Archive | June


9:07 pm
June 1, 2001
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Infrared Thermography – How to Get Started

Determine what features are desirable, according to the results you want.

If you are not familiar with infrared thermography and thermal imaging, you may wonder what a thermal image looks like. A thermal image is a black-and-white picture. On a relative scale, it will show hot objects as white and cold objects as black. Temperatures in between are depicted as shades of gray. Some thermal imaging cameras display the images in color that is artificially generated by the cameraís video enhancement electronics, based on the thermal patterns seen by the camera.

Several types of infrared sensors are used in thermal imaging cameras today, known as BST and microbolometer focal plane arrays.

BST (barium strontium titanate) is a type of sensor developed by Raytheon Corp. Ceramic-like thermal-energy-sensing material is used to manufacture BST focal plane arrays, which measure heat by storing it as a fixed value (similar to a capacitor) at each pixel. When the grid of pixels, or focal plane array, is monitored simultaneously, a thermal image is generated. Because of their fixed-image properties, BST pixels must be refreshed regularly to maintain the perception of real-time imaging.

A microbolometer is the newest type of thermal imaging focal plane array. Its materials measure heat by changing resistance at each pixel. The most common microbolometer material is vanadium oxide (VOx). Amorphous silicon is a relatively new microbolometer material. There are several manufacturers of this type of infrared sensor.

Match camera to needs
In today’s maintenance environment, you will find a need for various levels of thermal imaging capabilities. Several thermal imaging camera manufacturers have taken this into consideration and have developed cameras that fit the bill. Prices for cameras and basic accessories start around $13,000 and expand as various features are added, to more than $75,000.

A practical type of thermal imager should match the needs of the user. The more sophisticated imagers have features which may include temperature and analytical analysis. These features may be necessary in some applications because of the level of analysis that is needed.

To determine the type of thermal imager you need, list the jobs you want your camera to handle, then find the features that meet your needs. You may be surprised to learn that the best thermal imager for your applications comes at a comparably modest cost.

Documenting your findings is an important part of your facility health care records. This can be done in many ways depending on what kind of thermal imaging camera you choose. Thermal images can be saved on a PCMCIA card, 3 in. floppy disk, videotape, and, in some cases, a memory stick. You also may find that recording is not necessary if you are using the thermal imager as a verification tool after a new installation has occurred or after repairs have been made.

Reporting software can enhance the results of thermal imaging. This software offers many features, including colorization of a black-and-white image, temperature measurement, filtering, averaging, isotherm highlighting, and custom report generation.

Many lower-priced thermal imaging cameras that do not have some of the attributes the higher-priced imagers offer can provide the majority of the features through software. Every year management looks at more ways to keep spending to a minimum. It all comes down to the level of sophistication your facility maintenance program requires, what your needs are, and how you choose to accomplish your maintenance goals.

Training is vital
When structuring your facility maintenance program, donít forget training. More and more companies require continuing education and mandate a specific number of hours of training time per year. As budgets are cut for travel and expenses, it becomes harder to fulfill the training time. With many nondestructive testing techniques, training on the equipment and technology is critical so results are accurate and useful.

It is important that users of thermal imaging cameras have training in thermal imaging. Costly mistakes can occur if users are not trained to interpret their findings properly. Is there wet insulation? Is it reflection? Is it the wrong time of day for the inspection? Not enough load? Good trainers in infrared will provide training on imager use, interpretation of images, and include a section on safety while conducting infrared inspections. There are many hazardous environments as well as unknowns in the facility you are inspecting. Remember to make safety a factor as well.

Training is important, regardless of the difficulty of the application. You can choose from several experienced infrared trainers. They usually conduct a one-week training course in several locations throughout the United States. If you require an in-house training class for a group of individuals, they can tailor a class specific to your needs.

