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9:00 am
November 29, 2016
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Small Cabinet Coolers

1611mtprod09pA line of small 316 stainless-steel cabinet cooler systems keep electrical enclosures cool with 20 F air while resisting heat and corrosion that could affect internal components. The coolers mount through a standard electrical knockout while maintaining the NEMA 12, 4, or 4X enclosure rating. Systems include an automatic drain filter separator to ensure no moisture passes to the inside. Coolers are available with capacities of 275 and 550 Btu/hr.


7:04 pm
November 15, 2016
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Rockwell Automation Commits $12M to FIRST Program

From left to right, following the announcement of his company's $12M, commitment to FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), Rockwell Automation president and CEO Blake Moret is shown with several FIRST teams, Don Bossi, president and CEO, FIRST, and  and Jay Flores, Rockwell Automation global STEM ambassador, on the 2016 Automation Fair show floor.

From left to right, following the announcement of his company’s $12M, commitment to FIRST, Rockwell Automation president and CEO Blake Moret is shown with several FIRST teams, Don Bossi, president and CEO, FIRST, and and Jay Flores, Rockwell Automation global STEM ambassador, on the product-exhibition show floor at 2016 Automation Fair.

Rockwell Automation has never shied away from putting its muscle and money where its mouth is when it comes to developing the workforce of the future. The latest example is the company’s announcement of a $12M, four-year commitment to FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

Highlighted at the recent Automation Fair event in Atlanta, this new $12M investment amounts to one of the largest gifts ever for FIRST, which focuses on boosting young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.

According to Donald E. Bossi, president of FIRST, the generous, multiyear commitment will help scale the organization’s programs and expose participants to a broader range of industry-leading products and applications.

A Long History of Support
Rockwell Automation has provided more than $15M of broad-based support over the past 10 years to address the critical need to fill science, technology, education and math (STEM) jobs that drive innovation. Many of these jobs go unfilled because of both the lack of awareness of the kinds of high-tech jobs available, and the lack of skills to qualify for today’s needs.

“Through our technology and people, we are helping to inspire the next generation of innovators to fill the talent pipeline for our customers and for our company,” said Blake Moret, President and CEO, Rockwell Automation. “Our strategic partnership with FIRST helps us increase our reach and visibility to STEM students around the world.”

(CLICK HERE to view “Engineering Our Future,” a short video about the company’s philosophy and approach, narrated by Rockwell Automation STEM Ambassador Jay Flores.)

In addition to being a global sponsor of the FIRST LEGO League program and sole sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Rockwell Automation Innovation in Control Award, nearly 200 Rockwell Automation employees around the world donate their time for the FIRST programs, and more than 300 employees volunteer for the organization in other capacities. The company also donates products integral to FIRST program games and scoring. These product donations are specifically used for the FIRST Robotics Competition playing fields and scoring systems and are included within the parts kits that teams use to build their robots.

Rockwell Automation is recognized as a FIRST Strategic Partner, which signifies the highest levels of sponsorship available at FIRST. It is also a FIRST Robotics Competition Crown Supplier.

More About FIRST
Inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to promote an appreciation of science and technology in young people.

Based in Manchester, NH, FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $30 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition for students in Grades 9-12; FIRST Tech Challenge for Grades 7-12; FIRST LEGO League for Grades 4-8; and FIRST LEGO League Jr. for Grades K-4. FIRST’s Gracious Professionalism efforts focus on a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.

To learn more, go to, or CLICK HERE.



5:26 pm
November 15, 2016
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Heed Design Letters When Replacing Motors

By Mike Howell, Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA)

Too often, replacement specifications for three-phase squirrel-cage induction motors cover only basic nameplate data such as power, speed, voltage, and frame size, while overlooking other important performance characteristics such as the design letter. This can lead to misapplication of a motor, causing poor performance, inoperability, or failures that result in unnecessary downtime. To avoid these problems, familiarize yourself with the following speed-torque characteristics and typical applications for design letters that NEMA and IEC commonly use for small and medium machines (up to about several hundred kilowatts/horsepower).

NEMA Designs A and B, IEC Design N

• Characteristics include low starting torque, normal starting current, low slip, and relatively high efficiency. (Slip, the difference between rotor speed and synchronous speed, is necessary to produce torque. As load torque increases, slip increases.)
• NEMA Design A typically has higher starting current and lower maximum torque than NEMA Design B and IEC Design N.
• Typical applications include fans, pumps, and compressors where starting torque requirements are relatively low.

randmNEMA Design C, IEC Design H

•Characteristics include high starting torque, low starting current, and medium slip (achieved by using a double-cage, high-resistance rotor design).
• The high-resistance rotor results in greater losses at normal operating speed and, consequently, lower efficiency than NEMA Designs A and B and IEC Design N.
• Typical applications include conveyors, crushers, reciprocating pumps, and compressors that require starting under load.


NEMA Design D

• Characteristics include very high starting torque, low starting current, and high slip.
• The robust rotor design typically incorporates a single-cage with brass alloy or high-resistance aluminum alloy rotor bars.
• The high-resistance rotor results in lower efficiency at the operating point.
• Typical applications include high-impact loads, sometimes involving flywheels, such as punch presses and shears. These motors see significant slip increases with increased torque, which, for example, can facilitate delivery of kinetic energy from the flywheel to the impact.

Using the wrong motor design for an application is another way of spelling trouble. For example, replacing a NEMA Design D motor in a shear application with a NEMA Design B unit can result in rapid failure, even if the power rating of the machine is doubled.

