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8:59 pm
April 27, 2016
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Google Glass Lives!

UBiMAX's Gerhard Pluppins models his wearable eyeware unit.

UBiMAX’s Gerhard Pluppins models his wearable eyeware unit.

In January 2015, Google announced that they were going to cease offering the Google Glass product to consumers. As far as the popular press and casual observers, like me, were concerned, at best it would be some time before we would see the technology on “store shelves” again. At the time, I was convinced that the technology was too important to simply die, but the negative geek factor that surrounded the product meant that the consumer version was/is going to have to come back in a very different form.

Today, at Hannover MESSE, I learned that Google Glass didn’t die in January 2015. In fact, in the industrial world, the technology is thriving quite nicely, thank you.

I acquired this knowledge when I visited the UBiMAX GmbH booth and met with GErhard Pluppins and CEO Dr. Hendrik Witt. UBiMAX is located in Bremen, Germany and can be found at I stopped at the booth only because Gerhard, wearing a smart eyeware unit (that’s what they’re called now), said hi as I was walking by. I immediately stopped because the question that popped into my head was, What are those things doing at a show of this magnitude? They should be on a shelf collecting dust.

Turns out that UBiMAX, which is one of ten Google Glass certified partners, has been cooking along quite vigorously, developing smart eyeware software for a variety of business applications and, according to them, the implementation has a good head of steam. Dr. Witt says they expect to see the market explode in 2017.

UbiMAX offers three “solutions” at this juncture.

XPick is a “pick-by-vision” order-picking solution that supports manual order picking; incoming, outgoing, and sorting of goods; and inventory management.

XMake is a “make-by-vision” solution for manufacturing, assembly-line support, and quality assurance.

The third solution is the one that stood out for me. XInspect is an inspect-by-vision solution that targets all types of service and maintenance processes in just about any industry. Gerhard Pluppins and I talked at some length about the many possibilities this technology offers to reliability and maintenance professionals. The strength is that it’s two-way technology. If you’re dealing with a problem in a plant, you can receive information over the network, such as repair procedures, equipment performance history, and and parts information. In other words, you can see in your eyepiece just about any information that is available in the network pertaining to that asset.

But the best part is that you can also transmit new information back to the network. That can be in the form of an audio file, photos, and, I would speculate, limited text information. Also integrated into the software are Internet of Things tie-ins that can take this technology to a higher level in terms of data handling and transmission.

I got to wear Gerhard’s smart eyeware unit. I was surprised at how unit’s apparent durability. They always look so flimsy to me. I also expected it to feel clunky on my head, particularly over my eyeglass. Not so, and I had no trouble at all adjusting the heads-up display so I could see it clearly.

He had what looked like a pump diagram displaying in the eyepiece. I was absolutely stunned at the clarity, apparent size of the image, and how easy it was to implement the on-screen information. I expected to have to strain to see any detail, but it was right there, large enough to be of use and clear as a bell. At no time did I feel that the display was obstructing my vision and could be a safety problem.

I’ll probably never have a need for one of these things but will now be keeping a close eye 😉 on this technology because I think it can be a difference maker for reliability and maintenance professionals.–Gary L. Parr, editorial director


3:58 pm
April 12, 2016
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Consolidating Assets Maximizes Performance

Warehouse locations were reduced from  48 to five within two years.

Warehouse locations were reduced from 48 to five within two years.

Streamlining a materials-management system helps increase production and cut waste and redundant part ordering at an Indiana oil refinery.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Two years ago, CountryMark’s inventory of more than 600 pump parts and thousands of other spare parts and components could be found in 48 different locations on the one-mile campus of the Mount Vernon, IN, oil refinery (see p. 10).

Corporate goals to sustain these assets, invest in proper procurement, and build a robust inventory-management solution prompted a massive, company-wide WorkPlace Excellence Initiative Program.

CountryMark hired SAP procurement and business-process system expert Lori Foster to spearhead the design and implementation of the materials-management program. Her team included five seasoned team members. With the coaching and support of consultants from Life Cycle Engineering (LCE), Charleston, SC, the project kicked off in March 2014.

One of the primary goals was to consolidate and identify assets. The 48 inventory locations have now been reduced to just five. The ultimate goal is to have everything in one place, supported with a robust processing system.

To get a visual of the random placement of the various storage locations, Foster said, “Envision them as sheds around the site. Anywhere they could find a place to stick something…that became a storage location. It was all on the site of the refinery, but completely scattered around and without any system to know what we had, where it was, or what needed to be ordered.”


CountryMark is an American-owned oil exploration, production, refining, and marketing company. In 2013, the company embarked on the WorkPlace Excellence Program. Team leaders developed a set of work processes with step definitions and RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) charts to determine roles and responsibilities.

LCE assigned a coach for each team with specialized knowledge in each of the focus areas. LCE’s Wally Wilson was the materials-management coach.

“CountryMark had performed an assessment and we helped to analyze the information they provided us,” Wilson said. “We looked at where they were and coached them on the best practices in each of the focus areas. Then we came up with a plan that would bridge the gap from where they were and where they wanted to be.”

Stockroom personnel were managing mostly weld-shop inventory and consumables. The remainder of the parts were located in 43 different areas around the refinery, including four maintenance shops. This put the burden on the maintenance foreman and maintenance craftsmen to manually track and place orders for parts.

Some parts, such as spare motors, were housed in five or six locations. Nearly 7,000 spare parts have been inventoried, consolidated, and re-organized, so far. About 400 of the 600-plus pump bill of materials are now in the system.

The pump shop stored all of their materials in bins which had to be disassembled and re-organized and setup in the system. Space in the stockroom was limited to only 5,000 sq. ft., with outdated racking. The area was open so anyone at the refinery could walk in and get what they wanted. The two stockroom personnel had a manual checkout system. But if it wasn’t used, they would have to physically walk around the stockroom and check inventory, and then manually place orders. Only a couple of individuals knew where items were located.

All parts were expensed upon purchase and the work-order system tied the part to the work order. But no information was being tracked back to the unit regarding maintenance costs.

Accounts payable, purchasing, and inventory were in different systems so there was no three-way matching of purchase orders to inventory.

“There was no tracking or visibility of products ordered,” Foster said. “Now, we have traceability. All parts are charged to the work orders, so we know where they get used. We now have a purchasing history, so we know when we last bought it, from whom we bought it, and how to pay the invoices.”

Right. In addition to relocating and rearranging materials, all consumables were moved to point-of-use cabinets, which are now the responsibility of each manager.

Right. In addition to relocating and rearranging materials, all consumables were moved to point-of-use cabinets, which are now the responsibility of each manager.


To implement a smooth materials management and purchasing process that had automatic reordering, Foster knew the first step was spending significant time identifying parts, preparing them to be loaded into the new inventory system, and reorganizing the warehouse.

“Parts had been set up in the old system but there were too many to go through to migrate all that data, so we had to start from scratch,” Foster said. “We manually added all the parts, including contacting suppliers for pricing and lead times. For each of the 600 pumps, we had to obtain bills of materials, identify the parts needed, work with the suppliers to identify the pricing, lead times, and whether the part was still a valid item.”

