Archive | Management


12:11 am
November 30, 2016
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Will Legacy Turbine Owners Embrace New Monitoring Platforms?

16ARCadvisoryARC Advisory Group recently released a new market research study on smart control and monitoring solutions for legacy turbines, and, surprise, there’s “low-hanging” fruit for companies. Slight kidding aside, turbines have been around for some time and so have their legacy control platforms — mostly proprietary.

The research study from ARC suggests that power plants and self-powered factories could keep their turbines but upgrade their control (and monitoring) platforms solutions to achieve better uptime. As an industry analyst recently said to me, “It’s hard to calculate an ROI for turbine projects, but a legacy control system will eventually fail and, due to missing spare parts, cause extended downtime.

Due to so many open industrial networking protocols, a new control and monitoring platform can integrate pretty easily into current turbine equipment. And, more importantly, it allows for better visibility into a turbine’s compressors and pumps, for example. The ability to monitor 18 different sensors in the combustion chamber and see it clearly on a computer screen in the control room is hugely valuable and hard to put into dollar terms.

However, many companies are starting too.

Back in September, Maintenance Technology’s IIoT section reported on Mitsubishi’s HiTec Paper mill IIoT program. The company added 26 smartcheck vibration sensors to better monitor a cooling system for its four-story coated thermo-sensitive paper system. After installing the vibration sensors at the cost of €25,500, the paper manufacturer reported a €10,500 ROI due to the avoidance of three failures, service-loss, and machine damage.

>> Related Content | Video: Quick Return on Investment for IIoT Project

Plus, Tim Shea reported in a recent blog post that this might kick-in a service component for automation suppliers:

In addition, IIoT offers opportunities to apply new kinds of business models that will promote growth. Turbine monitoring & controls suppliers may start selling energy or mechanical drive for compression services if they also offer turbines or they could partner with turbine manufacturers to offer remote monitoring and control services for a monthly or yearly fee.

The ARC market research study is for 2017 and reports a sluggish year for this market, but this could change as the political winds have shifted towards the oil and gas market (via this overview link).

We’ll see.

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


4:17 pm
November 23, 2016
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Data Optimization Trend Continues for Oil and Gas

oil and gas platformThe oil and gas industry’s outlook for 2017 looks similar to what it was at the start of 2016,  optimize current drilling operations. In a recent press release, General Electric announced a partnership with Maersk Drilling around a marine predictive intelligence pilot project that will target drilling operations.

GE says it will “collaborate on this data-analytic pilot project with the objective to increase Maersk’s drilling vessels productivity and reduce maintenance costs by up to 20 percent.” The project will last 12 months and will use GE’s SeaStream Insight platform — via Predix — to perform “marine asset management.”

“Digital capability will be one of the key enablers for Maersk Drilling, and we embrace this industrial transition,” says Jesper Hansen, CIO, Maersk Drilling. “We are excited to collaborate with GE who is at the forefront of the digital revolution.”

>> Related Content | IIoT Journey for an Automotive Tier One Supplier

Some of the operational details include sensor data from critical equipment connected to a historian and then takes the information from it and models a “digital twin.” The modeling or the “digital twin” allows for the optimization and some predictive intelligence, according to GE. The press release also reported operational data is presented via operator dashboards, though no details on that setup were provided.

For more information, visit

1601Iot_logoFor more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! p;


7:01 pm
November 15, 2016
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Vision, Passion, And Talent Management

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Learning how to perform a maintenance task, whether a repair or a preventive-maintenance inspection, requires training, proper tools, spare parts, and general knowledge relating to safety. But, that’s not all: Aptitude is also required. It’s the natural ability to understand functional relationships and accomplish the tasks at hand. In the case of maintenance, that means mechanical, electrical, or electronic aptitude.

Yet, to qualify as a competent maintenance technician these days, training and aptitude are not enough. As my Oct. 2016 “Uptime” column noted, technology innovation and modernization of the Fourth Industrial Revolution have reached into nearly every aspect of equipment and facilities operations and maintenance—at a remarkable pace. Couple the escalation of technology with a widespread shortage of technical skills in the workforce pool, along with a shortage of maintenance-and repair-education providers, and we have a serious problem.

