Author Archive | Marilyn


3:56 pm
May 1, 2009
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Viewpoint:Turning Challenges Into Successes


Steve Harman, President, Shell Lubricants, Americas

One of the primary roles of maintenance and reliability professionals is to run their plant profitably at peak capacity while operating safely and efficiently. As plant professionals strive for increases in production, few would put lubrication at the top of their list of ways to increase plant performance. However, failing to identify the optimal lubricant for an application can lead to decreased efficiency, increased maintenance and the most menacing word of all, “downtime.”

There are roughly 26,000 applications for lubricants in the United States, and each application requires specific performance from its lubricant. Base Oil (mineral versus synthetic), viscosity, additive package, oxidation resistance and thermal stability, are just a few of the characteristics that must be considered when choosing a lubricant.

Identifying the correct lubricant can be a daunting task, especially when faced with all of the other dynamics that impact plant performance. Our own maintenance and reliability staff handles these same issues at the Shell Houston Lubricant Plant, which runs 13 production lines for packaging. The plant can process quart and gallon bottles, pails and drums simultaneously. At a rate of 18,000 quarts per hour, each line is integral to our lubricants business. Letting those lines go down for just a single hour can have a significant impact on production, greatly affecting our customers.

No matter how well developed a production plan is, problems will inevitably arise. The best companies are the ones that can prevent minor problems from developing into very expensive ones. Knowing how efficiency affects our business helps us understand yours. As a result, we work hard to align our entire business around delivering growth and quality customer support.

Your success is our success
At Shell, we believe our success comes from helping our customers succeed, so we work closely with them to develop insight into their businesses. We ensure that we have an intimate understanding of their challenges and goals. Once that foundation has been created, our team begins a customer “deep dive” to identify the customer’s particular needs.

Some of our customers have very intense requirements—onsite maintenance, technical service, new technologies, research and development, the whole package. Companies with multiple facilities often have very specific needs and depend upon 24-hour-a-day reliable service. As downtime can potentially lead to lost revenue, it is important for reliability professionals to identify the lubricants that meet the demands of their machinery and help keep them running efficiently.

Regardless of plant size, maintenance and reliability professionals should take advantage of the services lubricants companies can provide. As facilities are pressured to perform more efficiently with fewer resources, it is beneficial to employ experts who can help you make the most informed lubricant decisions. By reviewing plant equipment applications and operating conditions, suppliers can develop customized lubrication programs that help your facilities work more efficiently.

A lubricants company can provide diverse resources that are not always at hand for most maintenance professionals. For instance, fiber optic video inspection can often save plants time and money by inspecting internal components without dismantling the equipment itself. Some suppliers can also do in-depth fluid and equipment analysis to alert them to conditions that lead to premature equipment failure.

Ultimately, selecting the right lubricants and applying them correctly can have a big impact on your plant’s productivity and total operations cost. World-class lubricants companies are capable of delivering value-added services that support maintenance and reliability professionals in their efforts to deliver superior results. Make the most of your lubricants supplier relationship by asking what they can do to help optimize your business. MT

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6:00 am
June 1, 2008
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Driving Operational Improvements Through Strategic Alignment


Fundamental to success in any organization is getting individuals to work toward common goals. Whether that’s a team of five on the court or a corporation of 50,000 associates scattered across the globe, knowing the goal and working toward unified objectives help every individual contribute. In global manufacturing, however, we frequently see a disconnect in this unified approach.

As global economic trends lead to changes in manufacturing strategies, companies today are realizing that successful financial performance can only be achieved when functional decisions are synchronized and fully aligned with plant or corporate goals and objectives. In rethinking the value and contribution of the manufacturing organization, companies have an opportunity to revitalize their business performance and bring new capabilities to their strategic focus.

A historical disconnect
The front office traditionally has had little direct infl uence on the plant fl oor beyond providing budgets and productivity demands. Conversely, the plant fl oor has little executive visibility, meaning manufacturing considerations are less likely to be taken into account when corporate managers are setting business objectives. In the rare instances when these overarching objectives are communicated to those responsible for the plant fl oor, it’s difficult to reconcile them with plant fl oor deliverables, as the corporate terminology and plant floor metrics rarely converge. This leaves plant managers to set goals and make decisions that risk running counter to the company’s overall objectives as they strive to reach productivity metrics.

The renewed emphasis on effective capital asset management is putting increased pressure on plant managers to contribute to the growth and financial performance of their organizations. The touted benefits of individual initiatives, such as process efficiency and improved quality, mean little if they fail to help plant fl oor personnel understand how they can help address the fundamental corporate goals.

One difference between organizations that succeed and those that fail has to do with the way the manufacturing function is structured, the responsibilities and tactical vision of the plant manager, and the level of integration between plant fl oor decision making and the strategic direction of the enterprise as a whole.

Clearing the hurdles
One of the main obstacles to strategic alignment is the modern global enterprise itself, which is comprised of multiple facilities and widely dispersed geographic locations. On the plant fl oor, localized tactical deployments and siloed functions have led to unique, dedicated systems for manufacturing planning, execution, process control and tracking, oftentimes for each plant. Consequently, the plant fl oor has become the sole focus of the plant manager, where decisions are made primarily to meet production deadlines and efficiencies, rather than with a more holistic view of company objectives.

Central control through large functional departments also can act as a barrier to strategic execution. Executives typically develop strategy at the top and implement it through a centralized command-and-control culture. This system was acceptable 40 to 50 years ago when change was incremental, but is inadequate in today’s dynamic business environment. Rapid changes in technology, competition and regulations mean that strategy development and implementation has to be a continual and participative process.

Coordinated metric development is another fundamental challenge to strategic alignment. For instance, in many companies, there is no visibility to the losses incurred from unnecessary downtime or late deliveries, and no tangible returns attached to manufacturing’s role in meeting quality standards or making on-time deliveries. Consequently, many companies grossly underestimate the overall effect plant fl oor decisions have on the company’s bottom line.

Communications is another hurdle. Organizations today need a language for communicating strategy as well as processes and systems to implement strategy and gain feedback about it. If the strategy does not get translated through the organization to each individual person, then successful execution is at risk. Ultimately, people must have a “line of sight” between their role and the objectives and implementation of the strategy.

Integration at all levels
Much of the progress companies have made toward strategic alignment has been simply the result of better information integration across the enterprise. Tremendous operational efficiencies have been gained by connecting “islands of factories” together into a single integrated manufacturing enterprise. This allows companies to drive operational excellence across and beyond the entire enterprise, including business processes, supply chains and customer networks.

For example, planning long-term shutdowns for capital repairs needs long-term visibility into sales and operations planning. Likewise, the factory supply chain needs to consider and integrate the maintenance function in order to be responsive and proactive. This requires rethinking the way plant fl oor functions are executed, as well as providing support through integrated systems that unify data protocol across plant-wide systems and processes and into executive suites.

This seamless information sharing results in knowledge that improves performance and meets core business objectives. If the plant fl oor understands, for example, that on-time delivery is more important to helping reach corporate customer-satisfaction goals than cost savings, it can add a second shift to help meet those on-time delivery goals.

