Archive | July


6:00 am
July 1, 2007
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Vibration Monitoring Software

Keep the following information in mind as you seek out the best product for your specific needs

“Craftsmanship” results when highly trained, skilled and knowledgeable workers use tools and machinery to perform their work or trade, turning out the highest levels of quality and appeal. It’s nothing new. “Craftsmen” actually are descendants of ancient Artisans, the predominant producers of goods prior to the Industrial Revolution. Both Artisans and Craftsmen were revered for their knowledge and abilities to build, create or construct products with high degrees of excellence. In centuries past, Craftsmen were truly admired and highly sought after.

Today, “Maintenance” is not a trade or craft in the traditional sense of the word. But, it should be—if we expect high-performing, reliable, cost-competitive equipment and facilities. Our Nation, business, industry and infrastructure will continue to be at risk if we do nothing to change the perceptions, development and the retention of the highly skilled employees who are responsible for ensuring that our equipment and facilities operate reliably and cost-effectively. Let’s look at the historical development of a “Craftsman” as a lesson for our future.

0707_uptime_ludeca1Craftsmen & Tradesmen
A skilled manual worker in a specific trade or craft was called Craftsman or Tradesman. (Today’s politically correct terms are Craftworker and Tradesperson.) The status of such a worker typically would lie somewhere between that of a laborer and a highly trained and educated “professional.” Most had high degrees of both practical and theoretical knowledge of their trade.

Since the 14th Century, a Journeyman wishing to become “Master Craftsman” would produce a “masterpiece” that would be judged by members of a craft guild (professional association). Successful candidates would be elected as “Masters” in their craft—and generally became obligated to take on young Apprentices in order to pass on their skills and knowledge.

In the past, shortages of skilled Craftsmen grew rapidly in societies where educated professionals were highly prized. This, in turn, would lead to lucrative niche markets in the trades. (Sound familiar? Seems that history really does repeat itself.)

A Craftsman or Tradesman typically began as an Apprentice, working for and learning from a Master Craftsman. After four to seven years, this person would be released from his Master’s service as a Journeyman. (The term comes from the French word “journée,” meaning the period of one day. It referred to the Journeyman’s right to charge a fee for each work day.)

In England, Journeymen typically would work as employees for daily pay. In Germany, they often would “journey” from workshop to workshop, learning from many different Masters while being paid for daily work. The term “jack” is sometimes used as an informal name for Journeyman. A “Jack of all trades…and a Master of none” is a common term for someone who possesses a degree of skill in more than one trade, but has not made a continuous career of any one to become a Master Tradesman or Master Craftsman.

The formal system of training new generations of skilled craft or trade practitioners (that is still popular in some countries) is called “apprenticeship.” As they have for generations, Apprentices build their careers through structured, formal apprenticeship training. Most of this training is done on the job and balanced with classroom studies, while working for an employer who helps the Apprentice learn his/her trade.

The apprenticeship system, which began in the late Middle Ages, came to be supervised by craft guilds and town governments. A Master Craftsman was entitled to employ young people in his workshop as an inexpensive form of labor in exchange for providing formal training in the craft.

Apprentices, who were usually 14 to 21 years of age and unmarried, would live with the Master’s family. Most aspired to becoming Master Craftsmen themselves on completion of their contract (usually a term of seven years). At that time, they would work as a Journeyman. Interestingly, a significant number of these individuals failed to achieve the status of Master Craftsman or acquire their own workshops.

During the 20th Century, the apprenticeship process experienced many changes. While a Craftworker or Tradesperson still begins as an Apprentice, the apprenticeship is carried out partly through working with a qualified Journeyman and partly through attending an accredited trade school for a definite period of time (usually around four years). At that point, the Apprentice becomes a fully qualified Journeyman. Today, very few trades still make a distinction between a qualified Craftworker/ Tradesperson, Journeyman or a Master.

Where do we stand? Are our maintenance and reliability “technicians,” mechanics and electricians true “Journeymen” or—better yet—“Masters?” Have we perpetuated the centuries-old apprenticeship processes of passing on skills and knowledge to our younger generations? Unfortunately, no.

Most small and mid-sized businesses and industries have NOT trained and developed the skills and knowledge of their maintenance workforce. Many have assumed that the “craft” of maintenance can be picked up along life’s way. It’s only when they find themselves in a bind (i.e., really up against the wall), that managers in these operations resort to training—for a short time.

Most maintenance people in small to mid-sized plants today have not been formally trained and qualified to do the tasks we ask them to do each day at work. They are good—in fact, excellent—at figuring things out, however. And why not? We love puzzles. We love challenges.

Still…what about our business competitiveness— now and in the years to come? In short, how do we secure the future of our highly mechanized, automated, techno-logic wired industries?

We need “Craftsmanship” now more than ever before!

21st century apprenticeships
We need to establish company-based apprenticeship- style programs—but, NOT “old-style” programs. We can learn from the mentoring process by which early Apprentices learned to master new skills and knowledge. We can recognize that not every Journeyman is a Master Craftsman. Only the best achieve that status when recognized by their peers. We can accept the fact that quality workmanship (right the first time, safe, cost effective and timely) is a result of formal, structured learning processes. Briefly, here is what 21st Century Apprenticeships could encompass:

  • Formal assessment and selection processes to identify the best and the brightest with high prospects of success.
  • Organized training-learning processes from the prerequisite basics (reading, math, writing, safety, tools…) to core skills and knowledge (pumps, motors, gearboxes, drives…) to equipment and task specifics (Press #44, Allen- Bradley PLC, Line 8…). Don’t stop with core skills and knowledge assuming they can “figure out” specific equipment applications.
  • Training focused on results, not training for training’s sake (high cost–low return). Focus on constraint, high-maintenance-cost, problematic, most penalizing and critical at-risk equipment or areas (low cost–high return).
  • Detailed step-by-step procedures or “best practices” used as guides for equipmentspecific instruction, and eventually jobperformance requirements (standardized work instructions).
  • Apprentice learners assigned to work with topqualified employees as their mentors for specific skill sets. Trained mentors held accountable for effective on-the-job coaching skills.
  • Apprentice learners formally “qualified” through progressively more and more challenging task demonstration of on-job skills and knowledge.
  • Pay advancement for Apprentice learners linked to progressively higher demonstrated qualifications—“pay for applied skills.” Employees periodically re-qualified on job-critical tasks.

