Author Archive | Michelle Segrest


9:27 pm
January 13, 2017
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Improve Your Chemical-Pump Maintenance

Maintenance missteps in chemical-pumping applications can be catastrophic.

Maintenance missteps in chemical-pumping applications can be catastrophic.

Regardless of the industry, in chemical-pumping applications, it’s important to understand how the chemical reacts to heat, pressure, and flow. Just as crucial is the need to consider all system components in these applications. One maintenance misstep could be catastrophic.

Jim Raiders, senior technology engineer for Akzo Nobel Pulp and Performance Chemicals Inc., Chicago, offered the following advice for keeping chemical-processing pumps well maintained and reliable. MT

—Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Common maintenance issues and solutions

• Wet-side seal integrity. Select materials and pump designs that offer improved hydraulic flow and the ability to prevent wet-area wear.

• Lubrication. Improve pump-sealing techniques to allow a wide range of operating conditions, without losing containment.

• Cavitation/inadequate flow conditions. Use self-contained lubrication systems and isolate the lubrication systems from process-chemical exposure.

• Corrosion. Use self-contained relief devices on positive-displacement pumps.

• Motor failure. Make better material selections, i.e., opt for quality materials instead of low-cost units.

• Improper mounting of pumps that creates secondary vibration nodes leading to pumping-system damage. Choose motors with improved insulation, bearings, and fan designs.

randmImportant preventive-maintenance steps

Regular inspections

Flow verifications

Vibration analysis and baselining

Power usage/thermal image baselining

Consideration of improved pump location in the process area.

Maintenance best practices

Use double mechanical seals with seal-guard monitoring for rotating pumps.

Place dosing pumps in a containment area to keep them protected from spills and sprays.

Place covers on rotating units for protection from processes.

Use power-line monitoring for loading indication of motor/pump wear.

Mount equipment properly with anchoring, grouting, and grounding.

Locate pumps in well-lit areas, if possible, for ease of monitoring.

Helpful tools

Vibration analysis

Offline and installed monitors

Thermal imaging

Process flow monitoring

CIP (clean-in-place) systems for automated cleaning when systems are offline.

For information about Akzo Nobel chemical-processing products and services, visit


9:03 pm
January 13, 2017
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Teach To Learn Reliability


Reliability expert focuses on multiplying excellence through teaching, training, learning, and developing leaders.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 2.51.13 PMThrough 20 years of experience in reliability and maintenance, one ideal has remained at the forefront for Joe Anderson. “I want to be remembered as someone who cares about people,” the reliability manager for The Schwan Food Company’s global supply chain said. “Becoming an effective leader is the ultimate story of my life.”

The reward comes when he sees someone he has mentored experience success, he said. “It’s phenomenal to see someone I have coached reach their goals. I like it even more when it happens for them than when it happens for me. I knew they could do it, and when they finally see it within themselves…it’s just the greatest feeling, especially when I see that they have improved on the systems that we put in place together.”

Anderson is considered a “fixer” in the industry. Throughout his career, organizations have hired him to create, implement, and drive new programs designed to improve reliability. He most recently drove programs at Smuckers, before beginning his newest venture with Schwan’s Salina, KS, facility. Schwan is a manufacturer of more than 40 food lines. 

Anderson was hired as Schwan’s reliability manager less than a year ago with the primary task of developing a reliability-
engineering program that is geared toward maintenance engineering. “I’m more of a turnaround guy,” the 38-year-old father of two said. “Once I get a department in compliance, I hand it off and go.” This is why developing leaders has become so important to Anderson.

Leadership development

Anderson said that the biggest challenge he faces when developing a new program for a company is dealing with culture change. “I try to get people to see that there is a whole other world of manufacturing besides the reactionary system,” he explained. “I try to get quick wins to establish buy-in. This helps to get more people on your side. Training and investment in people drives significant changes that are needed in order to see a turnaround. I spend a lot of time working with people, developing people, and trying to get them to execute on what I teach. This is what I do all day, everyday.”

Anderson said he has matured into more of a mentor than a coach. “I really strive to develop my credibility first rather than coming in and acting like I know everything,” he said. “Showing people that you care about them and their success is motivating to them. I don’t have to go and find what triggers them to do things. If they know I care about them and respect them, they are willing to do anything that is needed. That’s my goal—to get everyone to understand that I do care for them and their success and want to see them do better. I try to help them remove the obstacles that they normally perceive. Sometimes the obstacles are just perception.”

Anderson’s style did not happen accidentally. He learned about developing leaders from his mentor, consultant John Ambrose.

“There is such a lack of investment in people today. It’s something that shouldn’t exist, but it does,” he said. “John taught me that if you can learn to care about people and invest in them, you will be successful. All the leadership gurus will tell you that if you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.”


Anderson has worked in maintenance and reliability in the food industry since he was 18 years old. His first job was with a beef-packing plant in Holcomb, KS. He worked with the wastewater and groundskeeping systems and, as a result, began to develop some expertise in lubrication. He eventually moved into refrigeration maintenance and worked closely with ammonia systems.

“As a green 18-year-old, you learn quickly that you don’t really know anything,” he said. “So I focused on really studying and trying to understand the system. I did that for a year, then transferred to floor maintenance.”

This is where he began to work closely developing people and discovered that this would be his lifelong passion.

“I love providing solutions to problems, and in this field, it is a daily thing,” he said. “I started in maintenance and, through growth and evolution, I realized that reliability is a major piece. [It] encompasses an entire organization whereas maintenance is one specific piece of that.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 2.50.39 PM

Maintenance and reliability philosophy

Every location is different, Anderson stated, and the ultimate goal is to get each organization to a proactive best-practice level. He accomplishes this by introducing assessment tools to understand where the gaps lie.

“The gaps affect the strategy moving forward,” he explained. “Here at Schwan, a lot of it is just a basic skills gap, so we are spending a lot of time developing basic skills and getting people to understand what a proactive life looks like, versus their current reactive state. At some locations, for example at Smuckers, we had a very technical staff, so didn’t have to spend time on that, and we focused on other things.”

Anderson has developed a unique philosophy, which he often teaches to the organizations that hire him to drive change. “Many people will tell you to fix the PM program and try to launch PdM,” he stated. “I believe that PdM drives culture change when people see the value. For example, I can improve a PM on a gearbox for a mixer, but that isn’t going to help me to detect the condition of its current state. The mixer may have a $40,000 gearbox with a four-month lead time. If it fails, I’m down for four months. So fixing the PMs is not going to do anything for me.

“Instead, if I perform an oil analysis to understand the condition of the equipment, it can be a very simple win. When you understand the condition, you reduce the risk. When people see that, they start to understand.”

Best practices must be developed over time. “When you are a turnaround guy, you can’t just walk in and implement a best practice,” Anderson continued. “You have to develop the people and get them executing at a certain level. An example is precision lubrication versus the old-school method of just ‘pump it till the grease comes out.’ If they don’t understand precision lubrication, you can’t walk in and say this is a best practice. Maybe you don’t have the equipment or the training. To me, best practice is a state that you get to…it’s not necessarily something that you act on every day.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 2.50.56 PM

Maintenance as a profit center

Anderson has been a regular presenter at conferences and webinars. While his talks cover several topics, he focuses on how to identify maintenance as a profit center.

“It’s hard to believe, but 99.99% of manufacturing companies are not world class” he said. “There are 230,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States that employ more than 100 people. If you put a group in a room and asked them to name a world-class company, people could identify maybe 20 or 30 of them. This is because maintenance managers in general are promoted, glorified mechanics. They do their job well and get promoted, just like I did… through the school of hard knocks.” But, according to Anderson, they don’t necessarily understand the business side or how to show the value.

Anderson said that if you ask the CEOs at most of these facilities about the impact of maintenance, they will say that it is a cost center.

“Technically, they are using ‘cost center’ as an accounting term,” he said. “But if this is your philosophy, to me you are missing out on lots of money and lots of opportunities. One thing I do is teach maintenance managers the business side. I help them to understand how what they do in their daily activities can affect the bottom line. I show them how to reduce risk and convert that to a dollar amount to capture the cost savings. This is something that they are probably generating anyway, but they are not getting credit for the work they are doing. On the flip side, I also teach upper-level executives and operations guys the value of maintenance. I see this as a big gap, so I have focused on this.”

After almost two decades in reliability and maintenance, it was less than two years ago that Anderson decided to get his business degree. “I’ve taught myself the business side,” he said. “When I went back to school later in life to get a degree, I decided to get a degree in business rather than engineering. Years ago, when I left the beef-packing company, I went to work for a bakery. My maintenance experience at the beef-packing plant was very minimal, but I was really good at it. But I thought I was better than I was. I got into a smaller facility where I owned the storeroom. Now I had [responsibility for] electrical, facilities, and all these things where the beef plant was so big everything was departmentalized. I realized I had to lead these guys who had to be multi-talented and multi-crafted. This is when I realized I cannot be an effective leader if I can’t train and develop my guys. So, as I was learning the technical skills, I realized I can’t justify a lot of the things I’m doing because I don’t understand the business myself.”

The need to understand the business became even more apparent when he began trying to sell upper management on reliability programs and maintenance upgrades.

