Archive | Asset Management


10:30 pm
May 17, 2016
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Podcast | Which Industries are Ripe for IIoT Adoption?

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Excerpts from the podcast:

Rio: Recently I wrote a case story about a company with 50 oil rigs, and part of the process of extracting oil and gas out of the ground involves cleaning the gas so it can be sold. This cleaning of the gas involves a compressor. What happens is the hydrocarbons in the dirty gas will accumulate on the compressor blades and eventually cause an unplanned failure. In the case of BHP Billiton, they implemented an IOT solution that involved extracting data from the sensors on the compressor, putting it into a cloud applications, applying some analytics on top of that, and then they could use that to predict failure, they could predict it out as much as six months.

Rio: The OEM’s provide these asset-monitoring services. What’s essentially happening is the maintenance of the equipment being outsourced, or some portion of the maintenance is being outsourced to the OEM. This of course starts to make sense with the more complicated pieces of equipment at least initially, and broader later on. This is opening new opportunities for maintenance departments to do a better job of providing high up-time with the equipment.


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


4:02 pm
April 6, 2016
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White Paper | Predictive Analytics for Power Plants

Power producers are encountering many changes to their business model and remote monitoring — along with predictive analytics — is an attractive value proposition to end users. GE’s Predix platform offers SmartSignal, a software system that models historian plant data and constructs anomaly data to measure current conditions at a power plant. The modeling is called Variable Similarity-Based Modeling (VBM) technology and can be teamed up with GE’s Industrial Performance and Reliability Center (IPRC) to provide a comprehensive reliability solution.

This white paper introduces key concepts from the SmartSignal software and examines three power plant case studies.

Read White Paper >>

Maintenance Technology’s IIoT page | Find out more about edge computing and other proactive maintenance approaches. 


6:36 pm
February 8, 2016
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Manage Assets from Cradle to Cradle

Today’s design approach enables most OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to realize improved reliability and efficiency with leaner (less built-in redundancy) design-load factors close to par.

Today’s design approach enables most OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to realize improved reliability and efficiency with leaner (less built-in redundancy) design-load factors close to par.

Moving out of the traditional ‘cradle-to-grave’ mode has significant benefits for your operations, and may already be a corporate must-do.

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

In the past, our cradle-to-grave life spans would have been divided into three distinct phases: birth and formative years, productive years, and end of life. Medical advances over the past two-plus decades, however, have been helping humans “live on” in others through post-mortem tissue and organ donations. This ability to repurpose/recycle ourselves has created a fourth stage of existence, allowing us to progress from a “cradle-to-grave” life cycle to a “cradle-to-cradle” (C2C) model.

Humans, though, still have little control over our conception, and as “finished products,” we are never perfect. Granted, with diligence, reasonable life-style choices, and attention to health and safety, people can be extremely productive for a long time. Our plants’ physical assets, including machinery and facilities, could be more so. With them, we can exercise control from concept through production, to disposal and beyond, through recycle or refurbishment.

Physical assets prior to the 1970s were typically “robust-built.” With design-load factors as high as 1.5, they were capable of absorbing significant abuse and overloading before failure occurred. Since that time, technological advances have led to more-complex designs and “purpose-built” assets loaded with on-board diagnostic capabilities. Today’s design approach enables most OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers) to realize improved reliability and efficiency with leaner (less built-in redundancy) design-load factors.

More recently, asset design and operating elements have been challenged to take into account not only an asset’s ambient operating conditions, but also its lifetime carbon-footprint impact. An asset’s carbon footprint reflects a C2C approach by factoring in lifetime consumable-resource use that includes energy (fuel), lubricants, and water, as well as the impact of materials used in the asset’s manufacture, effluent discharge from the production process, and how the asset and its components will be recycled/repurposed at the end of their lives. The emphasis on carbon footprint and how equipment is designed, operated, and disposed/recycled have moved operations from the cradle-to-grave-style approach of the past to today’s more environmentally sensitive and efficient C2C asset-management approach.

Key strategies and tactics to be addressed and employed when implementing C2C asset life-cycle management can be defined by five elements: design, operational, maintenance, performance, and disposal/recycle.