When replacing motors, give your supplier as much information as possible about the existing motor and application. If you need more information about design letters, see NEMA MG-1 and IEC 60034-12. MT

Mike Howell is a technical support specialist at the Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA), St. Louis. EASA is an international trade association of more than 1,900 electromechanical sales and service firms in 62 countries that helps members keep up to date on materials, equipment, and state-of-the art technology. For more information, visit


4:59 pm
November 15, 2016
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Correctly Outfit Ball Valves, Actuators

1611rmcautomation01Ball valves are a common choice for water, chemical, and gas applications because of their relatively low cost and high temperature and pressure tolerance. To operate properly in a given application, valves and the actuators that drive them must be appropriately specified and correctly outfitted. Craig Correia of Festo ( points to several major considerations:

Pipe size
Ball valves are commonly used for applications ranging from 1/2 to 2 in. For fluid-handling applications that use plumbing larger than 2 in., butterfly valves may be more cost effective.

Media type
Chemical compatibility between the valve material and the media flowing through it is crucial. Stainless steel is often a good choice because of its high corrosion resistance. The downside to stainless steel is the added cost for the material. Brass valves, which cost less, should be considered if chemical compatibility isn’t an issue. Other common media-properties that should always be considered include state, viscosity, adhesiveness, and temperature. When you are ordering ball valves, evaluate the specifications to determine compatibility with each of these properties.

randmValve design
There are many types of ball valves, reflecting various construction materials, such as plastic and metal, and the type of disassembly. Some are available in one-, two-, or three-piece configurations. A three-piece design is commonly used if the valve needs to be disassembled easily and thoroughly checked (as in process applications where cleanliness is a high priority). One- or two-piece ball valves are typically more economical than a three-piece design.

Method of operation
Once the type of ball valve is selected, the method of opening and closing it must be chosen. Manual handles or pneumatic actuators are most common. When specifying an actuator, consider factors such as whether the media is hazardous or sticky. Most valve manufacturers offer assistance.

Single-acting, or spring-return devices use air (pneumatic) or a liquid to drive the actuator on one side of a piston. A spring on the opposite side acts to reverse the air/liquid action. Double-acting actuators use air/liquid on both sides of a piston. By changing the pressure from one side of the piston to the other, the actuator opens or closes the valve.

Pneumatic-actuator sizing depends on a facility’s available air pressure, especially if it must overcome spring compression in a single-acting actuator. A single-acting unit will have a different torque value at the beginning and end of actuation than if it were actuated only by air. It’s important to ensure that the spring is strong enough to overcome the ball-valve torque at all operation points. If the valve requires a lower torque than what the air and spring provide, the actuator is a suitable match for the valve. MT

­—Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Ball-Valve 101

Ball valves work by rotating a metal sphere (the ball) with an empty cylinder (the bore) drilled through the center. During rotation of the ball, the bore is typically either in line with the pipe and allowing the media to flow through it, or it’s perpendicular to the pipe and blocking the flow. The valve may also sit in an intermediate position, which offers some flow control.

Sometimes referred to as a “cavity,” the bore is where chemicals, water, or gases accumulate until the valve is rotated. If the trapped fluids tend to harden or change while in the cavity, a different valve type may be necessary.

Craig Correia is head of Process Automation at Festo, Hauppauge, NY. For more information on the company’s wide range of products and services, visit Photo courtesy Festo.


6:54 pm
October 28, 2016
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National Instruments Partners with SparkCognition as IIoT Transformation Matures

logo_ni-01As the IIoT transformation in manufacturing matures, more partnerships are developing and this week Austin, Tex.-based National Instruments (, NI) and IBM announced an agreement with SparkCognition. The goal of the collaboration, according to NI, “is to deliver an unprecedented level of interoperability among operational technology and informational technology as organizations search for better methods to manage and extend the life of aging assets in heavy machinery, power generation, process manufacturing and a variety of other industrial sectors.”

“We are excited that our platform can acquire the data and extract the features to drive SparkCognition analytics for IIoT solutions,” says Jamie Smith, director of embedded systems at NI. “Combined with existing technologies in the testbed, the addition of SparkCognition presents new ways to help automate the process of turning sensor data into business insight.”

NI may see a big opportunity with its open, software platform and SpakCognition’s machine learning products to create cost-savings for manufacturers’ in multiple industries. One industry that comes to mind is the power generation space, where I noted earlier this week that $32 billion dollars are being spent in 2016, alone, in the U.S. to build out grid distribution systems.

SparkCognition is also known quite well in the industrial machinery space, with its cognitive fingerprinting algorithm, called SparkPredict. According to a trade journal article from earlier this year, the company has been working with a major pump producer and using real-time data to provide better reliability:

SparkCognition has been working with one of the largest suppliers of industrial and environmental machinery-pumps, valves, mechanical seals to take real-time data off of their horizontal pumps and prevent future breakdown. By using three years of operational data to train on, SparkCognition’s algorithms were able to predict future failures with over five days of warning in just a few short weeks. This was a 20 fold operational improvement over existing models, which had been in development for decades by the client’s subject matter experts. The improvement was possible because of algorithmic advances in feature derivation, feature selection, and model building and ensembling—all of which come together in what we call Cognitive Fingerprinting.

This partnership seems like a good fit between two Austin-Tex. based companies with the ability to offer services and platforms to a wide range of equipment in multiple industries.

National Instruments,

1601Iot_logoFor more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! 


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