Author Archive | Maintenance Technology


3:22 pm
August 14, 2017
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SAP Tips and Tricks: Put Variants and Layouts to Work

randmBy Kristina Gordon, DuPont

This month we answer the question: What variants and layouts does SAP offer and how can they help users?

SAP contains search screens on almost every transaction. This allows the user to establish variants by entering a set of criteria that can be saved and displayed each time the transaction is run, without reentering the criteria. This could be a group of work orders, functional locations, materials, or all objects in a date range.

There are ways that a dynamic date range can be entered. With this option, each time the transaction is run, it can start with the current day and go backward or forward by a prescribed number of days or you may want to look at the previous month or future dates. Regardless of the criteria, the dynamic date range can be set so your criteria run on that range each time you execute the transaction, without reentering the dates.

It is possible to create several different variants for the same transaction, based on the information you want to see. Variants are at the heart of effective use of dashboards. They are time saving and accurate, helping eliminate human error.

Layouts help, too

Layouts are a component of the variant that defines the information that will be displayed on the report, once executed. The layout controls the columns, sort order, format, and filtering options.

Layouts help control the look of your report, based on the selection criteria in your variant. Just like variants, you can create multiple layouts for the same transaction, depending on the audience and how you want your information to be viewed.

To create a variant, open a transaction and enter the search criteria you would like to see every time you execute. Select Goto from the menu, then select variants, then save the variant. If the system default variant comes up, make sure to change the name and not overwrite it.

In the variant name field, enter a name for your variant. You have two options for saving your variant. The user-specific option will be a personal variant, only seen by you as the creator. To implement this, you must enter the name of the variant in the format of U_SAP USER NAME. For example, U_EG8931.




The screen grabs above show the steps involved in setting up a user-specific variant.

The second option is a global variant that everyone can view. To create a global variant, you must start the variant name with a / then the description. If you check the box “protect variant,” only the creator will be able to change the variant.

Next, you can save your variant variables by selecting an object to create a dynamic range. In the example below right, due date was selected. Click on the selection variables button on the tool bar, then choose the value you want to save in your variant. MT

Kristina Gordon is SAP Program Consultant at the DuPont, Sabine River Works plant in West Orange, TX. If you have SAP questions, send them to, and we’ll forward them to Kristina.


1:27 pm
August 14, 2017
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Tomato Processor Boosts Steam, Cuts Emissions

Morning Star Packing Co. supplies 40% of the U.S. ingredient-tomato-paste and diced-tomato markets. Its site in Williams, CA, (shown here) is the largest tomato-processing facility in the state.

Morning Star Packing Co. supplies 40% of the U.S. ingredient-tomato-paste and diced-tomato markets. Its site in Williams, CA, (shown here) is the largest tomato-processing facility in the state.

Plant-expansion project keeps packing operation up and running.

Morning Star Packing Co. (Los Banos, CA) is a major producer and packager of tomato-ingredient products. As part of a plant expansion initiative, it recently installed new boilers, combustion systems, and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system at its facility in Williams, CA. According to Jon Ikerd, Morning Star’s project manager, the equipment not only increased steam-generation capacity at the plant twofold, it also lowered NOx (nitrogen oxide) output.

Tomatoes = big business

California is an agricultural-production juggernaut. Within the U.S., it far exceeds the output of any other state. In tomatoes alone, it produced 14 million tons in 2015 (98.5% of the nation’s overall output).

Morning Star began in 1970, with founder Chris Rufer working as a one-truck owner/operator hauling tomatoes to canneries. From those humble origins, the company has expanded to account for more than 25% of California’s tomato-processing production. Today, it supplies 40% of the U.S. ingredient-tomato-paste and diced-tomato markets (including food giants such as Heinz), with sales of approximately $350 million.

The company’s rapid growth was triggered by the establishment of a tomato-paste-processing plant in 1982, that introduced two industry innovations: the dedicated production and marketing of industrial tomato paste for major food producers and the marketing of tomato paste in 300-gal. containers.

In 1990, Morning Star added another facility in Los Banos. Although this new site was capable of processing 530 tons of tomatoes (producing 180,000 lb. of tomato paste) per hour, soaring demand led to the opening of another plant in 1995. Located in Williams, CA, its ability to handle approximately 630,000 tons of tomatoes (producing 200,000 lb. of tomato paste) per hour makes it the largest tomato-processing facility in the state.

