Archive | Preventive Maintenance


4:54 pm
July 12, 2017
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Move from Time- to Condition-Based Lubrication

Increasingly sophisticated machines and operations require more than legacy PM approaches.

With plant equipment and processes growing more sophisticated and demanding by the day, so must everything that keeps them up and running, including approaches to machinery lubrication. Integrated, proactive-maintenance technologies and strategies are key for fast-paced industrial operations that want to be competitive, and are easily justified in economic terms.

With plant equipment and processes growing more sophisticated and demanding by the day, so must everything that keeps them up and running, including approaches to machinery lubrication. Integrated, proactive-maintenance technologies and strategies are key for fast-paced industrial operations that want to be competitive, and are easily justified in economic terms.

By Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK), CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor

The term “time-based maintenance” is well understood in industrial operations. The premise is simple. A regular maintenance/lubrication event is scheduled on the basis of a calendar anniversary, i.e., weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, or other interval, or on a machine’s run-time clock, i.e., 100, 250, 1,000 hr., or some other specified number of hours. Foundational to legacy preventive-maintenance (PM) programs, this type of event scheduling has served industry well for decades.

Plant equipment systems and processes, however, are becoming more complex and demanding by the day. In turn, they are requiring increasingly sophisticated maintenance approaches. Going forward, if they haven’t already done so, sites will need to adapt to an integrated, proactive-maintenance approach that maximizes machine availability and reliability. The economic justification is simple.

In a legacy time-based event, a forced machine downtime is usually scheduled to perform maintenance or lubrication, e.g., oil change. Older equipment designs usually dictate that a machine must be shut down and locked out to determine its status and conduct scheduled activities in a safe manner. This method obviously has an impact on an operation’s throughput capability.

Given today’s fast-paced operating environments, a forced two-hour downtime to change oil on a calendar schedule—whether it needs to be changed or not—is no longer acceptable. We still need to change oil, but we need to treat that oil as we would any asset and maintain it over an extended lifecycle. That means changing it only when conditions warrant change. This type of monitoring strategy reduces machine intervention and increases production throughput, as well as reduces costs related to the purchasing, handling, and disposal of lubricants at a site. It also fits perfectly in any corporate asset lifecycle or sustainability initiative.

Moving from a time-based to a condition-based lubrication program is an ideal change-management vehicle for transforming and improving an operation’s state of lubrication. Successful design and implementation of a condition-based lubrication program can manifest itself in different forms, depending on a plant’s industry sector and current state of lubrication. Several “conditional” strategies can help your site gear up for this move with little effort and expense.

Implementing conditional strategies

Two basic elements underpin a condition-based lubrication program. The first speaks to the integrated, proactive-maintenance approach through involvement of operators as the primary “eyes and ears” in performing daily machine condition checks. The second element assures consistency and accuracy in the execution of value-based condition checks and lubrication actions.

Some maintenance personnel might argue that the old PM job tasks stating “Fill reservoir as necessary” or “Lubricate as necessary” are perfect condition-based instructions. Not so fast: Those instructions, unfortunately, rely solely on maintainer experience. They will not deliver consistency and accuracy without controls that dictate how we assess a machine’s condition and take appropriate actions built into the “necessary” part of the work-task equation. That’s where implementation of the following conditional strategies pays off.

Strategy 1: Reservoir-fill condition

If a lubrication system is to deliver peak performance, it will require an engineered amount of lubricant. In re-circulating and total-loss systems alike, designated minimum and maximum fill amounts aren’t always clearly indicated on the reservoirs. In such cases, the first step is to ensure that a viewable sight gauge is in use, complete with hi-lo markers for manual checks.

For critical equipment, an advanced approach can utilize a programmable level control to electronically indicate the fill state to operators and maintenance personnel. Some equipment, of course, is designed with reservoirs inside the operating envelope that require machine shutdown to perform checks or fill up. These systems can be inexpensively redesigned with remote “quick-connect” fill-lines piped to the machine perimeter that will allow the reservoirs to be filled to correct levels while the machine runs. (For additional tips, see this article’s “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

Strategy 2: Oil condition

When the term “condition-based” is used, oil analysis often comes to mind. The first stage in controlling the oil’s condition is to ensure the product is put in the reservoir at the correct service-level of cleanliness and that a contamination-control program is in place. This will require a number of things: an effective oil-receiving and -distribution strategy, operators and maintainers working together to keep the lubrication system clean, use of desiccant-style breathers, and remote, “quick connect” fill ports that can be hooked up to filter carts outside of a machine’s operating envelope. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

The second stage is to monitor the oil’s condition for contamination, oxidation, and additive depletion through the use of oil analysis. Extracting oil samples for testing purposes is predominantly a manual process that can be conducted outside of a machine’s operating envelope through a remote-piped “live” re-circulating line or by using a remote-piped sight-level gauge with a built-in extraction port.

Based on a condition report, the machine’s oil can be cleaned by using a filter cart, with no downtime, or replaced at a conveniently scheduled time. An advanced alternative is to use an inline sensor to monitor and electronically indicate pre-set oil cleanliness and water-presence alarm levels. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

Oil-temperature condition is important wherever ambient temperatures fluctuate and an oil might become too viscous to be pumped through a system. This situation can create a bearing-starvation effect. In environments where this could happen, a thermostat-controlled automotive block heater or battery blanket heater can be incorporated in the system to ensure lubricant usability and machine uptime.

