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4:46 pm
July 18, 2016
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Uptime: Fuel Continuous Improvement with Data

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Making decisions about what to improve and how to measure the rate of improvement requires a systematic use of data. But, more than raw data, data bases, or spreadsheets, it’s important to use the right data. Many organizations today are already awash in data, anticipating a tsunami of numbers, thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and, as some are forecasting, the Internet of Everything. Professor Patrick Wolfe, executive director of the University College of London’s Big Data Institute noted, “The rate at which we’re generating data is rapidly outpacing our ability to analyze it.”

Data’s dark side emerges when unfiltered information is used as a threat, a smoke screen, or to obscure the facts. So it’s easy to see why some view data as a not-too-pleasant four-letter word.

Data alone can easily elicit anxiety, boredom, fear, sensory overload, and, in some cases, even excitement. Today’s business leaders must find ways to make data more user friendly to be successful in reliability/maintenance, in operations, and ultimately to the benefit of their organizations, their customers, and their stakeholders.

When organizations actually begin using their data, when they make data actionable for the benefit of the business, the employees and their customers all experience the bright side of data. Data is the foundation for eliminating problems and improving organizational performance.

What is data anyway?

When we delve into data we find digital data, bits and bytes, numbers and decimal fractions, text, alphanumerics, and mathematical symbols. Whatever the data looks like it is actually representing certain conditions or objects—and it is limitless.

Output from a machine sensor is also called data. This can be very useful, redundant, irrelevant, or totally useless. But, it’s still data. Real-time data is on-line. Archived data is off-line.

Amassing data for data’s sake can be a futile effort. It’s what we do with the data that’s most important—turning data into actions through smart, informed decisions.

Let’s take a quick look at one organization’s recent data-discovery journey. Production and labor data are collected by machine operators on tickets and forms, then keyed by others into a master database. To make the information more useable, data is printed out in spreadsheets. Some is then converted into graphs for reports or used to measure progress toward defined business goals.

Data collection continues with scrap production and material waste measurements. Quality data is collected from multiple sources for two separate reports—production defects and customer complaints. The defects are identified and categorized by QC inspectors through random inspections. Customer complaints are supplied by those who run a customer-feedback process.

Production-machine downtime is also written on sheets with a duration and a reason and later summarized in spreadsheets by department.

Maintenance work orders also capture machine work, problems, repairs, parts used, and labor.

Most data is looked at separately and the improvements are targeted by departments. The results are narrowly focused actions that lead to slow gains and short-lived improvements. There can be more. There must be more.

Make data actionable

Let’s make data actionable. Data used to chart a path for continuous improvement and measure progress along the way is essential to business success. But it doesn’t start with data.

The key element in business improvement is asking the right questions. Andreas Weigend, former chief scientist of and the author of more than 100 scientific papers on the application of machine-learning techniques said it best: “You have to start with a question, not with the data.”

Let’s look at an example for improving an organization’s performance in an evolving continuous-improvement work culture:

Big opportunity. Start by focusing on improving something that is very important to the organization: Where is the organization most at risk, where are failures most penalizing, where could breakthrough improvements be revolutionary to business success? These opportunities for improvement can be expressed as dire needs, a burning platform, response to regulatory issues, market changes, balance sheets, or changes in the organization due to buy-outs, mergers, or acquisitions.

Whatever the reason, start by defining the big opportunity for improving your organization’s performance. Specific opportunities for focused improvement are then defined. Be prepared to answer the question: Why are we doing this?

Right data. Identify and gather the right data. From where does the data come? Is the information easy to access? Is the data reliable and trustworthy? In the early years of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) we learned that machine performance data should be collected and analyzed by those people closest to the machine, the source of the data, and often the source of improvement. With the explosive rate of the IIoT, much of the data will likely come directly from the machines and equipment.

