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2:27 pm
August 14, 2017
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Water, Wastewater Pumping Trends and Solutions

Extending the life of R/O membrane fibers is accomplished through pH adjustment and by administering scale inhibitors–both of which are dosed using metering pumps. Photo courtesy of LMI, Milton Roy.

Extending the life of R/O membrane fibers is accomplished through pH adjustment and by administering scale inhibitors–both of which are dosed using metering pumps.
Photo courtesy of LMI, Milton Roy.

Advancements in water treatment and plant modernization drive growth in the water and wastewater pumping industry.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

While new construction in the municipal water-treatment market has remained relatively flat, growth in the industrial water-treatment market has increased—driven largely by modernization efforts that seem to be pervasive across the power-generation segment, according to Charles P. Crowley Company (CPC, Baldwin Park, CA, cpcrowley.com) managing director Jon Crowley. One trend that Crowley sees throughout the industry is modernization through “repowering.”

Repowering process

The repowering process involves replacing old coal boilers with gas-fired turbines that send heat to a heat-recovery steam generator (HRSG), which feeds a steam turbine. These types of systems can increase electricity production and overall efficiency of the plant by as much as 40% more than coal-fired plants. They help plant owners reduce costs—specifically maintenance costs—as newer, modern systems are easier to work with, Crowley said. The switch to natural gas results in other savings because feed stocks are abundant, less expensive, and easy to transport to plant sites.

For decades, plants in areas such as California and Nevada have been at the forefront of the environmental movement. Many have already made the switch to natural gas. Crowley points to a global modernization effort that is following California’s lead—as plants in other parts of the United States, Mexico, China, India, and elsewhere around the globe, are standardizing on natural gas.

Like all power plants, gas-fired plants require a lot of water. This boiler feed-water must be treated to avoid scale, corrosion, and other problems that damage or impede the boiler’s performance. There is a direct correlation between the quality of the water used and the efficiency of the plant. Depending on the feed-water quality, varying levels of pretreatment are necessary to remove impurities and suspended solids, and to adjust the water’s pH to a neutral level. 

Reciprocating and rotary gear pumps are widely used to inject the precise dosage of chemicals needed for these applications. 

Water-treatment solutions

Most businesses in the United States have a need to treat the water they use—whether they are food growers, juice makers, product manufacturers, or businesses such as hotels and restaurants. Some of the processes used include reverse osmosis (RO), pH adjustment, and scale inhibitors.

Reverse osmosis. RO treatment processes work by using a semipermeable membrane to remove ions, molecules, and particles from water. “By applying pressure that is greater than the naturally occurring osmotic pressure, the water seeps through the membrane, while the larger molecules or ions remain trapped in the membrane,” explained Fluid Systems & Controls (FSC, New Berlin, WI, fscinc.com) president Donn Davis. “This process demineralizes the water.”   

In areas such as Florida and throughout the Southeastern United States, Davis said he sees a growing demand for RO applications and the associated treatment and maintenance applications that come with maintaining RO systems. 

“FSC works with OEMs that build large-scale reverse-osmosis systems,” Davis said. “Metering pumps are used to move pump chemicals that clean and maintain the RO membranes.” 

RO membrane fibers are cellulose based. They degrade in alkaline conditions, which results in a loss of efficiency. Long-term exposure to alkaline conditions leads to membrane replacement, which is extremely expensive. According to Davis, extending the life of the membrane fibers is accomplished in two primary ways—through pH adjustment and by administering scale inhibitors—both of which are dosed using metering pumps.     

pH adjustment. Raw pre-treated water tends to be slightly alkaline. To protect the membrane, the pH of alkaline raw water is adjusted to neutral, by injecting precise amounts of acids (typically hydrochloric acid), to lower the pH. 

Once the treated (or permeated) water passes through the membrane, it can become slightly acidic. To deliver the best water quality possible, the pH is often re-adjusted using caustics (typically sodium bicarbonate) to achieve a neutral pH. Metering pumps are primarily used to inject the precise amounts of caustics needed for the process.