Strategy 3: Machine condition

The ultimate lubrication-control is based on equipment running condition. Effectively lubricated machinery will require less power to operate and bearing life will be extended by as much as three times that of ineffectively lubricated machines. Correctly engineered and set up, automated, centralized lubrication-delivery systems ensure the right amount of lubricant is applied in the right place, at the right time. If your plant’s equipment is predominantly manually lubricated, investigate converting to automated systems that require less maintenance and return their investment in weeks or months. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

Automated systems are highly adaptable to new IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) protocols. The capability now exists to install bearing-heat sensors (that set temperature ranges of different bearings) for monitoring, amperage metering (needed because friction demands an increase in motive power that translates through amperage draw), and sensing of oil levels and cleanliness.

Condition signals can be sent to an automated system’s lubricator to turn on and off for a timed or actuation cycle, or to indicate an alarm state. These conditions can be monitored with software tools and used for computer-based automated decision making to reset a lubricator program based solely (and precisely) on condition needs of a machine within its ambient operating environment.

Remember this

Condition-based lubrication respects and treats the oils that a site relies on as integrated assets in equipment and process uptime. The condition-based approach is an excellent first step for a site that wants to shift its focus from legacy PM approaches to integrated, proactive-maintenance strategies. Regardless of industry sector, this type of maintenance is what plants of today and tomorrow require to be competitive. MT

Condition-based lubrication and system design are among the topics covered in contributing editor Ken Bannister’s 2016 book, Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities–3rd edition (Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA), co-written with Heinz Bloch. Contact Bannister at, or 519-469-9173.

learnmore2“All Sight-Level Gauges Aren’t Created Equal”

“Control and Avoid Lubricant Contamination”

“Put Portable Filter Carts to Work”

“Implement an Oil-Analysis Program”

“Practical Oil Analysis: Why and What For?”

“Tune Your Lubrication-Delivery System”


4:40 pm
July 12, 2017
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Good Processes Enable Good Results

klausblacheBy Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee, Reliability & Maintainability Center

Processes can be formal/informal, followed/ignored, audited/uncontrolled, and so on. The extent to which a standardized process is followed is typically a good indicator of how well an organization is doing. Hidden operational costs accumulate quickly with increasing process variation from such things as work management, document control, material management, and root-cause analysis. This is not true just for reliability and maintenance, but for any interaction of people, process, and technology. I’ll use my experience on a recent trip to explain.

It began with a decision to fly on a major airline that I had not used for some time. The troubling issues I experienced piled up fast, starting with check-in for my outbound flight. During the trip, I tried to document as many problems as I could recall, categorizing them into four areas: system malfunction, ineffective existing process, poor use of human resources (people issues), and redundant activity/time wasted. Here are several examples:

• At the airport, despite having checked in online and printed my boarding passes the day before, I was told to go to an automated kiosk where I had to enter the same information to start the baggage-tagging process. Other travelers received the same instructions. Unfortunately, nobody was informed we had to visit the kiosks until we reached the check-in counter. You can understand the frustration of individuals running out of time to catch their flights.

• As it turned out, the person at the understaffed check-in counter was sending customers to the kiosks to buffer her growing line. It wasn’t a good strategy. The kiosks weren’t properly performing all functions, so they were sending customers back to the harried counter employee. Soon, she was dealing with two lines—the original one and one returning from the kiosks. All the while she was complaining that her end-of-shift replacement hadn’t arrived and she wasn’t even supposed to be on duty.

Wherever and however they occur, process variations can be expensive and frustrating.

Wherever and however they occur, process variations can be expensive and frustrating.

• Luckily, there were three people on duty at the baggage X-ray area when I arrived, and they seemed to have plenty of time to chat among themselves. Once they realized I was waiting to drop off my bag, one of them strolled over and attempted to hoist it onto the conveyor belt. I use the word “attempted” because the gentleman seemed to have difficulty lifting the <40-lb. item. Instead, he had to slide the suitcase on the conveyor, where it barely stayed in place.

In total, I documented 15 improvement opportunities. Fortunately, airlines have better processes regarding aircraft maintenance. The Federal Aviation Administration has regulations and guidelines for standardized processes. They clearly don’t extend to check in.

So, how do my travel woes relate to your site’s reliability and maintenance efforts? When assessing and implementing a reliability and maintainability (R&M) process, the first step should be to create the culture, including, among other things, a reliability plan and goals/targets. (Best results come from implementing several foundational elements first.) The next step is to implement elements enabling standardized work processes. This leads into steps for optimizing and sustaining the effort. Then it’s on to application of R&M best practices and continual improvement. Plant personnel should all be tied to a RASIC (responsible, approve, support, inform, consult) “roles and responsibilities” chart and/or swim-lanes (diagrams of workflow).

In the end, stable R&M processes lead to multiple benefits, among them: increased throughput, reduced wastes and costs, improved safety, reduced process variation, error reduction, higher employee involvement, and easier training on and sustaining of processes. People associated with the process, though, must be capable and willing. You’re only as good as your processes allow. MT

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at


4:37 pm
July 12, 2017
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Flying Inspections

Drones are rapidly becoming a fast, economical inspection tool in the industrial arena.

Drones save time, money, and may be the only data-collection option in accident situations.

Drones save time, money, and may be the only data-collection option in accident situations.

By Sean Woessner, Industrial Skyworks

Most people call them drones. Technically, they’re UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or sUAS (small unmanned aircraft systems). No matter what you call them, these flying camera and sensor holders are rapidly becoming a valuable industrial inspection tool.

Drone-based inspections are helping companies improve efficiency and data quality, while increasing safety and speed of operation. Because it’s an evolving technology, some people may not be aware of the potential benefits they can realize using UAVs to inspect assets.

