Author Archive | Maintenance Technology


4:07 pm
April 12, 2016
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Injection Pumps Provide Reliability For Gas Producer

The BB3 API-standard bare-shaft pump offers “drop-in” installation that fits in existing infrastructure. Photos: Standard Alloys

The BB3 API-standard bare-shaft pump offers “drop-in” installation that fits in existing infrastructure. Photos: Standard Alloys

Horizontal split-case pumps transfer gas from storage wells to the pipeline.

By Bryan Orchard

The BB3 horizontally split-case API pump is used extensively by pipeline companies operating in the shale gas, liquefied-petroleum gas (LPG) and liquefied-natural gas (LNG) markets.

“BB3 pumps are used within terminals to transfer the gas into the pipelines from storage wells,” explained Richard Martinez, managing director at Standard Alloys Inc., Port Arthur, TX. “These pipelines employ pump stations at various intervals along their length, and many of these pumps are coming to the end of their service lives. There is no desire to replace redundant pumps with new units. The last thing that they want to do is change drivers, put in new foundations, and change piping connections to accommodate new designs.”

The most cost-efficient solution is to use a bare-shaft pump that can be easily dropped into the existing infrastructure where operators know that the nozzles, casing feet, and shaft couplings will fit.


Targa Resources Corp., Houston, is a provider of midstream services in North America. In 2015, Targa installed a BB3 pump for the specific duty of injecting ethane propane mix (EP) into storage wells at the plant’s salt dome. The double volute, eight-stage split-case centrifugal pump is fitted with 10.187-in. closed impellers and provides a flow of 1,200 gpm running at 4,000 rpm, with a suction pressure of 260 psig, and a total developed head of 3,800 ft. The pump can graduate from moving a product of specific gravity 0.38 all the way up to 0.50, which gives them the ability to move heavier end products. Installed on an existing product train, the pump has been built specifically for this application.

“We were given the flow parameters and head capacities. We went into our database to see what we had that was closest to the specification,” Martinez said. “We found a closely-matched pump and used this as a platform to custom build the flow and head required. We produced a special package that went beyond the generic specification typically found in API-610. It had to fit the same foundation as the original pump, so a custom base was designed to facilitate a perfect fit.”

Martinez said his company had already supplied similar pumps for transfer duties, but this one was specifically engineered for well injection.

The rotating element is set inside the lower casing during manufacturing.

The rotating element is set inside the lower casing during manufacturing.


Steve Ferguson, Targa’s rotating-maintenance supervisor emphasized the importance of extreme reliability for this application. Regular maintenance inspections are implemented by Ferguson’s reliability team. The new injection pump has replaced a standby pump that had reached the end of its service life. For reasons associated with the casing, it had to be condemned.            “A problem with older pumps is that in the event of failure, weld repair from erosion will be required,” Ferguson said. “This is not possible because, over time, electrolysis leaches the carbon out of the material so the base metal will not accept the weld metal. Also, there is the problem of carbons leaching, which weakens the case. Pressure testing repairs cannot be performed. Therefore, replacement pumps are required.”

For years Standard Alloys’ core business was in manufacturing replacement pump parts. In 1992 this changed when the company made its first complete bare-shaft pump. Now they produce API qualified bare-shaft replacement pumps for brownfield and greenfield applications, exploiting opportunities where an existing pump may be obsolete or where material or engineering upgrades are needed.

“Our target is pump operators that may have seventh or eighth edition API pumps that need replacing with a direct ‘drop-in’ ,” Martinez said. “They don’t want to change the foundation due to the casing foot location or modify the suction and discharge nozzles. They also don’t want to relocate the drive unit. RP

Bryan Orchard is an independent journalist reporting for KSB Group.


3:58 pm
April 12, 2016
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Consolidating Assets Maximizes Performance

Warehouse locations were reduced from  48 to five within two years.

Warehouse locations were reduced from 48 to five within two years.

Streamlining a materials-management system helps increase production and cut waste and redundant part ordering at an Indiana oil refinery.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Two years ago, CountryMark’s inventory of more than 600 pump parts and thousands of other spare parts and components could be found in 48 different locations on the one-mile campus of the Mount Vernon, IN, oil refinery (see p. 10).

Corporate goals to sustain these assets, invest in proper procurement, and build a robust inventory-management solution prompted a massive, company-wide WorkPlace Excellence Initiative Program.

CountryMark hired SAP procurement and business-process system expert Lori Foster to spearhead the design and implementation of the materials-management program. Her team included five seasoned team members. With the coaching and support of consultants from Life Cycle Engineering (LCE), Charleston, SC, the project kicked off in March 2014.