The specifics of pH balancing are not as stringent as what a municipal drinking-water plant would administer, however the timing of the treatment is uncompromising. Power plants run 24/7 operations and cannot function without abundant supplies of treated water. As such, the pumps used must be highly reliable and able to run continuously.

Following the initial treatment, process water flows to a flocculation basin where chemicals are dosed using metering pumps to aggregate precipitated particles, making them easier to filter out. After this treatment, the coagulated particles settle in a basin where they separate from water and are sent to a sludge-treatment facility.

Scale inhibitors. Other water-treatment applications include administering scale inhibitors for cooling towers. Although water is ideally suited for cooling purposes, its life-giving properties can encourage bacterial growth that can foul system surfaces. Water also dissolves gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide), which can corrode metals. If untreated, scale deposits and fouling can reduce heat transfer and diminish the plant’s efficiency. To protect plant equipment, precise doses of sulfuric acid or phosphate are added to the cooling-tower water to mitigate scaling and to prevent fouling, Crowley explained.

“Once the process water is used, it must be treated before it can be disposed,” he said. “Most power plants have their own wastewater-treatment plants, and these units administer another round of pH adjustment, plus any other treatments required to meet the local environmental-discharge limits.”

One by-product of the RO process is that suspended solids, microorganisms, and mineral scales accumulate on membranes. To extend the life of the RO membranes, and to increase the efficiency of the treatment process, a wide variety of scale inhibitors is dosed by metering pumps on the membranes. 

“Precise dosing saves money on chemical costs and also helps to prevent calcium-carbonate scaling,” Davis added. “Without scale inhibitors, membranes could become saturated with heavy elements that reduce efficiency and clog the process in as little as 48 hours. The metering pumps used to dose the scale inhibitors play a key role in maintaining the equipment.” 

To protect piping infrastructure, scale inhibitors are dosed using metering pumps. Photo courtesy of Pulsafeeder.

To protect piping infrastructure, scale inhibitors are dosed using metering pumps. Photo courtesy of Pulsafeeder.


Many OEMs in the water and wastewater industry have their own maintenance teams. When it comes to maintaining their pumps, some customers know exactly what spare parts they need. Others leverage the expertise of distributors by outsourcing their inspection and maintenance activities.

For example, CPC sells pumps and skidded systems directly to power plants throughout Southern California and Nevada, and they also sell to large OEMs that service the power industry around the globe. These OEMs do not specialize in maintenance. Much of the servicing and repair work comes back to the distributor or service company.

Because uptime is of paramount importance, the maintenance teams at power plants demand a responsive distribution network, with parts that are always in stock and expert service technicians that can respond in a moment’s notice. 

A majority of the water-treatment applications in power plants are best served by rotary-gear pumps. Their seal-less design is easy to maintain because there are no leak points for harsh chemicals to damage the pump or surrounding equipment.   

Because every inch in a power plant is valuable, plant operators prefer pumps with small footprints. The trend is to move away from horizontally laid infrastructure.

“Vertical configurations are less susceptible to flooding, they are easier to work on, and they don’t require staff to crawl on the floor to access,” Crowley said. “The ergonomic, front pull-out-designed pumps 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—which, in some plants, must be done by a separate union employee.”

Maintenance activities can be further streamlined by selecting pumps that require a limited number of parts and with pumps that use symmetrical parts that only fit one way. This simplifies parts replacement and keeps repair time to a minimum. RP

Seven trends to Watch in 2017

Bluefield Research (Boston) has forecast seven trends to watch in 2017, and they show significant opportunities for private corporations. These include an emphasis on big data and the Internet of Things, as well as new business models driven by rising water and wastewater bills. Water rates are rising at an average 7% every year, Bluefield stated.

Through its ongoing market tracking and analysis, Bluefield’s water experts anticipate shifts across municipal and industrial water markets. Seven key trends that will have an impact on the water industry in 2017 include:

• Infrastructure investment at the forefront.
Rate escalation sets the stage for business-model innovation.
Developed markets forced to confront aging networks.
Water gets smart with an emphasis on Big Data and IoT.
Bottom line enables innovation for industrials.
California sets the stage for water reuse.
Private sector looks to water for opportunity.

