Archive | Maintenance


8:32 pm
June 21, 2016
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CMMS Drives Culture


“Using Your CMMS to Influence Culture,” a webinar presented June 21, 2016, by Roy Rothwell, senior consultant, professional services at eMaint Enterprises, Marlton, NJ, focused on understanding your operation’s culture and how it can make or break CMMS success. Rothwell presented an engaging discussion about both sides of the CMMS/culture marriage and the impact success can have on overall reliability.

While the presentation was educational, the real highlight was the resources that Rothwell offered. Each of them, by themselves, is valuable, but the combination is a powerful toolkit for anyone trying to implement a CMMS, understand/change company culture, and make significant progress toward reliability. A survey of attendees revealed that most can benefit from those resources:

  • 13% of attendees have no CMMS in place
  • 34% are just getting started with a CMMS
  • 45% have a CMMS in place and are tracking data
  • 9% are actively track and measure data for continuous improvement.

The backbone of Rothwell’s presentation was the information found in Stephen Thomas’ book, The Workbook for Improving Maintenance and Reliability Through Cultural Change, April 2005, Industrial Press Inc., New York. The book is $30 and the link is to

One of the standout items in the book was Thomas’ discussion about the cultural infrastructure in companies. He describes it as the hidden hierarchy of people and communication processes that binds an organization together and the unofficial manner in which information (valid or invalid) flows throughout that organization.

A second source was a column written by our own Bob Williamson in the June 2013 issue of Maintenance Technology. That column, titled “Reliability is more about People than Machines,” talks about the success factors for reliability improvement:

  • Data
  • Focus
  • Process
  • Constraints
  • Causes
  • Mindset.

A third resource comes from the eMaint people. It’s titled “Ten Keys to CMMS Success.” The document is just a graphic, but they offer a webinar on the subject. See it here.

My favorite bullet point from the entire webinar came from the Champion Effect segment: “A born-again skeptic is your best ally.”

Click here to hear the recorded webinar.

Click here to download a pdf file of the presentation.

If you’re looking to implement a CMMS or have one an aren’t sure what to do with it, start with this webinar and the resources it offers. At minimum, you’ll build a good foundation.–Gary L. Parr, editorial director



9:00 am
June 15, 2016
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Shaft-Alignment System

01Touch is a cloud-enabled, touchscreen, laser shaft-alignment system with integrated mobile connectivity. It features a tablet-like capacitive touchscreen with a 3-D display, high measurement quality, live move mode with an acoustic assistant, and voice recognition for hands-free operation.
Pruftechnik Inc.
Ismaning, Germany


11:52 pm
June 13, 2016
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SKF Battery-Driven Grease Gun Features Integrated Grease Meter

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 5.38.51 PMLubrication delivery was in the spotlight at the annual SKF Technical Press Day (Monday, June 13) in Philadelphia. The company’s Battery-Driven Grease Gun (TLGB 20), one of several new and notable products rolled out at this year’s event, offers a portable solution for maximizing the efficiency and accuracy in the manual lubrication of bearings, machines, and off-road equipment throughout industry.

The device’s integrated grease meter adds value by dispensing the proper amount of lubricant for an application to prevent over- or under-greasing.

A rechargeable 20-volt lithium battery delivers extended service life to enable timely manual lubrication of equipment anywhere and anytime in a manufacturing plant or in the field.

User-friendly features include a durable, ergonomic design with a three-point stand for operator comfort and convenience. A built-in light serves to illuminate the work area and a display on the tool indicates battery charge level, amount of dispensed grease, pump/motor speed, and blocked lubrication points.

This versatile unit can dispense up to 15 grease cartridges per battery charge and delivers two flow rates adjustable for a specific application. Pressures up to 700 bar (10,000 psi) can be achieved.

Th TLGB20 grease gun comes in a sturdy carrying case with a 900mm (36-in.) high-pressure hose, battery, and 90-min. charger.

The manufacturer notes that the SKF Battery-Driven Grease Gun joins a growing portfolio of unique lubrication-technology solutions for promoting optimized machinery health, reliability, and productivity.

For more information on SKF’s expanding lubrication-related lineup, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about other reliability-focused solutions from SKF (Landsdale, PA and Gothenburg, Sweden), including the company’s extensive bearing, condition-monitoring, and mechatronics portfolios and associated service offerings,  CLICK HERE.





10:14 pm
June 13, 2016
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Uptime: A Crime Against Machines

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Dispatcher: “Hello. This is 9-1-1 what’s your emergency?”

Caller: “I don’t know how it happened but my machine… it just quit. Please help!”

Dispatcher: “What’s the machine doing now?”

Caller: “I don’t know! It just made a loud noise and stopped! Like it’s dead!”

Dispatcher: “Is there any sign of movement? “

Caller: “It’s hard to tell for sure. I’m just a machine operator. But the panel lights are still glowing!”

Dispatcher: “That may be a good sign. Is there anything else you can see?”

Caller: “Oh, this looks bad! There’s fluid spraying from the back of the machine. It’s all over and I can’t stop it!”

Dispatcher: “Back away from the machine. An EMT is on the way to your location now.”