One of the primary goals was to consolidate and identify assets. The 48 inventory locations have now been reduced to just five. The ultimate goal is to have everything in one place, supported with a robust processing system.

To get a visual of the random placement of the various storage locations, Foster said, “Envision them as sheds around the site. Anywhere they could find a place to stick something…that became a storage location. It was all on the site of the refinery, but completely scattered around and without any system to know what we had, where it was, or what needed to be ordered.”


CountryMark is an American-owned oil exploration, production, refining, and marketing company. In 2013, the company embarked on the WorkPlace Excellence Program. Team leaders developed a set of work processes with step definitions and RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) charts to determine roles and responsibilities.

LCE assigned a coach for each team with specialized knowledge in each of the focus areas. LCE’s Wally Wilson was the materials-management coach.

“CountryMark had performed an assessment and we helped to analyze the information they provided us,” Wilson said. “We looked at where they were and coached them on the best practices in each of the focus areas. Then we came up with a plan that would bridge the gap from where they were and where they wanted to be.”

Stockroom personnel were managing mostly weld-shop inventory and consumables. The remainder of the parts were located in 43 different areas around the refinery, including four maintenance shops. This put the burden on the maintenance foreman and maintenance craftsmen to manually track and place orders for parts.

Some parts, such as spare motors, were housed in five or six locations. Nearly 7,000 spare parts have been inventoried, consolidated, and re-organized, so far. About 400 of the 600-plus pump bill of materials are now in the system.

The pump shop stored all of their materials in bins which had to be disassembled and re-organized and setup in the system. Space in the stockroom was limited to only 5,000 sq. ft., with outdated racking. The area was open so anyone at the refinery could walk in and get what they wanted. The two stockroom personnel had a manual checkout system. But if it wasn’t used, they would have to physically walk around the stockroom and check inventory, and then manually place orders. Only a couple of individuals knew where items were located.

All parts were expensed upon purchase and the work-order system tied the part to the work order. But no information was being tracked back to the unit regarding maintenance costs.

Accounts payable, purchasing, and inventory were in different systems so there was no three-way matching of purchase orders to inventory.

“There was no tracking or visibility of products ordered,” Foster said. “Now, we have traceability. All parts are charged to the work orders, so we know where they get used. We now have a purchasing history, so we know when we last bought it, from whom we bought it, and how to pay the invoices.”

Right. In addition to relocating and rearranging materials, all consumables were moved to point-of-use cabinets, which are now the responsibility of each manager.

Right. In addition to relocating and rearranging materials, all consumables were moved to point-of-use cabinets, which are now the responsibility of each manager.


To implement a smooth materials management and purchasing process that had automatic reordering, Foster knew the first step was spending significant time identifying parts, preparing them to be loaded into the new inventory system, and reorganizing the warehouse.

“Parts had been set up in the old system but there were too many to go through to migrate all that data, so we had to start from scratch,” Foster said. “We manually added all the parts, including contacting suppliers for pricing and lead times. For each of the 600 pumps, we had to obtain bills of materials, identify the parts needed, work with the suppliers to identify the pricing, lead times, and whether the part was still a valid item.”

The next focus was culture change.

“We had to convince everyone that our goal was to set up something that would benefit everybody, not make things more complicated,” Foster said. “For example, instead of the maintenance supervisors having to write manual requisitions, we needed to set up the item in the system and let the system reorder it as we utilized a part. ”

More than 300 bins store all of the pump-shop parts. Bills of materials are now obtained for all pumps. Each gray bin is then taken apart, parts identified, and put away in a location, either back in a rack or a high-density cabinet.

More than 300 bins store all of the pump-shop parts. Bills of materials are now obtained for all pumps. Each gray bin is then taken apart, parts identified, and put away in a location, either back in a rack or a high-density cabinet.


All parts have now been moved out of the maintenance shops. The stockroom has a new layout with an inventory locator system. Long-lead-time parts that might be critical are now identified with stocking agreements with the suppliers. The craftsmen and foremen are focused on critical maintenance work instead of manually chasing parts and materials. The planners are now planning jobs and forecasting the materials that need to be ordered.

Jobs are now kitted prior to the start of the maintenance work, which increases wrench time. The turnaround time for setting up parts, getting updated quotes, and lead-time information is now less than two days. 

All purchase orders are processed and monitored for future use. All materials maintained in stock have reorder points, and the materials that are planned are forecasted by maintenance planners.