Additional analysis from the firm’s experts about each signpost is available at no cost. The forecast provides valuable insight for environmental managers and water companies about what to expect and market opportunities.

Making Wastewater Pumping Systems Smarter

In the wake of a renewed interest in federal investments in infrastructure, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) and Xylem Inc. (Rye Brook, NY) partnered to highlight the urgent need for investing in smart-water infrastructure to maximize operational productivity. 

In a report released in early March 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers (Reston, VA) estimated that the U.S. needs to invest a minimum of $123 billion/yr. in water infrastructure over the next 10 years to achieve a good state of repair.

To advance research and development in the area of smart-water infrastructure and advanced data analytics in the sector, Xylem and DC Water expressed a commitment to accelerating innovation through field-driven pilots that focus on increasing the productivity of managing water and wastewater and improving the resilience and sustainability of those operations. 

“In the U.S., our water and wastewater infrastructure faces a daunting investment gap that places these critical systems at risk and leaves our communities vulnerable to the consequences of system failures,” said Patrick Decker, president and CEO of Xylem. “We are so pleased to be able to partner with DC Water–a true industry leader–to address these challenges, leveraging technology to develop new, more sustainable solutions.”

George Hawkins, CEO and general manager of DC Water, said, “At DC Water, we’re always looking down the road for the next innovation that will help us do our job better, at less cost. This new technology accomplishes that and I’m excited about the implications not just for us, but for the industry as a whole. It’s also an important demonstration of partnerships between the best elements of private-sector innovation and public-sector operational know-how, and I’m proud to be on the forefront of this effort.”

DC Water’s service area covers approximately 725 sq. mi. and the enterprise operates the world’s largest advanced wastewater treatment plant with a capacity of 384 million gal./day and a peak capacity of 1.076 billion gal./day.

Michelle Segrest is president of Navigate Content Inc. She specializes in creating content for the industrial processing industries. Please contact her at michelle@navigatecontent.com.

For more information on Fluid Systems and Controls, visit fscflorida.com. Information about LMI pumps is at lmipumps.com. The Charles P. Crowley Company is at cpcrowley.com. For more information on Pulsafeeder, visit pulsa.com.


1:38 pm
August 14, 2017
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Highly Charged Reliability

Bill Myers performs preventive and predictive maintenance at the West Chester, OH, AstraZeneca facility.

Bill Myers performs preventive and predictive maintenance at the West Chester, OH, AstraZeneca facility.

Bill Myers spearheads an Electrical Maintenance Program that helps AstraZeneca’s West Chester, OH, facility become safe and reliable.

Bill Myers learned the hard way that sometimes we are taught more by our mistakes than our successes. In the end, he was able to learn from both.

“Ten years ago, a small mistake was made with an electrical connection, and it turned into a big issue,” said Myers, AstraZeneca’s senior engineering technician at the West Chester, OH, facility. “In this line of work, mistakes are dangerous. You must learn from them, and quickly.”

The biggest mistake, he said, was not having a program in place to prevent small mistakes from becoming big ones. So he did something about it.

Myers found inspiration from a Winston Churchill quote, “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” He began creating and implementing an Electrical Maintenance Program that includes data collection and visual and infrared inspection. “This program has been instrumental in identifying electrical issues that would have impacted the facility,” Myers said. “Early detection provides the time needed to make repairs before a breakdown.”

For the past decade, Myers has been responsible for maintaining the facilities/utilities equipment that serves the two-building, 550,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing campus. The main product at this location is used to treat patients with Type 2 Diabetes. There are more than 2,000 assets in the sterile manufacturing facility. “Within the different elements, there are many, many details that must be considered to make a safe electrical program,” Myers said.

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 8.31.37 AMExperience

Myers’ electrical career began in 1998 when he worked as an apprentice installing wall receptacles at a local elementary-school project. Throughout the past two decades, his career has evolved into developing critical strategies that help identify issues with technical equipment and planning the downtime needed for repair. Along with a team of five technicians, he uses technologies such as infrared thermography, precision alignment, ultrasound, and vibration analysis.

Special programs

Myers refers to the incident that occurred 10 years ago as the inspiration for building the Electrical Maintenance Program. “It was a bad connection, but we realized we could have found it and prevented it if we only had a program in place.”