Caller: “Please hurry! I don’t know how much longer we can wait!”

Granted, the above doesn’t seem like a typical maintenance trouble call. But what if crimes against machines were actually handled the same way as people-related crimes?

What if mortally wounding a machine were a crime that had to be investigated? Let’s continue…

Dispatcher: “EMT James, what’s your 20?”

EMT: “This is James. I just arrived. Production supervisors and managers are everywhere, pointing fingers, waving their fists at what looks like a first responder… a ‘para-mechanic.’ Oh no!”

Dispatcher: “Repeat.”

EMT: “James here [winded from running]. I just inspected the scene the best I could. Hemorrhaging fluid at the back of the machine. This is serious. We don’t have much time! Looks like it blew a main seal or pressure hose.”

Dispatcher: “What do you need from Central Shop?”

EMT: “James here. Five gallons of hydraulic fluid, main seal part number QM-29145578, pressure hose QM-854132, filter QM-2985-1. But please, we really need crowd control STAT. Got a 10-34 starting. Supervisors and managers verbally abusing the para-mechanic and coming after me… shouting something about ‘got to get this thing fixed NOW…truck’s waiting for these parts… you’re costing us thousands of dollars a minute!’”

Dispatcher: “Crowd control EMS [emergency maintenance superhero] is on the way. Two minutes out.”

(silence… 30 minutes pass)

EMT: “James to Dispatch.”

Dispatcher: “I’m here, James. Whatcha’ need?”

EMT: “We lost it. Couldn’t stop the hemorrhaging… wrong hose. Did all we could on scene. Will be transporting critical parts back to Central Shop. Send a flat-bed. Got plenty of help here. 10-36?”

Dispatcher: “Sorry about that. Will get the flat-bed out STAT. 10-36 is 10:25 a.m.”

EMT: “Thanks for your help on this one. James out.”

A post-mortem

EMT James had his hands full with a dying machine and a verbally abused para-mechanic, not to mention his boss, the EMS, and a crowd of production folks wanting someone to blame. James suspected he’d get the nod, but his boss, too? This could get very nasty.

The machine parts were back at Central Shop—being analyzed by two OEM techs that had raced to the site. One of them disassembled the hydraulic pump. Parts were cleaned, measured, bagged, tagged. The damaged hose was next. The other tech started on the old filter. After about 10 minutes, however, the one with the hose began whispering loudly to his associate.Word spread. A verdict was imminent.

The production personnel gathered in Central Shop looked as though they wanted to hang someone. The EMS was there, as was the para-mechanic. James and other EMTs were close by.

Silence fell over the crowd as the OEM techs approached the bench covered in bagged-and-tagged pump parts, the damaged hose, and a cut-up filter. Once there, they announced that, after careful investigation, they had eliminated the pump as the problem. “It was perfect.” James was relieved. He had rebuilt that unit just the week before.

The techs continued: The filter, while dated with a marker as being changed a week before, showed signs of discoloration. “But,” they said, “that was normal.”

“The true culprit,” one explained, “was the hose.” His tone was neither accusatory nor blaming. James and his EMS boss wondered what the deal was. They didn’t have to wait long for an answer.

The OEM techs inserted a high-intensity light into one end of the bent hose and held it up for all to see. At that point, a bright glow began to come through a small slit. A cut hose, the investigators announced, with a degree of satisfaction. Their job was finished.

“Just order a new hose, and let’s get this machine running again,” directed the production manager. But the investigation was not really over. More investigators had arrived.

The true cause of death

Due to the large financial loss from this single incident, a CSI (Capital Situation Inquisitors) team was dispatched. Preventing such losses was a top priority of the company. This team was known for quickly getting to the root cause and identifying countermeasures to prevent recurrences. It soon transported the cut hose back to the failed machine—the scene of the crime. The inspectors were mystified by what they saw. The machine had been removed, relocated, reconfigured, and the mess cleaned up. Not a single piece of evidence could be found.

It was then that the CSI team looked closely at the slit in the hose: smooth, not jagged, not abraded. Inside both ends of the cut, however, they could see small bits of yellow paint. After talking with the machine operator who survived the incident un-blamed, the team had its answer.

The root cause of the catastrophe was determined to be a newly designed prototype cutting-tool rack sitting near the back of the machine at the time of the incident. The rack had tipped over, and a large cutter coated with yellow paint fell on the floor. Without alerting anyone else to the incident or checking for any fallout from it, the operator simply cleaned up the mess and went back to work. No process was in place to do otherwise.

Crimes against machines, especially the most critical ones that put a business at risk when they fail, need to be quickly, but adequately, investigated, causes identified, and corrective actions taken to prevent future failures. Does your site have processes in place to do this and are they appropriately communicated? MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a 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. Contact him at


10:08 pm
June 13, 2016
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Optimize Pump Performance

Group of powerful pumps in modern boiler-house

If pump systems are not optimized, entire processes suffer.

While pumps may be the foot soldiers of the process industries, their quiet dedication means they’re often ignored. That’s a risky business strategy for any site: Components break down, pumps run below optimal efficiency levels, and entire processes suffer. Experts at SKF (Gothenburg, Sweden, and Lansdale, PA) highlight several proven strategies to help optimize your plant’s pump-fleet performance.

