This expert advice will help simplify your application-specific decisions about external seal types.
This expert advice will help simplify your application-specific decisions about external seal types.
By Rick Carter, Executive Editor
TV viewers prepared for the unexpected when Rod Serling announced “there is a fifth dimension” in the old Twilight Zone series. Now, thanks to the rapidly growing world of 3D printing, this same sense of wonder applies to our good old third dimension. Yes, 3D printing—a process whereby a machine literally builds a three-dimensional object layer by layer right before your eyes—has entered the mainstream. Some say it may change the way manufacturers operate, too.
3D printing is the name for an updated, simplified version of rapid prototyping, a process created in the 1980s to make solid, three-dimensional plastic parts for design and engineering purposes. Many of today’s 3D printers are affordable and designed for simple projects. The concept involves an additive process that melts or softens material such as plastic, wire, powder and plaster, among others, then “inkjets” them in layers, guided by a CAD program. It is considered highly efficient because, instead of whittling a large amount of raw material to a lesser amount, creating waste, it manufactures by building materials up precisely, potentially wasting nothing. It can also be fast. These are key draws for manufacturers looking to produce low numbers of solid parts. The bigger picture for 3D printing, however, is its ability to make virtually anything that can currently be molded in plastic. For example, even multi-part items (such as working firearms) can be made to exacting specifications and assembled after printout.
At last month’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES), some 30 companies exhibited 3D printers. According to the Associated Press (AP), the annual Las Vegas mega-event had to turn away several other 3D makers who also wanted space on the show floor. Among the attractions were one company’s machines that 3D-print chocolate confections in eye-catching, geometric shapes. An online video shows a BBC reporter trying one, with satisfaction, after getting over his surprise that such a feat was possible. While top-of-the-line industrial 3D printers are still known to command six-figure prices, the AP reported that many models displayed at CES were priced less than $5000. And at least one company said it planned to release a 3D printer this year for a rock-bottom $499.
Low prices like this mean 3D-printer manufacturers are aiming straight for consumers. Right now, in fact, you can order a plug-and-play 3D printer at Staples online for about $1300. The price (which is bound to drop) includes 25 CAD designs for softball-sized plastic toys the unit can print in various colors. While this unit may seem more novelty than necessity, some think consumers and others will embrace options like it that allow them to affordably create custom versions of hundreds of simple products such as smartphone cases, toys, souvenirs, decorative items, confections—you name it—with a 3D printer, raw materials and a simple CAD program. Even if consumers don’t rush to put 3D printers in their homes, experts already believe this technology has the potential to unseat China as the world’s leading supplier of many low-cost, easy-to-make goods.
Wise manufacturers will look into 3D and learn how it might impact their own operations, from both inside and out. Its potential to universalize production of items that once depended on traditional manufacturing treatment is too important to ignore. This may open new markets for some and even be a godsend for areas like maintenance when teams need to fashion parts for older equipment or in emergencies. It’s been said that if it can be drawn, it can be made on a 3D printer. Rod Serling would approve. MT&AP
By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor
We’ve recently realized that our current apprenticeship model for training and developing maintenance technicians is obsolete. Very few, if any, people are interested. Those who sign up rarely stick with it for very long. Those who have completed the training often lack the equipment specific maintenance knowledge for our equipment. And, if that’s not enough to discourage us, the training takes three to four years to complete. Are we missing something?
Apprenticeship training programs for maintenance have been dwindling for decades in this country–most recently for the reasons cited here. What makes this decline of apprenticeship-type training even more disconcerting is the general lack of FORMAL training and developmental activities in many small- to mid-sized companies. From what I’ve seen over the past few decades, I am convinced that traditional apprenticeship training for maintenance technicians (mechanics, electricians, or whatever the job titles are) have seen better days and are not likely to return.
The good news however, is thatare better, more effective approaches to training and developing maintenance technicians for today and into the future. In the first installment of a new quarterly column, Michael Callanan, Executive Director of the National Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee for the Electrical Industry, discussed a real-world example that’s already in the works (“The Changing Face of Apprenticeship,” pg. 45, MT&AP, January 2014).
The problem with maintenance training
Industrial maintenance has transformed significantly over the past 30 years, due primarily to technology improvements, new equipment, process-integration and cost reductions. Yet, the general perceptions of maintenance training approaches have remained much the same: less-than-formal, on-the-job training (OJT) or trade- and craft-apprenticeship training. Three major problems have affected this training:
1. The gross shortage of public school industrial-based shop classes has led to at least two generations of young people not being exposed to the basic tools of a trade and working with one’s hands,
2. Traditional apprenticeship training, popular in the 20th century, is largely an obsolete format for today’s industrial maintenance skills development.