While most plant fl oor decisions are grounded in the same fundamental vision as the rest of the company, the manufacturing function often operates with different priorities and different reward systems than the rest of the organization. Achieving strategic alignment requires every organizational function to be working toward the same goals. This means strategy must be communicated and then aligned with the personal objectives of individuals throughout the organization—not just at the corporate level.

Just as corporate managers often don’t see eye-toeye with plant managers, the reverse is also true. When communicating the value that manufacturing provides, plant managers need to link results back to the metrics that drive the company’s business, demonstrating how these pertain to management goals and customer demands. For example, how will installing a new condition monitoring system help improve equipment uptime and reduce expenses related to lost production and scrap? More specifically, how does this impact the priceper- product ratio—an underlying management goal? Another example is the incompatibility of purchasing metrics with overall plant management’s capital spending goals. There are instances when purchasing’s focus on lower prices may lead to decisions based on unit cost rather than total installed cost of the system or long-term maintainability.

Naturally, each group pursues business objectives from different perspectives. In many cases, distinct differences in language and methods of communication lead to misinterpretations and a general lack of understanding between the top fl oor and the shop fl oor. Therefore, it’s important that organizations translate the strategy into operational terms.

For example, most companies hinge their success on a simple principle: deliver high quality products at affordable prices. To meet this goal, every facet and supporting element of a company’s manufacturing process needs to be as lean as possible.

By leveraging a plant fl oor strategy that focuses on reducing expenses, improving uptime and optimizing production processes, the company can parlay this philosophy into higher profits in the long-term while gaining a distinct competitive advantage. Without a cohesive understanding of these objectives, however, support personnel might take a short-term view of this approach and cut costs wherever possible, sacrificing the long-term goal for short-term gains. For example, the condition monitoring system mentioned before may provide significant long-term productivity benefits to the factory, but budgetary constraints and performance metrics driven through the purchasing department may lead to a more traditional system. The unit cost would be less but the ongoing benefits would be lost.

In other organizations, the value brought by the plant fl oor may be measured by how it impacts production throughput. Here, the equation is simple: if machines aren’t available, the company can’t produce products and profit opportunities are missed. In this scenario, the entire manufacturing organization takes equal responsibility for uptime, quality and profitability. The goal is to make a certain number of units per day, based on market demand, and do whatever it takes to get it done.

In this situation, the priority of plant fl oor personnel isn’t on preventive activities, but rather on directly supporting production output goals. But, if a plant manager is not briefed on the strategic objectives of the company and how they apply to him, he or she may approach the repair intent on getting the plant up and running as cheaply as possible. If a plant manager knows the company objective involves a long-term approach to productivity and profitability, all the options may be reviewed in order to find the one that meshes best with the company’s goals.

Measurement is key
Finding a way to measure improvements is an important step toward achieving strategic alignment. Every organization measures success by some metric, whether it’s price per unit, earnings per share or total sales. Unfortunately, the metrics used in the front office aren’t always easily converted into day-to-day tactics employed on the plant fl oor or in other internal departments, like marketing or accounting.

Despite changes in the speed of business and the availability of information, the methods for evaluating corporate performance remain largely unchanged. The problem with many of these tools is they offer a siloed approach and fail to capture many of the interdependencies among functional areas and link them to wider business goals.

A multi-dimensional view is necessary because any one performance measure can be managed to the detriment of other measures (i.e., the benefits of reduced inventory can be offset by an increase in overtime and expediting costs). Consequently, it’s imperative that measurements be based on the priorities of the strategic plan and that they provide data about key processes, outputs and results.

The measures should be selected to best represent the factors that lead to improved customer, operational and financial performance. For example, most plant managers are concerned primarily with short-term budgets and productivity. A company that includes sustainability as part of its strategic objective, though, needs to brief its plant manager(s) on that goal so they take these elements into account. Such an approach might encourage investing in energy-efficient drives to reach sustainability metrics.

One technique that has proven effective in helping companies align their business and plant-level strategy is the development of cross-functional scorecards, sometimes referred to as “Balanced Scorecard.” Used for more than a decade as a strategic planning and management system for driving accountability for execution, the Balanced Scorecard creates a system of linked objectives, measures and targets, which collectively describe the strategy of an organization and how that strategy can be achieved. Individual departments can retain their individual priorities yet know their contribution and role in the overall strategic framework.

One advantage of the Balanced Scorecard approach is that it provides a framework that adds strategic non-financial performance measures to traditional financial metrics to give managers a more “balanced” view of organizational performance. To provide detailed strategy at the corporate as well as plant level, companies can build scorecards for all business units and key support functions. When implemented successfully, it offers a truly bottom-up approach, supplying managers with feedback around both the internal business processes and external outcomes in order to continuously improve strategic performance and results.

Widening the accountability
Nothing kills a strategy faster than under-committing resources. Thus, it’s critical that managers understand the financial commitments that are required to implement a plan and provide the necessary support once the plan is approved. While there are no easy choices or silver bullets here, the foundation for strategic alignment is one that takes a disciplined approach, includes well-defined, balanced objectives and drives accountability and transparency for the decisions and actions that are made.

With today’s advances in technology, companies now can fine-tune almost every phase of production for maximum yield, quality and profit. Still, technology is only part of the equation. The ability to align business strategy across the organization is the missing link. While a unified business strategy isn’t going to solve every problem, it does widen the accountability for financial performance from the top fl oor to the plant fl oor. This is one trend that most certainly will pay dividends in today’s highly competitive manufacturing market. MT

Bob Ruff is senior vice president of Control Products & Solutions, Rockwell Automation.

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6:00 am
May 1, 2008
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Communications: Partnering With Contracted Service Providers


Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor

There probably is no maintenance department in the country that hasn’t engaged the services of a contractor, or specialty services provider, in the past 12 months. How was your experience?

Past experience with outside assistance usually dictates how you approach your next contractual relationship with an outside labor source. Most of us are likely to remember the negative experiences far and above the positive ones, prompting us to be extra cautious and somewhat jaded at the prospect of working with a new service provider.

Unfortunately, there seems to be an abundance of service providers who are too eager to “stretch” the truth about their capabilities and, in a priceconscious world, too willing to cut corners and offer a price-beating alternative. These companies are prone to deliver poor quality and readily sour the partnership experience, never to be invited to quote on a second job. Doubtless we are all aware of the sweetness of a good price—and the bitterness of the true cost when the service falls short of expectations.

Quality work is about setting and surpassing scope-of-work expectations. It is about NOT cutting corners, using quality materials and, above all, dealing with service providers that use personnel who communicate well, are personable, highly competent, trained and experienced. You and your co-workers certainly will recognize many or all of these attributes in your favorite service provider(s).

These days, many companies are actively restructuring their labor pool through redundancy or attrition, with many maintenance departments forced to utilize contract labor to supplement their present understaffing or loss of technical expertise. With utilization of contract labor and specialty service groups that include trainers, management consultants, OEM technicians, preventive and predictive service providers on the rise, following a few simple rules can assure a maintenance department of having a positive experience, every time.

Rule 1: Establish specialty service provider use guidelines
Working together to take stock and document the current ability and level of expertise of the internal skilled labor pool, both maintenance and human resources can assess and match this capability against present and future plant work requirements.