Select the right bearing.
Bearings in centrifugal pumps support hydraulic loads imposed on the impeller, the mass of the impeller and shaft, and loads due to couplings and drive systems. They also keep the shaft axial and radial deflections within acceptable limits for the impeller and shaft seal. The bearings often will face high axial loads, marginal lubrication, and high operating temperatures and vibration, all while attempting to minimize friction. If uncontrolled, friction can result in power loss, excessive heat generation, increased noise or wear, and early bearing failure. To optimize a pump’s performance, be sure to evaluate the unit’s bearings (types, designs, and arrangements) in the context of their anticipated operating environment. Suitable bearings are available to satisfy even the most difficult centrifugal-pump applications.

Ensure proper lubrication.
Improper lubrication accounts for more than 30% of bearing failures. Good lubricants prevent metal-to-metal contact and undesired friction. The common methods for the effective lubrication of pump bearings include grease, oil bath, oil ring, and oil mist and air-oil. Oil mist generates the least amount of friction (allowing rotational speed to be based on the bearing design instead of lubrication limitations) and creates a positive pressure within the bearing housing (fending off invasive contaminants). Regardless of lubrication method, always specify lubricants according to the demands on vertical shafts and resistance to solids, pressure, temperatures, loads, and chemical attack.

Seal the system.
Bearing seals in centrifugal pumps retain lubricants or liquids, exclude contaminants, separate fluids, and confine pressure. The choice of a seal for centrifugal-pump bearings depends on the unique demands and operating conditions of the application. Keep in mind, though, that the bearing and sealing arrangement represents an integrated system. Dynamic radial seals generally are the best choice for centrifugal pumps. These designs create a barrier between surfaces in relative motion. Seal selection ultimately must be based on a thorough review of application parameters and environmental factors. For example, seals in pumping applications are often exposed to relatively constant pressure differentials. That makes pressure seals, with their pressurized seal cavities, the preferred choice.

Keep in mind that seals usually have a much shorter service life than the components they protect. Don’t fall into the common habit of scheduling seal replacement only at intervals dictated by other components, such as bearings.

Monitor equipment health.
Regular measurement and analysis of key physical parameters, such as vibration and temperature, can detect pump-system problems before they occur. Basic instruments can assess and report on vibration, temperature, and other parameters. More advanced tools include online surveillance systems and software that can deliver real-time data. Many problems will manifest as vibration, which is widely considered the best operating parameter to judge pump-train condition. Vibration can detect problems such as imbalance, misalignment, bearing oil-film instabilities, rolling bearing degradation, mechanical looseness, structural resonance, and a soft foundation.

Don’t overlook the pivotal role operators can play in pump reliability. They can serve as “eyes and ears” in the detection of equipment faults before problems escalate and also perform basic maintenance tasks. MT

SKF is a global supplier of bearings, seals, mechatronics, lubrication systems, and services that include technical support, maintenance-and-reliability services, engineering consulting, and training. For more information on motor bearings and other technologies and topics, visit


9:15 pm
June 13, 2016
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Making The Pump (Up)Grade

John Bollebakker is the manager of maintenance and facilities at Chromalloy’s gas-turbine-engine service operation in Tilgren, The Netherlands.

John Bollebakker is the manager of maintenance and facilities at Chromalloy’s gas-turbine-engine service operation in Tilgren, The Netherlands.

Optimizing existing AODD pumps with energy-efficient, air-distribution technology has helped Chromalloy improve its gas-turbine-engine service operations.

Founded in 1951, the technology company Chromalloy ( is a leading provider of solutions that reduce manufacturing and operating costs and extend the life of gas-turbine engines for customers in the commercial-aviation, military, and power industries. One of Chromalloy’s major facilities, its 120,000-sq.-ft. site in Tilburg, The Netherlands, has been in operation since 1975. The components serviced there reflect a veritable who’s who of turbine-engine manufacturers.

“The Tilburg facility is a repair shop for parts used on airplane engines and in other applications,” explained John Bollebakker, the site’s manager of maintenance and facilities. “If an engine needs an overhaul, certain parts will be sent here, whereupon they will be inspected and repaired, and all necessary paperwork completed. We then deliver the part(s) back to the OEM in the shortest time possible.”

By upgrading its eight existing Wilden AODD pumps with the manufacturer’s Pro- Flo SHIFT air-distribution system (ADS), Chromalloy has been able to significantly reduce its operational costs.

By upgrading its eight existing Wilden AODD pumps with the manufacturer’s Pro- Flo SHIFT air-distribution system (ADS), Chromalloy has been able to significantly reduce its operational costs.

The need to improve

A key stage in the engine-repair process involves the continuous transfer of cooling fluids that help keep repair and refinishing machinery operating safely. Since 1998, Chromalloy has been relying on several Wilden Original Series (clamped) air-operated double-diaphragm (AODD) pumps to reliably facilitate the process.