If you are about to purchase one or more thermal imaging cameras, you will need to make a number of decisions about equipment and training. Remember, as with any other tool or instrument, you first need to determine what features are desirable, according to the results you want from the tool. Then you can evaluate the offered features in a more objective way and eliminate those that would bring little or no benefit to your program.

Thermal imaging cameras will continue to play an increasing role in businesses and communities. They save money and time, and contribute greatly to safer and healthier working environments, even saving lives. MT

Rebecca Whitworth is product specialist, industrial thermal imaging cameras, at Mine Safety Appliances Co. (MSA), P. O. Box 426, Pittsburgh, PA 15230; (412) 967-3103

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3:27 pm
June 1, 2001
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No Pain, No Gain


Robert C. Baldwin, CMRP, Editor

Yesterday, I paid more than $2 a gallon for regular gasoline in Chicago. Each time I fill up, I see motorists muttering under their breaths. If you listen closely, you hear words such as “oil company greed,” “environmentalists,” “President Bush,” and “energy crisis” sprinkled among the expletives.

Conversation at a neighborhood social can easily move from the price of gas, to rolling blackouts, to energy crisis, to energy conservation, with all the “depth” of understanding that goes with such discussion. I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of press releases with energy conservation themes in our mail.

With all the talk, the articles, and the news stories, the conservation idea has likely reached the executive suite where it may ricochet back down the chain of command as an order to do our part by conserving energy.

Energy shortages and high prices are emotional issues, prone to emotional rather than rational responses. First of all, the current energy situation is not a crisis when compared with the shortages of the 1970s. Where are the lines at the gas pump? Prices are indeed high, but not so high as in other countries. We gripe, but we continue to buy our SUVs and light trucks.

Yes, heating bills were very high this winter, and cooling bills may be even higher this summer. It is the economic principle of supply and demand at work. We gripe, but we continue to leave the thermostats set at the comfort levels to which we have become accustomed. (Speaking of comfort levels, I have never been so chilled as in a meeting room in the South during summer, nor as uncomfortably hot as in a meeting room in the North during winter.)

At the plant, we grip about the stupid “turn out the lights” conservation promotion, but we continue to run leaky unregulated compressed air systems, steam systems with faulty insulation and traps, and electrical systems powering old motors driving throttled systems.

Conservation is patriotic, but waste and poor management of productive resources is just plain dumb.

Why don’t we start managing our energy systems like rational managers, engineers, technicians, and operators? Perhaps it is because of another basic principle of free markets–rational people think at the margin, that is, they take action when they believe the marginal benefit of the action will exceed the marginal cost. Perhaps the price is not high enough to make us change our behavior.

Although “no pain, no gain” may be the operative phrase, the rational asset manager will start managing energy now so that economic discomfort never reaches the threshold of corporate pain. MT


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3:19 pm
June 1, 2001
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Why PM Programs Do Not Significantly Reduce Reactive Maintenance

Your company probably has an extensive preventive maintenance (PM) program in place. In spite of all the PMs, you are still finding that well over 50 percent of your maintenance work is reactive maintenance. Sound familiar?

This is a very common problem. There are many companies that have extensive PM programs but are finding that they are not making significant headway in reducing the number of breakdowns. I have personally worked in a company that did a lot of PMs, but 75 percent of its work was reactive. In my latest roleÝ in consulting I have seen that most companies today are experiencing this same problem. On average between 50-60 percent of total maintenance work is reactive.

Before proceeding let me first define what I mean by PM programs. PMs are time-based overhauls on assets. They are jobs that are scheduled at regular intervals either based on calendars–replace filters every 6 months, or based on readings–change filters every 5,000 operating hours.

Companies have invested millions of dollars over the years to develop, implement, and sustain their PM programs. Why then, do so many companies that have comprehensive PM programs still find that 50 to 60 percent of their maintenance work is corrective or reactive maintenance? Isn’t the purpose of the PM program to keep the equipment in proper working order to ensure that failures don’t happen?

Before answering these questions, I would like to review the history of maintenance to see what led companies to utilize PMs in the first place.

