DSSS networks may be collocated. Narrowband radios obviously cannot be collocated as they operate on the same 12.5MHz of the spectrum.

Interference is RF noise in the vicinity and in the same part of the RF spectrum. A combining of the two signals can generate a new RF wave or can cause losses or cancellation in the intended signal. Spread Spectrum in general is known to tolerate interference very well, although there is a difference in how the different flavors handle it.When a DSSS goingwireless4receiver finds narrowband signal interference, it multiplies the received signal by the chipping code to retrieve the original message. This causes the original signal to appear as a strong narrow band; the interference gets spread as a low power wideband signal and appears as noise, and thus can be ignored.

In essence, the very thing that makes DSSS radios spread the signal to below the noise floor is the same thing that allows DSSS radios to ignore narrowband interference when demodulating a signal. Therefore, DSSS is known to tolerate interference very well, but it is prone to fail when the interference is at a higher total transmission power, and the demodulation effect does not drop the interfering signal below the power level of the original signal.

Given that FHSS operates over 83.5MHz of the spectrum in the 2.4GHz band, producing high power signals at particular frequencies (equivalent to having many short synchronized bursts of narrowband signal) it will avoid interference as long as it is not on the same frequency as the narrowband interferer.Narrowband interference will, at most, block a few hops which the system can compensate for by moving the message to a different frequency. Also, the FCC rules require a minimum separation of frequency in consecutive hops, and therefore the chance of a narrowband signal interfering in consecutive hops is minimized.

When it comes to wideband interference, DSSS is not so robust. Since DSSS spreads its signal out over 22MHz of the spectrum all at once at a much lower power, if that 22MHz of the spectrum is blocked by noise or a higher power signal, it can block 100% of the DSSS transmission, although it will only block 25% of the FHSS transmission. In this scenario, FHSS will lose some efficiency, but not be a total loss.

In licensed radios the bandwidth is narrow, so a slight interference in the range can completely jam transmission. In this case, highly directional antennas and band pass filters may be used to allow for uninterrupted communication, or legal action may be pursued against the interferer.

802.11 radios are more prone to interference since there are so many readily available devices in this band. Ever notice how your microwave interferes with your cordless phone at home? They both operate in the 2.4GHz range, the same as the rest of 802.11 devices. Security becomes a greater concern with these radios.

If the intended receiver of a transmitter is located closer to other transmitters and farther from its own partner, it is known as a Near/Far problem. The nearby transmitters can potentially drown the receiver in foreign signals with high power levels. Most DSSS systems would fail completely in this scenario. The same scenario in a FHSS system would cause some hops to be blocked but would maintain the integrity of the system. In a licensed radio system, it would depend on the frequency of the foreign signals. If they were on the same or close frequency, it would drown the intended signal, but there would be recourse for action against the offender unless they have a license as well.

Distance is closely related to link connectivity, or the strength of an RF link between a transmitter and a receiver, and at what distance they can maintain a robust link. Given that the power level is the same, and the modulation technique is the same, a 900MHz radio will have higher link connectivity than a 2.4GHz radio. As the frequency in the RF spectrum increases, the transmission distance decreases if all other factors remain the same. The ability to penetrate walls and object also decreases as the frequency increases.Higher frequencies in the spectrum tend to display reflective properties. For example, a 2.4GHz RF wave can bounce off reflective walls of buildings and tunnels. Based on the application, this can be used as an advantage to take the signal farther, or it may be a disadvantage causing multipath, or no path, because the signal is bouncing back.

FCC limits the output power on spread spectrum radios. DSSS consistently transmits at a low power, as discussed above, and stays within the FCC regulation by doing so. This limits the distance of transmission for DSSS radios, and thus this may be a limitation for many of the industrial applications. FHSS radios, on the other hand, transmit at high power on particular frequencies within the hopping sequence, but the average power on the spectrum is low, and therefore can meet with the regulations. Since the actual signal is transmitting at a much higher power than the DSSS, it can travel further.Most FHSS radios are capable of transmitting over 15 miles, and longer distances with higher gain antennas.

802.11 radios, although available in both DSSS as well as FHSS, have a high bandwidth and data rate, up to 54Mbps (at the time of this publication). But it is important to note that this throughput is for very short distances, and downgrades very quickly as the distance between the radio modems increases. For example, a distance of 300 feet would drop the 54Mbps rate down to 2Mbps. This makes this radio ideal for a small office or home application, but not for many industrial applications where there is a need to transmit data over several miles.