As Bollebakker describes the process, a press pipe in one area introduces the cooling fluid into the process and from there it runs back to the tank where the Wilden pump pulls it out and sends it to the next installation. “In another area,” he said, “we are pumping with the main pumps to the machines and the Wilden gets the fluid to the tank and back to the filter where it is cooled. After that, the main pumps remove the fluid and pump it back to the machine again.” The Wilden units are used for cooling and filtering.

Bollebakker noted that the Wilden pumps had performed admirably during the 16 years since their installation. The only maintenance seemed to have been associated with seal replacements, “once a year or so.” Still, evolving operational demands regarding air usage, efficiency, noise levels, and overall operating costs had led him to consider ways that pump performance could be improved.

Although the Tilburg site was seeking more efficiency from its pumps, it also needed to consider safety issues. “We want a healthy work environment,” Bollebakker stated. “Therefore, we were looking at where we could improve environmental issues or create cost savings by doing whatever it takes to make our ROI the right percentage. From all aspects, we try to do the best thing we can for the company. It should fit into the complete organization, but also fit into the budget.”

In 2013, to help identify pumping technologies that could improve efficiency and cost effectiveness while making operations more “green,” Bollebakker contacted Chromalloy’s pump supplier, Holland Air Pumps, Oirschot, The Netherlands—specifically its commercial director Gerrit Klaassen.

Too good to be true?

Klaassen pointed out that Bollebakker’s search for a more efficient AODD pump came at an ideal time. In June 2013, Wilden introduced its Pro-Flo SHIFT air-distribution system (ADS), featuring an air-control spool that eliminates costly air “overfilling” at the completion of the pump stroke. According to the manufacturer, Pro-Flo SHIFT-equipped pumps lead to savings in air consumption of as much as 60%, while costing 50% less to operate than AODD units with traditional mechanical or electronically actuated ADS technologies.

Reports of that level of performance might have sounded “too good to be true” in some quarters. Committed to proving otherwise, Holland Air Pumps built a skid-based Pro-Flo SHIFT-equipped pump unit and transported it to actual customer sites where the technology was put to the test. Klaassen and others on the distributor’s team, including owner Leo de Haas, have fond memories of the traveling “road show” and its ability to clearly demonstrate how the new ADS worked and what it could do for customer operations. “When they saw it [in operation] for themselves and listened to the pump [as it ran],” he said, “they realized that they suddenly had 30% to 40% more capacity.”

Chromalloy’s Bollebakker was one of those customers. Klaassen conducted a test for him and a colleague at the Tilgren facility in Dec. 2013. Both were intrigued by what they saw. Later, when Wilden provided an overview projection of what the site could save by upgrading existing AODD units with the Pro-Flo SHIFT ADS, Bollebakker was convinced. At that point, he went on to convince the facility’s general manager, and the purchase was quickly approved.

The upgrade itself went smoothly. According to Bollebakker, removing the old ADSs from the site’s existing Wilden pumps and inserting the new Pro-Flo SHIFT ADSs was a simple task. In fact, there was negligible impact on the facility’s 16-hr. daily operating schedule.

“From a production point of view,” Bollebakker said, “I can’t allow myself to go without production for four or six or eight hours, because we have to run for 16. In reality, each of the eight pumps was out of production for only one or two hours. It was an easy job.”

Once the pumps with the new Pro-Flo SHIFT ADS were up and running, it wasn’t long before Bollebakker began to notice—and document—the cost savings. “We’ve taken four cents per cubic meter per hour (m3/hr.) off the operating cost, and at 16 hours per day, five days a week, we calculated that we will be saving €11,000 (US$12,020) per year for the eight pumps,” he marveled. (Translation: The Pro-Flo SHIFT ADS investment would pay for itself in 12 months.)

Seeing is believing

“The Tilgren plant has several areas where we try to improve our systems and look constantly for ways to do things quicker, better, faster,” said Bollebakker. “From the moment we rebuilt the air section on the Wilden pumps, there was an immediate reduction in air supply, but the flow remained the same. When the pump comes in and it’s working the way we want it to work, the case is closed.” MT

Wilden invented AODD technology in 1955. The business is now a brand of Oakbrook Terrace, IL-based PSG, a Dover company. For more information, visit and


9:09 pm
June 13, 2016
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Leveraging Continuous Improvement

Pattern assemblies for exhaust manifolds are still in their molds.

For an EPS foam manufacturer, redundancy and consistency are crucial to creating a sustainable production process and a winning culture.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

It’s made from 98% air, but it can provide support for a multi-level parking garage. It protects highly sensitive electronic equipment; insulates the foundation, walls, and roofs of skyscrapers; supports the infrastructure of railway systems; and can keep food and medications at just the right temperature.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is a lightweight, rigid, closed-cell material that withstands load and back-fill forces, minimizes water absorption, and is a sustainable product that can be recycled again and again.

For more than 40 years, ACH Foam Technologies has been a leading manufacturer of EPS for construction, geotechnical, packaging, and industrial applications. From its nine locations in eight cities across the United States, the family-owned-and-operated company has the capacity to produce 80-million pounds of foam annually.

“We like to say EPS foam is engineered air. This is the magic of our product,” said Todd Huempfner, vice president of operations at the ACH Foam Technologies’ Fond du Lac, WI, facilities.