Developing the program took a few years from start to finish and was fully in place by 2013. “It has evolved and now we use it very effectively,” he said. “We now dictate to the machine instead of the machine dictating to us.”

This program consists of making regular voltage, amperage, and resistance measurements and then entering the data into the CMMS. The Electrical Maintenance Program includes visual inspections and thermal imaging. The program was applied to all critical electrical-distribution systems, as well as critical equipment used to support manufacturing. Many issues have been discovered and resolved solely because of this program, he stated.

Around the same time, the Facilities Engineering team worked together to set up a vibration-analysis program. The program has also created significant improvements in the department’s ability to provide uninterrupted utilities to manufacturing, identifying motor issues, and making repairs before a catastrophic failure happens. It also helps identify equipment that may need precision alignment to improve efficiency and increase reliability.

Electrical readings are taken for panels and motors, including high-voltage readings. “One thing we look for is voltage unbalance,” Myers said. “The industry standard is 3% unbalance. This is significant enough to cause additional heat and reduce the life of a motor. We track these readings. If unbalance is found, further investigation is performed to determine the root cause.”

Myers’ involvement in electrical reliability doesn’t end there. He also works with the company’s Electrical Steering Committee. The goal of the committee is to ensure that procedures are in place to maintain electrical safety, such as ensuring an arc-flash analysis is completed and posted at the equipment, reviewing energized electrical work permits, and drafting or revising any electrical-related SOPs.

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 8.31.49 AM“Several years ago it was evident that there was a need to better manage electrical safety,” Myers said. “At AstraZeneca, we regularly evaluate electrical safety and constantly make an effort to update how we manage it. So the current Safety Health and Environment (SHE) director created the team and asked me to be a member. Shortly after that, I took on a very large task, to build a custom electrical test board and design a test that all technicians that work on electric equipment in their departments would have to take.”

This test was designed to comply with NFPA 70E regulations and determine if an employee is electrically qualified. As a result, the site has had no electrical injuries.

Myers also serves on the Electrical Improvements Team, which was formed to reduce any impact on manufacturing caused by the electrical system. An example of one effort was a project to ensure the panel schedules match the field tags, and that when the breaker is turned off it actually goes to the appropriate equipment.

“You would be surprised how many discrepancies are found during this process,” he said. “The team also looks to increase its robustness and reliability by ensuring electrical feeds come from different switchgears when it makes sense. A couple of examples would be that we have many environmental chambers that house product and samples of product. They are very critical to the site. Some of the critical units have two feeds—a primary and a secondary. It was discovered that both feeds came from the same panel. This was identified as an issue because electrical maintenance is performed on switchgears every three to five years. When the switchgear would have been de-energized for maintenance, power to the chambers would have been lost, potentially putting all that product at risk.”

To resolve the issue, a plan was engineered to change the secondary feed to a panel from a different switchgear. This solved the problem and has provided redundancy for the system. The team has experienced issues where redundant feeds were not an option to the equipment. “We found this on our freezer that houses very critical contents,” he explained. “To resolve this issue, I came up with a plan to install an ATS (automatic transfer switch). This switch uses the original feed as the primary feed. A secondary feed was provided from a different panel that was also from a different switchgear. This has given the site confidence in the electrical system.”

Best practices and challenges

Myers said his overall maintenance/reliability philosophy is to strive to be proactive and predictive. He uses the “Five Whys” technique to determine failure, data collection, CMMS use, and when to use predictive-maintenance technologies. “It’s important to just continue to ask as many ‘Whys” as possible until you get to the root of the problem,” he said.

Myers is part of a team that includes five technicians, each with specific skills—electrical, mechanical, HVAC, boiler operation, and the lead technician. “Most issues require some combination of people and their skills to quickly solve the issue the first time,” he stated.

Personal inspiration

The 42-yr.-old Myers finds inspiration from his wife of 16 years and two children (ages 13 and 9). He entered the electrical field after serving in the Marine Corps. “A high-school friend was working as an electrician at a local union, and I was very interested in the electrical field and in learning more about how electricity works,” he said. “After an apprenticeship, I was inspired to learn more about reliability when I saw several electrical issues causing unnecessary downtime.”