3. Technology in today’s equipment-intensive industries has evolved faster than the skills and knowledge acquired through informal OJT to properly maintain it.
These three problems have also led to the decline of industrial-maintenance job entrants for the past two generations—a decline accelerated by educational systems sending the message that “there’s no future in hands-on industrial work and that a college degree is far more valuable.” Couple that message with student-health-and-well-being concerns and educational-system cost-cutting and it’s no wonder that high-risk, high-cost shop classes have disappeared from our public schools.
For many businesses, there has been a security blanket of sorts that has eased the worry and allowed them to get by without addressing the maintenance training issues head on: Older, highly skilled or experienced maintenance people are still on the job in a no-growth economy. That moth-eaten security blanket, however, will soon be ineffective. Eventually, older maintenance workers will age out and leave. The economy is picking up in several sectors, and off-shored jobs are returning home. Increasing numbers of highly skilled industrial-maintenance technicians will be needed to care for new and improved manufacturing and utility processes.
Interestingly, during the aforementioned security-blanket period, businesses not only began exploring new “labor-saving” technologies, they begun deploying them on a large scale. In some cases, though, the assumption of “labor saving” has been extended to an oversimplification of maintenance requirements for the newly deployed technologies. Consequently, maintenance-skills development and maintenance resources have often been ignored and reduced.
For the sake of discussion let’s lump these “labor saving” technologies into a single industrial concept called “automation.”
Automation is often designed to 1) reduce labor content and 2) increase productivity and reliability. This reduces the cost per unit produced, or the operating cost per occupied square foot. However, automation is yet another layer of controls, systems and components applied to a basic process.
Consider for example the automation in primary metals (a rolling mill); in manufacturing (welding robots); or in consumer products (packaging lines). The basic equipment remains the same for the most part. Then, the “automation” technologies are integrated with the basic equipment, sometimes linking previously separate machines into a single process to improve flow or eliminate material handling. The motors, bearings, seals, shafts, chains, belts, lubrication, nuts and bolts fundamentally remain the same. These machines still require the same level and types of maintenance as in their “pre-automation” state. But now, an additional level of maintenance required – maintenance of the automation system—which centers on troubleshooting and solving complex problems.
Automation doesn’t necessarily simplify maintenance requirements of the automated equipment, but it can complicate the maintenance-work processes. Thus, equipment-specific education and training become more important than ever—critically important. Troubleshooting a new technology requires a complete understanding of what it is supposed to do, how it operates and how it interfaces with the basic equipment it is automating.
While working with a major U.S. automaker to set up skills-training programs in the md 1980s, I heard the CEO exclaim (and I paraphrase): “After investing billions in new technology and robots in our plants and forgetting about the people and maintenance, all this new technology has done is allowed us to make scrap faster.”
Maintenance training has hit a wall
Traditional apprenticeship training developed “craft or trade” skills and knowledge. Maintenance apprenticeship training programs have traditionally focused on basic maintenance-related education coupled with specific tools and techniques of the trade. Most training was accomplished through classroom sessions coupled with a rather informal OJT led by a senior, experienced person proficient in the craft or trade–a journeyman per se.
In the past, the typical goal of an apprenticeship-training program was to prepare apprentices to the point that they could successfully complete any task assigned to journeymen in the craft or trade. Having become well grounded in basic and advanced methods, the newly trained individuals would be expected to continue learning and growing in their profession. No doubt they would go on to develop the skills and knowledge to maintain, repair and figure out almost anything that came to their attention. This approach worked—that is until machinery became unique, highly integrated and highly automated.
Today’s manufacturing and utility technologies require a more skilled, scientific, analytical approach to job associated with them. We also know that by standardizing work methods the human variation will be minimized, leading to consistent and reliable results. This “standardized work” approach not only succeeds in production jobs, it is the answer to success in maintenance-related job roles in modern industrial facilities. In other words “procedure-based maintenance” should be a requirement in today’s equipment-intensive businesses.
Training needs a vigorous renewal
Attracting, training, developing, qualifying and retaining competent maintenance technicians is one of the biggest opportunities for equipment-intensive businesses to remain competitive. Maintenance training must be renewed with great vigor. To take advantage of such an opportunity, overall approaches prior to, during and after training must be different from those taken in the past.