  • High-demand skilled work within the current capability of the internal staff should not be contracted out. This work would include general millwright and electrical work.
  • Low-demand work requiring a high level of expertise, such as overhead door, roof work, training, audit assessment, etc., is a good candidate for the use of specialty service groups.
  • Marginal work such as Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) can be negotiated depending on the internal expertise level. Total workload (backlog) also will play a role in determining what type of work can be taken on by internal or contract labor.

Establishing such a guideline document allows both management and workforce to agree on when specialty service providers are to be used.

Rule 2: Establish a value-added specialty service provider relationship
Quality service providers may not come in with the best price, but usually will work hard to sustain a long-term working relationship. In doing so, most are open to delivering additional value-added services for little or no extra cost.

For example, competent and knowledgeable service providers are employed for their expertise; this can be “tapped” into by asking and expecting the service provider to perform the task requirement, and at the same time perform on-the-job training by allowing a maintenance department employee to observe and assist. This type of strategy is especially effective with apprentice training or specialty training of predictive maintenance technologies.

Other value-added services that can be expected from contractors are such things as 24/7 “on call” availability and reduced billing rates for blanket purchase orders.

Rule 3: Establish a specialty service provider management policy
Managing specialty service providers should not differ greatly from managing internal resources in that work assignments must be controlled through the Work Order Management system. The service provider’s work assignment must be stated clearly, and the work estimated for materials and time requirements. The service provider’s performance is based on variance of estimate and completed work quality.

Once the work is complete, prior to closing the work order, this document is used to collect all relevant comments and references to any contractor check-sheets, to check and assure work quality and to compare work done against the invoice statement before payment is released.

A service provider’s daily charge rate may initially appear as significantly higher than internal resource rates (often used as an argument against using outside assistance). The decision to use outside service providers, however, must be assessed on their value and judged on timeliness of work completion, work quality, rarity of use (their expertise may only be required 2-3 times per year, or less) and cost of specialty tools used by a provider (an infrared thermographer might use an imaging system worth more than six figures; a consultant might use templates and intellectual property that cost hundreds of thousand of dollars to develop).

Use of a specialty service provider must be a balanced decision. Allowing everyone affected by such a provider to help establish the rules surrounding the use of this type of outside assistance will facilitate a healthy relationship among the workforce, management and contracted party—making for a positive experience! MT

Ken Bannister is lead partner and principal consultant for Engtech Industries, Inc. Telephone: (519) 469-9173; e-mail: kbannister@engtechindustries. com

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6:00 am
May 1, 2008
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Uptime: Meeting Of The Minds


Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Rosemont, IL in April could never be confused with the sunny south. Nor will it ever be classified as a relaxing resort, entertainment hub or exotic portof- call. Nonetheless, despite having made a weeklong pilgrimage to Rosemont around this time for the past five years, I keep coming back for more.

This year, as usual, the huge “buffet” I have grown accustomed to finding in Rosemont did not disappoint. Over time, it has continued to serve up a vast selection of the tastiest, most nutritious items for our times. With many places to visit, the lines were again short and the crowds, representing a cross-section of people from all over North America and the world, were very friendly. Year after year, those of us who join in this pilgrimage spend our time sharing with each other about our interests, our work and the many and varied mysteries in our lives.

No, my annual trip to Rosemont is not a family outing. It’s not recreation. It’s not a vacation. What it is, however, is one of the best work-related venues available to those in our industry. It’s where participants— regardless of company and specific job titles and responsibilities—can get fired up about reliability, get excited about change and get answers to most, if not all, of their maintenance and reliability mysteries. The Maintenance & Reliability Technology Summit (MARTS) event provides so much for so many. This year, as always, it was a true meeting of the minds, focused on improving plant, facility and equipment performance and reliability.

Plenty of offerings
This April, I met many people who had been reading my columns for years—and many more who had just begun reading them. They came from a wide variety of industry sectors, including manufacturing industries, power & utilities, petro-chemical processing, mining and production, higher education, facility engineering and more. More than 190 companies were represented, from 36 states, five Canadian provinces and two from outside North America.

The “nutritious buffet” went well beyond the meals to include something for every maintenance and reliability person in attendance:

  • Nearly 30 highly experienced and insightful professionals presented in 11 pre/post-conference workshops and 47 conference sessions on 30 different subjects.
  • Forty exhibitors displayed state-of-the-art products and services for improving maintenance and reliability.
  • For those seeking another competitive advantage, MARTS provided the CLS (Certified Lubrication Specialist) review workshop and an on-site exam, and the CMRP (Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional) review workshop and on-site exam sponsored by the Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP).

Come to think of it, MARTS is not just a meeting of the minds; it’s a veritable “one-stop shopping” destination for today’s (and tomorrow’s) maintenance and reliability leaders!

Plenty of take-aways
I met people from many different industries and locations who were looking for something specific, be it in the form of a tools, a strategy or just a new way to help improve their plant or facility performance and reliability. Some were new to our profession, some were old hands. Some of the participants were there with teams of others from their respective companies, dividing up among the sessions to learn about as many answers/solutions as they possibly could in a few short days—answers/solutions that they could take back to their plants and begin sharing with others.

While I wasn’t able to sit in on all of the sessions, I listened to a range of variety of presenters who told of their maintenance and reliability challenges and how they successfully addressed them. I heard from seasoned veterans and leading experts—people who I have followed throughout my own career—as they talked with authority about maintenance and reliability best practices.

Session participants asked some very hard-hitting questions about problems or opportunities back at their workplace—and expected hard-hitting answers. They received invaluable advice. MARTS sessions not only covered the nuts-and-bolts topics, they also covered some of the “soft” side of maintenance and reliability—i.e., people, organizations, training and work methods. Here are just a few of the nuggets I gleaned from MARTS 2008:

  • A “business case for reliability” helps increase shareholders’ return on assets (ROA).
  • Functional separation in organizations leads to disconnected improvement strategies.
  • Get the basics right first. Avoid the “new technology/ tool traps.”
  • Standardized plant-specific training for operations and maintenance improves performance.
  • PM optimization begins with eliminating nonvalue- adding tasks and adjusting frequencies.
  • PM optimization has removed 12,000 maintenance hours and improved reliability.
  • Involve operators in startup checks, minor maintenance and end-of-shift cleaning/ inspection.
  • Maintenance apprenticeship programs are restarting to stem the Baby-Boomer retirements.
  • “5S” methods “error-proof” the workplace and increase employee efficiency, safety and quality of workmanship.
  • 70% of mechanical failures and 20% of energy costs can be attributed to the lubrication program.
  • Operations is not the “customer” and maintenance is not the “supplier.” These departments are partners for capacity and reliability assurance.
  • Partnership organizations improve equipment and process reliability and lower life-cycle costs.
  • Unreliable equipment leads to higher costs and lower profits. Oil and gas prices are higher in part because of refinery problems and pipeline leaks in North America.
  • Hydraulic fluid should last forever. Cleanliness, lack of moisture and temperature prevent this.
  • Firefighters reflect a good model for maintenance and reliability, through their ready-state of preparedness and controlled work processes in the context of absolute chaos.
  • Visual cause-and-effect diagrams help solve complex problems and improve communications.
  • Reliability is a common goal for quality, safety, environmental and equipment performance.