Now, with 19 years of experience, he clearly sees how a focus on reliability can truly make a difference.

“I like the fact that I can work with many different systems and equipment at our facility,” he said. “Each has its own unique characteristics. This helps keep the work new and interesting.” MT

Bill’s  Top 5 Tips for Effective Reliability

• Collect data.
• Lubricate properly.
• Keep your equipment clean.
• Train employees.
• Make a commitment to your programs, and stick with it.

Michelle Segrest is president of Navigate Content Inc., and has been a professional journalist for 28 years. She specializes in creating content for the industrial processing industries. If you know of a maintenance and/or reliability expert who is making a difference at their facility, please email her at michelle@navigatecontent.com.


1:27 pm
August 14, 2017
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Tomato Processor Boosts Steam, Cuts Emissions

Morning Star Packing Co. supplies 40% of the U.S. ingredient-tomato-paste and diced-tomato markets. Its site in Williams, CA, (shown here) is the largest tomato-processing facility in the state.

Morning Star Packing Co. supplies 40% of the U.S. ingredient-tomato-paste and diced-tomato markets. Its site in Williams, CA, (shown here) is the largest tomato-processing facility in the state.

Plant-expansion project keeps packing operation up and running.

Morning Star Packing Co. (Los Banos, CA) is a major producer and packager of tomato-ingredient products. As part of a plant expansion initiative, it recently installed new boilers, combustion systems, and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system at its facility in Williams, CA. According to Jon Ikerd, Morning Star’s project manager, the equipment not only increased steam-generation capacity at the plant twofold, it also lowered NOx (nitrogen oxide) output.

Tomatoes = big business

California is an agricultural-production juggernaut. Within the U.S., it far exceeds the output of any other state. In tomatoes alone, it produced 14 million tons in 2015 (98.5% of the nation’s overall output).

Morning Star began in 1970, with founder Chris Rufer working as a one-truck owner/operator hauling tomatoes to canneries. From those humble origins, the company has expanded to account for more than 25% of California’s tomato-processing production. Today, it supplies 40% of the U.S. ingredient-tomato-paste and diced-tomato markets (including food giants such as Heinz), with sales of approximately $350 million.

The company’s rapid growth was triggered by the establishment of a tomato-paste-processing plant in 1982, that introduced two industry innovations: the dedicated production and marketing of industrial tomato paste for major food producers and the marketing of tomato paste in 300-gal. containers.

In 1990, Morning Star added another facility in Los Banos. Although this new site was capable of processing 530 tons of tomatoes (producing 180,000 lb. of tomato paste) per hour, soaring demand led to the opening of another plant in 1995. Located in Williams, CA, its ability to handle approximately 630,000 tons of tomatoes (producing 200,000 lb. of tomato paste) per hour makes it the largest tomato-processing facility in the state.

California produces more than 98% of the overall U.S. tomato output. Morning Star Packing’s facility in Williams, CA, can process 630 tons of tomatoes (200,000 lb. of tomato paste) per hour.

California produces more than 98% of the overall U.S. tomato output. Morning Star Packing’s facility in Williams, CA, can process 630 tons of tomatoes (200,000 lb. of tomato paste) per hour.

Earlier boiler issues

“Morning Star revolutionized the tomato-processing industry by being a primary processor,” said Lou Brizzolara, a sales engineer at AHM Associates (Hayward, CA). A division of Bay City Boiler & Engineering, AHM is a manufacturer’s representative serving energy users and producers in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii.

After issues had arisen with a boiler at another Morning Star plant, AHM assisted in the selection of new boilers for the Williams site. As Brizzolara explained, the previous problems were related to installation and welding of the other boiler’s steam drum. This meant the system didn’t initially meet its guaranteed production levels.

At Williams, Morning Star opted for a solution incorporating multiple elements: two boilers from Rentech Boiler Systems (Abilene, TX), and register burners and an SCR system by John Zink Hamworthy (Tulsa, OK). All of this equipment plays a vital role in the facility’s production processes that use steam to boil, dehydrate, and concentrate the paste.