21st century reliability technicians
Many, but not all, of our future maintainers must be profi- cient in “reliability methods.” Higher-level reliability skills and knowledge is the natural progression for those who are highly successful products of the 21st Century Apprenticeships. The more our Reliability Technicians know about equipment and the fundamentals of good maintenance, the more efficient and effective they will be. Reliability “tools” alone will not make a “reliability technician.” Reliability methods help us look into the future, into equipment conditions, using tools and processes to identify and correct emerging problems before they negatively impact the business. Our 21st Century Reliability Technicians must be proficient in using many and varied appropriate reliability methods. Consider these as starters:

  • Condition monitoring technologies and predictive maintenance (PdM) such as oil analysis, vibration analysis, infrared/thermography
  • Preventive maintenance (PM) including ultrasound inspection
  • Precise machinery lubrication (not oiling and greasing)
  • Precision maintenance
  • Root cause failure analysis (RCFA) and problem prevention
  • Root cause success analysis (RCSA) to promulgate what works
  • Reliability-centered maintenance (RCM)
  • Data collection and analysis from multiple sources to improve performance
  • Partnering with Operations to improve overall performance (Total Productive Maintenance)
  • Cross-functional teamwork to improve performance, develop new methods and design new equipment and facilities

The future
Imagine what our future could be if we had formal “mentorbased” development and progression processes from high school co-op students, to work study students, to employed Helpers, to Apprentices, to Journeymen, to Masters or Reliability Technicians. Imagine where we would be in the globally competitive marketplace if we had a highly trained workforce thinking and acting “reliability”(and maximizing today’s proven tools and methods) versus thinking and acting with a “repairs” mindset. Imagine what we could do as a Nation if we were to revive the essence of old-world apprenticeships combined with proven skills-development methods from World War II and the most advanced equipment and technologies in the world. Then, imagine our world WITHOUT “Craftsmen.” Imagine…

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6:00 am
July 1, 2007
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Technology To Manage Predictive Maintenance


Jane Alexander, Editor-In-Chief

This online software and its database capabilities can make PdM easier.

0707_solspot_img1When Matrix Risk Consultants wanted to offer clients infrared inspections several years ago, the company had a couple of options. It could either purchase equipment and develop its own program management and analytic tools for clients or find a partner with the best technology to complement its loss prevention services.

Matrix wanted to do more than just offer infrared. It wanted to change the way results were delivered. The idea was to develop advanced software with database capabilities to make it possible to capture, manage and analyze data from hundreds or thousands of inspections across facilities, regions and countries.

0707_solspot_quote1According to Larry Jones, president of Matrix, predictive maintenance (PdM) providers have typically distributed inspection reports the same way for the past 25 years, by sending send a hard-copy or CD-Rom report. Some might even post these reports online. “The reports show problem areas, but most are static. There are no interactive capabilities to drill down into more detailed data, and see what was done across multiple locations or track the status of each issue.”

0707_solspot_quote2Matrix found its solution with Predictive Service (PSC), a global provider of PdM programs and Web-based software for interactive online analysis and reporting. Matrix was especially interested the company’s ViewPoint® offering, a patented reporting software.

Jones notes that ViewPoint’s database capabilities are what really set it apart. “We wanted to implement advanced technology,” he says. “PSC was so far along, though, that it didn’t make sense to try to catch up. So we formed a strategic alliance.” The software captures field data, displaying the results online for easy access from any location. Search, sort and aggregating features allow easy monitoring of PdM programs. Users can also realize and customize their ROI data to their specific parameters and locations.

0707_solspot_img2Additional features provide for baseline documentation of all surveyed equipment, problem acknowledgement and verification, tracking of open, scheduled and completed issues, recording of actual repair actions, and email alerts. While companies managing PdM programs for one site or thousands have greatly benefited from the software, PSC is rolling out a new version in August with new features and functionality to make it an even more valuable PdM resource.

The new ViewPoint software integrates all programs and technologies on one platform (infrared, vibration and oil analysis and ultrasound). Users access one website for a comprehensive view of all PdM activities and results across all locations and operating units, with the ability to drill down all the way to individual pieces of equipment.

Predictive Service (PSC)
Cleveland, OH

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6:00 am
July 1, 2007
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Non-OEM Pump Rebuild Shops: Facts And Considerations

In light of so many consolidations across the pump industry, is it any wonder that legacy brand experience often is lost? These days, some OEMs may not be able to offer the same engineering competence they once had in the area of pump rebuilding.

Trying to rebuild a vintage process pump to original OEM specifications makes no sense, given current pump rebuilding capabilities and changes to system performance that occur over time. Thus, a qualified independent rebuild shop deploying highly experienced personnel and a full range of state-of-the-art technologies (including balancing and alignment, vibration analysis, ultrasonics, infrared thermography, oil analysis and non-destructive testing techniques, among others) can verifiably offer high-quality upgrades that improve both uptime and efficiency consistent with current system performance requirements.

0707_pumprebuild1How, though, do you go about identifying such an operation? More importantly, how can you be sure that the shop to which you entrust your pumps will rebuild them to deliver the efficiency and reliability you desire? It’s not easy—you have many factors to take into consideration. This month, we discuss some general guidelines regarding the selection of a competent non-OEM pump repair operation.

Warranty issues
A competent repair facility will fully warrantee its work. There is no quibbling as to who supplied what associated parts and services, and which sub-vendors are responsible for delivering questionable or inadequate components. Truly competent facilities will not shift responsibility in this regard. Their competence is their bond and they will have taken steps to assure quality at all levels. That being the case, an informed user will not claim that only the OEM stands behind his work. A competent repair facility will do no less and the case is closed.

Consider a large refinery with well over 3000 centrifugal pumps installed on its premises. The refinery owns pumps that rarely fail and others that fail rather often. Some are large and others are small. Some are critically important and others less so. Some are reliable but inefficient, or efficient, but less reliable overall. A well-informed pump user will have access to much pertinent information and, especially, will have failure frequency data relating to his pump population. These data and an understanding of what caused a given pump failure will enable the user or competent pump rebuild shop to point out and explain, specify or recommend a number of appropriate options. Once cost-effective options are selected, the competent pump rebuild shop, henceforth abbreviated to “CPRS,” should be asked to implement measures that include upgrading of sensitive components, avoidance of vulnerable lubricant application methods and others.

At the same time, there should be an understanding between the pump owner and CPRS as to whether hydraulic upgrade options exist. In other words, before embarking on the repair of a pump that presently operates at 65% of best efficiency point (BEP) flow and draws a current of, say, 100 amps, it would be nice to know if a different impeller would be available that might cause operation to shift to 95% of BEP and draw only 90 amps. A simple calculation might reveal the payback and straightforward overall cost justification for such an upgrade.

0707_pumprebuild_quote1Also, based on an understanding of what failed and why, a reliability-focused user will surely want to implement routine shop upgrades, which are defined as those done on “bad actor” pumps. Bad actors are those that require repairs more often than the rest of the pump population, and routine upgrades are done on those pumps so as to reduce future failure risk.

Uptime-extending upgrades
The following list is a summary of routine shop upgrading done on pumps that fail frequently. This summary is presented early in this article because it seems these upgrade measures are rarely pursued by OEM shops, whereas an independent CPRS is more likely to explain and advocate them.

