Archive | September


1:26 am
September 2, 2006
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Viewpoint: World-Class Maintenance – Serious Aspiration Or Joke?


Paul D. Tomlingson, Principal Consultant, Paul D. Tomlingson Associates, Inc.

World-class maintenance is the pinnacle of achievement for most maintenance organizations whether they maintain plant equipment, tend to mobile equipment or perform facility maintenance. It results when the organization consistently produces reliable equipment with an efficient organization, carries out an effective program and effectively uses quality information to help yield a highly profitable operation. The plant is characterized by a cooperative production group and supportive staff organizations (like warehousing). It is led by a visionary plant manager who has created an environment for success with a sound production strategy, clear department objectives and policies that guarantee harmonious departmental interaction. Its employees enjoy great personal satisfaction and its customers know they are dealing with a quality organization.

As the ‘working’ definition suggests, specific criteria must be met. Any single criterion (such as consistently reliable equipment) results from extraordinary performance of people in effectively executing well-conceived program elements.

How does an organization identify the people and program performance levels they must meet? Performance standards, the use of KPIs (key performance indicators) and even benchmarking come to mind. Which is best? Are all of them useful? Who should establish them?

Is the term ‘world-class’ taken too casually in a society where we identify Super Bowl winners as ‘world champions’ of a game played only in North America? Can true world-class maintenance performance levels be defined by an organization not knowing what similar plants in Norway or South Africa are actually doing and how well? Similarly, could consultants come closer if their experience were based on many plants of numerous corporations in the same industry?

Are performance levels likely to be different for mining versus food processing? Could some performance standards derive from principles of maintenance management and be applicable uniformly– regardless of industry or activity?

Once performance standards are established, candidate organizations should evaluate current performance against them to establish their position on the world-class pathway.An evaluation is the first step of improvement. It determines the ‘as is’ status of the organization against the desired performance standards. It also defines improvement needs and their priorities.

Evaluation results identify satisfactory performance as well, and are the basis for the improvement plan. Repeat evaluations measure progress toward meeting the final standards. But, which method of evaluating is best? Performance standards should be updated as technical innovations, enhanced managerial techniques or improved information technology are introduced into the maintenance discipline.

World-class maintenance status should not be a ‘catchphrase’ if an organization is serious about improving maintenance. It requires definition. It cannot be self-proclaimed, as some might be tempted to do. Performance levels necessary to meet world-class criteria must be capable of being measured in some logical way, allowing organizations to determine what they must do to get there, as well as to know when they have arrived. MT

Industry veteran Paul D. Tomlingson has spent 38 years as a worldwide maintenance management consultant. Based in Denver, CO, he can be reached at

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1:21 am
September 2, 2006
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Uptime: Team-Based Maintenance & Reliability For Turbomachinery


Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Partnering with your company to aggressively pursue reliability excellence will pay off all the way around. This maintenance expert shows you how it can be done.

High-performing, low-cost, competitive operations depend on reliable equipment. Turbomachinery and other rotating equipment is exposed to numerous conditions that cause functional failures, catastrophic failures, damage leading to eventual failures and work practices that contribute to short- and long-term equipment problems.While routine preventive maintenance, condition-based maintenance, condition monitoring programs and overhauls extend equipment life and performance reliability, in dayto- day operation, there are many instances of interruption or damage caused by factors outside the direct control of the maintenance group.

For example, equipment reliability and operating integrity can be challenged by employee turnover due to retirements, promotions or job changes. Employee turnover and retention already are becoming difficult issues for many operations. As increasing numbers of aging “Baby Boomers” leave the workforce, more and more critical responsibilities are falling on the shoulders of inexperienced, untrained replacements.

Successful equipment-intensive operations must accelerate the use of strategies that ensure BASIC operations and maintenance requirements are being met. This is fundamental to reliable performance of the equipment in almost any environment. Maintaining basic operations and maintenance conditions is the foundation of reliability upon which to deploy advanced tools and technologies. Unfortunately, basic equipment conditions are often overlooked or assumed because they are thought to be too “basic” –almost second nature or common sense to the experienced person. Yet, as new people take on responsibilities for operating and maintaining turbomachinery, they must first master the basics–in other words, common sense must become common practice. Consider the following concepts:

Basics. Proper operation not only includes adhering to “operating procedures,” but also avoiding decisions that may exceed what the equipment was designed to do. Proper maintenance not only includes adhering to “maintenance procedures,” but purchasing and stocking the correct replacements parts and supplies that are fit for service. Proper maintenance also means maintaining stored spares and storing precision parts in an environment where the “fit-for-service” condition is maintained. But, whose job is it?

Basics. Operating conditions sometimes mandate a need for frequent cleaning and inspection of equipment. Buildups of external dirt, grime, moisture, and other contaminants can contribute to premature failures and shorten the life cycles of the equipment. Listening and looking for leaks, looseness and signs of wear are the most fundamental forms of preventive maintenance. Routine inspection, care and upkeep can pay big dividends. But whose job is it?

Basics. Equipment design, specification, procurement, installation and startup/commissioning set the stage for a long, problem-free life cycle, or a short, problem-prone life cycle. “Ahead of schedule and under budget” is the mantra of most project groups–admirable goals as long as the basic conditions that guarantee lowest operating costs over the planned life cycle are attainable after the project phase is complete. But whose job is it?

Basics.Training all employees to properly operate, maintain and monitor equipment, as well as to purchase, inspect and store parts, makes sense. Training must be based on “best practices” as they apply to actual equipment and job-performance requirements. Skills and knowledge from the training sessions must actually be used on the job by everyone (standardized work practices).Management and front-line supervision must set the expectations and accountabilities for everyone who touches the equipment. The goal of training for proper job performance is to drive out human variation (humaninduced failures). But whose job is it?

Basics. A critical piece of equipment must be the focal point. That being said, everyone who touches that equipment and everyone who makesdecisions about that equipment must be on the same page, using a common strategy, heading for the same goals – 100% reliability. That’s the same organizational priority as 100% defect-free, 100% accident-free, 100% environmentally-safe operation. Reliability of the critical equipment must be a high priority because it results in the highest output at the lowest operating and maintenance cost for the longest life cycle. But whose job is it?

Basics. Teamwork focused on common goals works! Concentrating limited resources on the most critical, problem-prone, costly-to-operateand- maintain, unreliable equipment can eliminate many problems. . . and lead to changes in the work culture. This approach also frees up constrained human and capital resources for more productive work–as opposed to reactive repairs. Team-based maintenance recognizes that the maintenance department cannot necessarily achieve “world-class” levels of equipment reliability without help from all of the others in the organization who either directly or indirectly affect the reliability of the targeted critical equipment. But whose job is it?

“Leadership and teamwork” is the answer. That’s whose job it is to achieve the highest levels of equipment reliability. Top company, plant or site leaders must define the vision for reliability and define the business case for aggressively pursuing it.Cross-functional team structures for project groups, as well as daily operations’ “natural work group,” must be engaged in developing strategies, tactics and “best practice procedures.”Vendors, suppliers and manufacturers also must be on the reliability team.Making decisions based on DATA, versus opinions–making decisions based on proven methods–must become common practice. Implementing “programs” in the hopes of improving performance can be risky, ineffective and resource-consuming,with little or no payback. Top-level leadership has the responsibility and the authority to lead the team to a high-reliability, low-operating-and-maintenance-cost business.