“I kept getting told no because I wasn’t bringing anything to the table,” he realized. “You can’t just walk in and say I need $50,000 to buy something. I was getting told no because I was not giving them a reason to say yes. Now that I understand how the business works, I can convert the language to what I know in maintenance.”

People retain 90% of what they teach and only 10% of what they hear when listening to someone teach. Because of this, he tries to reinforce his teachings by training others to teach. “We all retain things differently,” he said. “When I develop people, my goal in the end is getting them to teach me what I taught them. I live by the adage that if you don’t know something well enough to teach it, then you don’t know it at all. My goal is to explain things in a way that people can understand. When I’m developing other leaders I want them to do the same so we can multiply ourselves. I don’t want followers. I want other leaders.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years, specializing in the industrial processing industries. If you know a reliability/maintenance expert who is making a difference, please send her an email at


8:49 pm
January 13, 2017
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Profiles Reveal Reliability Trends


Maintenance programs take center stage as manufacturing facilities use key trends to improve reliability.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

In 2016, Maintenance Technology traveled from West Palm Beach, FL, to Delano, CA, covering successful reliability and maintenance programs at diverse manufacturing facilities throughout the United States. Whether manufacturing snack foods, EPS foam products, drivetrains, construction tools, air-movement equipment, pumps, energy-efficient windows, electrical wiring, oil refining, or maintaining zoo operations, the best practices for maintenance programs have evolved to include advanced technology and critical strategy.

Some key trends for 2016 include:

• culture change

• converting from a reactive to a proactive style

• leveraging continuous improvement

• driving change with powerful CMMS

• utilizing Kaizen events

• strategic planning and scheduling.

Looking ahead to 2017, Dr. Klaus M. Blache, director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center and research professor, College of Engineering, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, predicts that manufacturing assets will be more connected and data driven, resulting in improved operational effectiveness. 

“Greater real-time data, better learning algorithms, 3D printing, high mobility, numerous aids, and apps will mean faster and more intelligent decentralized decisions,” Blache said. “For these reasons, I think that manufacturing in 2017 has a positive outlook. However, there are some critical challenges. There is a shortage of people (leaders, engineers, trades/technicians) who are both capable and are interested in a manufacturing career. Companies also need to understand how best to align millennial interests with business needs to enable this critical part of their workforce.”

Blache said that the past 25 years provide evidence that there is no shortage of ideas, tools, or methodologies. However, more than 70% of these implementations (such as lean, reliability, and TPM) fail. “The most important thing that a company can do is to find or develop people who know how to implement with an engaged workforce.”

Maintenance Technology will continue to track effective trends and feature robust maintenance programs at manufacturing facilities in each issue in 2017. If you would like to have your facility featured, please contact Michelle Segrest at Following is an overview of some of the best practices we discovered in 2016.

Manufacturers must find ways to integrate new and old equipment while incorporating a preventive-maintenance program.

Manufacturers must find ways to integrate new and old equipment while incorporating a preventive-maintenance program.

Changing culture to increase performance

A transformation in management and culture, combined with an investment for future growth, revitalized Empire Level, a 97-yr.-old tool-manufacturing company.

Richard Gray, senior vice president and general manager of the Mukwonago, WI, company, a division of  Brookfield, WI, parent company Milwaukee Tool Corp., said that with a focus on culture, buy-in became infectious throughout Empire Level’s 120,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space. The arrival of new equipment, upgrades to old equipment, new people, training opportunities, and efficient processes made it tangible.

“Our revitalization is not just new paint on the wall,” Gray explained. “The change is coming from within. It’s a feeling. It truly is an obsession that is built on trust. The result of these efforts is the complete transformation of a U.S.-based company through people and technology.”

Empire Level’s new management team found many opportunities to reconstruct and rebuild the company’s culture, as well as the equipment and processes. Starting with a blank canvas, the team members were able to craft their own renovation story without being crippled by processes that didn’t work. “Our biggest challenge was that we didn’t just want to fix things. We wanted to improve them and continue to grow the company,” Gray stated. “We not only had a factory full of machines and assets that were way beyond their useful life, but we didn’t have any systems in place to monitor and improve. There was no base foundation, so we started from scratch.”

The team’s first challenge was to establish a culture that would inspire ownership and empowerment among all employees. “Change is hard, and it can be especially hard for people who have been doing the same thing for many decades,” director of operations Steve Lallensack said. “We knew we needed a culture that was agile and could help our people to adapt to changes—not only changes in equipment and technology, but in attitudes and responsibilities.”

The team began with candid meetings that clearly defined the plan for growth. They made sure that employees had an understanding of what was coming so no one would be blindsided by changes they didn’t anticipate. “This gives people a feeling of ownership and helps them to feel more comfortable with the changes. We said what we were going to do, and then we did what we said we would do,” he said.


Culture change was a common theme in 2016.

In Fond du Lac, WI, three companies (Advanced Foam Plastics, Contour Products, and Heartland EPS) merged to form ACH Foam Technologies. Todd Huempfner, vice president of operations, said that with the equal partnership formation of the three companies, ACH faced the significant challenge of merging three different cultures.

“When you go through a merger like this, you must go through a cultural cleansing,” Huempfner said. “You have to marry three different systems. It’s not a revolution. It’s an evolution. At the grass-roots level, it’s all about employee engagement and communication.”

For Huempfner, a driving philosophy has remained at the forefront—an ideology from management guru Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

“We focus a lot of our energy and effort around front-line employee engagement and empowerment,” Huempfner continued. “We understand the cornerstone of the roadmap to our future. Our biggest focus is building and maintaining a winning culture.”

The merging of companies and cultures is occurring in manufacturing throughout the United States.


For Ideal Industries Inc.—a manufacturer of products for the installation of electrical wiring and conduit—that merging means consolidating operations from three facilities into one new state-of-the art, 220,000-sq.-ft. facility in Sycamore, IL. Celebrating its 100th year in business, the family-owned company is undergoing a complete migration of the people, equipment, operations, and maintenance processes of three of its Midwestern facilities.

“This is a very unique opportunity,” said facilities manager Steve Challgren. “It’s not very often that you get to build a new manufacturing facility, lay it out exactly the way you want it from the start, and get an opportunity to fully overhaul all of the equipment before you move it in. Combine this with purchasing some new equipment, and then you have a chance to carefully cross train your entire internal maintenance staff as you do it.”

Ideal’s maintenance staff will become one team, which provides unique opportunities for cross training and upgrading, Challgren said. “Over time, we are moving all of the equipment to the new facility and taking it all through a quality prove-out process. We have the opportunity to do a complete overhaul before we move it. In addition, we are investing in new equipment.”

In 2016, manufacturers across the United States found challenges in changing longstanding reactive cultures to approaches that focused on taking proactive, preventive measures to build reliable programs.

In 2016, manufacturers across the United States found challenges in changing longstanding reactive cultures to approaches that focused on taking proactive, preventive measures to build reliable programs.

Switching from reactive to proactive

In a crucially competitive market, CountryMark’s Mount Vernon, IN, oil-refinery leadership team realized the operation needed a complete overhaul to streamline processes, get control of inventory, and optimize workflow. Through a carefully conceived and well-executed plan, it is making a 180-deg. switch to a predictive and preventive structure that has already increased production, decreased equipment failure, and saved costs.

“I would describe the ‘before’ maintenance program as classic reactionary—something would break and we would fix it,” said Pat Ward, CountryMark’s vice president of operations. “You can be very good at fixing things, but working in a reactive way comes at a very high cost.”

CountryMark’s leadership fully invested in a strategic WorkPlace Excellence Program. Proactive and preventive-maintenance training began several years ago with the Charleston, SC, consulting firm Life Cycle Engineering (LCE). Coaches were brought in to train leaders in four focus areas:

• operations improvement

• work management

• reliability engineering

• materials management.

Styrotek, a Delano, CA, manufacturer of expanded-polystyrene (EPS) table-grape shipping containers, incorporated a strict preventive philosophy to drive its maintenance program.

“Our idea of maintenance is not allowing our machines to break in the first place,” Styrotek production supervisor Adan Velazquez said. “We monitor the hydraulic, steam, air, and water pressures daily. We have recently begun making these checks every shift. We monitor them continuously and, when we notice there is an issue with one of them, we immediately shut it down and repair it.”

Shutdowns have become rare rather than a normal occurrence. “In the past, we were running each machine about 21 to 22 hours a day, and we would have to shut down constantly,” Velazquez said. “Today, we are able to run machines for 23 1/2 hours, and we only have to shut down a machine to change the filters.”


The shift from a reactionary to a preventive culture translates to even the smallest details.

In Niwot, CO, Alpen High Performance Products uses a robust preventive-maintenance program to manufacture highly energy-efficient windows and doors. The program includes regular lubrication of all machines, including gears and motors, calibration of the fiberglass-cutting saws, and constant attention to all equipment.

“Because everything we do here is custom, everything that goes through the machines is a different size, so they are constantly having to be adjusted and checked,” field-tech specialist David Herman said. “Every window is cut to a different size so the saw parameters are moving constantly. Saw blades need to be changed every six months. The drilling CNC machines that cut holes for the hardware latches need constant attention.”