  1. Double-row, single inner ring angular contact bearings in ANSI pumps can be replaced with modern double-row, double inner ring angular contact bearings.
  2. The unbalanced constant level lubricator is discarded and a balanced model incorporating a sight glass is installed. The balance line is routed to the top of the bearing housing (former location of the housing vent—now discarded).
  3. The new balanced constant level lubricator is mounted on the “up-arrow” side shown in the vendor’s or manufacturer’s literature.
  4. Oil rings are being replaced by suitable flinger discs. Flinger discs have a metal hub and are set-screwed or suitably fastened to the shaft. The actual disc is made of a suitable elastomer or flexible metal, and its lowermost 3/8” portion immersed in the lube oil. To be considered suitable, the manufacturer-endorsed peripheral speed limitation must be observed.
  5. On larger bearings and in installations where circulating lube oil is often preferred, plant shops are encouraged to obtain input from their respective Plant Technical Services Group. With the concurrence of these reliability professionals, convert to direct oil spray lubrication with a device that pressurizes oil drawn from the bearing housing sump.
  6. Pumps with dry sump oil mist previously applied at the center of the bearing housing should be modified to apply oil mist per API-610 8th Edition, e.g. the mist enters between the bearing protector seal and the bearing.
  7. Unless shaft surface speeds exceed 10 m/s (~2000 ft/ min), all “bad actor” pumps and small steam turbines are being fitted with dual-face magnetic bearing housing seals. The bearing housing is now quasi hermetically sealed—nothing goes in or out. The bearing housing end cap is painted with white spray paint so that any (highly unlikely) oil leakage will show up easily.
  8. Unless oil rings are used (in which case, a thinner oil may be needed), use ISO Grade 68 diester or PAO synthetic lubricant on all bad actor pumps (“bad actors” are those that fail more frequently than most others in a given plant). An aluminum or stainless steel label stating oil type is affixed to the top of the pump.
  9. Cooling water is removed from all centrifugal pumps with rolling element bearings.
  10. The shaft interference fit for back-to-back angular contact bearings is carefully measured and verified not to exceed 0.0003” on shafts up to and including 80 mm diameter.

Of course, pump repair and rebuilding efforts often go beyond just the routines that were described above. Repair scopes differ from pump to pump and must be defined if the goals of uptime extension and failure risk reduction are to be achieved.

Defining the repair scope
The CPRS has both the tools and the experience needed to define a work scope beyond the foregoing summary of routine upgrading. The CPRS takes a lead role in defining the repair scope and all parties realize that reasonably accurate definitions will be possible only after first making a thorough “Incoming Inspection.” On a written form or document, on both paper and in the computer memory, the owner-customer, manufacturer, pump type, model designation, plant location, service, direction of rotation and other data of interest are logged in, together with operating and performance data. The main effort goes into describing the general condition of a pump, and this effort might be followed by a more detailed description of the work. Either way: it constitutes the condition review.

Condition reviews include photos of the as-received equipment and close-up photos of parts and components of special interest. End floats, lifts and other detailed measurements are taken and recorded on a dimensional record both before and after total dismantling. Components are marked or labeled, and hardware is counted and cataloged. Bearings, bushings and impellers are removed. Bead blasting, steam or other cleaning methods are listed and a completion date for these preliminary steps is agreed upon. It should be noted that only now would a competent shop consider it time to arrive at the next phase in its repair scope definition.

Non-destructive testing (NDT) is the next step and must be used where applicable. A good pump rebuild shop will issue a form that identifies the chosen inspection method, perhaps liquid dye penetrant or magnetic particle methods. While a detailed discussion of NDT inspection is beyond the scope of this presentation, its importance must be stressed and the CPRS will recognize this need.

0707_pumprebuild2There also may be a need for electrical runout readings at eddy current probe locations, rotor (shaft) total indicator readings (TIR), individual impeller balance, rotor balance and residual unbalance. Such a form would also list the authority for performing these inspections, acceptance criteria, condemnation limits and other items of interest. Some of the ultimate inspection results would be documented on this form as well; other inspection results would go on separate forms.

Recall that the term “form” refers to both paper and computerized formats. It also should be evident that there is a transitioning of documents that define initial work scope, to documents that deal with material certification, documentation of as-achieved (or as-built) dimensions, adequacy or fitness-forservice of auxiliary components or repair quality.

Repair procedures/restoration guidelines
Pump manufacturers usually supply pump maintenance manuals with detailed assembly and disassembly instructions that are either generic or specific to a particular pump style and model. A number of important checks should be performed by the CPRS for users whose serious goal it is to systematically eradicate failure risk. Both the CPRS and the user have responsibilities in ascertaining that all quality checks are performed with due diligence.

0707_pumprebuild_quote2Concentricity and perpendicularity
Experience shows that after years of repairs, many pumps are due for a series of comprehensive dimensional and assembly-related checks. As a minimum, every pump that is labeled a “bad actor” and considered part of the reliability-focused user’s initial pump failure reduction program should be given the checks described in Figs. 1-4. The verification setup is conveyed in Fig. 1; it originates in decades-old vendor literature. These directives are still quite relevant today. After the various dial indicator checks of Fig. 1 are complete, the dimensional “before vs. after” findings listed in Figs. 2, 3 and 4 should be recorded in either the (preferred) electronic, or, as a minimum, paper format. Users and shops that do not take time to record these pump repair data will find it very difficult to reach their desired failure reduction objectives. (Note that certain seal-related dimensions may not apply to cartridge seals.)

Coming in September
In Part II of this series, we explain issues and guidelines regarding selection of competent non-OEM pump rebuilders in further detail, illustrating the discussion with actual case study accounts.

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 directly at:

Jim Steiger is senior aftermarket engineer with HydroAire, Inc., in Chicago, IL. Telephone: (312) 804-3694.

Robert Bluse is president of Pump Services Consulting, in Golden, CO. Telephone: (303) 916-5032.

For more information: This article has been excerpted and condensed from NPRA Presentation RMC-07-95, “OEM vs. Independent Re-Build Shops: Why Having All the Facts and Keeping an Open Mind Is Essential,” delivered at the NPRA Reliability & Maintenance Conference, May 22-25, 2007, Houston, TX. To obtain the full presentation, contact NPRA directly (


1. Bloch, Heinz P. and Alan Budris; Pump User’s Handbook: Life Extension, (2006) Fairmont Publishing Company, Lilburn, GA, 2nd, Revised Edition, ISBN 0-88173-517-5

2. Bloch, Heinz P. and Claire Soares; Process Plant Machinery for Chemical Engineers, (1998) Butterworth-Heinemann, Woburn, MA. 2nd, Revised Edition, ISBN 0-7506-7081-9

3. Bloch, Heinz P.; “Twelve Equipment Reliability Enhancements with 10:1 Payback”, Presentation/Paper No. RCM- 05-82, NPRA Reliability & Maintenance Conference, New Orleans, LA, May 2005

4. Bloch, Heinz P.; “High Performance Polymers as Wear Components in Fluid Machinery,” World Pumps, November, 2005

5. Bloch, Heinz P. and Fred Geitner; Major Process Equipment Maintenance and Repair, (2006) Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, TX, 2nd Edition, ISBN 0-88415- 663-X

6. Bloch, Heinz P.; “How to Select a Centrifugal Pump Vendor,” Hydrocarbon Processing, June 1978

7. Bloch, Heinz P.; “How to Buy a Better Pump,” Hydrocarbon Processing, January 1982

8. Bloch, Heinz P.; “Implementing And Practicing Reliability Engineering,” ASME Energy Conference, Houston, TX, January 1996