Information. Ask what the data is telling you. Here is where the improvement teams question the relationships among production efficiency losses, unplanned machine downtime, quality defects, customer complaints, scrap rates, and maintenance work (labor and parts). These collective data are now the information that guides improvement.

Knowledge. By connecting the information from the combined data sets, the improvement team can look for connections to the big opportunity for improvement. Armed with the knowledge between the information and the big opportunity for improvement, the improvement team is prepared to begin making improvements that will benefit the organization in a notable way.

Action. Develop a bias for action. Data analysis can be an attractive end to some. To others, it’s analysis paralysis. But, taking purposeful action is what gets things done in the organization on the plant floor. Action begins with root-cause analysis to determine the connections between what was learned from the data and the causes of poor (and successful) performance. Action continues with the corrective actions to address the root causes and putting countermeasures in place to eliminate the cause, or at least to minimize the penalizing effects.

Wisdom. Nurture the individual, team, and organizational learning that takes place from the specific improvement process. Ask the question: Are there similar problems that could be identified and eliminated in this manner? The wisdom to leverage additional improvements with the same body of knowledge is a powerful step in creating a culture of continuous improvement.

Creative/collaborative people and machines. Weaving together all six of these steps will result in an essential organization-wide behavior that I call Creative/Collaborative People & Machines. “Creative” meaning new ways of using data as a foundation for purposeful improvement. “Collaborative” is two-fold: People from different parts of the organization working together to make data a tool for continuous improvement and machines providing data that people use to improve performance.

Data is the fuel that drives the continuous-improvement engine and tells us how well it performs. Let’s find ways to make the right data actionable for the good of the organization and its employees, customers, community, and owners. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people-side of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


4:30 pm
July 18, 2016
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Final Thought: What’s Your Elevator Pitch?

Cklaus01By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee Reliability & Maintainability Center

The terms “elevator talk” or “elevator pitch” refer to a brief presentation or explanation delivered in the time it typically takes to ride an elevator from one floor to another, i.e., anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Savvy people in all walks of life have them ready on key topics to efficiently and effectively get their points across to others. So how do we explain reliability engineering in an “elevator talk?”

To another engineer, my pitch would go something like this: “Reliability is the likelihood that process/product/people will carry out their stated functions for the specified time interval when operated according to the designated conditions. Maintainability is the ease and speed of maintenance to get the system back to its original operating conditions. Availability is being ready for use as intended. Since availability is a function of reliability and maintainability, reliability engineers work on improving both throughout the lifecycle of assets and products.”

If that discussion were to go well and time permitted, I would go on to explain that a comprehensive reliability process can be used to perform continuous improvement and enable any organization to attain top quartile performance.

A definition from is, “Reliability engineering emphasizes dependability in the lifecycle management of a product… Reliability engineering deals with estimation, prevention, and management of high levels of lifetime engineering-uncertainty and risks of failure.”

A generic definition might be, “Reliability engineering enables an asset to perform its intended function without failure for the specified time, when built, installed, and operated as designed.”

Visit and you will find, “Principles and practices associated with reliability requirements (such as prediction of failure time and conditions) and their translation into specifications that are incorporated in product design and production.”

All of these definitions, however, assume a level of knowledge of the referenced concepts on the part of the audience. Also, by using broad definitions, much is left to individual interpretation. Explaining our work to non-engineers can be tough.

At a recent social event, a lawyer asked me what I do. When I answered “reliability engineering,” he asked what that meant. After 10 minutes of explanations, it was clear he still wasn’t close to understanding the importance or relevance of the field, or what it is. Spending about five more minutes trying to clarify things for him, I came to realize that even with all I know about reliability, I still needed an elevator talk for non-engineers. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

“If your car starts every time you need it and gets you to your destination, it has high reliability.  If your car can be quickly and properly maintained (preserved in a like-new state) when something does go wrong, it reflects good maintainability. Because of high reliability and good maintainability, your car is available whenever you need it. Reliability engineering uses calculations, tools, and techniques to evaluate the risks of human and asset failure and avoid related consequences. This applies to everything from a single component to an overall production process. These concepts are applied to the machinery, equipment, and facilities that produce products such as cars, chemicals, steel, food, energy, aircraft, spacecraft, and household goods. Because it can improve so many parts of any organization, reliability engineering is an ongoing process.”

