Archive | Management


2:01 pm
September 15, 2016
Print Friendly

Improve Your Planning Efficiency

randmBy Kristina Gordon, DuPont

Accomplishing daily work in a reliability and maintenance operation involves performing several critical functions, among them planning, scheduling, identification of equipment criticalities, and work history. In many cases, it seems to take forever to complete even the smallest task in SAP. That does not need to be the case. What follows are SAP solutions for four of the most common maintenance-planning questions.

Q: What is the most efficient way to extract a list of proposed job plans (work orders)?

A : In transaction IW38, create a variant. A variant saves the selection of values that you use to run a report or transaction the same way every time. You can create as many variants in one transaction as you need, depending on the data that you are interested in seeing. Variants can be global, meaning everyone in your organization can see and choose to run, or you can make the variant user specific. This hides your variant and only allows you as the creator to use it.

Selection criteria may include your maintenance plant/planning plant, orders outstanding and in progress, and orders that have no date limitations. You may also want to exclude work orders that have been released or TECO’d.

Use other filters as appropriate, such as plant section and work center. Once you complete the selection process, click the save button and the variant screen will pop up allowing you to save the selection you have entered. When creating a user-specific variant you will always name the variant U_(user name given to you to log into SAP). Now that you have a standard selection criteria, you will be pulling your work orders up the same way every time.

This example illustrates the process of extracting a list of proposed job plans.

This example illustrates the process of extracting a list of proposed job plans.

Q: How can I tell if my material will be available and ready on the day I plan my job?

1609rmcsap04pA: In transaction IW32, after adding your components to the work order, click the icon shown on the right (material availability, overall) in the tool bar at the top of the page. The material-availability icon compares the basic start date of the work order with the material delivery time to verify whether the part will be on site when needed. SAP will display a message to indicate that all requested materials are available. Otherwise, it will display the material numbers that have conflicting delivery dates.

The Gen. Data tab displays your component-detail screen.

The Gen. Data tab displays your component-detail screen.

Q: If I am planning a job months in advance but want my materials received as soon as possible for kitting or job readiness, how can I request my material delivery time be changed?

A: Under the components tab of your work order, highlight the material for which you would like to have the delivery date moved. Then click on the Gen. data tab at the bottom. This brings up your component-detail screen. The requirements date will be displayed and it should match the work-order start date.

In the offset field, enter the number of days the materials are needed in advance with a negative sign, then enter the unit of measure for days. Click the enter button and you will be asked if this date can be met. Click the enter button again and the requirements date for the materials will move to the new requested date.

This feature is for stock and non-stock items. It works with MRP to create your purchasing documents and updates the reservations list for onsite materials.

In the offset field, enter the number of days materials are needed in advance, using a negative sign.

In the offset field, enter the number of days materials are needed in advance, using a negative sign.

Q: If I have created a task list and need to move it to my work order, how can I do this without copying and pasting every line?

A: In the tool bar at the top of the page in IW32, click on Extra>Task List Selection>Direct Entry.  In the pop-up box you will be asked to click the radio button next to functional location task list, equipment task list, or general task list. Enter the group and group counter of the task list you would like to import. Click the check mark and the task list imports into the operation tab of the work order. 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.


7:41 pm
September 12, 2016
Print Friendly

SSR or EMR? Select the Right Relay

Solid-state and electromechanical relays are not necessarily interchangeable. Evaluate your application before deciding which to use.

Solid-state and electromechanical relays are not necessarily interchangeable. Evaluate your application before deciding which to use.

randmSolid-state relays (SSRs) are replacing electromechanical relays (EMRs) in many applications across industry. There are several reasons why, including their long life, low noise, compact size, lack of moving parts, and total absence of arcing. These advantages make SSRs a popular choice for applications involving repetitive operations or fast turn-on/turn-off times, or in areas that require minimal electrical noise.

So, what types of SSR or EMR relays are right for the various applications in your plant? Automation professionals at Opto 22 (, in Temecula, CA, provide some selection guidelines.