9. Bloch, Heinz P., Machinery Reliability Improvement, Gulf Publishing Company, (1998) Houston, TX, 3rd Edition ISBN 0-88415-661-3

10. Bloch, Heinz P. and Fred Geitner; Machinery Failure Analysis and Troubleshooting, (1997) Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, TX, 3rd Edition, ISBN 0-88415- 663-1

11. Dufour, John W., and William E. Nelson; Centrifugal Pump Sourcebook, (1993) McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, ISBN 0-07-018033-4

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6:00 am
July 1, 2007
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Publishers Notes: Strategic Partnering


Bill Kiesel, Vice President/Publisher

At a time of great challenge and opportunity in the global business environment, tremendous forces are reshaping today’s marketplace. How manufacturing responds to this is critical. The Maintenance and Reliability function of your plants and facilities is crucial to staying competitive. Market intelligence and evidence-based recommendations enable businesses to make better decisions and deliver new ideas that are essential to advancing Maintenance and Reliability solutions.

At Maintenance Technology, it is our unique point of view that makes us such a vital strategic partner. Our publication applies quality, in-depth information and proven methodologies to deliver insights that demonstrate the solution, outcome and economic value of Maintenance and Reliability practices. What makes us unique is not only the richness and relevance of our editorial content—it is the way it is leveraged by you, our readers.

As I stated in an earlier editorial: “We know that you and your operations are constantly being challenged by a changing world and economy.” But we are ideally positioned to deliver value and solutions to the issues and challenges you face every day.

Looking ahead, our goal is to build on the foundation and strengths we have established over the past 20 years to become even more valuable to you. Across all of our properties, we will keep adding to the quality and benefi ts we consistently deliver.

That being said, this month’s issue of Maintenance Technology is wrapped in a renewal notice for those subscriptions about to expire. Please take a few moments and complete this form to ensure your continued receipt of our publication. If you’re not receiving the wrapcover I still urge you to renew today. By doing so, you’ll continue to gain valuable knowledge from industry professionals. However, we want to hear from you, too, and we encourage you to help others learn from your own experiences. So please, don’t only fi ll in the renewal notice, but also send us your ideas, opinions and successes.

Thank you to all our loyal readers! MT


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6:00 am
July 1, 2007
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Careful Planning, Hard Work And Luck

The successful and speedy Comanche Peak steam generator replacement was marked by real teamwork from the get-go.

Shattering a world record…

Careful Planning, Hard Work And Luck

On April 20, 2007, TXU closed Comanche Peak Unit 1’s breaker and ramped up in power, completing a combined steam generator and reactor head replacement outage that began on February 24, just 55 days earlier. That’s right, just 55 days. While steam generator replacement projects have been performed in the U.S. and around the world many times over the past two decades, short outage durations have come to be known as the measurement of success—and competition for “who” is the best is measured in days and hours of outage durations. Interestingly, until Comanche Peak was completed, the world record stood at 63 days, 13 hours. That was until a TXU-Bechtel team of highly motivated, experienced personnel shattered that record by more than a week at the Comanche project. (Bechtel was TXU’s prime contractor for the replacement of the steam generators.) Here’s how the team did it.

0707_outagestrat_img1The site
Comanche Peak is a two-unit nuclear generating station located about 60 miles southwest of Dallas. Each unit generates 1150 MWe, and the pressurized water reactor design includes four steam generators per unit, with each steam generator weighing about 400 tons, nominally 15 feet in diameter and about 70 feet long.

During original construction, the containment structure around the nuclear steam supply system was completed after the steam generators were installed. Consequently, there was no existing access to remove and replace the steam generators. The replacement methodology would dictate an opening through the containment wall. This containment access opening had to be located approximately 100 feet above the ground elevation outside, directly above the containment building’s only equipment hatch. The logistics associated with creating and closing an opening above the equipment hatch without impacting the normal flow of tools and equipment to support the outage through the hatch took years of planning and coordination. Furthermore, the existing crane in the containment building did not have adequate capacity to lift the old or new steam generators, so an alternate lifting system would be installed.

After the project was awarded in 2004, TXU challenged Bechtel to work with it to match or beat previous steam generator replacement (SGR) outage durations, focusing on 65 days as an aggressive but attainable schedule. In addition to the replacement of four steam generators, the scope of the project included the replacement of the reactor head, along with installation of new cabling, new cable trays and a new air-handling unit with all new ductwork. The upgraded design of the new steam generators included the installation of new, rerouted main feed water piping, as well as new hangers, snubbers and whip restraints.

The rerouted feed water piping interfered with existing containment building ventilation ductwork, so the ductwork required rerouting, along with new hangers. The new steam generators’ instrument tap locations required removing the old and installing new instrument tubing, again with all new seismicallydesigned hangers. For planning purposes, the scope of work to be performed during the Comanche Peak outage was considerably greater than that of comparable projects. In fact, by the time planning was completed, there were over 5000 measurable activities in the replacement’s schedule.

The four new steam generators were built in Spain and arrived on site December 9, 2006. Their journey began on an oceangoing vessel from Spain to Houston, and continued by train to the site, using an upgraded train track that hadn’t been used since the power plant’s original construction in the 1980s. The new reactor head, also fabricated in Spain, was outfitted with new control rod drives in Pennsylvania and transported by barge to Houston, then trucked to the site.

0707_outagestrat_quote1Application of technologies
During the replacement planning process at Comanche Peak, significant consideration was given to the use of both proven technologies and new technologies. Over the years, TXU and Bechtel had developed strong working relationships with specialty contractors who had been able to demonstrate high-performance capabilities. Integrating these specialty contractors and their technologies with the project team proved crucial to the project’s success.

Every aspect of the Comanche Peak project was reviewed and scrutinized to determine if the current technology was the best available, or if something new might be worth pursuing. This approach to technology use was applied to rigging, concrete removal, templating, decontamination, welding, non-destructive examinations and other activities within the project.

To handle the large components through an opening in the building, a lifting system would be needed. Prior to the outage start, erection of the Outside Lift System, or OLS, was completed. The Comanche Peak OLS was by far the tallest that had ever been used for replacing steam generators. Because of the OLS height and the presence of certain underground safety-related commodities in the vicinity, the OLS header beam was tied back to the containment building.

Large Kevlar slings, six on each side, running from the header beam to the baseplates on the containment wall, were installed in the unlikely event that a tornado would strike. If the OLS were to take a direct “hit” from a tornado, the slings would keep the header from falling away from containment and potentially damage important underground commodities.

0707_outagestrat_img2The height of the OLS and the amount of work to be performed from the work platform required installation of an elevator as well as a stair tower. During hydrodemolition, rebar removal, liner plate work and reinstallation of these commodities, a break area was installed on the runway. This area offered workers a place to eat without having to make the trek from the OLS to the ground and back.