Reliability is so all-inclusive in what it can positively affect, that our attempts to explain it often seem vague. Conversely, using only a single example makes it sound too simplistic.

If you have a good reliability-engineering elevator talk (for delivery to non-engineers), please send it to me. I would like to hear it. MT

Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a College of Engineering research professor. Contact him at


4:22 pm
July 18, 2016
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On The Floor: Real-World Lube Programs — Big Differences Still

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Lubrication strategies are an ongoing focus in our pages, thanks, in large part to contributing editor Ken Bannister and other experts in the field. This month, we wanted to dive a little deeper into actual lube practices at MT Reader Panelists’ sites. We asked these questions:

  • Who set up their sites’ current lubrication program/schedules (or those of their clients/customers) and how are they working?
  • When was a plant-wide (or section-wide) lubrication review last performed, who performed it, and why?
  • What are qualifications for lubrication personnel at these plants?
  • How understanding/supportive is site management with regard to lubrication best practices and training and qualification of lubrication personnel?

Edited for clarity and brevity, here’s what several respondents told us. What’s clear is that sites aren’t all on the same page in their approaches.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Manufacturing, Midwest…

Our site and sister plants each have an oiler. Their duties include lubricating machines that need lubrication, as well as normal duties included in preventive-maintenance tasks (PMs), which are regularly scheduled by our PM coordinators. Tracking is done through our CMMS and is part of our normal metrics.

Oilers are part of our maintenance team, so it’s an in-house job. [While] I feel they’re well trained and informed about the importance of their jobs, I don’t believe they have any type of certification. I’m also not aware of any kind of plant-wide lubrication reviews having been conducted.

Planned Maintenance Supervisor, Process Industries, Southwest…

Current lubrication schedules were set by the planned maintenance supervisor. Initially based on OEM recommendations, they’ve been adjusted [over time] to our environment and conditions as required. [As for ever conducting a plant-wide or section-wide review]: Never. It’s been difficult obtaining senior management’s buy-in for these types of projects.

There are no qualifications for lubrication personnel. We’re pushing to get some formal training and certifications, but that hasn’t happened yet. It’s been difficult getting management to see the value and importance of spending money to optimize our lubrication best practices.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

Supervisors of each set of our buildings set up [their respective] lubrication programs. They seem to work OK, but can have problems. [Due to budgets], we’ve had to cut back on a few things like color-coded grease-fitting caps that designate which greases are to be used on various equipment. We’re trying to tag each piece of equipment so date and grease types are listed. Our overall lubrication program could benefit from an updated format, but manpower and budgets hold us back.

I don’t know when (if ever) a plant-wide lubrication review was last preformed. Our original system was set up using the U.S. military system of the three types of maintenance.

Most [of our] maintenance engineers have several years of experience when hired. I don’t think upper management understands much about preventive maintenance other that the cost of oil/grease, rags, and any other equipment needed for maintenance. They just want the costs to be kept as low as possible without jeopardizing equipment.

Technical Supervisor, Energy Provider, West…

[Corporate operation and maintenance guidelines established our current lubrication program and schedules.] We originally set up lubrication oil-sampling/analysis with support from [a major lab]. That lab was purchased by [another group]. We’ve had good support from both organizations.

I rely on the maintenance and operations staff to identify obvious problems such as “water in oil,” and then review lab-analysis reports for specifics on oil-testing and filtering recommendations.

Trained, experienced maintenance and operations personnel take oil samples on our rotating equipment, hydraulics, and oil-filled transformers. We have periodic audits from our project-insurance carrier that wants to see the maintenance records, including the oil- and gas-analysis reports.

