Archive | Predictive Maintenance

43

3:36 pm
August 17, 2016
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Video | Operations and Maintenance Budget Isn’t Increasing, Sound Familiar?

Let me know if you have heard something like this: “Our key challenge is transmission assets at AEP that are growing pretty rapidly…and the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) budget isn’t. So, you have to figure out how to stretch those maintenance dollars over more and more assets.” This comes from Jeff Fleeman,

This item comes from Jeff Fleeman, vp at BOLD Transmission LLC at the 2016 ARC Advisory event, where he provided details about their move to a predictive maintenance approach. BOLD Transmission is a subsidiary of AEP, a power provider with numerous transmission assets in the U.S. — 3,500 substations.

See his presentation here:

Fleeman discusses the distributed nature of the power business, the changing dynamics, aging assets and how “better criteria is needed to replace these assets” to regulators.

The presentation is a great look at a business that always viewed condition-based monitoring and predictive monitoring as the next move and now they’re moving forward.

1601Iot_logo>> For more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! 

210

9:30 pm
August 9, 2016
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In the Jungle, Advanced Software Comes to Life

An advanced CMMS program helps manage the maintenance of a complex and diverse park facility.

The zoo’s carousel must be maintained with strict safety standards to keep visitors protected and happy. Photos by Michelle Segrest

The zoo’s carousel must be maintained with strict safety standards to keep visitors protected and happy. Photos by Michelle Segrest

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

The Solar-Array Data Display shows park attendees and staff the benefits and energy savings of solar power.

The Solar-Array Data Display shows park attendees and staff the benefits and energy savings of solar power.

Maintaining a 23-acre park with attractions, indoor and outdoor facilities, fountains, special exhibits, irrigation and landscaping, and more than 700 live animals—some of them deadly—requires coordination, diversity, and special tools.

The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society in southern Florida must accomplish all of this while also honoring its mission to inspire others to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world. With a full-time maintenance staff of just six professionals, facilities manager Jason Witmer must carefully coordinate the many job requests that range from checking and repairing safety latches to maintaining complex filtration systems, coolers, and HVAC equipment.

Using computerized maintenance management software from Mapcon Technologies Inc., Johnston, IA, Witmer can roam the grounds and receive maintenance alerts from anywhere in the park with a mobile app. Customized to the park’s needs, the technology can send him an alert from “Asia” that maintenance is needed on the Malayan tiger’s habitat, or he might be notified that the carousel is not functioning properly. Or, perhaps it’s time to maintain the filter on the two baby grizzly bears’ swimming pool.

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

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

The pink flamingos entertain park visitors every day around the main-entrance fountain, which is powered and controlled by a pumping system that must be maintained by park staff.

The pink flamingos entertain park visitors every day around the main-entrance fountain, which is powered and controlled by a pumping system that must be maintained by park staff.

Data are entered bi-weekly and monitored against previous-month trends. The software also monitors the amount of waste that goes to the compost pile, which is then used in the sustainability garden.

The software also allows users to automatically bill job tickets to the appropriate departments.

Preventive maintenance

Urgent maintenance requests are those that apply to the safety of the animals, park staff, and park guests. However, some maintenance can be planned.

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

All of the maintenance at the Palm Beach Zoo is coordinated through a highly sophisticated CMMS system that operates from a mobile app.

All of the maintenance at the Palm Beach Zoo is coordinated through a highly sophisticated CMMS system that operates from a mobile app.

“Zookeepers inspect the animal exhibits every day–especially the dangerous animals,” Witmer said. “Once a month, we have a work order that has to be completed for the actual maintenance inspection of the exhibit. This is an extra layer to keep our animals and people safe. We like to have a fresh set of eyes other than a zookeeper’s. We go over everything pretty thoroughly, down to the basics of checking each chain link.”

General park maintenance

Non-urgent maintenance situations can include anything from landscaping and other activities classified as “zooifying” to make the park beautiful. Even members of the administrative staff carry the CMMS app. For example, if a tree branch has fallen, a work order can be immediately entered into the system by an administrative or maintenance staff member.

Each maintenance professional has special skills, and Witmer easily assigns work orders to the appropriate technician.

