Archive | Maintenance


7:24 pm
September 20, 2016
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Steel Producer Adopts GE’s SmartSignal for Predictive Maintenance Boost

The emphasis on carbon footprint and how equipment is designed, operated, and disposed/recycled have moved operations from the cradle-to-grave-style approach of the past to today’s more environmentally sensitive and efficient C2C asset-management approach.

After a successful predictive analytics initiative, Gerdau, a Brazilian steel manufacturer, announces a large-scale rollout of GE’s software and services across 11 of its steel plants in Brazil. The producer of long steel will use GE’s SmartSignal, historians, services and remote monitoring for more than 600 assets.

The remote monitoring will be done by the GE’s Industrial Performance and Reliability Center, based in Illinois.

“Gerdau is incorporating greater agility and autonomy in operational decisions via digitization. We are focused on creating value and and our partnership with GE will definitely provide important support for this challenge,” says Andre B. Gerdau Johannpeter, CEO of Gerdau.

>> Related Content | Quick Return-on-Investment for IIoT Pilot Projects

The initial pilot for SmartSignal and remote monitoring included 50 assets and the company was able to “realize two catches of potential asset issues that could be addressed via early planned maintenance without impact to the business,” according to Gerdau. The savings from these early preventative action was the cost of the pilot.

“Businesses like Gerdau are thinking about cloud, Big Data, mobile, platforms and even talent differently, says Bill Ruh, ceo of GE Digital division. “Digitization and a focus on outcomes, facilitated by analytics, is a solution.”
1601Iot_logo>> For more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! 


1:38 pm
September 19, 2016
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Prayer and Safety


By Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director

Most of my adult life I’ve been involved in one church committee/organization or another. For a good number of years I was chairman of the congregation. Anyone who has done this type of work knows that, more than anything, it involves an endless parade of meetings. Actually, more meetings than work. If you’ve been similarly involved, you also know that every meeting begins and ends with a prayer.

I’ve conducted so many meetings through the years that the practice of beginning and ending with a prayer has become so ingrained that I get a strange feeling when any non-church meeting doesn’t begin with a bowing of the heads. I get over it, but there is always that moment at the beginning of a business meeting in which I feel compelled to lead a prayer. Of course, any clerical person would applaud this and say that any gathering should begin and end with prayer. But it doesn’t work that way in the business world, so I let the moment pass.

I thought this engrained habit was just a weird church/Jesus thing until I attended my first Maintenance Excellence Roundtable conference a couple of months ago. No, they didn’t start each day with a prayer. But they did start with the thing that’s ingrained in their psyches—a safety moment.

It really caught me off guard, but I immediately saw the value for us in a conference room as we took a moment to cover obvious things such as exits, fire extinguishers, and potentially dangerous electrical cord placement. As a result, whenever I sit down for a meeting/event in an unfamiliar room, I find myself conducting my own safety moment by looking for exits, extinguishers, and possible exit choke points. That’s not something I ever did before encountering the MER people.

Post this photo on your bulletin board to remind workers why safety glasses are a must. You also might share it with visitors when they take a lackadaisical approach to wearing personal-protection equipment.

Post this photo on your bulletin board to remind workers why safety glasses are a must. You also might share it with visitors when they take a lackadaisical approach to wearing personal-protection equipment.

The brief discussions also made me appreciate the value of making safety the first thing that’s talked about in any plant gathering. Starting meetings with a safety discussion constantly drives home the message that safety is the top priority, no matter what people have gathered to discuss.

It’s so ingrained in the members of the MER organization that each MER Board of Directors telephone conference call starts with a safety item. Yes, it’s part of a telephone meeting in which everyone is in a different location. It’s usually a telling of a positive or negative safety event that someone has experienced. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it’s always there and always first.

The most recent story was about a person who was using a cutting tool and a piece of the blade broke off and inserted in his safety glasses. If the photo doesn’t inject in you a full appreciation for safety glasses, nothing will. In the safety discussion it also raised the question about whether, in these situations, a full face guard isn’t a better choice. Regardless, safety glasses will be on my face whenever I use power tools at home.

While I’ve always appreciated the importance of safety in industrial settings, the MER members have taught me that it’s much more than some set of rules everyone follows. To be effective, it has to become second nature to everyone, but first on that list of second-nature things.