Drone inspections can dramatically reduce the high costs, safety risks, and time involved with conventional inspection methods. Since drones are small and inexpensive to operate, you can carry out more inspections every month than you can with conventional methods, without shutting down operations and affecting production. In traditional methods, you need to schedule a shutdown and assemble several workers, vehicles, helicopters, and other inspection equipment, especially for the energy sector. Also, the mobility, speed, ease of use, and efficiency of drones provides companies with the opportunity to collect data on a large scale. Since the drones can be used in even the most difficult areas, it makes it possible to inspect a whole pipeline and its surroundings, just in case there is need to analyze the extent of a leak.

Drone-based field investigations provide invaluable information to operational and maintenance managers with the following added advantages:

• timely reporting and investigation of damage/material loss when carried out under a defined schedule

• enhanced personnel safety by avoiding close proximity of humans to hazardous environments and dangerous locations

• firsthand delivery of information to supervisors/managers without the need to visit a site

• cost-effective alternative to route reconnaissance and aerial-surveys

• access to inspectors for investigations without plant-shutdown requirements.

In addition, drones may be the only data-acquisition option in emergency/accident situations.

Implementing drones

As with anything, you must do some prep work to successfully implement a drone-based inspection program. Based on your organization’s activities, ensure that you have estimates for all of the costs that will allow you to perform drone-based inspections. Currently, there two ways of operating drones—you can either purchase a drone or hire a drone-inspection-service company.

Should you decide to purchase a drone, evaluate the regulations and cost requirements. The major component costs are:

• drone purchase cost
• cost of acquiring the cameras and sensors that will address your organization’s needs
• software applications for imaging and analytics
• training or hiring a drone pilot
• obtaining relevant permits and licenses
• type of data you need to gather and how to handle it, uploaded to either a cloud-based server or company servers
• network requirements.

If your choice is to hire a drone-inspection-service company:

• research and obtain the costs of hiring a drone service that will address your needs
• consider other factors such as the relevant licenses required for the area to be inspected
• confirm the type of data and reports the company provides after the inspections.

Drone regulations

As with any technology of this type, there are rules and regulations that control commercial and industrial use of drones:

• The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued Part-107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations in August 2016, providing guidance for operating requirements, pilot certification, and device certification for UAVs.

• The Canadian government has incorporated/amended rules for certification and compliance requirements for UAVs as section 602.41 of Canadian Aviation Regulations SOR/96-433.

• UK Civil Aviation Authority issued regulations related to Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) as CAP 722—Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace for regulating RPAS operation in UK.

• EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) Basic Regulation, adopted in December 2016 by the European Council, contains the first ever European Union-wide rules for civil drones to fly safely in European airspace. This regulation contains general principles on revised common safety rules for civil aviation and a new mandate for EASA. On the basis of these principles, EASA will develop more detailed rules on drones through an implementation act, thus making it easier to update the rules as technology develops.

Rapid development of drone technology for commercial and industrial use has out-paced policy makers in many countries. Various governments are in the process of drafting or amending existing laws and regulations. Information regarding progress by various countries with respect to enactment of drone laws can be obtained from respective government authorities.

Minimizing risk

While UAVs have been successfully deployed globally for the past five years to inspect hazardous energy and petrochemical sites, manufacturers are still defining what can universally be understood to be an intrinsically safe drone-inspection platform. Specific health and safety plans will differ from facility to facility, but there is a set of guiding principles that successfully reduce the risk of professional UAV inspection operations to acceptable levels.

Power sources: Most professional UAV platforms now use brushless, magnetic motors that dramatically reduce risk of ignition from friction. While some long-range and heavy-lift UAVs are powered by liquid fuel, any UAV platform used to inspect hazardous sites will be powered with sealed batteries. It is important, when flying over sites such as live flare stacks, to minimize the risk of sparks on battery connectors or of UAV-mounted components (such as external batteries and sensor payloads) falling. UAV platforms that incorporate internal batteries inside the UAV’s body, together with sensor payloads that are mechanically integrated into that UAV, should therefore be deployed on these types of projects.

Additional thermal or gas sensors: Professional-grade inspection cameras now often incorporate thermal and visual sensors. Even if it is only photographic data that is being captured for an inspection project, the real-time feedback from the thermal sensors can provide a warning of extreme conditions onsite throughout the survey. When inspecting cold, venting smoke stacks, where un-ignited hydrocarbons can be present, methane or various other gas sensors might be used to provide additional warning during the inspection operation.

Flight plans: The best way to mitigate risk when inspecting flammable and hazardous sites is through comprehensive planning. The reason that drone inspection is used at all is because it enables visual and non-destructive inspection of a site without requiring personnel to be on the structure itself. Pre-planned flight paths can easily keep a drone 20 to 50 ft. from a structure and high-resolution imaging can easily be captured from 300 ft. away. The exact distance will always be defined by the UAV inspection-service provider and the facilities manager at the plant. Common sense also dictates that flight plans keep the UAV at an angular tangent away from the structure, rather than directly overhead, should anything fall.

Deploying UAVs to flammable sites: All operations around oil and gas infrastructure need to be carefully regulated and tightly controlled. Policies such as those related to intrinsic safety have long been in place to protect people and the environment on these types of sites. While intrinsic safety describes a set of electrical design principles, it also considers deployment procedures.

UAV platforms are not intrinsically safe in their electrical design. However, professional UAV inspection operations can offer an inspection procedure that minimizes health and safety risk to plant staff and the public, in addition to delivering significant economic savings to the plant.

Acquiring data

Using professional UAV inspection services, an asset manager can reduce the time that inspection personnel need to spend on the building itself. Provided a mission’s flight route has been well planned, a drone can collect imagery data that covers the entire building envelope in a fraction of the time that it takes for inspection personnel to traverse it.

