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8:05 pm
October 19, 2016
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Day Two At SMRP 2016 With Maintenance Technology’s Editors


Contributing editor Michelle Segrest and editorial director Gary L. Parr return for a second day of extensive SMRP conference coverage. This record-setting conference has been filled with excellent presentations, enthusiastic attendees, and a large number of exhibitors ready to help reliability and maintenance professionals solve problems and move their operations to the world of reliability. Listen to Michelle and Gary discuss the second day of SMRP 2016 here:


Our coverage today also includes several interviews with exhibitors; an interview with Marc Cote, SMRP presenter and our November Voice from the Field; numerous attendees sharing what they have learned at the conference; a brief chat with Rebekah Wojac, president of Maintenance Excellence Roundtable; and an exchange with Maintenance Technology columnist Klaus Blache about his Univ. of Tennessee Reliability and Maintainability Center. If you weren’t able to attend this year’s SMRP Conference, we hope that the our coverage of the show, today and yesterday, will help you experience at least a small amount of what this annual event for reliability and maintenance professionals has to offer.

Marc Cote is Director of Maintenance and Engineering at C.B. Fleet Laboratories. He was the presenter of a training session on “Performance Metrics That Matter” at the 24th Annual SMRP Convention in Jacksonville, FL. During his presentation, Cote demonstrated best practices for managing and training people, materials management, workload management, and asset reliability. He showed how identifying key performance indicators and measuring them effectively can enhance any reliability program. This exclusive video interview highlights some of the main takeaways from his presentation. You can read more about Cote and his maintenance and reliability success in Maintenance Technology’s “Voice from the Field” feature in the November issue.

Editorial director Gary L. Parr interviews Klaus Blache, director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville. Klaus talks about the center’s various programs, what it offers to students at three levels, and the various events they offer in conjunction with the program. For more information, contact him at

Editorial director Gary L. Parr interviews Rebekah Wojak, president of the Maintenance Excellence Roundtable, to learn about that organization, its activities, and its efforts to increase membership.


9:20 pm
October 18, 2016
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Day One At SMRP 2016 With Maintenance Technology’s Editors


Editorial director Gary L. Parr and contributing editor Michelle Segrest are attending the 2016 version of the SMRP conference. This year is the largest conference in SMRP’s history.


Listen to the above podcast Gary and Michelle recorded about the sessions they’ve attended, view some short video interviews with attendees in which they describe the hurdles they confront, and stream video interviews with a variety of exhibitors. We hope you enjoy the coverage and encourage you to visit tomorrow to learn more about what’s going on at the conference.


6:57 pm
October 11, 2016
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Uptime: Beware the Fourth Industrial Revolution

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

As a presenter at a recent material-handling conference, I took the opportunity to attend sessions on topics of maintenance, workforce development, and automated handling and sorting systems. Intriguing discussions on the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” a theme of recent World Economic Forum events, were a highlight for me. Technological advancements associated with this era are already entering our plants. Their larger impact on businesses and our socio-economic systems, however, could be overwhelming. Are we ready?

Industrial Revolutions 101

First things first: What were the previous Industrial Revolutions all about?

Most of us learned about the First Industrial Revolution in world-history and social-studies classes. The productivity of craftsmen, tradesmen, and artisans was transformed by steam, water power, and mechanization of traditional work that led to cotton-spinning machinery and railroads. Beginning in the late 1750s, it ramped up through the 1870s.

The Second Industrial Revolution was characterized by manufacturing and the division of labor, which included the introduction of electric power, interchangeable parts and, eventually, mass production with assembly lines. It spanned the 1890s through about 1970.

Many readers cut their world-of-work teeth during the Third Industrial Revolution, which began the transition from pneumatic logic to electrical controls, to microprocessor-control strategies. The digital age was upon us with information technology (IT), computer mainframes transitioning to personal computers, automated-manufacturing systems, industrial robotics, and the Internet. This timeline runs from the 1970s through today or, as some are forecasting, through 2020.