Use SSRs in applications that require:

Repetitive operation cycles. Such applications include lights and electric heaters. SSRs have no mechanical components to wear out and no failure mode related to the number of operation cycles.

Minimal electrical noise. SSRs greatly minimize electrical noise because they turn on and off when voltage is zero in the AC cycle. Conversely, most EMRs turn on and off at any point in the AC cycle, which means they can generate significant voltage spikes, causing electrical noise that can affect other devices in the area.

High-speed timing. SSR turn-on times are highly predictable, while times for a mechanical relay vary based on the nature of the device and the environment.

Consider EMRs in applications that require:

High starting loads. Such applications include motors and transformers. SSRs are more sensitive to voltage transients than EMRs. If a relay gets hit hard enough a sufficient number of times, even SSRs with good transient protection will degrade or fail. This makes SSRs less ideal for driving highly inductive electromechanical loads, such as some solenoids and motors.

Operation in high-temperature environments. SSRs become less efficient as the relay temperature rises. The current rating for an SSR is de-rated, or reduced, based on the ambient temperature. EMRs are not affected in the same way.

Zero leakage current. In the “off” state, an SSR will exhibit a small amount of leakage current—typically a few mA. Because EMRs are mechanical, they do not leak current. MT

Special SSR Concerns

According to Opto 22’s (Temecula, CA) automation experts, in the use of solid-state relays (SSRs), two factors inherent to semiconductor-based relays require special attention:

Leakage current. When in the “off” state, an SSR will exhibit a small amount of leakage current, typically a few mA. It’s slight, but this current can keep some loads from turning off, especially in high-impedance applications such as small solenoids or neon lamps, that have relatively small “hold in” currents. When SSRs that switch high voltages are electrically open, leakage current can still cause their circuits to produce potentially troublesome voltages on the outputs. These issues can usually be addressed by placing a power resistor, sized for 8 to 10 times the rated maximum leakage current for the SSR, in parallel with the load.

Operational-temperature limits. Semiconductor-based relays become less efficient as their temperature increases. Thus, the current rating for an SSR is de-rated, or reduced, based on the ambient temperature. Since SSRs also generate heat in the “on” position, heat management is vital.

—Jane Alexander, Managing Editor


2:31 pm
September 7, 2016
Print Friendly

Operations and Maintenance Teams and Enabling IIoT Technology

16ARCadvisoryAdding more sensors or “things” to applications or processes begs the question: Who’s responsibility is it to analyze these data points within an enterprise? This is the IT/OT convergence debate happening in some manufacturing circles.

From a recent blog post at Paula Hollywood’s outpost at the ARC Advisory Group’s IoT site, she writes:

If engineering has primary responsibility for asset-related data, it should also be included to provide a single model of automation and operations management. In order to gain maximum benefit from convergence, enterprises must move beyond simply automating and integrating production processes to automating and integrating workflows with business processes including plant engineering in a common information infrastructure.

Asset management can be a pain point but more companies are moving towards distributed monitoring of KPIs, operation parameters and machine health. The lynchpin for distributed monitoring for operations and maintenance teams  is “light” infrastructure solutions via industrial networking in certain cases, see below:

The app and monitoring platform allow Southwest Baking to use this browser-based software from Opto 22 to build mobile monitoring interfaces and then allow production personnel to login via smartphone or tablet. The food manufacturer leans on all of its employees, both management and operators, to monitor 11,000 lbs./hr. of frozen product runs according to KPIs.

“We use it (monitoring platform) strictly [for] indicators, and it’s meant to be more than a HMI,” says Rob Wroblewski, plant engineer at Southwest Baking. “We don’t use it to actually control food processing; just for data in a useable format.”

The automation platforms and technology have converged also and solutions can be implemented to help operations and maintenance staffs immediately.

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


7:32 pm
August 22, 2016
Print Friendly

Video Demo | Optimizing Spare Part Requirements

Emerson Electric, Inc. made news last week with its announcement of its acquisition of Pentair Plc and their valves and control business for $3.15 billion in cash. The company is selling other non-core businesses and is focusing squarely on the future of industrial equipment and Industrial Internet of Things.