Typically, visual and thermal imagery are collected. After applying automated statistical processes to convert the imagery into a 3D ‘point cloud,’ it is straightforward for skilled interpreters to identify locations and areas of deterioration on the building envelope. Since the data are being viewed in 3D, the roof and facades can be visually interpreted.

As the data in the point cloud is geo-referenced with real-world geographic coordinates, a plan or a map can be provided to an inspection and maintenance team to identify areas of deterioration  before anyone needs to climb any ladders or scaffolding, undertake rope-access procedures, or walk on a roof.

Longwave vs. handheld mid-wave IR cameras

Typically, a roof-inspection company might use a MWIR (mid-wave infrared) handheld camera or a LWIR (long-wave infrared) unit to collect data using an airborne platform. The advantages and disadvantages to the agency undertaking the roof inspection and the customer need to be assessed in terms of the sensor technical characteristics and the implementation implications.

Handheld MWIR can increase sensitivity among reflective/cool roofs and increased scaling values in output images can make results easier to interpret. However, the reduced dynamic range the cameras have could mean reduced sensitivity across all material types. On the other hand, using drone-mounted longwave IR provides a high dynamic range that leads to increased sensitivity across dark, cooled roof structures. But, LWIR technology requires an increased expertise to interpret subtle differences in thermal capacitance between different roof materials, especially when highly reflective.

In terms of implementation, drone-mounted LWIR doesn’t require inspection personnel to walk on a roof. The entire building envelope, including hard-to-reach areas can be imaged. Thermal ghosting (or leakage) is minimized by a high straight-on view of a roof by a camera. A complete, geo-referenced report can be quickly provided to the client.

Drones, equipped with a combination of sensors, are revolutionizing oil and gas inspections. At the moment, drones with thermal imaging, photo, and video cameras, as well as gas sniffers and other sensors, are performing a variety of inspection functions. The mobility and sensors allow the drones to analyze facilities for existing and potential defects safely, quickly, and efficiently.  MT

Sean Woessner is an FAA licensed pilot at Industrial SkyWorks (, Houston. He holds IFR and FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot sUAS ratings. Woessner has conducted more than 500 inspections and logged more than 400 sUAS hours.


6:01 pm
June 16, 2017
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Understand the Danger: Pitting Corrosion


Tiny, sometimes nearly invisible pits, such as these, are indicative of potentially deadly pitting corrosion.

Pitting corrosion is a localized breakdown of metal manifesting in small cavities or “pits” visible on a metal surface. The damage that these tiny, sometimes nearly invisible, pits cause can be deadly.

Case in point: Pitting corrosion is believed to be the cause of the 1967 collapse of the U.S. Highway 35 bridge between Point Pleasant, WV, and Kanauga, OH. Forty-six people died when that structure suddenly fell into the Ohio River. Investigators determined the cause of this disaster had begun decades earlier with a small crack that formed during the casting of the bridge’s I-beams. The I-bar subsequently broke under the compounding stresses of a corrosive environment and newer, heavier vehicles crossing the bridge.

According to Michael Harkin, an NACE and SSPC coating inspector and president of FEO Inc. (, Virginia Beach, VA), understanding how to prevent pitting corrosion goes a long way to ensuring long, safe, and useful service for metal assets exposed to the elements. He offers the following insight into the problem and approaches for combating it.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor 

There’s more to the pits indicative of a pitting corrosion attack than meets the eye. Far more damage is done beneath the metal surface because the corrosion bores inward. Pitting corrosion causes the loss of metal thickness, translating to a loss of structural integrity that can lead to stress cracking due to metal fatigue.

For example, if a beam that bears a heavy load loses thickness and mass due to corrosion, there’s less beam available to support the weight. The attack could go unnoticed but, over time, the metal fatigue it causes could lead to formation of cracks. Cracks can quickly lead to beam failure and set off a catastrophic chain reaction as unplanned stresses multiply.

randmHow it starts

There are several causes of pitting corrosion, including:

• localized mechanical or chemical damage to a metal’s protective oxide film
• improper application of corrosion-control products
• presence of non-metal materials on the surface of a metal.

When metals aren’t properly treated and freely exposed to the elements, chemical reactions between them and the environment form compounds such as ferrous oxide, more commonly known as rust.

Prevention steps

Preventing pitting corrosion starts early, beginning with the choice of the right metal during the design of an asset. The risk of pitting corrosion is greatly reduced when users know ahead of time how materials react in different environments. Higher-alloy metals resist corrosion more strongly than low-alloy materials.

Next, to the extent that it’s possible, control the operating environment. For indoor or sheltered assets, keeping environmental factors such as temperature, pH, and chloride concentration in check minimizes the risk of pitting corrosion.

Finally, apply the proper industrial coating to your assets and have them inspected with non-destructive testing (NDT) methods. MT

Notes on Non-Destructive Testing (NDT)

According FEO’s Michael Harkin, non-destructive testing is the only legitimate option for inspecting coatings systems that are already in service (and intended to be kept in service). NDT is a subset of non-invasive procedures that don’t compromise the integrity of a tested system or material. As applied to coatings, these procedures can include using electromagnetic waves to gauge the thickness of a coating, infrared thermography to measure heat distribution and determine how well a coating is binding to its substrate, or lasers to measure surface profile without physically contacting the substrate.

FEO Inc., Virginia Beach, VA, is a QP5-certified coating inspection and consulting company. For more information, visit


8:30 pm
June 15, 2017
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AZ Puts Proactive in Reliability

Biopharmaceutical manufacturing company AstraZeneca redefines reliability to streamline more-effective maintenance processes.