California produces more than 98% of the overall U.S. tomato output. Morning Star Packing’s facility in Williams, CA, can process 630 tons of tomatoes (200,000 lb. of tomato paste) per hour.

California produces more than 98% of the overall U.S. tomato output. Morning Star Packing’s facility in Williams, CA, can process 630 tons of tomatoes (200,000 lb. of tomato paste) per hour.

Earlier boiler issues

“Morning Star revolutionized the tomato-processing industry by being a primary processor,” said Lou Brizzolara, a sales engineer at AHM Associates (Hayward, CA). A division of Bay City Boiler & Engineering, AHM is a manufacturer’s representative serving energy users and producers in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii.

After issues had arisen with a boiler at another Morning Star plant, AHM assisted in the selection of new boilers for the Williams site. As Brizzolara explained, the previous problems were related to installation and welding of the other boiler’s steam drum. This meant the system didn’t initially meet its guaranteed production levels.

At Williams, Morning Star opted for a solution incorporating multiple elements: two boilers from Rentech Boiler Systems (Abilene, TX), and register burners and an SCR system by John Zink Hamworthy (Tulsa, OK). All of this equipment plays a vital role in the facility’s production processes that use steam to boil, dehydrate, and concentrate the paste.

As Ikerd described the process, steam is used to cook the moisture off the product under vacuum, which keeps the boiling point low. “The boilers have been wonderful,” he noted, “but the success of the installation was very much a collaboration between our burner representatives and Rentech.” 

Personnel from AHM and Rentech worked closely with burner and fan engineers Steve Bortz and Craig Biles of John Zink Hamworthy to ensure project success. Bortz and Biles had been involved in the previous boiler project. “While earlier boiler installations had not been as successful and didn’t meet their performance guarantees during the first year, they eventually achieved them due to the work of these engineers,” said Ikerd. 

The team brought many lessons learned from previous installations, coupled with a solid understanding of the tomato-processing industry. This insight proved invaluable in avoiding the same errors that had occurred in the earlier boiler project, including, for example, challenges associated with ultra-low NOx burners.

A recently installed system, incorporating new boilers, register burners, and an SCR, at the Morning Star Packing Co. facility in Williams, CA, has boosted the plant’s steam-generating capacity while maintaining emissions within acceptable limits.

A recently installed system, incorporating new boilers, register burners, and an SCR, at the Morning Star Packing Co. facility in Williams, CA, has boosted the plant’s steam-generating capacity while maintaining emissions within acceptable limits.

While those burners had been effective in narrowing the window of combustion and reducing NOx to below 15 ppm, Ikerd said this made boiler operation more finicky and less reliable. If ultra-low NOx burners were to be avoided, the Morning Star Williams operation had to find a suitable alternative. California, after all, is known for its rigorous environmental regulations. Areas of the state where air pollution levels persistently exceed Ambient Air Quality Standards (AAQS) are designated non-attainment. The standards for non-attainment counties are tough for a reason: to protect public health, safety, and welfare. Counties falling outside of such standards are still required to meet emissions levels that fall far below those of most other states.

While the Williams plant is not in a non-attainment district, it still has to satisfy stringent requirements. The county air-quality control office set a strict limit of 25-tons/yr. of NOx for Morning Star. This made it difficult for the company to execute its expansion strategy. If it had opted for the same boilers and burners as usual, it would have greatly exceeded its NOx quota. However, the combination of the John Zink Hamworthy register burners and SCR, along with Rentech boilers meant that capacity could be greatly increased while remaining in compliance on emissions levels. The register burners selected for Williams brought NOx levels down to less than 30 ppm, which the SCR then reduced to 5 ppm.

The expansion project effectively doubled steam-generating capacity at Williams. Previously, capacity was around 680,000 lb./hr. The new boilers have raised that to 1,360,000 lb./hr. Increased capacity and lower emissions are only half the story. 

“These larger Rentech boilers can go from minimum fire to full fire at the same speed as the smaller units we already have, which allows us to have much more flexibility,” observed Ikerd.  “If the larger units are not at full fire, we can simply shut down one of the smaller boilers, without fear of causing an upset in our processes that we cannot recover from. Thus the plant’s stability has been greatly increased.” 