The next focus was culture change.

“We had to convince everyone that our goal was to set up something that would benefit everybody, not make things more complicated,” Foster said. “For example, instead of the maintenance supervisors having to write manual requisitions, we needed to set up the item in the system and let the system reorder it as we utilized a part. ”

More than 300 bins store all of the pump-shop parts. Bills of materials are now obtained for all pumps. Each gray bin is then taken apart, parts identified, and put away in a location, either back in a rack or a high-density cabinet.

More than 300 bins store all of the pump-shop parts. Bills of materials are now obtained for all pumps. Each gray bin is then taken apart, parts identified, and put away in a location, either back in a rack or a high-density cabinet.


All parts have now been moved out of the maintenance shops. The stockroom has a new layout with an inventory locator system. Long-lead-time parts that might be critical are now identified with stocking agreements with the suppliers. The craftsmen and foremen are focused on critical maintenance work instead of manually chasing parts and materials. The planners are now planning jobs and forecasting the materials that need to be ordered.

Jobs are now kitted prior to the start of the maintenance work, which increases wrench time. The turnaround time for setting up parts, getting updated quotes, and lead-time information is now less than two days. 

All purchase orders are processed and monitored for future use. All materials maintained in stock have reorder points, and the materials that are planned are forecasted by maintenance planners.

Emergency orders are manually checked out, making it possible to track material and repair costs. The visibility of repairs and history has resulted in better decision making about repair parts vs. buying new when it is no longer cost-effective to repeatedly repair the same parts.

“I never thought this was going to work,” said maintenance planner Jeff Goad. “I argued with Lori when she wanted to move the bins, but now I see how easy it is to find what I need, and how easy it is to have something re-ordered. Now we know what we have.” 

Larry Conyers managed the stockroom for 32 years, but was not convinced of the benefits the change would bring. “I just didn’t see how this was going to work,” he said. Now, he is the biggest supporter of the system.


Since 2015 has been a year of the implementation and the rollout of new processes, the teams were unable to clean out all the obsolete materials and finalize arranging other locations. Dashboards have been developed with key performance indicators in the areas of sourcing, procure to pay, materials management, and warehouse management. 

Foster said the program has been successful thanks to senior management and leadership buy in. After two years of progress, there is still work to be done.

“From a project perspective, it takes about a year to 18 months to implement a program like this,’ Foster said. “But, from a cultural perspective, we are not finished. CountryMark is probably another 18 to 24 months away from imbedding the true culture change that must be made for sustainment.” RP


8:23 pm
April 11, 2016
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On The Floor: Maintenance-Scheduling Triggers — Part 1

What drives your maintenance scheduling?

What drives your maintenance scheduling?

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

When it rains, it pours. At least that’s what happened with April’s Reader Panel questions. They triggered an outpouring of responses—including several extremely detailed ones. In fact, we received so many thoughtful replies that, to fit them in, we’ll need to run them over two months. The questions we asked were:

What triggers our panelists’ maintenance scheduling, or if they are consultants or industry suppliers, that of their client(s) or customer(s)? Sensors? OEM recommendations? Daily walks/PdM tool data? Word of mouth? A combination?

Which approaches work best for them, and why, and vice versa?

Would panelists (or their clients or customers) want to change their current maintenance-scheduling process(es), and could they? If so, what would they do?

As always, we’ve edited this first wave of responses for brevity and clarity.

Maintenance Supervisor, Process Industries, Canada…

We use a combination of approaches. We have maintenance [personnel] and operators that use handheld devices with routes for regular inspections. Data is uploaded and emails are automatically sent out. Benchmark work orders in our CMMS are set to generate area-shut/routine work. We also have completed most of the areas on RCM. There’s still work to do to get PM work orders in the system, but that’s a continuous work in progress.

The handhelds are great if the operators/maintenance guys give us the correct information. The downside is the handhelds typically add to the huge list of emails that not everyone can read and some things fall through the cracks, i.e., minimum manning/new planners, and supervisors’ inexperience. [Other things that work well include] identifying critical assets, looking at types of failures most likely to happen, determining inspection frequency, and then “training the guys out in the field on what to look for.” Training on the sense and meaning of what can go wrong and what that looks like is critical for getting good data to act on.

Currently, work orders that are being generated are “go look at stuff”—they don’t identify or convey what should be getting done. A review of basic PMs needs to be done, as should a site/area audit to look at what is actually being inspected.

[I would recommend] providing some instruction for the operators and maintenance staff on the sense and meaning behind the PM program and ensuring there is feedback with follow-up discussions when reports coming in.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Manufacturing, Midwest…

Our main scheduling is actually handled by our PM coordinators—who do an outstanding job handling several hundred machines per plant. Each one of our plants has a PM coordinator. If I had to choose a main trigger, it would be sensors. Our Maximo system also sets off triggers if we find an abnormality on a machine. Scheduling is generally [based on] an annual, semi-annual, or quarterly check on the machines. In our departments, we have multiple sets of machines, so we’re really doing one PM after another from cell to cell.

I really can’t say that our system has one approach that works better than the other. The biggest obstacles we run into are machines not being released from production to do the work.

The only thing that will correct that problem in our plants would be to have maintenance departments treated as a separate business and be given priorities when PMs are scheduled. Until then, we will still struggle to hit 100% compliance consistently.

Industry Consultant, Northeast…

To me, a combination of [maintenance-scheduling] triggers is best, but that requires a very dedicated planner who really understands how the world works. The most intelligent approach probably combines some fixed-time replacements, i.e., re-lamping an area or cleaning air handlers in late fall, with data supplied by predictive tools like vibration and infrared scanning.

Vendor recommendations can be a gamble. I know of a large OEM that suggests replacing bearings before they reach their design life, and the company designs around the L10! While reliability pros recognize that type of replacement practice actually reduces the reliability of the product, many of the OEM’s customers think the vendor is always right. (Along those lines, [reliability icon] Charles Latino used to say, “Never have a vendor do your failure analysis unless you have an experienced professional looking over the vendor’s shoulders.”)

There are many very competent vendors, but unless they know exactly how you are using their equipment, how can they do a good job suggesting maintenance procedures.

Sr. Maintenance Mechanic, Process Industries, South…

We use most of these [sensors, OEM recommendations, daily walks/PdM tool data, word of mouth] to some extent. We rely most heavily on PdM tool data for planned repairs with daily walks becoming a distant second. We use OEM recommendations for our newer equipment, but still verify the intervals with PdM tools. I don’t believe you can ever entirely eliminate walk-arounds. The senses that most of us possess, coupled with the desire for zero unplanned shutdowns, are still some of the best diagnostic tools available.

I think any of these methods can be very good, depending on the individual that uses them. PdM tools, in my opinion, are the best trigger available, provided they are in the hands of a trained person with the desire to learn and continue to improve their skills.  Daily walks are also great if done by the right personnel. OEM “recommendations” are just that—and should be used with the backdrop of experience your company has with similar machines.  As I alluded to earlier, I find OEM recommendations are very helpful with our new equipment, with which our experience is very limited.