The two locations in Fond du Lac utilize 170,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space to produce a diverse line of products made primarily from engineered air, water, and steam.

Click here for more videos on ACH Foam Technologies.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 3.48.45 PMA winning culture

In the mid-1960s, Huempfner’s father, Don, a 20-year veteran of the railroad industry, noticed a special kind of resin being shipped on one of the rail cars. He researched the intriguing product and envisioned potential for a better life for his wife and family, which eventually included 10 children. He took the plunge and opened an EPS manufacturing facility in northern Wisconsin. It quickly became the family business.

“My dad (now 88 years old) is inquisitive, from the school of hard knocks, and he is truly entrepreneurial in spirit, with tons of energy and enthusiasm,” Todd Huempfner said. “He had a lot of mouths to feed. He took a chance at 40 years of age and started the business. With 20 years in the railroad he could have been safe and just retired doing what he was doing. But he had a dream. It’s a great American story.”

Three companies (Advanced Foam Plastics, Contour Products, and Heartland EPS) merged in 2005 to form ACH Foam Technologies. Todd Huempfner’s older brother, Mike, is the chief executive officer and operates from Montana. Mike’s nephew, Jacob Huempfner, is the director of shape operations in the Fond du Lac facility.

With the equal partnership formation of the three companies, ACH faced the challenge of merging three different cultures.

“When you go through a merger like this, you must go through a cultural cleansing,” Huempfner said. “You have to marry three different systems. It’s not a revolution. It’s an evolution. At the grass roots level, it’s all about employee engagement and communication. We have done a good job over the years of having a culture of continuous improvement. At a fairly high level, we understand the systems that we have in place. We know how we want to continue to improve throughout the organization.”

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

“We focus a lot of our energy and effort around front-line employee engagement and empowerment,” Todd Huempfner said. “We understand the cornerstone of the roadmap to our future. Our biggest focus is building and maintaining a winning culture. This starts with continuous improvement, so we have made a significant investment in this.”

These assembled lost-foam foundry patterns are ready for packaging. The stripe in the patterns is the glue applied by assembly machines.

These assembled lost-foam foundry patterns are ready for packaging. The stripe in the patterns is the glue applied by assembly machines.

Driving continuous improvement

In November 2015, ACH created a new position, Director of Continuous Improvement, to enhance its core competency to always strive to make its product and processes better. Brad Zenko, P.E., brought more than 25 years of engineering, operational, and leadership experience to fill the role.

“Continuous improvement is not an activity, and it’s not a technique,” Brad Zenko stated. “It’s a result.”

The effort is never-ending, he said. “If you are in operations, every day is not just about what went wrong. It’s about how to keep that from happening again. The whole idea behind predictive and preventive maintenance is continuous improvement. From a broader perspective, if you look at maintaining a competitive advantage in business, you have to really embrace continuous improvement because someone is always trying to out-smart you, out-service you, out-something you. You have to be nimble.”

This can be a difficult task, he said. “When you finally master something, you want to stop and take a deep breath. You have about 10 minutes for that, and then you have to think about what’s next on the horizon. How do we make it even better? Even if you have had a really big achievement, you can’t rest on your laurels and say you are done. You never quite get there.”

Zenko works with a team of maintenance and operations professionals and fills the pipeline with everything from simple ideas to game changers. “My job is to find ways to make our processes better, faster, cheaper.”

Ideas for improvement are prioritized into three buckets, Zenko said—business, functional, and organizational. The business side is obvious and includes customer, sales, and market opportunities. Ideas for lean tools and return on investment represent the functioning aspect. On the organizational side, the human element takes precedence with regard to improvements in safety, ergonomics, and finding exceptional, experienced labor.

Full-sized expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam blocks are shown in storage. Heat curing accelerates the curing process of the freshly molded blocks and assures that the material is dimensionally stable.

Full-sized expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam blocks are shown in storage. Heat curing accelerates the curing process of the freshly molded blocks and assures that the material is dimensionally stable.

Zenko operates at a corporate level, so critical improvement implementations are shared across all nine ACH facilities.

“Redundancy is key,” he said. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel. There is a sense of pride at each site, so sometimes we just look at an improvement from a different perspective. To really multiply the efforts you must put systems in place that do not have to be started from ground zero every time. It’s important to create consistency. Take Starbucks, for example. The taste profile of a Starbucks coffee is consistent from location to location. This is achieved through their quality procedures that outline time, temperature, and roast curves. Consistency of quality and culture is crucial. For ACH, building a culture to do better in all areas is a core goal.”

Zenko said he counts on the people who work on the manufacturing floor to provide the critical insight needed for substantial improvement.

“Improvement starts with asking people what will make their job easier,” he said. “Some people look at continuous improvement as projects, like getting a new machine with more automation that just goes faster. That is an improvement, but it’s the people who interact with the equipment every day. It’s the people who make the difference. Operators see millions of pounds of product go through those machines. We try to help create the standard work, keep people safe, and make sure they are part of the process. This is really powerful.”

Some of the current ACH continuous-improvement projects include initiatives to reduce mold change times, create visual workplaces, build standard systems, and develop 3D modeling to create molds. Some ideas are simple, but impactful.