When asset designers or architects first put pen to paper (or hands to CAD programs) for new projects, they’re usually working toward an end-user specification. This specification is usually wrought through a combination of customer surveys and actual client specification requests (all based on the customers’ understanding of their requirements—be it good or bad) and the designer’s knowledge of engineering, maintenance, the production process, and typically encountered ambient-condition factors. When budget is also factored in, however, many designs can be highly compromised. If specifications are too vague, and the designer has little experience with maintenance and operation reliability needs, the end product may suffer from built-in redundancy, operational inefficiency, and reduced ability to ensure successful life-cycle management.

The more open designers are to collaborating with end-user engineering, production and, most important, maintenance staffs to build an asset specification and design, the more likely they are to achieve operational reliability, operability, and sustainability—all hallmarks of a successful design. Such thinking is already employed with great success in factories and production lines designed and built to manufacture a product for a specified contract and/or time period after which the line is dismantled and recycled. This approach dictates a very different design mindset that employs maintenance strategies and design elements to include:

Perimeter-based maintenance design. With this approach, an asset is designed to allow the maintainer or operator to perform basic preventive and diagnostic maintenance tasks while the equipment is running. The design includes setting up go/no-go gauging systems to view fluid levels; pressure/flow/temperature indicators; minor mechanical adjustments; filter change-outs; and data-collection-point arrangements for predictive maintenance (PdM) and oil sampling.

Engineered lubrication systems. As much as 70% of rotating-equipment failure is caused by ineffective lubrication systems and practices. Including an engineered centralized lubrication-delivery system with a reservoir that can be filled in a perimeter-based approach will effectively increase bearing and rotating equipment life by as much as three times. Use of engineered lubricants can not only extend lubricant change-out intervals and reduce their associated lubricant-disposal requirements, but also significantly reduce operational energy costs by as much as 18%.

Mistake-proofing (poke-yoke). Designing a device, mechanism, component, sub-assembly, or perishable tooling
system in a fail-safe manner—so it will only operate or go together one way and, for assembly or defect-detection purposes, that there is no confusion as to how the device is to be positioned or used—has been proven to reduce production errors, manufacturing defects, asset downtime, and MTTR (mean time to repair). 

Technology choice. Asset designs that use unproven cutting-edge technology aren’t easily embraced in work environments—especially when the end user has standardized on one or two control-system manufacturers and computer-platforms/architectures. Using proven technology can better position users with regard to spare-parts management and training for operational and maintenance purposes. The decision to adopt new technology must be a wholesale, multi-departmental decision that helps build a life-cycle strategy for training on, using, and maintaining that technology.    

The green machine. An asset’s conceptual and design phases are when its eventual disposal and environmental issues should be considered. Many forward-thinking corporations now mandate that all new equipment must be recyclable upon retirement.

The emphasis on carbon footprint and how equipment is designed, operated, and disposed/recycled have moved operations from the cradle-to-grave-style approach of the past to today’s more environmentally sensitive and efficient C2C asset-management approach.

The emphasis on carbon footprint and how equipment is designed, operated, and disposed/recycled have moved operations from the cradle-to-grave-style approach of the past to today’s more environmentally sensitive and efficient C2C asset-management approach.


Ideally, in a best-practice organization, maintenance works cooperatively with operations to drive continuous improvement initiatives such as RCM (reliability-centered maintenance), CBM (condition-based maintenance), 5S, and lean manufacturing, all of which are designed to maximize throughput and asset-life-cycle longevity. Collaboration in C2C asset management entails decision making in the following areas:

Operation within design specs. In the equipment’s design stage, operational specifications, such as production throughput and operational speeds, are determined. Each time the asset is operated beyond the design parameters, reliability is challenged and asset failure can be accelerated. Operations and maintenance must agree to operate within operational design limits. 

Constraint recognition. Under the theory of constraints, an asset is designated either as a constraint bottleneck or a non-constraint. Bottleneck assets usually operate at maximum design throughput, whereas non-constraint assets will operate at a reduced rate of speed or intermittently due to their built-in redundancy. Recognizing constraints improves maintenance-scheduling requirements.

Autonomous operator maintenance. Both RCM and CBM recognize the value of autonomous operator maintenance. Through basic perimeter-based maintenance engineering and training, standardized routines, and checks can be performed by operations staff and allow maintenance to perform more complex and intensive tasks. Additional benefits include facilitation of operator asset ownership and improved communication between operations and maintenance.

