Archive | Reliability & Maintenance Center


6:35 pm
June 16, 2017
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SAP Tips and Tricks: Improve Efficiency with Equipment Bill of Materials

randmBy Kristina Gordon, DuPont

A bill of materials (BOM) is a list of items used to perform maintenance activities. There are different types of BOMs, as they are often called but, in maintenance functions, we generally use equipment BOMs. This material list is created in a hierarchal manner and associated with one specific piece of equipment. BOMs can also be created for functional locations, making it efficient to select materials.

The second type of BOM is associated with a material type called an IBAU. This is a maintenance assembly list created by using individual parts tied to a higher-level material instead of an equipment master or functional location.

Creating a good BOM can be a critical factor in completing work for a piece of equipment. It will, at a glance, make it possible to identify the materials needed to service that piece of equipment.

In the following example, you will learn how to create a bill of material and how to display it in your work order.

Transaction IB01

Enter the equipment master number for the bill of materials you wish to create, plant code, and BOM usage 4 (plant-maintenance usage), and the date you wish to make your BOM valid from.

Click the enter button.


Add the following information

• ICT: This indicates the status of the material, i.e., stock (L), non-stock (N) or text (T).
• Component: This is your material master number.
• Quantity: Number of components needed to service the equipment
• UN: Unit of measure for how you receive the material

Once finished, click the save button.


You will have the ability to see the new materials on the BOM you created under the functional location in which the equipment is installed (transaction IH01).


When creating a maintenance work order for the equipment, pull up the materials on the BOM by using the list button on the components tab of the work order.


This automatically lists the materials on the BOM. Select the check box for the materials that you wish to carry into your work order. Click the green check mark.


Your materials populate in your work order.


Note that a ritual should be built around updating your BOMs on a frequency. This allows new materials, or materials with different specifications, which will also have a new material master number, to be added and any materials no longer applicable to be deleted. This can be completed in transaction IB02, change bill of materials. MT

Kristina Gordon is SAP Program Consultant at the DuPont, Sabine River Works plant in West Orange, TX. If you have SAP questions, send them to and we’ll forward them to Kristina.


6:25 pm
June 16, 2017
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Are You a Safety Leader?


All workers should think of themselves as safety leaders and set a good example for others in multiple ways.

Whatever image the word “leadership” might bring to mind, the fact is, it often can be difficult to demonstrate. Sometimes, leadership means going against the flow, when the flow is going in the wrong direction. When it comes to safety, though, anyone on a plant-floor team can be a leader. Everyone should be, even when that means taking what might seem like an uncomfortable stand.

Safety leadership on the plant floor requires real courage, given the many issues that personnel regularly confront. Those issues include, among other things, scheduling problems, cost concerns, and psychological factors such as peer pressure and complacency. The more safety leaders a team has, however, the easier it is for hazards to be identified, action taken, and the safety “flow” turned in the right direction.

Who is a safety leader? According to experts with the Safway Group (, Waukesha, WI), it’s someone who demonstrates that he or she values safety by working and communicating to identify and limit hazardous situations. The key to a true culture of safety, they stress, is for all workers at a site to think of themselves as safety leaders and set an example in that regard, not only through their actions, but by what they say, how they say it, and, just as important, how they listen.

Do you qualify as safety leader? To find out, consider the questions in the following three-part quiz from Safway.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

1. Engagement

Are you engaged during safety meetings? Do you take notes and ask questions if something is unclear? Do you talk about the Job Hazard Analysis process? Are you prepared to stop work at any time if you believe an unsafe condition may exist?

randm2. Teaching, Mentoring, Coaching

Teaching, mentoring, coaching, and conducting safety observations are all excellent ways to promote safety conversations. Do you take time to explain the purpose behind safety procedures? Do you help others understand what cues help you assess a situation for safety? When you observe an opportunity for a safer way, do you communicate and address the issue?

3. Taking Suggestions Seriously

Good listening is essential for safety. It also takes time and effort to do well. Do you try to be open-minded and positive in response to other people’s safety suggestions? How about your body language? Do you give off a vibe of being open and engaged, and grateful for the feedback? Do you provide a meaningful response quickly, regardless of the outcome of the suggestion? All suggestions deserve positive feedback. It’s the building block of trust and openness, and, in the end, improvement.

Commit to safety

Most plant-floor personnel probably can’t answer “yes” to all of these questions every minute of every day. But when they make a conscious goal to be safety leaders, they’re well on their way to ensuring that they, their coworkers, and others are able to go home safely to their families every day. MT

For more information on access and multi-service issues and solutions, visit


6:01 pm
June 16, 2017
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Understand the Danger: Pitting Corrosion


Tiny, sometimes nearly invisible pits, such as these, are indicative of potentially deadly pitting corrosion.