The work processes and enabling mechanisms and technologies of the world’s first three Industrial Revolutions grew at accelerated rates: 120 years to 80 years to 50 years respectively. If we are to learn from that pattern of growth and explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT)/Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), we should fasten our seat belts. The rates of change and emergence and adoption of advanced technologies are increasing exponentially.

What does this have to do with readers of Maintenance Technology? Plenty. We’re on the cusp of the most significant changes ever in modern industry. They will have a far-reaching impact on how business is done and how society interacts.

Creating false expectations

Hearing high-level engineering and technical experts discuss the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I became enamored with the possibilities. The speakers frequently referred to totally automated material-handling systems where everything is autonomous. The only human involvement is overall arrangement, control, and interlinking system components. Amazing!

If I were a chief financial officer, chief information officer, or chief operating officer, though, what would I have heard? “Automated machinery and facilities can, and will, replace people.” Wow! No more worries about overtime, healthcare, human error, grievances, vacation, cost-of-living issues, a  $15 minimum wage, and the list goes on.

Everyone—literally everyone—I hear waxing eloquently about the future of automated systems and facilities, though, seems to have forgotten about maintenance. That’s not unusual. Many people tend to think of maintenance as fixing things that people damage. From their perspective, if we remove the erratic and ever variable human element, all is well. Right? Wrong!

Technical skills must prevail

Automated machines and systems must be fabricated, assembled, and commissioned by people. Once these precision and technologically advanced machines enter the workplace, they must be programmed and integrated by yet another group of people. At that point, such machines should basically be ready to operate autonomously with technology that has been proven to work efficiently, and effectively. Are they really?

This is where some of the technological promises of autonomous equipment and systems fall apart. Those modern marvels still require maintenance. Sure, many now have, and will continue to expand their condition-monitoring/self-diagnostic capabilities. But, can they fully maintain themselves? Probably not.

In fact, maintenance of highly automated systems just became more complex because of automation’s sensors, transmitters, transducers, control loops, logic controllers, Wi-Fi networks, software, signal cables, connectors, circuit boards, and many other components that make the base system, machine, vehicle, or conveyor function without the aid of a hands-on human.

Managing the base machine

I’ve said for decades that automation by itself does nothing. Automation (whatever it is) must connect to a base system or machine. These can be configured in many different ways, including as automated guided vehicles (AGVs), conveyors, sorting systems, forked vehicles, pallet movers, tuggers, deck vehicles, and self-driving vehicles (cars, trucks, trains, and airport people movers).

Let’s focus on forked AGVs. This is basically a forklift truck that has been fully automated. The components of a forked AGV still require routine (periodic) maintenance, and an occasional repair, including, among other things, its:

  • mast system, rollers, sliders, chains, guards, hoses
  • hydraulic-lift cylinder(s), tilt cylinders, hoses, control valves, pump, fluid filters, fluids
  • forks, carriage
  • drivetrain wheels, tires, drive axle, transmission, steering
  • electric-motor connections, wiring, brushes, armature condition, filters
  • battery system terminals, electrolyte, status indicator, and the actual battery
  • electrical contactors, connections, lugs
  • lubrication of chains, rollers, motor, fork carriage, pivot points, wheel spindle bearings
  • electrical-system wiring, connectors, lights, annunciators, warning devices.

What’s missing from the forked AGV maintenance list that’s included on one for a traditional forklift? Not much: the operator’s seat, seat belt, steering wheel, protective cage/roll bars, brakes, and gear shifter. In the end, the reliability of the forked AGV depends on the reliability of the base systems and components, the automation system(s), and the interface between those two complex systems and components.

The teachable moment

Higher levels of automation complexity will introduce countless more opportunities for failure. The requirements for inherent (built-in) reliability, reliable work processes, and human talent will also grow exponentially.

The investment in human capital will become increasingly more important than the investment in capital assets in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Without investments in skills and knowledge to operate and maintain high-tech systems, the money spent on new automation will fail to achieve the desired businesses goals.

