Archive | MRO


8:12 pm
December 17, 2015
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Answer Five Questions Before Printing MRO Parts

Creating a replacement part with a 3D printer may seem like the best solution, but basic due-diligence may reveal a better approach.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

So your maintenance department finally has its own 3D printer. Congratulations. Now what? Former manufacturing executive Andy Urda calls this technology the future of maintenance. That may be so, but only if it is used appropriately and correctly. 3D printing is not a one-size-fits-all type of solution. Urda suggests that you answer the following questions before attempting to print a repair part. Otherwise, you could be wasting time, energy, and resources.

Can you buy the replacement part at a reasonable price and obtain it in a reasonable time?
If the answer is yes, 3D printing is not your best option. If the answer is no, anwswer the next two questions.

What material, tolerances, and finish are needed for the part to function properly?
The availability and types of 3D printing materials are expanding, opening up new applications daily. As materials technology advances, tolerances and finishes are also improving. There are also several options for processing the finished part to achieve desired tolerances or finishes.

If you don’t know the original part’s material, tolerance, and finish requirements, you’ll have to figure them out, which may require expending more time than your operations can afford. Urda explains that, while experimentation is great for labs and universities, it may not be the best approach for maintenance departments where the goal is to fix things right the first time, every time—and, usually, quickly.

Will you have any legal issues if you re-create the part? Simply put, will you be violating patents or purchase agreements?
Upon validating that you can legally print the part, have the correct material, and meet the tolerance requirements (whether directly off the printer or through post-processing), proceed to the next question.

If the part is metal, would machining it—on-site or at an off-site shop—be faster and cheaper than attempting to print it?
3D printing is new, exciting, and presents a sense osf immediacy. But, for metal parts, don’t be surprised if the old-fashioned way isn’t the best/most economical way to make a quality part that meets specifications.

Is the part design available in a common CAD format?
Once you have answered the previous questions and chosen to go forward, keep in mind that your part design must be available in a common CAD format. If it’s not, it must be 3D scanned to capture its physical attributes. This process can be accomplished whether the complete part is available (intact) or can be pieced together with multiple scans. Mastering this technique, however, may call for significant time and skills. If not enough of a part is available for scanning, your only choice is to re-engineer it—which could take even more time.

As soon as you have the CAD file, though, you can download it to your printer and print. After the part is printed it may require additional refinements, such as post-machining, to achieve the necessary tolerance/finish. MT

Recommended Reading

Andy Urda notes that only time will tell if bins of parts in maintenance departments will someday be replaced by 3D printers and vats of materials to print. He recommends these links for further reading on 3D printing:

Andrew Urda has spent more than 25 years in industry, including managing divisions of global companies and turning under-performing teams into overachievers. For more information, email


9:40 pm
February 17, 2015
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Mining Gold From 21st Century Storerooms


Operating your MRO storeroom as a business unit can yield a wealth of cost-saving opportunities. Advanced technologies coupled with today’s best practices play a key role.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor with Wally Wilson, CMRP, CPIM, Life Cycle Engineering

Countless storerooms continue to rely on the same types of inventory-management practices, warehouse racking and material-handling systems that were used when their plants were built. Many still locate inventory by equipment asset—a best-practice strategy from the 1970s. This process allowed a maintenance technician to find all stocked parts for a specific piece of equipment in one area of the storeroom, and worked well before computers and software became available to manage inventory. Thanks to these technologies, many aspects of storeroom operations have advanced significantly. Are yours keeping pace?

Inventory storage

Locating inventory by equipment asset creates duplications and added expense. If a bearing or motor is used on multiple assets, for example, that component will be stocked in each equipment location in the storeroom. Some of these items could be on the shelf for years, leading to increased inventory investment and decreased reliability when finally put in service. Another cost of this old method is the valuable storage space consumed by identical items stored in duplicate locations.

A more efficient method of locating and managing MRO inventory is by commodity grouping. This method has obvious advantages: Grouping inventory by commodity eliminates stocking duplicate parts in multiple locations, helping reduce inventory investment. It also simplifies the implementation of scheduled Preventive Maintenance (PM) for items like motors, large bearings, gearboxes and others.