Emergency orders are manually checked out, making it possible to track material and repair costs. The visibility of repairs and history has resulted in better decision making about repair parts vs. buying new when it is no longer cost-effective to repeatedly repair the same parts.

“I never thought this was going to work,” said maintenance planner Jeff Goad. “I argued with Lori when she wanted to move the bins, but now I see how easy it is to find what I need, and how easy it is to have something re-ordered. Now we know what we have.” 

Larry Conyers managed the stockroom for 32 years, but was not convinced of the benefits the change would bring. “I just didn’t see how this was going to work,” he said. Now, he is the biggest supporter of the system.


Since 2015 has been a year of the implementation and the rollout of new processes, the teams were unable to clean out all the obsolete materials and finalize arranging other locations. Dashboards have been developed with key performance indicators in the areas of sourcing, procure to pay, materials management, and warehouse management. 

Foster said the program has been successful thanks to senior management and leadership buy in. After two years of progress, there is still work to be done.

“From a project perspective, it takes about a year to 18 months to implement a program like this,’ Foster said. “But, from a cultural perspective, we are not finished. CountryMark is probably another 18 to 24 months away from imbedding the true culture change that must be made for sustainment.” RP


8:04 pm
April 11, 2016
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Heed These IR Safety Tips

Thermogram shows hot spot on dry-type transformer at the jumper connection.

Thermogram shows hot spot on dry-type transformer at the jumper connection.

By James Seffrin, Director, Infraspection Institute

When working in a new facility or plant area for the first time, infrared technicians may encounter safety rules that are new or different. Thus, it’s important for thermographers to review safety requirements with project managers prior to beginning any new work.

When contacting a project representative concerning safety, ask these questions:

  • What general safety training and/or site-specific training is required?
  • Is special clothing, shoes, or other personal-protective equipment required?
  • Can infrared and related test equipment be used in the subject areas?
  • Are respirators or additional safety equipment/monitors required?
  • Will the work involve hazardous locations such as confined spaces, scaffolding, or other types of elevated platforms?
  • What medical conditions might preclude a person from working in the subject area(s)?
  • Are there site-specific emergency procedures, including evacuation, designated rally spots, and how to report an incident?

Once the project commences, be sure to maintain good situational awareness and always stay with your qualified assistant. Becoming familiar with area safety rules in advance of a project can help to avoid cancelled projects and embarrassment, while helping maximize safety.” MT

Electrical-Inspection Safety: It Takes Two

If you are a thermographer who performs infrared inspections of electrical-distribution systems, you are not alone—and you never should be. Working alone near exposed, energized electrical equipment is not only dangerous, it’s a violation of federal law.

Administered by OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards for General Industry, 29 CFR, Part 1910 apply to most thermographers working within the United States or its territories. Specifically, 1910 Subpart R covers the operation and maintenance of electric-power generation, control, transformation, transmission, and distribution lines or equipment. Covered facilities include utilities and equivalent industrial establishments.

According to Subpart R, prior to commencement of work, medical and first-aid supplies must be provided for, including persons trained in first aid and CPR when work is on or near exposed lines or equipment energized at greater than 50 volts. Since CPR cannot be self-administered, at least two people trained in first aid and CPR must always be present when working near most exposed energized equipment.

Remember: Having a second CPR-trained person along will not only satisfy OSHA requirements, it may save your life.

Jim Seffrin, a practicing thermographer with 30+ years of experience in the field, was appointed to the position of director of Infraspection Institute, Burlington, NJ, in 2000. This article is based on two of his “Tip of the Week” posts on For more information on safety and other infrared applications, as well as various upcoming training and certification opportunities, email or visit


7:59 pm
April 11, 2016
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Select & Safely Operate Backup Generators

Power Transmission Line. Lightning strike. 3d render

When lightning strikes, backup generators become valuable tools. As with anything else in a plant or job site, safety should be the top priority.

Electrical outages caused by severe storms and disasters can be mere inconvenience or a serious problem. Whatever the origin and extent of an outage, backup generators offer a reliable power source and great peace of mind. As with all things electrical, though, the incorrect use of generators can create potentially hazardous situations—for end-users and electricians, as well as for utility workers who install and maintain power-distribution systems.

The Energy Education Council’s “Safe Electricity Program” recently outlined crucial considerations in selecting and safely operating the right generator for an application. Keep this advice in mind at work and at home.

Decide what needs to be powered.
What appliances, devices, and equipment are essential? Choose a generator size that can handle the full load of the estimated power needed. Note that it takes more power to turn an appliance on—its surge power—than it does when in continuous operation.

