Author Archive | Maintenance Technology


1:35 pm
May 23, 2016
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Updates From Mainstream Conference 2016

Mainstream Conference

May 22-25, 2016, The Woodlands Waterway Marriott, Houston, TX

Businesses are demanding and new leadership styles, technologies and global standards are emerging. The big asset management shift is on and maintenance and reliability have moved beyond their operational role, transforming into a core, focused and disciplined strategic business function. People, technology and new standards are the essential enablers of this transformation. This year’s Mainstream program has evolved and progressed to be a celebration of the leadership, technology, ideas and innovations that are transforming asset management in North America. Michelle Segrest reports live from the show with audio updates here. Also, keep up-to-date on Twitter: @MTMagazine


Jumpstart: The Proven Magical Ingredients to World Class Reliability & Maintenance Programs

Tor Idhammar – President & CEO, IDCON, Inc.

With 20 years of consulting experience, Tor Idhammar presents his Top 4 magic ingredients to building a world-class reliability and maintenance program.


Jumpstart: Using “Working Styles” to Build & Maintain a Winning Team

Doug Whittle – President, Whittle Consulting Group

Doug Whittle breaks down the four top personality profiles using a color scheme and shows how to build a successful team using just the right combination of these personalities.



Keynote: Increasing People Engagement through Coaching, Mentoring & Empowerment

Stephanie Pullings-Hart – Executive Director, Operations, Nestle

Waterway 5-8

The Nestle Continuous Excellence (NCE) program is committed to operational improvement and engaging the hearts and minds of all employees in a consumer driven war on waste. Presenter Stephanie Pullings-Hart explains how when employees feel valued, they deliver more. By reducing waste, we create value and consequently free up our minds for more entrepreneurial and creative activities.


Turning Your Team into Reliability Believers: a Comparative Analysis Providing Proven Tactics to Ramp Up Your Reliability Efforts

Pedro Fuster – Director of Reliability, Resolute Forest Products

Tor Idhammar – President & CEO, IDCON, Inc.

The presenters describe a case study at a pulp and paper company that turned its employees into reliability believers. He presents his Top 15 tips for selling a belief in the importance of reliability.


Operator Focal Points: Leading Reliability From the Ground Up

Anthony A. Hermes – Reliability Leader, Seadrift Operations, The Dow Chemical Company

 Anthony Hermes explains the importance of knowing the equipment and taking ownership of it.  He says to be an “owner” and not a “renter.” The foundation of reliable equipment is folks with passion, ownership, and a drive to learn more.


Flying Blind: You Just Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Cliff Williams – Global Director of Maintenance, ERCO Worldwide, Author of “People, A Reliability Success Story”

Jeff Shriver – Managing Principal, People & Processes, Inc.

In this presentation, the speakers took the audience through real-world scenarios in which maintenance professionals were forced to solve problems. They present their Top 20 Tips for Reliability Success.


4:23 pm
May 16, 2016
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Maximize Millennial Workers

Millennials checklist on clipboard for survey of generation with age born between 1980 and 2000, social and connected, and cause driven

For many, the millennial generation presents a significant workplace management challenge and is often labeled lazy and entitled. Unlike previous generations, this group approaches things in a very different way. Like it or not, they are the future. In fact, that future is now. Millennials currently make up more than 35% of the workforce and that number will be just short of 50% by 2020. In other words, if you’re not one, you have to learn to work with them.

At the Uponor Connections 2016 users conference, held this past March in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Ryan Avery (a millennial himself) in his talk, “Motivating Millennials,” shed some light on what makes that generation tick. Uponor North America, headquartered in Apple Valley, MN, is a manufacturer of PEX piping systems.

Avery started his talk by making it clear to the baby boomers in the audience that they are the reason millennials are the way they are. Boomers had to work hard to move up the ladder and didn’t want their kids to have to do the same and now get to work with the result of that approach. What follows are more insights from Avery that, if you’re a baby boomer or part of some other generation, will help you understand and benefit from what can prove to be a talented group of workers.

—Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director

Ryan Avery assigned shapes to the two generations.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 8.45.27 AM

The triangle represents baby boomers and their hierarchical approach to life and work. Millennials are the circle because they have a community approach and like to be coached. They don’t appreciate bosses and like to be part of a team. The shape for GenX people is a square.

While boomers grew up in and work in an aggressive/demanding culture, millennials do better if things are explained. They like to know why things are done or need to be done.

When millennials are presented with a task, they like to start with the result/goal and then be allowed to figure out how to get there. Established procedures aren’t always of interest to them. If they see a better way, they want the freedom to take that path. That path doesn’t always fit in the conventional 9-to-5 workday.