Pitting corrosion is a localized breakdown of metal manifesting in small cavities or “pits” visible on a metal surface. The damage that these tiny, sometimes nearly invisible, pits cause can be deadly.

Case in point: Pitting corrosion is believed to be the cause of the 1967 collapse of the U.S. Highway 35 bridge between Point Pleasant, WV, and Kanauga, OH. Forty-six people died when that structure suddenly fell into the Ohio River. Investigators determined the cause of this disaster had begun decades earlier with a small crack that formed during the casting of the bridge’s I-beams. The I-bar subsequently broke under the compounding stresses of a corrosive environment and newer, heavier vehicles crossing the bridge.

According to Michael Harkin, an NACE and SSPC coating inspector and president of FEO Inc. (, Virginia Beach, VA), understanding how to prevent pitting corrosion goes a long way to ensuring long, safe, and useful service for metal assets exposed to the elements. He offers the following insight into the problem and approaches for combating it.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor 

There’s more to the pits indicative of a pitting corrosion attack than meets the eye. Far more damage is done beneath the metal surface because the corrosion bores inward. Pitting corrosion causes the loss of metal thickness, translating to a loss of structural integrity that can lead to stress cracking due to metal fatigue.

For example, if a beam that bears a heavy load loses thickness and mass due to corrosion, there’s less beam available to support the weight. The attack could go unnoticed but, over time, the metal fatigue it causes could lead to formation of cracks. Cracks can quickly lead to beam failure and set off a catastrophic chain reaction as unplanned stresses multiply.

randmHow it starts

There are several causes of pitting corrosion, including:

• localized mechanical or chemical damage to a metal’s protective oxide film
• improper application of corrosion-control products
• presence of non-metal materials on the surface of a metal.

When metals aren’t properly treated and freely exposed to the elements, chemical reactions between them and the environment form compounds such as ferrous oxide, more commonly known as rust.

Prevention steps

Preventing pitting corrosion starts early, beginning with the choice of the right metal during the design of an asset. The risk of pitting corrosion is greatly reduced when users know ahead of time how materials react in different environments. Higher-alloy metals resist corrosion more strongly than low-alloy materials.

Next, to the extent that it’s possible, control the operating environment. For indoor or sheltered assets, keeping environmental factors such as temperature, pH, and chloride concentration in check minimizes the risk of pitting corrosion.

Finally, apply the proper industrial coating to your assets and have them inspected with non-destructive testing (NDT) methods. MT

Notes on Non-Destructive Testing (NDT)

According FEO’s Michael Harkin, non-destructive testing is the only legitimate option for inspecting coatings systems that are already in service (and intended to be kept in service). NDT is a subset of non-invasive procedures that don’t compromise the integrity of a tested system or material. As applied to coatings, these procedures can include using electromagnetic waves to gauge the thickness of a coating, infrared thermography to measure heat distribution and determine how well a coating is binding to its substrate, or lasers to measure surface profile without physically contacting the substrate.

FEO Inc., Virginia Beach, VA, is a QP5-certified coating inspection and consulting company. For more information, visit


6:11 pm
May 15, 2017
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Slurry-Pump Tips: Extend Mechanical Seal Life

Selecting the right pump with the right type of mechanical seal is the first step toward slurry-pumping success. (Photo copyright ITT Goulds Pumps)

Selecting the right pump with the right type of mechanical seal is the first step toward slurry-pumping success. (Photo copyright ITT Goulds Pumps)

Although you may consider mechanical seals to be relatively small components in slurry-pumping systems, they can be the crucial bridge between failure and success. An incorrect or poor seal selection can cause major damage to the pumping system. The bottom line: If your operation wants to get the most from its slurry pumps, the choice of mechanical seals is crucial. Fluid-handling experts at Crane Engineering (Kimberly, WI, offer several tips for extending the life of these components.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Seal Considerations

As discussed in a recent blog post on, increasing slurry-pump reliability starts with an understanding of the challenges involved in moving highly abrasive fluids such as manure, cement, and starch. These pumps clearly have their work cut out for them. Thus, when selecting a mechanical seal for slurry service, pay attention to these details:

randmRobust design characteristics. Heavy slurry usually involves a high solid content. A seal design that can withstand erosive impacts while protecting the seal faces is a must. Specially designed seals for slurry applications typically feature durable construction materials, hardened faces, and heavy-duty springs to ensure the seal faces have the correct pressure setting to seal the system.