Below is a video demo of Emerson’s CSI 6500 ATG mobile machine health solution for rotating equipment. This remote solution uses a smartphone app and software to provide machine health data, analytics, and insights on how to optimize spare parts.

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


8:36 pm
August 9, 2016
Print Friendly

Put Efficiency In MRO Storerooms

Outdated designs, work processes, and technologies keep many of today’s storeroom operations from adequately meeting the needs of the maintenance efforts they’re expected to support.

While bar-code technology has been around for decades, only a few storerooms have fully implemented it to track and manage their MRO inventory.

While bar-code technology has been around for decades, only a few storerooms have fully implemented it to track and manage their MRO inventory.

By Wally Wilson, CMRP, CPIM, Life Cycle Engineering

Regardless of organization size, many storerooms are still operated as they  were when the plants first began operating—which could have been decades ago. They still have light-duty metal shelving that wastes substantial vertical-storage space and heavy-duty pallet racking with extra-wide aisles to accommodate large components. For many sites, changes that make MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) storerooms more efficient are long overdue.

Why a storeroom deserves TLC

An MRO storeroom is a business within a business that’s expected to have available items to maintain a site’s operating equipment. While the maintenance department may be its primary customer, it serves many areas of an organization. Its main role is to manage the inventory investment and provide the needed parts and components for equipment repairs and support the overall objectives and goals of the business.

The culture of the maintenance organization directly affects how a storeroom functions. If the expectation is to provide repair parts quickly for equipment breakdowns, the storeroom will be forced to operate with a large inventory investment—and in a very reactive mode. If maintenance personnel are conducting reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) and planning and scheduling their work, the storeroom operates in a more efficient and proactive manner, and with less inventory.

Note that how inventory is managed affects the outcome of equipment reliability. Take, for example, the fact that a harsh storeroom environment can damage parts. Dust, dirt, heat, cold, vibration, and static electricity can affect the quality and performance of some parts when put in service.

Service life can also be affected by how items are physically handled and stored. Think about the impact of an electric motor that’s dropped or had its shaft struck by a lift truck. Mishandling of parts can cause concealed damage that does more than adversely affect the life of the components themselves. It also can cause collateral damage to other equipment with which those items are installed.

Here are some recommendations for bringing your storerooms up to date in terms of location, storage equipment, work processes, technology, layout, inventory-stocking decisions, and kitting approaches for planned work.

Changes that make their MRO storerooms more efficient are long overdue for many sites, starting with elimination of substantial space-wasting, light-weight vertical shelving.

Changes that make their MRO storerooms more efficient are long overdue for many sites, starting with elimination of substantial space-wasting, light-weight vertical shelving.

Update location

Past thinking was that the storeroom needed to be centrally located for easy access from anywhere on the site. This philosophy was driven by the role of the storeroom and the need of the employees to have access to everything from office supplies and consumables to repair parts for equipment maintenance.

Current thinking is that the storeroom should be located on the perimeter of a site for increased security. Placing a storeroom there also reduces delivery traffic that can cause a safety hazard for employees and delivery-vehicle operators. 

Locating the storeroom on the site’s perimeter increases the need to plan and schedule the preventive and routine maintenance work. To support the planning and scheduling of this work, parts need to be kitted and delivered to a staging area or specific job site. Ensuring that needed parts and services are available before a job is scheduled is critical—and directly supports proactive maintenance and MRO-storeroom operations.

If a storeroom isn’t staffed 24/7, grouping inventory by commodity helps off-shift personnel find parts they need without searching throughout the storeroom.

If a storeroom isn’t staffed 24/7, grouping inventory by commodity helps off-shift personnel find parts they need without searching throughout the storeroom.

Update storage equipment

Regardless of a storeroom’s location, how space is used determines whether it operates efficiently. Assessing the vertical space, along with the square footage, helps define which storage equipment will be best suited to effectively manage inventoried items. Most MRO storerooms contain about 70% small items, with larger components and sub-assemblies making up the balance.