I think ours [approach to maintenance scheduling] is heading in the right direction: away from time-based and more to condition based with the proper tools and training. I hope we continue to proceed this way.

The only downside I can see is the maintenance of the actual PdM tools. Training for employees, calibration, and repairs of the tools can be expensive and a great temptation to forgo during a tight budget cycle. Once this is done with no immediate consequences, it is very easy to repeat, sending your maintenance program a giant leap backwards. Sometimes “bean counters” don’t understand the value of trending data.

Industry Consultant, West…

Most of my clients use time-based maintenance plans, generated from experience combined with known best practices from other facilities within their companies. One of these clients has attempted to use counters within SAP, but at this point, that has not worked well for them.

All [of my] clients are using predictive techniques, with some success, and most count on the tribal knowledge of the facilities. Most of the technicians with that knowledge are close to retirement, and the knowledge is not being shared well. MT

Editor’s Note: Part 2 in the May issue.

About the MT Reader Panel

The Maintenance Technology Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed and their responses are not necessarily projectable. Note that our panel welcomes new members. To be considered, email your name and contact information to with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.


7:18 pm
April 11, 2016
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ISO 55000: Grab These Asset Management Resources


By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Details of the ISO 55000:2014 Asset Management Standard continue to spread. To recap: In the maintenance and reliability arena, “assets” are typically physical, i.e., equipment, systems, processes, facilities, buildings, and so forth. True life-cycle management of such assets, through their development and deployment, operation and maintenance, and eventual decommissioning, is an organization-wide endeavor led from the top. As maintenance and reliability professionals, our role should be to coach peers and upper management on the breadth and depth of this pursuit. This month’s “Uptime” column discusses some critical elements that must be considered to achieve reliability and cost goals over the life of an asset.

Fortunately, resources to help us understand associated concepts and activities are within our grasp—online. The following three documents are good examples. Used together, they can help decision-makers understand the fundamentals and requirements of ISO 55000.

Asset Management Anatomy

The Institute of Asset Management (IAM), Bristol, UK, developed the Asset Management Anatomy (v. 3, Dec. 2015) to provide an appreciation of asset management: What it is, what it can achieve, the scope of the discipline, and descriptions of the underlying concepts and philosophy. Readers will find this publication especially helpful in growing their own understanding of the field, as well as in introducing a new way of thinking about asset-management systems in the context of entire value-producing-resource life-cycles. Among other things, sections/topics include:

  • asset-management models and management system
  • why does asset management matter
  • who does asset management
  • asset management subjects.

IAM Members and Affiliates can download the Anatomy document for free. Non-members will need to become Affiliates (at no charge) to download the PDF. Learn more at

Asset Management Landscape

Published by the Global Forum on Maintenance and Asset Management (GFMAM), Zurich, the Asset Management Landscape (2nd Edition, Mar. 2014) is a tool that promotes a common global approach. It includes a number of conceptual models, a list of asset-management subjects and principles, and a framework for describing best practices, maturity, and standards. Among other things, sections include:

  • components of the knowledge and practices area
  • asset-management fundamentals
  • GFMAM asset-management landscape subjects
  • asset-management concepts and models.

Download the publication for free at

IAM Self-Assessment Methodology

The ISO 55000:2014 Asset Management Standard could play a major role in industry in the coming years. Keep up to date with our ongoing coverage of this Standard at

The ISO 55000:2014 Asset Management Standard could play a major role in industry in the coming years. Keep up to date with our ongoing coverage of this Standard at

The Self Assessment Methodology (SAM) (v. 2.0, SAM+, June 2015) allows organizations to assess their capability across either the 28 elements of BSI PAS 55:2008 or the 27 sub-clauses of ISO 55001:2014, including strengths and weaknesses, deficiencies, and areas of excellence. It provides considerable insight into the development of action plans for asset-management improvement, and also lets organizations track such improvements.

This SAM is divided into two parts: “General Guidance Notes” and an Excel spreadsheet “SAM Tool” (SAM+). The tool provides assessment results based on an IAM Maturity Group scale of 0 to 3 (the level of compliance with ISO 55001). Among other things, sections/topics include:

  • context and objectives of the SAM+ tool
  • users and usage of the SAM+ tool
  • questions, Level 3 criteria, and associated guidance
  • alignment of questions with BSI PAS 55:2008
  • alignment of questions with ISO 55001:2014
  • alignment of Level 3 criteria with the asset-management landscape.

Download the SAM “General Guidance Notes” document for free from the IAM website. The “SAM Tool” (SAM+) is available only to paying IAM members. Learn more at MT

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


6:29 pm
April 11, 2016
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Final Thought: Whatever Happened to TPM?

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

In his 1988 book Introduction to TPM, Seiichi Nakajima defined Total Productive Maintenance as “productive maintenance carried out by all employees through small group activities” and “equipment maintenance performed on a company-wide basis.” Performed properly, TPM can generate significant benefits across an organization, i.e., productivity, safety, delivery, quality, culture, and cost. The process was developed to be supportive of a lean-production system and enable the improvement of OEE (overall equipment effectiveness).

Although many operations, large and small, in all industry sectors, have documented savings with TPM, the process amounts to little more than an extended kaizen event if it’s not sustained. Most companies I visit still say they’re “working on” TPM—which has been in North America for more than 25 years.

TPM can fail or be difficult to implement for several reasons. The most frequently cited include:

  • not instilling the owner/operator concept
  • not focusing on people and culture first and technologies later
  • not having leadership support
  • not understanding the role differences between reliability (MTBF/mean time between failures) and maintainability (MTTR/mean time to repair) and how together they provide availability
  • not supporting TPM as a continuous improvement program
  • not basing purchasing decisions on life-cycle costs.

John Moubray’s RCM2 book contains a chart depicting three past generations of maintenance/reliability. They were:

  • 1930 to 1950 (first generation), which was to “fix it when it’s broke”
  • 1951 to 1980 (second generation), which started large maintenance projects, some computer usage, and systems to plan and control work
  • 1981 to 2000 (third generation), which uses RCM, computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) and expert systems, multi-skilling, teams, condition monitoring, and predictive technologies.

The fourth generation (2001 to present) is what we all play a part in (and are helping define). It’s about big data, the Internet of everything, learning systems, and ongoing integration of new technologies, best practices, and processes. This generation will also be challenged with increasing complexity, higher expectations, growing competition for internal resources, and a changing understanding of reliability and maintenance. TPM can help with those challenges.

As an example of its effectiveness, Nakajima pointed to TPM moving one company from generating 36.8 suggestions/employee/year to 83.6 suggestions/employee/year. My own 2015 study found the average number in North America was 3.2, with a mode of 1.0—and many companies still struggling to get near 1.0. To be fair, it should be noted that TPM counts the numerous small improvements (and larger ones) that many plant-floor cultures aren’t able to establish. Without a robust, continuous-improvement process/culture in place, TPM quickly becomes the most difficult step in lean implementation, with minimized expected results.