Plenty of tools
“Tools you can use” is a term that frequently came to mind as I was sitting in the conference sessions. In other words, what all of us were picking up at MARTS were real tools we could take back to our jobs and immediately put to use. Sometimes these “tools” were the ones that could be used to pry some of the old ideas and paradigms out of the rut we often find ourselves in back at work.

The well-prepared exhibitors also provided tools and methods for addressing specific performance issues with modern and not-so-modern, plants and facilities. Smart tools and smart equipment incorporating some of the “smartest” technologies in the marketplace were demonstrated everywhere we looked in the exhibit hall.

An added bonus at this year’s MARTS was the participation of the 2007 North American Maintenance Excellence (NAME) Award winners. Representatives of the two honored plants—Alcoa Mt. Holly, SC, and Baldor Electric/Reliance Dodge, Marion, NC—discussed their “winning ways.” In both cases, these operations had created a “reliability culture” using the proven methods of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) to achieve best-in-class equipment and process reliability. The “lessons learned” from past NAME Award winners included examples of operational excellence focused on a foundation of health, safety and environmental plans; clear organizational and strategic planning goals; reliability engineering and defect elimination teams; operators involved in routine maintenance; and asset reliability as a shared responsibility between manufacturing and maintenance.

Plenty of satisfaction
The part of this two-day conference and the two days of pre- and post-conference workshops that impressed me the most was how “hungry” for knowledge the participants were. As noted previously, I talked with countless attendees who were looking for something specific—something that they could put to work back at their facilities to help make their jobs easier, their plants more reliable and their businesses more competitive. Their gnawing hunger certainly appeared to be satisfied by week’s end!

Thanks to you
To all of you who attended and presented at MARTS 2008, I wish to thank you for sharing your insights with me and with each other. Every year at this event, I learn so much about your various challenges—and so much about the effective solutions that you’re implementing to address those challenge. As a contributing editor, your sharing with me is extremely important. It helps me to focus more accurately on the types of issues that confront you day-in and day-out. Everyone who participated (regardless of your role) added great value to this and future MARTS—as well as future issues of this magazine. I am already looking forward to meeting you next year in Rosemont to learn even more from you.

This year’s meeting of the minds may have come to a close, but the tools, the ideas and the insights are no doubt being put to good use by all of you to make your jobs easier and more productive. What you learned at this year’s MARTS (and those of past years) will contribute to your own organization’s performance, reliability profitability and growth, as well as bolster your respective countries’ competitiveness in a difficult global economy.

We’ll see you at MARTS 2009. MT

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6:00 am
May 1, 2008
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Battling A Killer: Corrosion Control Methods

Corrosion is always on the prowl, ready to take down your equipment, fixed and otherwise. Don’t let this predator catch you off guard.

Metallic corrosion is a naturally occurring process that takes place at varying rates—depending on the specific combination of alloy and application conditions— unless there is intentional intervention to modify the situation. Corrosion is an inherent force like gravity. The laws of thermodynamics dictate that corrosion will occur in many situations. Principles of electrochemical kinetics define the rates at which those possible processes occur.

Among the many possible failure modes for physical assets in manufacturing operations, corrosion is one that has major economic impact. While this is primarily true for fixed equipment, corrosive attack also can cause or contribute to failures in rotating equipment.

0508_corrosion_tab11Although corrosion analysis and control closely depends on knowledge of metallurgy, that is just one starting point. Frequently, the effective choice and use of the alternative corrosion-control methods also draws on knowledge from the fields of chemistry and mechanical and electrical engineering. Complicating things is the fact that corrosion comes in several distinct forms (see Table I).

Rational decision-making regarding corrosion control is best done when the total life-cycle cost of each alternative is clearly defined. Often, the values of future costs and their timing depend on best-available estimates. Then, the financial techniques of discounted cash flow analysis should be applied. Hopefully, it is now well known that considering initial cost as the only criterion for choosing among corrosion-control measures for long-term use makes no practical sense. This is especially true when the cost of lost production during an unplanned shutdown as a result of corrosion failure is massive relative to the initial costs of each alternative. The details of this aspect of corrosion- control decisions are not considered here, but such analyses are essential. The four primary areas of corrosion control are:

  • Material selection
  • Coatings
  • Cathodic Protection
  • Chemical Inhibitors

In addition, there are several specific actions that can be applied in particular circumstances to help with corrosion problems. (Some of these are listed with brief comments at the end of this article.)

The recommended way to start this decision process is to first evaluate what the most probable form(s) of failure are likely to be—either due to corrosion or something else. The better we initially can estimate what failure mode is most probable, the better we can make provisions to stop or minimize its effects in service. For example, if the given equipment is known to require a high resistance to wear to prevent loss of function in the application, but there also is a possibility of corrosion, addressing the more pressing wear issue will take priority. In another case, one form of corrosion may be much more likely than the others. Thus, attention to that form of attack is emphasized first—but without ignoring the other possibilities.

Clearly, there are many ways to address the problem of in-service equipment failures. When it comes to corrosion- control methods, there are numerous options to review. Awareness of the major alternatives is an important first step.

Material selection
The control method here is based on the inherent levels of corrosion resistance of the candidate alloys in the given environmental conditions.

To make the materials choice, the decision maker must attempt to know—to the greatest extent possible—the general chemical make-up and/or the concentration of the corrosive medium, as well as other variables important to corrosion. The latter may include the presence and concentrations of trace elements in the general medium, e.g., chloride ions or oxygen or other oxidizing components such as cupric or ferric ions, the maximum operating temperature, the flow velocities, the level of both applied and unavoidable residual stresses and whether the applied stresses are static or cyclic. The possibilities of “worse case” variations in operating conditions due to process upsets and start-up and shutdown periods must also be considered. Other factors include how long the selected material must provide useful service and whether periodic preventative maintenance monitoring can or will be done over time.

Examples of good versus poor material selections are reflected in the following:


  • Mild steel for an above-ground storage tank (AST) for very concentrated sulfuric acid at ambient temperature
  • Titanium alloys for superior resistance to seawater
  • Commercially pure nickel (Nickel 200) and nickel-molybdenum alloys for good resistance to sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and hydrochloric acid (HCl), respectively


  • Copper alloys in ammonia or amines (SCC is likely)
  • Mild steel in dilute sulfuric acid (rapid, general corrosion will occur)
  • Type 316L stainless steel instead of Type 304L for a welded nitric acid tank (the molybdenum in the 316L degrades its resistance in strongly oxidizing acids such as nitric)

Most coatings—but not all—function primarily by providing a barrier between the corrosive medium and the substrate metal below. This category of corrosion control is the most widely used.

There are several different types of coatings, e.g., organic and inorganic paints and primers, galvanized coatings on steel and anodization on aluminum alloys. The many varieties of paints and primers get the most widespread use. Among these three examples, only galvanized steel provides corrosion control primarily by the process of sacrifi- cial anode, cathodic protection (CP). CP is described below.

Many coating specialists advocate a systems approach for the use of paints and primers. This means the finished protective coating is considered as a synergistic whole where each part has an important but separate role in achieving success. Generally, a good system will consist of clear specifications, excellent preparation of the substrate surface, application of a primer, application of a top coat and competent field inspection at all stages of the process. It is widely agreed that surface preparation is—by far—the most important factor in achieving success.