Vendor-managed inventories

As technology has advanced, suppliers have become more involved in the day-to-day inventory management of point-of-use items and consumable inventories. They are able to respond to unexpected spikes in the need for parts by using demand-based inventory management software that reports real-time consumption of items in vending machines and other point-of-use programs.

Demand-based inventory management creates a request to restock the item automatically when the reorder point is reached. The reorder is communicated to the supplier using an electronic replenishment request. The order is pulled, shipped and the inventory is restocked. The process can be further simplified with an auto-pay system that will pay the invoice when the inventory is stocked. Establishing a supplier partnership and implementing a demand-based software program offers the ability to reduce consumption and investment in these inventory items by up to 20%. Using this same technology for stocked inventory items and some critical spare parts can provide similar inventory savings for higher dollar items.

Critical spare parts

As production equipment has become faster and more automated, the MRO storeroom has lagged behind the curve when it comes to keeping spare parts in a service-ready condition. Not having a critical spare part in inventory when needed for an equipment repair is bad enough. Worse is having a part in stock that has degraded while in storage and will not work when installed.

The 21st century storeroom must do more than store and distribute spare parts. It needs to be a partner to other business units in the organization. Validating storeroom inventory to ensure that parts held in inventory are actually tied to an operating equipment asset is a group effort. An accurate Equipment Bill of Material (EBOM) is the starting point for this—and essential for maintenance planners to request or order parts for an equipment repair. Reliability engineers and maintenance planners work together with Storeroom and Procurement personnel to ensure parts on the EBOM are correct and that those identified as critical are available from a reliable supplier or stocked on site in the MRO storeroom.

Critical components are one-of-a-kind spare parts with long replacement lead-times. They have an immediate impact on safety, the environment, production and/or several other factors associated with plant operations. These parts must be available on site in the event others fail. To offset the risk of such components failing, a condition-based monitoring program of the operating equipment, paired with an accurate equipment maintenance history, should be used to identify components that are approaching the end of their service life. Knowing the expected component service life and having the data from equipment-performance monitoring reduces the probability that the component will fail unexpectedly.

Planned job-kitting

Increasing the use of the maintenance-craft employees and those who support maintenance activities is a key goal for most maintenance managers. A planned work-kitting program can increase the value-added efforts of the maintenance crafts, planners and MRO storeroom attendants. As it is with the management of critical spare parts, an accurate EBOM is crucial to the success of a planned job-kitting program. If the EBOM is accurate, the correct parts can be pulled from the storeroom and the kit delivered to the maintenance shop so a technician has what he/she needs to complete a job. Kitting planned maintenance work has a substantial payback because it increases maintenance craft utilization. That’s because on average, a maintenance technician will spend 90 minutes or more per day looking for parts to complete assigned jobs.

For a technician to effectively complete required repair work, the maintenance planner must scope the repair as part of the preliminary job analysis and create a job plan that identifies all information needed by the technician to complete the repair. The Operations team must have the equipment clean and ready for Maintenance to do the work.

Implementing a planned job-kitting program produces benefits for the MRO storeroom. If the maintenance planners are able to plan maintenance work, and the parts they need to do those repairs can be ordered as needed and not stocked on site, the net result is a reduction in inventory investment. With the parts ordered as needed, utilization of the storeroom attendants increases and foot traffic to the issue window decreases. Parts received for a job kit are placed in the kit as they are received, reducing the additional steps to place them in an inventory location. Due to the increased utilization of the storeroom, attendants can focus on more value-added activities like inventory cycle counts to maintain best-practice inventory accuracy of 98%.

Documented work processes

Like any retail business, the MRO storeroom needs to have documented work processes and a set of metrics to measure performance against industry standards for similar businesses. Here are the basic work processes:

  • Purchasing—Identifies all activities required to secure routine parts.
  • Expedited purchasing—Identifies all activities needed to secure repair parts for emergency repairs.
  • Inventory receiving—Identifies tasks required for a warehouse attendant to document and verify receipt of the shipment.
  • Incoming inspection—Identifies activities required to assure the quality of incoming inventory.
  • Inventory stocking—Activities required to locate and store stock inventory items to ensure the parts are stored properly.
  • Inventory requisition—Steps required to generate a material request for allocation of parts from the inventory management system.
  • Inventory issue—Tasks required to allocate items from the storeroom inventory.
  • Inventory cycle count—Activities required to verify and correct on-hand quantities discrepancies.
  • Return to inventory—Activities required in returning items to the storeroom to be credited to a work order.
  • Return to supplier—Activities required in returning items for warranty, credit or replacement of a defective part.
  • Obsolete inventory identification—Activities required to identify items not attached to an operating equipment asset.
  • Planned work-kitting—Activities required to ensure all parts are on-site before the job is scheduled for completion.
  • Repairable component—Activities required to track and manage the rebuild of selected components from service removal to return to the MRO storeroom inventory.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Key performance metrics that indicate lagging performance can shape strategies and action plans to drive continuous improvement. The following KPIs are used to measure storeroom performance:

  • Inventory Turns Ratio—The best-practice MRO inventory turns ratio is three to four annually.
  • Inventory Value—Best practice is 0.5 to 0.75% of the asset-replacement value.
  • Inventory Issued—Indicates dollar value of inventory issued.
  • Inventory Received—Indicates dollar value of inventory received.
  • Inventory Transactions—Indicates the utilization of storeroom employees.
  • Incidence of Inventory Stock-Outs—Best practice is less than 2% of total inventory requests.
  • Identified Obsolete Inventory—Expressed in dollars, best practice is less than 5%.
  • Excess Inventory—Items over the maximum stocking level, expressed in dollars.
  • Inventory Accuracy—Best practice is 98% overall inventory accuracy.
  • Inventory Adjustments—From inventory cycle-count activities.

Bar codes and RFID technology

Bar coding of inventory in the MRO storeroom hasn’t been implemented well by many organizations. SAP, Oracle and other software applications have the capability (or through interface software) to accept both two-dimensional and three-dimensional bar codes. Grocery stores were the first to take advantage of this technology. The goal was to speed customer checkouts and provide real-time inventory management of items sold. Now, most retail organizations have implemented bar-code technology to manage inventory.

Bar-code applications are slowly being adopted by maintenance and manufacturing organizations to manage equipment-health monitoring programs and MRO inventories. Using the bar-code tag attached to an equipment asset, the maintenance technician can perform vibration analysis of the equipment and the data is available in real time to maintenance planners. Once planners have the data, they can begin planning the activities to replace the component before it fails.

Using bar codes in the MRO storeroom adds a second dimension to inventory management. Cycle counts are done in real time, items are received into inventory as they are processed, and a real-time inventory balance is available to the planners. All of these benefits increase the utilization of the storeroom attendants.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is the next level of technology. Although RFID has been around for several decades, retail groups are just starting to use RFID tags to track certain items sold in their stores. When RFID tags were introduced, high cost limited their use to tracking railroad cars, military shipments and valuable livestock. Now that the cost of these tags has dropped, implementing RFID tracking of high-dollar critical spares and the tool crib is has become a reality for industrial operations.

With RFID tags, components can be tracked whether they are in the storeroom, installed on an equipment asset or somewhere in the rebuild cycle. Moreover, cycle counting of RFID-tagged inventory can be done in a matter of seconds with complete accuracy.

3D printing

Another technology that is becoming increasingly popular is three-dimensional (3D) printing. Also known as “additive manufacturing,” the process puts down a thin layer of material, usually a plastic or metal, then repeats the process layer by layer until an item is complete. Slow and expensive, 3D printing may not be an ideal candidate for extended manufacturing operations, but its potential in the MRO world is very real—and economically feasible.

3D printing can reproduce a spare part or tool to exact specifications with the strength and functionality of conventional manufacturing. Currently, the price of such printers varies from around $5000 for those that handle light plastics, to $50,000+ for advanced units that process high-end or specialty plastics, to hundreds of thousands of dollars for printers of metal products.

Ready to mine some gold?

Prior to beginning your search for productivity improvements and cost savings through some of these 21st-century advances, you’ll need to nail down the basics. Create an action plan and timeline to develop and implement fundamental inventory- and storeroom-management best practices.