By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Even though the AstraZeneca manufacturing facility in Mt. Vernon, IN, looks like a hospital surgical unit—with key equipment separated into concentrated clean rooms—for years it operated like an emergency room. When an equipment breakdown occurred, personnel jumped into action, triaging the issue and not always looking into the true symptoms to prevent future occurrences.

At AstraZeneca, separating the reliability people from the day-to-day commotion, defining the difference between reliability and maintenance, and management support were keys to a successful transition to a reliability-oriented operation. Photo: AstraZeneca

At AstraZeneca, separating the reliability people from the day-to-day commotion, defining the difference between reliability and maintenance, and management support were keys to a successful transition to a reliability-oriented operation. Photo: AstraZeneca

The company acquired the Mt. Vernon facility in August 2015. With a new reliability unit in place and an Operations Excellence Team, the site now has teams focused on preventing emergencies, instead of addressing them.

Reliability and maintenance can be a challenge when maintaining a high standard for the pharmaceutical environment. As you walk through the facility, the white walls and floors glisten against the shiny, almost mirror-like, stainless-steel equipment. Equipment and personnel rooms serve as airlocks between the corridors and the manufacturing rooms. The airlocks are guards against dust, dander, allergens, or other elements that could contaminate the critical medicine that is being manufactured. The switch from a reactive to a proactive, risk-based, approach has taken reliability in the 700,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing area to a new level.

“Our first step was to separate our reliability team from the day-to-day commotion,” explained facilities engineer Andrew Carpenter. “We had to be sure they understood that reliability is different than maintenance, and we had to all take this seriously. We had many people who were specialists and were relied upon for troubleshooting and fixing emergency issues. It was a complete mindset change.”

The new reliability team received support from upper management and buy-in from the team. Although some roles changed, the team remained headcount neutral. This, along with clear alignment of goals, became the keys to a successful transition.

“If you are starting a reliability program in your plant, call it what it is,” senior building and reliability manager Chris Nolan said. “Reliability is different than maintenance. The goal is to get to a certain utopia. As your group grows, you all become more focused on that reliability side, but when you are starting out with a reactive-maintenance program, and you want to transition to one that is reliability based, there is a different vision. This must be explained and understood.  Now we have processes in place to aid in the prevention of emergencies and more organized efforts to quickly respond should the need arise.”

With an investment in new tools and technology, including additional vibration, infrared thermography, and ultrasound training, the newly structured, two-year-old team measures its return on investment in high-quality performance and products.

“A key driver within our business is quality,” Nolan said.

AstraZeneca is a science-led, biopharmaceutical business that discovers, develops, manufactures, and supplies innovative medicines for millions worldwide—primarily in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic, and oncology. The Mt. Vernon site manufactures oral-solids medicines—primarily for Type 2 diabetes treatment.

The maintenance and reliability group focuses on maintaining the utilities, purified water, HVAC, manufacturing equipment, and all Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) maintenance.

Maintenance technician Dan Guth concentrates on a detailed work request in the maintenance shop.

Maintenance technician Dan Guth concentrates on a detailed work request in the maintenance shop.

A new process

The Mt. Vernon-site reliability team adopted a common mission statement from the industry. “Anyone who improves a process or a piece of equipment is a reliability leader.”

The simple vision was broken down into specific goals and targets. Nolan explained that 2015 was all about building a foundation, while 2016 was the year to focus on root-cause analysis. The team received early help from consultant group Life Cycle Engineering (LCE, Charleston, SC,

“In pharma, when somebody uses the word ‘criticality’ they go straight to quality,” Nolan said. “LCE helped us identify the tools we needed to show overall criticality—business cost, quality, mean time between failure. Andrew [Carpenter] led us through a criticality assessment at our site and we banked that into different categories, including equipment, water purification, parts redundancy, and packaging items. Now we do an assessment and re-rank our critical categories that need attention every year. We are in the process of doing that now. This helps us focus our efforts and has become a game-changer for us.”

The reliability group became its own entity within the plant’s maintenance organization.

“We were doing a really good job of fixing issues, but needed to work on following up after the issue, getting to the root cause, and putting processes in place to prevent the issue from happening again,” Carpenter said.

Two years in, Carpenter and Nolan are beginning to see the fruits of the team’s labor. “We can see that it is working and we have come a long way.”

Maintaining the reverse-osmosis purified- water-generation system at the AstraZeneca plant is critical to ongoing production.

Maintaining the reverse-osmosis purified- water-generation system at the AstraZeneca plant is critical to ongoing production.

Early wins

Redefining the maintenance and reliability functions was an anchor in achieving some early wins for the new team.

“We are all here to get the product out of the door, but the difference is simply the things we focus on,” Nolan said. “Maintenance right now focuses on the day-to-day activities—the preventive maintenance piece and execution of that at a high level. But when you are executing you are challenged on the day-to-day things, so it is hard to find that balance of time to take a look back on the long-term items, like the vision. For us, the difference between maintenance and reliability is that reliability is getting into the data mining of the maintenance activities. Particularly in the pharma environment, that is a big piece that ties back to the quality culture, as well. The maintenance piece is very tactical, while reliability centers around more planning and vision.”

Carpenter said the team’s vision began to take shape when it zoomed in on the root-cause analysis program. About six months into the program’s launch, Nolan began to notice a distinct change in the culture.

“It was a Friday afternoon before a three-day holiday weekend and normally everybody was ready to scoot,” he said. “We had one of our metrology calibration technicians and engineering technicians having a serious conversation about a particular problem. It turned into an hour-and-a-half discussion of digging into really finding the problem, turning it into a root-cause analysis. That is the first time when I really thought this whole program began to click. These guys were looking beyond the fix and they were passionate about preventing it from happening again.”