The first generation of maintenance viewed equipment failures as fitting one pattern. As equipment got older it deteriorated and eventually failed. At this time most companies just ran equipment to failure. However, some companies started to recognize that ancillary damage caused by running equipment to failure was expensive. Since it was thought that all equipment deteriorated at a fixed rate over time, they tried to determine when it was likely to fail and schedule an overhaul to restore the equipment andÝ avoid the failure and ancillary damage. This was the birth of PM.

During the second generation of maintenance, most companies started embracing PM

We are now in the third generation of maintenance. We know that there are actually six different equipment failure patterns. Three are age related, but the other three follow random failure patterns, with no relationship to age. Research has shown that less than 20 percent of equipment follows age-related failure patterns; the other 80 percent are random.

Now let’s get back to the original question. Why don’t PMs significantly reduce the amount of reactive maintenance being performed in your plant? The answer is simple. PMs were designed around the theory that equipment failures are directly related to the age of the equipment. Since only 20 percent of equipment failures fit this pattern that means that 80 percent of equipment failures are not being effectively managed by doing time-based PMs.

What’s the answer? The key to significantly reducing equipment failures is to monitor the condition of your equipment. Random failures do not adhere to any specific pattern and therefore the only way to effectively manage these types of failures is to closely monitor the key indicators-vibration, hot spots, leaks, cracks, etc. New technologies such as predictive maintenance devices combined with advanced methodologies such as reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) are now making it possible to easily determine what indicators need to be monitored and how to monitor them.

Remember the company I said I worked for that was doing 75 percent reactive maintenance work? Well we implemented a comprehensive condition based maintenance program combined with RCM and that company is now experiencing only 20 percent reactive maintenance with a goal to get to 10 percent. So now that you know why your PM program isn’t working the way you hoped it would, it is time to do something about it. The tools and technologies are there. I strongly urge you to take the plunge. The payoff will be tremendous. MT
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2:15 pm
May 1, 2001
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Cost/Benefit Analysis of Infrared Programs

With a large data set, documented losses to production and equipment repair costs can be summarized and industry averages for cost/benefit analysis can be derived, creating a baseline for estimating future losses or savings.

How often have we heard that we do not have time to do root cause analysis (RCA)? This is certainly the paradigm from those closest to the work, especially if they operate in a reactive culture. What about when we hear that RCA is too expensive? This is generally the paradigm from management, or those farthest from the work.

What is common about these two perspectives? Both perceptions represent reality because if that is what we believe, then our decisions will be made on that basis. So how do we overcome this hurdle of letting our paradigms prevent us from taking advantage of opportunities?

Opposing paradigms: operations vs. finance
Let’s explore this issue from two different perspectives: operational and financial. The operational people are those who are closest to the work and are responsible for maximizing the output of the organization. In this world, a reactive culture usually dominates. So whether we are making paper, processing patients, or dealing with customer complaints, we are likely dealing with the moment and handling one fire at a time.

In this world it is difficult to listen to people who advocate an activity like RCA because as it stands now, there does not seem to be enough time in a day to do our current job. Now someone wants us to perform another task, RCA, when our plates are already full. Let’s face it: this is the reality when working at this level. We do not see RCA as a solution to our already overburdened work schedule. We see RCA as a nuisance to being able to fight fires in the short-term.

Contrast this perspective against the financial one. Management level people are typically the ones that are charged with fiscal responsibility. So their world is one of numbers, statistics, and ultimately dollars. When people approach them about the concept of RCA, the first issue in their mind is: “How much is this going to cost?” Again, this is their world.

Usually in this world the first question is not “What value proposition does RCA bring to the table?” In the financial world we are dictated to by the budget, and no matter how attractive the opportunity, the cost in relation to the budget will be one of the major deciding factors. Sometimes our performance evaluations will reward us for staying within the budget, so there is a personal incentive to view everything from the cost standpoint versus the value standpoint.