The zoo’s hydraulic systems are connected to complex drives that must be maintained on site by zoo staff. Facilities manager Jason Witmer is shown performing routine checks.

The zoo’s hydraulic systems are connected to complex drives that must be maintained on site by zoo staff. Facilities manager Jason Witmer is shown performing routine checks.

In addition to the major systems, the maintenance staff also maintains all of the building equipment for the restrooms, restaurant, administrative offices, and animal hospital. The fountains, water features, and cooling systems also must be properly maintained.

The power of solar

The Palm Beach Zoo takes advantage of the boiling south-Florida sun, which burns bright all year long. The park has three solar arrays. One feeds directly into the main pump room and supplements the power for the fountain pumps. Another is at the animal hospital. The third is in the parking lot.

The Solar-Array Data Display shows, in real time, the power that is being drawn from the sun. It calculates ambient temperature, module temperature, radiance, and wind speed.

Pumps control the large fountain at the park’s entrance and all of the activity is automated. All water features have filters. The solar power interacts with the hydraulic equipment to provide the best-possible energy efficiency.

“This is just a supplement to the power, so we have power whether or not we have sun,” Witmer said. “However, any power produced by the solar arrays is stored for future use. We are not just conserving wildlife. We are also conserving natural resources.” Power from the solar panels accounts for about 13% of the electricity used at the zoo.

Dangerous animals

When operating a facility with predatory and dangerous animals, special care must be taken when maintenance is performed in those areas.

“The animals must be shifted so that the maintenance can be performed,” Witmer said. “We have animal experts here and they coordinate with the maintenance staff. They lure the animals to another part of the exhibit or habitat, usually with positive reinforcement, to shift them to a secure enclosure, so that the maintenance professional is safe.  For example, it’s tough to clean the glass with alligators in there.”

Keeping the park’s ancillary buildings, such as the animal hospital, cool and in good working condition is one of the responsibilities of the Palm Beach Zoo’s maintenance staff of six technicians.

Keeping the park’s ancillary buildings, such as the animal hospital, cool and in good working condition is one of the responsibilities of the Palm Beach Zoo’s maintenance staff of six technicians.

Another example is when maintenance is required for the black-bear-exhibit pool filter. “We use ozone for the water to keep it clean, and it is filtered,” Witmer said. “It turns out that when bears get in the water, they have a lot of grease and hair that needs to be filtered out. We use strainers and sand filters to keep the water clear. With the amount of hair and oil that is removed from the water, the filter needs a lot of maintenance.”

Zookeepers help with this by backwashing a few times every day.

The maintenance staff is also has responsibibilities at the animal hospital, including plumbing, general maintenance, and HVAC systems. The lab equipment is sent to outside vendors.

Special attractions

Along with the natural habitats and building services, there is other special equipment that must be maintained. That includes the zoo’s large carousel.

“Along with keeping the ride safe, of course, it is inspected daily by our maintenance team to look for anything that could be a safety hazard,” Witmer explained. “We recently found a way to conserve substantial energy. The carousel contains 1,690 light bulbs. We have changed them all from 10-W to 0.7-W lamps. This has reduced drastically the amount of electricity that it takes to run the carousel on a daily basis. This is also in conjunction with our mission of conservation. The cost of the bulb change will pay itself back in electrical savings in about eight months, which is incredible.”

For Witmer, maintaining the zoo provides daily rewards. “It’s a very rewarding feeling knowing that you are an active part of conservation, for animals and the environment, while maintaining such a beautiful facility like the Palm Beach Zoo,” he said. “We always put the safety of our guests, animals, and employees first, and routine and preventive maintenance is such a big part of that. Mapcon is such an incredible tool to have and help manage the diverse maintenance challenges in a zoo environment.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She specializes in the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 32 cities in six countries on three continents.

A Typical Day at a Historic Zoo

A typical morning for Jason Witmer begins with a walk through the park to see if anything catches his attention before the zoo opens to the public. He may stop with a group of children on a field trip from a local school to watch the pink flamingos play. “The best part about working here is that no matter how frustrated or busy you may get, you can always walk around and watch the animals, and the stress goes away,” Witmer said.