When communicating with millennials, stop multitasking — put your phone down and your computer screen aside. This applies to anyone, but managers should take care to talk to millennials like they matter. Four of five employees do not feel valued at work. That one valued person will give 90% more of himself/herself than the other four. Keep in mind that employees spend more time with managers than their loved ones. Pay attention to the person opposite you.

Millennials stay at their jobs an average of two years, meaning that they aren’t interested in the conventional end-of-the-year reward/bonus approach. They are much more receptive to little rewards throughout the year, such as meals or gift cards. Avery suggested that paying their monthly Netflix fee would be an excellent reward.

Millennials like a cause, which translates to the fact that they are more willing to participate if there is a social responsibility involved. Instead of a bonus, give them money to donate to their favorite cause or provide days off so they can volunteer to help others.

Instead of smoke breaks, provide social-media breaks.

They like to collaborate and don’t like to compete.

They are not big fans of the word “but.” Instead of  “Good idea, but . . .” try “I like your idea and another way to accomplish it is…” MT


4:16 pm
May 16, 2016
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Avoid Costly Motor Connection Mistakes

By Mike Howell, Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA)

Manufacturers deploy various external connection schemes to produce three-phase induction motors for multiple voltages and/or starting methods. Be sure to follow the relevant connection diagram, which is usually affixed to the motor or contained in its manual. If the diagram is lost, damaged, or ignored, you could find yourself dealing with a costly rewind.

The following tips apply to connections commonly encountered on machines with one speed at power frequency. If the external connection information isn’t available, ask your local service center for assistance, especially if several lead tags are missing or there are multiple nameplate speed ratings at power frequency. The service center can also help with unconventional numbering or cross-referencing IEC and NEMA numbering. Caution: The integrity of lead markings is only as good as the electrician who removed the motor from service and quality of the labeling materials at hand.

3 Leads

While three-lead connections are the most straightforward, always check the direction of rotation before finalizing the motor installation, regardless of the lead quantity.

6 Leads

If leads are numbered 1 to 6, the winding can usually be connected wye or delta. On machines rated for two voltages, the wye connection is for the high voltage; the delta connection is for the low voltage.

For a single voltage rating, most six-lead machines are capable of wye-delta starting (and will run in delta). The exception would be some large machines that have external wye connections to facilitate differential protection.

If leads are numbered 1 to 3 and 7 to 9, the winding is capable of part-winding start. When using a different starting method, e.g., soft start, variable-frequency drive, or across-the-line, always connect the machine for run.

Some machines will have 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, indicating a delta-run motor. Also, since some part-winding start motors are numbered incorrectly as 1 to 6, remember the starting method you’re using.

9 Leads

If leads are numbered 1 to 9, the motor is typically rated for two voltages and could be designed with either a wye or delta connection. Using the machine on the higher rating, the external connection is the same either way.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 11.10.39 AM

On the lower voltage rating, though, the external connection will be different for wye- and delta-connected units. Verify what you have! If a multimeter shows continuity between leads 7, 8, and 9, the machine is wye-connected (see Fig. 1).

12 Leads

If leads are numbered 1 to 12, the motor is typically rated for two voltages and could be used with a wye-delta starter at either voltage, or a part-winding starter for low voltage only. Units rated for single voltage may have 12 leads and be suitable for wye-delta or part-winding starts. Twelve-lead induction motors will almost always run connected delta.

Unmarked Leads

If only a couple of leads are unmarked, you may be able to restore numbering by process of elimination. Otherwise, it’s best to ask a service center for assistance, because they have reliable procedures for identifying leads.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 11.10.51 AM

Uncoupled Run

If there’s any doubt about the external connection, it’s a good idea to run the machine unloaded to determine the direction of rotation and no-load current. A no-load current significantly above or below the ranges in Table I may indicate a connection error, or a winding error on rewound motors. (Caution: Never operate a roller-bearing machine without radial load.) MT

Mike Howell is a technical support specialist at the Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA), St. Louis. For more information, visit


4:07 pm
May 16, 2016
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Don’t Ignore Compressed Air Filters

Men during precision work on production line

By Ron Marshall, Compressed Air Challenge (CAC)

Compressed air filters are often-forgotten items that can affect the quality of your air supply and—surprisingly—the efficiency of your overall system. You can’t afford to overlook them.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 11.02.07 AMAir compressors ingest atmospheric air from the compressor room, pass it through an inlet filter, and compress it to a space about 1/7th the original size. This process generates large amounts of heat that must be removed by some type of cooler. When this is done, moisture is squeezed and condensed out of the air and mostly eliminated by a water separator. While it’s inside the compressor, though, the air also picks up small amounts of the equipment’s lubricant. Any dust in the air as it passed the inlet filter remains, but in a denser form due to the reduction in volume.