To put a different spin on the situation, as industrialist Henry J. Kaiser once said, “Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.” Simply worrying about our skills shortage, the assimilation of rapidly advancing technologies, and demands for high-performing, reliable equipment won’t make these threats go away. Instead, we need to boldly confront them in a positive, proactive manner. That boils down to talent and how we manage it.

Hiring, developing, and retaining the right people should be the top priority of any business that depends on physical assets.

Hiring, developing, and retaining the right people should be the top priority of any business that depends on physical assets.

Food for thought

While attending Dematic’s Materials Handling & Logistics Conference in Park City, UT, two presentations stood out for me: One was a discussion about achieving your personal best and the other was about talent management. What, on the surface, might have seemed like two very different topics, became hard-wired together in my mind.

Although it sounds like an individual discipline, achieving your personal best is about aptitude, interest, willingness, and an associated passion to succeed under the guidance of talented, dedicated coaches and mentors. That was the premise for the presentation by Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic medalist of all time, who candidly discussed his award-winning journey. As I look over my copious notes from his interview session, I continue to be struck by two things that he highlighted: vision to succeed (to win) and passion for the sport.

When he was seven years old, Phelps dreamed that he would win an Olympic gold medal. At 15 years of age, he described how he wanted to do with Olympic-level swimming what Michael Jordan had done with basketball. And, at age 31, he has done just that. What began as a love for swimming, and some very skilled and motivating coaches along the way, still required a compelling vision for what he wanted to achieve. That’s where passion comes in. What may have seemed to be about wanting to win, win, and win some more was really this Olympian’s passion for the sport, and how it could be used for a bigger good.

This brings me to the presentation on “Supply Chain Talent Management” led by Mike Burnett of the Global Supply Chain Institute (GSCI) at the Univ. of Tennessee Haslam College of Business, in Knoxville. His topic is described in detail in a white paper entitled “Supply Chain Talent–Our Most Important Resource.” While space won’t allow a full recap of the subject, there were a number of timely—and essential—takeaways.

Best practices

Hiring, developing, and retaining the right people should be the top priority of any business that depends on physical assets (machinery, equipment, facilities, utilities), now more than ever. This process must also become a truly collaborative partnership between the front-line business leaders and the human-resources professionals.

The “GSCI Supply Chain Talent Management” white paper provides a framework that makes sense for reliable equipment, plant, and facility operation, well beyond its supply-chain focus. The institute’s surveys and interviews of benchmark companies should help us create career pathways for our technicians and leaders. Here are some of the best practices the GSCI identified:

• Clear definition of the “who.” Describe the talent, the “who,” you need in terms of technical and soft skills to be successful on the job and in the company’s culture.
• Use of mentors, sponsors, and first coaches. Acquire the resources required to help everyone succeed.
• Individual skills-development plans. Start with a solid definition of the skills needed to be successful in the end-to-end supply chain, in supply chain disciplines, and in specific roles.
• Internships/co-ops. Provide opportunities to obtain experiential growth in job skills, learn from diverse thinking, and evaluate a work-culture fit.
• Top university partners. Find students who best fit the definition of the “who” and then place them in a role where they have the best chance for success.


Employee training is a must, and on-the-job-performance qualification is the practical outcome of efficient and effective training. But, let’s not blur the lines between talent management and training. They’re not the same. Yes, training is a vital element of a talent-management system. But talent management is the system that aligns the people side of the organization with the needs of the business.

The bottom line of the GSCI supply-chain talent discussion was summed up in their three recommendations.

• Create a clearly documented, talent development strategy. This is the first, and most important, step.
• Employ best-in-class talent-development programs. Include educational and experiential components with a mixture of internal and external experiences.
• View talent development as owned by the business and driven by ROI. Manage talent like you manage your supply chain (your business).