The Palm Beach (FL) Zoo had its beginnings in the 1950s when Paul Dreher, parks director for the City of West Palm Beach, FL, developed a lush botanical garden in what was then known as Bacon Park. Dreher decided to add a barnyard petting zoo for the children of the community.

With just $18, he opened his zoo with two ducks, a couple of chickens, a goose, and a goat. The collection was located on 1 1/2 acres and became known as the Dreher Park Zoo. The attraction soon became a favorite place for families, and the collection grew to include many more animals. In 1969, a group of committed citizens created the non-profit Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches and assumed responsibility for operating the zoo.

The zoo began charging a 25-cent adult admission in 1970. Within 18 months, attendance reached 125,000 visitors. In 1971, the zoo grew to its current size of 23 acres, and continued to increase the animal collection. 

The facility now houses more than 700 animals from Florida; North, South, and Central America; Australia; and Madagascar. More than 314,000 people visit each year.

In October 2013, the zoo’s name was changed to the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society. The addition of the “& Conservation Society” helps the facility bring many conservation programs it is working on to the forefront in an effort to inspire people to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world.

A Meaningful Mission

To better fulfill its mission to “protect wildlife and wildlife habitat, and to inspire others to value and conserve the natural world,” the Palm Beach (FL) Zoo began working with the Palm Beach County school system and in 1981 established a formal education division.

This was the foundation for a successful program that now offers animal encounters, field trips, on-site classes, teacher training, summer camp, overnight adventures, and outreach programs. The zoo’s education division now presents more than 2,400 programs each year that reach more than 128,000 individuals. An additional 113,300 persons are reached by keeper talks and other animal-care staff initiatives.

191

8:23 pm
August 9, 2016
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Rethink Overall Vibration Monitoring

Clinging to a single approach that made economic sense for your plant ‘back in the day’ could be an expensive strategy.

By Trent Phillips, CMRP, CRL, Novelis

Overall values are the most common measurements and calculations used in vibration analysis. What’s more, some reliability and maintenance programs rely solely on them. The goal is to remove monitored equipment from service once the overall vibration level exceeds a certain threshold. Although this approach would appear to be quite cost effective, in reality it frequently isn’t. In fact, overall vibration monitoring can become extremely costly for a facility.

The dilemma

High vibration levels can be caused by internal and external sources. They include, among others, imbalance, misalignment, belt defects, mechanical looseness, bearing-related issues, gear defects, and cavitation. Once identified, they should all be corrected. Keep in mind, however, that equipment often experiences multiple defects at once. For example, it’s possible for the amplitudes of certain frequencies to increase while the amplitudes of other frequencies decrease. The fact that these situations indicate a variety of specific conditions poses a problem for those relying solely on the overall-vibration approach.

An overall vibration value is centered on the frequency range being acquired and calculated based on a formula selected by the manufacturer of the vibration-monitoring device. Expressed in a mathematical representation of the energy exhibited by all defects combined, plus the vibration currently experienced in the machine, the overall vibration value cannot accurately differentiate among defects caused by various machine conditions.

The solutions

What should you do once an overall vibration level exceeds your target amplitude and the equipment is removed from service?

First, stop with the assumptions. They’re often made about the causes of high overall values, and work is completed based on them. Relying solely on overall values and only making assumptions about their cause can easily lead to incomplete information about the health of your equipment. This, in turn, can lead to misguided equipment repairs or detection of problems only in the painfully late stages of failure. As a result, extra resources and efforts are invested in determining the true source of elevated vibration levels—which translates as misspent time, unnecessary equipment maintenance, increased costs, and unwanted downtime.

There are several actions you can take to ensure your vibration program is effective, i.e., that it correctly identifies conditional changes in the equipment and sources of vibration.

  • Make sure the most important equipment in the facility is monitored. Don’t arbitrarily assign monitoring intervals.
  • Confirm that monitoring intervals allow enough time to identify, plan, schedule, and correct the identified findings before unwanted equipment failures occur.
  • Verify that recommendations are implemented. Knowingly ignoring conditional changes in equipment health will result in downtime, extra cost, and lower capacity.