What happens when these two worlds collide? We become risk aversive in our decision-making and our operations. When this happens we hang out in the safety zone and if we are lucky, we make marginal improvements over time. Creativity is stifled and we become human robots doing nothing more or less than we are told.

The facts about RCA
RCA is not a tool that is related to any specific industry; it is specific to human beings. We all come with the same equipment; we have brains that are wired to use inductive and deductive logic to think things through and solve problems, no matter what the problem. This must be realized and accepted in order to disprove those that believe that RCA is a tool for only mechanical situations or only for an industrial plant. We as human beings will use the same mental faculties to solve why a crude unit in an oil refinery failed as to why the cable does not work on the upstairs television.

Any RCA methodology on the market today must hang its hat on the science behind cause and effect relationships. The only difference between RCA methods is the manner in which they graphically represent these cause and effect relationships and how well these hypotheses are proven to be true or false.

So how do we build a convincing argument that supports why we should be permitted (if not required) to do RCA? We all know that the decision to pursue this RCA task will come from management, as they will have to authorize the funds to train employees and allow them time to practice what they learn. Therefore we must appeal to the financial perspective in order to get the ball rolling in the operations world.

Chronic events
What is the best way to demonstrate future trends in spending? Given everything constant, the past. We have all heard of the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The same is typical with spending trends. In industry, what is usually a large category in any maintenance budget? The one labeled “General” or “Routine.” This is like the “Other” category. This is a reservoir for all expected, unexpected events.

These are the items that have fallen into the cost of doing business paradigm. They are typically small in individual consequence, and they do not hurt people or violate any regulations. They just retire into the pasture of the budget and are never questioned. From year to year we review the past spending on such items and bump it up a little for the cost of living increase.

If we can agree in concept up until this point, then let’s try to now express this in a graphical and financial manner. This is how we prepare our business case to management in an effort to sell the concept of RCA.

First, in order to convince management to invest in an RCA effort, we must present the opportunities that are available. In the RCA world, opportunities are generally expressed in terms of current losses experienced. With this in mind, let’s picture a scenario we can all relate to from past experience at some point in our careers.

Developing an RCA business case
For example, we work in a continuous process manufacturing operation. The nature of the product is irrelevant. This operation produces a high-margin product in a sold out market. Simply put, we can sell anything we can make. In this environment, what should be the most appropriate definition of a loss? Is it when equipment breaks down? Is it when the operation stops?

Step 1–Identifying the scope of the analysis. In making our business case, we want our presentation to have the utmost impact. Therefore, we need to seek out the area with the greatest opportunities available. This is usually the area referred to as the bottleneck of the operation.

The bottleneck is the typically weak link and we all know that the operation can only be as strong as its weakest link. Everyone usually knows which operation is the weakest link in any organization. For our purposes, we need to identify what this operation is, where it begins, and where it ends (Fig. 1). This will be the scope of our analysis for our business case.

Step 2–Defining a loss in the current economic environment. Now with the scope of the analysis defined, we can move on to understanding what is most important to measure in this operation. Since we can sell all we can make, the most important factor to the business is reliability of the operation. This means that a lost downtime hour is far more important than a spare piece of equipment that fails.

Remember, this is under the conditions described earlier. To set our focus, we will define a loss for our facility as any event or condition that interrupts the continuity of maximum quality production.

Step 3–Mapping out the weakest link. To help identify specific events that occur within the weakest link operation, we must draw a simple process flow block diagram. A block diagram easily maps out the flow of the product through the operation.

Step 4–Determining the potential gains. Based on this weakest link, what is its design capacity versus what it is actually producing? If the system is capable of producing 1 million tons per year and we, on average, are producing only 850,000 tons per year, then the opportunity lies in the difference or 150,000 tons.

Since this is a high margin product, when we cannot sell each pound, we lose the margin. For example, let’s say that we can make a $100/T margin. Therefore, the financial opportunity is 150,000 tons x $100/T = $15 million.