Restriction bushings. When pumping a slurry mixture, process pressure will naturally drive the particle-filled fluid into the sealing interface, causing abrasion and accelerated wear. A restriction bushing isolates the mechanical seal from the harsh process so that the seal is mostly sealing the cleaner, cooler flush fluid.

Proper flushing. A proper flushing plan will keep abrasives away from the seal faces. Seal flushing also keeps things moving in the stuffing box to prevent solids stagnation and build-up. As with any pumping application, you should always avoid dry running conditions.

Additional Considerations

Choosing the proper seal for a slurry pump is just part of the equation. It’s also imperative to select the right pump for the job and to maintain it properly.

As with other pumping systems, poor equipment conditions caused by bad bearings, cavitation, excessive impeller loads, and misaligned shafts can lead to excessive vibration and shock to the mechanical seal. A slurry pump running under these conditions will generate more heat and more opportunity for abrasives to enter the sealing interface. MT

Lubricating Film Matters

According to Crane Engineering’s fluid-handling experts, regardless of your pumping application, a lubricating film at the sealing interface is always needed.

A film that is too thick will increase leakage and may allow particulate between the mechanical seal faces, increasing wear from abrasion. Conversely, a film that is too thin will generate heat and degrade materials. Keeping the sealing interface cool and clean will promote longer seal life.

Crane Engineering is a distributor of industrial-grade pumps, valves, filters, wastewater-treatment equipment, and other fluid-processing technology. Services include repair, corrosion-resistant coatings, and skid-system design and fabrication. For more information and instructional videos, visit


6:01 pm
May 15, 2017
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Use IR Switchgear Windows Properly

IR windows provide a measure of safety and reduce labor by allowing thermographers to inspect switchgear without opening panel covers. (Photo courtesy of Fluke Corp.)

IR windows provide a measure of safety and reduce labor by allowing thermographers to inspect switchgear without opening panel covers. (Photo courtesy of Fluke Corp.)

By Jim Seffrin, Director, Infraspection Institute

In an effort to reduce the risk of injuries associated with arc flash, many sites have installed infrared (IR) transmissive windows or ports that permit IR inspections of switchgear without the need to open panel covers. Although such devices can provide a measure of safety and help to reduce labor associated with those inspections, they pose unique challenges not associated with direct line-of-sight imaging.

Switchgear windows are typically constructed of a rigid frame with a fixed IR transparent material that enables an imager to view through them. Switchgear ports consist of a rigid frame with small openings through which an imager may be sighted. Depending upon type, some feature a single hole, others incorporate metal screens containing multiple holes.

randmIR windows will always attenuate infrared energy received by the imager. While this attenuation affects qualitative and quantitative data, the greatest challenge involves temperature measurement. Accurate temperature measurements can’t be obtained through a screened port. Furthermore, the ability to accurately measure temperatures through an IR window is possible only if the following conditions are met.

• The window opening must be larger than the imager’s lens objective.
• The target must be at or beyond the imager’s minimum focus distance.
• Values for window transmittance and target emittance must be known and properly entered into the imager’s computer.
• The imager’s lens must be kept perpendicular to and in contact with the window.

When it is not possible to meet all of the above conditions, imagery should be evaluated only for its qualitative value. As always, any inexplicable hot or cold exceptions should be investigated for cause and appropriate corrective action taken. MT

Words to the Wise: Beware Hidden Electrical Danger

Getting ready for an infrared inspection of electrical equipment often requires manual preparation of switchgear components, which could be a riskier endeavor than many people might think. Unwary thermographers and other personnel can, in fact, be injured through contact with cabinets or component surfaces that have become accidentally or unintentionally energized.

Switchgear enclosures and components are generally designed to prevent their surfaces from becoming energized. Under certain circumstances, however, enclosures and other dielectric surfaces can become unintentionally energized to significant voltage levels. This potentially lethal condition can be caused by improper wiring, faulty equipment, or contamination due to dirt or moisture.

When conducting infrared inspections on or near electrical equipment, always keep the following in mind:

• Only qualified persons should be allowed near energized equipment.
• Treat all devices and enclosures as though they are energized.
• Never touch enclosures or devices without proper PPE (personal protective equipment).
• Do not lean on or use electrical enclosures as work surfaces.
• Always follow appropriate safety rules.
• Know what to do in case of an accident.

Working alone near exposed, energized electrical equipment isn’t just dangerous, it’s a violation of federal law. Thermographers who perform infrared inspections on any electrical equipment should never work alone. Since CPR can’t be self-administered, at least two people trained in first aid and CPR must always be present when working near most exposed, energized equipment. Having a second CPR-trained person along not only satisfies OSHA requirements, it may save your life.