Key takeaway

The “Professional Equipment Technician” of the very near future will be required to master equipment/system maintenance fundamentals, interpret on-board diagnostics, and make necessary repairs to electro-mechanical systems. The good news is that all of this is achievable without a four-year college degree.

Businesses must accelerate their internal and external talent-management systems. Community colleges and technical schools must begin tooling up for transforming occupations. Beyond STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills, our elementary, middle, and high schools must begin introducing careers for modern industrial/manufacturing and facilities maintenance that will continue to command high wages for high skills.  MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and 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


5:46 pm
October 5, 2016
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Schneider Electric Wonderware LIVE Spotlights Groundbreaking Offerings

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-1-27-12-pmThe Schneider Electric Wonderware LIVE North American User’s event in Orlando this week put the spotlight on a number of new Wonderware offerings. Announcements, among others, included release of information regarding:

The launch of Prometheus, a vertical configuration tool that’s expected to “redefine the industrial control industry.”  The company characterizes Prometheus as  “the industry’s first configuration tool for defining, programming, and documenting all components in an industrial control system, from the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) to the I/O.”

By removing the complexity and tedious burden of updating multiple applications, Prometheus is said to drive greater agility across automation-control systems, thus ensuring that plants run the most efficient and up-to-date processes. And it can configure each of these components, beyond the capabilities of existing controllers and SCADA/HMI software, regardless of type or brand, which, in itself, signifies another industry first.Prometheus will be available in January 2017.

The introduction of Wonderware Online InStudio, an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering that changes the way software engineers, systems integrators, and end users can provision, develop, test, and maintain their HMI and SCADA applications. InStudio is part of the evolution of Schneider Electric’s Wonderware Online cloud platform built on the Microsoft Azure platform. This collection of industrial data aggregation, storage and visualization functionalities is now called Wonderware Online InSight.

As the latest addition to a growing portfolio of Wonderware Online cloud-first, mobile-first technologies, the secure InStudio cloud subscription service lets systems integrators overlay a next-generation infrastructure that is highly available and scalable. According to the company, the offering supports improved collaboration during the development process across geographies and roles. Potential benefits include improved user experiences, optimized delivery of software engineering services, enhanced application designs, faster user adoption, and lower project costs.

Research suggests that cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service and other offerings have considerable potential to deploy less energy and natural resources, such as through the reduction of hardware requirements for software development testing.

Wonderware Online InStudio will be available in November 2016.

The Wonderware LIVE event runs through Thursday, Oct. 6. For information on Wonderware and other software-related offerings and events from Schneider Electric, CLICK HERE.


2:02 pm
September 15, 2016
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Handle Bearings With Care

1609rmcbearings01pModern rolling contact bearings, when installed and lubricated properly, can outlast the machines in which they function. In practice, though, less than 10% of all rolling-element bearings reach their full design life. As for the others, 30% of premature failures can be attributed to incorrect installation or damage done during (or prior to) installation. Continue Reading →


3:52 pm
August 11, 2016
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Opto 22 Delivers Node-RED IIoT Solution for Industrial PACs

SNAP PAC_Node-RED_printTemecula, CA-based Opto 22 has announced immediate availability of Node-RED nodes for its industrial programmable automation controllers (PACs). According to the company, these nodes significantly decrease time and complexity in deployment of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) applications.

Specifically, Node-RED nodes for Opto 22’s SNAP PAC programmable automation controllers are said to “enable nearly anyone” to rapidly prototype and develop IIoT applications by opening a path to quickly connect legacy assets to cloud services.

To download Node-Red nodes along with a RESTful API for Opto 22 SNAP PAC R-series and S-series controllers, CLICK HERE.

About Node-RED
Node-RED is an innovative visual wiring tool to connect edge computing systems such as industrial automation controllers to various cloud services, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT, IBM Watson IoT, and Microsoft Azure in new and interesting ways.