Be sure you understand the failure modes in each machine, based on principles of FMEA (failure-mode-effects analysis). Band alarms and analysis should be used to indicate changes in the condition of your equipment and, at the same time, identify their causes or sources. Specific bands can be easily created, measured, and trended around particular failure modes in equipment, including misalignment, imbalance, and bearings. This information leads to more accurate alerts of impending failure conditions than generic overall measurements—and, as an extra benefit, actually identifies the failing component.

Personnel considerations

Who should collect routine vibration data? This is an important issue given the fact that wasted time wastes dollars.

Operators and mechanics should be up to the task. Both can acquire comprehensive vibration measurements on equipment during the course of their normal work activities. They also can make sure machines are shut down if vibration levels exceed acceptable values and notify others regarding the need for corrective actions. This approach allows analysts to focus on collected data and determining root causes of defects.

Data considerations

What other valuable condition-monitoring data might be missing? Tracking process information such as temperatures, pressures, lubrication levels, and equipment speed is vital for achieving desired performance from plant equipment. It also represents one of the most overlooked opportunities within a reliability and maintenance program. 

Unfortunately, since most overall-vibration-measurement devices can’t log or process such information, many facilities are unable to apply proper analytics to it. A good vibration-data collector will be able to record and store these data, and routes can be created for personnel to guide them through its routine acquisition. The collected data can then be easily stored to meet the documentation requirements of your facility and trended to provide increased analysis capabilities that may otherwise go overlooked. Alarms can be automatically generated when certain measurements or observations are recorded.

Corrective action

How do you motivate others to take corrective actions? This is one of the biggest challenges in any condition-monitoring program.

The information that’s presented must be very concise and plainly show what action is required. It’s almost impossible to do this with overall vibration values. Although these values may hint that machinery conditions have changed, they won’t provide clear evidence of what has changed. As a result, precise conclusions can’t be formed.

In contrast, a comprehensive approach to vibration monitoring—with detailed collection and analysis of data—can provide a highly accurate indication of what’s wrong and what corrective action is required. Calling for more than simple overall data measurements, this type of approach is always the most effective method for identifying unwanted machinery conditions and determining specific component failures. MT

As global leader for reliability at Atlanta-based Novelis, Trent Phillips is responsible for training, coaching, auditing, and developing reliability programs. Contact: trent.phillips@novelis.adityabirla.com.


learnmore2“Are You A Psychologist, A Condition-Monitoring Analyst, or Both?”

“KISSing Is Good for Reliability”

“Condition Monitoring: 10 Common Management Mistakes”

80

10:30 pm
August 3, 2016
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Primer | Predictive Maintenance Leveraging IIoT

160803pdmdell

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the sizable investment needed to implement IIoT and predictive maintenance approaches for enterprises after successful pilot projects. Sometimes success doesn’t mean implemenation.

As Joe Barkai, former vp of research at IDC says in our upcoming podcast (coming next week):

“From the research and many conversations I’ve had, the return-on-investment (ROI) model perhaps more importantly, is one of the top three reasons for hesitation or for not taking on IIoT; not moving from proof of concept to implementation.”

Barkai and I discuss this topic and, specifically, the amount of time needed to green-light big projects for bigger companies. Currently, they’re short timeframes and it doesn’t jibe with large IIoT/predictive maintenance overhauls. Southern Company (documented here) moved past a pilot project of their own and on to a larger optimization/Pd’m plan.

To help facilitate quicker scaling of Pd’m & IIoT implementations, Dell joined Kepware’s strategic alliance program last June and now provides a turnkey solutions approach for manufacturers. Kepware, via the OPC protocol, provides plant floor communication to the enterprise level, which is done via Dell’s gateway equipment. These gateways “convert” plant floor control and diagnostic communication — analog or digital — and allow it to run seamlessly for business applications.

So if you’re starting the journey and have questions on how to move to a predictive maintenance approach, take a look at the primer from Dell below.

>> Click Here to Download the Primer

1601Iot_logo>> For more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! 

60

3:54 pm
July 28, 2016
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Podcast | How to Create a New Business Model via IIoT

160810jbarkai

Joe Barkai, “The Outcome Economy: How the Industrial Internet of Things is Changing Every Business.”