Since narrowband radios tend to be a lower frequency, they are a good choice in applications where FHSS radios cannot provide adequate distance. A proper application for narrow band licensed radios is when there is a need to use a lower frequency to either travel over a greater distance, or be able to follow the curvature of the earth more closely and provide link connectivity in areas where line of sight is hard to achieve.

Since DSSS signals run at such low power, the signals are difficult to detect by intruders. One strong feature of DSSS is its ability to decrease the energy in the signal by spreading the energy of the original narrowband signal over a larger bandwidth, thereby decreasing the power spectral density. In essence, this can bring the signal level below the noise floor, thereby making the signal “invisible” to would-be intruders. On the same note, however, if the chipping code is known or is very short, then it is much easier to detect the DSSS transmission and retrieve the signal since it has a limited number of carrier frequencies. Many DSSS systems offer encryption as a security feature, although this increases the cost of the system and lowers the performance, because of the processing power and transmission overhead for encoding the message.

For an intruder to successfully tune into a FHSS system, he needs to know the frequencies used, the hopping sequence, the dwell time and any included encryption. Given that for the 2.4GHz band the maximum dwell time is 400ms over 75 channels, it is almost impossible to detect and follow a FHSS signal if the receiver is not configured with the same hopping sequence, etc. In addition, most FHSS systems today come with high security features such as dynamic key encryption and CRC error bit checking.

Today,Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN) are becoming increasingly popular. Many of these networks use the 802.11 standard, an open protocol developed by IEEE.Wi-fiis a standard logo used by the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) to certify 802.11 products. Although industrial FHSS radios tend to not be Wi-fi, and therefore not compatible with these WLANs, there may be a good chance for interference due to them operating in the same bandwidth. Since most Wi-fiproducts operate in the 2.4 or 5GHz bands, it may be a good idea to stick with a 900MHz radio in industrial applications, if the governing body allows this range (Europe allows only 2.4GHz, not 900MHz). This will also provide an added security measure against RF sniffers (a tool used by hackers) in the more popular 2.4 band.

Security is one of the top issues discussed in the wireless technology sector. Recent articles about “drive-by hackers” have left present and potential consumers of wireless technology wary of possible infiltrations. Consumers must understand that 802.11 standards are open standards and can be easier to hack than many of the industrial proprietary radio systems.

The confusion about security stems from a lack of understanding of the different types of wireless technology. Today, Wi-fi(802.11a, b, and g) seems to be the technology of choice for many applications in the IT world, homes and small offices. 802.11 is an open standard in which many vendors, customers and hackers have access to the standard.While many of these systems have the ability to use encryption like AES and WEP, many users forget or neglect to enable these safeguards which would make their systems more secure.Moreover, features like MAC filtering can also be used to prevent unauthorized access by intruders on the network. Nonetheless, many industrial end users are very wary about sending industrial control information over standards that are totally “open.”

So, how do users of wireless technology protect themselves from infiltrators? One almost certain way is to use non- 802.11 devices that employ proprietary protocols that protect networks from intruders. Frequency hopping spread spectrum radios have an inherent security feature built into them. First, only the radios on the network that are programmed with the “hop pattern” algorithm can see the data. Second, the proprietary, non-standard, encryption method of the closed radio system will further prevent any intruder from being able to decipher that data.

The idea that a licensed frequency network is more secure may be misleading. As long as the frequency is known, anyone can dial into the frequency, and as long as they can hack into the password and encryption, they are in. The added security benefits that were available in spread spectrum are gone since licensed frequencies operate in narrowband. Frequency hopping spread spectrum is by far the safest, most secure form of wireless technology available today.

Mesh radio networks
Mesh radio is based on the concept of every radio in a network having peer-topeer capability. Mesh networking is becoming popular since its communication path has the ability to be quite dynamic. Like the worldwide Web, mesh nodes make and monitor multiple paths to the same destination to ensure that there is always a backup communication path for the data packets.

There are many concerns that developers of mesh technology are still trying to address, such as latency and throughput. The concept of mesh is not new. The internet and phone service are excellent mesh networks based in a wired world. Each node can initiate communication with another node and exchange information.

In conclusion, the choice of radio technology to use should be based on the needs of the application. For most industrial process control applications, proprietary protocol license-free frequency hopping spread spectrum radios (Fig. 5) are the best choice because of lower cost and higher security capabilities in comparison to licensed radios.When distances are too great for a strong link between FHSS radios with repeaters, then licensed narrowband radios should be considered for better link connectivity. The cost of licensing may offset the cost of installing extra repeaters in a FHSS system.