For our purposes

Now, back to my notes from Michael Phelps’ interview. To repeat, what struck me most about his story was the vision he had to succeed (to win) and his passion for the sport. We need to leverage those things for our own purposes.

As we look ahead to developing talented people to succeed at installing, maintaining, and repairing equipment and facilities, we must find ways to excite our in-school youth. For example, some have keen interests in sports because of what they see on TV, at sporting events, and what their friends are doing. Some get excited about computers and software and writing code. Some pursue teaching because of the role models in their schools and classes. Some want very much to preserve our planet, or to pursue agricultural interests. Some have a passion for mastering welding for their own use, but later find out that they can earn big bucks as certified welders.

Our challenge is to find ways to instill in them a vision to succeed and a passion for their futures. Sure, the focus on STEM education is resurfacing. But that’s not enough. We need more, younger-aged students learning about the rewarding careers they can have as equipment and systems technicians in manufacturing, utilities, process industries, and building and facilities management.

There are plenty of ways to do this. Look for opportunities to invite students, teachers, school administrators, and board members into your facilities. Institute and/or support plant tours, career days, bring-a-child-to-work days, co-op experiences, and summer internships. Over time, the payoff could be significant. After all, what if Michael Phelps had never seen a real swimming pool, learned to swim, or not had a motivational mentor who recognized his aptitude and talent? MT


• “Supply Chain Talent Management” white paper, April 2015, Global Supply Chain Institute, Haslam College of Business (

• Michael Phelps Foundation (

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


6:47 pm
November 15, 2016
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Employees: Retain the Good Ones

Workforce ManagmentHighly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their employer than disengaged counterparts. Are you doing what you can to engage your people?

Mary Jo Cheney is corporate TPM coach at GE Appliances, Louisville, KY, and tacks CMRP, CRL, and CPMM onto the end of her name. Her credentials and experience make her an expert on managing and retaining people. She shared that expertise in her presentation, “Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain—Lessons of Leadership from the Wizard of Oz,” given at the 24th Annual SMRP Conference, held October 2016 in Jacksonville, FL.

The Wizard of Oz angle was a creative use of the characters in that classic movie to represent various aspects of personnel management and retention. I’ll spare you the Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man references, but share several of the facts and figures Cheney provided to help you better understand how to identify and retain talented employees.

—Gary L. Parr, editorial director

randmRetaining good leaders

Effective leader retention starts with honest, clear communication, which is not a strength for most companies. Good leaders also stick around if they are fed enriching assignments that challenge their talents. This is particularly true for younger people. Along with that is providing a clear line of sight to the next opportunity.

She also suggested the importance of knowing your competition in terms of who is likely to steal good employees. Cheney told a story of a competitor who bought a billboard sign near the entrance to one of her previous company’s property in an attempt to lure away talent. That sign got the full attention of employees and management.

“Training is critical!” stated Cheney. She asked two questions worth serious consideration: What if I train them and they leave? What if you don’t and they stay?

She also quoted Mark Alan Csonka, the smartest businessman she has ever met: “I hire people who are smarter than me and then I help them grow. I do not feel insecure because they know more than I. In fact, it has made me a better leader.”

Chaos-elimination leadership

In this segment of her presentation, Cheney turned the mirror on herself and her peers with these two questions:

• Are you the the person causing chaos in your department?
• Do you need to control every decision that is made by your employees?

An answer of yes to either or both of those questions is probably not a good thing.

Along with those two questions she suggested the importance of presenting a crystal-clear strategy, having a direct line of sight from the top to the people in the trenches, and knowing your role in a successful strategy.

Some employee facts

Cheney also offered some facts worth noting, obtained from Dale Carnegie Training and Daily Infographics, February 2014:

• $11 billion is lost annually due to turnover.
• 71% of workers are not fully engaged in their work.
• 80% of employees are dissatisfied with their direct manager.
• 70% of employees who lack confidence in senior leadership are not fully engaged.
• Revenue is 2.5 times higher in companies with highly engaged employees.
• Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave than disengaged counterparts. MT


5:52 pm
November 15, 2016
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SAP Material Masters: How do they integrate with the rest of your ERP system?