Ideal Industries maintenance lead Don Hardt said that the overall maintenance strategy at his facility is simple. “Be proactive in identifying and preventing breakdowns before they occur,” he said. “We have a preventive-maintenance system in place that is based on time intervals. Some of the things we concentrate on, for example, are going above and beyond when we do have a failure so that the root cause of that failure can be quickly identified. We have a proactive maintenance strategy designed to catch those breakdowns and prevent them.”

A focus on predictive, rather than reactive, maintenance is nothing new in manufacturing, Hardt said, but the focus must remain at the forefront.


“By identifying key areas, especially on this custom machinery and on some of our aging machines, it allows us to keep our machines running, and it helps to extend the useful life of the equipment,” Hardt concluded.

Maintenance professionals at Hydro Inc., Chicago, a provider of pump services, know the value of combining skilled workers, smooth coordination, and continuous improvement to keep machines running. They perform preventive maintenance with mostly outside sources and work together to prevent breakdowns.

Hydro’s overall maintenance philosophy is simple, shop manager Nick Dagres said. “We want to be proactive in identifying and preventing breakdowns before they occur and keep the machines in the best operation condition at all times.”

This is accomplished with daily, weekly, and monthly preventive-maintenance checks from all of the operators at the beginning of every shift. Various metrics are used to measure overall performance and reliability. Hydro measures overall downtime for machine availability and the costs of downtime versus utilization.

The routine checklists include inspection of the switches, cables, noise levels, and especially oil levels. Lubrication is immensely important, particularly with the older machines.

Some traditional maintenance programs allow machines to run until they break or become due for maintenance. They are then handed over to the maintenance department to make the necessary repairs. In sharp contrast, the autonomous-maintenance approach allows individual operators to perform simple, safe, maintenance routines on their machines. These activities can include lubrication, bolt tightening, cleaning, inspection, and monitoring.

Precision is paramount when combining molds and pieces into one integrated product. Equipment in optimal operating condition is key.

Precision is paramount when combining molds and pieces into one integrated product. Equipment in optimal operating condition is key.

Leveraging continuous improvement

In November 2015, ACH Foam Technologies hired Brad Zenko, P.E., as director of Continuous Improvement, to enhance the company’s core competency to always strive to make its product and processes better. “Continuous improvement is not an activity, and it’s not a technique,” Zenko said. “It’s a result.”

The effort is neverending. “If you are in operations, every day is not just about what went wrong. It’s about how to keep that from happening again,” he said. “The whole idea behind predictive and preventive maintenance is continuous improvement. From a broader perspective, if you look at maintaining a competitive advantage in business, you have to really embrace continuous improvement because someone is always trying to outsmart you, out-service you, out-something you. You have to be nimble.”

This can be a difficult task, Zenko continued. “When you finally master something, you want to stop and take a deep breath. You have about ten minutes for that, and then you have to think about what’s next on the horizon. How do we make it even better? Even if you have had a really big achievement, you can’t rest on your laurels and say you are done. You never quite get there.”

Zenko operates at a corporate level, so critical improvement implementations are shared across all nine ACH facilities. He works with a team of maintenance and operations professionals and fills the pipeline with everything from simple ideas to game changers. “My job is to find ways to make our processes better, faster, cheaper.”

Trends that seem set to grow in 2017 include the use of automation and robust CMMS systems, and a focus on culture change to enhance asset reliability in plants and facilities.

Trends that seem set to grow in 2017 include the use of automation and robust CMMS systems, and a focus on culture change to enhance asset reliability in plants and facilities.

Driving change with CMMS

The maintenance program at the Fort Wayne, IN, facility of Dana Inc. is translating the power of effective data collection into equipment assets.

The company’s “four-panel maintenance programs,” inspired by the strategic use of its CMMS system, have reduced costly equipment downtime and expensive repairs that are avoided by preventive-
maintenance planning—all of which can be quantified by maintenance data.

“The role of the maintenance group is to keep the machines running, and as efficiently as possible” maintenance supervisor Bob McKenna said. “We have made a concentrated effort to gather data, compile it, understand it, and have been successful in strategically utilizing it to make better maintenance decisions. ”

Most useful, according to McKenna, has been the ability to track maintenance efficiency. “In all my years in maintenance, I had never seen a system for successfully tracking and quantifying an efficiency rate for maintenance activities,” he said. “However, we have been able to accomplish this by comparing the number of work orders that are written each day and each week with actual completion to calculate our efficiency rating. Our initial goal was 70% efficiency, which is really good for maintenance in this type of environment. We are now up to 81%.”

Dana’s maintenance transformation began in 2014 when the company incorporated a CMMS program from eMaint (Marlton, NJ, and began collecting and tracking data to help streamline its maintenance practices. Two years into the program, the positive results speak for themselves.

“We have been able to gather more precise data that is maintenance related, which has enabled us to make better maintenance decisions,” McKenna said. “We can quantify actual cost savings relating to maintenance activities to our management, which fosters an increased understanding and support of maintenance programs.”


The goal for the facility is to have 100% preventive maintenance. McKenna is convinced that the data generated from the CMMS system will help them accomplish this goal. He noted that, since the onset of the program, they have been able to quantify six-figure savings for the plant, which has helped win support at all levels of management, maintenance, and production.

In southern Florida, maintaining a 23-acre park with attractions, indoor and outdoor facilities, fountains, special exhibits, irrigation and landscaping, and more than 700 live animals—some of them deadly—requires coordination, diversity, and special tools. With a full-time maintenance staff of just six professionals, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society facilities manager Jason Witmer must carefully coordinate the many job requests that range from checking and repairing safety latches to maintaining complex filtration systems, coolers, and HVAC equipment.

Using computerized maintenance-management software from Mapcon Technologies Inc.  (Johnston, IA), Witmer can roam the grounds and receive maintenance alerts from anywhere in the park with a mobile app that is customized to the park’s needs.

Witmer can then virtually assign the task to one of the maintenance professionals. He is also notified when the job has been completed, along with a report of the job’s details. At any time, he can retrieve data that allow him to predict future maintenance and schedule non-urgent requests.


“We use Mapcon in at least 100 different ways throughout the zoo,” Witmer said. “From the conservation aspect, we use it to keep meter readings for our electrical panels. We track our water meters and keep data of our well usage, which we have to report to the city. This is important because all of the plants on the grounds here have irrigation. One little leak can cause a lot of water usage without even knowing it for a while. We even use Mapcon in our commissary to order food for our animals.”

Witmer uses the zoo’s Mapcon CMMS program to provide monthly work orders on all of the HVAC units, which require regular filter changes. The park’s many vehicles also require routine work. These orders are generated automatically and assigned to the appropriate technician.

Manufacturers are continuously looking for a competitive edge when combining complex technology with strategic maintenance programs and robust reliability systems.

Manufacturers are continuously looking for a competitive edge when combining complex technology with strategic maintenance programs and robust reliability systems.

Using Kaizen events

Becoming a market-share leader for air-movement products doesn’t happen by accident for the Schofield, WI-based Greenheck Fan Corp. Through strategic and progressive capital investments in equipment, technology, and people, Greenheck thrives on living on the cutting edge.

“We actually live on the bleeding edge of technology,” said Greenheck’s maintenance-technology supervisor Paul Smith. “We are so fresh and progressive, we sometimes get technology that isn’t necessarily proven yet. We get the opportunity to make this happen, and it gives us an incredible advantage.”

This fearless approach to ingenuity and new ideas has led to a robust continuous-improvement program that helps the company process 20 million pounds of steel annually from just one of its 17 Schofield facilities.

The company sponsors three-to-five-day Kaizen events called “pit stops.” Maintenance manager Jim King said these events are critical in helping Greenheck employees learn about the new equipment and processes that are introduced weekly.

The company sometimes offers as many as five to 10 pit stops per week with two to 12 participants in each. “These include the aspect of 5S and are modeled after TPS,” King said. “This is all part of the original creation of our Greenheck Performance System (GPS). We do pit stops for formal 5S audits, business processes, equipment training…you name it. This is a program that’s almost 14 years old and is still going very strong. It is well supported and just part of the culture
here now.”

Greenheck moves fast with new technology, Smith said, and getting the team up to speed as quickly as possible is crucial. The pit stops are effective in accomplishing this goal.

“Whether it’s equipment addition, equipment removal, or an equipment move, we sometimes get one of these per day,” Smith said. “For example, we recently moved several of our large CNC turret punches from several different facilities globally to even their workload and extend their life. That would be a yearlong, planned event for some companies. For us, it’s a Thursday.”

The pit stops are well supported by the company. “We have a team of people here to train on lean manufacturing, on TPM, business processes, process flow, and to coach events—ultimately to drive the GPS initiative forward,” Smith said. “Any employee can participate in training, learn at several different levels, and get certifications. This is a tremendous resource and investment for our company.”

Having a carefully constructed plan for maintenance is a key to consistency when multiple manufacturing facilities are producing the same product from many locations.

Having a carefully constructed plan for maintenance is a key to consistency when multiple manufacturing facilities are producing the same product from many locations.

Strategic planning and scheduling

At the one million-sq.-ft. Frito-Lay manufacturing facility in Perry, GA, the operations teams work closely with the 100 maintenance professionals on five specialized teams to ensure the production stays in constant motion. Director of maintenance and engineering Craig Hoffman said that strategic planning and scheduling is the core ingredient in the facility’s ability to stay on track. He teaches planning classes to all Frito-Lay employees.