Production-evidence data capture. Successful asset life-cycle management demands a forensic understanding of all equipment failure occurrences. Each time an asset is unavailable because of a forced stoppage or slowdown, the event is recorded and classified. These evidence data are then analyzed to determine the root cause and build asset-management decisions based on facts, not opinions.


Maintenance must work smart, not hard. Employing strategies and tactics that enhance maintenance effectiveness is paramount to maximizing asset effectiveness and longevity:

Reliability-based maintenance. A reliability approach to maintenance requires maintenance to understand which components are more likely to fail, how they will fail, and the consequence of their failure. Following an RCM approach, maintenance can choose a suitable approach to failure prediction and prevention, or decide to allow the component or assembly to run to failure and simply replace. Following RCM ensures maintenance does not cause downtime through ineffective overhaul strategies and preventive maintenance (PM) tactics.

Condition-based scheduling. Moving from a fixed PM/PdM schedule in which preventive/predictive work is scheduled on a fixed calendar or meter basis, to a condition-based approach—which schedules the work based on pre-set condition parameters—is a normal progression toward asset life-cycle management. Maintenance requirements are dependent upon ambient condition factors and how well an asset was assembled during its manufacture. PM/PdM that’s performed in a just-in-time (JIT) fashion is less taxing on maintenance resources and the production asset.  Note that condition-based maintenance demands a disciplined, proactive maintenance-management approach that allows the immediate planning and scheduling of necessary repairs anytime a downtime-threatening event becomes evident.

Purchasing spare parts based on a life-cycle costing (LCC) model. Buying spare parts based on price alone has caused infinite grief and downtime in every organization. Buying spare parts based on quality and reliability first, then price, is mandatory in a life-cycle asset-management approach. Consider the following LCC example. Component A is priced at $100, and fails approximately every three years. Component B is priced at $50, and fails annually. If the maintenance cost of replacement is $200, component A’s replacement cost over three years amounts to $300. Component B’s replacement cost is $750 plus the cost of two additional downtime occurrence losses—which could amount to substantially more.

Standardization. Once reliable components and supply distributors are established, their use can be standardized throughout an organization—and included in any new design. Employing this strategy facilitates spare-part management and decisions based purely on service and life-cycle reliability.


The adage “what gets measured, gets done” applies to the C2C management approach. Concurrent performance measurement of production, maintenance, and human resource (HR) issues will tell a complete story of expectations and the reality of the operational state. Performance measurement vindicates the management approach and exposes improvement opportunities. True performance measurement will include:

Set goals and expectations. Achieving success means you must first define success. Knowing your stakeholders and their objectives is the first step in setting up deliverable goals and expectations for the asset and its management.

Leverage KPIs (key performance indicators). KPIs are the currency of performance measurement and the primary indicators in determining an operational state. Begin with baseline measures and use them, initially, to identify internal areas of strength and improvement opportunities. Overlay the objective goals and expectations to establish the gap analysis from which business-improvement strategies can be mapped.

Use measurement trending. As the asset life-cycle management program, or improvement initiative, is rolled out, the performance measures are gathered on a regular basis and compared with the original baseline, previous measures, and target goals. With three measurement sets, a trend can be plotted to determine either a positive or negative trend for achieving set targets.   

Manage by facts, not opinion. To simultaneously measure the impact of production, maintenance, and HR (training) on a facility and its asset lines and individual asset pieces, we must synergize data collected in our ERP (enterprise resource planning), CMMS (computerized maintenance management software), EAM (enterprise asset-management), and production and other management systems. Through performance measurement, the data are turned into interpretable information that allows management to make decisions based on facts, not opinions.


When an asset no longer serves its purpose, the maintenance department is usually involved in its decommission and disposal/recycle.

Disposal. Asset disposal involves a pre-built workflow/business process that defines which department—and specific people in that department—performs what actions throughout the event. Maintenance is tasked with retiring the asset in the asset-management program and safely managing its records according to corporate record-retention requirements.Preparing the asset for physical disposal calls for maintenance to decommission it by dismantling the equipment and determining which material is salvageable, recyclable, and hazardous, and which is saleable for profit.