Someone once told me that the material master is the center of the universe in SAP. There is much truth to that statement.

randmIn dealing with multiple maintenance plants all over the country, the biggest issues I see after an implementation are how the material masters for maintenance were set up. Material masters integrate with every process of your ERP system. They can control a portion of your financials, affect your work orders, wreak havoc with purchasing, and create a situation in which your company is non-compliant with regulations on PSM (process-safety management). What follows is a common, yet critical, issue regarding safety stock.

Material 123 has a safety stock set in the material master (transaction MM02) for a quantity of nine. Someone at the site puts in a reservation for a quantity of 10. We will call this individual person A. Person B puts in a reservation for the same material for a quantity of nine. Person B gets the material delivered from the storeroom to the required area on the same day that it has been reserved. Person A waits for an extended period and doesn’t understand why he is not receiving the materials he ordered.

Material 123 has a safety stock set in the material master (transaction MM02) for a quantity of nine. Person A wants 10 units of Material 123. Person B wants nine units.

Material 123 has a safety stock set in the material master (transaction MM02) for a quantity of nine. Person A wants 10 units of Material 123. Person B wants nine units.

There are two problems with this scenario.

The storeroom receives all reservations for materials through a transaction, MB25. This screen shows by work order, cost center, or requester what material is being requested and the delivery date for which the requirement should be filled.

All reservations for materials are received through a transaction, MB25. This screen shows by work order, cost center, or requester what material is being requested and the delivery date for which the requirement should be filled.

All reservations for materials are received through a transaction, MB25. This screen shows by work order, cost center, or requester what material is being requested and the delivery date for which the requirement should be filled.

If the inventory clerk does not have the requirements date set in order, it is possible that orders are filled out of order. In this situation, person A should have had the requirements filled before person B.

The second problem occurs when MRP (materials-requirements planning) is running. SAP will see that the safety stock is set at a quantity of nine. Therefore, that is all that the system will ever try to keep in stock. When A and B entered a total requirement quantity of 19, the quantity of nine in stock will be issued and MRP will create a requisition for the remaining amount. However, this will still produce a deficit, as the safety stock requires nine.

To assure persons A and B receive the units they need, the site should run transaction MC44. This will generate the exact number of inventory turns in a period, per material.

To assure persons A and B receive the units they need, the site should run transaction MC44. This will generate the exact number of inventory turns in a period, per material.

To fix this problem, the site should run transaction MC44. This will generate the exact number of inventory turns in a period, per material. It shows that the material is consumed at a rate higher than the safety stock setting and will allow the analysis and data to confirm that the safety stock should be increased to a number that will meet the site’s requirements.

Ensuring that safety stock is set to an accurate number can reduce the amount of purchase requisitions created and assure that orders are filled in a timely manner to meet requirements and, in parallel jobs, will not be delayed. MT

Kristina Gordon is SAP Program Consultant at the DuPont, Sabine River Works plant in West Orange, TX. If you have SAP questions, send them to and we’ll forward them to Kristina.


4:48 pm
November 15, 2016
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Discussing Contract Services: Demand-Side Views

Using contract service providers or contractors can benefit an organization.

Using contract service providers or contractors can benefit an organization.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

What outside resources does a plant turn to when it simply doesn’t have enough qualified in-house personnel to stay up and running safely, efficiently, cleanly, and profitably? Given the ongoing skilled-workforce crisis, which, depending on sector, region, and who you talk to, is improving, lingering, or growing, outside-service providers (including contractors and consultants) often seem to be the only way to fill the void. Diving headfirst into the issue, this month we asked our MT Reader Panelists the following questions.

1. Did their organizations (or, if they were consultants or other suppliers to industry, did their clients/customers) use contractors or contract service providers in the areas of reliability, maintenance, and/or operations?

2. What specific types of work were these contract service providers doing, and could it be improved?

3. What benefits or payback were being realized from the use of the contractors or contract service providers?

We received so many responses from users and service providers alike, that we’ve chosen to run them in two installments (November and December). This month, we present answers, edited for brevity and clarity, from a somewhat varying end-user perspective.