Step 5–Locating the losses. Now that we know there is $15 million out there for the taking, how do we identify where it is? We simply take the information we have collected and develop a spreadsheet to make our data collection efforts easier. We need to locate the events that are preventing us from reaching our potential. An appropriate spreadsheet may have column headings including Subsystem, Event, Mode, Frequency, Impact/Occurrence, and Total Annual Loss.

Where does the most reliable data come from to fill out such a spreadsheet? This is up to you. If you feel that your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is accurate enough to reflect the true activities of the field, then you should use it as your data source. If you do not, then you should contact the source of raw data: the people.

Oftentimes we do not realize that people are the most common sources of data input into databases. When events in the field occur so often, and they take short periods of time to repair, the effort to put them in recording systems outweighs the time it took to fix them. The end result: they do not make it into the recording systems and they remain in the heads of those that fixed the problems. Such events are hidden gold and the only way to find them is to talk to those closest to the work.

Step 6–Identifying the significant few. Imagine our spreadsheet with dozens or hundreds of events listed (depending on the size of the operation). When do we know when we are done? End the list when the Total Annual Loss column totals ±10 percent of the target identified (difference between actual production and potential).

Now that we have this wealth of information, how do we finalize our business case? Take the total of the Total Annual Loss column and multiply it by 80 percent. Then sort the events from the highest to the lowest total annual loss and see how many events it takes to add up to 80 percent of total annual losses. Typically, 20 percent or less of the events will be accountable for 80 percent or more of the losses.

Step 7–Finalizing the business case. From this exercise we can see that it is possible to pinpoint the specific events that are causing the greatest losses. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of these Significant Few events are chronic events versus sporadic ones.

This process has the unique capability of bubbling the chronic events to the top of the list, which otherwise go unnoticed because of their seemingly insignificant individual impacts. However, when aggregated over a year’s time, this analysis shows what is truly important.

Step 8–Calculating return on investment (ROI). We now can take all these elements of the business case process and roll them into a report for our management presentation. We can prove that the cost of training a team in RCA and focusing them on the Significant Few can yield a significant predetermined result.

We can easily calculate a proposed ROI that will be astounding. We have backed up all our claims and support our findings with evidence (hard data). Average ROIs for RCA range between 600 and 1000 percent. Oftentimes this is a hard sell because the numbers are so unbelievable, but using this process supports the case.

We did not attempt to hide any of the real costs of conducting a RCA. If there are more, then they should be added. RCA will require a little education and some software to help organize the effort. It is expected that a minimum class of 15 students and a maximum of 25 would be held. This will provide the necessary skills to the team leader, various team members, and supporting management personnel. This is a one-time cost that is sunk thereafter. Then there will be varying levels of dedication to the effort, but ideally there should be a full-time driver who oversees the analyses in progress.

Of course there will be team members needed based on their expertise in the analysis at hand. The make-up of the teams will change because of this. However, with this rotating role, it is expected that only four team members at a time will be occupied on a part-time basis during an analysis.

To provide support for solid conclusions, the RCA teams may need additional engineering support to help prove their hypotheses. The funds for this anticipated function are accounted for.

While this is only an example, we can get the idea. There is no need to beef up costs in such a business case because conservative numbers usually make just as convincing a case. Also, conservative numbers are easy to defend because we can use the fallback position of, “…we didn’t even include… .” Accounting department figures are the most credible because if the origin of these numbers is questioned, we can point to the bean counters as the source.

Now this is such an unbelievable ROI number, even though our data supports it, that we can make the case that if we cut the opportunity in half, the ROI would still be around 3850 percent. What is an acceptable ROI for an engineering project at our facilities now? MT

Robert J. Latino is senior vice-president of strategic development for Reliability Center, Inc., a reliability engineering firm specializing in improving equipment, process, and human reliability, 501 Westover Ave., Hopewell, VA 23860; (804) 458-0645

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