“For example, we were meeting with some of the operators and talking about how difficult it is to wire down the steam traps,” Zenko said. “One guy who worked previously in construction said he had used pre-looped rebar ties with a spinner tool rather than cutting pieces of wire and spinning them like a bread bag. We bought some twist ties and tried it. Then someone else realized it would be better to have longer ties, so we found 8-inch ties rather than 6-inch ties. It was a team effort, and this is how simple ideas can make a big difference.”

According to Zenko, ACH believes in the Franklin Covey philosophy of being effective with people and efficient with processes. “We may come up with 2,000 things that produce incremental results, but the next idea could be a game changer.”

A coordinate-measuring machine (CMM) is used to confirm 3-D dimensions of lost-foam foundry part.

A coordinate-measuring machine (CMM) is used to confirm 3-D dimensions of lost-foam foundry part.

Product diversity

The two ACH Foam Technologies Fond du Lac facilities create three different types of EPS products—block, shape, and lost foam.

Block represents production of large 3-, 4-, and 16-ft. blocks of EPS produced in big molds to be stored as supply for the cutting lines. They are cut to custom sizes according to customer specifications. A big part of the block business is perimeter, under slab, slope-to-drain roofing systems, and other major construction applications. The company is a leader in manufacturing Foam-Control for Geofoam applications, used where there are unstable soil conditions or for lightweight underground fill. Some examples include a commuter rail in Salt Lake City, UT, where thousands of cubic yards of EPS are encapsulated under a concrete rail, creating a stable infrastructure that will not be compromised with shifting soil.

EPS is also a more time-sensitive solution than traditional soil fill, which requires months of waiting for the soil to settle after filling. Unlike soil fill, Foam-Control Geofoam doesn’t have the challenge of heaving from the earth shifting.

This pattern-assembly machine dips the top portion of this lost-foam part in glue and fits it to the bottom portion.

This pattern-assembly machine dips the top portion of this lost-foam part in glue and fits it to the bottom portion.

Chicago’s Millennium Park is one of ACH Foam Technologies’ high-profile projects.

“We have thousands of cubic yards of Geofoam product underneath that park,” Todd Huempfner said. “You notice that the landscape is beautiful, and it flows evenly. The advantage is the contractor can quickly install the product while avoiding the time required to complete earthwork, such as surcharging, pre-loading, or staging. Under the parking deck is lightweight Geofoam fill under the concrete. It has a tremendous strength-to-weight ratio.”

Shape represents specific custom molding and engineering tooling for a three-dimensional part. This could be DuraTherm PLUS+ qualified shippers for pharmaceutical products, DuraTherm temperature-controlled coolers for the food industry, and DuraTherm protective packaging for anything from wine bottles to electronics and appliances.

Lost foam is similar to shape products, but represents more challenging applications such as turbo housings.

Lost-foam mold tooling requires regular light maintenance for seals, fittings, vents, and other small items. This work is completed in-house.

Lost-foam mold tooling requires regular light maintenance for seals, fittings, vents, and other small items. This work is completed in-house.

“We are one of the most diversified EPS manufacturers in the U.S. market,” Huempfner said. We have high-profile customers in the automotive and RV industry. “When you see an RV on the highway, if you were to cut it in half and see the cross-section, it would be completely encapsulated in our EPS.”

The basic difference between lost foam and custom-shaped molded products is the material that’s used and the end-use application.

“The material in lost foam is very highly engineered and specific for a particular application to be utilized in the casting industry,” he said. “The other shaped products are made with a variety of materials for a variety of applications ranging from pharmaceutical shipping containers to protective packaging components for wine bottles or small appliances.”

In the pre-expansion process, steam is introduced to the resin while an agitator mixes the expanding beads. The heat in the steam causes pentane to be released from the beads. This process takes about 200 sec. to complete.

In the pre-expansion process, steam is introduced to the resin while an agitator mixes the expanding beads. The heat in the steam causes pentane to be released from the beads. This process takes about 200 sec. to complete.

Maintenance and manufacturing

The EPS manufacturing process requires a varied collection of equipment and a high level of maintenance.

Expanding and molding equipment are the key machines used in the process, but downstream secondary applications include lamination lines, sanding lines, cutting lines, pattern-assembly machines, and other equipment. Ninety percent of the company’s maintenance functions are performed in house, said Jacob Huempfner, director of shape operations.

“Air, water, and steam are the lifebloods of our business,” Jacob Huempfner said. “Those support systems must be managed properly at the base level to avoid problems downstream. For some things, such as water and chemical systems for boilers, we rely on outside vendors to ensure we are testing correctly. We do the work, but it is a collaboration to test the water every day, and to determine the appropriate water quality for each plant.”

The manufacturing process begins with pre-expansion, according to Jacob Huempfner. Raw material comes in at a bulk density of about 40 lb./ft.3 in bags that weigh approximately 2,200 lb. The tiny bead material (0.8 mm dia.) is put into a hopper and transferred to the pre-expansion equipment where steam and pressure are introduced. This builds an internal cell pressure, which causes it to soften and then expand.