College Electrical Laboratory, Manager/Instructor, West…

Yes, we use contractors and contract labor for expansion projects and extra maintenance programs. The main reasons we use outside staff are that time is money, and special skilled labor is expensive. (We don’t hire any very specialized skills that would just sit around until they are needed.)

We use contractors in [the areas of] HVAC, plumbing, pipe fitting, and several types of electrical specialties, among others. The project manager keeps track of all the skilled contractors involved in a certain project and follows up daily on their progress. Our contracts have clauses related to safety issues, quality, and timetable requirements.

Many of our contractors have done business [with us] for 15 years or more and are very reliable. The main benefits are that they understand our processes, safety requirements, and the quality of work that’s required. Most of our processes run on a 24/7 basis, with scheduled downtime, and our hourly production time is very costly.

In my opinion, our contractors save us more money than they receive.

Engineer, Process Industries, Southeast…

We use contractors for reliability and for major maintenance/modifications. (We’re a small company with an in-house maintenance team that takes care of daily maintenance and calibration items.) We use “specialty” contractors for HVAC, fire protection, air compressors, and as grounds keepers. They all do a good job.

Being a smaller facility, we don’t have to have a “specialist” on site that can work on all of the equipment. Generally, the amount of contracted work does not require someone’s full-time attention.

Maintenance Supervisor, Process Industries, Canada…

Our site uses contractors in the case of downturns or for other situations where we can add or take away people quickly and with no cost to us, i.e., union severances, etc.
Our contractors mostly do project-based work or help maintenance staff if they become overwhelmed by calls to repair equipment. We are satisfied at this time with our contractors and the services they provide.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…

Our trades personnel are responsible for everything that is related to manufacturing parts for our products. We have contractors that cover anything that is related to building maintenance. In some cases, especially where steam, gas, and water are used, our people will assist the contractors. The main reason for our site’s use of contractors involves the loss of trades that we’ve seen over the years. Plus our in-house trades are working on proactive and reactive maintenance jobs.

Most of our contractors are aware of what they can work on, and they pretty much stick to it. In fact, in some cases, they’ve had parts on hand or available when our vendors haven’t, and they have made those parts available to us.

The biggest benefit I can think of with regard to our use of contractors is that it allows in-house trades to concentrate on machinery issues instead of facility issues.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

We use contractors to maintain and/or repair specialty equipment that requires costly training and tools. That includes large centrifugal water chillers, Phoenix fume-hood controls and VAV boxes, stand-by generators, cooling towers, and boilers. We also have contractors on standby for assistance with fire and flood cleanup, mold issues in buildings, roof repairs, emergency-power equipment, and temporary heating/cooling, as well as with the previously mentioned chillers, boilers, and generators.

Overall we’ve been satisfied with our contractors. The cost keeps going up, however, which makes us want to do more in-house maintenance and repairs (if at all possible).

The payback seems to be that we don’t lose critical equipment for long periods of time given the contractors on stand-by for our emergency needs. If repairs are made in a timely manner, it prevents us from having to cancel any classes or university functions. As a university with a large student population, a hospital, several large dormitories, two power plants, supplying either 130-lb. steam or high-temperature (375 F) hot water, and two chiller plants for more than 100 buildings, all types of problems can arise.

Reliability Specialist, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…

Yes, we use a contractor for maintenance support at our facility [through a three-year maintenance-service agreement]. It [the contractor] received special concessions from the union’s craft labor, which assured the union that its labor force would be used and we [the site] would receive value in discounted labor.

The contractor is deployed on a regular basis for plant maintenance and outage activities. The scope of work ranges from millwrights actively doing equipment overhauls and rebuilds, pipefitters doing miscellaneous piping projects, and ironworkers, boilermakers, laborers, and operators sporadically dispatched [on an as-needed basis] for non-outage and outage work to help support the plant maintenance department. I believe there is room for improvement.