Another interesting feature of the OLS was the use of a strand jack system in lieu of a chain jack system. Chain jack systems are very reliable and have been used on all Bechtel steam generator replacements to date. However, given the height of the Comanche Peak Unit 1 alternate access, the travel time from the opening height to the ground or vice versa was going to be almost six hours each way if the traditional chain jack system was used. The strand jack system, in comparison, was not only reliable, it traversed the same vertical distance in less than two hours, reducing steam generator lifting/ lowering time by two-thirds. This improved the project’s overall schedule while also limiting the time that the loads were on the OLS and potentially exposed to changes in the weather, such as high winds.

After OLS erection, the lifting system was load tested. The weights for the load test were large concrete blocks placed on a large frame. The load test weight requirements were 110% of the heaviest load to be lifted—which was a new steam generator. For Comanche Peak, the load test weight was 500 tons.

Concrete removal…
Hydrodemolition (the use of high-pressure water to demolish or remove concrete) was used on the containment building to create the Containment Alternate Access (CAA). Since the size and location of the containment’s equipment hatch was not sufficient to remove steam generators or a reactor head, an alternate access was needed to remove and install the old and new components. The access was located more than 100 feet above the ground, directly above the existing equipment hatch. The hydrodemolition equipment was mounted on a work platform at this elevation.

Tanker trucks brought about one and a half million gallons of water needed for hydrodemolition, preserving Comanche Peak’s supply of lake water. Twelve dieselpowered 475 hp pumps delivered water via high-pressure hoses to the two robots on the work platform. The water, at a pressure of 20,000 psi and a flow rate of 300 gpm, was directed at the containment through four rotating nozzles, each with a delivery opening of 3/8”. In simple terms, the process pushed 5500 horsepower through four small holes! This process also was extremely noisy, and hearing protection was an operational requirement.

During the concrete removal, as several layers of rebar were exposed, the hydrodemolition process was temporarily interrupted so that the rebar could be match-marked, cut and removed. A single bar weighed over 400 pounds, so each one was handled with ropes and pulleys until it was safely placed on the work platform. While the components were being moved in and out of the containment, each removed rebar was inspected, replaced if necessary and reinstalled later in the project using the cadwelding process.

Laser templating…
The project selected laser templating to measure and determine where to machine the new steam generators, cut/machine the existing reactor coolant piping, and to ensure fit-up for welding when the new steam generators were installed. Using laser technology (i.e., laser templating), technicians measured the size of the reactor coolant piping and recorded the piping’s location with respect to the steam generator support system. A threedimensional database was created with this information. This process was done for all four steam generators.

When the new steam generators arrived on site in December, they were stored in the new steam generator storage facility (NSGSF). Technicians used laser templating to record the locations of the new primary nozzles in relationship to the steam generator tube sheet extension, which is the steam generator’s lower support system. Similar to what was done for the existing steam generator/reactor coolant piping geometry, a three-dimensional database was created for each new steam generator.

The two databases were then merged for the existing RCS piping and its corresponding new steam generator. Through model comparison and data reduction, where to cut and machine the new primary nozzles was determined. Laser templating was then used to position the cutting and weld preparation machines on the new steam generators. All of this work was completed before the outage started in February. During the outage and after the old steam generators were removed from containment, laser templating was used inside containment to position the weld preparation machines on the existing RCS piping. The weld preparations and non-destructive examinations (NDE) were then completed.

Pipe-end decontamination…
While it’s called pipe-end decontamination, this activity is really the decontamination efforts applied to the remaining stainless steel hot leg elbow and the remaining stainless steel cross-over leg elbow for each steam generator. During the outage, this process was applied a total of eight times, to four hot leg elbows and four crossover leg elbows.

After an old steam generator was lifted out of its respective cubicle, the open-ended elbows created a very high dose rate in the general area where templating, machining and welding subsequently took place. This required the highly contaminated oxide layer inside the elbows to be removed. Pipe-end decontamination equipment was placed in the cubicle. The equipment consisted of a seal dam that was inserted down into the elbow. Another piece of equipment, called the blast head, was attached to the end of the elbow and an air-tight seal was created. Grit-impregnated sponge media was delivered through a rotating arm with a nozzle on its end, all of which was mounted inside the blast head. High-pressure air delivered the media and the overall effect was to blast the oxide layer off of the inside of the elbow. The computer-controlled rotating arm moved into and out of the elbow, effectively covering 100% of the inside surface of the elbow. The spent media was recovered through a vacuum system and emptied into shielded spent media drums. The drums were located in shielded carts for subsequent handling and disposal.

Narrow groove welding…
After installation, the new steam generators were re-attached to the reactor coolant piping by way of “narrow groove” welding. While the new steam generators were stored in the NSGSF, a narrow groove weld preparation was machined on the new primary nozzles. After machining, the weld preparations were buffed and NDE was performed to assure that no machining marks were present to provide false indications of defects in subsequent weld examinations.

Once the steam generators were removed from containment, the existing pipe ends (actually the RCS stainless steel elbows) were machined to a narrow groove weld preparation. After the new steam generator was rigged into containment, upended, lowered into place, and final fit up was achieved, the narrow groove welding process began. The track and weld head were mounted onto the nozzle-elbow configuration. Weld wire was fed into the groove, and the actual welding was monitored and/or adjusted by welding operators observing the welding through the use of cameras and monitors. As the weld progressed and suffi- cient weld material was deposited, another welding machine was mounted inside the nozzle-elbow configuration so welding could take place both inside and outside of the piping simultaneously.

Narrow groove welding provided the project with a number of benefits compared to conventional grooves. The amount of weld volume to be deposited was 70% less, reducing time and radiation exposure, as well as saving money. Production rates were improved due to automation and weld shrinkage was greatly reduced, which helped to prevent movement of the existing piping systems. This, in turn, reduced work for resetting clearances on critical components as part of restoration.

All of the narrow groove welding equipment was designed for remote operation. Therefore, during the outage, all of the RCS welding operators were stationed in a central location in containment, in a lowdose area. From this location, three, four or even five RCS welds were occurring simultaneously. Upon completion, the welds were thoroughly inspected, including with xray. Weld quality on these eight, large-bore stainless steel welds was first-time, with no defects recorded and no repairs needed.

Computed radiography…
When welding of the piping for the reactor coolant, feed water, auxiliary feed water and main steam systems was completed, the code of record required that each finished weld product be radiographically examined. The project elected to use Computed Radiography, or digital radiography, for this NDE, primarily because this technology would minimize the effects on adjacent/near work activities during the actual radiography process. Low-curie sources were used throughout the project for shooting the welds. Boundaries were established in a similar fashion, as with all types of radiography, but the low-curie sources allowed the boundaries around the weld to be radiographed to be much closer to the source, allowing adjacent work activities to continue.

On-site concrete batch plant…
Restoration of the CAA required the concrete to be replaced with material equal to or better than what was removed. Upon restoration, the concrete was tested and after the new concrete reached its designed strength, the containment building was pressurized to demonstrate its acceptability for use. The new concrete was “batched” on site using a portable batch plant. (The decision to use a portable batch plant in lieu of a local concrete company had been made by the project many months prior. Although several local companies had been given an opportunity to provide the concrete for the project, for various reasons, including logistical ones, they had chosen not to participate.)