Stand-by or portable.
Stand-by generators are permanently wired units installed by a professional electrician. The installation should include a transfer switch that prevents feeding electricity back into overhead lines, which can be deadly for linemen. These generators are fueled by natural gas or propane from existing gas lines and automatically turn on in the event of a power outage.

Portable generators are typically fueled with diesel or gasoline, which must be regularly refilled. Unlike stand-by units, these must be turned on and off manually, and appliances must be directly plugged into the generator with a suitably rated extension cord.

Be aware of local ordinances.
Depending on location, electrical, positioning, or noise, codes may apply to operating or installing backup generators. Local electrical contractors or generator dealers can help with the selection of code-compliant units.

Operate safely.
Once a generator is installed and ready to run, heed these guidelines to ensure safe operation:

  • Thoroughly read and follow all manufacturer instructions to properly ground the generator before turning it on.
  • Do not connect portable generators directly to an electrical system. Doing so could re-energize overhead power lines and endanger the lives of utility linemen working to restore power.
  • There should be nothing plugged into a portable generator before starting it to prevent a surge from damaging the appliance.
  • When running a portable generator, always use properly rated extension cords (length and load) when connecting appliances.
  • Always operate portable generators in a well-ventilated space to avoid
    carbon monoxide poisoning and other harmful fumes. Never operate a generator indoors.
  • Generators can pose an electrical risk when operated in wet conditions. Make sure the generator stays dry during its operation, and never touch electrical equipment with wet hands.
  • Exercise caution around portable generators, which have exposed engine parts that could burn or injure individuals. Keep children and animals away from running generators.
  • Exercise care when refueling portable generators to prevent potential fires
    and spills.
  • Properly shut down portable generators by turning off and unplugging all appliances and equipment they are powering.
  • Remember to perform regular maintenance before and after each use. For portable generators, inspect oil and fuel filters, oil level, spark plugs, and fuel quality. Stand-by generators require less maintenance, but should still be inspected before and after power outages. MT

For more information about choosing and safely operating a backup generator, visit

The Energy Education Council, Urbana-Champaign, IL, is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting electrical safety and energy efficiency. Established in 1952, and headquartered within Univ. of Illinois Extension, the Council serves as a forum for diverse utility and energy organizations to collaborate on the mutually vital issues of efficiency and safety. Learn more at


7:49 pm
April 11, 2016
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Choose The Right Emergency Stop

With today’s number of customizable available options, selecting the right emergency stop (e-stop) for process equipment can be a daunting task, but it’s critical for overall safety. According to human-machine-interface (HMI) experts at EAO Corp., Shelton, CT, fitting equipment with a highly functional e-stop in line with the basic application design concept, versus a lesser-certified safety switch, is key. MT

Determine if your application requires Category 0 or Category 1 shutdown.
This is crucial in the placement, size, electrical specifications, mechanical characteristics, color, and number of required e-stops.

Research international and North American standards, performance ratings, and codes that govern your application (see table below).
Each industry has unique regulatory standards. These restrictions may govern factors such as size, color, and contact terminals.

Select the product.
Choose your e-stop based on design factors to meet industry demands and international compliance. Proper selection involves understanding market and application requirements, environmental conditions, and electrical demands.

Vendors often provide a variety of unique features to enhance your e-stop and complete virtually any application. It’s important to research these additions as some accessories may be mandated by industry standards.

Consult an expert.
Many suppliers offer consultative services to assist customers throughout the process of selecting and integrating their HMI needs, from individual e-stops to completely designed and produced ‘mixed technology’ solutions.

For more information on e-stops and other HMI components and systems, visit

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 2.46.56 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 2.47.23 PM


6:29 pm
April 11, 2016
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Final Thought: Whatever Happened to TPM?

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

In his 1988 book Introduction to TPM, Seiichi Nakajima defined Total Productive Maintenance as “productive maintenance carried out by all employees through small group activities” and “equipment maintenance performed on a company-wide basis.” Performed properly, TPM can generate significant benefits across an organization, i.e., productivity, safety, delivery, quality, culture, and cost. The process was developed to be supportive of a lean-production system and enable the improvement of OEE (overall equipment effectiveness).

Although many operations, large and small, in all industry sectors, have documented savings with TPM, the process amounts to little more than an extended kaizen event if it’s not sustained. Most companies I visit still say they’re “working on” TPM—which has been in North America for more than 25 years.

TPM can fail or be difficult to implement for several reasons. The most frequently cited include:

  • not instilling the owner/operator concept
  • not focusing on people and culture first and technologies later
  • not having leadership support
  • not understanding the role differences between reliability (MTBF/mean time between failures) and maintainability (MTTR/mean time to repair) and how together they provide availability
  • not supporting TPM as a continuous improvement program
  • not basing purchasing decisions on life-cycle costs.