To paraphrase a time-honored electrician’s admonishment, remember that while there are old thermographers and bold thermographers, there are no old, bold ones.

Jim Seffrin, a practicing thermographer with more than 30 years of experience in the field, was appointed to the position of Director of Infraspection Institute (Burlington, NJ), in 2000. This article is based on several of his “Tip of the Week” posts on For more information on electrical systems, safety, and other infrared-related issues, as well as various upcoming training and certification opportunities, email or visit


5:48 pm
May 15, 2017
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Get Your Cybersecurity Off the Ground

Hacker HackerangriffImplementing cybersecurity defenses for industrial-control systems can seem intimidating. The right initial actions are crucial. Alexandre Peixoto, cybersecurity expert for the DeltaV distributed-control system from Emerson (Round Rock, TX,, urges users to look closely at these seven key areas. They can offer a good defense-in-depth strategy in the short term:

• Workstation hardening: Ensure that the workstation configuration meets security policies.
• User-account management: Maintain unique user accounts and password-change routines.
• Patch/security management: Keep hardware and software up to date.
• Physical security/perimeter protection: Limit physical and electronic access to system networks.
• Security monitoring/risk assessment: Develop security policies and system-monitoring behavior.
• Data management: Develop guidelines for secure data creation, transmission, storage, and destruction.
• Network security: Ensure that system networks are properly segregated and protected.

For organizations wanting to get new cybersecurity programs off the ground fast, Peixoto recommends starting with the first three items on this list. Inexpensive to implement, they typically can be completed in-house.

—Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

randmWorkstation hardening

Workstations are usually the entry points to isolated networks. New installations run at peak security but, over time, changes intended for temporary use, such as a remote access or use of removable media, are not reversed. These changes increase the system’s attack surface, especially if the allowed remote connections aren’t monitored or periodically audited.

Cybersecurity isn’t a set-and-forget type of initiative. Operations should monitor and maintain all workstations using the initial configuration as a baseline. System administrators should keep records of their system’s security policies and develop policy guidelines surrounding what can and cannot be changed.

Dedicated applications are available to help audit essential files and services running on each control-system workstation. These applications can be valuable tools in assessing cyber-threats within an industrial control-system environment.

User-account management

Individual user accounts with appropriate permissions should be part of every organization’s security policy. Properly assigning user permissions also has a strong impact on cybersecurity. While it may seem easier to give every user high privilege access to the system, this approach increases the impact of a cyberattack, no matter which account is stolen. Developing and applying guidelines for user accounts is the first step, but setting a strategy for account management, based on those guidelines, is key to long-term control-system cybersecurity support.

Strict enforcement of password complexity and change routines will make it harder for unauthorized users to gain access using stolen passwords or brute-force attacks. A best practice is for each user to have a unique username and password for the control system that is distinct from those they use on enterprise business systems.

Patch/security management

Properly maintaining a control system means keeping hardware and software up to date. When a system is unpatched or outdated, the organization is exposed to cyberattacks.

Organizations need to keep track of operating system updates, antivirus updates, and software hotfixes that are available for their systems and regularly apply these patches. Unpatched systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks that are based on known vulnerabilities. Appropriate, timely patch management can be accomplished internally or by using support programs available from automation-system vendors.

Bottom line

Not only is it easy to overlook cybersecurity, it’s difficult for plants to justify allocating resources for it if they’ve never been attacked (or have been, but don’t know it). Unfortunately, when security vulnerabilities are exploited, the costs required to recover a system are high and the impact widespread.

Focusing on the right first steps today can help secure your industrial-control system and develop an internal cybersecurity posture in your organization. MT

For more information on cybersecurity, go to


8:01 pm
April 13, 2017
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Listen Up: Stop Lube-Related Bearing Failures

Ultrasound technology can help reduce bearing and equipment failures associated with improper lubrication procedures.

Ultrasound technology can help reduce bearing and equipment failures associated with improper lubrication procedures.

Regardless of industry sector, lubrication methods are crucial to plant reliability and maintenance efforts. Consider the fact that lube-related failures account for 60% to 80% of premature bearing failures. While lack of lubrication and use of the wrong lubricant for an application have been cited as major causes of such failures, over- and under-lubrication are also harmful. Preventing those last two scenarios is one area where ultrasound technology can play an important role.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

According to UE Systems (Elmsford, NY), by using an ultrasound instrument to listen to a bearing while applying lubricant and then monitor, i.e., watch, the decibel level, a technician can determine when adequate grease has been applied and, just as important, the threshold at which over-lubrication begins.