High-performing equipment needs high-performing teamwork and leadership to win the race for reliability. In turn, team-based reliability approaches will generate huge payback from more reliable, higher-performing turbomachinery. MT

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1:14 am
September 2, 2006
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Maintaining Equipment Performance 24/7

Partnering with your company to aggressively pursue reliability excellence will pay off all the way around. This maintenance expert shows you how it can be done.

Equipment reliability is a cornerstone of production stability and a primary driver of maintenance costs. “Reliability excellence” is the sustainable ability to manufacture products safely while meeting specifications and optimizing performance. Companies that successfully pursue reliability excellence can achieve remarkable improvements in their manufacturing performance. In maintenance alone, top performers’ costs are 10% to 15% lower than those of average performers – and 25% to 30% less than those of fourth-quartile performers. But, that’s just the tip of the value-creation iceberg. Even more importantly, highly reliable companies make better employers, better business partners and better community citizens.


Fig. 1.

Most companies in continuous process industries, however, do not recognize how crucial reliability is in gaining a competitive edge.Even when they do, few are able to capture its potential.The ones that do employ a holistic operating system that strengthens technical abilities, deploys disciplined management performance practices and establishes the right mindsets and behaviors from the executive suite through to the shop floor (Fig. 1). In addition, they aggressively pursue all three elements in an integrated way. These companies maximize equipment availability and optimize production levels. Their operating costs drop significantly because equipment failures are less frequent and worker productivity rises. Product quality improves because stabilized production operations eliminate the variations caused by frequent shutdowns and restarts. Increased stability also minimizes environmental problems such as air emissions and wastewater discharges. Plant safety performance also rises due to enhanced maintenance planning, coordination and execution that reduce unsafe, reactionary practices.

Furthermore, as these companies reach world-class reliability, their freedom in operating their facilities soars. This flexibility allows them to seize marketplace opportunities, increase revenues and further enhance their reputations. For example, a well-regarded and profitable European-based materials company uncovered hidden capacity across its network of facilities that equaled the production capacity of an entire plant. A global petrochemical producer optimized profitability by shipping its product to customers from its most cost-effective site.Not only that, its network’s reliability allowed this company to benefit from its competitor’s inflexibility. By providing products to the competitor’s customers when they needed them, the company enhanced its industry reputation as a preferred supplier.

Why we hear so few success stories
Some organizations never get beyond “fix it when it breaks”for their maintenance strategy. As a result, they become excellent firefighters–but they never develop the ability to eliminate defects based on root causes. One case in point: while a major North American pulp & paper manufacturer is adept at minimizing the length of unplanned downtime, it has never tried to reduce the frequent outages that drive that downtime. As a result, its maintenance costs remain substantially higher than best-in-class.

0906_reliabilityexcellence_img4Another driver of this lack of success is that many companies still view maintenance as a “necessary evil.”At a major European steel mill, this approach was partially responsible for decreases in upstream production performance. In just a few years, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) dropped by more than five percentage points–falling from an industry average level to substandard performance. As OEE decreased, production levels dropped and maintenance efforts focused solely on repairs and quick fixes to manage costs. The result? A vicious cycle of decreasing stability in the production process doubled unplanned downtime, negatively affecting yields, quality and costs.

The offshore platform of a global oil company provides another sobering example of the damage this view can cause.When crude prices dropped–as did the company’s profits–the platform cut maintenance spending significantly. This resulted in lower routine maintenance levels and more emergency repairs the year after the cuts. These unplanned shutdowns wreaked havoc with production schedules and pipeline flows.Within three years, reliability levels had dropped substantially and maintenance costs had surpassed the original spend. Even worse, missed and late shipments had seriously damaged the company’s reputation as a supplier.

Getting started
How a company goes about avoiding the previously mentioned risks, achieving reliability excellence and gaining that much-sought-after competitive edge depends on its starting point. Companies that need to stop a performance decline often rely heavily on quick, simple, technical improvements, supplemented with some changes in management processes and mindsets. Conversely, those seeking to institutionalize their best-practice performance usually focus on enhancing management practices and mindsets, while continuing to pursue technical improvements (Fig. 2). No matter the starting point, successful companies all adopt a broad perspective. They pursue the previously described integrated approach that strengthens technical capabilities, applies more effective management practices and changes mindsets and behaviors. This ensures that they capture the maximum value afforded by reliability excellence.

0906_reliabilityexcellence_img5Strengthening technical capabilities
Successful organizations start by improving maintenance efficiency and then using the freed resources–personnel and operating savings–to increase effectiveness (Fig. 3). Successful companies improve efficiency by:

  • Using disciplined planning and scheduling to ensure that the right people use the right approach do the right jobs at the right time. Planners create detailed work plans with the specific steps, parts, and resources required for each job. Schedulers then use these plans to sequence the work and coordinate the multiple resources required.Weekly commitment and look-back meetings ensure that teams know what needs to happen in advance and that they identify learnings to improve future performance. As execution improves, schedules move from a few days outlook to forward-looking robust plans covering a 2- to 3-week horizon, further enhancing efficiency. A world-leading aluminum smelter in Canada plans 95% of its routine maintenance jobs and achieves a 90% schedule adherence rate. Overtime rates also are extremely low – only 2% of total maintenance hours.
  • Standardizing and constantly improving work practices by codifying and disseminating best practices for each job. Feedback loops between mechanics and planners make it possible to improve future work plans and increase the mechanics’ skills.Companies audit jobs–e.g.,with videotapes – and leverage the results in brainstorming sessions that help streamline work plans for high-frequency jobs such as maintaining/ operating pumps in chemical plants and cranes in steel mills and aluminum smelters. These plans aren’t just more efficient–they serve as powerful training tools.A global steel producer reduced the duration of its weekly maintenance shutdown by 15%,without lowering reliability by applying and optimizing critical-path planning and creating a shutdown coordinator role. Successful companies improve effectiveness by:
  • Building reliability into plant design to optimize equipment performance. By integrating reliability thinking and maintenance expertise into the initial design process and examining the total cost of ownership (the lifetime cost including repair costs and downtime losses), a European packaging manufacturer was able to reduce the maintenance costs of a critical line by 20% when compared to historical costs on similar equipment.
  • Creating a tightly focused equipment strategy to minimize breakdowns in critical equipment and improve safety, environmental and cost performance elements. By developing preventive measures for this equipment, companies can reduce expensive emergency work and improve performance.Most companies under-maintain highly critical assets (usually 10% to 15% of the total) while over-maintaining non-critical ones.