As more more industrial applications require greater throughput, networks employing DSSS that enable TCP/IP and other open Ethernet packets to pass at higher data rates will be implemented. This is a very good solution where PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), DCS (Distributed Control Systems) and PCS (Process Control Systems) need to share large amounts of data with one another or upper level systems like MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems.

When considering a wireless installation, check with a company offering site surveys that allow you to install radios at remote locations to test connectivity and throughput capability. Often this is the only way to ensure that the proposed network architecture will satisfy your application requirements. These demo radios also let you look at the noise floor of the plant area, signal strength, packet success rate and the ability to identify if there are any segments of the license free bandwidth that are currently too crowded for effective communication throughput. If this is the case, then hop patterns can be programmed that jump around that noisy area instead of through it. MT

Gary Mathur is an applications engineer with Moore Industries-International, in North Hills, CA. He holds Bachelor’s and Masters degrees in Electronics Engineering from Agra University, and worked for 12 years with Emerson Process Management before joining Moore. For more information on the products referenced in this article, telephone: (818) 894-7111; e-mail:

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6:00 am
April 1, 2009
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Capacity Assurance Strategies: CMMS: A Manager's Best Friend

Unlocking the potential…

Want a simple record-keeping tool? Get a spreadsheet. Want a key to increased productivity and profitability? Unchain your CMMS. This author lets you in on what’s involved.



A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) truly can be a manager’s best friend. By enabling technicians to gather and store vital information in its database and giving maintenance managers valuable data to analyze, these systems can help managers make smarter decisions. The key, however, involves:

• Ensuring that everyone understands the importance of having meaningful data in the system.

• Knowing how to use the CMMS data effectively.

• Designing and implementing various codes into the system that allow a manager to access the data and make intelligent decisions (i.e., appropriate codes for problem, cause and remedies).

Data entry and analysis
The following outlines some examples of data to be entered in the system, type of analysis and expected results.

Estimated and actual time…
Estimated time should be entered on as many work orders as possible. Granted, it is hard to put estimated time on some emergency and breakdown repair work orders. All PM (preventive maintenance) and other planned work orders, however, can be assigned estimated times. If managed right, these should account for the majority of the work orders. Once a job is completed, actual time spent by each technician on the job should be entered into the system. It should refl ect overtime, double time, etc.

A CMMS can report the variance in estimated vs. actual time. Managers should closely analyze any variance and identify the root cause—either the estimates are inaccurate or someone is not following the instructions and therefore actual time is off. Another possibility is that technicians could just be entering inaccurate actual times. Based on the finding, data should be corrected. After a period of time, you will have a valuable database of time estimates. How is this beneficial?

• It allows comparison of two people doing identical jobs (say a PM). If a significant time difference is reported, a manager can analyze the reason and take corrective action.

• It helps in planning a job if you know how long it will take to do the job.

• It enables better forecasting of manpower requirements.

• Based on overtime spent for a given time period, it is easier to justify additional manpower.

Root cause…

Where applicable, for all unplanned jobs (emergency, repair, breakdown, etc.), data should be collected as to what the problem was, what caused it and what was done to correct it. This involves designing a proper coding system—easy to use and understand, yet very powerful in terms of results—allowing data gathering and analysis.

Analysis of this data by managers will aid in finding the root cause(s) of the problem(s). Breakdowns and failures are never planned and can cause significant loss of productivity and resources. finding the root cause of a failure provides an organization with a solvable problem. Once the root cause is identified, a fix can be developed and implemented, preventing a recurring failure situation.

Warranty information should be entered into the system for each asset (equipment and/or facility) as to warranty period and nature of the warranty. The same applies to spare parts. Each time a work order is issued for an asset that is under warranty, CMMS should fl ag a message stating this equipment is under warranty. This, in turn, gives managers a chance to make an intelligent decision—whether to go ahead with a repair and be reimbursed or to let the vendor carry out the repair. Such an approach can save hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of time.

Managers should see to it that work orders are being closed in the CMMS within 24 hours of job completion. This will ensure that the data in the system is current. A report generated by CMMS that shows “overdue work orders” can be used to control the backlog. A controlled backlog is key to proactive maintenance.