It is always wise to spend more and achieve an excellent job of surface preparation, even if the top coat selected may be compromised. A well-prepared substrate is most important because it provides a base for good adhesion of either the primer (if one is used) or the top coat. Adhesion of the coating is critical.

Cathodic protection
Aqueous metallic corrosion always involves a flow of electrical current through the corrosive medium (known as the electrolyte) between the anodic portions of the exposed metal surface and the cathodic portions of that surface. The rate of corrosion is directly proportional to the rate of this current flow. The CP method functions by supplying a counteracting external current to greatly lessen the rate of corrosion that would otherwise occur. This external current changes the exposed surface being protected so that it becomes essentially all cathodic where little or no corrosion occurs. The anodic reaction then occurs on nearby installed anodes that supply the counteracting current.

There are two types of CP. One is sacrificial anode (or galvanic) CP, in which the currentsupplying anodes are consumed over a period of years, but in the process the metallic asset is protected. The second type is impressed current cathodic protection (ICCP). Here the anodes are not consumed but they act to transfer DC current to protect the asset. Current is supplied to the anodes from an AC to- DC current rectifier that must be connected to an AC electric power source. Each method has advantages and disadvantages depending on the specific application.

CP is very frequently used in conjunction with a coating. This greatly decreases the amount of current required for protection. Therefore, sacrificial anodes last much longer or the amount of power consumption required in an ICCP system is much less. Federal law commonly requires the use and regular monitoring of coated CP systems for underground metallic pipelines and storage tanks used to handle hazardous fluids.

CP is used most often to protect underground metallic structures from soil corrosion. However, it is also applied to protect external tank bottoms in ASTs, for the water boxes of surface condensers used on large steam turbines and for the steel hulls of marine vessels.

Chemical inhibitors
Corrosion inhibitors are organic or inorganic chemicals that are added in small quantities to a corrosive medium so that the rate of corrosion of exposed metal is signifi- cantly reduced. There are many types and they function by several mechanisms. While inhibitors are commonly used in cooling water systems and in boiler feed water to steam boilers, they also are used with acid solutions. Vapor phase inhibitors often are included inside shipping containers for equipment to prevent atmospheric rust during prolonged shipment and storage periods.

Many inhibitors function in liquid systems by precipitating out of solution and forming an insoluble, microscale barrier film on the metal surfaces being protected. Thus, they act by retarding the anodic, the cathodic or (most effectively) both of these corrosion reactions on the metal. Examples of this type are certain alcohols, amines, sulfur compounds and phosphates.

Another class of inhibitors is known as oxidizers or passivators. They function by affecting the cathodic reaction and changing the electrochemical corrosion potential of the exposed metal so that it is in a low corrosion- current region. Traditional examples of this type are chromates and nitrites, but these have environmental problems. An alternative is to use molybdates.

Inhibitors known as oxygen scavengers react with residual oxygen in boiler feed water (after mechanical oxygen separation has been applied) to negate oxygen pitting of steel boiler components. Examples of this type inhibitor are sodium sulfite and hydrazine.

Certain cautions apply in the use of inhibitors. Typically, they are economically feasible (for liquid applications) only in recirculating systems and not for once-through systems. Because there is such a wide range of inhibitors, selection can be complex. The means of injecting the chosen inhibitor and monitoring its concentration throughout the system often is critical. The classic example of the importance of this relates particularly to oxidizing (or passivating) inhibitors. If concentrations of this type are too low within a given system then accelerated corrosion rates above expected rates with zero inhibitor present can occur. It should be clear that expert advice is needed to use inhibitors correctly.

Other corrosion-control actions
In certain situations one or more of the following approaches can have merit:

  • Pay attention to design and fabrication details early in the specification process. These may include provisions for complete drainage; avoiding lap joints in plates and not using “skip” or tack welded joints so as to minimize crevice corrosion sites; making sure electrical insulators are in place between all unavoidable dissimilar metal contacts and if dissimilar metals must be in electrical contact, getting a favorable area ratio by making the more noble (cathodic) metal smaller in area versus the area of the active (anodic) metal.
  • Evaluate flow velocities carefully. Too-high velocities can cause erosion-corrosion, and “dead legs” in piping encourage MIC, pitting or crevice attack.
  • In rotating equipment, pay special attention to factors related to failure by fatigue, e.g., sharp radii, poor surface finish and castings defects. Depending on the given material and conditions, most realworld fatigue has at least some corrosion involved. “Pure” mechanical fatigue only occurs in a nearvacuum environment. Actual plant conditions, e.g., humid air or worse conditions, encourage corrosion fatigue and contribute to shortened equipment life.
  • Always consider the need for post-weld stress relief heat treatment. Residual weld stresses can promote as much or more SCC than applied stresses in equipment.
  • Consider the use of polymeric materials where required mechanical properties and maximum service temperatures permit.
  • For metal plate applications, use a thin sheet of higher alloyed material (for corrosion resistance) metallurgically bonded to a mild steel substrate (for strength).
  • Add a corrosion allowance during the design of pressure vessels, i.e., extra plate or head thicknesses in ASME code-built pressure vessels, beyond the thickness needed for strength if only general corrosion is expected. Localized forms of corrosion like pitting and SCC penetrate metal in erratic steps, which likely will preclude the value of this approach.

Corrosion—in its several forms—is the cause of much lost revenue due to failures of equipment in many industrial applications. There are many facets to corrosion control and knowledge in several areas is required to effectively fi ght this predator. It is always advisable to obtain objective, competent advice when seeking the optimal choice among available corrosion-control alternatives. The references cited at the end of this article are good sources for additional information. MT

Gerald O. “Jerry” Davis, P.E., is a principal in Davis Materials & Mechanical Engineering, Inc. (DMME), a consulting engineering firm based in Richmond, VA. He holds graduate degrees in both engineering and business and spent a total of 31 years working in mechanical, metallurgical and corrosion engineering functions for several organizations, including the U.S. Air Force, Honeywell and Battelle Memorial Institute. Website:; telephone: (804) 967-9129; e-mail:

Recommended references

  1. ASM Handbook, Volume 13B. – Corrosion: Materials, published by ASM International, 2005.
  2. C.P. Dillon, Corrosion Control in the Chemical Process Industries, Second Edition, MTI Publication No. 45, Materials Technology Institute of the Chemical Process Industries, Inc., published by MTI and NACE International, 1994.
  3. M.G. Fontana & N.D. Greene, Corrosion Engineering, Third Edition, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1986.
  4. R.J. Landrum, “Fundamentals of Designing for Corrosion Control,” NACE International, 1989.

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6:00 am
May 1, 2008
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Hushing Up A Serious Problem: Gaseous Noise

0508_noise_11No joke, it’s getting a lot quieter out there. You, your equipment and your processes have a number of cutting-edge noise attenuation solutions to thank for it.

Uncontrolled noise in process operations is a serious problem. Unresolved issues with noise can lead to health problems, vibration and, in the most extreme cases, equipment damage. All noise attenuation solutions are not created equal, and no one product will be effective in every situation. It is, therefore, important to understand what is creating noise before attempting to fix the problem.

Noise 101
The most significant factor impacting noise is fluid velocity—a significant rise in velocity can produce noise beyond safe limits.