Boiler efficiency has also been raised: from below 80% to around 85%. For a business whose highest operating cost is fuel, this equates to a welcome reduction in the cost of steam. Due to their size, these D-type boilers with a full-membrane furnace had to have the steam drums shipped separately. The sections were then assembled on site. The reassembly and welding of the boiler components may have proven problematic during an earlier boiler installation project, but not this time.

“Rentech helped us reach our capacity guarantees within the first year while our other boilers took a few years to achieve them due to startup problems,” said Ikerd. “We have now used them for a complete season, during which they’ve run 24/7 for three months straight, without a hiccup.” MT

Visit for more details.


7:38 pm
August 10, 2017
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Can You Be Lean Without Reliability?


By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee Reliability & Maintainability Center

The goal of most facilities is to increase production and reduce costs. Implementing a Lean process enables an ongoing focus on continuous improvement by constantly reducing waste from, among other things, overproduction, material movement, excess inventory, and rework. In short, it’s a systematic method for removing non value-added practices.

My Lean implementation experiences involve more than 30 elements, including 5S, mistake proofing, TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), just-in-time (JIT), and kaizen. When I roll out a reliability and maintainability (R&M) process, it’s done with 14 elements, including work management, equipment and process design, TPM, standardized processes, and root-cause analysis (RCA).

The most successful Lean and reliability processes start with organizational culture (first improving employee engagement, developing a culture of discipline, and forming an operations and maintenance partnership). Lean and reliability reduce defects. Lean builds quality in station and reliability reduces designed-in R&M issues as organizations move from reactive to more-proactive maintenance. Lean uses a kanban (pull-system) to build product on-demand, and reliability promotes condition-based maintenance to respond to demand, i.e., measured target values.

Many additional things need to happen to make Lean and reliability successful, but they should all be driven by small-team continuous-improvement efforts. Lean and reliability basically share a number of similar core processes. A few key ones include:

• focus on the operator/autonomous maintenance
standardized work/processes
waste reduction
continuous improvement
data-based decision-making.

In actuality, reliability shares and improves many of the elements needed for Lean.

In actuality, reliability shares and improves many of the elements needed for Lean.

Reliability also supports Lean through lifecycle asset management that increases Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and reduces cost. After all, unstable machine conditions make a pull-system difficult or impossible.

The toughest part of implementing Lean and reliability is culture-related, i.e., when transfer to daily practice needs to occur. Implementation might work for a short time, but can it sustain? Unstable (low-reliability) processes can’t be sustained. Kaizen is much easier and positive when sites have a history of team problem solving.

My research has shown that top-quartile companies in reliability, i.e., lowest reactive maintenance:

• were 27% better in OSHA Recordable Incident Rates than the average of the remaining facilities.

• averaged 7% higher OEE than Middle (2nd and 3rd quartile) performers and 11% higher OEE than those in the bottom quartile.

• averaged nine suggestions per employee versus one for the lower 75% of companies.

• were 28% better in maintenance cost (expressed as a percentage of sales) than the middle 50% and 69% better than the bottom quartile.

A study of more than 400 facilities showed that more than 70% of Lean implementations failed, i.e., attained less than half of the expected business results. Reasons for these failures often involve not being culturally ready, lack of workforce discipline in standardized work, and employees not engaged in continuous-improvement efforts.

My facility assessments indicate a high correlation between improved organizational culture and increased plant reliability-process maturity. While it’s critical to have the right processes in place, improving culture helps operations quickly achieve top-quartile performance.

Reliability shares and improves many of the elements needed for Lean. It can also provide detailed technical direction on process variability and capability. Using Weibull analysis, you can better plan for maintenance and calculate such things as how much variability is acceptable and if the operation is running at the highest possible throughput.

To answer the question in the title, the foundational elements of Lean and reliability are so intertwined that you can’t accomplish Lean without reliable people, processes, and production machinery and equipment. MT

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at


7:09 pm
July 12, 2017
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SAP Tips and Tricks: Understand Shift Factors And Tolerances

randmBy Kristina Gordon, DuPont

My recent article, “Maintenance Plans: What do all the fields mean?”, generated two very good questions from reader Nigel Wilson, who wants to further understand how a maintenance plan functions. Here are answers to those questions.