College Electrical-Laboratory Manager/Instructor, West…

Our current lube program was first set up when we instituted the 5S system. We reviewed equipment manuals for PMs and set up the CMMS program. This was accomplished through a team of maintenance staff and the process-engineering group. The system works, but needs adjusting as we use it (a learning curve).

The lube program is fully reviewed every three months, and adjustments are made using CMMS data, i.e., we analyze downtime reports and track problems related to the lube program.

We have a maintenance-certification program that includes Lube 101. The lube PM program is completed per shift, and rotates duties with the shifts and maintenance staff.

We have color-coded grease guns and fittings so special greases aren’t used incorrectly. Each piece of equipment has a lube chart that can be accessed through the HMI (human-machine-interface) screen.

Management is fully behind the lube program because of the cost of downtime and the equipment’s capital investment. The longer we can keep equipment functioning, the higher the product quality and output. The labor cost involved in certification-related training programs is viewed as a cost of doing business.

(Note: One of our biggest problems is the maintenance staff actually doing the lubing and not just pencil-whipping PM input sheets.)

Engineering Group Lead, Process Industries, Midwest…

The current schedules, which have been in place for over 20 years, are outdated and lacking. I am finding that [the site] would put whoever was available on greasing and inspecting for proper lubrication. I’ve also found numerous broken, missing, or clogged grease fittings, and incorrectly used lubricants. In an effort to keep fewer chemicals on hand, someone in the past went to one type of lubricant, one grease, one oil, one hydraulic oil, for the entire plant.

[With respect to a plant-wide review], I am currently in the process of researching individual machine lubrication requirements. Currently, there are no qualification standards. Lubrication is considered an entry-level position. The job is assigned to whoever is available.

I believe that management agrees it is important to keep up with our lubrication program. Certification is another issue. Our management seems “old school,” meaning OTJ (on-the-job) training and learn-as-you-go. That puts more pressure on me, as group lead, to properly train our associates in proper lubrication techniques.

Industry Supplier, Midwest…

[Our] customers set up their own lube programs in-house. While they [appear to work], they are constantly changing, as markets evolve and technologies and processes change, all of which changes a plant’s lube requirements.

End users are always looking for new suppliers. Each time prospective customers come in, their lube programs and products are evaluated for new proposals. This is usually done by the supplier for products, and at the customer level for maintenance and scheduling. It works, but there’s always room for improvement. 

Some [or our customers] have gone through programs offered by formal lubrication-training providers, but, mostly, it is us, a supplier of products, training them through presentations on fundamentals. I would say, in most companies, that lubrication is a bottom, starting position. It’s wrong, but inevitable. 

Industry Consultant, International…

Unless you find a truly world-class maintenance implementation, [lubrication] plans come and go. Most of the time, this delicate activity is put in the hands of the least trained people. Lubrication training should be a priority for all sites! MT

The Maintenance Technology Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed and their responses are not necessarily projectable. Note that our panel welcomes new members. To be considered, email your name and contact information to with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.


3:57 pm
July 18, 2016
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What’s Stuck in My Head

parrmugWhen an issue of Maintenance Technology goes in the mail, we send it with every confidence that, upon receipt, you’ll cancel all activities for an afternoon, go home to your favorite reading spot with your favorite beverage, and devour every word. We also sleep well at night knowing that the things you learn from the issue are shared with your colleagues the next day.

Hey, I’m entitled to dream!

From our end, when we send the magazine to the printer, we will have literally read and edited every single word, and done so numerous times (I don’t want to hear about any errors you find.) As a result, by the time you receive this issue, or read it at, we’ve forgotten about the content and are deep into the next issue.

But this issue is a little different.

As I write this, just a few days before it goes to the printer, there are some items in the following pages that simply will not leave my head. Because of that, I’m going to put them in your heads before you get much further into the magazine.