Andrew Carpenter, Neil Reichel, Chris Nolan, and author Michelle Segrest (l-r), discuss reliability and maintenance operations in the AstraZeneca maintenance shop.

Andrew Carpenter, Neil Reichel, Chris Nolan, and author Michelle Segrest (l-r), discuss reliability and maintenance operations in the AstraZeneca maintenance shop.

Carpenter explained that the change involved a clear switch from simply fixing a problem to a focus on the big picture. “We are better at documenting the data and finding ways to prevent failures,” he said.

One of the areas the team focused on heavily at the start of the reliability program was predictive maintenance. Engineering technicians and predictive-maintenance technicians were sent to Level I vibration, infrared, ultrasound, and laser-alignment training. It didn’t take long to see the return on investment.

Nolan said another key win was bringing the storeroom into the reliability discussion.

“The storeroom is a key to reliability,” Nolan said. “Paying attention to what is going on in the storeroom tells you what is going on in the plant. What goes out of your storeroom is a huge check and balance of your maintenance process.”

Realizing how much can be learned from problems and mistakes also made a big difference.

“Problems are gold,” Nolan said. “Problems within your processes give you ‘aha’ moments. This allows you to bring people together to look at what is going on and talk about how can it be better. Don’t ever be afraid to share a problem because usually it can positively impact you, your group, or someone else.” MT

Michelle Segrest is president of Navigate Content Inc., and has been a professional journalist for 28 years. She specializes in the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 41 cities in six countries on three continents. If your facility has an interesting maintenance and/or reliability story to tell, please contact her at


7:45 pm
June 15, 2017
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Musings on Maintenance And Mobility

klausblacheBy Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee, Reliability & Maintainability Center

What we do and how we do it have changed dramatically with regard to maintenance and its impact on reliability. Gone are the days when you could easily repair most things on your car and perform regular maintenance. Today, it’s all about computer sensors, algorithms, and data historians. As a result, in most cases, we take for granted that our transportation modes are adequately maintained and reliable. Let’s look at some snippets of what’s going in areas of reliability and maintenance (R&M) on cars, trains, planes, and ships.

Cars: Tesla’s plant in Fremont, CA (, Palo Alto) is now the most advanced and talked about automotive factory in the world. The site was the former home of New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), a joint venture of General Motors and Toyota (1984 to 2010). Based on my scan of recent Tesla job postings, maintenance technicians in Powertrain are expected to perform at a Journeyman Level on all machines in the assigned area and be responsible for preventive maintenance, troubleshooting/repair, clean lines, and escalation of assigned equipment. Individuals in these roles must be willing to tackle whatever maintenance challenge arises and to assist and learn from others in their areas of expertise. A sampling of the posted jobs seems to highlight the company’s interest in worker flexibility and high levels of employee engagement. This doesn’t mean maintenance technicians are expected to have all the answers regarding plant culture. Installing and sustaining an autonomous workforce may be more difficult than building autonomous vehicles.

Advances in technologies, approaches, and methods are helping to keep our various modes of transportation moving, as well as ensuring that they are reliable and safe.

Advances in technologies, approaches, and methods are helping to keep our various modes of transportation moving, as well as ensuring that they are reliable and safe.

Trains: Railways are considering using drones to help with security, initial track inspections, and predictive maintenance. Some already leverage them for safe, economical checking of switch-point heating systems. Other advanced-technology approaches include the use of: wheel-temperature detectors (infrared) to check brakes, wheel-profile monitors (lasers and optics) to assess wheel wear, and acoustic-detector systems (acoustic signatures) to identify wheel-bearing failure. Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Siemens are piloting predictive analytics to avoid failures and make vehicle maintenance recommendations. All diagnostic data is ultimately made available to maintenance personnel.

Planes: The 472 million-cubic-sq.-ft. Boeing aircraft plant in Everett, WA, is the largest building in the world by volume. A tour guide told me maintenance costs on new 787 Dreamliners produced there are 30% lower than for earlier models. These planes are also expected to have a 30-yr. life (versus 20 for metal planes). Built mostly from carbon/polymer resin (lighter than aluminum, tougher than steel) Dreamliners consume 20% less fuel than earlier Boeing planes. Maintenance on these technological marvels also requires expertise in repairing composite structures.

Ships: On the Hawaiian cruise ship “Pride of America,” I discussed maintenance and operations with the vessel’s chief engineer. Manned by a 927-member crew, this 81,000-ton, 921-ft., ship runs with 25-MW propulsion power and 50-MW auxiliary power. (Its maximum speed of 27.6 mph is fast enough to water ski). Typical maintenance activities include corrosion repair; cleaning drains, air ducts, and chiller and boiler tubes; venting engine fumes; and conducting on-board monitoring. The 54-person engineering staff is “hands on” and also does maintenance. Big maintenance is performed in port. Conditioned-based maintenance is often outsourced.  Spare parts can be a particular challenge, since the ship is usually moving from place to place.

Much goes into keeping cars, trains, planes, and ships moving. Next time you travel by any of these modes of transportation, think about what’s being done to ensure your reliable and safe journey. MT

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at


4:15 pm
May 15, 2017
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Remote Monitoring Empowers Solar Contractor

Solar-power systems that take the sting out of energy costs are effectively monitored with a state-of-the-art tool and cloud-based data system.


The NuEra Energy Designs company in Newport Beach, CA, specializes in designing, installing, and monitoring solar-powered systems. Remote monitoring is handled by the Fluke 3540 FC monitor and Fluke Connect cloud-based data-analysis system.

NuEra Energy Designs is a Newport Beach, CA-based contracting firm that works with industrial and commercial businesses to improve their energy efficiency and to find ways to save money, typically by designing and installing solar systems and associated electrical equipment.