“I always cite the example of changing oil in the car,” he said. “Most people tell you put the car up on blocks, drain the old oil, then put in the new oil. When I change the oil, I go into my shop first and make sure I have the oil filter. I make sure I have the oil. I make sure my jack is in good condition, and I have jack stands for safety. Then I make sure it is time to change the oil. A lot of people tear right into a project without having the right parts or the right information to do the job. To me, this is all about planning.”

The work comes from the facility’s preventive-maintenance system. Operators provide insight on how their machines are running. Then the maintenance team maps out a plan to restore the equipment to the optimal operating condition. When the plan is set, they schedule and execute it.

“If you don’t have a plan, you have no control,” Hoffman said. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Even though it is a low percentage of the time, unplanned maintenance also happens, according to Jim Northcutt who is in charge of all maintenance and engineering for Frito-Lay’s 36 North American facilities. He coordinates the facility maintenance managers from the corporate office in Plano, TX, and executes a streamlined maintenance approach across all facilities.

Planning and scheduling is supported with an in-depth PM system, along with highly upgraded technology such as vibration analysis and ultrasound, and carefully crafted predictive-maintenance processes.

For corrective work, the plant’s planners and schedulers go to the storage area and check out several parts and then kit them for the mechanics, Hoffman said. Then jobs are reviewed with the mechanics.

“The key here is to make our mechanics as successful as possible by giving them the right equipment, the right parts, and the right tools to maximize wrench time,” he said. “This way, when they are out on the floor they have everything they need. It eliminates travel time back and forth and maximizes our ability to perform corrective work and keep our plant in a reliable state.”

The planning and scheduling foundation translates across all North American facilities, Northcutt said. “If you look at it in its most simplistic terms, we plan it, we schedule it, we execute it,” he said. “As a company, throughout all facilities, planning and scheduling is what we hang our hat on.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She specializes in the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 37 cities in six countries on three continents.


3:25 pm
December 28, 2016
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Maintenance Excellence on the Cutting Edge

Greenheck uses “pit stop” Kaizen events and other key tools to encourage and implement continuous-improvement projects.

Greenheck's Trumpf punches are a major part of its manufacturing process.

Greenheck’s Trumpf punches are a major part of its manufacturing process.

It’s not difficult to spot the shiny, steel, domed rooftop units that keep the air moving in industrial, commercial, and residential buildings. These are a core product of Greenheck Fan Corp. Becoming a market-share leader for air-movement components hasn’t happened by accident for the Schofield, WI-based corporation. Through strategic and progressive capital investments in equipment, technology, and people, the company has thrived by living on the cutting edge.

“We actually live on the bleeding edge of technology,” said Greenheck’s maintenance-technology supervisor Paul Smith. “We are so fresh and progressive, we sometimes get technology that isn’t necessarily proven yet. We get the opportunity to make this happen, and it gives us an incredible advantage.”

A high-tech fiber laser cuts sheet metal for various product parts.

A high-tech fiber laser cuts sheet metal for various product parts.

Ask any of its 3,400 employees—from co-founder Bob Greenheck to upper management, to maintenance journeymen and operators. This fearless approach to ingenuity and new ideas has led to a robust continuous-improvement program that helps the company process 20 million pounds of steel annually to build air-movement-and-control equipment that includes fans, dampers, louvers, kitchen-ventilation hoods, energy-recovery systems, and make-up air units from just one of its 17 Schofield facilities. Greenheck also has manufacturing facilities in California, Minneapolis, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mexico, China, and India.

Greenheck was founded almost 70 years ago when brothers Bernard and Bob Greenheck began manufacturing lawn mowers and milk-delivery cooling troughs in their horse barn in Schofield. Bernard was a sales and marketing expert, while Bob was an engineer and manufacturing guru. This combination of skills helped to build the innovative company, which is still privately owned and operated. “Innovation is just part of this company’s DNA,” said manufacturing-operations manager Mark Haase. “Bob Greenheck has always been an innovator. He is super intelligent and still very involved in the business. He is able to look at a process and question why are we doing it that way. His approach is to go find a machine that will do what we need it to do. If we can’t find it, let’s make one that will make the manufacturing process easier and better for our customers.”

Greenheck engineers work closely with operations, maintenance, and key vendors to leverage ideas that improve processes, reliability, production, and end-user satisfaction. Greenheck executives are not afraid to make capital investments that support continuous improvements.

“We have a whole operation dedicated to building equipment for ourselves,” Haase said. “A lot of our equipment is custom. We are able to take some labor out of the process and do things more efficiently. The company is willing to make the investment. Bob Greenheck then likes to see the return on that investment. It is common to see him in the plant, especially when we get a new piece of equipment. He wants to know if it is running yet.”

It’s not just equipment and technology that get attention from the top. In 2003, a substantial investment was made to achieve maintenance excellence. The investment began with hiring Jim King as the company’s maintenance project manager.

The drive for excellence

Tom Schmidt, a 30-yr. journeyman tool-and-die maker looks over a stamping die.

Tom Schmidt, a 30-yr. journeyman tool-and-die maker looks over a stamping die.

Six of the 17 facilities in Schofield have manufacturing operations. Within each manufacturing site, there is a maintenance and tooling body shop. Facility 2 is the largest, with 325,000 sq. ft., employing 550 people over three shifts. This facility produces more than 2,000 production orders every day and manages more than 40,000 individual parts.

The company is structured into six primary business units with more than 1.5 million sq. ft. of space on the Schofield campus. King, now maintenance manager, oversees maintenance of all the facilities, and his Maintenance Excellence team supports the entire global operation.

“The past 13 years has been a continuous process,” King said. “There is constant change on the manufacturing floor, so we are just adapting to what’s happening around us.”

The Maintenance Excellence team consists of 59 maintenance professionals in Schofield, including 43 journeyman mechanics and technicians. In addition, there is a team of seven automation-and-control technicians, focused on reliability maintenance.

There are 93 maintenance professionals throughout Greenheck’s U.S. facilities. In 2015, they processed more than 135,000 work orders. On a normal week, the team averages 100 to 150 work orders each day.

When King arrived in 2003, the company had just started its GPS Program (Greenheck Performance System), modeled after the Toyota Production System (TPS). In doing so it partnered with Rockwell Automation. The Rockwell Automation team performed a three-month audit that left Greenheck with much room for improvement and the ability to identify some low-hanging fruit.

“On a scale of 1 to 1,000, we scored 382,” King said. “This was a tough pill to swallow, but it triggered the creation of our Maintenance Excellence program.”

Prior to this audit, Greenheck operated on a batch-and-queue system where excessive numbers of spare parts were always sitting on shelves waiting to be used. The shift was made to a single-piece-flow model that was cost effective from a production standpoint. Since spare parts were less available, it forced the maintenance department to develop a more robust preventive-maintenance program.

Continuous-improvement tools

Some high-volume parts are still made in batches. This press can produce thousands of damper parts within a shift.

Some high-volume parts are still made in batches. This press can produce thousands of damper parts within a shift.

King could easily pinpoint some of the improvements and big wins credited to the GPS Maintenance Excellence initiative that began 13 years ago.

Sweep of spare parts inventory. In 2003, Greenheck had about $990,000 in spare-parts inventory. The company increased its critical spare-parts inventory by more than five times. It is a bigger investment on the front end, but saves much more in downtime and efficiency.

“We cannot call a service company and wait for someone to get here,” he said. “More than 95% of our maintenance happens in house. The only times we go to an outside vendor is with machines that carry a warranty.”

The company tracks more than 7,000 assets. The entire corporation shares the same CMMS system. “All the plants across the U.S. can see the same database we see,” King explained. “Many of our plants work in triplicate so, for example, we have damper plants here in Wisconsin, in Kentucky, and in California. If you walked into one of them blindfolded, you would not know which plant you are in. They are identical. From a maintenance and critical spare parts aspect, we don’t have to stock three of everything.”

Utilizing a CMMS system. One of King’s first improvement efforts involved entering work-orders in the CMMS system. This was difficult to accomplish, at first. “We had many senior mechanics and technicians who didn’t like the idea of entering their own data into a computer,” King said. “But it didn’t take long for them to understand and appreciate the value. Now we have a work-order history and a machine history. Once we got their buy-in on this initiative, they began to believe in what we were trying to do.”

Greenheck developed a very elaborate and robust PM program, King said. “In our CMMS system for preventive maintenance we now have more than 300,000 individual tasks and procedures written for PMs.”

Even with the CMMS system, they didn’t have a formal machine documentation-and-control system in place. “We created a file-folder system for each individual plant,” King said. “Everything is listed numerically by asset number. You find your folder and check it out. Prior to that, it was anybody’s guess where stuff was. There was no rhyme or reason. So the cost savings in time alone has been huge.”

Coil stock is staged in the Greenheck stamping department.

Coil stock is staged in the Greenheck stamping department.

Pit stops. The company sponsors three-to-five day Kaizen events called “pit stops.” One of the first pit stops focused on a new IBS (integrated blankin system) the company purchased. “It was new to everyone, so it was a painful process for them and for us,” King said. “We brought in this incredible technology and wanted to be able to produce parts right away. We used the pit-stop training to break it down into individual sectors and the skills trade people began to see the benefits of taking the time for this kind of training. We learned how the machine worked and ways to prevent it from breaking down.”