Water, lubricant, and dust particles that aren’t filtered out before they reach the air dryer will travel to points unknown throughout the system. Among other things, such contaminants could then ruin your product or clog the internal pneumatic circuits of expensive production equipment. That’s why compressed air filtration is so important.

Fortunately, there are many different types and styles of filtering solutions in the marketplace, ranging from very coarse elements that remove large particles to very fine ones that remove tiny dust particles and minute traces of lubricant and water. Unfortunately, all filters present a restriction to the flow of air that leads to the development of pressure differential.

Contaminants, among other things, that aren’t filtered from your compressed air system could clog internal pneumatic circuits of expensive production equipment.

Contaminants, among other things, that aren’t filtered from your compressed air system could clog internal pneumatic circuits of expensive production equipment.

Pressure differential consumes energy in compressed air systems. About 1% of additional power is required for every 2 psi higher compressor-discharge pressure. Thus, filters need to be chosen wisely. Note, too, that there’s usually a balance between the need for clean air and the cost of compressor operation. In general, the finer your filtering, the higher your energy costs.

That said, who chooses your filters and why? Frequently it’s the compressor supplier—who might have somewhat of a vested interest in supplying your operations with filter elements for years to come. Often, you’ll find a train of multiple filters installed in a compressor room, from coarse to fine, sometimes in multiple groups before and after the air dryer. These types of units can represent the biggest pressure differential in a plant.

For more information on compressed air topics and related training through the Compressed Air Challenge (CAC), visit, or contact Ron Marshall directly at


3:58 pm
May 16, 2016
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Select The Right Pneumatic Tubing And Hose

Remember these important dimensions when specifying pneumatic tubing and hose.

Remember these important dimensions when specifying pneumatic tubing and hose.

When it comes to today’s pneumatic applications, industry has a variety of options for connecting air-preparation systems, valves, and cylinders. Most users turn to flexible pneumatic tubing or hose rather than rigid tubing—and many different types of both are available. A recently released eBook from Cumming, GA-based AutomationDirect ( offers the following advice on selecting the right tubing and hose solutions for your needs.

Tube or hose

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 10.50.05 AMFlexible tubing is the most common way to connect pneumatic valves to cylinders, actuators, and vacuum generators in modern automated equipment, with hose coming in a close second. Despite tubing type, be careful to not confuse outside diameter (OD) with inside diameter (ID), and be aware that flexible and rigid tubing reflect very different materials of construction. Remember, too, that tubing is specified by outside diameter and hose is specified by inside diameter.

Most tubing used in pneumatic systems is less than 1-in. OD with common pneumatic main supply circuits in the 1/4–in. to 1/2-in. tube OD range, and pneumatic control circuits in the 1/8-in. to 3/8-in. tube OD range. Pneumatic tubing is available in metric and English sizes, which, clearly, shouldn’t be mixed on the same machine.

In automated equipment and machine-shop applications, the outside diameter drives the selection and specification process, matching the tubing to the push lock or other fitting.

If more airflow is needed, larger diameter stock is the obvious choice. Keep in mind, however, that the inside diameter of tubing is affected by the tube-wall thickness, with thick walls reducing ID and airflow.

Hose is sometimes manufactured by adding a nylon braid between the inner and outer layers of tubing and attaching a rigid and a swivel fitting. Whether the hose is made of rubber or lighter-weight polyurethane or other materials, it is strong, flexible, and kink resistant—and, therefore, an easy way to connect shop air to blow-guns or other pneumatic tools.

Hoses are commonly available in diameters of 1/4-in., 3/8-in., and 1/2-in. with national pipe thread (NPT) or quick-disconnect fittings (QD). To ensure proper airflow for an application, check diameters carefully.

Material types

Several materials are used to produce extruded-plastic pneumatic tubing including:

Polyurethane tubing is strong and has excellent kink resistance compared to other types. With a working pressure of 150 psi or higher, it’s the most commonly used tubing material. It also has tight OD tolerance, and a wide range of available push-to-connect fittings. Note that a number of tubing colors and diameters are offered to help identify pneumatic circuits. UV stabilization is an option for outdoor use.

Polyurethane and PVC tubing are the most flexible materials available. Polyurethane tubing is very durable with outstanding memory, making it a good choice for coiled, portable, or self-storing pneumatic hose applications. PVC is not as tough as polyurethane, but can be specified for food-grade applications. It’s also a good choice when high flexibility and low cost are required.