Once the material reaches the desired bulk density range of between 0.7 and 3.1 lb./ft.3, it is put into the fluid bed dryer where it is stabilized for transferring to the silo system. The product is stored and stabilized for molding in the bead-conditioning room, which is temperature controlled at between 95 and 100 F. The heat stabilizes the material and provides consistency, Jacob Huempfner explained. The boiler room next to the bead-conditioning room provides the heat and steam.

The material then goes to the molding presses, then to the cutting line, and finally to the assembly line. Some of these presses are new and use the latest technology, while others are 20 to 25 years old, according to Todd Huempfner, so they must be well maintained.

There are 10 maintenance professionals located at the two Fond du Lac facilities and about 45 throughout all nine U.S. facilities.

“One of our core competencies is preventive maintenance,” Todd Huempfner said. “Understanding our equipment and what makes it work is crucial. We work with our vendors to ensure that our weekly, monthly, and quarterly preventive-maintenance steps are put in place early within our CMMS system.”

The Kansas City operation has a custom-equipment build shop for secondary application equipment for the lamination, printing, and sanding lines. For all operations, preventive maintenance is crucial.

ACH maintenance professionals are responsible for several mold tools.

ACH maintenance professionals are responsible for several mold tools.

“Our preventive maintenance is not by default. It is by design,” Todd Huempfner noted. “In the early days, there was not a lot of thought about what equipment we would purchase to do a certain operation or what systems we would use. Today, we are trying to standardize that. It gives us better reliability because we have that redundancy. It allows us to minimize our spare-parts list because now we have spare parts in one plant that can be used in three different plants.”

The company’s preventive maintenance includes annual mold equipment rebuild and repairs. This is critical since every product produced goes through the mold equipment. Also, some valves and other parts are replaced regularly.

“We are now replacing some of our older equipment,” Todd Huempfner explained. “We look at the useful life of particular molding equipment as being somewhere around 20 years. When it reaches the 20-year mark, we begin to look at replacement of that equipment, sometimes with one or two more pieces of equipment. Sometimes we can replace two with one because of the advances in technology.”

With preventive maintenance and continuous improvement at the core of operations, Huempfner said consistency and redundancy are the ultimate goals.

“We have done a lot of soul searching in the past few years to figure out how to best implement the continuous-improvement culture throughout our organization,” he added. “We have done a very good job with this at a high level and have moved it into the engagement piece at the front lines.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She specializes in the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 30 cities in six countries on three continents.


8:25 pm
June 13, 2016
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A Renaissance Maintenance Man


Saul Cizek draws oil samples at the flocculator drive.

Saul Cizek uses a lifetime of experience and myriad interests to make a difference at a Virginia water-reclamation plant.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 4.17.11 PMFor Saul Cizek, being a maintenance professional isn’t just a job — it’s a way of life. Every day makes a difference.

“Maintenance keeps airplanes aloft, ships afloat, and bridges stable,” said Cizek, the lead maintenance planner at the Upper Occoquan Service Authority in Centreville, VA. “My current position has afforded me an opportunity to effect changes that will manifest in the conservation of precious resources, greater safety, and maintenance education.”

A true Renaissance man, Cizek does not limit himself to maintenance on the job. The 65-yr.-old has maintained equipment in missile systems, motorcycles, motors, wood mills, winery equipment, shoe-industry equipment, alternative-energy engineering, radio-frequency generators, induction furnaces, laser acousto-optics systems, high-vacuum equipment, electron-beam guns, welding, and motion-picture props/special effects. He even re-hairs violin bows for his daughter’s middle school.

“My early childhood proclivities and propensities revealed an interest in machines and maintenance,” he said. “Add in a substantial amount of parental encouragement, and I found myself smitten with maintenance. I also get to speak to and write for my favorite audience: the hidden heroes of maintenance.”

Because his father is a cabinetmaker and WWII airplane technician, Cizek began his maintenance education early.

“My father (now 95 years old) would take out some of the old technology books from the airplanes he worked on and explain things to me,” Cizek said. “He and my mother encouraged me and taught me to pass along the gift of encouraging others. This doesn’t mean over-complimenting all the time. You don’t compliment someone for sliding down a slide at the playground.”

Cizek’s father ran a cabinetmaking shop on the banks of the Potomac River in Alexandria, VA. Cizek began working there when he was 10. Across the street was a garage used to repair concrete mix trucks. Cizek said he remembers seeing sparks and flash from arc welding. “I would see the results of how they could glue two pieces of metal together and make something solid. This really got my attention, and I was fascinated with welding.”

He began to work on anything that could possibly be repaired. His mother’s advice was always in the back of his mind. “She was a homemaker and an artist,” he said. “She had a way of challenging my brother and me to compete for the honor of cleaning the bathroom. I always wondered how she did that. First, she explained the value of our work, and then she thanked us. We didn’t have a lot of money, we were taught to think outside the box. My mother had a philosophy on life that I have always carried with me: ‘Bloom where you are planted.’  So, pursuing a career in maintenance was a perfect fit for me.”

Inspecting the clarifier drive lubrication.

Inspecting the clarifier drive lubrication.