Turning to a technology “fix” like bar-coding inventory to solve your storeroom issues may be approaching the problem from the wrong end. Doing basic storeroom management well is what results in having the right part, in the right place, at the right time and at the right price.  MT

Wally Wilson is a Senior Subject Matter Expert in Materials Management for South Carolina-based Life Cycle Engineering ( Contact him at


8:47 pm
June 19, 2014
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Des-Case Acquires ESCO Oil Sight Glass Portfolio

3-D BullsEye Des-CaseNashville, TN-based Des-Case Corp. has purchased the visual-oil-analysis line of  ESCO Products, Inc., the well-known Texas manufacturer of oil sight glasses and level-monitoring technologies and distributor of Copaltite and Dow Corning products. The acquired portfolio includes ESCO’s 3-D BullsEye Viewport, oil sight glasses, indicators and level monitors.

Headquartered in Houston, family owned and operated ESCO has been in business for nearly 50 years. Its visual-oil-analysis product line began over 30 years ago with the introduction of the Esco Oil Sight Glass (OSG). In the years since, that first OSG design has been modified and the line expanded to include horizontal, high-temperature, large-volume and level-monitor models. The contamination-detection capabilities of these products appear to be an ideal fit with Des-Case’s breathers, filters and other fluid-handling solutions and services that protect and clean lubricants.

According to Des-Case CEO Brian Gleason, broadening his company’s offerings with visual-detection products strengthens its position as a convenient and dependable partner for operations that want to improve their reliability and extend oil and equipment life. “Through our global distribution network and OEM partnerships,” he said, “Des-Case will expand an already-trusted product line in the marketplace to broader geographic and industry reaches.”

Commenting on the recent transaction, ESCO’s President David Haught noted that a sight glass combined with a Des-Case desiccant breather and proper filtration provides “the ultimate protection” for lubricated equipment. “Aligning with Des-Case,” he said, “offers a way to take the product line to more customers and industries than we ever could on our own. We saw it as a natural step in the products’ and our company’s growth.”

ESCO will remain a distributor of Des-Case products and oil sight glasses and will continue to sell Dow Corning products.


5:02 pm
June 13, 2014
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Axial Excluder Seal Protects Wind-Turbine Bearings from Debris and Contaminants

SKF Axial Excluder SealSKF has introduced an axial excluder seal that offers a high-performance alternative to conventional rubber seals for protecting the main shaft bearings on wind turbines.

According to the manufacturer, as an advanced first line of defense against any debris or contaminants the wind carries, this new seal  can help operators reduce the risks of bearing failures and associated costs of downtime, repair and lost productivity.

Unlike conventional rubber seals that can be prone to excessive wear and subsequent failure, this axial excluder design (designated HRC1) is made of a proprietary SKF polyurethane material that exhibits excellent resistance to wear, abrasion, UV radiation and ozone.

Key features include a robust sealing lip to help reduce bending and minimize contact area, friction and wear; optimized flexibility and engineering geometry allowing axial displacement of + 2 mm; and integrated grooves to keep the sealing edge properly lubricated. The product also incorporates a stainless steel clamping band with a fast-lock mechanism to facilitate easy up-tower installation and fixation on the shaft in new installations, as well as retrofits.

SKF notes that early field trials have confirmed the HRC1 seal’s performance levels and durability. Seals were installed on 40 separate 2.5 MW turbines operated continuously under real-world conditions. After three months, an initial inspection revealed only normally expected run-in wear, with no dramatic changes six months later.

HRC1 axial displacement seals are available in standard solid and split versions for shaft sizes from 1m to 3m. Custom solutions can be developed.


3:58 am
June 9, 2014
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Compact-Footprint, Refrigerated Dryers for Rotary Compressors Offer Simplified Maintenance

Kaeser Compressors has released a new line of refrigerated dryers for use with rotary compressors up to 40 hp. The Kryosec TAH-TCH series can handle flows from 12 – 159 cfm. Incorporating copper-brazed stainless steel plate heat exchangers, they  provide drying at ambient temperatures up to 122 F.

The units’ air-to-air and air-to-refrigerant heat exchangers are combined with the condensate separator in a single assembly to save on space and weight. According to the manufacturer these new units have an exceptionally compact footprint and, with their low profile, easily fit under machine platforms and in tight corners. They can also be wall-mountedKryosec_5x4_cmyk_tcm9-539226.