To do our part, we provide you with four safety-related articles this month, beginning on p. 20. While reading those articles won’t change your safety culture, they’ll likely serve as either a starting point or a refresher. The real work is on your end.

I would suggest that, if safety isn’t ingrained in everything everyone does at your company, it’s not too tough to start by requiring that a safety moment be first on every meeting agenda. The only exception to that policy would be at church where we’re going to continue to start with a prayer. MT


2:02 pm
September 15, 2016
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Handle Bearings With Care

1609rmcbearings01pModern rolling contact bearings, when installed and lubricated properly, can outlast the machines in which they function. In practice, though, less than 10% of all rolling-element bearings reach their full design life. As for the others, 30% of premature failures can be attributed to incorrect installation or damage done during (or prior to) installation. Continue Reading →


1:51 pm
September 15, 2016
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On The Floor: Panelists Describe Payoff From Predictive Tools

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

At Maintenance Technology, the topic of predictive tools is always hot. More precisely, our staff is always eager to hear how readers and their staffs (and, in the case of consultants/suppliers, their clients/customers) are leveraging these technologies in plants and facilities. For an update based on our Reader Panelists’ individual perspectives, we posed the following questions.

— What predictive tools/technologies are these sites using most, and where, why, and how?

— What’s the return on investment (ROI)?

— What predictive tools might be on the sites’ wish lists for future use?

— Edited for brevity and clarity, here are several responses.

Maintenance Engineer, Process Industry, Midwest…

We typically keep an IR (infrared) gun (for equipment hotspots), ultrasonic ears (for leaks and precision lubrication), and a vibration pen-type device (for quick checks and validation of in-situ devices) on hand. We’ve been relying on outside expertise for full vibration analysis and oil analysis programs, but are starting to develop some in-house competency. No one at our sites has yet been certified on these technologies.

To date, we haven’t really quantified any savings, but we do have scattered reports of early detections leading to planned shutdown and correction. The numbers may not be tallied, but theoretically we’ve “saved” by reducing unplanned outages.

Wireless machine-health technologies (vibe, temp) are on trial at one of our facilities. If successful, we may branch them out.

Maintenance & Reliability Specialist, Engineering Services, South…

We utilize numerous vibration routes and have a level-1, three level-2, and two level-3 vibration specialists on staff. We also have motor testing with five craftsmen trained and qualified on the different devices in use. We have one craftsman trained as a level-1 for ultrasound testing, and two IR level-2 technicians.

Our group captures every find and, utilizing an algorithm approved by both our customer and our leadership, provides a cost avoidance for each. This number is showing a very solid ROI, and our customer is pleased.

Regarding wish lists, we’ve recently begun adding real-time overall vibration monitoring to our predictive-maintenance (PdM) toolbox and expect that to grow to Delta P for filters and, possibly, real-time oil health. We also have begun using a rules-based software program that consolidates data from our vibration routes, on-line vibration data, and CMMS.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

Since our budget crisis we’ve been only able to use our existing trend logs and visual inspections. We, do, however, have all types of instruments to help us.

Our return on investment [from predictive technologies] is fewer equipment breakdowns than in the past. And, the time it takes to troubleshoot uncommon problems has been cut by more than half.

Industry Consultant, West…

Vibration analysis, ultrasonic testing, oil analysis, and IR are my clients’ most-used PdM tools. The technology vendors usually provide the training.  Seldom do techs receive advanced training, leading to plants feeling that potential ROI from the tools was overinflated to make the sale. (As a side note, I believe the most underutilized tools are the five senses of personnel who are in contact with very expensive equipment every day.)

Personally, it’s difficult to quantify predictive-technology ROI with my clients. They don’t track the saves that these tools generate, and tribal memory seems skewed in favor of a higher save rate than I actually see in their plants.

Most of my clients have wish lists. Usually, their only reason for not buying every tool available is lack of funds. It’s rare for maintenance teams to compile documentation to establish the business case for equipment purchases.

Facility Superintendent, Scientific Institution, West…

Our facility relies on several different types of PdM technologies: fluid analysis, IR, ultrasound and ultrasonic testing. Fluid analysis has become a staple with our gearboxes and glycol-cooling systems. We typically take oil samples bi-annually to ensure proper viscosity, test for contaminants, and look for bearing wear. Secondly, testing our glycol fluids has proven extremely valuable. It tells us if the freeze point is correct and gives us direction for adding inhibitors or correcting fluid pH. Not all testing is perfectly accurate, though. We once received a glycol fluid-analysis report indicating acceptable foaming levels when, in fact, they were causing circulation pumps to cavitate.