Outside contractor…
Most maintenance operations use outside contractors to perform certain PM, repair and other tasks. While the percentage may vary from operation to operation,in some plants up to 60% of total work might be done by outside contractors. An effective CMMS should contain a database of these contractors. Each time a job is assigned to an outside contractor, history should be captured in the system—just like your other work orders except these are not done by your employees. Information related to the outside contractors’ performance as to quality of work, delivery dates promised and kept, etc. also should be gathered. Managers can analyze this data to:

• Gauge contractor performance and take corrective action if necessary

• Justify additional in-house resources.

Work order (WO) priority…
Ideally each piece of equipment should be assigned a level of criticality. For example, assign a number from 1 to 5—with 5 being most critical. Each job then should be assigned a level of priority. For example, assign a number from 1 to 5—with 5 being the highest priority for that job. Your CMMS can determine priority of each work order based on equipment criticality and job priority. The Planner can then plan and schedule work orders based on work order priority.

Labor skill…
You can enter skill level of each technician in the system. Based on the skill level:

• A work order can be assigned to proper personnel.

•  CMMS can report if there is a certain skill set in-house, enabling the manager to make an informed decision on whether to seek outside help.

Work order type…
cmms_peak3Each work order should be assigned a work order type such as PM, repair, routine, inspection, etc. Doing so lets managers review jobs by work order type. For example, you may want to review how many “repair” jobs have been done in the last 12 months. Further analysis can be done to see how many of those were for a particular piece of equipment. Ultimately, this knowledge can lead to a replacement vs. repair decision.

Work order material, labor and tools…
A properly planned work order (PM or otherwise) contains information on what parts and tools are needed and what type of labor (plumbing, carpentry, etc.) is required to do the job. It helps managers eliminate unnecessary delays.

Otherwise, technicians may get to a job site and discover that tools and material to perform the task are missing, thus requiring an extra trip back to the storeroom. Further delays are possible if parts are not in stock.

Trending/meter readings…
Maintenance operations frequently gather readings on equipment such as boilers, chillers, etc. In a paper-based system, forms are filled out and filed away—never to be seen again. Use your CMMS to record and save readings of pressure and temperature, among other things. One of the purposes of this data is to identify abnormal readings and correct problems to prevent failures.

Equipment type/sub-type…
Equipment type and sub-type information is very useful. It entails a one-time design and data entry effort—while entering a new piece of equipment in the system—and is well worth the results. For example, an equipment type is “Pump” while sub-types for a pump could be hydraulic, pneumatic, electric, etc. There can be further sub-types to these. (This concept applies to spare parts as well.) Analysis of this data provides the following benefits:

• A manager knows what he/she has in equipment and parts inventory—for example, the number of pumps in the plant and then a breakdown by types of pumps (i.e. how many of these are hydraulic pumps, etc.).

• It allows scheduling of preventive maintenance by equipment type and sub-types.

• It enables allocation of spare parts by equipment type.

Equipment manufacturer information…
For each piece of equipment in the system, enter model and serial numbers. This information is invaluable when you need to find all equipment in-house by certain manufacturer and model.

Attach documents…
You can attach PDF, CAD, Word, Excel, Audio, Video, Digital pictures and many other types of documents to maintenance (equipment, parts, work order) records. This is a tremendous help in troubleshooting—if you have attached an O/M manual to the equipment record, it will be available to the technician at the point of performance—and in providing work instructions by attaching sketches and drawings to a work order.

Parts lists…
Enter a list of parts required to maintain a piece of equipment. This is also referred to as “BOM” (Bill of material). Information should include part number and description, as well as part suppliers’ details. This information is very useful when you have an equipment breakdown and are looking for a particular part to fix it. Having the parts information at your fingertips can save substantial time in locating the part and minimizing equipment downtime.

ABC parts analysis…
You can categorize your parts into A, B and C, where “A” parts are most expensive and critical and “C” parts are just the opposite. This helps managers focus their energy and resources on the right group of parts. For example:

• Start your cycle counting efforts with “A” parts.

• Get rid of obsolete parts starting with “A” parts, as that is going to give you the most return on your investment.

• Spend resources in trying to obtain better parts pricing starting with “A” parts.

An effective CMMS can be far more than a manager’s best friend. Think of yours as a virtual goldmine, full of potential and waiting to pay off for you—but only if you properly analyze the data inside it. This article cites but a few examples of the types of information you can include in your CMMS. Keep in mind that the sky is the limit as to how these systems, once they’re unchained, can help smart maintenance managers make smarter decisions.