Q: What is the relationship (if any) between shift factors and tolerances? Are they used in conjunction with each other or separately?

A:  Shift factors and tolerances can be used in conjunction with each other or they can be used separately. The screen shots illustrate how this is accomplished.

Tolerance defines late or early completion time period and the impact it has on the plan schedule: (+) tolerance is set for late completions and (-) tolerance is set for early completions.

The shift factor is the percentage of shift that a plan can move if not completed on time. For example, if a maintenance plan is due Sept. 1, but the work is not confirmed until Sept. 5, the shift factor will determine the next plan due date. A100% shift on a monthly plan will move the due date to the exact day in the next month that the work was confirmed in September (in this case, Oct. 5). A 0% shift will not allow the plan to move the due date. The order was completed Sept. 5, but the due date is on the first of every month, therefore, the next due date will be Oct. 1.



To use the shift factor and tolerance together, the principals are still the same. However, you are now taking the percentage of the shift factor into account with the completion from the tolerance. The images above illustrate how the plan change date changes with a 100% shift factor and doesn’t change with a 0% shift factor.

Q: How do shift factors and tolerances handle multiple cycles on a maintenance plan?

A:   Tolerances and shift factors react the same in single-cycle and strategy plans. Settings should be set at the strategy level, then they will carry over to each individual maintenance plan when it is created. To avoid this situation, you may also want to maintain hierarchies in the maintenance strategy against each pack, if you haven’t already done so. MT

Kristina Gordon is SAP PM Leader, DuPont Protective Solutions Business and SAP WMP Champion, Spruance Site, Richmond, VA. If you have SAP questions, send them to and we’ll forward them to Kristina.


6:37 pm
July 12, 2017
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CMMS Energizes Glass Company’s Maintenance Efforts

A three-step process helped a global glass manufacturer implement a CMMS in all of its facilities, resulting in notable asset-reliability gains.

An enterprise-wide CMMS implementation can result in significant gains in asset reliability.

An enterprise-wide CMMS implementation can result in significant gains in asset reliability.

A leading manufacturer of glass and glazing systems supplies glass for architectural, automotive, and technical applications to customers around the world. Operating in 28 countries, its business is divided into four regions: North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Over time, the company sought to put increased emphasis on global maintenance excellence and the ability to standardize and benchmark metrics in all of its locations. Subsequently, the team of functional experts that focuses on automotive-glass production—which includes the company’s North American manager of Excellence in Maintenance—identified the need for a computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) system.

In early 2015, the company’s existing state of maintenance data was chaotic. While there was scattered use of existing software, plenty of valuable information was locked up in spreadsheets. The appointed functional team of experts searched for a CMMS solution with all the functions of the existing software, as well as a web-based solution with SAP interfacing capability, online training, live-chat support, and automatic updates. Company managers then defined requirements for the desired CMMS, starting with the fact it should be a software-as-a-service (SaaS) maintenance solution that offered access to real-time information, customizable asset hierarchies, and the ability to track equipment-performance trends and costs to maintain the assets.

The list of requirements also specified functionality in managing work orders and work requests, preventive maintenance, purchasing and inventory control, planning and scheduling, asset history, cost tracking, condition monitoring, document storage, and reporting. They determined that the solution offered by eMaint (, Marlton, NJ) was a good fit.

Multi-site implementations of anything can be challenging. In the case of its CMMS efforts, this manufacturer achieved notable success based on a methodical approach. It established goals and vision for the solution, built an asset hierarchy for greater control of equipment, and standardized processes across the entire corporation.

Steps to success

1. Establish goals and vision. The team began by mapping operations with the greatest needs, and prioritized implementation to locations with failing systems. The North American manager of Excellence in Maintenance stated that the key to quick implementation was understanding what a CMMS can do, establishing goals, and securing positive buy-in from management.

A formal project plan with milestones and goals was established. Formalizing the plan saved time and reduced costs along the way. By setting clear objectives to take advantage of the full potential of a CMMS, the company:

incorporated a defining phase to develop all pertinent data standards, ensuring consistent data collection

leveraged the knowledge of an experienced CMMS implementer for guidance

built a defined initial-implementation timeline to track progress and next steps.