In another study of 200 companies, I found RCM/FMEA (reliability centered maintenance/failure modes and effects analysis) was credited for achieving savings four times more often than TPM. Other techniques, i.e., root-cause analysis, 5 Whys, visual aids, and kaizen events, were also credited more than TPM. The same study revealed that more operator involvement resulted in better financial performance. Substantial benefit had already been achieved as a result of operators becoming involved with visual aids (versus also picking up tools).

Around 1953, 20 companies began a research group that became the Tokyo-based Japanese Institute of Plant Maintenance (JIPM). Yet, after TPM began there in the 1970s, it still took nine years for about 23% of Japan’s companies (based on 124 factories belonging to the JIPM) to reach the full phase of the process. To be successful, TPM must be planned and implemented with change management in mind, and consistently applied with a continuous-improvement focus.

For two decades following its introduction, Japanese researchers and practitioners participated in numerous global TPM-related conferences and study trips. (In the early 1990s, I hosted the JIPM on a visit to see a large-scale manufacturing reliability and maintenance implementation and discuss TPM.)

But where in the world is TPM today?

If your North American operation has fully implemented TPM—and it has worked well for more than 10 years—please contact me. 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


5:24 am
April 11, 2016
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Culture Changed At This Indiana Refinery

The CountryMark refinery, one of only two refineries in the state of Indiana, processes 28,000 barrels of crude oil daily. All images courtesy of CountryMark.

The CountryMark refinery, one of only two refineries in the state of Indiana,
processes 28,000 barrels of crude oil daily. All images courtesy of CountryMark.

A WorkPlace Excellence Program redefines the way CountryMark operates every day and makes maintenance take a back seat to reliability.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

The CountryMark distillate hydrotreater was built in 2006 to meet EPA Utra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel requirements.

The CountryMark distillate hydrotreater was built in 2006 to meet EPA Utra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel requirements.

For 73 years, the Countrymark maintenance team operated in a reactionary mode—and they were good at it.

In a crucially competitive market, the Mount Vernon, IN, oil-refinery leadership team realized the operation needed a complete overhaul to streamline processes, get control of inventory, and optimize workflow. Through a carefully conceived and well-executed plan, it is making a 180-degree switch to a predictive and preventive structure that has already increased production, decreased equipment failure, and saved costs.

Pat Ward, CountryMark’s vice president of Operations, is the corporate sponsor of the company’s WorkPlace Excellence Program, an idea that was born in 2008 and put into action in early 2013. Ward said he knew that one day CountryMark would have an interesting before-and-after story to tell.

“I would describe the ‘before’ maintenance program as classic reactionary—something would break and we would fix it,” Ward said. “Our craft people are very skilled and very knowledgeable about our equipment so, in this reactive structure, it is a testimony to them that we were as productive as we were. You can be very good at fixing things, but working in a reactive way comes at a very high cost.”

CountryMark operates one of only two refineries in Indiana and processes 28,000 barrels of crude oil every day while producing 450 million gal. of high-quality gasoline and diesel fuel each year. On the logistics side, trucks pick up crude from tank farms and deliver it to the refinery or to another tank on the pipeline system that gathers the crude from a three-state area. On the finished-product side, a distribution system includes a pipeline that connects terminals in Indiana where the finished product is sold.

A vital benchmark in the oil and gas industry is availability. CountryMark ranks high in this category worldwide as one of the most available facilities from an equipment standpoint.

“This is important to the manufacturer because it means you can capture most of the margin available,” Ward explained. “That’s how you win or lose in our business. If you have availability in your equipment and your process, then you can succeed. But we were doing this in a very reactive and expensive way.”

The goal was to maintain the high availability while driving down the cost and managing the risks effectively. However, arbitrarily cutting cost and putting the availability at risk could never be the answer. “We had to find a way to work differently. It was a question of committing the people, the funding, and the changes in our system so we could implement something better.”

Developing the program

CountryMark’s leadership fully invested in the WorkPlace Excellence Program. Proactive and preventive maintenance training began several years ago with consulting firm Life Cycle Engineering (LCE), Charleston, SC. Coaches were brought in to train leaders in four focus areas:

  • operations improvement
  • work management
  • reliability engineering
  • materials management.

Two systems were targeted for replacement or an upgrade. The CMMS system needed to be replaced and the financial-management system upgraded. The enterprise system existed, but it needed an upgrade to accommodate the new maintenance-management system software interface and inventory module.

The first step was preparing the organization for the change, with extensive training and multiple teams defining the work process in the four focus areas. In addition to key skills training, the teams included a combination of planners, craftsmen, frontline supervisors, maintenance managers, warehouse workers, and operators who were all involved in mapping out more than 30 new work processes.

Ward put EAM manager Mike Willman in charge. The LCE coaches for each of the four focus teams began working full force in February 2014.

Left. The CountryMark refinery, as seen from a plane that flies over the company's pipeline system every two weeks, checking for any potential problems in the company's pipeline system.

The CountryMark refinery, as seen from a plane that flies over the company’s pipeline system every two weeks, checking for any potential problems in the company’s pipeline system.

Putting the plan in motion

EAM coordinator Leslie Alton became the guardian of the program and the champion of change.

“We had used Excel spreadsheets for years,” Alton said. “But we had outgrown that program. We started working on gathering all the documentation and taking pictures of each of the objects (assets) and gathering their specifications. We now have close to 45,000 documents for all the assets. It is a fantastic equipment library that required 10 to12 people several years to compile.”

CountryMark graduated to a progressive software system. “It allows us to break everything down to the asset level, but we can roll it up based on equipment types or units,” she said. “This gives us granularity of how much an asset is costing us.”

The company’s assets include pumps, seals, motors—whatever is required to process crude into sellable products. However, 45,000 documents does not equal 45,000 assets. There are about 10,000 assets identified currently.

Alton’s role is to guide the program, identify roadblocks and opportunities, and make them visible so the best solution can be created.

Focus teams

The four focus teams are cross-functional, self-directed, and responsible for executing the master plan. They include site workers with diverse skills and abilities. The teams evaluate processes to identify opportunities for improvement and train in best practices.

Below. CountryMark employees work to optimize refinery operations while ensuring the health and safety of all workers.

CountryMark employees work to optimize refinery operations while ensuring the health and safety of all workers.

Operations improvement

The key component of this focus is making sure operations is inspecting equipment and identifying issues before failure occurs. Equipment-care rounds happen four times during a 12-hr.  shift.

There is a crucial relationship between operations and maintenance. Operators write most of the work requests because they are working with the equipment 24 hr./day, 365 days/year.

“When the equipment isn’t performing as well as it should, operators write a work request that has to be clear and succinct. In the new system they can sort through it to be sure someone else hasn’t already submitted it,” Ward said. “We didn’t have this previously. Operators also set the work priority. If it is an emergency, such as an equipment breakdown, this becomes a number-one priority. We break into the schedule in this case. If there are too many emergencies, then you are not doing very well in terms of cost management and efficiency.”

Operators are the first line of defense in terms of equipment care, so they sometimes perform maintenance tasks. They can also monitor the equipment and provide insight to prevent future issues. 

Work management

The work-management team ensures that all maintenance work is identified, planned, scheduled, and completed in a way that optimizes resources. Once the work is planned, materials are kitted and made ready for the craftsmen. Maintenance includes four planners (one for each craft), a scheduler, 36 craftsmen, and maintenance manager Randy Yeida, who has been with CountryMark since 1990.