Applying disciplined management practices
Tailored organizational structures improve consistency, efficiency and capability.However, best practice companies also establish rigorous performance management practices that measure site reliability performance versus selective key targets, and motivate employees and contractors to meet these targets. They:

  • Use organization structure to optimize resources and build trust. A large U.S. refinery reaped a multitude of benefits by moving most mechanics into a single pool and centralizing staffing and leadership.A handful of unit-based mechanics and production maintenance coordinators responded to emergencies and ensured unit-specific needs were met. The result?Maintenance labor costs fell by $2 million to $3 million annually.At the same time, the responsiveness rate rose and a more unified, standardized maintenance approach emerged. The closer interaction between mechanics developed their skills more quickly, while performance improvements increased the trust between production and maintenance.
  • Leverage performance management to reinforce reliability objectives. The heart of successful performance management lies in the employees’ ability – and desire – to translate goals into day-to-day actions. Companies must use a combination of key performance indicators (KPIs) to reinforce and reward the right behaviors. For example, at a major European steel producer’s melt shop, close monitoring of KPIs for planning and scheduling optimized maintenance schedules and increased mechanics’ productivity. In only eight weeks, the share of planned activities grew from 70% to 90%, and schedule adherence, which had not been previously monitored, increased from 75% to over 85%, a significant improvement. For another example, consider how a North American automotive steel producer is using creative contracts and variable pay to align maintenance partners’ goals with the site’s priorities. Partners can earn up to a 30% premium if they meet or exceed the goals; if they do not, they can incur a 5% penalty.Availability, quality and uptime have already improved.
  • Leverage people development to enable trust and collaborative behavior. A North American- based global aluminum producer hires employees based on their ability to live the site’s values. Because they are expected to build multiple skills, they receive up to 900 hours of specific skill training upon joining the organization. They are encouraged to maximize their value to the organization by alternating between production, maintenance and other plant positions throughout their careers— which builds win-win conditions for employees and the company.

Establishing the right mindsets & behaviors
For performance improvements to last, employees must be owners of reliability—not mere participants. Achieving this takes time. It also takes company commitment to creating a culture of reliability excellence—whether through learning, leadership example or support for operations employees. Only then will improvements last and “us versus them”barriers between maintenance and production fall.

0906_reliabilityexcellence_img6Although tactics differ, we find that bestpractice organizations share certain guiding principles:

  • Values are more important than technical capabilities. A global metals producer recruits people who “know how to be rather than how to do,”believing that behaviors make a greater difference than technical skills. The company’s well-established recruiting process evaluates six core values: ownership, accountability, teamwork, autonomy, communications and flexibility.
  • Production operators care for and own their equipment. In the best companies, line operators inspect, clean, and paint; some even decorate their equipment with family pictures. The real value of these activities does not come from lower costs – although this happens. Rather, it comes from recognizing that the operators know their equipment best and that these activities help them anticipate and resolve reliability issues.
  • Production and maintenance are trusted partners. In poor-performing operations, finger- pointing tends to be the norm between the two functions. In the average company, the functions see their relationship as a suppliercustomer one. Best-practice companies, on the other hand, have developed real functional partnerships through transparent maintenance processes, joint accountability and aligned incentives. They recognize that both areas are equally critical in driving performance.As one metals industry plant manager eloquently put it, “Production produces ingots. . . maintenance produces uptime.”

Pacing yourself In summary, companies that aggressively pursue reliability excellence can achieve significant performance improvements, increasing uptime and flexibility while reducing maintenance and production costs.

Remember, though, that regardless of the starting point, reliability transformations take time—time to develop strong technical skills; time to create rigorous management practices; time to instill ownership for maintenance throughout operations. Therefore, continuous process operations need to pace themselves so they can tackle all three integrated elements discussed in this article (Fig. 4) and become top performers in their industries. MT

Alan Osan is a practice expert in the Manufacturing Practice of McKinsey & Company, where he focuses on operational and reliability transformations in the process industries, including chemicals, energy, refining, pulp & paper and utilities. Prior to joining McKinsey, he had held a number of increasingly responsible senior positions in the chemical industry–most notably with NOVA Chemicals and ARCO Chemical Company–during a career spanning more than 25 years. Telephone: (412) 804- 2777; e-mail:


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1:10 am
September 2, 2006
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Training Future Machinery Engineers

Do you want to be one of the real “decision makers” in your organization? If you do, you’ll want to heed the advice of this industry icon.

The status of maintenance and reliability engineers has been the subject of debate for decades.Nevertheless, it might be worth noting a few highly specific experience-based remedies that have allowed some equipment engineers to climb out of the rut in which others apparently find themselves. Specifics seem scarce, and well-defined experience-based solutions are not usually offered. That may simply be a sign of the times–our times, today.

It was different in the 50s and 60s. Back then, a mechanical engineer’s career was largely influenced by supervisors and managers who had moved through the same, or very similar knowledge-based career steps. Guidance and direction given in those days was far more focused than what is being offered today by generalists and managerial types. The world-view of today’s boss has very often been shaped by motives and forces substantially different from those prevailing a few decades ago. Today also, far fewer engineers are being enabled and empowered to act as decision makers.

There are choices available to you
While time and unforeseen occurrences befall anyone, it is equally true that our lives are largely influenced by the choices we make.A young engineer can choose to obtain virtually all of his or her post-college training in the form of on-the-job learning. Although there is nothing wrong with that type of learning, engineers can choose to buttress and supplement it with mature reading habits. Such reading habits can certainly accelerate the acquisition of thoroughly marketable skills in more structured ways than traditional on-the-job learning.

For beginners (and others!) to learn from older maintenance and reliability staffers is commendable and appropriate. But,we must guard against accepting and absorbing as “fact” everything somebody else tells us–it certainly will not always be of true benefit. Conversely, neither will the act of discarding everything that others have done before us. In essence, either extreme must be avoided and science must always trump gullibility and sales pitches.

Testing and understanding “the mechanics of things” and even thoroughly examining underlying thought processes are always sensible choices. This implies that a balanced view must be sought, and finding and consistently practicing this balance requires work. It also requires an investment in time; this certainly implies reading and thinking not just on one’s employer’s time, but also on one’s own time.

While it is never too late to cultivate a balanced view, it is obviously best to do so early in one’s life. The extremes of the available choices are to be shunned.Guessing or accepting on blind faith what others tell us “on the job” is not acceptable. On the other end of the spectrum, we should not “study things to death” since there are many maintenancerelated endeavors that simply do not merit investigation beyond a certain point. True professionals have balance. They learn to identify root causes of problems and map out remedial action that avoid problem occurrence.

Shared learning and a measure of specialization are important
When a person learns or adds experience in a field that is logically related to his or her job function, both employee and employer stand to benefit far beyond their original expectations. The employee gains a sense of self-worth that will allow him or her to confidently look ahead to an otherwise hazy employment future. By nurturing the desire to learn in an employee, an employer may well gain a value-adding contributor whose ability to make “go-no-go” decisions on the basis of more fully understanding risks and consequences can be worth a fortune. A smart employer, therefore, makes training a shared responsibility. Such an employer will faithfully do his part–likewise, the employee will consistently and conscientiously do his or her part.

Bright people have an intuitive understanding of the merits of having not just a job, but wish to gain an increasing measure of marketable knowledge. They put themselves in charge of their own future and assign great value to the systematic acquisition of a definable specialty. They also strive to know, ultimately, how they compare against real-world competition.

So, let’s just assume you are a young mechanical engineer with the goal of specialization in rotating machinery for oil refineries and petrochemical plants, or in reliability improvement of fluid machinery (pumps, turbines, compressors). Note that this arbitrarily chosen specialization goal is not as narrow as, say, “small metering pumps.”An overly narrow area might not serve you in the long term if, for instance, small metering pumps were suddenly being replaced by “electronic stroking pistons”–or whatever. On the other hand, an overly broad area of specialization (such as “machinery and equipment”) might be presumed to include bookbinding, and packaging, and shoe manufacturing, and ten thousand other types of machines. Claiming coverage of such an area conveys the perception of shallowness.

Steps in the training and learning process
Just to re-emphasize: accepting that the most important learning process begins at graduation is the first and perhaps most important step in an engineer’s training.

While training plans will undoubtedly differ for different areas of specialization, it might come as a surprise to learn that the principles embodied in the specifics listed here for “reliability improvement of fluid machinery” apply to every aspect of engineering specialization.