Recycling. In a C2C design, the maintenance department will already know what percentage of the asset’s materials are recyclable and how they are to be treated for recycling purposes. Components and base materials are sorted and can be recycled as spares or sold for profit as scrap material. If an asset has completed its initial end-user contract purpose and is still deemed usable, it can be refurbished for reuse and sold whole, providing it doesn’t contain any design issues.

Cradle-to-cradle asset life-cycle management is a highly disciplined strategy involving long-term thinking and harmonization of strategies and tactics. This holistic framework for improving business performance calls for excellent interdepartmental cooperation between engineering, operations, purchasing, and maintenance. MT

Ken Bannister is principal asset-management consultant with EngTech Industries Inc., Innerkip, Ontario, Canada. He has specialized in asset-data-register development, CMMS implementations, and lubrication-management programs for almost three decades. Contact him at


Information Management Strategies to Achieve Collaborative Asset-Lifecycle Management

Take A “CSI” Approach to Asset Management

Extending the Operating Life of Your Motors


1:23 am
November 16, 2015
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Take A “CSI” Approach to Asset Management


The types of analytic, forensic, and diagnostic methods leveraged by various crime-lab sleuths in a long-running television franchise also have value for maintenance organizations in real-world environments.

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

Many maintenance professionals may be fans of the popular CBS television crime series “CSI (Crime Scene Investigation).” Modeled in the classic whodunit format popularized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes character, “CSI” has always used a mix of cutting-edge technology and common sense to quench our quixotic need to provide simple solutions and answers to what are most often complex problems—something that sounds much like conducting troubleshooting procedures in plants. The latest and, reportedly last, iteration of this franchise, “CSI: Cyber,” may be of particular interest to those involved in a site’s overall asset-management activities, given the show’s focus on computer networks and digital information. If you haven’t already, consider taking a page from this world of fiction in your efforts. It could pay great dividends.

Then and now

For decades, maintenance organizations have long prided themselves on their ability to swoop in at a moment’s notice and save the day whenever a breakdown occurred. The 1970s and 80s witnessed a wholesale change in industrial maintenance from a total reactive maintenance model to the commencement of a more preventive and proactive model—largely due to the introduction of computerized maintenance management software (CMMS), an improved understanding of how to prevent machine failure, and a lean approach to work that focused on waste elimination. Unfortunately, many of the maintenance-improvement approaches implemented to date have not evolved to meet the changing needs of today’s industrial environment.

To be sure, most companies have updated and/or changed their CMMS programs and added preventive-maintenance (PM) work orders to the system for new equipment purchases over time. Still, few have actually performed analytics on their CMMS set-up and operation data to determine its validity and ability to allow data-driven decision making.


Marcel Proust, a nineteenth-century novelist stated, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in making new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Analytics are the eyes that allow the compilation of meaningful data for communication purposes from which to make informed asset-management decisions.

A quick, two-part litmus-test procedure for a management system is to perform several basic queries (reports) on the data to see how well it can be mined.

The first test looks for a report on all of the data for the current year and the previous two years to determine what percentage of the maintenance spend was allocated to labor and what percentage to maintenance parts. This information can be further distilled to understand what percentages of the maintenance spend went to internal maintenance staff labor and parts versus outside contract staff labor and parts use.

The second test is to determine, over the same periods of time, the mean time between failure (MTBF) for all assets combined. These figures can then be trended on a simple graph to show the gross maintenance-spend relationship to overall asset reliability. These simple reports allow management to perform a validity test of maintenance spend versus reliability that can be more focused by performing similar reporting on smaller groups of assets, such as manufacturing (product) line, location, equipment type/group, and supervisor, to discover reduced levels of performance and determine key opportunities for improvement. This information can be scrutinized even further to determine if the PM task or schedule is valid. The ability to generate these simple performance reports allows the user to relate the outcome to maintenance processes and convert the data into actionable information.

Alas, many CMMS and enterprise asset management (EAM) systems in use today would have trouble passing this litmus test. Although they are likely charged full of data, such data are typically not relevant for reporting purposes or are difficult to access due to ineffective system code-management set-up. Other barriers to analytics can include work that’s performed but not captured on a work order or entered into the CMMS; and closed work orders that don’t contain vital information such as actual hours, parts used, tools used, and failure codes.