John Moubray’s RCM2 book contains a chart depicting three past generations of maintenance/reliability. They were:

  • 1930 to 1950 (first generation), which was to “fix it when it’s broke”
  • 1951 to 1980 (second generation), which started large maintenance projects, some computer usage, and systems to plan and control work
  • 1981 to 2000 (third generation), which uses RCM, computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) and expert systems, multi-skilling, teams, condition monitoring, and predictive technologies.

The fourth generation (2001 to present) is what we all play a part in (and are helping define). It’s about big data, the Internet of everything, learning systems, and ongoing integration of new technologies, best practices, and processes. This generation will also be challenged with increasing complexity, higher expectations, growing competition for internal resources, and a changing understanding of reliability and maintenance. TPM can help with those challenges.

As an example of its effectiveness, Nakajima pointed to TPM moving one company from generating 36.8 suggestions/employee/year to 83.6 suggestions/employee/year. My own 2015 study found the average number in North America was 3.2, with a mode of 1.0—and many companies still struggling to get near 1.0. To be fair, it should be noted that TPM counts the numerous small improvements (and larger ones) that many plant-floor cultures aren’t able to establish. Without a robust, continuous-improvement process/culture in place, TPM quickly becomes the most difficult step in lean implementation, with minimized expected results.

In another study of 200 companies, I found RCM/FMEA (reliability centered maintenance/failure modes and effects analysis) was credited for achieving savings four times more often than TPM. Other techniques, i.e., root-cause analysis, 5 Whys, visual aids, and kaizen events, were also credited more than TPM. The same study revealed that more operator involvement resulted in better financial performance. Substantial benefit had already been achieved as a result of operators becoming involved with visual aids (versus also picking up tools).

Around 1953, 20 companies began a research group that became the Tokyo-based Japanese Institute of Plant Maintenance (JIPM). Yet, after TPM began there in the 1970s, it still took nine years for about 23% of Japan’s companies (based on 124 factories belonging to the JIPM) to reach the full phase of the process. To be successful, TPM must be planned and implemented with change management in mind, and consistently applied with a continuous-improvement focus.

For two decades following its introduction, Japanese researchers and practitioners participated in numerous global TPM-related conferences and study trips. (In the early 1990s, I hosted the JIPM on a visit to see a large-scale manufacturing reliability and maintenance implementation and discuss TPM.)

But where in the world is TPM today?

If your North American operation has fully implemented TPM—and it has worked well for more than 10 years—please contact me. 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


5:49 pm
April 11, 2016
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Motor-Testing Tools Expand Services

Ken Patterson, head of the predictive-maintenance division at Koontz-Wagner, tests a 9,000-hp motor.

Ken Patterson, head of the predictive-maintenance division at Koontz-Wagner, tests a 9,000-hp motor.

New state-of-the-art instruments at Midwest service-provider Koontz-Wagner helped boost the company’s profits by 10%.

Growing companies typically make investments in state-of-the-art tools and equipment so that they may expand their ability to serve their customers. One such company, Koontz-Wagner Services, South Bend, IN, has capitalized on several opportunities since acquiring new energized and de-energized motor-testing equipment.

Koontz-Wagner Services is a leading Midwest provider of repair and maintenance services for rotating-equipment systems, including electric motors, generators, and mechanical power-transmission components, along with electrical-contracting services that range from short-order services to design and complex large-project services.

Kenneth L. Patterson, Koontz-Wagner’s proactive predictive-maintenance (PdM) manager, led the effort to obtain sophisticated motor-testing equipment for the company. In January 2015, after having conducted extensive research on different types of technologies, he turned to products from All-Test Pro, Old Saybrook, CT.

Patterson chose two hand-held, de-energized motor testers: the All-Test Pro 5 and All-Test Pro 31, in addition to the All-Test Pro On-Line II energized motor tester. His 12-person PdM team participated in a standard post-sale training session conducted by All-Test Pro. The team was thoroughly educated on how to perform advanced non-destructive motor testing and analysis for de-energized motor-circuit analysis and energized electrical-signature and power analysis.

Testing motors

As a full-service company, Koontz-Wagner has motor-repair, predictive-maintenance, and construction divisions. Its motor-repair division made immediate use of the de-energized motor-testing equipment by streamlining its inspection processes.