1. Reading trade journals. . .
In the interest of continually obtaining workspecific technology updates and related training, the developing engineer must peruse trade journals. He or she should scan and–either by eye or electronic scanner–retain articles on topics of potential interest. Use your imagination to interpret scanning as viewing and making copies of, or reading, tearing out pages, filing away and cataloging articles.

Companies with well-defined training plans arrange for applicable Trade Journal 1 to be given to employee “A,” who notices an article dealing with shaft couplings and sends copies to colleagues/co-workers “B,””C,””D,” etc. Applicable Trade Journal 2 starts on the desk of employee “B,” who notices articles on pivoted shoe bearings and wear-resistant V-belts. “B” makes copies of one or two other articles and sends them to “A,” “C,””D,” etc.; likewise “C” sends articles to “A,””B,””D,””E,” and so on.

This once-per-month review task typically takes less than 10 minutes, yet it allows each participant to acquire a valuable data bank of relevant cross-references. (Such a data bank can truly be one of those gifts that keeps on giving. For example, I personally had an experience decades ago when I looked for a reference article, then called its author directly, asking for–and cheerfully receiving–priceless guidance on a subject matter related to the article.)

2. Reading technical books: a page a day or 200 pages per year. . .
Few engineers purchase or thoroughly read technical texts after completing their formal education. Fortunately, however, there are some training-oriented employers who encourage their staff to read and absorb relevant technical texts. For example, back in 2003, one such employer encouraged his responsible professional employees to purchase as many books as they could reasonably assimilate or digest in a year’s time. Now, during performance appraisals, the effectiveness of this policy is being continually ascertained and reaffirmed.

Another company purchased pertinent technical texts and requires each technical employee to read a page per day. To the extent feasible and reasonable, these professionals are then asked to jot down what they discern as differences between their work processes, hardware details, failure frequencies, maintenance intervals, work processes, etc., versus what others (competitors) are doing in these fields of endeavor. The training value is immense. Certainly, the return on the investment of time it takes to read a page-a-day and to make a twosentence notation each week is huge. There also can be no doubt that this well-focused training will benefit all parties for years to come.

3. Training via “shirt-sleeve seminars”. . .
In the 1970s, one highly profitable company arranged for its equipment reliability technicians and engineers to share the responsibility of making 7- to 10-minute presentations at the end of each routinely scheduled and mandatory safety meeting. The presenters would educate themselves on such topics as “how to properly install a centrifugal pump”or “why steam turbines must be pre-heated before operation.”Following a pre-sentation, they would distribute written copies of two-page guidelines on the topic laminated in plastic. Plant management let it be known that it expected these guidelines to be used and adhered to by both the mechanical work force and operating personnel.

In this manner, these “shirt sleeve seminar” presenters taught themselves and passed on their findings to the entire plant. At this location, equipment failures due to human error and other causes were minimized and everyone profited from this approach. There should be no reason for not adopting it elsewhere with equal success.

4. Role statements & future training plans. . .
During a job interview, a graduating engineer would be wise to explore his or her projected role. Soon after starting work, the engineer should be strongly interested in receiving a written role statement from his or her superior. If no such statement is forthcoming, the engineer may put his or her understanding on paper and ask the responsible manager for review, input or concurrence. Unless there is agreement on the engineer’s role,”performance exceeding expectation” is as elusive as the same person simultaneously dancing at two separate weddings 50 miles apart.

By the same token, during a job interview, an engineer about to graduate should ask about the training opportunities available through or endorsed by a prospective employer’s facility. The interviewee must have a goal in mind and this goal must involve professional growth and learning.

Learning is obviously a two-component process.While one party offers it and the other absorbs it, the ultimate benefits are shared by both. That being the case, each has a commitment to make–and serious forethought and mutual cooperation are needed to achieve optimized professional training.

As an example, a company could identify a self-motivated employee and ask this person if he or she would be willing to be the custodian of an electronically stored and searchable engineering library dealing with turbomachinery, pumps, gears, shaft couplings, etc. He or she would then be asked to identify useful Conference Proceedings, published articles and related information on the chosen topic. The material needs to be indexed and, in one form or another, made accessible to one’s peers and other individuals who would be helped by the reference material.

During subsequent performance appraisals, the employee and the reviewer/appraiser would make an objective assessment of accomplishments by way of comparison with the previously agreed-upon role statement. Such an assessment would comprise all pertinent training issues and include measuring the employee’s performance with regard to reading and disseminating technical material.

Favorable results anticipated
By accepting help and being willing to help others succeed, engineers will prosper. Moreover, they will gain a sense of self-worth if they truly pursue training. Engineers that succeed in acquiring a marketable skill both during formal studies and after graduating from engineering school can face the future with considerable confidence. Self-motivated engineers or technicians who implement and stick to the approaches briefly described here are very likely to become the type of employees who offer solutions to problems. Instead of becoming folks expressing “concern” over potential problems, they will delineate the discrete steps needed to avoid problems.

Worth pondering
There are, then, a few things for future maintenance and reliability professionals to ponder:

  • All that’s labeled “education” is NOT beneficial. Some education can be so academic as to lack substance–it would not pass as a marketable skill. It’s the same with training. Take charge and make it relevant
  • Don’t just wait for skill-enhancing training opportunities to present themselves. Instead, take a hand in creating some of these opportunities. Virtually all marketable skills are acquired through training–and marketable skills get us through life better than a mere education.
  • On your way to work every day, resolve to add value. Think ahead and dwell on the specifics of adding value on that day. Later, on your way home from work, ask yourself how successful you’ve been in adding value to the enterprise.

Finally, remember this
In your job you may occasionally encounter leaders that either cannot–or will not–lead.When this happens, don’t give up. Only dead fish swim always with the stream. MT

Frequent contributor Heinz Bloch is well-known to MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY readers. The author of 17 comprehensive textbooks and over 340 other publications on machinery reliability and lubrication, he can be contacted as follows:, or via his Web site:

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1:06 am
September 2, 2006
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Inventory And Purchasing Add Value To Maintenance Departments

Best practices in the way these departments serve the maintenance organization can provide significant payback. Are yours measuring up?

Inventory and Purchasing departments. . .a “necessary evil” to most organizations. . . almost as big a drain on profit as the maintenance department. . . right? At least that’s what a large number of organizations seem to believe. They don’t look on maintenance as a profit center—the way it should be viewed. The same is true with Inventory (Warehouse/Storeroom) and Purchasing (Procurement/ Contracts). These support departments have the potential to significantly improve your bottom line.

0906_maintstrategies_img1How so? What methods can Inventory and/or Purchasing employ that would reduce cost to an organization, thereby improving profitability? What can be done to recognize whether the Inventory and/or Purchasing departments are declining or improving in the service they provide? Consider the following practices. They can provide payback.

1.Create item descriptions that make a difference. A best practice is to take care in ensuring that the data is “well kept” and is in a standard format. Standards should be set in the naming of inventory. This will reduce the chance of adding items more than once (a common problem), and will allow users to more easily search for items, saving time. Most of the asset management systems available today use domains or areas to limit choices of an item, thereby enforcing consistency, and use classifications to build itemspecific descriptions.