Cyber security

The item that is “bothering” me the most comes from our cyber-security article, “Do Employees Make Your Network Vulnerable?” by Dennis Egen, president of Engine Room, Philadelphia.

In an article packed with excellent advice for shoring up your cyber security, Egen makes three statements that will have you calling an immediate company-wide meeting:

“It has been estimated that 60% of data compromises are caused by employees or insiders (freelancers, contractors, consultants). The vast majority of these breaches are unintentional.”

“According to one provider of identity protection and fraud-detection solutions, about 60% of users who have access to a company network use the same login credentials as on other non-company sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Since many targeted breaches begin with a phishing effort to grab users’ social-media passwords, many inadvertently put confidential company login information right out for anyone to see.”

“A recent survey showed that 60% of employees either have no security or have stuck to the default settings for their mobile devices.”

After I finished editing that article the first time, I didn’t call a company-wide meeting, but I can assure you that some passwords got changed. Yes, I was guilty as charged.


The second item that’s stuck in my head comes from Jeff Dudley’s article, “Change Your Game to Proactive” (p. 24). Dudley tells us that Q1 (first quartile, i.e., the best) performers deliver more than 97% mechanical availability year in and year out. More than 75% of their downtime is due to planned and scheduled outages (turnarounds).

Later he states, “Note that game changers [high-reliability operations] are not the lowest-spending organizations. In fact, our research has shown that the lowest-spending operations typically have poor reliability and are normally Q3 performers.”

The quest for reliability is talked about quite a bit in our world. Is there more talk than action? Knowing that running an unreliable operation basically blocks movement toward Q1 performance should be enough incentive to start putting the talk into action.


If that message doesn’t hit home, this one will. In a second article from Al Poling this year, he demonstrates the impact that unreliability has on sales. The article, “Calculate the Impact of Unreliability on Sales” (p. 21), is a “sister” article on “Calculate the True Cost of Unreliability,” which we published in Feb. 2016 on p. 13. In this issue, Poling demonstrates the incredible influence that reliable operations have on sales revenue. In his example, committing to reliability results in a $314 million increase in sales revenue.

We are convinced that you should have both of Poling’s articles in your hands. So much so that we have combined them into a pdf ebook that you can download at

I point out these items because they are stuck in my little brain. But, while you’re spending that afternoon at home, reading this issue, I also encourage you to read our Plant Profile and Voice from the Field features to learn what your colleagues in other operations are doing. MT


9:00 am
July 6, 2016
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Boiler-Code Guidance

A supplement to the company’s Boiler Inspection Guidelines for Drum Level Instrumentation offers guidance to the ASME Section I Boiler Code as it pertains to the use of magnetic level gages (MLGs) to indicate boiler water level. The standard use of a MLG from most gage manufacturers may result in a code violation and safety hazard. The proper way to use a MLG on a boiler is detailed in the supplement.
Clark-Reliance Corp.
Strongsville, OH


11:52 pm
June 13, 2016
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SKF Battery-Driven Grease Gun Features Integrated Grease Meter

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 5.38.51 PMLubrication delivery was in the spotlight at the annual SKF Technical Press Day (Monday, June 13) in Philadelphia. The company’s Battery-Driven Grease Gun (TLGB 20), one of several new and notable products rolled out at this year’s event, offers a portable solution for maximizing the efficiency and accuracy in the manual lubrication of bearings, machines, and off-road equipment throughout industry.

The device’s integrated grease meter adds value by dispensing the proper amount of lubricant for an application to prevent over- or under-greasing.

A rechargeable 20-volt lithium battery delivers extended service life to enable timely manual lubrication of equipment anywhere and anytime in a manufacturing plant or in the field.

User-friendly features include a durable, ergonomic design with a three-point stand for operator comfort and convenience. A built-in light serves to illuminate the work area and a display on the tool indicates battery charge level, amount of dispensed grease, pump/motor speed, and blocked lubrication points.