“Using the AT5 and the AT31 has helped us reduce the time it takes to understand the general condition of a motor,” explained Patterson. “The AT5 motor-circuit analyzer shows us if there are bad connections or ground faults, it checks the winding, and it lets us know if there are air gaps, contamination, or broken bars. It gives us a pretty good picture of the motor’s health within just a few minutes; which is important because reducing the time it takes us to inspect a motor has enabled us to lower the cost of that initial inspection,” he continued. “The incoming inspection fees we had been charging customers were a little high, compared with our competitors, so changing our inspection process has allowed us to lower those initial inspection fees and become more competitive.”   

Koontz-Wagner service technician Erik Lehman uses the All-Test Pro 5 to perform initial inspection of a 50-hp motor in his company’s repair shop.

Koontz-Wagner service technician Erik Lehman uses the All-Test Pro 5 to perform initial inspection of a 50-hp motor in his company’s repair shop.

Increasing business opportunities

In September of 2015, Koontz-Wagner’s maintenance-services organization began using its portable de-energized motor-testing equipment outside of the repair shop. A long-time relationship with a large automotive-supply company presented the service providers with an opportunity to offer additional value-added support. The automotive supplier maintains an inventory of approximately 700 spare motors.

Over the course of three months, Koontz-Wagner’s PdM technicians went through this inventory to check the health and condition of all spare units. “Out of that inventory of about 700 motors, we found that about 100 required maintenance,” explained Patterson. “We used the AT5 on-site, which was great because it generates reports quickly, so it was ideal for that particular project. Now, we are scheduling these motors to come into our motor-repair division for service.”

Revenue from energized testing

Energized testing has become another area of sales growth for Koontz-Wagner. “I have generated quite a bit of income using the All-Safe Pro,” Patterson noted. The product is an adaptor installed inside the electrical cabinet that works with the ATPOL II energized testing instrument. This adaptor provides the necessary signals to help preventive-maintenance professionals understand the condition of operating motors with minimal risk and without bulky, protective gear.

Koontz-Wagner’s construction-division team of electricians has installed 15 All-Safe Pro adaptors inside various customer electrical cabinets. Then its predictive-maintenance team members use the All-Test Pro On-Line II energized tester to obtain data on operating motors and further support their customers’ condition-based monitoring and PdM programs.

As an example, Patterson pointed to having performed vibration testing on a compressor motor for a customer and the fact that the ATPOL II confirmed the results. “Maintaining the health of a 200-hp compressor motor,” he said, “is critical because the unit provides air to this automotive customer’s facility.”

According to Patterson, All-Test Pro’s technologies are helping his company in many ways, so much so that he’s hoping to expand Koontz-Wagner’s capabilities even more in 2016 using these instruments. No wonder: The company credits the new motor-testing equipment with helping increase its profits by 10%, proving that there are real benefits to investing in modern tools and technology. MT

For more information on these motor-testing tools and other All-Test Pro technologies, visit


4:59 am
April 11, 2016
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She Ignores The Glass Ceiling

Rendela Wenzel works in the office and in the field as a reliability engineer with Eli Lilly and Co.

Rendela Wenzel works in the office and in the field as a reliability engineer with Eli Lilly and Co.

Rendela Wenzel is a reliability star in a global arena.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 1.51.50 PMRendela Wenzel approaches each maintenance issue like a CSI investigator. “I love to understand how things work and explore the mystery behind equipment failures,” she said. “The main difference between a police detective and me is that I investigate and fix machines, not people.”

A global consultant engineer, Wenzel uses every tool in her toolbox. However, her most effective tools are experience, analytical thinking, training, and a belief that every option should be exhausted.

“Let’s say we have a bearing issue. I can look at the peaks and tell you how many side bands there are and what frequencies are off,” said Wenzel, who specializes in maintenance-and-reliability engineering for Eli Lilly, headquartered in Indianapolis. “I can pinpoint the approximate amount of life left in the bearing. I can tell you if the lubrication was adequate. We can use thermography to look at the heat signature. Like a CSI investigator, I go in and examine all the details, then troubleshoot a problem from the inside out.”

Her first step is to take a look at the body. “You can’t do an investigation without the body. Instead of a body, I have a piece of equipment,” she said. “The chalk line is drawn, and they bring me the part. They may bring the bearing or the pulley or the whole pump. We have an area in predictive maintenance where they will go in and cut those apart. We then write tech reports and give it to management. It’s like a police investigation, and I get to do all the reporting around it.

A woman in a man’s world

Wenzel’s enthusiasm for diagnosing and repairing machines started at an early age. Born into a working class, blue-collar family in Terre Haute, IN, Wenzel earned a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN, and became the first person in her family to attend and graduate from college. Her father worked on a manufacturing line at Pillsbury, and her mother worked from home as a cake decorator.