In other words, a description that uses classifications and domains is more likely to be searchable and will keep end users from describing items different ways (i.e. free-form text is inconsistent as 4 inch could be described many different ways: 4″ or 4 in. or 4Inch, four inch, FoUr in. etc.), making searches, inventory management and item master maintenance difficult or impossible. It is a best practice to use your own internal item number based on a defined standard (using the inherent ability to automatically generate the item number, if that functionality is available). Other numbers, such as a federal stock or vendor’s catalog number, should be separate entries and attached to a vendor. It is a further best practice for a large organization to use a single item master across entities in order to negotiate pricing and reduce duplicate items.

2. Set up processes that ensure inventory accuracy. One of the best practices for inventory accuracy involves ABC analysis in inventory.Again, most asset management systems are flexible enough to allow the customer to determine its own ABC points. The standard, however, is that “A” items represent 20% of the items that represent 80% of the inventory value (Pareto’s principle); “B” items are 30% of the items that represent 15% of the remaining inventory value; “C” items are the 50% balance of the items that represent 5% of the inventory value.

The “A” items—and even a majority of the “B” items—may be considered “insurance spares,” or those parts that a company hopes it never has to use, but keeps in inventory because they are engineered items or because the lead time is too great and if a critical asset failed and a spare part weren’t immediately available, too much revenue would be lost. The ABC analysis lets the storeroom personnel focus their attention on items that have higher inventory turnover (meaning they are issued, ordered, received and issued) and have a greater potential for causing maintenance delays. “A” items are inventoried (physically counted) once each year. “B” items are inventoried every six months.”C” items are inventoried quarterly or even monthly, depending upon the service level expectations of the maintenance department for which the storeroom is providing service.

(The reason this is considered an industrywide best practice is because, when using the formulas outlined above, you are managing 95% of the value of your inventory and conducting a physical count of the items once or twice a year. That frees up resource time for other, more mundane, inventory-related tasks and, theoretically, reduces cost while improving efficiency.)

3.Understand and set up reorder information. It is a best practice to enter correct reorder information. When a work order is planned properly, planned materials are reserved and the correct entry of data on the reorder screen supports a lean but robust replenishment strategy. It is a best practice to analyze, define and periodically update the “set points” for replenishment, including Reorder Point (ROP), Economic Order Quantity (EOQ), Safety Stock (SS) level, etc. Properly completed vendor information gives you valuable information that supports reorder and replenishment decision-making.

4. Assign vendors, manufacturers, associated cost & lead time information. There can be no doubt that having all the appropriate information to facilitate smooth and speedy item reorder, whether to replenish stock or for special order needs, is a best practice. Identifying the correct vendor that is most commonly used to obtain the item will accelerate any order process, be it the requisition phase or the actual purchase order. Being able to provide the vendor with a manufacturer and any manufacturerrelated information will certainly give the needed data to allow supplying of the part or its exact equivalent.

With an accurate cost history of the item being ordered, you are in a better position to quickly recognize when a vendor may be “misquoting” the price that should be provided to your organization. The ability to rapidly compare costs to quotes gives you the opportunity to verify that the vendor is quoting the same item as supplied the last time, too.While prices have a tendency to increase over time, a significant price difference in a short period of time should raise a red flag and encourage you to question what is being quoted and why there is such a price difference.

Lastly, how many times has your purchasing department assigned an order to a vendor with the promise that “everything is in stock and will be delivered by XXXX” (where XXXX stands for a specific day or date)?Your maintenance department is counting on receiving all five widgets in order to perform the requisite maintenance, yet only three show up; the other two are backordered— delaying performance of the maintenance. What if not performing the maintenance leads to a failure in the asset, and maintenance costs are increased because of additional downtime and/or more expensive components are needed to return the asset to optimal operating condition? Knowing the true lead time of a reordered item–and having confidence the vendor actually will deliver within that time without backorder— is a cornerstone for providing “world-class” service to the maintenance department.

5. Identify alternative parts for items, etc. Inventory and purchasing departments can further satisfy the needs of the maintenance department by capturing and maintaining MSDS information, item inspection when received (to the level both appropriate and necessary), add an item as a spare part to an asset (Bill of Material), etc.

It is a best practice to make use of available functionality regarding vendor and/or manufacturer- related information by recording pertinent data such as vendor catalog or manufacturer model numbers. Capturing the known pricing for an item that may be available from multiple vendors or manufacturers, as well as items that can be used as an alternate, further increases the value of the Inventory and Purchasing departments to an organization.

This level of support provides personnel with important information “at their fingertips” and can help in the management of vendor relationships. In turn, everyone involved saves time and prolonged asset downtime can be avoided. The benefit comes from being able to quickly identify a needed part, or its exact equal, when a machine is down and an item is out of stock. Having the proper information that identifies an alternate item that is in stock would eliminate expensive lost production, as well as expensive shipping costs, overtime, etc.

Measuring for success Six Sigma is a long-term, forward-thinking initiative designed to fundamentally change the way corporations do business. It has provided a few related guidelines that impact our ability to identify success. They are:

  • You don’t know what you don’t know.
  • You can’t do what you don’t know.
  • You don’t know until you measure.
  • You don’t measure what you don’t value.
  • You don’t value what you don’t measure.

Those five related guidelines pretty much sum up the value of measuring for success.You cannot be successful if you don’t measure. That means developing some sort of measurement system.And the basic purpose of any measurement system is to provide feedback, relative to your goals, that increases your chances of achieving these goals efficiently and effectively. Measurement gains true value when used as the basis for timely decisions.

The ultimate aim of implementing a performance measurement system is to improve the performance of the department.When you get your performance measurement right, the resulting information will tell you where you are (a baseline), how you are doing, and where you are going (trending).

A performance indicator is any of a group of statistical values which, taken together, give the state or express briefly the health of or manner in which a mechanism functions. That mechanism could be a physical asset or a process. Therefore, it is necessary to develop Performance Indicators that will enable you to measure the success of the processes associated with your Inventory and/or Purchasing departments. It is possible that you will develop a list of indicators you will measure, some being more important than others.

Those indicators that you develop and you consider to be the most significant to the success of the program, or are considered instrumental or deciding factors, are referred to as “key.” The most significant of these are referred to as Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. Some Key Performance Indicators that could be used to support the strategies discussed in this article are:

Inactive Stock with No Movement in the Previous 12 Months—the input being the number of items that have not been issued from the storeroom in the previous 12 months divided by the total number of items in inventory. The smaller the number, the less opportunity for improvement as those items that are identified represent potential opportunities for reduction of inventory, in both volume and value. If you elect to measure volume, it is the physical number of items not issued versus total number of items. If the election is value, the measurement becomes the value those items not issued represents when compared to the total value of the inventory.

There is an inherent weakness to this indicator— it does not differentiate between disposable or consumable spare parts and those parts that are “insurance” spare parts discussed earlier in the article. Therefore, it is necessary that an organization have its ABC analysis established and that the resulting information applies only to disposable or consumable spare parts.

Annual Inventory Turnover–contrary to initial thought, this indicator does not measure how many times any single item may be issued, reordered and received during the course of a year. It does, however, measure the value of the inventory that is issued, reordered and received during the course of any year. Be consistent to measure from the same beginning and end dates for each year. You determine this indicator by dividing the total annual inventory consumption by the average value of the inventory for the same time period. The lower the number, the greater the potential for reducing inventory, lowering the overall average value of the inventory, and retaining the capital in working funds (rather than unnecessary inventory in stock).

The two indicators, Inactive Stock with no movement in the previous 12 months and Annual Inventory Turnover, are complementary to one another.