If your system can’t pass this basic two-part test or if you are unable to easily perform such a test on it, your CMMS or EAM is no longer a management system but rather a work-order system, and your data can be equated to MUD (meaningless unrelated data). MUD is difficult to navigate and extract meaning for informational purposes—information being compiled that can be used for effective management decision-making. (As many readers will recall, MUDA, ironically, is the Japanese word used for waste when implementing a lean approach to production and maintenance.)


When the word forensics is used in a maintenance context, it implies the use of science and technology in combination with the legal system. Forensics is most often brought into play when a maintenance failure resulting in serious consequence or harm to person(s), property, and/or the environment is considered capable of occurring—or has occurred. Mitigating responsibility requires a systematic, due-diligence approach to all machine failures, as part of an organized strategy in preventing, predicting, trending, documenting, and analyzing for potential and actual failures.

Physical parts that have failed can be sent to a forensic laboratory to understand metallurgical failure, and documented through a failure-mode effects and analysis (FMEA) or root-cause analysis of failure (RCAF) investigation. Where due diligence is an issue, a full documentation trail is essential. This will require documenting processes and procedures and a full work-order audit trail within the CMMS. All documents should be capable of undergoing a questioned document examination (QDE)—the forensic science of documents that can be challenged in court.


The standardization of crime-scene photography hasn’t changed much since its introduction in 1888 by French police officer Alphonse Bertillon. Interestingly, television’s “CSI’s” sleuths begin each investigation with a photo essay of the crime scene in an identical manner to the way Alphonse Bertillon did so long ago. Real-world problem-solvers in plants and facilities should do likewise.

With the communication devices and cameras in use today, there is no excuse not to photograph a failure scene. Each time a piece of equipment or component fails, it leaves behind an evidence trail that will lead not only to the failure cause, but also deliver a strategy to understand and/or predict and prevent future failure events.

Accordingly, if we are to reduce levels of maintenance while increasing availability and reliability in our operations, it behooves maintenance professionals to develop a systematic approach (see sidebar) to diagnosing a failure scene that follows the “CSI” lead, i.e., commencing with photography and documentation of all contextual aspects of the failure scene, and not destroying the scene by contaminating or throwing out evidence in our haste to “save the day.” The generated investigation documents, in turn, are essential for forensic and failure analysis and planning and scheduling use.

In short, adopting a “CSI”-inspired approach to failure-diagnostic investigations is sure to enhance your operation’s maintenance and reliability efforts and help meet your overall asset-management goals. MT

Ken Bannister is managing partner and principal consultant for EngTech Industries Inc., an asset-management consulting firm in Innerkip, Ontario. He can be reached at

Follow the “CSI” Lead: 8 Simple Steps To Failure Diagnosis

  1. Secure the scene. Work with operations to perform a quality evaluation of the failure scene before commencing repairs and/or restarting the equipment.
  2. Photograph the scene. The old adage “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” could not be truer in a failure investigation. Photos allow the failure scene to be revisited well after the equipment is back up and running, and act as good training materials for preventing future failures.
  3. Perform on-scene forensics. Maintenance and reliability personnel can perform many technical diagnostics at a failure scene, i.e., infrared signatures, oil-analysis signatures, and metallurgy.
  4. Bag and tag all physical evidence of failure or tampering. Once all local physical evidence of tampering and breakage has been photographed, tagged, and bagged, the actual failed components can be dismantled and replaced. Any parts for repair must be photographed and any parts requiring replacement must also be bagged and tagged.
  5. Interview witnesses. Operators can describe any abnormal sound, smell, or vibration emanating from the equipment prior to failure.
  6. Perform laboratory forensics. Examine all past failure records and vibration readings, performing any necessary metallurgical and oil testing.
  7. Analyze findings and write up a FMEA or RCAF report. Include recommendations and update preventive strategy(ies), as required.
  8. Code the failure on the work order. Complete the work order with a report of the findings, making sure to include failure-symptom codes.