This versatile unit can dispense up to 15 grease cartridges per battery charge and delivers two flow rates adjustable for a specific application. Pressures up to 700 bar (10,000 psi) can be achieved.

Th TLGB20 grease gun comes in a sturdy carrying case with a 900mm (36-in.) high-pressure hose, battery, and 90-min. charger.

The manufacturer notes that the SKF Battery-Driven Grease Gun joins a growing portfolio of unique lubrication-technology solutions for promoting optimized machinery health, reliability, and productivity.

For more information on SKF’s expanding lubrication-related lineup, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about other reliability-focused solutions from SKF (Landsdale, PA and Gothenburg, Sweden), including the company’s extensive bearing, condition-monitoring, and mechatronics portfolios and associated service offerings,  CLICK HERE.





2:38 am
June 7, 2016
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KSB-USA Operations Challenge Team Takes Gold at International Wastewater Technology Championship

Maintenance Technology's Contributing Editor Michelle Segrest (center) with all-star Operations Challenge Team KSB-USA that bested 36 other teams at the third Open Germany Wastewater Technology Championship in Munich, Germany.

Contributing Editor Michelle Segrest (center) with members of the all-star, gold-medal-winning Operations Challenge Team KSB-USA that bested 36 other teams at the third Open Germany Wastewater Technology Championship in Munich, Germany, during IFAT 2016.




Operations Challenge Team KSB-USA has brought home the gold from Munich, Germany, as the overall winner of the third Open German Championship in Wastewater Technology. This all-star, U.S.-based team competed against 36 teams from six countries as part of IFAT 2016, the world’s leading trade fair for water, sewage, waste and raw materials management that ran from May 30-June 3.

Organized by the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and sponsored by pump and valve manufacturer KSB, Inc. (Richmond, VA), the U.S. team included Coach Dave Vogel (CH2M, Lanesborough, MA) and members Dale Burrow (TRA CReWSers, Dallas, winner of 5 Division 1 Operations Challenge Championships); Donnie Cagle (Terminal Velocity, Wake Forest, NC, winner of 10 Division 1 Operations Challenge Championships); and Steve Motley (Terminal Velocity, Virginia Beach, VA, winner of 5 Division 1 Operations Challenge Championships).

“We are so proud of Team KSB-USA and congratulate all of the participants of this fantastic international competition,” said WEF Executive Director Eileen O’Neill. “It was our great honor to have been invited to be a part of IFAT and the Open German Championship, which along with WEF’s own Operations Challenge competition, showcases the incredible dedication, professionalism, and outstanding skills of our operations personnel.”

The 37 teams were judged in five core competencies of wastewater operations during the intense two-day competition. Team KSB-USA accumulated the most combined points from each individual discipline to take first place, followed by two German teams: second-place winner Nuremberg – Die Drei Wreckla, and third-place winner Stadt Stuttgart Pumpis.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 9.34.51 PMMore About Operations Challenge
The popular, long-running Operations Challenge program is designed to put a spotlight on the often unsung heroes of the wastewater treatment arena. According to the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the best wastewater collection and treatment personnel in the world display their skills at these competitions.

Each team is sponsored by a WEF Member Association or recognized Operator Association. Winners are determined by a weighted point system for five events (collection systems, laboratory, process control, maintenance and safety), each designed to test the diverse skills required for the operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment facilities, their collection systems and laboratories.

Operations Challenge 2016 will take place this fall in New Orleans. as part of WEFTEC 2016, WEF’s 89th annual technical exhibition and conference running from Sept. 24-28, at the Morial Convention Center. For more information, CLICK HERE.


3:50 pm
May 31, 2016
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On the Road with Jane and Gary #1



Jane and Gary have been traveling again. This past week Jane was in New Orleans to attend Schneider Electric’s Connect 2016 event and Gary was in Puerto Rico for the Maintenance Excellent Roundtable conference. Put your ear buds in and spend a few minutes listening to what our travelers experienced.