Craftsmen are divided into four specialties—pipe fitters and certified welders, electrical and instrument shop, rotating equipment, and the craft shop (carpenters, insulators, general maintenance). Yeida meets with the maintenance supervisors every morning to discuss the schedule. The craftsmen are then assigned to work orders.

“We continue to try to be more preventive than reactive,” Yeida said. “Before, we were doing 30% to 35% emergency work. It’s been a culture change to go the other way. The goal now is to be less than 10% emergency work. Right now we are at about 20%.”

Planning the work makes the difference. Maintenance planners plan the jobs and ensure the parts are available before each job is assigned. Material-management kits the parts. “When the craftsmen go to work on a job, the tools are ready, the parts are ready, and the job is ready to be performed,” Yeida said. “This makes them more efficient.”

The maintenance team is responsible for more than 10,000 pieces of equipment, including pumps, motors, instrumentation, automation, transmitters, control valves, and other components. They work a regular 8-hr., Monday through Friday schedule, but analyzer technicians are on 12-hr. shifts with operators.

CountryMark pipeline welders help maintain the integrity of the company's pipeline systems in the tri-state area. This ensures that the necessary crude oil reaches the refinery and finished products travel safely to terminals to be picked up by CountryMark member owners.

CountryMark pipeline welders help maintain the integrity of the company’s pipeline systems in the tri-state area. This ensures that the necessary crude oil reaches the refinery and finished products travel safely to terminals to be picked up by CountryMark member owners.

Reliability engineering

This reliability engineering area of focus involves reducing failures. Fewer failures mean less repairs and reduced downtime. Equipment is assigned a criticality and ranking that drives preventive/predictive maintenance and spare-part inventory decisions.

Repeat failures are investigated to find ways to engineer out the cause. Maintenance tries to prevent the failure.

“First, you plan and schedule and get efficient in the maintenance work, which raises the cost effectiveness of your crafts and reduces the backlog of work,” Ward said. “But the big win is when you can eliminate defects or failures completely. In planning and scheduling, the craftsmen capture the reasons for failure and record the work they did to repair it. This generates a rich history of equipment performance from failures, which is then available to reliability engineers who identify ways to eliminate the failures.”

Materials management

The materials-management team ensures that the right materials are in the right place at the right time with acceptable quality and at the optimal cost to support planned and unplanned maintenance work. It involves purchasing, kitting, and consolidating storage locations. Since the program began, storage locations have decreased from 48 to five. More than 600 pumps and thousands of other components were entered into the new CMMS system, organized, and relocated.

This program streamlined the massive inventory. With the help of the planners and kitting process, the craftsmen and foremen can now focus on critical maintenance work. The turnaround time for jobs has significantly decreased. The team created a system where all purchase orders are processed and monitored for future use. Now there is a visibility of repairs and job histories.

Read more about the refinery’s materials-management program here.

CountryMark employs more than 500 highly skilled maintenance and reliability professionals.

CountryMark employs more than 500 highly skilled maintenance and reliability professionals.

The transition

The company understands that developing and implementing this program is a multi-year effort if they want it to be sustainable. There is confidence that the broad group of professionals with different work skills can map it out in a way that is comprehensive and understandable.

“The maintenance work we are doing today is what we did in the past,” Ward said. “We just used to do it in our heads, and we did it 50 different ways—and often after the fact. Now we have one process. It works more smoothly and all the different players do their part. The enabling part was to take some people out of the craft line and teach them to be good planners. This was a 100% culture change.”

The process is precise, but it is also fluid. Feedback and positive change is constantly encouraged.   

“If you have 35 work processes to follow every day, it’s really important that you stay disciplined with following it,” Ward said. “Leslie audits the system. She actually goes out into the field to see how we are planning and executing all the pieces. She makes sure everything is actually flowing the way it should. If it’s not, we improve the process. We get input from people from the field, bring it back, make the change in the process, then go back and implement the change.”

A refinery-management team meets on a regular basis to review recommended changes that will lead to improvement.

The after picture

Deep into the WorkPlace Excellence Program, a typical day at the CountryMark refinery now begins with operations performing care rounds. If something small and manageable needs repair (something that won’t shut down production or cause a health or safety risk) the job is assigned a 3, 4, or 5 priority so the job can be planned. Then it goes through work approval.

The planners then take over and create the needed work orders. They identify the crafts involved and determine the amount of time it will take. If parts are needed, they make sure they are available or parts are ordered. When all tools and parts are kitted, the job is scheduled with careful coordination between operations and maintenance.

The planned work schedule for the following week is posted on Friday and all kits are delivered before the Monday workweek begins. Then the craftsmen perform the jobs and enter the details into the system (including fault and failure codes), creating a useful work history. The planner checks the work order and closes it. Reliability professionals can then analyze key details such as mean time between failures.

If it is an emergency job—priority 1 or 2—the schedule must be interrupted to make the necessary repairs.

“In the world we live in today, after a year of implementation, everyone can write a work request,” Ward said. “If approved, operations sets priorities, and the work is planned. If there is a pump that we have to tear down and replace the bearings, for instance, the planner will walk down the job and then electronically step out each task. They determine the type of labor, the manpower, and the materials needed for each task. Only when the plan is completed and materials are on hand do we put the work on the schedule.”

Many key performance indicators are measured in the new system, Yeida said. These include metrics on schedule compliance, PM compliance, planned work vs. actual work, emergency work, priority percentages, scheduled vs. available, available craftsmen, and ready-to schedule jobs.

The culture change

With every change, training is required. People must be trained on processes, but it is also important that they can understand why the change has happened and buy in.

Alton said she remembers a specific moment when she could see a shift in attitude. The pump shop previously had hundreds of bins for the 600-plus pumps. Many of the materials were redundant, and no one knew what was in stock or where it was located. The pump-shop planners had been using the bin system for decades and they were accustomed to using them.

One pump-shop planner, Jeff Goad, was resistant to embrace the new system, Alton remembered. However, he worked with the materials-management team to ensure that all the pump parts were identified. “He came in one day and was just amazed that he could finally identify the parts he needed, and know where they were stored because now there was visibility,” Alton said. “He said, ‘This is so much better than those grey bins we used to have.’ He is now leading the charge for maintenance procedures for rotating equipment. He now understands and recognizes that we must have the PMs inside the system to ensure we are improving the reliability. The system is working.”

Ward saw the shift in culture change when warehouseman Larry Conyers bought into the new system. He had worked in the warehouse for 30 years. “We got into the reorganization and migrating to the new computer system. When they made the change to his warehouse, Larry literally went on vacation because he couldn’t watch the change. We were changing the way he had done things for three decades. Often, people in a situation like this will not survive, but Larry is a survivor and is now one of the leaders of the entire system. With time, the light bulb went off and he realized the system works. This realization helped him to become the champion he is today.”