Putting experience into practice

For 11 years, Cizek has been a maintenance planner for the water-reclamation facility. “I consider myself a facilitator for improving maintenance, and I use the methods of maintenance planning to achieve that goal,” he said. “We have opportunities here to improve lubrication and motor management.”

He said he believes communication is the first and most important key to maintenance success. “I once saw a sign that read, ‘The biggest problem with communication is thinking it was successful,’” he said. “People think just because someone said something, everyone understood, but this is a common misconception. I like to go out into the plant, ask questions, and try to find non-destructive ways to trend operational conditions. I get to create task instructions and go into the field. I am not afraid to get dirty.”

Cizek’s maintenance philosophy is first to focus on safety, which drives everything. “If you are doing it safely, there is a very strong likelihood you are also doing it well from the reliability standpoint. You also must have repeatability, because your reliability is based on repeatability. It works best to bring all the people you can to the same concept of doing maintenance well. If you can develop that sense of pride in what you are doing, your team will become invested.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 4.17.39 PM

The most important qualities Cizek looks for in new team members are sincerity, competence, and dependability. “If a person has these three things, it is amazing what can be accomplished. Best practices will automatically begin to spread.”

These qualities may seem intangible, but Cizek said they can become part of the core level of expertise. “They are only intangible until you recognize that you have them,” he said. “Once they are realized, you start seeing the key performance indicators improve. Tasks get checked off the list more promptly and with better maintenance outcomes. People can say these things are intangible, but once they manifest, they are solid and real.”

Cizek works with several teams to improve maintenance of the 400-acre water-reclamation facility. Teams are divided into electrical, mechanical, instrumentation, buildings and grounds, collection systems, and the maintenance-support office where Cizek works. All are constantly troubleshooting, using preventive and predictive techniques, and taking great pride in the overall maintenance.

“I have had contractors come in to do work on our underground storage tanks and they’ve said, ‘What do you do here? Is this a college campus?’ They can’t believe it when I tell them they are in a wastewater- treatment facility. It is clean, you don’t smell anything, and all is maintained so well.”

Temperature check with non-contact thermometer on the flocculator drive.

Temperature check with non-contact thermometer on the flocculator drive.

Making a difference

The Upper Occoquan Service Authority is designed to treat 54-million gal. of wastewater each day. In his 11 years of service there, Cizek has found simple ways to make a big difference.

“One of the things that needed attention when I first got here was lubrication,” he said. “I knew a little bit about oil because I had been a motorcycle mechanic and worked on hydraulics in the Navy. I took a course in basic lubrication, and it was a real eye opener.”

He studied books by industry experts such as Heinz Bloch. “Mr. Bloch talked about the use of grease in bearings,” Cizek said. “I learned there are incompatible greases and the wrong combinations can destroy bearings. When I got here in 2005, one of the first things we did was engage a better oil-test lab. We now have an oil-analysis program that is very responsive and accurate. This is the foundation of our lubrication program.”

Oil analysis was used only on about 25 to 30 pieces of equipment before Cizek’s tenure at the facility. Now, it is a robust program covering almost 400 pieces of equipment.

The technical details are certainly a priority, Cizek said. It is his connection to the people that makes the most significant impact.

“I have been able to connect with our staff who perform maintenance and help find more effective ways to perform that maintenance,” he said. “I have built a sense of trust with my co-workers. I make sure people know the value of what they do. I want to help people get an understanding that what you are doing matters. Many people look at maintenance as housework, and you really start noticing housework when it’s not getting done.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 4.18.36 PMCizek cited a specific example of critical blowers with a 7.5-hp, 3,600-rpm motor, and 20-in. cantilevered shaft employing seven spinning turbine wheels. Previously, when these blowers would get clogged and out of balance, the technicians would rebuild them based on “handed down” practices. The blowers constantly exhibited a high level of vibration when in operation.

Cizek consulted the maintenance manual and asked the technicians to check the shaft run-out tolerances with a dial indicator. It was discovered that the shaft run out was out of tolerance. This was corrected. He constructed a balancing jig and wrote a job plan for rebuilds. The technicians began to learn more about the blowers, and their rebuilds ran longer and performed better. 

Over time, the technicians got the machines running so smoothly that they could no longer hear them operating in their noisy industrial environment. They had to touch the blowers to feel the slight running vibration. The vibration had dropped to the recorded start-up levels.

“Applying the precision approach to maintenance is gaining traction in every facet of our maintenance work,” he said.

Another example was on vertical pump motors with oil-level windows so dirty the oil level could not be read. Cizek ordered replacement windows and created tooling for removal and replacement of the windows.

He went to a local motor shop and captured photos of a motor repairman using this tooling to install new oil-level windows and shared the photos to train the  facility’s maintenance staff.

“Things like this get people out of their old mindset and help to train them in a different way,” he said. “There is nothing more frightening than the thought of a new idea. I try not to introduce too much too fast. Every machine is different. Every plant is different. Every person is different. You have to continuously adapt. People can get very invested in their first thought and the way they have done things for years. Taking new approaches is a tough sell, but in the end, it makes a difference for the triple bottom line—what’s good for people, what’s good for the environment, and what conserves money.” MT

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