Do not forget the “invisible” additional cost to maintaining inventory that could be reduced, if not eliminated, by tracking the previous two indicators. There is a cost of money (for investing on inventory in stock), of the warehouse (to store the inventory), of insurance (equal to the value of the inventory), for maintaining the inventory (cycle or physical counting by employees to ensure accuracy), taxes (unless tax-exempt), and utility expense for lighting, air conditioning or heating, etc.

Volume of Rush Purchase Orders—this indicator identifies the number of reactive type purchase orders that are issued. Reactive purchase orders are necessary when immediate and last-minute needs are identified. Typically, those needs are driven by reactive maintenance or improper maintenance planning. The lower the value of the indicator, the more proactive the maintenance organization and the more balanced the Inventory & Purchasing departments are in maintaining the correct inventory. Do not be confused and use this indicator as one identifying proper inventory levels. It is possible to have too much inventory on hand, which could produce a false value on the rush purchase orders indicator.

This indicator is reached by dividing the number of rush delivery purchase orders by the total number of purchase orders issued. The higher the number the more reactive the Purchasing department is in meeting the demand of its customer. Rush purchase orders bring other increased costs to an organization by way of higher freight charges for rapid delivery or missed opportunity for meeting sales orders because the assets may be inoperable.

Volume of Single Line Item Purchase Orders–if the number of single line purchase orders is high, in all likelihood the maintenance department is reactive in nature. Last-minute “got to have it now”orders tend to drive up this type of purchase order, as well as increase cost to the operating expense of the organization.

Do you know what the cost to process a purchase order is within your company? Would you be surprised to know that the cost could range from $75 each for a smaller company to $250+ for larger organizations? Having the capability to combine orders and place one order for multiple items reduces cost. If the maintenance department is proactive with forecasted demands, then multiple items can be consolidated on one purchase order, reducing processing costs.

In summary
Inventory and Purchasing departments have the potential to provide significant benefits to the bottom line of an organization. While there are certain methods and strategies that should be employed to achieve the level of success that you wish to attain, remember that the only way you will guarantee success is to measure and monitor the performance of the department(s). MT

Timothy Trout has held a number of positions within MRO Software, and currently serves as project manager within the organization’s Project Management Office. He has considerable experience in asset and maintenance management, including involvement with all aspects of material handling, from managing storerooms to managing procurement departments. Continue Reading →


1:03 am
September 2, 2006
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Improving Reliability Through A Clearer Understanding Of Contamination

Debris demands your attention. . . at all times.

A failed component is not just expensive from the standpoint of repair costs, downtime and lost productivity, it also is an inconvenience. Too often, repairs simply consist of replacing the component without further investigation into what may be the root of the problem. Debris particle contamination in lubricants has been identified as a major cause of premature bearing and gear failure.Not only can contamination in a lube system cause failure, neglecting to run proper checks of the system can mean the problem goes uncorrected, leading to continued damage, more premature failures and diminished equipment performance.

The big picture
Controlling and preventing solid debris contamination in a system is not an easy task; that’s why it is so important to stay mindful of this situation at all times. Contamination is defined as any solid, foreign materials that are suspended in the lubrication. Don’t be misled by what you can’t see; debris can be so small that it can only be measured in microns. It can enter the system at any time, including during assembly, rebuilding or repairs. Debris contamination also could be a byproduct of the environment, meaning that it can enter the system anywhere the lubricant is exposed to surfaces that rub or rotate together—conditions that can create wear particles. Contamination in any lubrication system can lead to failure, but in the process, it can continue to cause damage throughout a variety of areas in the lubrication cycle. By reducing the surface durability and resistance to fatigue, solid contaminants make themselves known through abrasive wear, denting/bruising, grooving and fatigue spalling on bearings or gears. A symptom of contamination also may reduce the function of the machinery. Once that happens, one can begin to predict the potential cost of losing the equipment at a critical time. Depending on an individual’s role in the industrial arena— as an end user, OEM or manufacturer—fully understanding the potential cost of losing equipment availability at a critical time may include weighting the effects on production, warranty claims or sales.

Types of analysis tools
Various experimental and predictive methods have been developed to assist the design engineer in analysis and development of equipment that is less sensitive to contamination than in the past. But first, in order to determine the potential risk to an operation, ask yourself, “Is anyone doing analysis daily, weekly or monthly in an effort to define debris levels by sampling?” In regard to contamination characterization, today’s equipment design engineers have a broad selection of contaminated lubricant analysis tools to help them assess the detrimental effects of debris particles on machinery wear and performance. Some of these existing analysis tools include wear particle and contamination analysis methods such as Ferrographic, Gravimetric Filtration, Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy, and SEM (EDAX) Spectroscopy–all of which are aimed at understanding the material make-up and characteristics of the contamination. In addition, particle size distributions and concentration levels are sought by particle sizing and counting techniques. Such techniques employ both manual microscopic methods and automatic direct counting through equipment using light scattering methods. Another option is a contaminated lubrication analysis. Comprehensive lubrication analysis programs monitor the physical properties of the lubrication, contamination levels and wear debris over time. If samples of oil, or in some cases grease, are taken on a regular basis, physical and chemical testing will help gauge how well the system is running. Properly implemented, such a program can provide early warning of problems before they become too serious. Most of these analysis tools are used in monitoring and understanding the evolution of equipment failure, as well as the level of lubricant contamination for predictive and preventive maintenance. While these techniques and methods are useful in understanding wear mechanisms and wear rates, they do little in helping to evaluate the impact debris damage has on finished gear and bearing surfaces as it relates to the fatigue life of their materials. With an increasing focus on reliability and uptime, equipment designers need to understand how to design equipment with debris resistant components and be able to account for its potential detrimental effects on fatigue life at the design stage.

A direct method, using surface damage characterization, has been developed for quantifying the effect of debris-contaminated lubrication environments on predicted life. Appropriately labeled as Debris Signature Analysis, this approach establishes a life prediction model based on understanding the relationship between particle material, size, shape, hardness or fracture toughness, and damage on the contacting surface. Performed during routine maintenance tear downs, Debris Signature Analysis provides a direct and practical approach to determine the severity through characterization of damaged surface topography. The contamination factor is then calculated and used in decreasing the predicted life under contaminated conditions. The key to this design understanding is being able to characterize damage on the components’ surfaces and link it directly to performance.

Prevention and improving life
Although analysis tools can provide a clearer understanding of system contamination and damage, it is difficult to eliminate debris from these systems completely. Thus, efforts should be focused on minimizing and combating contamination. Two areas that provide alternative solutions for debris are nonbearing solutions and debris resistant products. First and foremost, when it comes to nonbearing solutions, is careful attention to the care of components in order to reduce contamination. Proper storage, cleaning and inspection of products and equipment are simple ways maintenance managers and operators can improve the health of their equipment. Efforts to minimize contamination include:

• Rebuilding in a clean environment
• Cleaning the lubrication system
• Applying a filtration system
• Enhancing sealing systems
• Removing debris caused by previous component failures when rebuilding equipment
• Inspecting any reused components for debris damage and discarding or repairing them if damage is found Each step taken to prevent and combat debris highlights an improved understanding of the contamination and its effects on the reliability of equipment. Because it is so detrimental to productivity and the bottom line, debris demands the attention of all maintenance and reliability professionals. MT

Nixon, Harvey P., Springer, Thomas E., Hoeprich, Michael R., Clouse, Douglas A. ”Experimental and Analytical Methods for Assessing Bearing Performance Under Contaminated Lubrication Conditions,”SAE Paper 2002-01-1369, SAE International Off-Highway Congress, March 19-21, 2002, Las Vegas, NV.