At first, the planners were a bit overwhelmed, Ward said. “They knew how to plan work because they were good craftsmen. But it took time to adjust to sitting at a computer and planning a job for a fellow craftsman. In the beginning, we were planning just a handful of jobs a week. The thought of planning all the work seemed daunting. They learned quickly that even the smallest plan can be a journey. It takes several years to really perfect it. They thought they were wasting time to do this. But in the end, they saved time. Now we create 300 to 400 plans per month.”

Yeida has also seen the shift in culture among his maintenance team. “We must work on this on an ongoing basis, and it takes a while to see results,” Yeida said. “I had one guy who was kind of a naysayer, but he got called in in the middle of the night to work on a job. He said, ‘Man, we should have done this years ago. I got here and all the parts were ready, and I was ready to do the job. It didn’t take long to complete it, and I was able to go home early. The system is working.’ This is cool, because then they tell their buddies.”

Ward agreed that word of mouth can be powerful. “The energy it takes to move the organization forward is huge,” he said. “It must be sustained because there will be setbacks. Some individuals never get to that epiphany, but for most, they do. And when they do, they bring others with them.”

The key to sustainability, according to Ward, is actively managing the work process, finding better ways to work, and training, and to frequently review the suite of metrics to chart the progress.

“We still are in implementation,” he said. “We still have some people who are just now catching on. It’s kind of like a marathon—some people are already finished while some are just starting. But this is becoming how we work. It’s new. It’s different. But we have burned the ships, and we are not going back.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She has covered the industrial processing industries for nine years. If you would like Michelle to tell your maintenance and reliability story, contact her at

Co-Op System—Local Ownership, Local Impact

CountryMark has been a farmer-owned cooperative since 1919 and is the 12th largest agricultural co-op in the U.S. It is owned and controlled by member cooperatives that are owned and controlled by farmers or local agricultural producers. The cooperative’s products and services are available to the public, and co-op members are also customers.

Patronage profits are returned to members, distributed in proportion to business volume. CountryMark profits remain in local communities to support local economies.

The company supplies fuel to member cooperatives in Indiana that distribute the premium-quality fuels through a network of more than 100 retail fuel stations, as well as more than 200 petroleum tank-wagon and transport routes. CountryMark Advantage Lubricants are distributed to member cooperatives in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky.

CountryMark products fuel an estimated 65% of Indiana farmers and power about 50% of the buses that deliver children to school each day within the CountryMark trade area.

The CountryMark Process

CountryMark is an American-owned oil exploration, production, refining, and marketing company. It is the largest buyer of Illinois Basin crude oil, which is sourced from the oil fields of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. The oil is then refined to the highest specifications at the CountryMark refinery in Mount Vernon, IN.

Fuel quality is protected as it travels north along a 238-mile private pipeline. State-of-the-art blending technology at each CountryMark fuel terminal ensures that biodiesel and ethanol blended fuels are formulated for optimal driving performance and winter operability.

CountryMark also produces a complete line of high-quality lubricants, and it carries API-certified TerraCair diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). CountryMark fuels, lubricants, and DEF are delivered daily to farms, fleets, and families across the Midwest, and are available at more than 100 CountryMark-branded fueling stations. More than 65% of Indiana farmers and 50% of Indiana school corporations are powered by CountryMark fuels.

CountryMark’s upstream business includes a team of petroleum-exploration professionals, geologists, production engineers, drilling specialists, and reservoir managers. CountryMark’s oil-exploration and production group manage 1,400 oil wells in six states producing 3,500 barrels of oil each day. 


4:59 am
April 11, 2016
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She Ignores The Glass Ceiling

Rendela Wenzel works in the office and in the field as a reliability engineer with Eli Lilly and Co.

Rendela Wenzel works in the office and in the field as a reliability engineer with Eli Lilly and Co.

Rendela Wenzel is a reliability star in a global arena.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 1.51.50 PMRendela Wenzel approaches each maintenance issue like a CSI investigator. “I love to understand how things work and explore the mystery behind equipment failures,” she said. “The main difference between a police detective and me is that I investigate and fix machines, not people.”

A global consultant engineer, Wenzel uses every tool in her toolbox. However, her most effective tools are experience, analytical thinking, training, and a belief that every option should be exhausted.

“Let’s say we have a bearing issue. I can look at the peaks and tell you how many side bands there are and what frequencies are off,” said Wenzel, who specializes in maintenance-and-reliability engineering for Eli Lilly, headquartered in Indianapolis. “I can pinpoint the approximate amount of life left in the bearing. I can tell you if the lubrication was adequate. We can use thermography to look at the heat signature. Like a CSI investigator, I go in and examine all the details, then troubleshoot a problem from the inside out.”

Her first step is to take a look at the body. “You can’t do an investigation without the body. Instead of a body, I have a piece of equipment,” she said. “The chalk line is drawn, and they bring me the part. They may bring the bearing or the pulley or the whole pump. We have an area in predictive maintenance where they will go in and cut those apart. We then write tech reports and give it to management. It’s like a police investigation, and I get to do all the reporting around it.

A woman in a man’s world

Wenzel’s enthusiasm for diagnosing and repairing machines started at an early age. Born into a working class, blue-collar family in Terre Haute, IN, Wenzel earned a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN, and became the first person in her family to attend and graduate from college. Her father worked on a manufacturing line at Pillsbury, and her mother worked from home as a cake decorator.

“Growing up without a whole lot, I learned to make do and get creative,” Wenzel said. “I spent a lot of time working with my hands and fixing things. I would fix bicycles, tinker with cars, and I would build things from wood.”

Her original aspirations were to fly airplanes and become an astronaut. This would require military service and an engineering education.

“I like the theory side of engineering, but I also like working with my hands. It helps me to understand things better,” she said. “What I love about what I do with reliability engineering is I can go out and work with the crafts. Then I can write the report. I interface with higher levels of management, craftsmen, and engineering personnel, and travel to different sites and help them solve problems.”

Rendela Wenzel served in the U.S. Army as a Captain and Quarter Master Company Commander.

Rendela Wenzel served in the U.S. Army as a Captain and Quarter Master Company Commander.

She gained early management experience as a Captain and Quarter Master Company Commander in the U. S. Army and as a maintenance engineer and supervisor at Chrysler and International Truck and Engine Corp.

Now, in her 13th year with Eli Lilly, Wenzel designs and implements programs, then facilitates the reliability discussions and onsite failure analysis for the company’s 21 manufacturing sites in 13 countries.

Being a female in a male-dominated industry was tough at first, she said, but she adapted quickly.

“There’s been some good and some bad and some ugly,” she said. “My first experience out of college was with Chrysler in 1997. Entering a leadership role in a foundry was intimidating. There was one forklift driver. We called him “Tramp.” He saw me and said ‘Sweetheart, are you lost?’ I said, ‘No, I’m your boss.’ He was an older gentleman and had never had a woman supervisor in 40 years in the industry. He and I became fast friends, and he was one of our best employees.”

Wenzel experienced the metaphoric glass ceiling quickly, but didn’t let it stop her. “There can be a disparity, especially among engineers, as you rise in the ranks,” she said. “The more experience I get and the older I get, I find I’m held to a higher standard. It’s just that much tougher, but it is an adjustment you make with time. It becomes a part of your personality and a part of who you are. I believe strongly that I should not be given a position because I am a female. Give me the position because I’m qualified and the best person for the position.”