When fluid travels through a conventional singleseated, globe-style valve, a “vena contracta” (point of narrowest flow restriction) develops directly downstream of the narrowest throttling point. At this point the fluid reaches a minimum pressure and maximum velocity that rapidly recovers to a lower pressure than the inlet pressure. When fluid pressure in the valve drops, the fluid velocity rises—this is called the “Bernoulli Principle.” As the velocity of the fluid increases, the noise generated by turbulence in the fluid also increases (see Figs. 1 and 2).


The driving force behind velocity and, accordingly, noise, is the difference between the inlet pressure and outlet pressure, which represent the energy available to generate noise. When this difference is low, the energy contained in the fluid stream will be low and the noise that is generated typically will be low as well. Each noise solution will have a range of pressure drops where the design is most effective.

0508_noise_fig31Noise attenuation solutions
Most globe valve attenuation solutions use cages with a variety of designs available on the market. A typical solution with drilled holes is shown in Fig. 3. (Pressure through a multi-stage valve is shown in Fig. 4.) Different solutions using one of the noise reduction mechanisms listed in the accompanying sidebar—or a combination of such mechanisms— also are available.

Reducing pressure while controlling velocity is a common method for reducing noise, accomplished by dividing a large pressure drop into smaller pressure steps, which will produce far lower velocities at each step. For example, a sudden contraction followed by a sudden expansion can decrease pressure by creating turbulent zones in the fluid flow. The turbulence takes energy out of the fluid in the form of pressure. This is the effect primarily used by orifice plates. Using several orifice plates will create a high overall pressure drop while generating lower velocities than would a single plate designed to create the same pressure drop.

Design solutions, such as small flow passages, also can help reduce noise. Small passages accentuate the friction formed by the passage walls. As the passage grows smaller more pressure is required to force the fluid to flow.

A mutual impingement design also will reduce pressure without adding velocity to the flow. Mutual impingement is created when two flows impact at 180°, forming a highly turbulent zone that dissipates energy.

Sudden turns in the fluid path are another way to cause the pressure in the fluid to drop. The angle of the turn can have a dramatic effect on the energy loss—angles sharper than 90° are difficult to manufacture but are more effective in reducing pressure.

An acoustical attenuation solution can provide a barrier that blocks noise. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including insulating the pipe and increasing the distance to the noise source.

Careful engineering of the noise solution includes evaluating any existing attenuation. Often thermal pipe insulation can be used in the evaluation of the noise to reduce the predicted noise level without adding cost to the system.

Understanding the Peak Frequency Effect can offer alternative options for decreasing noise levels. Most noise in a control valve produces a range of frequencies that have a bell curve type distribution and a peak frequency—changes in the geometry of the valve design will shift this peak. It is possible to shift this frequency out of the range of human hearing, which lowers the perceived noise and damage to human organs. Shifting the peak higher also reduces the level of noise that will pass through the pipe, which has a naturally low frequency. A common way to raise the peak frequency is to make smaller outlet holes in the noise control device—cutting a hole diameter in half can lower the overall noise level by up to five decibels. This type of solution is available from all major control valve manufacturers as a cage with small holes.

0508_noise_fig41WaveCracker® technology is a patented technology that reduces noise as flow passes through irregularly shaped cross sections. Tests have shown this technology can effectively reduce noise by more than 10 decibels. WaveCracker works by forming an irregular cross section shape. Sound waves reflecting off the walls of the passage have irregular patterns that cause the sound pressure wave to lose intensity as it moves down the passage (see Fig. 5).

One cause of noise could be harmonic vibration—something that occurs when the valve and pipe approach a common frequency. This problem is characterized by a tell-tale “screech,” where a single frequency is pronounced. Because screech occurs when the frequency of the valve and pipe match, it is not easily predicted.

Noise also can worsen due to reflective surfaces that amplify noise coming from a pipe. A single, flat surface near a valve, like a concrete floor, can add three decibels. Two hard, flat surfaces (like a floor and flat ceiling) that are parallel to one another will add more than six decibels. Adding walls, a ceiling and a floor can add 30 to 40 decibels.

Noise prediction
Careful noise predictions will prevent most noisy applications. A number of noise prediction techniques exist with varying degrees of accuracy for different applications. Unfortunately, no standard exists that is the most accurate for all possible conditions.

Most manufacturers have proprietary techniques that will produce acceptable prediction under a range of conditions and with equipment the manufacturer is familiar with. When used outside the acceptable range or with other equipment, however, proprietary techniques can be significantly different than actual noise produced.

0508_noise_fig51The IEC committee has developed the IEC standard 60543-8-2 in an effort to provide an accurate standard that can be used to compare products from different manufacturers. Although it’s not perfect, this method does create a clear baseline that can be used to compare equipment from a variety of suppliers. If noise control is critical around your operations, it is important to study all factors, such as flow conditions, valve design, system installation and available noise prediction methods.

Before you buy…
Before purchasing expensive noise suppression equipment, you should ask yourself a few important questions:

  • How much noise attenuation is actually required?
  • What are the low-cost alternatives to noise attenuation?
  • And, if noise attenuation devices are necessary, what lower-cost equipment can be specified?

If the predicted sound pressure level (SPL) exceeds 85 or 90 dBA, noise suppression devices should be considered. If the noise is not associated with equipment damage and is located in a remote location away from people, however, higher noise levels may be acceptable. Other possible low-cost alternatives to noise suppression are piping insulation, discharging the valve into a vessel, relocating the noise source outside an enclosed area, reversing the flow direction through the valve and reducing the pressure drop across the valve.

When noise levels are critical, it always will be important to consult a control valve noise expert. In these cases, the expert will need to gather information and data on your specific application. The more information you are able to provide, the higher the expert’s success rate will be. MT