Joe Barkai, an industry consultant and former VP of research at IDC, provides glimpses into current Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) trends with his new book called, “The Outcome Economy, How the Industrial Internet of Things is Changing Every Business.” Barkai feels that IIoT offers the opportunity for manufacturers to  “create value, not just by selling products and services (via IIoT), but by delivering complete solutions that produce meaningful ‘quantifiable business outcomes’ for customers.”

>> Below is the podcast interview that runs approximately 20 minutes

Barkai provides examples of these business outcomes in our discussion and we also talk about 3rd party service offerings that go beyond condition monitoring and move to predictive analytics. Other topics include the evolution of the workforce, how maintenance techs could become “citizen data scientists,”  IoT innovation, standards for data interpretation, and how manufacturer should think about investment in IIoT.

 

1601Iot_logo>> For more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! 

156

9:30 am
June 30, 2016
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Vibration Monitoring Keeps Aviation Fuel Flowing

Wireless solution increases reliability, safety, and efficiency within a critical transportation operation.

Busy airports require a dependable fuel supply. In this situation, wireless vibration monitoring makes it possible for a fuel-supply company to achieve reliability goals and keep planes in the air.

Busy airports require a dependable fuel supply. In this situation, wireless vibration monitoring makes it possible for a fuel-supply company to achieve reliability goals and keep planes in the air.

At busy airports around the world, the ability to provide a constant, reliable supply of aviation fuel is key. For one major international airport, this responsibility falls to a single fuel-services provider. It stores all aviation fuel transferred to the airport and is the facility’s only fuel-receiving terminal.

Because fuel services are so crucial, the organization’s primary goal is to ensure that the operation stays up and running 24/7/365. At the same time, the plant needs to operate as an efficient business, meaning it is essential to run with minimum manpower.

A case in point

In 2015, the fuel-services company decided to expand and improve its automation system. This move would increase safety, reduce downtime, and free-up time for operators and engineers to focus on other mission-critical tasks. The organization found a solution in Emerson’s AMS asset-management software, coupled with the manufacturer’s CSI 9420 wireless vibration transmitter, both produced by Emerson Process Management, Austin, TX (emersonprocess.com).

The facility manages four fuel-transfer pumps—two of which are running at any given time. Their location and function makes these units notoriously difficult to monitor. Also, due to the heavy workload and ambient temperatures that can exceed 100 F, the pump bearings frequently fail.

Ensuring a steady fuel supply is a primary objective for the world’s busy airports. Automation is helping one aviation-fuel services provider do just that while creating a safe, efficient maintenance environment within its operations.

Ensuring a steady fuel supply is a primary objective for the world’s busy airports. Automation is helping one aviation-fuel services provider do just that while creating a safe, efficient maintenance environment within its operations.

Operators needed a solution that collected more information without increasing the cost or man hours. The solution was wireless vibration monitors, which, in turn, have helped create a safe, efficient maintenance environment.

Background

Although the fuel-service pumps had been monitored for many years, the costs and complexity of running cabling made continuous monitoring out of the question. Before implementing wireless vibration monitors, the plant had to monitor the pumping system through motor and bearing temperature profiles and the intermittent use of handheld vibration monitors. This process presented several problems.

Operators were only able to record intermittent vibration values for the pumps, making it difficult to see true trending. The effort required significant time and did not provide constant monitoring. In the case of an intermittent impact or similar event, it was possible for operators to miss important data.

Wireless monitors offer plants the reliability of continuous monitoring without the added expense of miles of cabling.

Wireless monitors offer plants the reliability of continuous monitoring without the added expense of miles of cabling.

Collected vibration data were entered into a complicated spreadsheet. The problem with such an approach is that even the most robust spreadsheet has significant limitations in its ability to track trends and processes—and provides no predictive-maintenance data whatsoever. Furthermore, while detecting mechanical problems was relatively easy, it was much harder to detect problems that came from process mistakes. That’s because the spreadsheet couldn’t provide an accurate timeline for comparison.