Unless you do a specific individual call for labor, odds are 85% of the time, an unskilled craftsman will be provided. It’s gotten to the point we [now] specify the required skill sets to do a job, and if unqualified people are dispatched, we can send them off the job without having to pay the union’s show-up of four hours. Since initiating this approach, the dispatchers have become more careful [in sending personnel], and inform us if they don’t have qualified people to fill a job.

Continued use of our contractor [in my opinion] strains the facility’s maintenance budget. Our goal is to get our maintenance backlog under control with contract labor and, from that point on, only use it when necessary for emergency and scheduled outages. If properly deployed as sporadic labor [as necessary], there’s value in not having to increase our in-house labor force. Our current situation, however, is like the college student living at home who doesn’t want to go out on his own: providing little value and expensive to have around.

Coming next month

Look for “Supply-Side Views” on the contract-services discussion in December’s “On the Floor.” MT


7:57 pm
November 14, 2016
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A Good Day for a Maintenance Manager


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

Arriving at work in the morning, my personalized digital device (attached to my wrist) provides a schedule of the day’s activities. Moving toward my desk activates my computer and turns it on. When I sit down, the retinal scan confirms my identity. I see that one of my technicians is printing a 3-D temporary part. Another is using a drone to conduct a roof and pipe inspection for a system-reported leak and checking construction progress.

A third technician is using a maintenance-assist robot to perform simple, repetitive maintenance tasks. (This robot can also be used in the emulate mode to copy the exact movements of the technicians for more complicated and heavy work.) The technician is using safety/training glasses that provide step-by-step visual directions. In the actual work she performs, an enhanced ergonomic glove provides additional gripping strength to avoid carpal-tunnel injuries.

From the Enterprise Management System (EMS), I get a quick overview of production, reliability, and maintenance. By applying Weibull analysis, the software provides a chart showing how much can be gained by improving production efficiencies and how much can be gained by improving reliability. This information is supplemented by a computer-generated verbal summary that can be used in place of or with the charts. The EMS data are integrated with a “learning system” that makes some decisions (within defined parameters) and reports on those decisions and underlying reasons/rationale. Production processes are statistically controlled.

As soon as there’s evidence of out-of-bound parts, they’re corralled for recycling. This, however, doesn’t happen often. Process capability is typically better than six sigma (3.4 defects/million). Any small deviations from cycle time are monitored for each piece of equipment to enable timely maintenance interventions and assure throughput requirements. Since the machinery and equipment are purchased with significant “design-in” reliability and maintainability specifications, optimal MTTR (mean time to repair) times are realized. Among other things, those design-in specifications include items such as color-coded and easily accessible lubrication points and known replacement parts that are engineered for quick disassembly and positioned to not affect more expensive parts at removal.

Purchasing is responsible for life-cycle costing (LCC) and then measured on life-cycle performance of machinery and equipment (M&E). Component and M&E providers are selected based on best historical MTBF (mean time between failures) and reliability growth. Every part has an RFID (radio frequency identification) tag, making it easier to find parts and perform Root-Cause Analysis (RCA). This is ongoing within the learning system. Once a week, the global continuous-improvement team meets virtually (using 3-D imaging to view all participants) to make decisions with data and recommendations from the learning system. The main purpose of this meeting is to address needed decisions that are beyond the programmed scope of the software.

Everything that happens in the plant is related. A reduction in reactive maintenance improves safety. Fewer repairs mean greater throughput and lower costs. Senior leadership wants to immediately reduce maintenance cost, but data points show that safety, throughput, and cost would all be negatively affected if that were to happen. Management reconsiders and takes another approach.

Looking back, do you ever wonder how yesterday’s plants made a profit? My grandfather used to tell me stories about large backlogs, high levels of reactive maintenance, sporadic use of predictive technologies, and excess inventory. It’s hard to believe that anyone could run a business that way. Fast forward to today. While we may not yet be ready for the scenario described in this article, don’t hesitate to think big. Great things happen when individuals want to make a difference, take some risk, and tenaciously implement. 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