The smaller items should be stored in high-density cabinets, that, compared with metal shelving, dramatically increase space utilization. Cabinets can reduce the footprint of metal shelving in a storeroom by two-thirds. These types of cabinets also provide protection from environmental hazards (dirt and contaminates) that can damage parts. 

If square footage is limited, but ample vertical space is available, vertical carousel units are a good option. These units combine the high-density cabinet capability with a small footprint for storing large numbers of parts. Keep in mind, however, that such units are not limited to small-item storage.

Most vertical-carousel units have a maximum weight capacity of 300 to 400 lb./tray. These units can be configured in varying heights from 16- to more than 30-ft. to maximize use of available vertical space. Implementing vertical carousels significantly increases the use of available square footage and reduces the required footprint even more than high-density cabinets. A limiting factor is usually the cost, which can range from $150,000 to $250,000 per unit.

Update work processes

Several basic work processes need to be in place to effectively manage the storeroom and the inventory. Some rely on areas of the business operation outside the storeroom to be successful. Processes internal to the storeroom include:

  • Receiving. Identifies tasks required for the storeroom clerk to document and verify receipt of a shipment.
  • Inventory-stocking. Activities required to locate and store items to ensure the parts are properly stored.
  • Inventory-issue. Tasks required to allocate items from the storeroom inventory.
  • Inventory-cycle counting. Activities required to verify and correct on-hand quantity discrepancies.
  • Inactive-inventory identification. Identifies non-critical, slow-moving items that are candidates for revised stocking levels.
  • Obsolete-inventory identification. Activities required to identify parts that are not attached to a current operating equipment asset.

Work processes that the storeroom supports include:

  • Incoming inspection. Inspections of incoming items that were fabricated or require certification before receipt.Return-to-inventory. Activities that credit returned items to a work order.
  • Return-to-supplier. Activities that address warranty, credit, or replacement of a defective part.
  • Planned-work kitting. Activities that ensure all parts are on-site before the job is scheduled for completion.
  • Repairable-component process. Activities that track and manage the rebuild of selected components from removal from service to return to the MRO storeroom inventory.

Update technology

Technological advancements can be valuable tools for dealing with MRO inventories. Many organizations, though, have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase and install a state-of-the-art inventory-management system, but failed to leverage all of its capabilities. The sad fact is that employees often don’t receive adequate training on how to use the software. Consequently, they continue to rely on spreadsheets and other workarounds to do their jobs.

The business software is one of the most critical aspects in effective management of today’s storerooms. While bar-code technology, which is supported by most of today’s available software applications, has been around for decades, only a few storerooms have fully implemented it to track and manage their MRO inventory. To maintain visibility of the storeroom inventory, its receipt, management, usage, and re-stocking of materials has to be streamlined and updated in real time.

If such software is managed properly, all authorized individuals have access to real-time inventory reporting. Accurate, real-time inventory visibility is essential to your maintenance planners. If they’re not confident the inventory is accurate, they will spend much of their time doing physical checks to confirm the parts are actually on site.

High-use items, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), tools, filters, and leak-prevention solutions, can be dispensed using various types of vending machines.

High-use items, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), tools, filters, and leak-prevention solutions, can be dispensed using various types of vending machines.

Update layout

A storeroom should be laid out with consideration for space utilization and material flow. Inventory analysis and classification, using the A-B-C identification system, lets the storeroom manager establish a cycle-count frequency and define what items are critical, what should be held in inventory as stock, what should be non-stock (order on demand), and what are commodities that should be vendor-managed in the shops.

Handling or moving inventory items multiple times is a waste of effort for the storeroom staff—and increases the chance of damaging parts and components. When determining the space needed for a specific commodity group, a cushion of 15% of the space should be reserved for expansion. This approach provides space for new parts stocked for equipment modifications or new equipment installations.