“Growing up without a whole lot, I learned to make do and get creative,” Wenzel said. “I spent a lot of time working with my hands and fixing things. I would fix bicycles, tinker with cars, and I would build things from wood.”

Her original aspirations were to fly airplanes and become an astronaut. This would require military service and an engineering education.

“I like the theory side of engineering, but I also like working with my hands. It helps me to understand things better,” she said. “What I love about what I do with reliability engineering is I can go out and work with the crafts. Then I can write the report. I interface with higher levels of management, craftsmen, and engineering personnel, and travel to different sites and help them solve problems.”

Rendela Wenzel served in the U.S. Army as a Captain and Quarter Master Company Commander.

Rendela Wenzel served in the U.S. Army as a Captain and Quarter Master Company Commander.

She gained early management experience as a Captain and Quarter Master Company Commander in the U. S. Army and as a maintenance engineer and supervisor at Chrysler and International Truck and Engine Corp.

Now, in her 13th year with Eli Lilly, Wenzel designs and implements programs, then facilitates the reliability discussions and onsite failure analysis for the company’s 21 manufacturing sites in 13 countries.

Being a female in a male-dominated industry was tough at first, she said, but she adapted quickly.

“There’s been some good and some bad and some ugly,” she said. “My first experience out of college was with Chrysler in 1997. Entering a leadership role in a foundry was intimidating. There was one forklift driver. We called him “Tramp.” He saw me and said ‘Sweetheart, are you lost?’ I said, ‘No, I’m your boss.’ He was an older gentleman and had never had a woman supervisor in 40 years in the industry. He and I became fast friends, and he was one of our best employees.”

Wenzel experienced the metaphoric glass ceiling quickly, but didn’t let it stop her. “There can be a disparity, especially among engineers, as you rise in the ranks,” she said. “The more experience I get and the older I get, I find I’m held to a higher standard. It’s just that much tougher, but it is an adjustment you make with time. It becomes a part of your personality and a part of who you are. I believe strongly that I should not be given a position because I am a female. Give me the position because I’m qualified and the best person for the position.”

A natural transition

A common practice with many motor manufacturers, Chrysler had a philosophy of having engineers spend a few years on the floor in management to learn how the business works from a grass-roots level, Wenzel recalled. “This helped me to learn how to manage people and also manage assets,” she said.

At International Truck and Engine, Wenzel wrote her own job description as the company embraced an environment of reliability and predictive-maintenance. “They told me to find out what these technologies are and then bring them back to the company,” Wenzel said.

Her title of mechanical engineer was transitioned to reliability engineer. She implemented an oil-analysis predictability training program that included vibration, oil, and thermography.

“At International, it was in a union environment, so it had a different spin,” Wenzel said. “I had to learn how to troubleshoot equipment without touching it. Only the craftsmen could touch the equipment. I had to learn how to explain to them how to fix something instead of touching it and fixing it myself like I had always done. There were times when they would ask ‘What do you mean?’ I would explain how the item worked, then ask them to tell me from a mechanical standpoint how to fix it. We would then create a hybrid approach. It was very interesting to learn how to communicate it instead of doing it. It was like working with one arm. But I got very good at it, which has helped me in my current position because I sometimes have to help fix problems all over the world over the phone.”

Eli Lilly’s worldwide operations require onsite support. Wenzel writes and implements policy and procedures that create global quality standards and engineering functional standards.

In-depth analyses are performed at each site to ensure global guidance from corporate headquarters in Indianapolis is followed. From the Global Center of Excellence, Wenzel’s group handles materials-management, planning and scheduling, reliability, and maintenance-management functions.

Wenzel works with a variety of pharmaceutical-grade equipment, including bulk pharma pumps, tanks, agitators, vacuum dryers, chromatography columns, vacuum units, and buffer systems.

“There is a lot going on that affects the chemistry inside that tank,” she said. “I may not understand the chemistry inside that tank, but I understand the facets of the mechanisms needed to deliver it. Everything is clean and well maintained. We are very mindful of patient safety. With everything you do, you have to remember that this could be for your husband, or for your wife, or for your child. That is something culturally that is on the minds of everyone.”

The craftsmen at Eli Lilly are extremely meticulous, Wenzel said, and the environment is especially clean. “I have worked in very dirty environments, and I’ve worked in very clean environments,” she noted. “It really affects the attitudes of the craftspeople toward the equipment.