NuEra’s work starts with load studies and extensive evaluation of building-power systems and equipment. If appropriate, solar solutions and backup and demand-control systems are designed and built based on those studies.

A key selling point of NuEra services to customers is a welcome,  often near-immediate return on investment as a result of reduced energy bills, depreciation, and the potential to obtain energy and tax credits. In some cases, installation of solar systems and electrical upgrades delivers net revenue to clients who are then able to put power back into the energy grid.

Contractor, problem solver

Ken Dodds, the company owner and chief energy analyst, has established himself over the years as an electronics and electricity problem solver. He became a California-licensed contractor in the 1970s. His early projects were delivering power to remote ranches and other installations in the Mojave Desert, where it can be cost prohibitive to run conventional electrical lines. He has designed and built portable and off-grid solar systems to operate well pumps, power ranch homes, and illuminate street lights on remote military bases, complete with battery or multi-generator backup systems.

Though he started NuEra in Arizona more than six years ago, Dodds does the bulk of his business in California where the high cost of power helps makes solar systems a legitimate option for commercial customers. Add in energy savings through lighting, HVAC, and other electrical upgrades and the cost savings become substantial.

“One manufacturing-facility customer went from paying what would be $23,000 per year at today’s rates for energy (their old rate was a bit less), to getting $90 in return from the utility less than two years later,” Dodds stated.

The Fluke 3540 FC monitor provides real-time data capture.

The Fluke 3540 FC monitor provides real-time data capture.

Monitoring and documenting

To efficiently document studies and identify such savings, Dodds uses the Fluke 3540 FC three-phase power monitor (Fluke Corp., Everett, WA, to track three-phase systems at his client’s plants. The monitor takes power analysis and logging to a new level by putting the data stream onto data servers. Dodds is then able to remotely read and analyze these power measurements, depending on the configuration:

• current (A)
• voltage (V)
• frequency (Hz)
• power (W)
• apparent power (VA)
• non-active power (var)
• power factor (PF)
• total harmonic distortion voltage (%)
• total harmonic distortion current (%)
• harmonic content current (A).

The information is streamed from the Fluke 3540 FC to secure cloud servers where the measurements can be analyzed with the Fluke Connect mobile app or Fluke Condition Monitoring desktop software. Graphs show trends and fluctuations during the monitoring period. Dodds sets up alarms to indicate when the power is outside certain thresholds.

Monitoring the data gives Dodds a signature of the building, from the main feeders and on into critical pieces of equipment. “First, it lets us know where best to attack the building to make changes, or see if we can fix something upfront,” he said. “We look at kilowatts, we monitor the voltage, we look at use times. We can tell if the loading is off on different legs of the three phase, important because if it’s not uniform, you’re going to have issues.”

NuEra's Ken Dodds uses the Fluke 3540 FC three-phase power monitor to track three-phase systems at his client’s plants. The monitor sends the data stream to cloud-based servers for analysis.

NuEra’s Ken Dodds uses the Fluke 3540 FC three-phase power monitor to track three-phase systems at his client’s plants. The monitor sends the data stream to cloud-based servers for analysis.

Easily shared, reliable data

The data is useful to a wide range of workers. “The power-monitoring system not only educates our electricians to a problem,” Dodds stated. “If I’m worried about a motor or another big expensive piece of equipment, I can see trend graphs on what’s happening with the machine on my tablet or phone.”

Dodds connected a Fluke 3540 FC at one manufacturing plant recently so he could watch, in real time, the power going into the building, as well as the power going back to the grid from the solar system. “This is really valuable to me, especially for knowing what happened to the power I sent back to the utility. That is what they are paying my customer for so it’s verifying that,” he explained. “If my data shows I’m sending 15 kilowatts and the utility only shows 5 kilowatts, I can question that and we can figure what’s going on.”

Recently, the system allowed him to identify energy waste. “I discovered the other day a compressor was kicking on in the middle of the night. I called the building supervisor to see if anyone was working at that time. He said no, so we knew having the compressor on was a waste of money. You are paying for air to go leak around the plant. So these are some of the types of savings we find.”

The 3540 also provides power-factor data, a measure of real and apparent power, which can be a reason for the demand charges being high. “The convenience of monitoring energy consumption from anywhere is huge,” Dodds said. “I can use it in the car, when I’m on a roof or in the office or at the coffee shop or at home, wherever. My phone goes whoop whoop, when an alarm goes off. I check and I know what an asset is doing. It only takes a second to look at and read it. From anywhere, you can answer a text or send an e-mail. It’s exciting to see it develop.” MT

For more about the Fluke 3540 FC monitor, supporting software, and cloud-based data handling, visit


2:22 pm
May 15, 2017
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Facilities vs. Factory Maintenance: Is There a Difference?


The common denominators boil down to assurance of reliable equipment assets and successful delivery of product.

By Jeffrey S. Nevenhoven, Life Cycle Engineering (LCE)

Among reliability and maintenance (R&M) professionals, there are many opinions about the universal or, more precisely, not-so-universal nature of maintenance practices. We’ve all heard statements along the lines of “this organization is different,” “we’re not like them,” or “those best practices won’t work or fit here.” One perception shared by many working in the R&M trenches is that maintenance in a batch-processing manufacturing environment is considerably different from maintenance in a continuous-flow operation. Another common perception is that maintenance principles and practices within the world of non-manufacturing facilities differ greatly from those in a manufacturing organization. But do they really?