Generally, inventory is best located and managed by commodity grouping items. The main advantage for grouping by commodities is to reduce duplicate inventory. This minimizes dollars invested in inventory and frees up valuable space. If a storeroom isn’t staffed 24/7, having the inventory grouped by commodity helps off-shift maintenance personnel find parts they need without wasting time searching throughout the storeroom.

Update stocking decisions

Inventory should be tied to an operating-equipment asset. Not all parts—even those deemed critical—will be held in the storeroom inventory (nor should they be). The decision to stock a part in inventory should consider these factors:

  • Order lead time. The understanding of order lead time often varies within an organization. The order lead time typically starts when the order is received by the vendor and ends when the order leaves their shipping dock.
  • Expected usage. Many parts could have multiple applications across the site and if the MTBR (mean time between repair) is available, the stocking decision can be made more accurately.
  • Vendor reliability. When selecting vendors, consider past vendor performance and issues that could affect their ability to provide the needed parts.
  • Impact on safety, production, and/or environment. Gauge the potential blow to these areas if a needed part were not available for the equipment repair.

For consumable inventories, consider these options:

  • Vendor-managed inventories (VMI). Items in this category are high-use, low-dollar items that can be stocked at a point-of-use location.
  • Vending machines. Many consumables, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), tools, filters, leak-prevention solutions, and office supplies, can be dispensed using various types of vending machines.

Update kitting approaches

Ensuring that all correct parts are available for a job provides a strong platform for a proactive maintenance program.

A planned-work kitting program also helps the storeroom. The key benefit is the ability of the storeroom to reduce the level of parts stocked and total dollars of inventory investment. Reducing the inventory investment contributes to an organization’s ability to operate at a lower cost.

Adding to the storeroom’s efforts to reduce inventory, the purchasing group can secure parts as they are needed for repairs, thus reducing the need to expedite purchase orders for parts or stock large quantities of many items.

For example, it costs $150 to $300 to generate and administer the average purchase order from requisition to invoice payment. Using the auto-replenishment (material-resource-planning) capabilities of an inventory-management system cuts the purchase-order cost to $10 to $12 per transaction. If the kitting process is successful, much of the inventory can be ordered as needed, staged for the job, and the work executed as scheduled.

Kitting provides a number of other benefits for a plant, including better maintenance-technician utilization. In most organizations, that rate is about 25%. With a planned-work kitting program, the rate increases because jobs, by definition, are well planned, and technicians will not be wasting valuable time looking for the parts to complete them.

Start sooner than later

The common approach to revising storeroom operations is to turn to new technology to solve all problems. The first step, however, should be to determine where you are now and what barriers prevent you from having a functional storeroom that proactively supports your site’s reliability and maintenance efforts. You’ll most likely discover some problems that haven’t yet been addressed—perhaps because your site has never launched an initiative designed to capture the opportunities they represent.

If, in fact, you find that your MRO storeroom needs a makeover, start the process as soon as possible to reap the associated operational and financial benefits. Innovation is driven by a clear understanding of the problem, planning a strategy to facilitate the needed change, identifying key activities to achieve the goals of the strategy, and measuring the performance with lagging and leading indicators.

Having a strategy to execute an improvement plan puts a rudder on your storeroom ship. Monitoring the progress of the initiative with key performance metrics will validate your progress and drive the continuous-improvement effort forward. MT

Wally Wilson is a senior reliability consultant in materials management and work management, planning, and scheduling for Life Cycle Engineering (, Charleston, SC. He can be contacted at

Key Storeroom-Performance Metrics

Key performance indicators (KPIs) that report lagging storeroom performance can shape strategies and action plans to drive long-term continuous improvement. Leading indicators are the mid- and long-term performance goals and the strategy to trend the storeroom performance toward the target goals. The strategy should include key activities and process revisions to drive the expected performance. 