Developing maintenance technicians of the future for technology-based, equipment-intensive businesses demands a radically different approach–one that is faster and more dependable. There are three major categories in this developmental approach:
1. Formal Education: Career education; Basic reading, writing, math, science
2. Formal Training: General knowledge & skills of the job, equipment and task specific methods
3. Formal Qualification: Performance demonstration to verify skills and knowledge
Formal Education is essential in that it should build the foundation for success in industrial-maintenance careers. It also must include “career education” that helps students understand their career options and make decisions on what paths they want to pursue. Career education is essential whether a student desires a “college education” or a “technical education” path. The career choices should guide the education choices along a career development path.
Formal Education should then be aligned with the career development path toward career options and goals that the student is interested in pursuing. The formal education requirements of reading, writing, math and science will vary depending on the career emphasis: mechanical, electrical, electronic, engineering, scientific, academic, etc.
FormalTraining stresses the “tools of the trade” including general knowledge, applied skills and knowledge, and proficiency building in equipment-specific tasks and methods. The goal is “procedure-based” maintenance training and job-performance. Formal training based on these maintenance procedures requires structured on-job training and coaching by a proficient peer or trainer with some classes and guided self-study.
Formal Qualification is the capstone to the education and training process. On-job performance demonstration (or qualification) methods are used to allow the trainee to demonstrate their skills and knowledge competency to perform specific job tasks. Prescriptive improvements are recommended where the trainee shows weaknesses. The ultimate goal here is to develop equipment, job, and task-specific “qualified” maintenance technicians.
Replacing the maintenance trade and craft apprenticeship training model with a new, improved—more efficient and effective—education, training, and qualification process makes sense in our changing industrial landscape plagued by skills shortages. Let us know about your renewed approaches to maintenance training. MT&AP
Robert Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Email: Robertmw2@cs.com
By Rick Carter, Executive Editor
In deference to the recent holiday season, I prepared only one end-of-year question for our Maintenance Technology Reader Panelists: What’s on your wish list for 2014? I was looking for input on what they hope to achieve or obtain that will help them do a better job and their company or organization to prosper.
Anything related to the maintenance profession was allowed, which I thought likely to produce at least a few requests for new equipment and improved technology, perhaps, or maybe better benefits. Not so. As you’ll see, the responses uniformly reflect a need for better job basics: improved maintenance strategies, more training and greater professionalism, among others. OK, someone did wish that he would not have to work so many hours in 2014. But otherwise, the group offers a focused, sober reflection on the many challenges today’s maintenance professionals still face.
Q: What’s on your wish list for 2014?
“My main wish would be that our company finally comes up with a robust PM program. When I was put on as a PM leader a few years ago, I went through our PMs and revised the task sheets, which led to a 65% improvement in production and an 80% improvement in uptime. The machines were in such bad shape we were doing partial overhauls. This year, our schedules increased and we are now paying a price with poor output and production numbers because we did not continue the PM program. We are now just doing inspections with little corrective work allowed due to production demands.
“Also, we are again having a problem finding qualified skilled trades people, and with demand for our parts increasing, we are seeing more machinery coming into the plants so we need more people to work on them. Our leadership team has put together a plan that provides training for new people and a refresher for others. I again plan to press management to improve our training and preventive maintenance programs. Our [union] contract is up in 2015 so I’m sure our team will be looking for suggestions for upcoming negotiations.”
…PM Leader, Midwest
“On my dream list would be a way to develop a better team attitude! My company has tried and started many campaigns to obtain this, but with limited success. Here’s a quote that has stuck in my head for years: ‘What makes a man stay when common sense tells him to run? What makes him stand with his fellows, when staying means death and running could mean life?’
I know that dedication is a powerful force and that if we could use the answers to these questions, we would have success. We must remember that free will is mandatory, and that a slave-labor [approach] does not work. An organization must earn and keep earning this dedication if it is truly to work. The never-ending battle to get workers to communicate and try to function as a team, to dissolve the silos and stop the blame game, is worth fighting. We should consider the concept of a dedicated workforce that functions with only the most basic oversight. Knowledge, skill and dedication: What an unbeatable team!”
… Maintenance Coordinator, Mid-Atlantic
“In the last few years, our company has invested in several predictive maintenance technologies, including infrared, vibration, ultrasonic, optical and laser alignment. We have also stepped up our oil-analysis program. I am very pleased with the company’s willingness to make these investments and enjoy learning new ways to evaluate our machines, which have saved labor time and increased productivity. However, staffing has remained the same, and it is difficult to do your best when new responsibilities are added to existing ones. Therefore, my goal for 2014 is to dedicate more time to training and education for these new PM tools. I will still have our routine tasks to complete, but my hope is that as I improve my skills at predicting problems, many of our visual inspections and time-based work can be reduced even more. The ultimate goal is that the labor hours spent by our small staff bear more fruit and are not used to do things simply because that’s how they have always been done.”