For additional information, read these articles:

“A Picture is Worth a 1,000 Words or More”

“Lessons from the Crime Scene”

“How to Investigate a Process Interruption”

“The Benefits of Detailed Failed-Part Analysis”

“Harnessing the Power of PMI in Reliability Investigations”


1:50 pm
May 1, 2015
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Don’t Procrastinate…Innovate: Maintaining to the Weakest Link, Part 1 — Weakness as a Desired State

kennewmugBy Ken Bannister, CMRP, Contributing Editor

Remember the television game show Weakest Link? Its authoritarian host Anne Robinson specialized in shaming failing contestants with the words, “You are the weakest link, goodbye!” Unlike the TV show, which is designed to provoke disharmony among team members and negatively exploit the knowledge gaps of its contestants, the asset-management world cannot afford to be so dismissive. It can however, take an innovative approach toward improvement by recognizing, exposing, understanding and exploiting weak links in a positive manner.

When weakness is desired

Innovation springs to the forefront when we are open and able to reframe our viewpoint. For example, by not accepting such adages as “we have always done it this way,” and scrutinizing a perceived problem that might otherwise have been ignored is an opportunity to be seized upon! When looking to increase a maintenance organization’s effectiveness, it’s important to identify and address weak links in the organization’s culture and team dynamics, as well as in the maintenance system and approach to performing asset management.

Most readers will naturally consider “weak” an undesirable state. With synonyms such as fragile, frail, brittle and others, it’s easy for a maintainer to have a negative view of the term. Yet in the world of machine design, weak links can be desirable, purposely exploited and made an integral part of a machine’s design to 1) protect the more valuable or precise aspects of the machine design; 2) make the machine design more universal and adaptable for the end-user; and 3) reduce costs.

Rarely will a maintenance organization have had input into the design of the machines in their charge. Instead, most have to develop a maintenance approach based on the often inadequate and subjectively worded maintenance manual (if one exists) and the sum experience of the planner or maintainer writing the machine maintenance plan. In this first part of our examination of weak links, we will look at the various aspects of machine design and learn how to recognize and take advantage of those that are built-in.

Using weak links to achieve reliability

Reliability of any machine is primarily achieved by performing the simplest of maintenance observations and tasks based on its weakest links. Often thought of as “nuisance” or “pain” points, weak links are instantly identifiable as the parts on the machine that always need to be replaced or adjusted or opened and closed. Identifying and focusing your proactive maintenance approach on these items is a fast and effective way to assure asset reliability with minimum cost, maximum uptime/throughput and minimum energy use.

Weak links primarily present themselves in two formats: consumables and adjustables.

Consumables are the machine items designed to wear out over time and be replaced with like-for-like items. Consumables are relatively inexpensive sacrificial products designed to provide machine functions and protect vital machine systems or machine components that come in direct contact with the raw material or finished product. Typical examples can include:

  • Machine function—Friction linings for clutch and brake systems; hydraulic fluid for transmission, motion or braking systems; belting/sheaves or chain/sprockets for power transmission.
  • Machine Systems—Bearing and gearbox lubricants; filter and breather devices; fluid seals; electrical fuses and anti surge devices; shear pins; covers and caps
  • Direct-contact components—Wear bars and liners; belting or slat for product conveyance; guide cams and rails; contamination shields and deflectors.

Adjustables are the items on a machine designed to be set up, adjusted or calibrated to compensate for delivery, speed, wear, misalignment, balance and out-of-true conditions due to site or machine conditions.

Pinpointing weak links

Identifying the consumable and adjustable items on a machine can be as simple as opening the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) manual to its specifications page where all its recommended oils and greases, replacement belt, sheaves, chains and sprockets, filters, fuses, tire sizes, etc. are usually listed. These specification pages are also where the adjustment specifications for calibrated products are listed, along with the acceptable wear limits for friction materials wear liners, and other items.

Keeping in mind that the machine has been designed to operate perfectly with these strategic sacrificial weak links in place until the device or fluid becomes exhausted or worn to its critical replacement point—after which the machine will continue to run a short while before failing—it makes sense to design a failure-prevention program specifically around the condition of the weak-link devices.

To aid in this type of program, simple Go/No-Go measuring devices or gauges can be used. These can be included as part of a condition checklist PM program designed to monitor the state of every weak-link device and report to planning and scheduling when an exception or No-Go state has been found requiring replacement of the weak-link device.