Kris Bagadia is a consultant and educator with PEAK Industrial Solutions, LLC, based in Milwaukee, WI, For more information, telephone: (262) 783-6260; e-mail:

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6:00 am
April 1, 2009
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Viewpoint: Aligning The Right People For Profitability


Jeff Shiver, CMRP, CPMM, Managing Principal, People and Processes, Inc.

Studies have shown that many organizations suffer from a self-induced failure rate upwards of 70% in equipment reliability processes and practices. These failures result from sources such as operator error, management, purchasing and maintenance methods, to name a few. More rarely considered as a reason for failure is organizational alignment and structure—yet it can have significant financial and functional impact. This is especially true when Maintenance and Operations are decentralized and using high-performance team concepts with little or no direct supervision, and no real centralized support functions such as Planning and Scheduling.

While many manufacturing organizations abandoned the high-performance team concept over 15 years ago, not everyone followed suit. Some organizations in the last few years have chosen to revisit and pursue the concept with the great intent of empowering people down to the lowest levels. The few supervisors who remain in the organization become “coaches” since it is the team that now makes the decisions. Often, the reality is that the response time for making significant decisions slows greatly. Consider that one high-performing team organization worked with a consultant for over a year with weekly meetings just to determine (via a voting process) if they were going to plan and schedule maintenance activities.

Although there are advantages to the high-performance team concept, the disadvantages for the Maintenance group and—ultimately—for the organization as a whole, outweigh them. Consider the fact that teams don’t like to share ‘parts’ of people, especially craftspeople. Because craftspeople never work in other areas, they have no knowledge of ‘site’ or other area equipment. Because the ‘team lead’ responsibilities change every day or week, there is no continuity in direction other than getting product out the door. Loss of direct supervision skilled in maintenance is one of the first casualties. This is quickly followed by the loss of Maintenance Planning and Scheduling with the focus on production goals of the craftspeople. In light of no planned work and no preventive maintenance, equipment reliability suffers. Costs go up. Since we can’t use the craftspeople across different areas, we must staff shutdowns and other activities with contractors. Craftspeople living the cycle of reactive chaos become disenfranchised and leave the organization. As equipment reliability falls, so does the profitability due to increased downtime and ensuing loss of capacity.

Setting up the right organizational alignment to thrive and profit starts with educating leadership. A proactive team culture requires effective Maintenance Planning and Scheduling; knowledgeable and dedicated craftspeople that have direct supervision (ideally with craft skills); a Maintenance Engineering (not Project Engineering) function; and a partnership with other stakeholders such as Operations. When these functions are properly staffed and supported with mutually beneficial partnerships, you are well on the way to creating a winning team that balances empowerment with profitability.

As a long-time maintenance practitioner and now as managing principal of People and Processes, Inc., based in Yulee, FL, Jeff Shiver has educated and assisted hundreds of people and numerous organizations in implementing Best Practices for Maintenance and Operations. E-mail:

The opinions expressed in this Viewpoint section are those of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect those of the staff and management of MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY magazine. Continue Reading →


6:00 am
April 1, 2009
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The Green Edge

green_stimulas_packageWhat You Need to Know About the Stimulus Package

In response to the American Economic Recovery and Investment Act signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 17, ITT Corporation has published a new White Paper, “The Most Important Things You Need To Know About The Stimulus Package,” which focuses on the Federal government’s 2009 stimulus package and its impact on HVACR and plumbing construction projects.

According to ITT, of the $787 billion included in the stimulus package, more than $60 billion will support shovel-ready traditional and “green technology” water, wastewater and energy infrastructure needs at the state and local level. This downloadable White Paper discusses how federal, state and local governments must commit to and start construction of these infrastructure projects over the next 12 months to qualify for funding. Such funding is being provided to support all manner of environmental infrastructure projects ranging from design and planning to construction that benefi ts the public. Also highlighted is who implements the programs and delivers project assistance and how ITT can support a company’s projects and expedite the implementation of its infrastructure priorities over the upcoming critical months.

Visit the MT-online White Paper page to download this important document directly from Bell & Gossett, a brand of ITT Corporation.

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Free Compressed Air System Health Checks

Atlas Copco is helping companies in today’s challenging economy to streamline operating costs and become more energy effi cient by providing no cost compressed air system health checks. According to the company, the new ‘Walk the Line’ program is designed to help a facility’s technical staff recognize areas where energy and operational costs are lost and identify ways to reverse this costly trend. A careful examination of a facility’s compressed air system will likely reveal several opportunities for reducing a plant’s energy draw.