… Senior Maintenance Mechanic, South
“My basic goals for 2014 are:
• Develop and complete the approval process for a minimum of five new educational programs for maintenance personnel. Reason: State-of-the-art technologies are moving very fast and the maintenance staffs need to keep up their skills.
• Implement a program to encourage major local companies to become involved in the training and educational programs for maintenance technicians. Reason: [My state] is not the best for putting money into the education system. The industrial markets are short of skilled labor, and manufacturers need to become involved.
• Improve my ability to communicate in Spanish. Reason: 38% of [my state’s] workforce speaks Spanish. This group is an excellent source of maintenance technicians, but they have to be trained. Even many of the new code books are in Spanish.”
• Contact many of our nation’s college to obtain information on new training techniques, grants, lab setups and textbooks. Reason: To develop and implement a business plan that will expand our training capabilities.
… Senior Maintenance Engineer, West
“Professionalism in every corner of maintenance!Many in the maintenance profession have the books, may have even read them and can recite all the well-intended best practices, yet they do not practice them. Mediocrity reigns. I believe that the trend toward operational excellence will shake their carpets and make them aware that professionalism is demanded of all of us. It will open the door for autonomous manufacturing and autonomous management, and turn autonomous maintenance into a reality everywhere. The processes must become totally transparent so everyone can see the abnormalities, and be educated and empowered to intervene without having to ask for permission from a supervisor or manager. But management must drive this. I have long felt that wherever there is a problem, management is at the root. Managers generate policies and preserve the old ones as well. Policies rarely take into account the needs, working situations and characteristics of the population they govern. So maintenance management requires a revolution in thinking and acting. That is my objective.”
… Consultant, Upper Midwest
“My number-one and only goal for 2014 is to get as many leaders as possible to have a long-term vision for their plants’ equipment reliability. This past year, I visited several of our company’s plants, and every Maintenance Manager I spoke with was concerned only with what was happening at the moment (Reactive). Not one had a plan to become more proactive in the future. So I am determined to change the mindset of as many leaders as I can this year so they understand and believe the benefits of planned and scheduled maintenance. After they become true believers, I then hope to help them develop a plan to move toward maintenance excellence. That will be a hard sell, and if I can accomplish that, I think I will have achieved something for the year.”
… Production Support Manager, Midwest
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By Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor
We must have at least a dozen different grease guns in our maintenance department. Some deliver more lubricant than others, yet our PMs call for a fixed amount of shots. Is this a problem?
There are no “standard” grease guns. While they may look similar, displacement and hydraulic pressure ratings vary from gun to gun. For example, a manufacturer may offer two lever-arm-actuated models: a low-pressure unit rated to deliver one fluid ounce of grease in seven strokes (shots) at a pressure of 1700 psi; and a similar-looking sister product rated to deliver one fluid ounce in 24 strokes at a staggering 15,000 psi! Note: Not all manufacturers state delivery or pressure on their guns or literature. You may need to ask for it.
If a PM calls for four shots of grease, the amount delivered will vary depending on the gun and setup. Over-lubrication, a huge problem in manual greasing, is magnified when a PM task states “grease as necessary,” which gives no clear direction on what’s required. In addition to being overfilled, the bearings could lose their seals under the resulting internal hydraulic pressure and allow contamination into the bearing cavity.
Ideally, a bearing cavity only needs filling to approximately 40% volume. If a single-point manual grease gun is your chosen delivery method, the following steps can help standardize your approach and reduce problems:
1. Implement a lubricating-grease consolidation program.
2. Collect and purge all grease guns in the plant and replace with a single design, preferably with a see-through barrel.
3. Perform a grease-gun displacement check by pumping 10 strokes or shots of grease into a large calibrated syringe, then read off the number of cubic centimeters or inches in volume and divide by 10 to get the actual volume displacement per shot or stroke.
4. Calculate bearing requirements and mark on a schematic attached to the machine or printed with the PM work order.
5. Optional: Color-tag individual grease points to denote grease type and mark the number of shots required per PM schedule.
6. Train grease-gun operators.
Good Luck! MT&AP
Dr. Lube, aka Contributing Editor Ken Bannister, is, among other things, a Lubrication Management Specialist and author of Lubrication for Industry and the Lubrication Section of the 28th Edition Machinery’s Handbook (both from Industrial Press). Email your lubrication checkup and training questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org; or telephone: (519) 469-9173.
There’s more to selecting the right grease than you might have thought.