The company sometimes offers as many as five to 10 pit stops every week with two to 12 participants in each. “These include the aspect of 5S and are modeled after TPS,” King said. “This is all part of the original creation of our GPS system. This is a program that’s almost 14 years old and is still going very strong.”

Greenheck moves fast with new technology, Smith said, and getting the team up to speed as quickly as possible is crucial. The pit stops are effective in accomplishing this goal.

“Whether it’s equipment addition, equipment removal, or an equipment move, we sometimes get one of these per day,” Smith said. “We recently moved several of our large CNC turret punches from several different facilities globally to even their workload and extend their life. That would be a year-long planned event for some companies. For us, it’s a Thursday.”

Customized PM system. When King arrived at Greenheck, there was no formal planning and scheduling system in place. “We tried to incorporate this, but honestly, it didn’t fit with our model,” King said. “So we moved to a formula where all our maintenance supervisors do the planning and scheduling for their dedicated segments.”

Smith said the GPS system, within the controls-and-automation group, empowers the mechanics and technicians to coordinate their own projects, which includes ordering their own parts and working with production and the supervisors. “The supervisors are here as a means to empower them to get done what needs to get done,” Smith said. “We all have continuous-improvement tools, like the TPM processes, to continue to support the floor-level guys. Greenheck is so fluid and we move so fast that by the time you put a plan together, it’s already changed. So the original structure of planning and scheduling doesn’t really fit our needs here. Giving autonomy, training, responsibility, and ownership to mechanics and technicians works much better for us.”

Growth in automation and controls. As technology became more robust, the level of technical skills required to be able to maintain these highly advanced pieces of equipment also increased. Greenheck now uses technology, such as thermal imaging and ultrasound, to provide greater reliability.

Maintenance and operations evolution

High-density shelving helps the maintenance team organize $5 million of parts inventory.

High-density shelving helps the maintenance team organize $5 million of parts inventory.

Manufacturing operations manager Mark Haase has experience with Greenheck in many roles since 1991 and has seen the evolution of continuous improvement.

“Maintenance is integral to what we do, especially with regard to our component resource center (CRC) which has the largest concentration of capital equipment for the company,” he said. “About 80% of what we do feeds into this building (Facility 2). We serve our own business needs, but we are also a service center to the entire company.”

Greenheck is a configure-to-order operation, Haase explained. “Orders come in and we build them from scratch. We don’t go to a shelf and pull parts, and we don’t have inventory buffers. A long run for us is maybe 10 units that are alike. So continuous flow is very important to us.” Haase remembers when efficiency and maintenance excellence were not core competencies.

“In the mid-to-late 1990s, when a key machine would go down, we would have to search for the part, order the part, wait for the part to be delivered, and, hopefully, when it arrived, it was right,” Haase remembered. “So we saw downtime as a really significant factor in our business. We had inventory, which would help us for a while, but we weren’t happy about tying up capital in inventory when we could be using it for machinery and technology. The one-piece-flow system has helped to minimize the downtime. We PM’ed our machines in those days, but more at a 30,000-foot level. Now we are down to 10-foot level with much more detailed PM of the machines.”

Greenheck takes advantage of its multiple resources. “The maintenance and operations teams work together. Several can be pulled from other business units to help with urgent work. We have the resources somewhere on campus to service critical needs. When I think back to 90s, I spent lot of my time chasing the maintenance issues,” Haase said. “I don’t worry about those things today because there is a very competent group with many programs in place. The amount of spare parts we keep on hand is a huge investment, so if something goes down we can make the change quickly and effectively and get the machine up and running.”

Since supervisor Paul Smith works with advanced technology, this confidence in maintenance becomes even more critical.

“We have some CO2 lasers, which are incredibly maintenance intensive,” Smith said. “The fact that uptime is high is impressive. Mark [Haase] and upper management really do understand the value of the maintenance program and how it reflects on uptime. A good example is in June when we did laser PMs, and we monitored and tracked lots of data. We noticed a trend that annually, for the past seven years, we’ve had a power drop on one of the lasers. We would replace all the mirrors and get our power up. It cost $7,000 to replace the mirrors, so it was worth it. But last year we replaced the mirrors and the power did not come back up as much as we wanted. The laser was still functioning perfectly and within the appropriate power band, but we could see it was starting on that curve of failure. Mark and upper management understand you must invest in the maintenance program for it to work. Mark made the call to replace the resonator, and that’s $130,000. That’s not something you do for no reason. But this company made it happen. We replaced the resonator, the power is back up, and we don’t have maintenance issues we had before.”

Apprentice Mike Zywicki (l) and CRC Lead Journeyman Mechanic David Sondelski (r) complete a scheduled PM.

Apprentice Mike Zywicki (l) and CRC Lead Journeyman Mechanic David Sondelski (r) complete a scheduled PM.

Smith said this is a good example of how the system works. “We were doing our PMs, graphing it, tracking it, looked back, saw a trend, monitored the trend, when we began to experience the failure curve we reported it to upper management. Upper management said, ‘We trust you, we believe you when you say this will be a problem in the future,’ and they made our suggested solution happen.”

The support from upper management goes back to the DNA of the company, Haase added. “Bob Greenheck has always been active enough in the business that if he saw a dirty machine or if he saw a machine that wasn’t being maintained, or if he saw someone mistreating a machine, there was limited tolerance for that,” he explained.

“This is our lifeblood. We made this investment in the equipment so we need to take care of it. We weren’t always in a position to go out and buy the latest technology. Before my time, people can tell you the story of when a building had burned down but there was an old punch left after the fire. Bob bought it, hired a guy to rewire it and that was our first CNC programmable punch. So for Bob, to buy a new machine, you better take care of it.”

“We are not a profit center. We are a cost,” Smith stated. “But the investment is still made. There was probably a time when the company really felt the pain. In order to grow in lean manufacturing, the maintenance department had to grow with it.

According to Jim King, Greenheck is fearless in its pursuit of excellence. “We are very fluid. With regard to change, it’s not just in maintenance. We shuffle manpower, and we shuffle equipment. When we get new people, we get a new set of eyes and a new set of ideas. A lot of companies look at some of these big ideas and just say ‘that’s a huge project.’ We look at it and say ‘this is a weekend.’ We’ll come in and knock it out.”

Haase agrees. “We found a recipe to be successful in a business that is low volume, high variability, and high configurability,” he said. “That’s where we excel. MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She specializes in the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 36 cities in six countries on three continents.

Boards facilitate daily meetings. Anyone can submit a suggestion or question that is then tracked for improvement.

Boards facilitate daily meetings. Anyone can submit a suggestion or question that is then tracked for improvement.

Greenheck Reinvents TPM

Dr. Klaus M. Blache, director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a College of Engineering research professor, recently spent time working with and analyzing Greenheck’s GPS program. This is his assessment.

As I’ve stated in many presentations, “If you have a robust, small-team, continuous-improvement process (CIP), almost any effort can be made to be successful.”

This is at the core of why the Greenheck GPS/CIP works. They have engaged people who want to make a positive difference. Their initiatives are further supported by a management style that fosters new ideas and implementations, a desire to consistently produce a quality product, and mutual respect for employees and their contributions at all levels.

This is the elusive stuff that companies look for and many never find. While observing a continuous-improvement event and touring the facility and the display/Innovation Center, I was reminded of an early book, Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Collins and Porras, 1994). We used this book as a reference when developing strategy for the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals. The key theme was around “preserving core values while stimulating progress.” It prompted us to try many new things and keep what works.

For Greenheck, preserving the core means being the leading supplier of air-movement and control equipment that includes fans, dampers, louvers, kitchen ventilation hoods, and energy-recovery and make-up air units. Their BHAG (Big Harry Audacious Goal) for TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) to stimulate progress is “80% of all equipment-related problems can be detected by operators with proper training.” This philosophy is used on in-plant postings.

Greenheck has executed thousands of Kaizen events throughout the past 14 years. The Greenheck Performance System (GPS) was modeled after the Toyota Production System, with TPM integrated into it. In this ongoing journey, the focus is on throughput and flow versus OEE (overall equipment effectiveness).

For those who understand its beginning, OEE was intended to be a tool to reduce availability, performance, and quality losses on one machine at a time rather than measuring how it is used today. They work on floor processes (with value stream mapping) and office processes (with swim lane mapping).

Once best practices are found, Greenheck understands the value of clarifying workflow and standardizing their processes. They perform PM-completed audits and lean audits. The team members understand that CIP needs to start immediately and continue during the life cycle of the machinery and equipment. This is evidenced by Kaizen events on new equipment and existing operations.

Greenheck does many other things in the areas of visual controls, lubrication, and customized maintenance manuals. Operator involvement in the multi-disciplined Kaizen events is key. The pride of working for Greenheck Fan was evident in all of my discussions with operators, trades/technicians, engineers, and leadership.

In summary, Greenheck Fan nurtures the culture needed to sustain a highly functional CIP. This enables it to put maximum focus on issue resolution.

The complete original definition of TPM (Seiichi Nakajima, Introduction to TPM, Productivity Press, 1988) includes these five elements:

— TPM aims to maximize equipment effectiveness (overall effectiveness).