At first glance, those strongly held beliefs might seem justifiable. Below the surface, however, the inner workings of any organization are quite similar when it comes to R&M requirements. Why, then, do so many people contend that reliability and maintenance are handled differently within distinct organization types? A number of factors drive those beliefs, including operating environment, regulatory requirements, organizational structure, leadership style, business priorities, expectations, and past practice. On top of that, many influences figure into the perception that something will or will not work within a specific organization.

In reality, physical assets are void of emotion and thought. Regardless of location or organization type, such assets need to be operated and maintained appropriately and, in turn, be available to deliver reliable service, as required. Without reliability, business risks increase, asset-performance levels decrease, and costs escalate.

So different, but so similar

Assets, systems, procedures, departments, and workers exist to produce a product or service, regardless of organization type. In the healthcare sector, the product is patient experience. Within amusement, entertainment, and sports markets, it is fan/customer experience. Within the travel industry, it’s passenger experience. Within the education system, the deliverable is student experience. And, within manufacturing, the product is ultimately consumer experience.

Consider, for example, two starkly different environments: a healthcare operation and a refinery. On the exterior, a healthcare organization, such as a hospital, looks very different from an oil-and-gas refinery. Hospitals consist, primarily, of aesthetically appealing buildings and grounds while oil refineries consist of tanks, piping, and other industrial-looking structures. As we enter these operations, noticeable differences still exist.

Inside the hospital, we observe doctors, nurses, patients, and other healthcare professionals at work. At the refinery, we see operators, crafts, engineers, and other industry specialists performing their duties. One facility encompasses exam, emergency, and operating rooms, labs, registration desks, and waiting areas, while the other encompasses control rooms, repair facilities, material storage areas, and production equipment and environments.

Once we look beyond the exterior differences, though, similarities become more noticeable. Despite one organization focusing on patient health and the other on refining crude oil, both share a long list of common business practices, have comparable organizational structures, and utilize physical assets. Both are delivering a product, and both require reliable, well-maintained equipment to do it.

Healthcare operations, such as hospitals, fall under the category of facilities maintenance, or facility management, while refineries in the oil-and-gas industry fall under the factory-maintenance category. Despite the differences in form, fit, and function, these operations are very much alike when it comes to sustaining maintenance requirements. After all, the maintenance processes and practices to ensure that the HVAC system in a hospital is operational and reliable are similar to the efforts required to ensure the reliability and operation of a refinery’s cooling system.

The HVAC system in a hospital’s operating room requires the utmost care and reliability. Temperatures and airflow must be regulated within specific parameters throughout the entire surgical procedure to help prevent infection and promote healing of a patient. If the HVAC system is not working reliably, entire operating suites can be shut down, resulting in canceled surgeries, reallocation of patients to other hospitals, and even possible litigation and damage to reputation.

The process of refining crude oil into consumer fuels and other products entails several chemical-process steps that generate enormous amounts of heat and pressure. The cooling-water system, which is associated with a cooling tower, helps control these extreme temperatures and pressures by transferring heat from hot process fluids to the cooling system. Much like the HVAC system, the cooling tower is a critical asset that requires reliable operation. Unless it performs reliably, product delivery, product quality, energy consumption, the environment, and employee safety can be severely compromised.

Have the parallels between these different types of organizations become clearer?

Maintenance 101

A hospital HVAC system and a refinery cooling tower incorporate mechanical, electronic-control, transmission, and power systems, all of which need to be maintained properly. To achieve this, facility-maintenance departments and their factory-maintenance counterparts need to ensure that the following foundational methods are established and functioning well. Think of these methods as “focusing on the fundamentals” or “the blocking and tackling” of maintenance:

Asset-care program. Most assets within any organization require some level of preventive care. This includes routine cleaning, lubrication, inspection, and adjustment to maintain reliable operation which invariably includes time-based and condition-based maintenance. This should all be documented and monitored through the maintenance strategy program.

Work-management system. The work-management system encompasses the framework, infrastructure, processes, and resources needed to manage asset-care activities, reactive or proactive. It provides the means to identify, prioritize, perform, document, and report work.

Planning and scheduling function. The planning and scheduling function defines the what, how, who, and when for proactive-maintenance work activities. The collective effort of planning and scheduling aims to minimize asset downtime, improve workforce efficiency and, reduce maintenance-induced failures.

Stores (MRO) inventory-management function. To effectively fulfill its mission, the maintenance function requires reliable and prompt material support. A proficiently managed MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) inventory storeroom contributes to improved equipment reliability, workforce efficiency, and cost control.

Reliability engineering. The reliability engineering function is responsible for driving out sources of repetitive failure. Its mission is to provide leadership and technical expertise required to achieve and sustain optimum reliability, maintainability, useful life, and life-cycle cost for an organization’s assets.

Computerized maintenance-management system (CMMS). Proactive-maintenance organizations use data to effectively handle work activities, report performance, track costs, and enable continuous improvement efforts. The CMMS automates these processes, captures data, and provides information required to enable resource productivity and asset reliability.

Universal application

Regardless of where an asset resides, reliability depends on core reliability and maintenance fundamentals that span all industries and organizational types. Whatever the assets may be, i.e., motors, pumps, compressors, robots, conveyors, boilers, elevators, escalators, pelletizers, utilities, mobile equipment, fire-suppression systems, rotary-tablet presses, chillers, rolling mills, roadways, buildings, you name it, all require specific amounts of downtime for proactive preventive- and predictive-maintenance activities, including, but not limited to, replacement of wear parts, rebuilds, upgrades, and other improvements. Levels of maintenance may vary by organization type, but the fundamental requirement for it is universal. MT

A senior consultant with Life Cycle Engineering, Charleston, SC, Jeff Nevenhoven helps clients align organizational systems, structures, and leadership styles with business goals. Contact him at

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