This type of condition-based program is easy and inexpensive to implement. The key to its success is based on training the maintenance crew how to measure condition correctly, and execute the program with consistency and diligence.

Training maintenance crews on these aspects includes instilling in them the discipline to respond quickly once a No-Go state has been found. Since one weak-link failure can accelerate other weak-link failures and can lead to major downtime repair, accurate checks and quick response times will pay huge dividends in machine life-cycle performance.

Capturing the benefits

To help ensure that you reap the dividends from machine performance that the approach will generate, the second part of this two-part column (coming in July) will investigate the undesired weak link, and how people behave in various situations that can seriously impact a machine’s capability to perform either in a good or bad way. Meanwhile, remember that understanding and exploiting a machine’s weakest links is simply a matter of reframing how we look at piece of equipment by stating, “You are the weakest link, hello!” Good luck! MT

Ken Bannister is an asset-management consultant for Engtech industries, Inc., specializing in best-practice ISO 55001 asset-management implementations. He can be reached at 519-469-9173, or


4:25 am
April 1, 2015
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Protect Yourself From Counterfeits: What You Should Know


A Q&A with Eaton’s Tom Grace about the dangers of counterfeit electrical equipment and components.

Counterfeit equipment and components continue to flood into the North American supply chain. From an industrial perspective, the problems this situation poses for plants and facilities, as well as for the end-users of products manufactured in those operations, can be catastrophic. Using counterfeit electrical products can result in a higher risk for failure or malfunction. Such failures may result in electrical shock, overheating or short circuits, leading to equipment failure, fires or explosions that can cost workers their lives and cause considerable property damage.

Unfortunately, the dangers that these unsafe products present are an issue for personnel across all industry sectors. Preventing harm to people and property from counterfeits continues to call for strong, multi-pronged efforts. We all have roles to play.

For an update on this critical issue and tips on how maintenance and reliability professionals can address it, Maintenance Technology’s Managing Editor Jane Alexander sat down with Tom Grace of Eaton.

What is the state of counterfeiting today?

TG: The counterfeiting of well-known brands and products is a growing, worldwide issue, estimated at up to 7% of world trade, or nearly $1.77 trillion in 2015. This includes consumer safety and electrical products that can have threatening implications for workers and facilities.

In 2013, more than $1.7 billion worth of counterfeit consumer safety and critical technology products were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection ( Over the last five years, counterfeit seizures have seen nearly 50% annual growth. Furthermore, the International-Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition ( estimates that the counterfeiting of distinguished brands costs U.S. industries $250 billion annually and may result in as many as 750,000 lost jobs every year.

What types of dangers do counterfeit electrical products present?

TG: Aside from the significant and ever-increasing economic consequences, counterfeiting can compromise a brand’s reputation and system reliability, as well as have a negative impact on public safety. By definition, a counterfeit is a product, product package or service that uses, without authorization, the trademark, service mark or copyright of another, with the intent to deceive prospective customers into believing that the product or service is genuine. This makes detecting the difference between a counterfeit and authentic product very difficult.

Counterfeit electrical products, many of which are intended to serve as protective devices, are unsafe lookalikes. Such counterfeits, including circuit breakers, ground-fault and arc-fault interrupters and surge protectors, are often duplicated without regard for electrical safety or minimal performance specifications.

Counterfeit electrical products also present serious legal and perception implications that can create problems for individuals involved in the procuring, design and installation of the electrical product and its environment. In the event that a counterfeit electrical product causes harm to an individual or property, investigation and litigation can take much longer to complete than the 24-hour news cycle allows, potentially damaging brand reputation and the bottom lines of companies associated with the product.

What is being done to combat the problem?

TG: Many companies are leading efforts to protect public safety by collaborating with industry partners to prevent these dangerous counterfeits from causing harm to people and property. Some companies operate with zero-tolerance policies against counterfeiting and are committed to anti-counterfeiting technologies and programs.

Industry organizations are also working to combat counterfeiting. Organizations such as the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association ( enable member companies in the electrical industry to focus their collective efforts on identifying ways to stop counterfeiting. Industry representation by NEMA can be used to promote laws, regulations or government directives.

Other industry organizations, including the Electrical Safety Foundation International (, rely on engagement from the electrical industry and supporters to promote consumer awareness of counterfeit electrical products. These collaborative efforts carry a stronger message and can help improve awareness and detection. To address the problem of counterfeit electrical products meaningfully, further collaboration is needed across industries and beyond.