There were a number of important considerations associated with the use of the portable batch plant. For example, the potential for dust during batching operations required submitting an application for a state air-quality permit.

Another concern involved the moving of freshly-batched concrete from the portable plant to the containment opening. Concrete trucks and drivers were rented and used for the opening, ensuring the project that the resources would be there when needed. To get the concrete from the trucks up to the opening, a pumper truck was rented and used. And, as normally planned, a second pumper truck was available on site in the event that a malfunction on the first pumper jeopardized placement activities. During placement, a seal on the delivery piping did blow out, but the seal replacement took a shorter amount of time than moving the existing pumper and replacing it. Again, luck was on the project’s side.

As planning for the project neared completion, over 1300 additional people were needed at Comanche Peak to carry the steam generator replacement. Of this number, about 400 were made up of TXU personnel, radiation protection contractor personnel, security personnel and Bechtel Field Non-Manual personnel. The remaining 900 were craftsmen from direct hire and specialty subcontractors. Of the 900 craftsmen, Bechtel typically subcontracts work scopes that require about 250 subcontract supervision and craftsmen. Typical subcontract scopes that include craftsmen were:

  • Reactor Coolant Pipe Cutting, Machining and Welding
  • Liner Plate Cutting and Welding
  • Insulation Installation

0707_outagestrat_quote2Attracting and retaining qualified craftsmen in the numbers required for the project—about 650 in total—was a challenge. Early on, the project realized that recruiting adequate numbers of personnel would require some special things.

To effectively recruit in a tight and specialized job market, creative methods were developed to attract and retain the quantities of qualified craftsmen needed to complete the project. In parallel, contingency plans were made by the project in the likely event that shortages of craftsmen became a reality. Various project work scopes were identified and packaged. Then, subcontractors capable of performing to the project’s expectations were identified and retained. In reality, approximately one-third of the work scope originally planned to be performed by direct-hire personnel was performed by subcontractors, either through packaged work scopes or by augmenting the direct hire contingent of personnel.

A week before the outage started, the entire project moved to two 12-hour shifts, with working hours from 0530 until 1800, and 1730 until 0600. Working 12-hour shifts for several days prior to the outage start provided ample opportunities for everyone’s minds and body clocks to acclimate. Similarly, any issues with traffic backups, how long it took to enter the protected area, etc. were sorted out, prior to (and without affecting) the outage.

Even though the project worked 24/7, each and every Bechtel individual, including Field Non-Manual personnel, direct-hire craft and all Bechtel subcontractors, were assigned a day off. Once they were assigned that day, it was their day off for the duration of the outage. The project hired additional personnel to ensure that, when someone had his/ her day off, work continued.

Prior to the start of each shift, the project had its Plan of the Day (POD) meeting. Chaired by the Bechtel shift outage manager, the main focus of the POD was to present, in written form, what was planned to be performed in the next 24 hours. The POD covered project safety, project quality and the project’s schedule progress. These shift meetings lasted no more than 10 minutes. This same information was shared with the all of Bechtel’s Field Non-Manual personnel, its craft personnel and its subcontractors at the start of each shift.

The replacement outage started on Saturday, February 24, 2007 when TXU took Comanche Peak Unit 1 offline at 12:00 PM. At this time, hydrodemolition of the concrete on the outside of containment was set to commence with equipment that was positioned 100+ feet off the ground on the work platform. Unfortunately, that same day, north central Texas experienced its worst dust storm in over 20 years. Sustained winds in excess of 50 mph with gusts of over 70 mph were recorded. As a result, almost all of the project’s equipment, including cranes and man lifts, had to be secured for the day. Almost all of it. Interestingly, the only pieces of equipment qualified to operate in this tough first-day environment were, luckily enough, the work platform and the hydrodemolition robots.

TXU and Bechtel worked closely together, performing concurrent activities during plant defueling as well as during reactor core reloading, system fill and post-outage testing, such as containment pressure testing. Project engineering kept pace with the accelerated schedule, ensuring that system conditions met all of the plant’s technical requirements for the plant’s configuration.

Differing work groups pitched in and helped when requested by outage management. In lieu of reducing the work force when certain work activities were completed and turned over for testing, the work force was redirected to complete future work activities or to assist other work groups. As was the case for Comanche Peak, when all of the project’s critical path work activities and its near-critical path work activities were over 10 days ahead of schedule, opportunities for work activity completion were everywhere, furthering the project’s momentum.

World record results
The successful completion of this 55- day outage is truly one for the record books. The following results of the project speak for themselves:

  • Over 1,000,000 job hours without a Lost Time Accident
  • 21 of 21 (100%) large-bore piping first time quality RT welds
  • 52 of 63 (83%) feedwater & auxiliary feedwater first time quality RT welds
  • Completed Project with Code- Compliant 100% Computed Radiography
  • Multiple ( i.e., 5 ) crane operation in containment with no mishaps
  • Sustained cadweld production of over 50 per day ( plan was 32 per day)
  • Never exceeded the 72-hour per week per employee rule
  • ALARA Dose Goal: Plan 156 REM Actual 123.9 REM
  • Breaker-to-Breaker: Plan: 65 Days Actual: 55 days (a world record by over a week).

Richard L. Miller is senior project director with Bechtel Power Corporation. Telephone: (301) 228-6215; e-mail:

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July 1, 2007
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Factors For Success In Lean Maintenance

With management support and implementation of the right amount of the right technology in the right areas, improving maintenance performance doesn’t have to be an uphill battle.

One of the most popular buzzwords in business today is “lean.” This term conveys the idea of fat reduction. In industry, fat reduction includes the elimination of enterprise waste, the streamlining of processes to increase productivity and the more efficient use of capital assets and valued personnel in the pursuit of continuously improving the bottom line. There is, of course, nothing new in this concept.

0707_leanmaint1Most of the literature available on lean, however, woefully neglects the importance of the maintenance processes that are relied upon to keep enterprises running consistently, reliably and profitably. The typical lean expert groups maintenance in a bundle with “other processes.” Rarely does he/she offer tools that address lean methodologies specific to maintenance efforts.

This attitude mirrors the view of maintenance held by corporate management in general. Although asset downtime disrupts production and drives up both process and per-unit operating costs, executives often lose sight of this because they focus on output—not on the assets used to create it. As one CFO put it, “Companies care about how many widgets they make, not the widget-making machine.” The irony is that companies can use lean maintenance techniques not only to make more widgets, but to make each widget more profitably.

When discussing ways to improve maintenance practices, inevitably the discussion splits into compartmentalized topics. The dominant topics typically focus on parts inventory, preventive maintenance scheduling, trade and skill management, tool costs and breakdown management. Yet, the heart and soul of contemporary lean management—be it maintenance or any other endeavor—is the totality of the coverage. Top-down, bottom-up, sideways, the maintenance process requires more than a single approach.

An effective enterprise recognizes the interdependent issues that impact maintenance efficiency and ultimate success. These are addressed by a broad spectrum of solutions. Additionally, effective lean maintenance—like all other areas of the enterprise—requires continuous review, improvement and evaluation.