— TPM establishes a thorough system of PM for the equipment’s entire life span.

— TPM is implemented by various departments (engineering, operations, maintenance).

— TPM involves every single employee, from top management to workers on the floor.

— TPM is based on the promotion of PM through motivation management and autonomous small group activities.

Greenheck Fan has instilled these concepts, resulting in an effective TPM process.

—Dr. Klaus M. Blache


5:32 pm
December 22, 2016
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Match Pump Specs to Chemicals

Marrying a specific product with the right equipment is crucial in chemical-processing pump maintenance.

This double-mechanically sealed, Plan 52 centrifugal pump is being used in a plywood-fabrication application. Photo: EnviroPump & Seal Inc.

This double-mechanically sealed, Plan 52 centrifugal pump is being used in a plywood-fabrication application. Photo: EnviroPump & Seal Inc.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

The biggest problem a pump operator can face, especially when explosive, corrosive, and abrasive chemicals are involved is not having a structured maintenance program, according to Tim Mann, president of TKM Industries Inc., a Marietta, GA-based manufacturer of custom-engineered metering pumps for the chemical, wastewater, and mining industries.

“Sometimes the attitude is…if it works, don’t fix it,” Mann said. “This is absolutely the wrong approach. When working with chemical pumps, especially metering pumps, you are always pumping a specialty chemical. You have to be mindful of the product you are pumping because every chemical gives you a different problem. Many of them can be reactive to heat and pressure, for example. You have to design your maintenance program around those specifics.”

Chemicals that are non-viscous and non-corrosive may only require minimum scheduled maintenance, while those that are more aggressive require more frequent maintenance. “It’s important to consider the pump and the product you are pumping when designing the maintenance program,” Mann said. “It’s not one-size-fits-all. Every chemical creates a different challenge.”

Chemical-pump maintenance

To avoid some of the most common maintenance issues that occur in chemical-processing pumping systems, EnviroPump & Seal Inc.’s Monik Gandhi suggests insisting on a proper design from the beginning, ensuring a proper installation, and maintaining the pumps according to a strict schedule. EnviroPump & Seal Inc., Marietta, GA, is a manufacturer of ANSI process pumps and mechanical seals.

The top six maintenance issues and their solutions include:

Faulty or incorrect design. Verify the manufacturer’s recommendation using their pump curves and pump data sheets prior to purchase, Gandhi suggested. “Verify materials of construction used in the pump for any incompatibility. If the manufacturer has a distributor or manufacturer’s representative in the area, use them as a third party to verify the conditions of service required versus the pump curve and data sheets provided by the pump manufacturer.”

Manufacturing error. Look for pumps with the longest warranties or pump manufacturers with good references. “Those manufacturers that offer the longest warranties generally have more procedures in place to assure that the pump runs properly and efficiently for a longer time,” Gandhi said. “The standard pump warranty is for one year. Look for those manufacturers that offer warranties that are longer than that. The longest warranty currently available on a pump is three years.”

Assembly/installation errors or defects. Hire a millwright, or use the millwright who is staffed by the customer. “Follow all the manufacturer’s recommended installation and startup procedures,” Gandhi suggested. “Pay special attention to alignment, rotation, shimming, etc.”

“Live” process conditions different from base design. “This is a difficult problem to solve,” explained Gandhi. “It is looked at on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, the impeller trim can be changed, or the speed of the pump (among a list of other things). In other instances, the process flow is too different from the designed pump, and the pump must be replaced with a pump which can attain the desired conditions.”

Maintenance deficiencies and procedure neglect. Keep a daily check on all maintenance items (even those with instrumentation designed to alarm at a central location), Gandhi recommended. These items can include considerations such as cooling-water flow and basket-strainer cleaning.

Improper operation or operation not intended for the pump. Certain pump technologies can be used for only certain process streams, Gandhi said. “For instance, if you want a high turndown, you should use a pump which can acquire that, such as a peristaltic pump or a solenoid pump. If you want a pump that can pump very viscous materials, then a positive-displacement pump is the right solution. If there is high heat involved, then cooling accommodations must be made for the pump seals. If the wrong technology is used for the wrong process, the pump will never perform as needed by plant personnel. It is a good idea to do some industry research and/or rely on someone who is versed in the technologies to steer the customer toward the proper solution.”

A VIT-1000 centrifugal pump keeps product moving at a leading snack food manufacturer’s plant. Photo: EnviroPump & Seal Inc.

A VIT-1000 centrifugal pump keeps product moving at a leading snack food manufacturer’s plant. Photo: EnviroPump & Seal Inc.

Marrying chemical and equipment

All chemicals present specific challenges, making the marriage of the pump and the product it’s pumping of utmost importance, Tim Mann stated.

“Chemicals react differently at different speeds and pressures, and they also react differently depending on the type of pump,” he explained. “If you are using a progressive cavity or gear pump, for example, when they are spinning fast they create heat. Some chemicals don’t react well to heat, or they may be shear sensitive. By turning that kind of pump, you can create another kind of problem. The heat can cause the chemical to break down and, when this happens, it reacts in different ways. It could become sticky or more viscous or more abrasive, or less effective…it just depends on the chemical.”

Mann described a situation years ago when one of his customers made a slight formulation change to a chemical it was pumping. “We were using a gear pump that normally would last at least two years without any issues. This slight change caused the pump to break down at an alarming speed. We worked hard to figure out the problem and finally learned that the change in the chemical had caused it to become more reactive to heat, which was causing abrasion, which was wearing on the pump. We had to select a different piece of equipment and totally redesign the system to suit the product. Then the maintenance team had to determine a new maintenance schedule.”

According to Mann, the marriage of the pump and the chemical also relies on a strong partnership between the manufacturer and the operator.

“The technologies are changing so fast, and the chemical companies are always looking for an edge to make a better chemical,” he said. “Just a little bit of change in the formulation will cause maintenance and wear issues you didn’t expect. We work closely with the customer to make sure we understand the chemistry and which pump will work best with it. If I have any doubts, I always recommend a different pump to the customer. Marrying the equipment with the chemical is essential. If you don’t do it right, you are setting yourself up for failure.”

That symmetry extends to the components as well.

“It’s not just the pump,” explained Mann. “You have to also ensure the piping is running properly. The valves may need pulsation dampeners or relief valves. The pump requires maintenance, but so do all the other components. You have to be sure they are all functioning properly.”

Other considerations come into play. Some chemicals may create an off-gassing effect or introduce vapor in the lines, which can cause blockage. If vapor lock occurs, the pressure-relief valve must be working properly or the pump will be damaged or destroyed, Mann said.

Mechanical-diaphragm pumps use sodium hypochlorite to disinfect drinking water. Photo: Guardian Equipment, Sanford, FL

Mechanical-diaphragm pumps use sodium hypochlorite to disinfect drinking water. Photo: Guardian Equipment, Sanford, FL

Maintenance best practices

There is much education and critical research needed to maintain chemical-processing pumps. Chemicals are used in a variety of pumping applications, including wastewater, water, food and beverage, pulp and paper, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, and almost all other processing industries. The details matter, said Mann.

“When people talk high-tech, they think iPods or iPhones or electronic gadgets,” Mann said. “The chemical industry is very high tech and cutting edge. Chemicals have become much more active. Everyone is looking for an added advantage. When they do this, they often change the chemical. Sometimes the chemical companies provide the equipment because it’s always changing.”

This requires asking detailed questions, such as:

— What is the viscosity?

— What is the compatibility of materials?

— What is the specific gravity?

Answers to questions such as these can help to determine the right pump for the application. This leads to proper preventive-maintenance programs.

“You have to know your chemical,” Mann reiterated. “Customers and users should share all the information they can with the manufacturers. It’s a two-way street. We can’t walk in and tell the customer we understand everything about their chemical until we’ve taken the time to learn their chemical. At the same time, they don’t know 100% if your equipment is going to work to move that chemical unless they fully understand the type of pump and everything about it. In a metering pump, for instance, maybe you need a chemical that is more abrasive, so you want to use a harder metal component. This could increase the cost. It’s important to have this communication. It will save you unplanned maintenance down the road.”

It’s always a tradeoff between scheduling cost and time, Mann said.

“Some companies specialize in pumping certain chemicals. Some specialize in slurries. Others may pump a very clean, non-viscous material, close to water. Our plunger pump can pump very viscous materials, for example. Polymers are everywhere. But polymer is a very generic term. The type of polymer and the viscosities can vary greatly. We know we can pump this type of chemical without a problem. So some companies come to us for that specific reason.”

While the specifics are important, there are some common preventive-maintenance best practices, Gandhi said. “There are many things maintenance personnel can perform as preventive maintenance for the pumps in service as well as any spare units that may be in storage,” he explained. “Spares should be manually turned once every few weeks, keep all moving parts lubed to prevent lock up and rust.”

In Gandhi’s opinion, the most overlooked preventive-maintenance practice is to use common sense and all your senses.

“For a few minutes every day, it helps if a maintenance worker looks at the pump for items such as vibration or leaks, while listening to the pump for items such as cavitation or misalignment,” offered Gandhi. “Most of the issues that can arise with pump maintenance can be caught ahead of a catastrophic failure if the pump is monitored closely. In addition to eyes and ears, there are many forms of instrumentation that can remotely monitor critical elements of the pumping system.”