Selecting The Right Noise Attenuation Solution

  • The Flowserve Tigertooth design is most effective at high pressure drops where it reduces sound pressure levels using the sudden expansion and contraction phenomenon. The design features highly-engineered concentric grooves—or teeth—machined into the face and backside of a series of circular stacked discs that form the seat retainer. Legs separate one disc from another, providing a gap between individual discs, forming flow passages. The passages are self-cleaning, and grow wider as the fluid passes to allow large solids easy passage through the trim.
  • Flowserve MegaStream technology (like that shown in the cutaway in Fig. 3) employs a heavy-duty drilledhole seat retainer with up to seven stages to lower noise levels. It is one of the most common solutions to control valve noise. Pressure drops are distributed between the throttling point of the plug and seat ring as well as the stages of the retainer. Each stage is designed to take a small pressure drop, avoiding the high velocities present in single-throttling-point trims. Fluid expansion and velocity are controlled by increasing the flow areas of each subsequent stage. Cutting the MegaStream retainer hole size in half will reduce the noise level by up to 7 dBA through frequency shifting effects.
  • Flowserve Type I Trim reduces noise generated by moderate pressure drops. By changing only a few parts, the noise reducing cage can be added to the standard valve without special plugs or seat rings. Type II Trim adds a skirt-guided, drilled-hole plug to the attenuators used in the Type I design. The Type II design is most effective at reducing noise generated by moderate to high pressure drops. Type III Trim uses the same skirt-guided, drilled-hole plug as the Type II design and adds a heavy-duty drilled-hole cage. The Type III system is most effective at reducing noise generated by higher pressure drops.
  • The Flowserve RLS-System Trim design tightly controls fluid expansion and velocity for maximum efficiency at all plug positions. The four-flange body provides more pressure drops, and small holes in each stage create frequency shifting, producing lower-noise levels while attenuating upstream noise.
  • Flowserve XStream Trim eliminates noise in moderate to high pressure drops. Using four drilled hole stages and a contoured plug, the XStream provides noise reduction and turndown. Using small holes in each stage for frequency shifting, the XStream produces lower noise levels while attenuating upstream noise.
  • Multi-Hole Trim uses a cost-effective, skirt-guided plug head with drilled holes and reduces noise generated by moderate pressure drops. This trim also generates less noise than conventional designs by using small holes in the plug skirt to shift the frequency and lower noise. The Flowserve SilentPac Trim design also reduces noise generated by moderate pressure drops. The noise reducing cage can be added to the standard valve without special plugs or seat rings.
  • Z-Trim combines the benefits of an advanced control valve with the simplicity of a ball valve. It is most effective with low- to medium-pressure drops, and excels at eliminating noise in high-flow services. The simple design reduces noise by passing the fluid through as many as five stages of pressure reduction.
  • Anti-noise plates can also be installed downstream of a control valve as a simple, cost effective way to reduce control valve noise without making any changes to the valve. Plates provide lower noise by lowering turbulence, providing back pressure to the valve and providing attenuation on noise generated inside the valve. Plates are most effective in low- to medium-pressure drop application.
  • An all-in-one solution For the most demanding applications, Flowserve’s Valtek Stealth® design combines all of the most effective noise- and pressure-control mechanisms into one product. The Stealth trim is produced by laser cutting circular discs to form fluid passageways and then braising the discs together to form a seat retainer. Three different discs are cut and matched together to form a flow path set. A number of disc sets are then stacked together and the whole assembly is brazed together to form a stack.

    Similar to Tiger Tooth, an important mechanism reducing the pressure in Stealth trim is the sudden expansion and contraction phenomenon that takes place as the flow passes over the teeth. The Stealth trim also takes advantage of frequency shifting by providing small outlet holes. Stealth also features WaveCracker technology that provides extra noise attenuation without creating additional pressure drops in the valve. Angled exit flow paths increase the flow capacity of the valve, reduce exit turbulence and lower noise. Other mechanisms at work in the Stealth design are pressure control, velocity control, attenuation, frequency shifting and noise cancellation.

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6:00 am
May 1, 2008
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Viewpoint: A Lasting Solution: Closer Than You Think


Susan Wasley, BE&K Director of Special Programs

Where on earth will you find enough skilled labor to keep your plant running or finish your next job? Perhaps you should start looking in your own backyard.

Available labor in the maintenance and reliability arena appears to have hit a critical low— and the situation seems to be growing grimmer by the day! Yet, the pool of 80 million women in the American work force has barely been tapped to help fill the void. These days, industry experts tell us, fewer than 20,000 women actually are “in the trenches turning wrenches.” What’s really the problem here?

Could it be that women don’t want to work in traditionally male-dominated trades? Research tells us that they want the same thing men do from their jobs—good pay, fair treatment, a chance for growth and an opportunity for a better life. The fact is, very few young women are encouraged to explore careers in the skilled trades. High school educators and career tech advisors wrongly assume that “girls” aren’t interested in “those types of jobs.” But, when young women learn the facts about crafts training, especially about the earning potential, they are very interested, indeed. Thus, we need to make sure teachers and advisers have the facts and keep an open mind about nontraditional employment options. Could it be a matter of women not being able to do the work? Archeological research on prehistoric humans indicates that males and females participated equally in chores of daily living, including the construction and maintenance of the family’s shelter. As recently as World War II, women proved they could succeed in all types non-traditional roles, performing every kind of job America had to offer while the men went to battle. It worked then because everyone agreed that in order to win the war, jobs had to get done. Americans successfully united to march to the beat of a patriotic drum. Women were recruited, hired, trained and compensated well for doing what was traditionally referred to as men’s work. They were proud of their work and men were proud of them!

Or, could the problem be that men simply don’t care to have women in the skilled trades? What the vast majority of men working in these areas really care about are safety, quality and doing a job right the first time, every time. That’s what the vast majority of women care about as well. When given the right training, mentoring and opportunity, they, like men, work safely and produce consistently high-quality work. Proper training allows everyone—regardless of gender—to focus on what all people on the job should be focused on: the work!

Today, our nation faces a different kind of threat than that posed by World War II—an economic one. If we don’t tap into a new and robust labor pool, many of our industries and much of our infrastructure will suffer and our economy will continue its downward spiral. The solution lives and breathes in homes across America, but we must stop pointing fingers at one another and unite just as we did more than 60 years ago. Solving the problem lies in the building of partnerships among industry, education, government and communities—and in tapping under-utilized labor pools.

If your operations are desperately seeking skilled labor, prepare for the problem to get worse. It will! Take action now. Recruiting and training women is a short-term, yet powerful solution with lasting benefits. The skilled trades need good people and women need good-paying jobs. Let’s begin looking in our own backyards for a way to end this labor crisis. MT

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6:00 am
May 1, 2008
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Who’s Leading The Parade?

While it’s hard to describe, we certainly recognize leadership when we see it. The way we’re going, though, we may not get to see enough of it in the future.


As industry takes on new challenges in a ‘dot-com’ world, where information is not only king, but immediate, it also is retiring an invaluable babyboomer generation of corporate and company leaders—leaving us with a seemingly weak ‘bullpen’ to close the game. Since many of our 21st century “wunderkids” who have been educated in management may bring only a meager amount of leadership experience to their jobs, we can’t help but ask who is leading the parade?

Prudence would dictate that the leadership and management principles of corporations and businesses would alter to keep enterprises alive and viable. However, with the current dilemma presented by the juxtaposition of management skills and leadership qualities, today’s technical professionals might be ill-prepared for the duties of the day.

What is remarkable is the extensive level of coursework and corporate training available and dedicated to building the hard managerial skills with a comparative dearth of opportunities to find, build upon and eventually transform those engaged in a technical field into the leaders of tomorrow. Leadership and management instructions may be but five feet apart on the shelves of a bookstore, yet in the real world, they are miles apart from both practical and academic points of view.

Although MBA schools are graduating the next generation of corporate directors at a dizzying pace, with the rapid speed of technological changes throughout industry, engineers and technology-minded professionals might soon be called to the top of corporate ladders. Their understanding of the function and ‘workability’ of maintenance, logistics and engineering-based technologies could very well trump the bottom-line minded “suits” in business colleges.

Marching forward
The charge has never been greater. Maintenance managers, plant engineers and front-line supervisors have been handed the challenge of—and literally mandated—to bring about sweeping change in our organizations in regard to people, systems and equipment care. To do this, what weapon of capability and understanding do they arm themselves with? There is, after all, a fundamental difference in the talents of managing and leading.

Historically, companies have managed to the bottom line. Likewise, the evolution of many successful companies materialized through the charm and champion-like leadership style of charismatic entrepreneurs. Success on the heels of hard-charging and ‘devil may care’ effervescence of some leaders, compared to the quid pro quo drumbeat of managing to the bottom line, reveal a stark contrast to the differing talents as explained by Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hooper, in that “you manage things, you lead people.”