“Atlas Copco compressed air experts walk production lines every day in hundreds of facilities across North America and the world searching for ways to save companies money,” said Paul Humphreys, Vice President Communications and Branding, Atlas Copco Compressors. “We conduct these system health checks for Atlas Copco customers, as well as companies running other compressor brands; the results range from a list of simple fixes to the recommendation of an in-depth system audit.”

Solutions to compressed air system issues can be as uncomplicated as sealing leaks and decreasing pressure drops to more sophisticated re-piping and compressor change recommendations. These solutions can result in potentially significant savings.

To take advantage of the ‘Walk the Line’ program and request a free compressed air system health check, contact Paul Humphreys at or your local Atlas Copco representative.

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New Renewable Energy Service

The Gas Turbine Services division of energy services company John Wood Group has launched a new service in the renewable energy sector to meet the increasing demand for clean energy. Wood Group Renewable Energy Services (WGRES) will focus on the wind turbine market and offer operations, maintenance, asset management, parts sourcing, monitoring and diagnostic and other related services for the renewable energy industry.

“We aim to provide flexible pricing solutions to minimize customer costs and align ourselves with our customers’ financial and operational goals,” said WGRES President Mitch Robinson. “With the unique ability to leverage Wood Group’s vast expertise, depth and experience of operations and maintenance services, WGRES is able to provide wind farm owners and developers with a customized solution to their service needs.”

To serve the global market, WGRES has opened offices in Houston and Aberdeen, Scotland.

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Green Managed Switch Reduces Power Guzzling

D-Link has continued its development of energy-saving networking products and initiatives with the introduction of its Green managed switch. The D-Link Green 16-port Managed Gigabit Switch (DGS-3200-16) automatically detects a device link status and reduces the power usage of ports that are not linked. According to the company, when detecting a link down this green technology can save up to 14.28% in power usage without sacrificing network performance. In addition, the DGS-3200-16 switch includes a smart fan with heat sensors that maintain the temperature of the device for optimum performance. The fan turns off by default and automatically turns on when the system operation temperature reaches or surpasses 95 F to reduce noise pollution and energy consumption.

D-Link Corporation
Fountain Valley, CA

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Does Your Company Have A Green Edge?E-mail your product and service news to:
For information on advertising in the Green Edge section, contact Kathy Jaros at: Phone (847) 382-8100 ext. 117 / Fax: (847) 304-8603 / E-mail:

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6:00 am
April 1, 2009
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My Take: Cash For Clunkers and Crush For Credit



Jane Alexander, Editor-In-Chief

Tuesday, April 7, as I thought I was putting the finishing touches on this column about some exciting motor news, I took a few minutes to scroll through the online edition of the New York Times. In the Opinion section, an editorial entitled “Cash for Clunkers”* caught my attention. Its focus was on a movement in Congress to help take gas-guzzling clunkers off the nation’s roads and replace them with more fuel-efficient models. According to the editorial writer(s), while this idea has benefits for both the environment and our troubled auto industry, there’s a right and wrong way to get it done.
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6:00 am
April 1, 2009
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For on the Floor: The Skills Scramble


Rick Carter, Executive Editor

What do you do with an aging workforce? More to the point, what are you doing with your aging workforce? This is part of the most recent question we asked of our MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY Reader Panelists. We also asked how their maintenance operation deals with the shortage of trained workers.

Twenty years ago, these issues could be treated separately. Today, with the oldest wave of Baby Boomers now lining up for Social Security, they have become two sides of the same coin. Among the many statistics available on the topic(s), here’s one that efficiently addresses it:

The retirement-age population is projected to be more than twice as large in 2030 as it was in 2000, jumping from 35 million to 72 million. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau).

So in 2009, we’re nearly a third of the way toward reaching that 72 million mark. Couple this with other information you’ve seen about the high percentage of U.S. manufacturers who say they can’t find qualified workers to fill open positions (81%, according to a 2005 report from the National Association of Manufacturers), as well as the various projects begun in the last decade to build interest in manufacturing among the young, and the scope of the problem takes shape: Experienced workers are leaving the workforce in greater numbers than replacements can be found —and could be doing so for some time.

The economic downturn further spins the problem. With demand and production down, fewer workers are needed. While this has hastened the release of experienced workers (especially from automakers), it has not accelerated the search for their replacements. Some of the experienced workers have found opportunities elsewhere, thus fending off their retirements and increasing the chance that their skill knowledge will be preserved. This is a plus for them and their new employers. But the value these workers bring is short-term. It will only postpone the need for new talent, not replace it. When budgets again become more robust, those who have delayed finding, nurturing and training their next generation of workers may find themselves without one.