Other features include an Eco-Drain electronic demand drain for dependable condensate drainage without pressure loss and a hot gas bypass valve that adjusts cooling capacity to match varying conditions. With all components, including heat exchangers, refrigerant circuit, condensate separator and drain, easily accessible when the side panels are removed, maintenance is simplified.


4:03 pm
June 3, 2014
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Milwaukee Tool Acquires Wisconsin-Based Empire Level Business

060314MilwaukeeMilwaukee Tool has announced the acquisition of the Empire Level business based in Mukwonago, WI. Empire has been a leading designer and innovator of accurate and durable layout and measuring tools for over 90 years.Its industry firsts include the Monovial, the Torpedo Level, the Magnetic Level and, most recently, the TrueBlue product line. The company employs approximately 160 people at its Wisconsin manufacturing facilities and sells its products in over 50 countries around the world.




7:54 pm
May 27, 2014
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Safer, Faster, Easier Flange Maintenance

052714EqualizerAccording to Equalizer USA,  its patented flange-spreading tools can be used with all flange-joint types, even those with no access gaps between them. The company says its new Equalizer SWi product range can make activities associated with flange maintenance in a plant safer, more efficient and more cost-effective than in the past.

Products in the SWI line are shorter and lighter than previous models and offer a 60% more spreading force and almost 30% more spreading-distance. Molded revolving handles, revolving safety lanyards and the absence of finger-pinch points enhance usability. Simpliefied disassembly and reassembly of these spreaders translates into easier maintenance of the tools themselves. The SWI range includes three different models:

  • Mechanically operated, the  SWi12/14TM (shown) is capable of exerting 14Tons of Spreading Force.
  • The SWi20/25TE is hydraulically operated by a separate hand pump and capable of exerting 24Tons of Spreading Force.
  • Featuring an integral hydraulic pump,  the SWi20/25TI is capable of exerting 24Tons of Spreading Force.





7:00 pm
June 19, 2013
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Technology Showcase: MRO Equipment And Supplies

0613techshow1Protective Eyeware For Outdoor Environments

3M’s line of Safety Sunwear combines heavy-duty protection with a sleek look and solid design. Suited for harsh outdoor working environments, these shades feature lenses that absorb 99.9% of UVA and UVB, and meet the requirements for ANSI Z87.1-2010.  Options include foam gaskets, anti-scratch and anti-fog coatings, mirrored lenses, polarized lenses and various frame colors.  With all features considered, the collection contains 10 variations of comfortable protective gear that can double as everyday sunwear.

3M Personal Safety Division
St. Paul, MN

0613techshowgearwrenchScrewdriver Illuminates With LED Lighting

The GearWrench® 2-Position Ratcheting Screwdriver has two LED lights to help illuminate a work area, making it easier to operate in poorly lit spaces. Its 45-tooth ratcheting mechanism with forward, reverse and locked positions quickly tightens and loosens fasteners. A stainless steel collar magnetizes the bit tip to hold fasteners on the tool, which means fewer dropped and lost fasteners. The tool also incorporates 6-bit storage (Phillips #1, #2 and T15, T20, T25 and T127 included) in the handle and a 4.5”-long shaft for easy task access.

Apex Tool Group
Sparks, MD

0613techshowknipexRetaining Ring Pliers For Heavy-Duty Operations

Retaining Ring Pliers from KNIPEX are available in several variations for use on a wide range of retaining ring sizes and styles. Designed for continuous, heavy-duty work, they fit internal and external circlips for a variety of applications. High-density spring-steel tips inserted into the forged body provide strength and longevity, while a large contact surface around the tips helps hold rings in place, virtually eliminating twisting and flyoffs. According to the company, the line lasts up to 10 times longer than turned-tip or stamped-tip designs. They’re available in internal and external styles, with straight or 90-degree angles and in all popular sizes.

Arlington Heights, IL

0613techshowmilwaukeeUtility Knife With Magnetic Blade Storage

Milwaukee Tool’s Fastback II offers the features of the company’s Original Fastback™ Utility Knife, with the addition of magnetic blade storage that folds into the handle. One-handed blade opening makes for easy activation, while a tool-free blade change allows fast and efficient adjustments. The magnetic blade storage feature holds one spare, which keeps the tool’s profile thin and easy to tuck away in the user’s pocket.

Milwaukee Tool Corp.
Brookfield, WI




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