A natural transition

A common practice with many motor manufacturers, Chrysler had a philosophy of having engineers spend a few years on the floor in management to learn how the business works from a grass-roots level, Wenzel recalled. “This helped me to learn how to manage people and also manage assets,” she said.

At International Truck and Engine, Wenzel wrote her own job description as the company embraced an environment of reliability and predictive-maintenance. “They told me to find out what these technologies are and then bring them back to the company,” Wenzel said.

Her title of mechanical engineer was transitioned to reliability engineer. She implemented an oil-analysis predictability training program that included vibration, oil, and thermography.

“At International, it was in a union environment, so it had a different spin,” Wenzel said. “I had to learn how to troubleshoot equipment without touching it. Only the craftsmen could touch the equipment. I had to learn how to explain to them how to fix something instead of touching it and fixing it myself like I had always done. There were times when they would ask ‘What do you mean?’ I would explain how the item worked, then ask them to tell me from a mechanical standpoint how to fix it. We would then create a hybrid approach. It was very interesting to learn how to communicate it instead of doing it. It was like working with one arm. But I got very good at it, which has helped me in my current position because I sometimes have to help fix problems all over the world over the phone.”

Eli Lilly’s worldwide operations require onsite support. Wenzel writes and implements policy and procedures that create global quality standards and engineering functional standards.

In-depth analyses are performed at each site to ensure global guidance from corporate headquarters in Indianapolis is followed. From the Global Center of Excellence, Wenzel’s group handles materials-management, planning and scheduling, reliability, and maintenance-management functions.

Wenzel works with a variety of pharmaceutical-grade equipment, including bulk pharma pumps, tanks, agitators, vacuum dryers, chromatography columns, vacuum units, and buffer systems.

“There is a lot going on that affects the chemistry inside that tank,” she said. “I may not understand the chemistry inside that tank, but I understand the facets of the mechanisms needed to deliver it. Everything is clean and well maintained. We are very mindful of patient safety. With everything you do, you have to remember that this could be for your husband, or for your wife, or for your child. That is something culturally that is on the minds of everyone.”

The craftsmen at Eli Lilly are extremely meticulous, Wenzel said, and the environment is especially clean. “I have worked in very dirty environments, and I’ve worked in very clean environments,” she noted. “It really affects the attitudes of the craftspeople toward the equipment.

According to Wenzel, she could give Eli Lilly’s craftsmen a piece of stock steel and they could turn it into a chandelier. “They are not parts changers,” she said. “They are true artisans.”

M&R philosophy

Wenzel’s responsibilities include running reports combined with field work.

“I don’t always do bars, and charts, and statistics,” she said. “I still love the one-on-one type of equipment repair. I don’t like to just sit at my desk all the time and run numbers that tell me something. I like to prove those numbers in the field. Metrics are great, but we can get wrapped up in what doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get considered. I am on board with that, but there are unforeseen consequences that we cannot always recognize. We have energy costs and travel time with crafts and opportunity costs that cause issues. That doesn’t always show up in the numbers. You have to get in the field and meet with the people and understand what their day looks like. What does their wrench time look like?”

As a site engineer, Wenzel was in the field every day. Now, her global role combines phone with on-site support.

Wenzel believes strongly in PM optimization strategies that include the crafts. By training them to be more predictive, the maintenance team gets more throughput, which means more medicine to the customer and increased market share. “It’s all about delivering to the patient what the patient needs.”

Wenzel has developed and implemented predictive-maintenance programs worldwide that include understanding vibration, oil, thermography, and ultrasonics, but it also includes compiling and interpreting data.

As a coach and mentor of junior engineers, she helps them understand how reliability is central to business, then how to sell this philosophy to senior management.

Making a difference

Wenzel said she is especially proud of a predictive-maintenance program she designed and implemented for Building 130 in Indianapolis. It involves cross-training technicians and craftsmen who were interested in the reliability tech world. She saved money from other programs and applied the extra funds to cost-justify the training program.

“We were able to create a whole area of PdM technicians, as well as craftsmen,” she said. “I took them through a ‘crawl, walk, run’ and they learned and helped me develop the routes and the format to follow. They took on the challenge of building the website and tracking their data. They wrote the work orders and showed me the savings. They ran this program that took two years to conceive and implement. It was a shared learning experience—a unique mentoring and coaching experience for me, and it was great to see them take ownership.”

Wenzel coached the team on how to cost-justify and write reports. She also trained them on how to present the reports to management. Wenzel has also developed and implemented pump training courses at Eli Lilly.

From the company’s Manufacturing Quality Learning Center (MQLC) in Indianapolis, where the focus is on success factors and internal training, she drives the global pump, vacuum-pump, mechanical-seal, and basic and advanced lubrication fundamentals training programs.

Pump trainers have cutaways of vacuum pumps and can instruct students about function, factors to monitor, and why temperature is so important. The four-hour hands-on course trains on different types of pumps, failure modes, example PMs, predictive strategies, vibration, and pump specification.

Multiple roles in multiple industries

Wenzel’s experience spans many roles in a variety of industries. Each one provides the opportunity to learn.

“As a senior-level engineer, you have to be able to influence without direct reports. I must be able to operate as a manager, but without the overhead responsibility of managing those people,” she explained. “That also has its limitations—to influence those people technically without being in charge of them. In a global world, you must be able to influence and get the agenda across, and implement programs at each site, even when everyone is so culturally different.”

From a managerial standpoint, Wenzel has acquired experience as an operations and maintenance-team leader. “In the cleaning room of the foundry at Chrysler, I had to manage the operations personnel, but I also had the maintenance responsibility of keeping it all running and getting things ready for the next shift,” she said. “So I was constantly faced with the question, ‘Do I run it, or do I fix it?’ It’s an interesting position to be in. But I learned to communicate to both operations and maintenance directors on the importance of running an asset as well as when to perform preventive maintenance. I learned when to run something and when to fix something, and why that’s important.”

Wenzel said she works hard to help people understand the difference between maintenance and reliability.

“A lot of people think maintenance and reliability are the same thing, but they are not,” she said. “Maintenance is short term, and day to day. Reliability is a long-term focus toward sustainment.

As Wenzel describes it, she talks to managers who have substantial heartburn about “all this voodoo stuff we call predictive maintenance. They ask why this is needed when they have a guy who rides a white horse and can come out and fix things,” she said. “I pull from my maintenance and operations experience and can speak to why it’s so important to be proactive.” MT

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

1604fvoice01pRendela’s Top 5 Tips

  • Have multiple technologies tell you the same thing before taking an asset out of service.
  • Exhaust all options—no matter how crazy.
  • Involve your crafts people and make them feel empowered.
  • Take time to write down your successes in a technical format.
  • Never stop learning.


3:39 am
April 11, 2016
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Loadability Studies Aid PRC-025-1 Compliance

Regulatory requirements governing Bulk Electric System (BES) power-generation owners and operators are expected to significantly increase the volume of work related to analyzing, implementing, and testing protective relays at sites.