This open-source, cross-platform technology is currently available through and for a variety of platforms, including OS X, Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Raspberry Pi, and cloud offerings like IBM Bluemix and AT&T Flow.

Built on the popular Node.js JavaScript runtime, Node-RED benefits from a large Node-RED library—w over 500 prebuilt and ready-to-deploy nodes—allowing IIoT application developers to leverage existing software code and deploy it directly into their applications.





3:04 pm
August 10, 2016
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Uptime: Don’t Overlook Spare-Parts Reliability

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Maintenance management covers a variety of functions, including the managing of spare parts. We know that the quality of those parts has a direct impact on the reliability and maintainability of equipment, machinery, and facilities. There’s more to it, though, than simply managing a storeroom.

How spare parts are specified, purchased, shipped, stored, dispersed, and installed reflects critical elements in physical-asset performance and operating cost. Unfortunately, the parts are often overlooked in ways that compromise equipment reliability.

Real-world impact

Even the most reliable equipment can fail if the right spare parts—fit for service and mission ready—aren’t installed properly. While a maintenance staff’s skill and knowledge is an important reliability factor, the inherent reliability of spare parts at the time of installation is even more so.

Consider these examples of how spare parts can contribute to machine failures, excessive downtime, higher costs, and financial losses.

Transportation damage. Several catastrophic failures of the fan in a plant’s heat-treatment carburizing furnace led to enormous production and financial losses, not to mention a disruptive domino effect on production schedules. Removing and replacing the fan is difficult and time consuming, given its location in the bottom of the furnace.

A failure analysis determined that cracks in the fan cooling jacket led to bearing failures. These events continued even after months of discussing fan construction with the OEM, changing welding methods, and carefully installing new fans.

Eventually a root-cause analysis session was held with operators, maintainers, supervisors, area managers, plant engineers, and the fan company’s owner. All potential failure causes were quickly ruled out based on prior actions. The facilitator then asked the group to take a hard look at the fan currently installed in the furnace and a new spare in the storeroom.

As participants checked out the new spare firmly strapped to a wooden pallet with its shaft in a horizontal orientation, the fan manufacturer asked a question that ultimately unraveled the mystery of repeated failures: “Is that how we ship these fans to you?”

At this point, a mechanic interjected that when a fan is installed, its shaft is vertical. “That could cause bearing problems,” he said. Others weren’t so sure.

The OEM began speculating: “These fans are shipped more than 800 miles to your plant by truck,” he said. “Imagine the bumping and jarring with the weight of the fan and shaft supported by the bearings on the cooling jacket. The cracks in the failed units seem to start around the upper side of the shaft-bearing mounts. Shipping them flat, in the same orientation as they are installed in the furnace, may prevent the cracking.” Was he on to something?

Once the manner of shipping was changed, i.e., with the fans strapped to pallets in the same orientation as they were to be installed, the failures ceased. The maintenance group also found that the fan bearings lasted longer.

In-plant moving methods. “It’s a big electric motor. How did you expect me to move it?” The speaker was a forklift operator who found it easier to pick up large motors by the shafts located at each end of the units. After all, they fit nicely between the forks, with minimal adjustment, and would roll to the back of the forks when they were tilted back slightly. Great move for the forklift driver.

As for the motors, their shafts were becoming hammered, especially at the keyway. Maintenance techs thought the units sometimes seemed to be out of balance. Taking note of the forklift operator’s preferred methods, they finally realized the cause of the problems: improper handling of electric motors from the receiving dock to the storeroom and from the storeroom to the job site.

Behind-the-scenes. One of the most frequent and penalizing mechanical failures on a brewery’s packaging lines was attributed to conveyor-belt drive- and tail-roller bearings. Improper installation and lubrication and incorrect bearing types were ruled out early on. The bearings themselves then became suspect.

Packaging-line parts were kept in a storeroom near the lines. Operated by the purchasing department, it was staffed 24 hours a day as an inventory-control measure. Nobody else was allowed inside—that is until the purchasing manager granted access to a consultant.