Nylon and polyethylene tubing use harder plastics and, thus, are less flexible. This makes these material types a good choice for air distribution and straight-run piping applications. Notable nylon-tubing properties include high working-pressure capability (to 800 psi), a temperature range to 200 F, and excellent chemical resistance.

PTFE tubing has several notable properties of its own, including high heat resistance, excellent chemical resistance, and good dielectric properties. PTFE tubing can handle temperatures as high as 500 F, is chemically inert, and can be used in applications sensitive to static electricity. MT

To learn more about this topic and download a free copy of the referenced Practical Guide to Pneumatics eBook, as well as access a wealth other useful automation-related information, visit


2:36 pm
May 16, 2016
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RasGas Pumps Up Production

Setting the pace for the global LNG industry involves many things, including working with experts who deliver solutions that ensure process safety, reliability, and efficiency.

Drilling for natural gas is only the start in getting it to market. It must be super-chilled into liquefied form (LNG) for export. For Qatar’s RasGas Co. Ltd., that chilling takes place onshore, in a processing plant called a “train,” far away from offshore wellheads. One of the world’s leading integrated LNG enterprises, RasGas has seven of these trains, including two of the largest on the planet.

Setting the pace for the global LNG industry involves many things, including working with experts who deliver solutions that ensure process safety, reliability, and efficiency.

Continue Reading →


2:02 pm
May 16, 2016
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Final Thought: The Reliability of Everything (RoE)

Cklaus01By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee, Reliability & Maintainability Center

Why is reliability attracting so much attention? It’s connected to everything.

Many phone calls I field these days involve requests for reliability and maintainability information or training or assistance in hiring RME (Reliability and Maintainability Engineering) graduates (of which some companies seek more than 20). On a broader scale, my recent online search for “reliability jobs” turned up 127 million, including 870,000 for “reliability engineering,” 392,000 for “reliability technicians,” and 301,000 for “reliability engineering managers.” To understand what’s fueling this situation, let’s examine the following four areas. (When I use the term reliability, I’m typically referring to reliability and maintainability [R&M].)

Access to knowledge has improved. More reliability knowledge is available, and it’s more understandable and easily applied. Visibility and awareness are also higher. The slim R&M professional-development pickings of yesteryear have grown to include more than 10 annual conferences and untold numbers of other training offerings. The workforce’s interest in professional growth that’s been building over decades is also capturing the attention of increasing numbers of employers. During my two-year chairmanship of SMRP (Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals), shortly after the society formed, we just hoped to get enough attendees to our conferences to cover expenses. That situation has changed dramatically, due, in large part, to the emphasis other conferences, publications, and information portals have put on R&M. Better and standardized processes, i.e., the SMRP Body of Knowledge and Uptime Elements, also exist. While R&M professionals still need to personalize their “roadmaps,” these types of foundational resources are a good start.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 9.00.40 AMMore people, at all levels, “get it.” Reliability used to mainly be something engineers “did.” Today, it’s often considered part of everyone’s job, and there’s a clear role for technicians/trades, engineers, and leaders in supporting an R&M vision. Students are also gaining early exposure and experience in the field. For example, in the past five years, the Univ. of Tennessee College of Engineering has graduated about 300 students with RME undergraduate minor and/or graduate degrees. Interestingly, today there are about as many technicians and trades pursuing R&M professional development opportunities as engineers. Managers are seeking specific guidance regarding training and implementation versus just wanting general help. Reliability is also becoming more integrated in plant and corporate business plans with leadership goals.

Reliability can improve most (maybe all) key business metrics. Reliability and maintainability have a positive impact on safety, people, quality, productivity, and costs (what every company targets). Use of the R&M relationship in these areas as a competitive advantage is generating numerous success stories. Organizations can leverage R&M to attain top-quartile performance if they know how to implement it and on what performance indicators to focus. (Note: SMRP and the Univ. of Tennessee are teaming up to provide six metric areas, by industry type, that enable top-quartile performance in the five target areas. Contact me regarding participation.)

Reliability gets results in all types of organizations. Remember that reliability includes people, product, processes (engineering and machinery and equipment), all assets, and facilities, across all sectors. Some operations I’ve recently been involved with (from airlines to mining, pharma, and everything in between) have wanted to drive overall continuous improvement; many have wanted to increase uptime and reduce costs. Reliability, when properly strategized and aligned, can support a variety of other initiatives, i.e., Lean and TPM (Total Productive Maintenance). Specifically, organizations can leverage reliability to build best practices, including precision maintenance, repeatable production processes within specifications, and Weibull analyses to monitor reliability growth.

Think of reliability in Internet of Things (IoT) terms. Just as the IoT reflects connectivity among countless physical objects and networks, the Reliability of Everything (RoE) connects and improves all parts of your business. 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