Developing goals and a vision for how maintenance teams will function alongside a fully implemented CMMS is crucial. It is also important to document and communicate goals for the role of maintenance personnel in facilitating organizational success, the company’s approach to maintenance, and how a CMMS will support business processes. As it turned out, upfront planning enabled the company to be up and running in 30 days.

Asset hierarchies allow organizations to easily identify key assets on which to focus reliability and maintenance efforts.

Asset hierarchies allow organizations to easily identify key assets on which to focus reliability and maintenance efforts.

2. Build an asset hierarchy. Nine plants across the company’s North American operations were targeted to use the CMMS. About 10,000 assets were structured within an asset hierarchy, ranked according to their criticality, from the highest level to subordinate parts. Establishing asset hierarchies (as illustrated in Step 2 chart) allows organizations to easily identify key assets on which to focus maintenance and reliability efforts versus all tangible pieces, parts, equipment, and rooms.

3. Standardize across all locations. After using a financial model to establish their hierarchical structure, the company set up a template to standardize across all locations to effectively look at performance and analyze key metrics, including uptime and downtime. Completion rates for preventive maintenance are a leading metric the company can use because of the potential impact on operations. If a piece of critical equipment fails, it can shut down the entire plant, and have a negative impact on promises of quality and on-time delivery.

Analysis of metrics recorded and tracked through reports and dashboards within a CMMS opens ever-wider windows to critical business insights.

Analysis of metrics recorded and tracked through reports and dashboards within a CMMS opens ever-wider windows to critical business insights.


Prior to leveraging a standardized CMMS across its operations, many of the manufacturer’s maintenance decisions were based on tribal knowledge. Today, metrics are recorded and tracked daily on reports and dashboards within the CMMS. These tools allow users to convert CMMS data into business insights by analyzing historical costs and trends.

The manufacturer’s team developed a metrics center tab on the CMMS dashboard to provide live data on key performance indicators (KPIs) such as preventive-maintenance (PM) completion rates per production-line asset. The company’s engineers use these dashboards as a home base to see everything they need, including, among other things, 24/7 activity, downtime, and open work orders.

At the beginning of each month, the CMMS system is used to report on maintenance operational metrics, including PM completion rates and technical downtime performance at each plant. These reports show how each plant stacks up against the rest, based on critical performance benchmarks; motivate employees to focus on key metrics; and increase efficiency across the board. With this level of access and organization, the company sustains a 95% preventive-maintenance completion rate.

The manufacturer also uses CMMS to support capital planning. For example, if the company is “hurting” in a certain area on a piece of equipment that’s increasingly costly to maintain, it uses data to compare repair and replacement costs. The CMMS also supports short- and long-term investment decisions.

Before its global CMMS implementation, stakeholders couldn’t track key metrics or gain insight into equipment status. As a result of the enterprise-wide CMMS implementation, the company now tracks and analyzes key metrics, standardizes performance and, ultimately, supports its emphasis on global excellence in maintenance. MT

For more information, visit eMaint, a Fluke company, Marlton, NJ,


4:40 pm
July 12, 2017
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Good Processes Enable Good Results

klausblacheBy Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee, Reliability & Maintainability Center

Processes can be formal/informal, followed/ignored, audited/uncontrolled, and so on. The extent to which a standardized process is followed is typically a good indicator of how well an organization is doing. Hidden operational costs accumulate quickly with increasing process variation from such things as work management, document control, material management, and root-cause analysis. This is not true just for reliability and maintenance, but for any interaction of people, process, and technology. I’ll use my experience on a recent trip to explain.

It began with a decision to fly on a major airline that I had not used for some time. The troubling issues I experienced piled up fast, starting with check-in for my outbound flight. During the trip, I tried to document as many problems as I could recall, categorizing them into four areas: system malfunction, ineffective existing process, poor use of human resources (people issues), and redundant activity/time wasted. Here are several examples:

• At the airport, despite having checked in online and printed my boarding passes the day before, I was told to go to an automated kiosk where I had to enter the same information to start the baggage-tagging process. Other travelers received the same instructions. Unfortunately, nobody was informed we had to visit the kiosks until we reached the check-in counter. You can understand the frustration of individuals running out of time to catch their flights.