IR, a newer tool for our team, has proven its value. Unfortunately, training provided by the manufacturer wasn’t in depth. Most of our knowledge has come through on-the-job usage. We’ve leveraged this technology to uncover a range of problems. A routine IR inspection of our main building transformer room, for example, found a loose splice on one phase of our electrical main. Gone unnoticed, it might have single-phased the building, causing serious downtime or numerous equipment failures.

Ultrasonic testing is our newest tool. It provides data that benchmarks and tracks bearing health and makes our lubrication program more efficient by reducing man-hours and material use. It’s also paid for itself by locating small compressed air leaks that would otherwise have gone undetected. To properly use this tool and its software, it was imperative [for personnel] to attend a week-long training class provided by the manufacturer.

We use ultrasound to detect fatigue and cracks in large wheel shafts. It allows our technicians to trend log anomalies within the shaft that point to fatigue and impending failure. By trend logging, we can determine when to schedule shaft replacement and eliminate breakdowns.

Lubrication Consultant, Southwest…

I’m referring to a large process operation that had a long-standing, trained, certified, and successful vibration group. [Working there], I was eventually asked to start a lubrication program for the entire facility and try to ramp up rotating-equipment reliability. Becoming the site’s lubrication specialist/engineer, I attended training and obtained several certifications.

In time, we bought and started a lubrication laboratory and began pulling oil samples [from equipment] and testing them and any lubricants delivered to the site. In addition, we provided training necessary for many employees to achieve their own certifications in the lubrication field. Improvements in the rotating equipment were unbelievable.

We also bought and are continuing to use thermal imaging at the site.

[Basing this statement on personal experience], if sites would use these three tools, i.e., vibration analysis, lubrication analysis, and thermal imaging, they will capture great rewards in rotating-equipment reliability and save significant money. The key is to buy and keep up with the most modern equipment available. Technologies change more rapidly than most people think.

Finally, [plants should] provide much more professional training, for everyone. Sites will get more for their money from training than anything else. Keeping personnel trained and certified will always pay off. MT

About the MT Reader Panel

The Maintenance Technology Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed and their responses are not necessarily projectable. Note that our panel welcomes new members. To be considered, email your name and contact information to with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.


3:47 pm
September 14, 2016
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Schneider Electric Details Cloud-Based Process-Engineering Software Platform and Optimization Solution for Oil & Gas Sector

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-8-24-48-pmSchneider Electric Software’s three-day Process Industries Excellence Conference is taking place in Pasadena, CA, this week. News coming out of the busy conference (which is the Lake Forest, CA-based company’s 2016 SimSci Users Group event) has included information on two major product releases.

The first announcement detailed the upcoming rollout of SimSci Online, a cloud software platform for the company’s process design, simulation, training, and optimization offerings. According to the company, with this release, SimSci Online becomes the first process design and engineering software to be delivered as a service.

The second announcement highlighted the availability of Unit Performance Suite for the Oil & Gas industry. The company says this software suite is the first in the industry to package closed-loop, real-time optimization with monitoring and workflow in a single solution for refineries.

About SimSci Online
Schneider Electric’s SimSci Online is aimed at end users that are deploying and managing multiple versions of software applications in high-demand environments, including process engineering departments and engineering firms, and the power-gen, oil and gas, chemicals, and mining, metals, and minerals (MMM) industries. For smaller operations in these sectors, annual simulation-software licensing fees can become cost prohibitive.

SimSci Online changes the game by providing access to the same high-quality simulation software as its on-premise version. All that’s required is an Internet connection. Customers are charged only for usage time. Benefits and capabilities include, among others:

  • Increased accessibility anywhere and anytime with an Internet connection.
  • Enhanced availability with no system maintenance requirements from the client side, and highly scalable to allow for additional users on demand.
  • Lower cost of ownership through elimination of IT-maintenance overhead, yet still ensuring that the latest version is always available to meet customers’ needs.

The company will initially roll out SimSci Online as a platform to support cloud-based delivery of the process design and engineering portfolio. SimSci DYNSIM, a comprehensive, dynamic process simulator that enables process yield improvement and a reduction of capital investment costs, will be the first application launched. General availability of SimSci DYNSIM Online is planned for the end of 2016, with other applications to follow in 2017.