Thomas E. Springer is enhanced bearing product manager with The Timken Company.

Advancing the TechnologyManufacturers like The Timken Company have made significant advancements in metallurgical design and processes to improve bearing mechanical properties of strength, ductility and toughness. The result has been the development of debris-resistant bearings that are better equipped to handle contaminated environments.


Timken® debris-resistant bearings are created using proprietary alloy and heat-treatment modifications and hard-film coating technology to optimize their mechanical properties. This debris technology can interrupt adhesive wear and can self-repair microcracking, providing customers with reliable, extended life performance. According to the manufacturer, these products are available in a variety of sizes and bearing types to fit into existing application envelopes and offer increased bearing life and productivity without a system redesign.

For more information on Timken’s products and services, including the Debris Signature AnalysisSM tool and debris-resistant bearings referenced in this article, visit

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12:57 am
September 2, 2006
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Communications: The Maintenance Partnership – Preparing For Partnership


Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor

Once the maintenance department realizes it cannot function autonomously, it immediately begins to establish itself as an integral part of the manufacturing, service and corporate process. As partnership interaction grows, so do mutual understanding, value and respect for each partner’s role in the process.

Establishing a partnership requires the maintenance department to proactively solicit each potential partner and deliver an investment statement that details the roles of the individual partners and outlines the mutual benefits of each partnership (inputs and outputs). In order for the potential partner to “buy in” to the concept, maintenance must, from the onset, establish its ability to consistently provide the necessary outputs to its partner, and more importantly, show that it has the mechanisms and capability to process inputs and turn them into equipment availability, reliability and increased throughput.

Continued success ultimately is borne out of each partner always feeling valued in the relationship. Therefore, if maintenance is to be the soliciting partner in the relationship, it must prepare for partnership by understanding its current strengths and improvement opportunities and by ensuring that intra-departmental communication processes are successfully in place.

Such behavior is the hallmark of successful, responsible maintenance departments that recognize they must be collaborative with and responsible toward the needs and requirements of other corporate departments–and at the same time, be cognizant of maintenance department needs and requirements and be responsible to itself. This level of behavior and partnership preparation can be achieved in a five-step process.

Step 1. Know Thyself: Perform a Maintenance Operation Effectiveness Review (MOER).
Forging a winning maintenance team is the simple result of understanding and communication. Many maintenance departments struggle with the concept of system management, job planning and open information sharing, often thinking it is much easier to revert to the “path of least resistance” found in a reactive environment based on personal agendas and limited responsibility. In this type of environment, we find low morale and complaints of lack of respect from both peers and inter-departmental workers.

The first step to breaking free from such a regime is to engage a reputable third-party maintenance expert to audit your current state of maintenance operations. The resulting MOER must recognize staffing strengths and current best practices that can be capitalized upon to bridge the disconnected management areas that present them selves as improvement opportunities. The MOER must address the following areas:

  • Planning and scheduling
  • Work flow management
  • Lubrication management
  • Inventory control
  • Failure prevention and analysis
  • Performance indicators
  • Management reporting

Recognizing–and taking on responsibility for– both strengths and weaknesses is the first step in building an understanding of how the maintenance department and its partners impact each another.

Step 2. Know Thy Future: Build an Engineered Maintenance Improvement Management Action Plan.
A management action plan is a detailed project plan that plots a timelined series of maintenance improvement initiatives determined by studying the corporate and department vision, short-term and long-term goals and objectives and budgets and investment returns, and by preparing a phased implementation of projects that can capitalize on strengths, add measurable value to the maintenance function and be implemented within a specific timeframe.

Building a management action plan requires maintenance to work in partnership with other departments and management to determine the validity of the project. This is the first showcase for maintenance–and it will set the stage for partnership interaction later.

0906_communications_img1Step 3. Develop Intra-Departmental Communication Tools. The commencement of any major maintenance management initiative can act as a change catalyst to develop crucial intra-departmental communication tools. This also presents the perfect opportunity to forge the maintenance group into a unified team of peers by involving them in the communication development process. Typical communication tools should include the following:

  • Minimum information requirements to raise a work order
  • Work order flow for differing work order types
  • Taking out and restocking MRO inventory parts
  • Work order design
  • Work order fault codes
  • Cross shift information transfer notes and status
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Condition-based response actions
  • Basic CMMS or EAM failure reports

There are many communication tools that could be added to the list; by allowing maintainers to be involved in the process assures the immediate communication shortcomings are addressed. The ability to communicate effectively intradepartmentally will show your partners you have the ability to consistently provide outputs to help them–and the ability to act on the input information provided by them.

Step 4. Develop the Partnership Input /Output Matrix.
The maintenance improvement initiatives set out in the management action plan will require the collaboration of multiple partners to achieve success. For example, any one project could involve management to endorse the project, accounting to release funds, purchasing to buy in product and/or services on time, production to release pilot machinery for testing, engineering to prepare/ change specifications, vendors and contractors to provide delivery of goods and services, etc.

The first Input/Output model can be built to assist in the first improvement project–and can be approached and presented as a pilot for future partnership dealings.

Step 5. Meet Your Pilot Partners!
This step is about preparing your case for partnership assistance; it will capitalize on the work performed in the first four steps to instill partner confidence. Be prepared to defend the merits of your new approach–and to explain why this approach is better than any previous initiative because you now understand yourself and how you fit in the corporation.

What’s next? The next installment of this column will examine the input/output relationship between the maintenance department and the operations or production department. MT

Ken Bannister is the principal consultant for Engtech Industries Inc., a maintenance management consulting group. Telephone: (519) 469-9173; e-mail:

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12:52 am
September 2, 2006
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Sub-Arc Metal-Cored Wires Help Increase Production And Reduce Rework

Use of these wires in a company’s buildup/overlay processes is optimizing the quality of final welds on pressure vessels around the globe.

Alloy Cladding Company, LLC of Fort Myers, FL, is the world’s oldest running company in the business—the business of overlay welding and rebuilding pressure vessels used in the paper, pulp and chemical industries. True to its name, Alloy Cladding specializes in cladding or rebuilding the interior of these structures using custom-made submerged arc welding (SAW) platforms.

Because chemical and mechanical action steadily corrodes and erodes the interior of the vessels, they must be inspected annually to ensure they meet strict American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) guidelines.When there’s a problem—whether it’s cracking or thinning of the interior walls— project manager, Steve Buckmeier and the Alloy Cladding team are among the first to be called.

0906_bonusmaintlog_img1Time to change
For many years, Alloy Cladding used SAW solid wire on the first pass of the buildup/overlay process.Unfortunately, that wire was not without its problems. Given Steve Buckmeier’s penchant for tinkering with machines, he adjusted his power sources and submerged arc platforms in hopes of optimizing the process. Eventually, however, the feeding and porosity problems caused by the solid wire began to add up—both in frustration and costs. That’s when the company began looking for a way to optimize the submerged-arc process and the quality of the final weld. The solution it discovered came in the form of sub-arc metal-cored wires.