• As it turned out, the person at the understaffed check-in counter was sending customers to the kiosks to buffer her growing line. It wasn’t a good strategy. The kiosks weren’t properly performing all functions, so they were sending customers back to the harried counter employee. Soon, she was dealing with two lines—the original one and one returning from the kiosks. All the while she was complaining that her end-of-shift replacement hadn’t arrived and she wasn’t even supposed to be on duty.

Wherever and however they occur, process variations can be expensive and frustrating.

Wherever and however they occur, process variations can be expensive and frustrating.

• Luckily, there were three people on duty at the baggage X-ray area when I arrived, and they seemed to have plenty of time to chat among themselves. Once they realized I was waiting to drop off my bag, one of them strolled over and attempted to hoist it onto the conveyor belt. I use the word “attempted” because the gentleman seemed to have difficulty lifting the <40-lb. item. Instead, he had to slide the suitcase on the conveyor, where it barely stayed in place.

In total, I documented 15 improvement opportunities. Fortunately, airlines have better processes regarding aircraft maintenance. The Federal Aviation Administration has regulations and guidelines for standardized processes. They clearly don’t extend to check in.

So, how do my travel woes relate to your site’s reliability and maintenance efforts? When assessing and implementing a reliability and maintainability (R&M) process, the first step should be to create the culture, including, among other things, a reliability plan and goals/targets. (Best results come from implementing several foundational elements first.) The next step is to implement elements enabling standardized work processes. This leads into steps for optimizing and sustaining the effort. Then it’s on to application of R&M best practices and continual improvement. Plant personnel should all be tied to a RASIC (responsible, approve, support, inform, consult) “roles and responsibilities” chart and/or swim-lanes (diagrams of workflow).

In the end, stable R&M processes lead to multiple benefits, among them: increased throughput, reduced wastes and costs, improved safety, reduced process variation, error reduction, higher employee involvement, and easier training on and sustaining of processes. People associated with the process, though, must be capable and willing. You’re only as good as your processes allow. MT

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at


4:37 pm
July 12, 2017
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Flying Inspections

Drones are rapidly becoming a fast, economical inspection tool in the industrial arena.

Drones save time, money, and may be the only data-collection option in accident situations.

Drones save time, money, and may be the only data-collection option in accident situations.

By Sean Woessner, Industrial Skyworks

Most people call them drones. Technically, they’re UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or sUAS (small unmanned aircraft systems). No matter what you call them, these flying camera and sensor holders are rapidly becoming a valuable industrial inspection tool.

Drone-based inspections are helping companies improve efficiency and data quality, while increasing safety and speed of operation. Because it’s an evolving technology, some people may not be aware of the potential benefits they can realize using UAVs to inspect assets.

Drone inspections can dramatically reduce the high costs, safety risks, and time involved with conventional inspection methods. Since drones are small and inexpensive to operate, you can carry out more inspections every month than you can with conventional methods, without shutting down operations and affecting production. In traditional methods, you need to schedule a shutdown and assemble several workers, vehicles, helicopters, and other inspection equipment, especially for the energy sector. Also, the mobility, speed, ease of use, and efficiency of drones provides companies with the opportunity to collect data on a large scale. Since the drones can be used in even the most difficult areas, it makes it possible to inspect a whole pipeline and its surroundings, just in case there is need to analyze the extent of a leak.

Drone-based field investigations provide invaluable information to operational and maintenance managers with the following added advantages:

• timely reporting and investigation of damage/material loss when carried out under a defined schedule

• enhanced personnel safety by avoiding close proximity of humans to hazardous environments and dangerous locations

• firsthand delivery of information to supervisors/managers without the need to visit a site

• cost-effective alternative to route reconnaissance and aerial-surveys

• access to inspectors for investigations without plant-shutdown requirements.

In addition, drones may be the only data-acquisition option in emergency/accident situations.

Implementing drones

As with anything, you must do some prep work to successfully implement a drone-based inspection program. Based on your organization’s activities, ensure that you have estimates for all of the costs that will allow you to perform drone-based inspections. Currently, there two ways of operating drones—you can either purchase a drone or hire a drone-inspection-service company.