About Unit Performance Suite
According to Schneider Electric, its Unit Performance Suite can help sites better understand current operating performance and then identify future improvement in terms of operational efficiency, all without adding specialists to their organizations.

Built on closed-loop optimization driven by SimSci ROMeo, the easily configurable Unit Performance Suite offers a number of benefits and capabilities. Among them:

  • Real-time optimization (RTO) that reduces operations costs and improves refinery margins by optimizing operating conditions based on industry-leading ROMeo software
  • Intuitive dashboards to simplify how key parameters of process operation are monitored across the enterprise and ROMeo operations to achieve greater economic benefits; greater visibility can accelerate future performance improvement
  • Automated and standardized process workflows that improve collaboration for pricing changes, maintain data quality, and optimize software performance, among other parameters, to maximize the unit optimization benefit.

To learn more about the Unit Performance Suite, CLICK HERE. 

Editor’s Note: For information on upcoming Schneider Electric Software events (including conferences and Webinars), CLICK HERE.



2:00 pm
September 14, 2016
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Understand Design-Induced Pump Vibration

The system design is one cause of pump-vibration problems.

The system design is one cause of pump-vibration problems.

By Ron Eshleman, Vibration Institute

It’s no secret that many process pumps absorb massive amounts of vibration. Sooner or later, bearings, packing, or adjacent piping will fail and/or impellers will be damaged.

The five main causes of severe pump vibration include:

  • mass imbalance
  • resonance
  • piping design and installation
  • system design
  • pump design.

It should be noted that all but mass imbalance involve either facility or pump design issues. Typically, either the external-piping arrangement is inappropriate or the size of the pump doesn’t reflect the needs of the application. The following tips focus on these two issues with regard to centrifugal pumps.

randmPiping design

There are situations where a pump must fit into an awkward space, leading to an inlet condition that creates chaotic flow at the suction. Disturbances occurring at the inlet can change the direction and velocity of the flow due to piping enlargements, bends, branches, and tees. This type of situation gets the flow started through the pump at an angle that doesn’t interface well with the impeller. Such conditions produce separation-trailing vortices and turbulence, which extract energy from the flow that manifests as noise and vibration. This condition requires re-designing the inlet piping or implementing some form of flow straightening. To ensure laminar inlet flow, it’s recommended that 10 pipe diameters of straight pipe precede the pump inlet.

Pump-system design

Centrifugal pumps are designed to operate efficiently in a rather narrow flow range—recommended by the Hydraulic Institute (HI), Parsippany, NJ, as 70% to 120% of the equipment’s best efficiency point (BEP), as defined by its pump curve. Operating outside these parameters, a pump will not only be inefficient, it will excite damaging vibration. Thus, the system designer must be cognizant of the pumping requirements and make provisions if variable-flow conditions are expected. (Note: Designers must also remember that if multiple pumps will be operating in parallel, the curve and BEP will change.)

If low flow occurs due to high discharge pressure, the pumped fluid will recirculate at the suction and cause excessive vibrations. It’s not uncommon for plants to have different flow requirements during different times of the day, or to purchase oversized pumps in anticipation of future needs. Both situations fuel vibration problems.

Recirculation causes a large amount of random vibration that, in turn, may cause failures in the bearings and packing, even the impeller. Similarly, if a pump operates in the high-flow area of its curve due to low suction pressure, cavitation will occur. As cavitation bubbles pass through the pump, they explode, resulting in noise (sometimes above hearing pitch) and vibration that lead to inefficient pumping and internal pump damage.

The most practical solution for suction recirculation is to relieve the discharge pressure by rerouting some of the flow through a controlled recirculation line to the inlet. Although the pump will operate quietly, it will be doing more work than necessary—lowering its efficiency. This, however, is a reasonable approach in variable-flow applications.

An alternative, given the fact that cavitation indicates excessive flow in a pump, involves lowering the flow rate. A good way to do this is to increase the suction pressure well above the vapor pressure so that the net positive suction head (NPSHA) has a margin of 30% above the suction pressure required to avoid cavitation.

Keep in mind

Dealing with these issues may require serious redesign of systems or modification of operational modes. Remember, though, that such actions can help prevent serious damage to equipment and processes caused by vibration. MT

Ron Eshleman is technical director of the Vibration Institute, Oak Brook, IL. For more information, contact Dr. Eshleman at, or visit