The following KPIs are used to measure storeroom performance:

  • Inventory-turns ratio. The best-practice MRO inventory turns ratio is three to four annually.
  • Inventory value. Best practice is 0.5% to 0.75% of the asset-replacement value.
  • Inventory issued. Indicates dollar value of inventory issued.
  • Inventory received. Indicates dollar value of inventory received.
  • Inventory transactions. Indicates the utilization of storeroom employees.
  • Incidence of inventory stock-outs. Best practice is less than 2% of total inventory requests for unplanned jobs.
  • Identified obsolete inventory. Expressed in dollars, the best practice is less than 5%.
  • Excess inventory. Stocking overage, expressed in dollars.
  • Inventory accuracy. Best practice is 98% overall inventory accuracy.
  • Inventory adjustments. From inventory cycle-count activities.

learnmore2“Mining Gold from 21st Century Storerooms”

“Consolidating Assets Maximizes Performance”

“How to Reduce Storeroom Inventory Painlessly”

“Uptime: PDCA Drives Parts Management”


8:11 pm
August 9, 2016
Print Friendly

The Yin and Yang of Availability

Cklaus01By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee, Reliability & Maintainability Center

The principle of Yin and Yang is based on the belief that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. This passage from The Ancient History Encyclopedia sums it up nicely:

“The two opposites attract and complement each other and, as their symbol illustrates, each side has at its core an element of the other (represented by the small dot). Neither pole is superior to the other and, as an increase in one brings a corresponding decrease in the other, a correct balance between the two poles must be reached in order to reach harmony.”

For our purposes, maintenance and reliability are the Yin and Yang of availability (and follow the same overall principles). The definition of one requires the definition of the other to be complete. Reliability isn’t absolute; neither is maintenance. Together, mean time between failure and mean time to repair define availability. Equipment systems are never 100% reliable, meaning some degree of maintenance is always involved and vice versa. As one aspect increases, the other decreases.

Consider the accompanying symbol: The black dot in the white pole signifies that there’s always some Yin in the Yang (or, for Maintenance Technology readers, some maintenance in the reliability process). Consider, too, the following points:

  • Yin-Yang balance can be affected by outside influences and is not static. Likewise, levels of reliability and maintainability will vary according to operations, resources, and other circumstances.
  • Yin-Yang describes how opposite forces are complementary and interdependent, i.e., dark-light, cold-heat, reliability-maintenance. Their interaction is thought to maintain the harmony of the universe and influence all within it. In a similar way, the reliability of everything (ROE) influences the world and its multitude of interactions. These are just a few examples.

My intent isn’t to delve into Chinese philosophy, here, but to raise awareness of how everything we do (including reliability and maintenance) is inter-dependent. This includes safety, throughput, quality, cost, and so on. Reliability is a trade-off between design costs, risks, and consequences. In daily practice, it’s further complicated by unpredictable human behavior. For example, when you’re driving home from work and hear about an enormous lottery jackpot, do you go out of your way to buy a ticket? The chance of winning (with Powerball) is typically 1 in 290,000,000. The lifetime chance of dying in a car accident, however (according to the National Safety Council), is about 1 in 113. So, how lucky do you feel?

Speaking with industrial personnel around the world, I sense that they generally have a good grasp of maintenance concepts (although not all are adhering to best practices). The meaning of reliability and how it should integrate into practice is less evident to many. As a case in point, for three weeks this summer, I taught a “Reliability and Business Excellence” course in Germany for Univ. of Tennessee engineering students. As our group visited various discrete-manufacturing and process facilities, (automotive, aircraft, chemical, and food), we asked about the sites’ perceptions of reliability and maintenance. Regarding maintenance, we typically heard explanations about activities and methodologies, including emergency repairs, predictive technologies, preventive approaches, turnarounds, and the importance of availability. But, as for reliability, many of our hosts struggled with a clear answer. (Personnel at Dow in Stade, Germany, on the other hand, plainly understood the reliability and maintenance journey. No wonder: The Dow Chemical Co., in the U.S., has a mature R&M process.)

In German, maintenance is “Instandhaltung;” reliability is “Zuverläßigkeit;” availability is “Verfügbarkeit.” Yet, no matter the language used or the location of the operation, one thing remains constant: Reliability and maintenance will always be the Yin-Yang of availability. 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