Should you decide to purchase a drone, evaluate the regulations and cost requirements. The major component costs are:

• drone purchase cost
• cost of acquiring the cameras and sensors that will address your organization’s needs
• software applications for imaging and analytics
• training or hiring a drone pilot
• obtaining relevant permits and licenses
• type of data you need to gather and how to handle it, uploaded to either a cloud-based server or company servers
• network requirements.

If your choice is to hire a drone-inspection-service company:

• research and obtain the costs of hiring a drone service that will address your needs
• consider other factors such as the relevant licenses required for the area to be inspected
• confirm the type of data and reports the company provides after the inspections.

Drone regulations

As with any technology of this type, there are rules and regulations that control commercial and industrial use of drones:

• The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued Part-107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations in August 2016, providing guidance for operating requirements, pilot certification, and device certification for UAVs.

• The Canadian government has incorporated/amended rules for certification and compliance requirements for UAVs as section 602.41 of Canadian Aviation Regulations SOR/96-433.

• UK Civil Aviation Authority issued regulations related to Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) as CAP 722—Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace for regulating RPAS operation in UK.

• EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) Basic Regulation, adopted in December 2016 by the European Council, contains the first ever European Union-wide rules for civil drones to fly safely in European airspace. This regulation contains general principles on revised common safety rules for civil aviation and a new mandate for EASA. On the basis of these principles, EASA will develop more detailed rules on drones through an implementation act, thus making it easier to update the rules as technology develops.

Rapid development of drone technology for commercial and industrial use has out-paced policy makers in many countries. Various governments are in the process of drafting or amending existing laws and regulations. Information regarding progress by various countries with respect to enactment of drone laws can be obtained from respective government authorities.

Minimizing risk

While UAVs have been successfully deployed globally for the past five years to inspect hazardous energy and petrochemical sites, manufacturers are still defining what can universally be understood to be an intrinsically safe drone-inspection platform. Specific health and safety plans will differ from facility to facility, but there is a set of guiding principles that successfully reduce the risk of professional UAV inspection operations to acceptable levels.

Power sources: Most professional UAV platforms now use brushless, magnetic motors that dramatically reduce risk of ignition from friction. While some long-range and heavy-lift UAVs are powered by liquid fuel, any UAV platform used to inspect hazardous sites will be powered with sealed batteries. It is important, when flying over sites such as live flare stacks, to minimize the risk of sparks on battery connectors or of UAV-mounted components (such as external batteries and sensor payloads) falling. UAV platforms that incorporate internal batteries inside the UAV’s body, together with sensor payloads that are mechanically integrated into that UAV, should therefore be deployed on these types of projects.

Additional thermal or gas sensors: Professional-grade inspection cameras now often incorporate thermal and visual sensors. Even if it is only photographic data that is being captured for an inspection project, the real-time feedback from the thermal sensors can provide a warning of extreme conditions onsite throughout the survey. When inspecting cold, venting smoke stacks, where un-ignited hydrocarbons can be present, methane or various other gas sensors might be used to provide additional warning during the inspection operation.

Flight plans: The best way to mitigate risk when inspecting flammable and hazardous sites is through comprehensive planning. The reason that drone inspection is used at all is because it enables visual and non-destructive inspection of a site without requiring personnel to be on the structure itself. Pre-planned flight paths can easily keep a drone 20 to 50 ft. from a structure and high-resolution imaging can easily be captured from 300 ft. away. The exact distance will always be defined by the UAV inspection-service provider and the facilities manager at the plant. Common sense also dictates that flight plans keep the UAV at an angular tangent away from the structure, rather than directly overhead, should anything fall.

Deploying UAVs to flammable sites: All operations around oil and gas infrastructure need to be carefully regulated and tightly controlled. Policies such as those related to intrinsic safety have long been in place to protect people and the environment on these types of sites. While intrinsic safety describes a set of electrical design principles, it also considers deployment procedures.

UAV platforms are not intrinsically safe in their electrical design. However, professional UAV inspection operations can offer an inspection procedure that minimizes health and safety risk to plant staff and the public, in addition to delivering significant economic savings to the plant.

Acquiring data

Using professional UAV inspection services, an asset manager can reduce the time that inspection personnel need to spend on the building itself. Provided a mission’s flight route has been well planned, a drone can collect imagery data that covers the entire building envelope in a fraction of the time that it takes for inspection personnel to traverse it.