Gathering ideas
The first step a company must take to accomplish the goal of “getting lean” is to gather all stakeholders together in an open dialogue and evaluation process that covers all aspects of maintenance. This includes bringing in the “customers” of the maintenance process—assemblers, parts storeroom managers, shipping foremen, even product designers and engineers. Each of these individuals sees a different aspect of the maintenance picture and can provide pertinent input.

The overriding aim is to identify problems and suggest solutions. Management participation is essential. Without that buy-in, the effort of organizing for leanness is doomed to failure.

0707_leanmaint_q1A recent Aberdeen Group study found that more than 70% of survey respondents report that their Maintenance departments function on a stand-alone basis. At the same time, 87% of respondents agree that asset maintenance is very or extremely important to their organization’s overall financial performance, but only 7% are completely satisfied with their maintenance performance. [Ref. 1] Without energetic management participation in the “leaning” of maintenance processes, improvement becomes an uphill battle.

Successful meetings will reveal weaknesses in processes, as well as viable remedies and other required improvements. The results of these meetings can be developed into an overarching improvement plan and published to all stakeholders. In addition to setting direction for the team, such publication serves to recognize and reinforce team members’ valuable contributions to the improvement process.

Areas most affected
There is no concrete list of typical improvements to revamp a business, since there is no such thing as a “typical” business. Specific areas within the maintenance arena do, though, lend themselves to generally similar examinations.

  • Spare Parts Inventory Management: Most parts storerooms contain a substantial number of excess or obsolete parts. Often these parts add up to a six- or seven-figure investment that languishes within the maintenance budget. An enterprise must optimize its parts inventory so that parts are available for preventive and corrective maintenance without worthlessly gathering dust on shelves. Such optimization requires communications between storeroom managers, purchasers and maintenance personnel. Discussions center on parts usage, maintenance routines, anticipated demands and historical usage data. In a multi-site enterprise, the discussion needs to focus on options to centralize expensive, critical and seldom-used items. Stakeholders must be open to suggestions for altering maintenance operations scheduling to permit more control (and less waste) in the parts inventory management regimen.
  • Preventive Maintenance Management: A quality preventive maintenance (PM) campaign is the cornerstone of a quality maintenance program. The budget benchmark is generally 90% for PM activities and 10% for corrective/ breakdown maintenance. Anything less indicates an urgent need for improvement, as larger spending on corrective maintenance means more unplanned equipment shutdowns, greater wear and a reduction in the useful life of equipment. In today’s competitive business world, preventive maintenance must be further refined to examine predictive maintenance, reliability-centered maintenance and risk-based inspection management. Companies are now able to tailor PM activities for critical assets based on historical maintenance and breakdown data. It also is critical for enterprises to facilitate communication between line maintenance personnel and PM planners and managers. This generates a flexible preventive maintenance program that can use any opportunity to accomplish upcoming PM activities. Such “opportunities” include equipment breakdowns and equipment changeovers. By taking advantage of an unplanned shutdown, PM managers can “save” a planned shutdown, thus improving overall productivity.
  • Cross-Training Personnel: To be effective, lean maintenance can’t be the responsibility of just one domain. This means that maintenance personnel must become more flexible in their skills. It does not mean that a plumber must qualify as an electrician. It does, however, mean that the plumber learns about important switchboards, conduits and power supplies while the electrician learns about important valves, piping, pumps and reservoirs. The result is a savvier workforce that is better prepared to recognize potential problems before they impact operations.
  • Continuous Improvement Throughout The Maintenance Spectrum: Once lean methodology is initiated, all stakeholders must buy-in and contribute as a part of an ongoing daily routine, emphasizing the need for cross-training personnel and enabling continued reduction in wasted time, effort, material and production capacity. Each member of the maintenance team must be encouraged and empowered to initiate improvements.

Technology’s role
According to Defense Acquisition University, “The lean model stresses an evolutionary process of change and adaptation, not an idealized technology- driven end state.” [Ref. 2]

Keep in mind that lean maintenance is not the same thing as the acquisition of more technology. This is a conceptual error committed by many businesses that make large investments in new equipment, software and hard ware—all in the belief that these purchases will solve their problems. Such a path is counterproductive to the lean model.

Technology does play an important role in the progress toward greater leanness in the maintenance process. It is critical in lean activities such as tracking parts usage and cost trends; automated/tailored parts purchasing; evaluating effectiveness of preventive maintenance and the associated trends in breakdown occurrence; recording of personnel cross-training results; and, especially, the ongoing tracking of lean efforts to document progress, identify areas for improvement and monitor past efforts.

Nearly all successful business enterprises employ enterprise asset management (EAM) software applications. Primarily, these applications manage work assignment through various methods.

0707_leanmaint_q2Quality EAM offerings provide integration between the maintenance effort and spare parts inventory management. Excellent offerings include a variety of data requirements associated with maintenance activities so that each activity provides building-block information leading to trend and event analysis. The best EAM products integrate storeroom, repair, preventive maintenance planning and purchasing functions with additional lean-oriented technologies, including mobile connectivity, bar codes, radio frequency identification (RFID) and automated communications features such as e-mail, pager and operating screen notifications to key personnel.

The inclusion of key performance measurements within the EAM offering is a must to ensure that leanness goals are met. Businesses also should look for a separate analytical capability that is incorporated within the EAM umbrella. These capabilities clearly contribute both to the streamlining of the maintenance work process and to the gathering of critical performance, cost and productivity information.

With enhanced, business-specific technology and software applications, companies are able to reap the significant benefits of making lean maintenance an integral part of their overall lean business practices. As a result, they aren’t just turning out more widgets, they’re doing it profitably.

In the end, lean maintenance is really about people, their functions and their contributions to the business processes that make up the associated enterprise. Everyone in the business is a stakeholder. Strong, insightful business leaders will see the benefit of ensuring that every stakeholder is empowered to accomplish lean maintenance goals.


  1. Aberdeen Group, Collaborative Asset Maintenance Strategies, December 2006
  2. Tom Shields, “What is Lean,” TEACHING NOTE, Senior Research Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, January 1999

Marty Osborn is Infor’s senior director of Enterprise Asset Management. Telephone: (864) 422-5001; e-mail:

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July 1, 2007
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Communications: The Maintenance/Engineering Partnership


Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor

Whenever the cost of a repair is calculated, it typically is broken down into two specific components—parts and labor. The stocking of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) parts in preparation for a planned or unplanned maintenance event typically necessitates ongoing partnerships with multiple vendors. The set-up and continued management of these types of ongoing partnerships will have a tremendous impact on equipment availability, reliability and cost of maintenance.


Deadly sins
“Machine down, waiting for parts.” If this is a familiar statement found on your returned work orders or daily maintenance schedule, you are likely working in a highly reactive maintenance environment.

0707_communications1Unfortunately, when equipment downtime is being experienced as a result of the part(s) unavailability, the tendency is to pay premium prices for both parts and delivery. For example, have you ever been in a situation in which a crucial part is not available locally, forcing you to air-freight and taxi a non-discounted part into the plant? In a proactive Maintenance department, this scenario is viewed as a deadly sin, since a part purchased in such a manner significantly compounds the maintenance repair cost.