During a failure investigation, stored conveyor bearings, many in open boxes, were found covered in rust. “Not a problem,” replied the storeroom attendant when asked about the situation. He explained that with “a little steel wool, lubricating spray, and lots of buffing” those bearings would look just like new. The problem with the brewery’s packaging-lines was solved on the spot: High humidity in the storeroom and unprotected bearings were identified as major factors in the failures.

Extreme environments. Handling and storage of spare parts is especially challenging for offshore oil- and gas-production platforms. If bouncing around on the boat trip from an on-shore warehouse to an offshore platform doesn’t contribute to early failures, improper maintenance of the stored items will. Humidity and salt air are also tough on parts.

Offshore platforms are compact, often-congested configurations of piping, pumps, motors, and compressors. Vibration in these operations—ever-present and frequently ignored—can lead to spare-parts failures. For example, when motor and pump bearings are stored near rotating equipment, vibrations created on the platform can damage them. Moreover, regular maintenance of stored spares such as rotating shafts is mandatory.

The counterfeit scourge. The spare-parts supply chain has gone global. The upside is online ordering and competitive pricing. The downside is explosive growth of the counterfeit marketplace.

Knock-off trademarks, look-alike labeling and branding, and sub-standard-quality spare parts have invaded our storerooms. These reliability time bombs include bearings, seals, nuts and bolts, pipe and hydraulic fittings, electrical/electronic components, wiring, and cables.

Monitoring your spare-parts supply chain, buying from trusted sources, and rigorously inspecting parts before placing them in a storeroom should form the basis of your organization’s spare-parts management practices.

Sometimes, the inexpensive. One spare-parts-management technique I learned from working with top NASCAR race teams over the years is to carefully inspect parts before they’re put on the shelf—especially those that can affect racecar performance. And for good reason.

In the 1990s, a race team suffered a catastrophic engine failure caused by an unlikely culprit: a three-cent nylon zip tie. When the zip tie failed, the oil line it was restraining dropped onto the alternator fan belt. It was only a matter of minutes before the engine failed due to oil streaming from the cut line.

Inexpensive spare parts are often overlooked. These tend to be commodity items where low cost shapes purchasing decisions. With many commodities, though, you get what you pay for. Be sure to consider the function of such items and the impact of their failure when making purchasing decisions.

Manage your supply chain

Paying attention to the spare-parts journey from the OEM, through distributors, into your storerooms, and on to equipment makes sound business sense. The bottom line is that proactive storeroom-management practices, coupled with supply-chain management, can eliminate most causes of spare-parts failures. MT

For more information on the management of storerooms and spare parts, see Put Efficiency in MRO Storerooms and Bob Williamson’s ISO 55000 column.

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


2:03 pm
August 10, 2016
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Design Influences Rotary-Gear Pump Maintenance

Smart-sensing technology contributes to the predictive maintenance of wastewater and other facility pumps.

Pumping infrastructure represents an enormous investment for large facilities. All images courtesy of Pulsafeeder, a unit of IDEX Corp.

Pumping infrastructure represents an enormous investment for large facilities. All images courtesy of Pulsafeeder, a unit of IDEX Corp.

By Bobbie Montagno, Pulsafeeder Engineered Products

Pumping infrastructure represents an enormous investment for large processing facilities. In any given plant, thousands of pumps are needed to move liquids from point A to point B.

Some of the primary applications for which rotary-gear pumps are used in refineries and chemical-processing plants involve treating wastewater to be reused for cooling towers, boiler feeds, or to dilute chemicals that are required for other processes. For these applications, harsh chemicals such as bleaching chemicals, cleaning agents, and corrosion inhibitors are dispersed on a high-volume, continuous basis. Over time, this can take a toll on the pumping equipment, establishing the need for proper maintenance programs.      