According to Wenzel, she could give Eli Lilly’s craftsmen a piece of stock steel and they could turn it into a chandelier. “They are not parts changers,” she said. “They are true artisans.”

M&R philosophy

Wenzel’s responsibilities include running reports combined with field work.

“I don’t always do bars, and charts, and statistics,” she said. “I still love the one-on-one type of equipment repair. I don’t like to just sit at my desk all the time and run numbers that tell me something. I like to prove those numbers in the field. Metrics are great, but we can get wrapped up in what doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get considered. I am on board with that, but there are unforeseen consequences that we cannot always recognize. We have energy costs and travel time with crafts and opportunity costs that cause issues. That doesn’t always show up in the numbers. You have to get in the field and meet with the people and understand what their day looks like. What does their wrench time look like?”

As a site engineer, Wenzel was in the field every day. Now, her global role combines phone with on-site support.

Wenzel believes strongly in PM optimization strategies that include the crafts. By training them to be more predictive, the maintenance team gets more throughput, which means more medicine to the customer and increased market share. “It’s all about delivering to the patient what the patient needs.”

Wenzel has developed and implemented predictive-maintenance programs worldwide that include understanding vibration, oil, thermography, and ultrasonics, but it also includes compiling and interpreting data.

As a coach and mentor of junior engineers, she helps them understand how reliability is central to business, then how to sell this philosophy to senior management.

Making a difference

Wenzel said she is especially proud of a predictive-maintenance program she designed and implemented for Building 130 in Indianapolis. It involves cross-training technicians and craftsmen who were interested in the reliability tech world. She saved money from other programs and applied the extra funds to cost-justify the training program.

“We were able to create a whole area of PdM technicians, as well as craftsmen,” she said. “I took them through a ‘crawl, walk, run’ and they learned and helped me develop the routes and the format to follow. They took on the challenge of building the website and tracking their data. They wrote the work orders and showed me the savings. They ran this program that took two years to conceive and implement. It was a shared learning experience—a unique mentoring and coaching experience for me, and it was great to see them take ownership.”

Wenzel coached the team on how to cost-justify and write reports. She also trained them on how to present the reports to management. Wenzel has also developed and implemented pump training courses at Eli Lilly.

From the company’s Manufacturing Quality Learning Center (MQLC) in Indianapolis, where the focus is on success factors and internal training, she drives the global pump, vacuum-pump, mechanical-seal, and basic and advanced lubrication fundamentals training programs.

Pump trainers have cutaways of vacuum pumps and can instruct students about function, factors to monitor, and why temperature is so important. The four-hour hands-on course trains on different types of pumps, failure modes, example PMs, predictive strategies, vibration, and pump specification.

Multiple roles in multiple industries

Wenzel’s experience spans many roles in a variety of industries. Each one provides the opportunity to learn.

“As a senior-level engineer, you have to be able to influence without direct reports. I must be able to operate as a manager, but without the overhead responsibility of managing those people,” she explained. “That also has its limitations—to influence those people technically without being in charge of them. In a global world, you must be able to influence and get the agenda across, and implement programs at each site, even when everyone is so culturally different.”

From a managerial standpoint, Wenzel has acquired experience as an operations and maintenance-team leader. “In the cleaning room of the foundry at Chrysler, I had to manage the operations personnel, but I also had the maintenance responsibility of keeping it all running and getting things ready for the next shift,” she said. “So I was constantly faced with the question, ‘Do I run it, or do I fix it?’ It’s an interesting position to be in. But I learned to communicate to both operations and maintenance directors on the importance of running an asset as well as when to perform preventive maintenance. I learned when to run something and when to fix something, and why that’s important.”

Wenzel said she works hard to help people understand the difference between maintenance and reliability.

“A lot of people think maintenance and reliability are the same thing, but they are not,” she said. “Maintenance is short term, and day to day. Reliability is a long-term focus toward sustainment.

As Wenzel describes it, she talks to managers who have substantial heartburn about “all this voodoo stuff we call predictive maintenance. They ask why this is needed when they have a guy who rides a white horse and can come out and fix things,” she said. “I pull from my maintenance and operations experience and can speak to why it’s so important to be proactive.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She has covered the industrial processing industries for nine years. If you know of a maintenance and/or reliability expert who is making a difference at their facility, please drop her an email at

1604fvoice01pRendela’s Top 5 Tips

  • Have multiple technologies tell you the same thing before taking an asset out of service.
  • Exhaust all options—no matter how crazy.
  • Involve your crafts people and make them feel empowered.
  • Take time to write down your successes in a technical format.
  • Never stop learning.