Typically, visual and thermal imagery are collected. After applying automated statistical processes to convert the imagery into a 3D ‘point cloud,’ it is straightforward for skilled interpreters to identify locations and areas of deterioration on the building envelope. Since the data are being viewed in 3D, the roof and facades can be visually interpreted.

As the data in the point cloud is geo-referenced with real-world geographic coordinates, a plan or a map can be provided to an inspection and maintenance team to identify areas of deterioration  before anyone needs to climb any ladders or scaffolding, undertake rope-access procedures, or walk on a roof.

Longwave vs. handheld mid-wave IR cameras

Typically, a roof-inspection company might use a MWIR (mid-wave infrared) handheld camera or a LWIR (long-wave infrared) unit to collect data using an airborne platform. The advantages and disadvantages to the agency undertaking the roof inspection and the customer need to be assessed in terms of the sensor technical characteristics and the implementation implications.

Handheld MWIR can increase sensitivity among reflective/cool roofs and increased scaling values in output images can make results easier to interpret. However, the reduced dynamic range the cameras have could mean reduced sensitivity across all material types. On the other hand, using drone-mounted longwave IR provides a high dynamic range that leads to increased sensitivity across dark, cooled roof structures. But, LWIR technology requires an increased expertise to interpret subtle differences in thermal capacitance between different roof materials, especially when highly reflective.

In terms of implementation, drone-mounted LWIR doesn’t require inspection personnel to walk on a roof. The entire building envelope, including hard-to-reach areas can be imaged. Thermal ghosting (or leakage) is minimized by a high straight-on view of a roof by a camera. A complete, geo-referenced report can be quickly provided to the client.

Drones, equipped with a combination of sensors, are revolutionizing oil and gas inspections. At the moment, drones with thermal imaging, photo, and video cameras, as well as gas sniffers and other sensors, are performing a variety of inspection functions. The mobility and sensors allow the drones to analyze facilities for existing and potential defects safely, quickly, and efficiently.  MT

Sean Woessner is an FAA licensed pilot at Industrial SkyWorks (, Houston. He holds IFR and FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot sUAS ratings. Woessner has conducted more than 500 inspections and logged more than 400 sUAS hours.


6:35 pm
June 16, 2017
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SAP Tips and Tricks: Improve Efficiency with Equipment Bill of Materials

randmBy Kristina Gordon, DuPont

A bill of materials (BOM) is a list of items used to perform maintenance activities. There are different types of BOMs, as they are often called but, in maintenance functions, we generally use equipment BOMs. This material list is created in a hierarchal manner and associated with one specific piece of equipment. BOMs can also be created for functional locations, making it efficient to select materials.

The second type of BOM is associated with a material type called an IBAU. This is a maintenance assembly list created by using individual parts tied to a higher-level material instead of an equipment master or functional location.

Creating a good BOM can be a critical factor in completing work for a piece of equipment. It will, at a glance, make it possible to identify the materials needed to service that piece of equipment.

In the following example, you will learn how to create a bill of material and how to display it in your work order.

Transaction IB01

Enter the equipment master number for the bill of materials you wish to create, plant code, and BOM usage 4 (plant-maintenance usage), and the date you wish to make your BOM valid from.

Click the enter button.


Add the following information

• ICT: This indicates the status of the material, i.e., stock (L), non-stock (N) or text (T).
• Component: This is your material master number.
• Quantity: Number of components needed to service the equipment
• UN: Unit of measure for how you receive the material

Once finished, click the save button.


You will have the ability to see the new materials on the BOM you created under the functional location in which the equipment is installed (transaction IH01).


When creating a maintenance work order for the equipment, pull up the materials on the BOM by using the list button on the components tab of the work order.


This automatically lists the materials on the BOM. Select the check box for the materials that you wish to carry into your work order. Click the green check mark.


Your materials populate in your work order.


Note that a ritual should be built around updating your BOMs on a frequency. This allows new materials, or materials with different specifications, which will also have a new material master number, to be added and any materials no longer applicable to be deleted. This can be completed in transaction IB02, change bill of materials. MT

Kristina Gordon is SAP Program Consultant at the DuPont, Sabine River Works plant in West Orange, TX. If you have SAP questions, send them to and we’ll forward them to Kristina.