None of this is lost on the Maintenance Technology Reader Panelists, who seem to be experiencing all combinations of the above events. Here’s exactly what we asked them, followed by their responses:

How has your maintenance operation been affected by the shortage of trained workers and/ or the retirement of experienced workers? How are you and your company meeting the challenge this presents

“We have been fortunate in the mechanical disciplines due to surrounding industries such as Ford and GM that have provided people to us as they’ve reduced their operations,” says a project manager in the Midwest. He adds that while a local trade school also keeps the company supplied with machine operators, he has been less fortunate finding electricians and machinists. “Because of this,” he says, “we find ourselves looking out of town when a full machinist is required. This fills the need, but it places greater strain on our hiring costs.”

A maintenance supervisor, also in the Midwest, reports a similar experience.”Our company trains people who migrate from production to maintenance,” he says, “but the training for maintenance mechanics, machine repair, electrician/hvac and pipe fitters is expensive. Now, with the availability of skilled people because of the automotive downturn in our state, we hope to hire journeyman-grade people and save the training money.”

Not all maintenance departments have this option, of course. A maintenance mechanic at an East Coast utility, for example, says that the do-more-with-less mantra has essentially become corporate policy at his operation that has lost many positions through retirement and attrition. He notes that the maintenance team has coped with these losses because it knows its equipment, processes, procedures and systems. “But the squeeze is on because there’s no time for knowledge transfer,” he says, “and we are all getting older.”

This Panelist’s company has acknowledged its widening skill gap, though, and has begun what he terms a mechanic’s boot camp. It ensures that workers have the basic skill sets required and the safety knowledge to see procedures done right, he tells us. “They aren’t allowed to touch a tool until they are through this course.” After course completion, trainees are paired with mentors. “This means the job takes longer,” he says,”but the challenge of striking a balance between production and training is one I have faith we’ll overcome.”

Mentoring can bridge the gap
Mentoring is a solution used to great effect by some Panelists. One utilities-industry maintenance mechanic, for example, credits his company’s mentoring program for helping him impart the “tribal knowledge” needed to run his plant to 25 new hires in the past four years. With his response to this month’s question, he included a 16-page Mentoring Guide his organization uses to explain the mentoring process. It outlines specific responsibilities and goals of the program, as well as the expected relationship between trainee and mentor. It includes worksheets and a page of suggested outside reading.

Another Panelist, a consultant, says companies without structured mentoring programs are missing the boat. As he puts it, youth-outreach programs need that second step, and maintenance teams can’t depend on CMMS systems alone to accurately convey deep details. “Good mentoring efforts are the one thing I see missing for the most part,” he asserts. “So much of the corporate memory today still resides in the heads and desk drawers of the senior people, especially in the craft and technician areas.”

But experienced workers continue to leave
At press time, manufacturing layoffs continue among companies seeking a quick route to profitability. But the cost of big layoffs is high, both monetarily and in terms of lost experience, laments a Panelist in the Midwest who consults for large industrial clients. “A major U.S. client of mine with a substantial retirement fund has been using that fund to ‘improve productivity’ by retiring folks early,” he explains. “This has cost them tens of millions of dollars per quarter in some places. And when the people who know how and when to do things are lost,” he says, “there is nothing to fill the vacuum.” He adds that approximately 70% of maintenance workers in his client’s industry have more than 30 years experience and are currently eligible to retire, either by choice or directive. “This is terrifying,” he says,”if you’re the man counting on the equipment to meet production schedules.”

It’s also a terrifying thought for others, including—but not limited to—workers who are receiving their walking papers. That’s what recently happened to one of our international Panelists. “I was employed as the Maintenance Systems project manager, heavily involved in fundamental plant-reliability issues, tribology and training,” he reports. “Because there is only a limited on-site knowledge of utilities, I was also involved in getting the details right (pipe layouts, correct steam traps, etc.). Now the company is facing a sales slowdown so I’ve been laid off.” This Panelist adds that his talents are unusual because he has trades background across various industries, as well as a college degree. “I am working toward a Master’s in Maintenance Management. But that does not seem to count, so out the door I go!” MT

What’s on your mind?
Have questions or comments on what you’ve just read in this column? Let us hear from you. E-mail:

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6:00 am
April 1, 2009
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MT News