Technology, tools, tips

Mann and Gandhi recommended taking advantage of the many tools available to help with chemical-pump maintenance.

“There is a plethora of instrumentation that can help monitor your pump,” Gandhi said. “The most catastrophic pump failures can be caught before they become fatal to the pump. In addition to instrumentation, a daily visual/auditory check of all rotating equipment will increase pump life because the evaluator will see a problem when it is still manageable instead of when it becomes out of hand and the pump needs to be replaced.”

It’s important to use instrumentation. However, users should not to rely too much on technology, Mann suggested. “You can use a pressure gage or flow meter, but always feed back into the DCS or SCADA system and use the information to do your statistical process controls to [identify] your maintenance issues. Sometimes alarms go off so much and they are ignored and you don’t even hear them anymore. You see this all the time. In the control room an alarm goes off and the guy just reaches over and kills the alarm.”

Mann offered these additional tips:

— Ensure everything is working properly. “Routine checks make all the difference,” he said. “If you just follow the procedures, the equipment will last much longer. Less work, less money, less time. All good.”

— It only takes a minute to look at a gage or a pressure valve, so do not overlook this important step.

— Always make sure your safety procedures are in place and are followed.

— Be sure you have good preventive maintenance (PM).

— When you have shutdowns, make sure you properly clean the pumps and pipes.

— Make sure you are using good parts—the recommended parts—and that you have spares on hand.

— Always be ready to realize that it’s not just the pump, it’s the entire process line that needs maintenance. Take care of all the components.

— Have a checklist. If plants are running well, personnel generate good checklists and they follow the checklists. This will save you time and money and the equipment will run more smoothly. “PM doesn’t have to mean you have to tear the equipment down 100%,” Mann said. “PM may be just checking to make sure the oil levels are correct or everything is working. You may look at a pressure gage and everything is working fine but the pump has to work harder to keep the same pressures.” 

— Avoid complacency. Is someone checking to be sure the filter baskets are being cleaned as scheduled? Those kinds of small things can cause big problems. Some people don’t think they need a pressure-relief valve, so they just take it out or never check it because it always works.

— Don’t cut corners. Pay attention to the details.

“In the end, it is common sense,” Mann said. “It’s putting the procedures in place, and then following them.”

Mann described how overlooking something simple can cause dangerous problems when pumping chemicals.

“When I first started working in the industry, I was in a plant and an operator said he needed to change the filters,” Mann explained. “I was looking at it, and the gage was reading 50 psi. I asked him if we needed to relieve the pressure. He said no, because that gage doesn’t work… ‘It’s never worked,’ he said. I was skeptical enough that I backed up. He opened the filter and a chemical came pouring out and totally drenched him.

Fortunately it wasn’t an aggressive chemical, but it could have been. It was all over him. If he had checked the gage to see if it was working, and if he had been cleaning the filter baskets regularly, just routine maintenance, this would have been avoided. He did everything wrong. And he learned the lesson the hard way. It could have ended really badly. The only thing he did right was he was wearing safety glasses. The chemical ruined his clothes, but he was so lucky.”

Gandhi emphasized this point when he described a challenging maintenance issue.

“At one plant the seals on the centrifugal pump would continually fail within a week,” Gandhi said. “The pump was moving 450-degree thermal oil. The seals would overheat, and eventually fail. We decided to go with a Plan 52 cooling arrangement. We put cooling jackets on either side of the seal, as well as injected a barrier fluid (cooling as well) in between the seals. This greatly increased the run-time between failures for this particular plant.”

When working with chemicals, OSHA requires that every chemical supplier provide a Materials Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS). These can also be found online and will tell you whether a chemical is harmful/corrosive and provide additional information. This will help the operators  understand the chemicals and their potential hazards, but maintenance plans should be customized and flexible, Mann stated.

“A chemical pumping-maintenance plan is not something you create and then it’s good forever or works for every piece of equipment,” he said. “It’s always changing. In most plants, the chemistry is constantly changing. Everyone is always looking for a better way. You can’t create a maintenance plan and put it on the shelf and forget about it. It’s not that simple.”

Mann recommends creating a good work history to avoid reinventing the wheel on common problems. “You may fix one problem and create two more,” he said. “And, if it’s a really common problem, then you are not really fixing it.” RP

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She specializes in the processing industries, and can be reached at   


9:09 pm
December 20, 2016
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View from the Top

Keck Observatory uses a robust building-automation system to increase the reliability of advanced telescopes that astronomers use to hunt planets and dissect galaxies.


By Michelle Segrest,  Contributing Editor

When John Baldwin arrives at the W. M. Keck Observatory headquarters every day, it takes another two hours for him to drive to his office. The office sits 13,796 ft. above sea level on the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the island of Hawaii.

The W.M. Keck Observatory provides precise in-depth views of the universe through the two largest telescopes in the world. Photo by Andrew Richard Hara Photography © 2014

The W.M. Keck Observatory provides precise in-depth views of the universe through the two largest telescopes in the world. Photo by Andrew Richard Hara Photography © 2014

As he drives up the mountain, the altitude increases and the oxygen available to his body decreases. The altitude can cause him to feel lightheaded, fatigued, and dehydrated. It also can cause irritability and lack of concentration. These are normal working conditions for him and the two dozen other employees who work at the observatory’s summit location. The spectacular view makes it all worthwhile.

Even at almost 14,000 ft., Baldwin and the astronomical scientists from the Univ. of California and California Institute of Technology still need to look up to observe the universe with unprecedented power and precision. The Keck Observatory is home to the world’s largest and most scientifically productive optical and infrared telescopes. Each of the twin telescopes weighs 300 tons and operates with nanometer precision. The  primary mirrors are 10 meters in diameter, each composed of 36 hexagonal segments that work in concert as a single reflective surface.

As the summit superintendent, Baldwin’s job is to keep the telescopes, domes that shelter them, and the entire facility functioning. This includes chillers, air conditioners, hydraulics, pneumatics, cranes, pumps, gearboxes, motors, and other equipment. “It’s amazing how many systems need to work perfectly and in concert with each other for us to operate normally,” Baldwin said.

Originally from New Jersey, Baldwin moved to Hawaii after taking a cruise there with his family in 2003. He has worked with Keck since 2006 and daily tackles significant challenges inherent to the facility’s complexity and location.

A unique facility

The telescopes are not what most people consider to be typical telescopes.

“People don’t physically look through the telescopes,” Baldwin explained. “There are instruments on the telescope that have charge-coupled devices, like in a digital camera but much larger, and the computers do all the work. Scientists look at pictures of the galaxy, and can see the spectrum of light from the galaxy. By analyzing the spectrum, they can deduce a lot of data about a star or a galaxy. For example, they can determine what it is made of, how far away it is, how big it is, and how fast it is moving relative to the Earth. We use computers to guide the telescope to the target, then track the target for however long the exposure is needed.”

The data flow to astronomers who may not be on site. They can observe from the Kamuela headquarters location or even from California. People on site physically operate the telescopes for the astronomers. Some of the Keck observers are “planet hunters” who look at different stars and collect data to determine whether there is a planet orbiting around a star.

1216voiceboxSpecial challenges

The altitude is, by far, the biggest challenge for Baldwin and his team of six maintenance technicians, he said.

“A normal task that you would complete in one hour at headquarters might take up to two and a half hours at the summit,” Baldwin explained. “That is completely normal up here. Your body tires very quickly. It’s normal to feel lightheaded. If you’ve been working here for many years and your body is acclimated, you may still feel lightheaded, but you might not notice it.”

To combat the effects of the altitude, employees are required to stop for 30 minutes every day once they reach the 9,000-ft. mark while driving up the mountain. There is a visitor center at that point where they can have breakfast and allow their bodies to acclimate. Still, the effects of the altitude can be felt.

“You may not think as clearly as you would at sea level,” Baldwin continued. “If you are doing a complex computation or calculation, it’s always a good idea to call headquarters and ask an engineer to double-check your numbers. It’s easy to forget what you are doing while you are in the middle of a project. It’s also normal to feel very fatigued and temperaments can go sour quickly.”

Since the summit employees go home very night, they must acclimate their bodies to the change in altitude twice each day. The two-hour drive counts toward the 10-hr. shifts, reducing the number of working hours for each employee and creating another challenge unique to the facility.

To counteract this efficiency loss, the organization takes care to consistently upgrade the technical and scientific capabilities. This includes the maintenance infrastructure, Baldwin said. However, it also creates additional work, so a balance must be created.

“With constant upgrades, we have the same individuals doing the plumbing, electrical, steel work, fabrication, and also installation and implementation of the upgrades,” Baldwin explained.

Baldwin ensures that his six technicians are cross-trained, as he has been throughout his career. He began as an HVAC installation mechanic and later became a facilities technician. His experience includes knowledge about controls and programming, how electricity works, hydraulics, pumps, airflow, and how different fuels are handled.

“Behind all these beautiful optics, there is very complex machinery,” he said. “The telescope control and mirror systems are super complex and really cool.”

Baldwin’s team of six includes four mechanical technicians, one senior CNC machinist, and an industrial electrician.