Although personnel could react to events they saw happening, there was little data to show what exactly was going on—which, ultimately, led to the need for more operator and engineer hours to evaluate detected problems and determine a solution. The commitment to operating with a limited staff made it essential that the company reclaim these man hours as quickly as possible.

Problems solved

Implementing wireless vibration monitors, along with a predictive-maintenance software application, dramatically changed this fuel-service provider’s processes. Having pump vibration constantly monitored means that the organization can feel confident personnel will quickly be made aware of any change in function.

In short, operators know that a bearing is heading for failure long before the problem results in process upset. This type of predictive-maintenance capability is vital, as servicing a pump means taking it offline for approximately two months to have it repaired by the manufacturer.

Because the fuel-service facility can’t afford any downtime, the ability to predict pump problems provides peace of mind by allowing personnel to schedule maintenance, not act out of desperation.

Wireless pump monitoring has also increased operator safety. With remote capture of vibration readings, plant personnel have less contact with running machinery than they did when manually recording vibration values. Less contact with the running machines translates to fewer opportunities for accidents that might result in injury.

Moving from recording machine-health data on a spreadsheet to the automatic recording of those data in an asset-management application has been one of the most significant improvements in the operation’s processes.

The asset-management software allows the organization to observe trends in equipment health that simply could not be tracked through a spreadsheet. Alarms are now raised with any abnormal situation and operators are equipped with the tools they need to make decisions quickly. MT

Payoff From Understanding What Could Happen

Managing equipment through an asset-management application allows an organization to better understand what is happening and what could happen on the plant floor. In the case of the aviation-fuel-services company, having vibration and temperature data continuously tracked, stored, and analyzed in the asset-management software lets the plant’s operations and maintenance teams build a timeline around events. This ability is particularly important when a change in process is the catalyst for hardware failures.

Because the software can show exactly when a problem arises, the plant can compare the data with maintenance logs to see if a process change occurred at the same time. In turn, management can rest easy regarding deployed process changes, i.e., know that, regardless of how seemingly insignificant, such changes will always pose a low risk to operations.

On the plant floor, engineers see the most benefit from the plant-wide automation-system enhancement, as they can now spend their time on operational matters instead of pouring over spreadsheets, tracking temperature and vibration data for maintenance. The front-end operators are also relieved that they have reduced their equipment checking time.

Wireless vibration monitors provide the fuel-services people with the flexibility to move toward a holistic machinery-health-management plan. Plant management can feel confident that detailed pump health information is always available and no unexpected shutdowns are lurking around the corner. Management also gains peace of mind that safety is improved, as maintenance teams have fewer reasons to be working around dangerous equipment.

For more information, visit Emerson Process Management at emersonprocess.com

52

6:17 pm
June 28, 2016
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Harley-Davidson’s IIoT Retrofit for Predictive Maintenance

160728harleydavidHarley-Davidson has enjoyed a resurgence over the last 20+ years and one of the reasons has been high-quality, motor bike production. A recent Wall Stree Journal article provided an interesting overview on how companies are moving to predictive maintenance — Industrial Internet of Things — but have relatively new equipment in the factory.  In the article, Mike Fisher, gm at Harley-Davidson’s York, PA manufacturing plant said replacing new machinery with smart technology, such as sensors and better connectivity, wasn’t an option due to equipment being only ten years old.

The challenge for Harley-Davidson, once they decided to add predictive monitoring, was choosing the right sensor technology:

“Making sure you have the right ones can be difficult,” says Fisher, because sensors aren’t made with the particulars of each machine in mind. Often plant managers can’t tell which sensor will most accurately collect the date they want from a machine without a series of test runs–a time-consuming process.”

Fisher also mentioned installation wasn’t easy, either, and instructed that integration work be done by experienced engineers — 3rd party services — for proper calibration. Fisher added that the sensors need to “be placed on or integrated into the equipment so they collect the intended data—not vibrations from an adjacent machine or heat from another motor.”

The article goes on to discuss sensor costs and wired versus wireless, a great read by a mainstream media outlet.

Read the full story here >>

 

1601Iot_logo>> Click here to find more applications, white papers and developments surrounding the Industrial Internet of Things. 

 

239

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.

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