News of people and events important to the maintenance and reliability community

Robert J. Pagano, Jr. has been appointed president of Industrial Process (IP), one of the ITT Corporation fluid businesses headquartered in Seneca Falls, NY. He replaces Ken Napolitano, who has been named president of ITT’s Residential and Commercial Water value center headquartered in Morton Grove, IL. Pagano is not unfamiliar with his newly announced role. He actually began his ITT career with IP, holding a series of increasingly responsible positions over the years. He eventually went on to lead that business as president from 2002-2004, a particularly challenging period, during which he helped position IP for future growth. Most recently, he had been serving as vice president of Finance for ITT Corporation, and had been CFO for the Motion and Flow Control group. ITT Industrial Process manufactures and markets industrial pumps, valves, monitoring and control systems, water treatment products and aftermarket services globally under the Goulds Pumps®, Fabri-Valve®, PumpSmart®, C’treat® and PRO Services® brands. It has 18 manufacturing plants, 14 service facilities and 32 sales offices worldwide with more than 2200 employees.

John Crane, a division of global technology business Smiths Group, has announced the purchase of Orion Corporation, a leading U.S.-based designer and manufacturer of hydrodynamic bearings for energy and general industrial markets. Headquartered in Grafton, WI, Orion complements and extends John Crane Bearing Technology, a business unit formed following the corporation’s 2007 acquisition of Sartorius Bearing Technology (SBT), based in Gottingen, Germany. Orion designs and manufactures hydrodynamic bearings for high-speed turbine, generator, compressor and gear-drive applications for the power gen, oil and gas and general industrial markets. Employing 270 people at its Wisconsin and Nebraska facilities, it reported sales of approximately $50 million for its 2008 fiscal year ending October 31.

On a related note, John Crane, already a leading supplier to the refining market, has recently added a new Production Solutions division to serve the upstream part of the oil and gas industry (oil and gas recovery, with respect to optimization of the well). Led by Tom Whipple, president, the Production Solutions division is currently made up of CDI Energy Services and Fiberod, two Texas-based companies. CDI is one of the largest artificial lift service companies in North America. Fiberod is a leader in innovative fiberglass sucker rod (FSR) technology.

Emerson has acquired epro GmbH (epro), a privately held Gronau, Germany-based company that engineers, manufactures and assembles API 670-compliant protection systems delivered to the process industries worldwide. The deal expands Emerson’s online machinery monitoring capability with a full API 670-compliant protection offering. It is also expected to speed availability of next generation solutions. Terms of the deal were not announced.

ExxonMobil recently inaugurated its newest high-efficiency cogeneration plant at its Antwerp refinery in Belgium.According to the company, this facility is more efficient than many traditional cogeneration plants because of its heat recovery system. In addition to generating steam, the cogeneration operation utilizes heat created in the gas-turbine exhaust to heat crude oil, the initial step in the process of converting crude oil into refined products. The unit will generate 125 megawatts and reduce Belgium’s carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 200,000 tons annually—the equivalent of removing about 90,000 cars from Europe’s roads.

“This new cogeneration plant allows for the efficient generation of electricity to run pumps, compressors and other equipment in our facilities, while at the same time, producing additional steam that is needed in processes that transform crude oil into refined products,” notes Gilbert Asselman, manager of the Antwerp refinery. “With the latest technology, cogeneration is significantly more efficient than traditional methods of producing steam and power separately. This results in lower operating costs and significantly less greenhouse gas emissions.”

With the launch of the Antwerp facility, ExxonMobil now has interests in about 4600 megawatts of cogeneration capacity in about 100 individual installations at more than 30 sites worldwide. New facilities under construction in Singapore and China will increase ExxonMobil’s cogeneration capacity to more than 5000 megawatts in the next three years.


The SMRP Board of Directors of the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) has approved a program to develop programs, products and services in partnerships with its members. Known as the “Member Affinity/Partner Program,” it will allow supplier members to partner with SMRP to develop and implement programs, products and services to meet member needs. Supplier members that are interested in partnering with SMRP to provide a program, product or service to the industry or profession should submit a written proposal, including program features, benefits, cost conditions and the details to the Improve Member Services Committee. The Committee will screen the program against some very basic criteria, and, if necessary, the member will fund research among SMRP audiences to determine if there is interest in the program. The committee and staff will analyze research results and if a sufficient level of audience interest is evident, will present the proposed program to the Board of Directors. The first program of this type to be approved is with ABB Reliability Services to provide a series of workshops at no cost to SMRP members. For additional information, or to submit a proposal for consideration, e-mail


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