A look at the K2 primary mirror inside one of Keck Observatory's unique telescopes. Photo by Andrew Cooper © 2007

A look at the K2 primary mirror inside one of Keck Observatory’s unique telescopes. Photo by Andrew Cooper © 2007

Building-automation system

One of the key upgrades was the installation of a robust building-automation system, a project that began in 2009 and was spearheaded by Baldwin and his colleague, Mark Devenot.

“At the time, we had a very old Trane Tracer system on one side of the facility only,” Baldwin said. “It was archaic, and no one knew how to run it. The philosophy was, don’t touch it because we don’t know how to fix it. We couldn’t even utilize it to modify how our equipment was running.”

The company upgraded to the Alerton (Lynnwood, WA) building-automation system. Baldwin and his team were trained by a local contractor on how to install the system and how to program it. It was first rolled out on two of the air conditioners that cooled the Keck 2 dome.

“It can be monitored remotely and programmed to do exactly what you want it to do at any given time,” said Baldwin. “Our management found lots of value in this, so we were able to roll it out to the rest of the facility.” The system provides several benefits. At such an inconvenient location, the remote-monitoring capabilities are critical. Technicians can log in from home and help the on-site staff troubleshoot a problem. More convenient usability and customization also provide payback.

“For example, our domes are kept at a very low temperature, typically close to zero degrees Celsius,” Baldwin explained. “We use a nighttime forecast to tell us what temperature to use so when we open the dome at night, the mirrors and telescope structure are approximately the same temperature as the nighttime temperature. This way the mirrors don’t fog. We also need to avoid the expanding or contracting of the steel due to temperature differences which affect the optical quality of the telescope. In the past, before this system was installed, the air conditioners that live in our domes were, for the most part, off-the-shelf air conditioners—they were either on or they were off. Once they cool to the forecasted temperature, they shut down.”

Baldwin said humidity is also a concern. “At night, if we have to close the domes because of some passing weather, if our dome temperature is satisfied, then the air conditioners would not run and the humidity would spike. When the weather would clear there would be a delay opening the domes because we would be at dewpoint on our mirrors,” Baldwin further explained. “We were able to customize the actual functionality of the air conditioner, add a dehumidification mode, and stage the air conditioning to hold tighter tolerances to temperatures in the dome. Because we can be below freezing up here, the cooling coils on the air conditioners collect a lot of ice. So we have to defrost them with electric defrost. We were able to upgrade the process and control the amount of energy we were using to defrost the cooling coils for maximum efficiency.”

At this altitude, Baldwin said the weather can change quickly. “We can be 45 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny, and then an hour later we might be in a total white-out blizzard and need to evacuate the mountain for safety concerns,” he said. “I have actually shoveled more snow here than I ever did in New Jersey.”

The building-automation system allowed the observatory to use its equipment more electrically efficiently while customizing the system to meet its special needs. “Now, during times of high humidity, we are able to keep our domes around 60% humidity, whereas before it could spike up to 85% or more, depending on the outside environment,” he said. “This bodes well for our optics. We’ve since expanded to monitor with some systems like hydraulics and air compressors. In some cases, they are completely controlling some of our chillers and air conditioners, and it is very helpful especially if there is a breakdown. The more we have connected to the building-automation system, the easier it is to troubleshoot remotely.”

The system has also helped to reduce electrical costs in an area where this is a critical concern. “With this system, we’ve been able to monitor our instantaneous power demand,” Baldwin said. “We can monitor a rise in our electrical usage and stage down non-critical equipment to maintain our instantaneous demand below a preset amount to keep electrical costs down.”

Maintenance philosophy

All of the general maintenance at Keck Observatory is done in-house. Only large additions and ancillary projects, such as crane inspections, are sourced outside the infrastructure team.

screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-2-49-11-pm“Our overall goal is to be totally reliability centered, but we are not there yet,” Baldwin said. “What we rely on is preventive and predictive maintenance. Preventive is our work-order program based on manufacturer specifications for our equipment. There is a frequency for each piece of equipment. We also have a pretty inclusive predictive-maintenance program. We do a lot of fluid analysis, thermography for electrical PMs, and we use ultrasound to give indications of broken wheel shafts that are part of our dome system. We recently started using an ultrasonic tool to monitor our bearing health and compressed-air leaks.”

Baldwin said his best practices begin with a twice-a-day facility walk-through.

“We spend about two hours walking through the entire facility, writing down pressures and temperatures, looking for leaks, and listening for odd sounds coming out of equipment,” he said. “And, because we do it so frequently, it’s one of our best indicators for something going wrong. The morning walk through is more in-depth. We use a clipboard to record pertinent information like how much water is in the facility. What are the temperatures of the chillers? What are the pressures of the pump that feeds the facility for cooling the instruments?

“Before we leave the facility, we do a visual walk through using the same route.”

He said the best advice he can give other managers driving maintenance and reliability programs is to question everything and educate your team with the most advanced tools possible. “The rewards are incredible,” he said. “If you can then educate upper management on why those tools have such value, everyone wins.” MT

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


6:02 pm
November 15, 2016
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Mechanical-Seal LCCs Hold Savings

Mechanical seals may represent the largest cost of operation in some facilities and their reliability is a direct proxy for overall pump reliability.

Mechanical seals may represent the largest cost of operation in some facilities and their reliability is a direct proxy for overall pump reliability.

The result of good reliability engineering is elimination of field failures, yet making the connection between reliability and prevention of these failures is not always obvious, according to Lloyd Dewey Lee, Jr., CMRP, MBA, CRL, Reliability & Asset Management SME, FacileX, Knoxville, TN.

During his presentation at the 24th Annual SMRP Conference in Jacksonville, FL, in Oct. 2016, Lee said communication issues that many reliability personnel have with management can limit exposure to justification of their programs.

He posed the question, “How does one show and promote the ongoing contribution to ROI to justify the reliability program?” A quick answer is that one of the biggest, most overlooked, contributions to maintenance costs for pumps (which are also one of the most prevalent equipment types found in manufacturing plants) is the mechanical seal.

Mechanical seals (depending on their piping plans) may represent the largest cost of operation in some facilities, and their reliability has a direct impact on overall pump reliability. Because of these factors, reliability personnel should be aware of the life-cycle costs (LCCs) of these seals.

randmTotal cost of ownership (TCO) involves, at a minimum, five factors:

Design — This includes considerations such as expected design life and service criticality. Studies show that as much as 80% of machinery reliability is determined in the design phase.

Acquisition — The acquisition cost of an individual mechanical seal is dependent upon many variables, including metallurgy, elastomers, shaft size, cartridge or single-spring type, face materials, whether it has single or double faces, and any ancillary equipment needed for a flush plan. Acquisition costs aren’t significant, compared with operational costs. Implementing an alliance program with a seal vendor can improve acquisition costs.

Operation — Far and away the costliest component of mechanical-seal usage is in the operation. This is where the real savings to LCC can be achieved. Numerous factors affect pump reliability from an operations point of view. Once operational life is underway, the optimum life of the pump and system will only be realized if the pump is operated near its best efficiency point (BEP).

Maintenance — The opportunity for repair should be viewed as a maintenance upgrade event. For example, an analysis of pump curves may reveal that a change in the impeller size could move the pump closer to its BEP. With regard to mechanical seals, it is a normal practice to remove the entire seal, document the failure mode on a travel ticket, and send the seal either to the seal manufacturer for an analysis and/or execute a core return if the plant is under an alliance contract.

Disposal — Failed mechanical seals are among the most frequent reasons for removing pumps from service for repairs. That’s because leaks are obvious visual evidence of a failure. Impending seal failure may also be indicated if pressure, temperature, or level-gauge alarms on ancillary equipment are active.

Single-face seals leak along one of five paths (dual-face designs have similar static and dynamic leak paths:

Seal face leakage is visible at the shaft exit of the gland or at the drain connections.

Dynamic secondary seal leakage is also visually noticeable where the shaft exits the gland or at the drain connections.

Static secondary seal leakage is visible at the point where the shaft exits the gland or at the drain connections.

Gland gasket leakage is visible at the gland-seal chamber interface.

Hook-sleeve gasket leakage or cartridge-sleeve secondary seal leakage is visible at the point where the sleeve ends outside of the seal chamber.

Number-crunching is essential to capturing equipment ROI. Many companies have not performed a thorough cost-benefit analysis on the preventive-maintenance function. Therefore, it is difficult to analyze, with financial credibility, the cost of preventive-maintenance tasks and the contribution of the reliability program to reducing costs.

Thus, reliability and maintenance personnel should understand and be able to apply key financial concepts regarding return on investment (ROI). Common methods for analyzing payback include:

Net Present Value (NPV) — The total present value (PV) of a time-series of cash flows.

Investment Yield — The internal rate of return (IRR) for an investment is the discount rate that makes the net present value of the investment’s income stream total to zero.

Payback Period — The time it takes the cash inflow from a capital investment project to equal the cash outflow is typically expressed in years. The payback period is a simple and well-understood metric by most personnel because it simply calculates the length of time for the cash flow or savings generated by the project to pay back the project’s cost.

Cost of Capital — This is an important financial metric to understand when discussing the payback on an investment. It is not unusual for an organization to use its weighted average cost of capital (WACC) as a discount, or “hurdle,” rate in the payback evaluation of capital expenditures. MT

—Michelle Segrest, contributing editor