Clearly, we have become extremely good at training and educating ourselves to manage things. In the process, despite the fact that “a successful outcome is more dependent on effective leadership than efficient management,” we also have become quite good at managing people. On the other hand, how good are we at developing leaders today?

The hypothesis that most American companies and corporations are headed by management MBA-types might not be far off the mark. In most instances, there is a predominance of a leadership corps with little or no formal leadership development. Can we expect the new century of corporations headed by technocrats to have even more learned leadership at the helm? Do you need proof for this hypothesis? How else can we explain the meteoric rise of leadership books from Welch to Maxwell to Giuliani, written as if they personally invented leadership? Can we assume they didn’t learn these traits in college?

Inspiring action
Here’s a reality check: Is your boss or your boss’ boss a good leader or a good manager? Do you know the difference? Most people don’t.

Although it is not necessary to display actual “Pattonesque” qualities to be admired as a great leader, General George S. Patton certainly was revered for his leadership swagger more than his management style. In combat, it seems that you would want the officer in charge to be a great leader and the supply sergeant to be a good manager. Incontrovertibly, General MacArthur’s farewell address to the cadets of West Point, relaying his sentiment that “the long gray line has never failed us,” was reminiscent of a school whose tradition was one of great leadership—not great management.

But, are we in combat? Which industry in America is not battling $3-per-day labor from overseas? Which overseas company is not competing for resources that grow scarcer each day? The call to arms today requires the forging and bluing of real leaders to take us to the next horizon. We can’t expect to be managed into the future!

There can be little doubt that the overall successes of an organization, a venture or even a project require the coordinated efforts of both managers and leaders. What is troubling is that we’ve created a top-culture where managing to the bottom line is paramount to ingenuity and good old fashioned trial and error. Leaders entice action and exhibit patterns of inspiration and entrepreneurial spirit. Sir Edmund Hillary, upon his return from the summit of Mt. Everest, exclaimed, “Well, we knocked the bastard off!” That’s inspiration in action!

Lining up
It is apparent from abstract research that management principles are ‘hard’ skills and fairly understandable, in contrast to leadership qualities that are ‘soft’ and require a different aptitude for development. Acquiring these skills/ gaining these qualities actually starts in school and involves a regimen of both explicit and tacit learning.

Through academic maturation, our technical schools need to develop course curricula which include vehicles for students to study and develop their leadership potential; courses such as critical thinking and public speaking. In addition to the textbook learning, there is a developmental necessity to apply hands-on practical leadership fundamentals.

Dale Blann, CEO of Marshall Institute, contends that explicit knowledge is what we can all read about, but tacit knowledge is what ‘you’ bring to the table. “The difference,” he says, “between companies that do maintenance well, and those that do maintenance really, really well is leadership.”

How different is the education of our corporate professionals, especially those in technical fields? After graduation, many have a rudimentary grasp of technical concepts and practices, but little (if any) of the nuances of life outside the classroom. Cooperative programs come the closest to teaching and providing fertile ground to grow leadership buds, but seldom are co-op students in a position to do great things—or more importantly, great damage.

Several, if not most, traits exhibited by leaders and managers fall into a gray area, one that could be considered either-or. This gray area is open for interpretation when it comes to foundational development. Would communication skills be considered a management must, or a leadership gift? Could one consider timeliness and organization as the signs of a good manager or an efficient leader?

Recognizing leadership
It should come as no surprise to any professional that to truly ingrain an idea and a behavior into a person, the process of teaching must involve both learning and doing. Why would this function of growth differ when teaching someone to be a leader?

Aside from the nature vs. nurture argument that asks “are leaders born or, are leaders created of the moment,” the fundamental essence of what makes a leader is not necessarily exact. Describing what leadership is might seem difficult; not unlike Justice Potter Stewart concurring in Jacobellis v. Ohio, when he confessed that he couldn’t describe obscenity, but “I know it when I see it.” Leadership is hard to describe, but we know it when we see it.

There is a certain amalgamation between the expression of management and leadership functions. This mixture manifests itself in an academic and practical sense to favor management over leadership. The danger with this position—and it is one that can seep into organizations without notice—is that as personnel climb corporate ladders, they fulfill their newest positions in the organizational chart with superior management aptitude, but very little leadership prowess.

Management is in fact ‘managing’ something that already exists. A manager’s day is filled with aligning the business to corporate strategies, monitoring finances; essentially, managing the status quo. The very antithesis of accepting the status quo is leadership. Leadership is vision, excitement, creation, humility—and passion.

Relating to the central thesis of this topic, an individual’s role in society and business may take on a leadership and/or a management center. The historic basis of teaching and growth in an organization is geared more toward managing, maintaining a status-quo, with little fanfare of opportunity for leadership development. One day the pendulum will swing, and leadership will be the operating grace for technical-based and trained corporate heads.

Filling the gap
The gap between the current-state of leadership capabilities and the future-state requirements is even more evident in technical fields where students and young professionals are invested in learning the rapid degree of core information that comes at them, in an effort to keep pace with the changing times. Often, if successful in their primary roles, these same individuals are elevated to levels of higher responsibility, having never been given a single rudimentary exercise in leadership.

The maturation of leadership abilities might begin in a classroom, but they most certainly are recognized when given an opportunity to be exercised. Corporate core competencies should establish a vision to include skilled and effective leadership as weapons in their arsenal. As this leadership staff grows, in fact, during their formative years, their exposure to leadership doctrine needs to become part of the daily routine.

Leaders are humble and respectfully thankful for their positions in life. Leaders exhibit, in principle and in practice, the characteristics of integrity, compassion, courage, commitment, confidence and communication. Currently these characteristics are not mainstay curriculum at most major universities. Young technical professionals could ensure an invaluable spot on their resumes by gaining these traits in any initial job assignment. This is a challenge to accept the less glamorous jobs, those that test leadership abilities. These traits can only be honed through growth and opportunity from education and work ethic. What opportunities are available at your facility for you to grow these skills?

Marching orders
The challenge today is clear. Young engineers and those in technical fields should seek out and participate in courses, projects, and extra-curricular activities that strengthen their leadership potential. Corporate and plant leaders must recognize that their future depends on the leadership savvy of their young professionals.

The crux of the argument is the head-to-head comparison of management skills vs. leadership traits. A reasonable assertion could be made that the difference between the two is infinitesimal and different situations would bring into play the different principles. A counter to that argument is simple acceptance of the relevant fact that if management or leadership abilities are not taught and developed, they cannot be brought to bear. Each has its time, and there is an art to recognizing the need to evolve. There exists today a new paradigm, one that favors leadership over management. Leadership and management are complementary; they co-exist for the benefit of the organization.

We must, however, tip the balance of the scale. This truly is our call to action. Again, as we march forward, think about who really is leading this parade. Could it be you? Should it be you? MT

John Ross is a principal with Maintenance Innovators, Inc., based in Shawnee, KS. He has been a professional maintenance manager for 22 years and now serves as a senior consultant with Marshall Institute. A former captain, aircraft maintenance officer with the U.S.A.F., he is a distinguished graduate of the Aircraft Maintenance Officers Course. Ross holds an A.S. and B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology; an M.S. in Aeronautical Science; and a Ph.D. in Engineering Management. Telephone: (913) 633-4009; e-mail: johnlross@

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