Stopping the sale of counterfeit products is everyone’s responsibility. If every individual along a product’s supply chain played an active role in stopping the buying and selling of counterfeit products, the demand for counterfeit electrical products would decrease. It is crucial to continue to work together to prevent these unsafe counterfeit products from causing harm to people and property.

How do counterfeit products enter the marketplace?

TG: Counterfeiters rely on deception and below-market-level prices to find their way into the marketplace. In addition, counterfeit manufacturers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their production of unsafe lookalike products, making it extremely difficult to tell the difference between a counterfeit and an authentic product.

The sophistication of shipping counterfeit products is also adding to the difficulty of detection. A counterfeit shipment takes an indirect shipping route to the intended destination. In some instances, counterfeit products and other infringing components are shipped separately, further increasing the difficulty of detection.

The sheer number of imported products is also alarming. In 2013, 11 million shipping containers and 250 million air shipments of counterfeit products were accounted for being imported into the U.S. In addition, counterfeiters have reduced the size of a shipment to decrease losses if a shipment is seized. Due to these counterfeiting practices, deceptive manufacturers can easily circulate potentially dangerous products throughout the marketplace.

What can industry professionals do to avoid counterfeits?

TG: Recognizing a counterfeit product is difficult at first glance, but there are several ways to detect and avoid them prior to making an actual purchase. By following these tips, end-users are more likely to identify and avoid counterfeits:

Buy authentic. The best way to avoid counterfeit electrical products is to purchase products directly from the manufacturer’s authorized distributors or resellers. The risk of obtaining a counterfeit rises if one cannot trace the path of commerce to the original manufacturer.

Scrutinize labels and packaging. Be skeptical of poor-quality labels with legacy branding, missing date codes and extraneous markings, or labeling not applied by an original manufacturer. For easier identification, some companies use branded packaging on their component products.

Question bargains. When shopping for electrical products, look for red flags that could signify if an item or distributor should be avoided. The first is associated with “bargains” that seem too good to be true. Compare the price of that product to the price of a similar product at a different retailer. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Verify authenticity. When possible, use tools provided by the original manufacturer or certification organization to verify that electrical products are genuine.

What should maintenance and reliability pros do if they come across counterfeits in the field?

TG: If a suspect product is found in the field, contact the original manufacturer. This allows for product verification and ensures that the potentially dangerous product is removed from the marketplace. The more information a manufacturer has, the better chance it can find similar counterfeit products and remove them from the marketplace to protect consumers.

When reporting potentially dangerous products, work to disclose the product vendor’s name, business name, address, domain name and any other identifiers. It’s also helpful to share a description of the commodity, including an explanation on why it is suspected to be counterfeit. If contact information is unavailable, don’t stop: Contact the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (; or 866-IPR-2060), which will disseminate the information for an appropriate response.

It is also beneficial to establish a company-wide process for reporting counterfeit electrical products. This provides a collaborative outlet for alerting fellow workers and protecting your property. MT

3 TipsHow You Can Help Combat Counterfeits

To stay protected from unsafe lookalikes and help combat this industry-wide problem, Tom Grace encourages maintenance and reliability professionals to keep the following anti-counterfeiting tips in mind, and share them with others in their operations. These pointers can help personnel build confidence in their ability to properly avoid, identify and report fake products:

Know that counterfeits are hard to spot.
Counterfeit product manufacturers rely on deception, the Internet and prices below market level to find their way into our homes, businesses and facilities. The more sophisticated counterfeiters become, the more difficult counterfeit products are to identify.

The best way to avoid counterfeit electrical products is to purchase products from the manufacturer’s authorized distributors or resellers. The risk of obtaining a counterfeit rises if one cannot trace the path of commerce to the original manufacturer.

Know your resources.
Take advantage of the resources available surrounding counterfeiting. Many companies are leading efforts to protect public health and safety by providing tools, tips and information to help professionals avoid coming into contact with hazardous electrical devices.

Know how to report a counterfeit.
If you identify a counterfeit in the field, report it to the brand owner. This will allow authentication of the suspect product and ensure its removal from the marketplace.