Regulatory requirements governing Bulk Electric System (BES) power-generation owners and operators are expected to significantly increase the volume of work related to analyzing, implementing, and testing protective relays at sites.

While Bulk Electric System power-generation facilities have until 2019 to conform to the PRC-025-1 standard, early adopters can begin capturing a range of benefits now.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

In August 2003, an electric power blackout across the northeast United States and Ontario, Canada, affected an estimated 50 million people. Analysis of this and other major disturbances over the past 25 years has revealed generators tripped for conditions that did not pose a direct risk to those units and associated equipment.

As a result, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), Atlanta, created the PRC-025-1 Generator Relay Loadability Standard. According to Steve Nollette, supervising engineer for Emerson Network Power’s Electrical Reliability Services, Columbus, OH, the intent of the standard is to increase grid stability during system disturbances by reducing unnecessary tripping of generators or the number of “misoperations” caused by incorrect settings, logic, or design errors.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Washington, has launched a campaign designed to reduce misoperations by 25%, including implementation of standardized setting methodologies such as PRC-025-1, which is currently enforceable.

Bulk Electric System (BES) generation facilities, according to the NERC definition, are required to conform to PRC-025-1 by October 2019. Nollette explained that, while this seems like ample time, facilities should begin planning a loadability study now to reap the following benefits associated with early adoption and, thus, avoid the costly consequences of delay or noncompliance.

Better access to engineering resources. As regulatory requirements governing operations continue to change, single generation sites that operate with limited engineering resources may need assistance from external or outsourced resources such as contractors, who can perform the highly technical tasks needed to meet the new regulatory requirements. While multi-site generation entities often already utilize an engineering team specializing in matters pertaining to NERC compliance, they may also need assistance due to the volume of work related to analyzing, implementing, and testing all of their protective relays.

“The economic laws of supply and demand dictate that, as a deadline approaches and more generation plants rush to seek out contract assistance, the available supply of contractors and engineering firms will dwindle,” Nollette said. “This translates into higher costs and potentially lower quality. Early adopters will have access to greater engineering resources at lower costs.”

Less business interruption. For generation sites that have completed a system assessment and require changes to the load-sensitive protective relay settings, implementation and testing will need to be scheduled, requiring a maintenance outage. When a loadability study is performed earlier, there is a greater ability to schedule the implementation and testing during a planned outage rather than having to schedule a separate maintenance outage. Nollette explained that planned outages are typically part of a forecast and budget while unplanned maintenance outages typically incur additional unexpected costs and are disruptive to normal operations.

More time for special cases. In some instances, an existing relay system may not be capable of using the settings required by NERC PRC-025-1. In these special cases, the deadline for compliance is extended by two years to allow retrofit of the existing protective-relay system. As Nollette pointed out, this is a significant engineering effort that is best performed carefully, with sufficient time and resources. Early adopters will have the benefit of adequate time to plan, budget, engineer, remove, install, and test the new protective relays.

Planning, executing loadability studies

The complexity and amount of effort required to perform a generator loadability study, according to PRC-025-1, can vary widely depending upon system design, configuration, age, and documentation. Generation facilities should already be developing plans of action to meet the compliance deadline.

Start by determining if outside engineering help is needed. It’s likely that most generator owners (GOs) and generator operators (GOPs) already understand the make-up of their technical resources. Determining if external resources are needed to supplement compliance efforts could be as simple as not having enough staff for the number of facilities requiring assessment.

Determine the scope of your study. “Most engineers, facing PRC-025-1 compliance considerations for the first time, will need to exert significant time and effort to learn the new standard and how it applies to their site,” Nollette said. “To determine the scope of their efforts, GOs and GOPs need to evaluate which of their protective relays require analysis and how close they are to compliance.”

The first step in determining the scope is to gather generation-unit data, which will be used throughout the assessment process. Collecting this basic generation-unit information will provide a preview for the amount of work that will be needed. 

Nollette stated that required information can be found in the following documents: one-line drawings, three-line drawings, protective relay settings, relay test reports, and component nameplates.


Fig. 1. Typical synchronous generator protective-relay system. To help with determining how the standard applies to a given plant, the PRC-025-1 application guidelines illustrate a comprehensive protective relay scheme for a generation unit.

To help with determining how the standard applies to a given plant, the PRC-025-1 application guidelines illustrate a comprehensive protective-relay scheme for a generation unit. However, not all relays illustrated will necessarily exist in every system (see Fig. 1).

Once the generation system protective relays have been sorted into the appropriate options, as seen in Fig. 1, the remaining necessary information is gathered to assess each protective relay’s compliance. This information is also found within the documentation initially gathered for the generation unit data.

Table I. Comparison of Option A to Software Simulation

Table I. Comparison of Option A to Software Simulation

Understand the options available for compliance. NERC PRC-025-1 provides multiple options for setting load-responsive protective relays, as outlined in Attachment 1, Table I of the application guidelines. Each relay may have as many as three options available. Option A is the simplest to apply, but generally results in a less-accurate assessment. Software simulation, referred to as either Option B or Option C in the application guidelines, is more accurate because it models the machine’s reactive-power capability using field forcing simulations.

Compare nameplate data and relay settings with the PRC-025-1 standard to determine compliance. GOs must determine whether or not protective relays within the generation unit meet compliance requirements. The process of comparing as-found settings with the standard will require relay-specific information such as instrument transformer ratios and protective-relay pickup and/or tap values.

Start assessment process early and allot enough time for corrective actions. Whether determining the reactive power rating through conservative calculation (Option A) or through software simulation, corrective actions will likely need to be taken. Actions will include scheduling an outage for the implementation, testing, and documentation of the relay setting changes—all of which can take significant time to complete.

“No matter which compliance option is chosen, any changes to the existing settings should be carefully reviewed by the original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) and the protection engineers who are responsible for upstream coordination, prior to implementation,” Nollette said.

Compile all information to complete the demonstration report. A thorough report for generator loadability will contain all information that was gathered during the assessment phase, supportive calculations from PRC-025-1 application guidelines, results from the software simulations (if performed), and documentation of any corrective actions and testing.

According to Nollette, assimilating reporting characteristics that make the auditing process efficient will contribute to a successful audit with the Electrical Reliability Organization (ERO). Reporting methods that support a searchable document, a linked table of contents, bookmarking, and embedded links to supporting documentation should be an integral part of the demonstration report, Nollette explained.

Achieving NERC PRC-025-1 compliance requires a concerted effort. GOs or GOPs will need to rely heavily on either internal or external engineering
resources, especially when moving beyond the conservative calculations used in Option A to more-accurate software simulations. While these simulations take more time to execute, they ultimately require fewer setting changes for better protection. Nollette concluded that a well-executed compliance plan rewards generating entities with a protected and more stable system and grid.

Steve Nollette is a supervising engineer for Emerson Network Power, Electrical Reliability Services, Columbus, OH. He has more than 20 years of experience performing and managing electrical testing, maintenance, and engineering services.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To help facilities streamline the loadability study process, Emerson’s Electrical Reliability Services team has created a tool that automates the process of comparing settings with standard requirements. Download it at For additional assistance, email or visit