Since Alloy Cladding switched from the 5/32 SAW solid wire to Tri-Mark® Metalloy EM12KS 1/8-diameter metalcored SAW wire from Hobart Brothers, the company has increased its deposition rates by 10 lbs. per hour, as well as reduced problems with porosity and its corresponding rework. Even better, the improved operating efficiencies have helped the company assure quality and safety for its clients, and reduced operating and labor costs in the process.

Meticulous work extends life
Alloy Cladding has pioneered its specific method of buildup/overlay welding on pressure vessels to ensure the structural integrity of these special structures in countries around the world—including the U.S., Canada, Chile,Mexico, Brazil and Australia. Each project varies in size (some pressure vessels can be 250 ft. tall) but the overall goal is the same: line the inside of the unit with new steel—one weld bead at a time—to extend the service life of the vessel and to prevent failure.

Maintenance Repair Operator (MRO) teams at the companies often perform smaller repairs that are found during the annual inspections of vessels to confirm that they are still meeting the minimum thickness and structural requirements determined by the ASME. But, when a vessel needs a complete build-up and overlay, these teams turn to Alloy Cladding. This process may be performed once every 12-20 years (depending on the pressure vessel’s application) and is used on modern and older vessels alike—some date back to the early 1900s—with the company mostly encountering repairs on wall thicknesses ranging from 3/4″ to 2″.

As a first step in the repair process, Alloy Cladding professionals inspect the inside of each pressure vessel to determine the amount of wear. According to Buckmeier, the inside often looks like it has divots and craters as a result of corrosion and erosion that has slowly eaten away at the steel. Rough areas are carbon arc gouged and small manual welding repairs are made before grinding down and grit blasting the inside of the vessel surface to prepare it for automatic welding.

The crew then assembles two welding rigs inside of the vessel, each consisting of Miller Electric’s Dimension 1000 or SR1500 power sources and an automated SAW configuration that propels each welding unit around the inside of the vessel. Once each rig is constructed, welding operators preheat the carbon steel to 300 F to prevent cracking and the welding process begins.

Switching wire switches on savings
The SAW process is similar to other welding processes in that it creates the coalescence of metals by heating them with an arc between the base metal and an electrode that is deposited into the weld. The difference is that the process does not require an external shielding gas, nor can it use a self-shielded welding wire. Instead, the arc and molten metal are submerged” and shielded by a blanket of granular, fusible material called flux.

To complete the repairs, two custom designed welding rigs sit on either side of a platform inside of the vessel. One is elevated two feet above the other, allowing each platform to create a continuous 4-ft. band around the inside of the vessel simultaneously. Every time the rig goes around the tank, it automatically indexes itself upward to lay a bead directly above the previous bead. Once each rig has reached the end of its section, the entire platform is raised up on scaffolding to lay the next 4-ft. section. The rigs repeat this process until they reach the top of the vessel and the entire structure has been built up. This process is usually carried out twice, depending on the remaining thickness of the vessel’s steel. The first pass is done using a single, Tri-Mark Metalloy EM12KS 1/8-diameter sub-arc metal-cored wire. The second pass is done using twin 1/8 309 or 312 stainless steel electrodes, depending on the vessel’s use, as a protective overlay to battle corrosion.

Solving the problem
Despite Alloy Cladding’s ingenuity with equipment, SAW solid wire never performed up to the company’s expectations. It never fed really well.We’d change the equipment around and try to do it the best we could,” explains Buckmeier. But our biggest complaint was that it was easy to get porosity.And we really prep the vessel surface. I’m not trying to run through rusty old metals. I’ve got nice clean metals and when we used sub-arc solid wire, we’d still get porosity.”

Given the stringent requirements of ASME codes, porosity is a costly defect that compromises weld integrity and leads to countless hours of rework.After discussing the complications with his local welding distributor and representatives from Hobart Brothers, Buckmeier decided to try the Metalloy EM12KS metalcored sub-arc wire in conjunction with Tri- Mark’s HPF-A95 flux.

For the work that we do,” states Buckmeier, the metal-cored sub-arc is the most forgiving welding wire we’ve ever had on our machines. It’s almost impossible to have a porosity problem with it.”

Metalloy EM12KS sub-arc wire is designed specifically for use in SAW applications. This composite metal-cored wire consists of a metal sheath and a core of various powdered materials that provides distinct advantages over Alloy Cladding’s previous solid wire, including higher deposition rates and faster travel speeds.

The sub-arc metal-cored wires also have improved Alloy Cladding’s arc starts through easier feeding and higher current densities. That’s because metal-cored wires focus the current through the outer sheath, whereas a solid wire focuses the current through its entire cross section. At equal diameter, with the same amperage, electrical stick-out and flux,Metalloy submerged arc electrodes provide higher deposition rates than SAW solid wires. Their penetration patterns are also broader than SAW solid wires, making it easier to bridge fit-up gaps; and higher current levels can be used on the root passes and thin materials without burn through.

0906_bonusmaintlog_img2Since making the switch to metal-cored wire, Alloy Cladding has been able to increase its voltage from 23 to 25 (at 500 amps) and run approximately 85″-90″ of welding wire per minute. Such efficiencies have increased deposition rates from 60 to 70 lbs. per hour. Interestingly, SAW metal-cored wires also have the advantage of reducing contact tip and liner wear. As a result, the company has reduced maintenance time and costs for replacing wire feeder components since switching to the Metalloy wire.

The HPF-A95 flux also has provided benefits. As an active flux, it includes components that help protect the bead from outside contaminants to help eliminate porosity in the final weld (Fig. 1.) In addition, the HPT-A95 offers more resistance to rust and mill scale. Most importantly, it helps cut down on the clean-up time required between the initial and secondary passes with the stainless steel wires.

“That’s another feature (we like),” explains Buckmeier. With some sub-arc welds, the flux gets stuck and you have to beat it off with hammers. This stuff (the HPF-A95) is selfpeeling. You just keep running and it falls out of the way.”

The finished product
Once finished, the vessels go through various tests (ultrasonic, dye-penetrant, magnetic particle, etc.) to ensure that Alloy Cladding has met ASME codes with its welds. If flaws are found, they are ground out and reworked. Since it’s begun using metal-cored wires, however, Buckmeier states that the company has far fewer flaws to deal with—approximately 24 man-hours less of rework time for every 1,000 square feet.

Equally important is the quality of the work Alloy Cladding has been able to provide to its customers. “When we finish a vessel, we quite often have added 15 to 20 years to its life,” says Buckmeier. There will be some small routine maintenance annually, but they won’t go through a total rebuild for a long time.” Summing up Alloy Cladding’s experience, Buckmeier smiles. We’ve run the same basic machinery for 50 years,” he says, I guess it’s about time we discovered this wire.” MT

Dennis Foster and Jon VanPelt are district managers with Hobart Brothers and Miller Electric, respectively. Both companies are business units of ITW. E-mail : and

Hobart Brothers Company. . .Hobart Brothers Company, founded in 1917, by Charles Clarence Hobart, in Troy, OH, remained family-owned and operated until its acquisition by Illinois Tool Works (ITW) in 1996. (ITW also is the parent company of Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Bernard, Smith Equipment, Weldcraft, Hobart Welders, Tempil and Jetline.)


Today, Hobart Brothers is still based in Troy, where it manufactures premium welding filler metals, including stick electrodes and solid and tubular (flux cored and metal cored) wires under the brands Hobart®, McKay®, Tri-Mark® and Corex®. All filler metals are sold through welding distributors and meet or exceed the specifications of the American Welding Society (AWS) and other regulatory classifications. To learn more, visit or

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