A second “deadly sin” is associated with Maintenance developing the tendency to overstock low-turnover items. Purchased in multiples, these items often are stored in non-controlled, cached inventories (sometimes called “squirrel stocks”), in places like tradesmen toolboxes, equipment cabinets, etc. With annual carrying costs as high as 35 cents on the dollar and prohibitive access to “squirreled” parts, inventory costs easily skyrocket with poor or no return to the Maintenance department.

Working to eliminate out-of-stock, overstock and guaranteed delivery of non-stock items (without penalty) requires a defined Maintenance/ MRO vendor partnership in which each partner understands his/her role in ensuring that parts are “ready to go” at any time.

Establishing vendor partnerships
One of the hallmarks of a successful business is a trust-driven relationship between the company and its supplier/vendor base that views those purveyors of goods and services as a natural extension of the company itself.

A basic MRO inventory consists of three major spare part categories:

  • Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) items—These are proprietary items available only from the machine builder, usually with longer lead purchase times.
  • Insurance Spares—The items are inventoried for purposes of due diligence, and required by the corporate underwriter for equipment that could pose high-risk consequences when in a prolonged failed state.
  • Industrial Supply Items—These are available “off the shelf” from many different vendors.

Vendor relationships can vary significantly. They depend not only on the willingness of vendors to work with Maintenance, but also on the relationship and partnership already established between Maintenance and Purchasing, which acts as the corporate agent with the vendor. (See the March 2007 installment of this column in Maintenance Technology for a description of the Maintenance/Purchasing partnership.)

There are basically four types of partnership agreements in which a Maintenance department and parts vendor can engage:

  • The Lowest Bidder—This is a common relationship in which the Maintenance department, often driven by a strong Purchasing department mandate, follows a path of least-resistance and acquiesces to the purchase of supplies from the lowest-priced vendor. This method is especially time-consuming in that every item must be individually “shopped,” requiring extensive use of the purchasing system. This type of relationship is reactive in nature, not built on trust. Furthermore, it is not conducive to building long-term relationships with vendors.0707_communications2
  • The Preferred Vendor—When a vendor has established a good, trustworthy service record and a history of fair pricing, it can be considered an excellent candidate for “preferred vendor” status. Such an agreement generally means the vendor receives exclusive selling rights for listed inventory items, for an agreed price, delivery and specified time period. In return for this agreement, the vendor agrees to keep a minimum stock ready for immediate delivery (often from the vendor’s premises) at no additional cost to the Maintenance department. This partnership agreement promotes consistency of purchasing and supply; allows free exchange through a single blanket purchase order; and reduces or eliminates the carrying costs associated with carrying and managing maintenance inventory.
  • The Consignment—This type of partnership allows the inventory vendor to set up its own shelving and stock items on the company’s premises, again at no additional cost to the company. The Maintenance department then simply uses the “free-issue” items as its own, while the vendor accounts for items used on a daily, weekly or monthly time basis, and bills the company for the parts used after the fact. The advantage of this type of partnership is having managed inventory immediately available—for zero capital outlay at a previously agreed upon pricing structure. In return, the vendor receives a term-based, exclusive right-to-sell agreement. Already popular on the basis of free issue style items that include gloves, rags, nuts and bolts, etc., these partnerships rapidly are gaining more ground by offering higher-priced, highuse items such as bearings, electrical and power transmission supplies.
  • The Hub Vendor—Such a partnership is a radical shift from those listed previously, in that it reflects a performance-based service arrangement in which the vendor operates and controls the entire MRO inventory on behalf of the Maintenance department. A single-source vendor acts as an outsource agency and takes responsibility for purchasing, stocking and staging of all MRO inventory. The vendor is rewarded for parts availability and turnaround time—and paid on a monthly basis. The inventory may or may not reside on the plant floor, and could possibly have consignment inventory as part of its make-up.

Get smart
Whatever type you choose, remember that you want it to be a “smart” one. That’s because smart Maintenance/MRO vendor partnerships help the Maintenance department run smoothly, while reducing carrying costs and working capital expenditure.

Ken Bannister is lead partner and principal consultant for Engtech Industries, Inc. Telephone: (519) 469-9173; e-mail:

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July 1, 2007
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Viewpoint: Inviting Culture Change Success


Dr. Brian A. Becker

It is not unusual to hear sincere executives and managers lament that their major stumbling blocks to better performance are not technical in nature, but rather cultural—whatever that means. “How do we ‘get’ our team to the next performance level?” they ask. They then go on to recount the variety of change methods they have tried, including quality circles, teambuilding, values clarification, leadership training, 360° performance appraisal and elaborate visions. You name it; there is a stew of approaches. Just like Theory Z, surveys are conducted, curricula built and implemented and a ton of money spent.

Unfortunately, the “dark side” of continuous learning is that it can morph into something else, lose momentum and be replaced by the next holy grail of performance. At the end of the day, the best approaches may have driven some temporary value, but nothing seems to stick. What accounts for this?

Over the years I have conducted a Learning Exercise with supervisors, managers and executives to illustrate how people experience learning and performance. As the exercise unfolds, participants gain insight into how learning and mistakes, trial and error are the yin and yang of performance. They also discover that while many organizations espouse the theory that mistakes are “OK,” in the final analysis they really categorize mistakes as critical incidents on a performance appraisal or simply view them as a sign of a person’s ineffectiveness. When performance appraisals are tied to pay, rewards and promotion, participants indicate that they would have to be foolish if they didn’t put the best spin on their performance. “I have a mortgage to pay,” is how one respondent put it.

In the final phase of the Learning Exercise, participants come to recognize they have a strong desire to learn. However, fears of retribution, fears of letting others down or fears of failure, whether in substance or perception, contribute to a sense of losing control.

The need for control translates into a hidden performance bottleneck. Participants acknowledge that they subtly side-step difficult issues and focus on the more routine and controllable issues, thereby reducing emotional pain, conflict and the potential for higher performance. The end result is that sincere attempts to improve the status quo slowly are undermined and inadequate budgets, unrealistic timeframes, etc. are not challenged because, privately, people believe these issues are sources of conflict that should be avoided. Ultimately, the effort becomes the fad of the day and everyone sees the “other guy” as the problem.

It is not long, as the exercise winds down, that someone asks, “So how do we get out of this status quo loop?” The short answer is that rather than “get” anyone anywhere, change has to be based on a performance “invitation.” At its heart, an invitation gives the “invitee” the right to decline and balance control while minimizing the risks associated with learning. Employees operating in a culture of invitation openly choose to learn and detect and correct mistakes with ever-increasing rates of speed and precision.

“Invitation” is only one tool in a compact set of actionable ones, going beyond traditional applications and providing a performance platform that is definable, transferable, measurable, repeatable, sustainable and ethical.

Dr. Brian A. Becker is Manager of Organization Development and Human Resources, Siemens Energy Management and Automation

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