In short, when bearings aren’t lubricated properly, friction can cause damage and threaten processes. Ultrasound equipment can read the decibel levels of over- and under-lubricated bearings and indicate to maintenance personnel if adjustments are in order. Consistent dB levels let a technician know that the level of lubrication is where it should be.

Experts at UE Systems describe three tiers of acceptable lubrication practices and where ultrasound technology fits into them.

randmGood practice

The baseline lubrication practice is to follow the bearing manufacturer’s recommendations to determine the exact amount of lubrication necessary based on bearing size, speed, and type, and rely on runtime and operating conditions to develop a lubrication schedule. While “good” is a starting place, there is room to improve.

Better practice

The next level uses ultrasound equipment for more exact lubrication procedures. These tools tell maintenance technicians when to stop lubricating a bearing, rather than hoping the schedule is accurate and guessing at bearing condition. Ultrasound can also inform technicians if there are other problems with the bearing, unrelated to lubrication.

Best practice

A best lubrication practice is to combine a frequency schedule and ultrasound tools with data collection and trend analysis. By examining the history of lubrication with dB levels and other sound files, maintenance technicians can begin to predict when bearings may be approaching failure and take preemptive action. Alarm levels can be set to alert technicians when lubrication is approaching dangerously low levels.

The best ultrasound programs allow easy integration of data analysis with probes, listening devices, and lubrication tools. MT

How Ultrasound Technology Works

Air- and structure-borne ultrasound is high-frequency sound that human ears can’t hear. These high-frequency sounds travel through the air or by way of a solid. The ultrasound instrument senses and listens for the high-frequency sound, and then translates it into an audible sound that is heard through the inspector’s headset. The unit of measurement for sound is a decibel (dB) level, which is indicated on the display of the ultrasonic instrument.

Ultrasound can be used in conjunction with (and is supportive of) vibration analysis and other predictive-maintenance approaches. In addition to mechanical inspections of rotating equipment and associated condition-based lubrication programs, applications for ultrasound include detection of compressed air and gas leaks; inspection of energized electrical equipment to detect corona, tracking, and arcing; and inspection of steam traps.

For more ultrasound information and to download a printable infographic on “3 Ways to Incorporate Ultrasound in Lubrication Testing,” visit


7:53 pm
April 13, 2017
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Prevent Cable Failure in Dynamic-Cable Tracks

Paying attention to these details can help you reduce the risk of unexpected and costly downtime.

Paying attention to these details can help you reduce the risk of unexpected and costly downtime.

Cable failure within a dynamic-cable track can lead to costly, yet, in most cases, easily avoided, downtime. David Smith of U.S. Tsubaki Power Transmission LLC (Wheeling, IL) points to several important considerations for maximizing the performance life of cables running through your plant’s power-transmission-equipment systems.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Proper cable selection

Incorrect cable designs are often installed in a dynamic-cable track. Given the high rates of motion and speed under which cable tracks perform, be sure to select and install a cable specifically designed to operate in your particular environment or application.

Proper cable-track sizing

To achieve maximum life from your cables, assure ample amounts of free space within the cable track. At a minimum, cables should have 10% free space around them, with a maximum fill rate within the cable track not to exceed 60%. As the speed and cycle rates of a cable track increase, the cables must have adequate space to operate properly.

It is also imperative for the cable track to have the proper bend radius. Dynamic cables are generally designed to operate with a bend radius that’s greater than 7.5 times the outside diameter of the cable. A tighter radius will reduce the performance life of your cables.

randmStrain relief

Every cable requires effective strain relief as it enters and exits the cable track. This strain relief ensures that proper cable length remains within the track as it cycles back and forth. Insufficient strain relief is one of the most commonly overlooked considerations during cable installation.

Proper strain relief often can be accomplished by simply zip-tying the cables to the strain-relief fingers that have been molded into the cable-track brackets.

Internal vertical dividers

Another often-overlooked consideration involves the use of internal dividers within the cable track. Vertical dividers between the cables ensure that each cable is confined to its proper location and spacing within the track and is unable to cross over or “tangle,” with the other cables. Keeping your cables in proper alignment will help extend their performance.

Cable-carrier material selection

Even with proper strain relief, relative motion between the cables and cable carrier crossbars can result in some scuffing of the cable jackets. By selecting a crossbar design/material that best interacts with the cable jacket material, you can reduce or eliminate that scuffing.

For example, a nylon cable track with aluminum crossbars is much friendlier to the PVC jackets of most electrical cables than a standard glass-fiber nylon cross bar. MT

David Smith is director of sales for the Milwaukee-based KabelSchlepp Division of U.S. Tsubaki Power Transmission LLC. For more information on dynamic-cable tracks and other power-transmission topics, visit