The cost of maintenance

In most plants, annual maintenance costs for pumping infrastructure can range from 2% to 5% of the replacement value of the infrastructure. At first glance, that range seems minimal. But the delta between 2% and 5% can equal millions of dollars (or in some cases, tens of millions) throughout the life of the plant. Total maintenance costs must also be measured beyond the physical expense of the parts, the tools, and the engineers who wield them. Maintaining pumps in a chemical plant, refinery, or wastewater facility directly affects uptime, which in turn affects the bottom line.

Pumps that run regularly, feature wear items, and handle hazardous and corrosive chemicals will inevitably require maintenance. This can be a blessing and a curse.

Plant managers who get it right, in a preventive and predictive fashion, can streamline operations and maximize uptime. Those who let maintenance slip into a reactionary or “run to fail” approach can hinder operations and create ripple effects that shorten the life expectancy of equipment.

Access to the inner workings of a pump is another important design feature that affects maintenance.

Access to the inner workings of a pump is another important design feature that affects maintenance.

Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance requires a long-term view. It involves planning, scheduling, condition monitoring, analysis, and spare-parts management. Predictive maintenance for pumps is aided by smart-sensing technology that can alert engineers to dry-run conditions, temperature changes, increases in vibration, or decreases in pressure.

Today, sensors are readily available and their value (and deployment) will continue to expand as wireless communications connect plant infrastructure to maintenance personnel using tablets and smart phones across the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Predictive maintenance can also be done without advanced communications technology. Readily available information and historical pump performance can be used to schedule the replacement of wear parts with minimal disruption to plant operations and minimal investment in sophisticated cloud-based controls. 

Short-term reactive maintenance

Although predictive maintenance is always the goal, sometimes reactionary maintenance becomes the reality. When budgets are cut, maintenance is often considered a quick fix to address short-term financial constraints.

Reactive maintenance provides short-term savings, until equipment fails. When a failure occurs, the response relies on the skills of the on-site team and the availability of spare parts. If either fails to meet expectations, substantial losses can result from downtime and lost production.

Design impact

Maintenance starts with a simple design. Some pumps are designed for a limited life, and purchasing decisions are purely based on cost. Other pump designs seek to provide reliability over a longer life, while balancing the anticipated cost of repairs. Rotary-gear pumps are often deployed to pump harsh and aggressive chemicals, so sealless designs are easier to maintain because there is no leak point for the harsh chemicals to damage the pump or surrounding equipment.

When it comes to rotary-gear pumps, the number of spare parts should always be considered. Maintaining a sufficient inventory of gears, shafts, O-rings, and liners is critical. Spare-parts kits should contain every part that a pump requires, and kits should be easy to procure (with just a single part number). If tied to a proper design, spare parts should be simple and easy to install. Some pumps feature symmetrical parts that only fit in one way, making parts replacement mistake proof, and keeping time to repair at a minimum.

Access to the inner workings of a pump is another important design feature that affects maintenance. If the pump’s gears are not readily accessible, then engineers need to decouple the motor, close the valves, and remove piping at the suction and discharge ports of the pump. Pumps that feature a front pull-out design can be repaired in place. This minimizes downtime by eliminating the need to lock-out/tag-out the pump, and move it to the repair shop.

Maintenance ROI

Maintenance costs for a single repair will always be insignificant, compared with the costs associated with lost production and process restarts. The true return on investment associated with maintenance should be connected to a plant’s uptime. The simpler the equipment is to maintain, the faster it can be done. This gives plant operators more flexibility to schedule maintenance between shifts or whenever it is most opportunistic (or least disruptive).

Although the demographics for engineering staffs continue to change, the loss of vast experience is gradually being offset by new technology that can sense issues and alert engineers to problems before they occur. This type of sensing technology, coupled with simple designs, intuitive access, and fewer parts to maintain, forms the cornerstone of preventive-maintenance programs that keep plants up and running, and also provides management with the data it needs to make better decisions for capital budgets and long-term infrastructure improvements. RP

Bobbie Montagno is the aftermarket business line leader at Pulsafeeder Engineered Products, Rochester, NY. For the past 30 years, she has held leadership roles in application engineering, product management, and aftermarket. She can be reached at