As Ikerd described the process, steam is used to cook the moisture off the product under vacuum, which keeps the boiling point low. “The boilers have been wonderful,” he noted, “but the success of the installation was very much a collaboration between our burner representatives and Rentech.” 

Personnel from AHM and Rentech worked closely with burner and fan engineers Steve Bortz and Craig Biles of John Zink Hamworthy to ensure project success. Bortz and Biles had been involved in the previous boiler project. “While earlier boiler installations had not been as successful and didn’t meet their performance guarantees during the first year, they eventually achieved them due to the work of these engineers,” said Ikerd. 

The team brought many lessons learned from previous installations, coupled with a solid understanding of the tomato-processing industry. This insight proved invaluable in avoiding the same errors that had occurred in the earlier boiler project, including, for example, challenges associated with ultra-low NOx burners.

A recently installed system, incorporating new boilers, register burners, and an SCR, at the Morning Star Packing Co. facility in Williams, CA, has boosted the plant’s steam-generating capacity while maintaining emissions within acceptable limits.

A recently installed system, incorporating new boilers, register burners, and an SCR, at the Morning Star Packing Co. facility in Williams, CA, has boosted the plant’s steam-generating capacity while maintaining emissions within acceptable limits.

While those burners had been effective in narrowing the window of combustion and reducing NOx to below 15 ppm, Ikerd said this made boiler operation more finicky and less reliable. If ultra-low NOx burners were to be avoided, the Morning Star Williams operation had to find a suitable alternative. California, after all, is known for its rigorous environmental regulations. Areas of the state where air pollution levels persistently exceed Ambient Air Quality Standards (AAQS) are designated non-attainment. The standards for non-attainment counties are tough for a reason: to protect public health, safety, and welfare. Counties falling outside of such standards are still required to meet emissions levels that fall far below those of most other states.

While the Williams plant is not in a non-attainment district, it still has to satisfy stringent requirements. The county air-quality control office set a strict limit of 25-tons/yr. of NOx for Morning Star. This made it difficult for the company to execute its expansion strategy. If it had opted for the same boilers and burners as usual, it would have greatly exceeded its NOx quota. However, the combination of the John Zink Hamworthy register burners and SCR, along with Rentech boilers meant that capacity could be greatly increased while remaining in compliance on emissions levels. The register burners selected for Williams brought NOx levels down to less than 30 ppm, which the SCR then reduced to 5 ppm.

The expansion project effectively doubled steam-generating capacity at Williams. Previously, capacity was around 680,000 lb./hr. The new boilers have raised that to 1,360,000 lb./hr. Increased capacity and lower emissions are only half the story. 

“These larger Rentech boilers can go from minimum fire to full fire at the same speed as the smaller units we already have, which allows us to have much more flexibility,” observed Ikerd.  “If the larger units are not at full fire, we can simply shut down one of the smaller boilers, without fear of causing an upset in our processes that we cannot recover from. Thus the plant’s stability has been greatly increased.” 

Boiler efficiency has also been raised: from below 80% to around 85%. For a business whose highest operating cost is fuel, this equates to a welcome reduction in the cost of steam. Due to their size, these D-type boilers with a full-membrane furnace had to have the steam drums shipped separately. The sections were then assembled on site. The reassembly and welding of the boiler components may have proven problematic during an earlier boiler installation project, but not this time.

“Rentech helped us reach our capacity guarantees within the first year while our other boilers took a few years to achieve them due to startup problems,” said Ikerd. “We have now used them for a complete season, during which they’ve run 24/7 for three months straight, without a hiccup.” MT

Visit rentechboilers.com for more details.


1:18 pm
August 14, 2017
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Reliable Security Depends on Reliable Operations

Y-12 is the only site in the Nuclear Security Enterprise that can produce lithium materials. Replacement of the lithium operations is anticipated in the mid- to late-2020s.

Y-12 is the only site in the Nuclear Security Enterprise that can produce lithium materials. Replacement of the lithium operations is anticipated in the mid- to late-2020s.

A focus on PM optimization, culture change, sustainable processes, and employee empowerment drives reliability efforts at the Y-12 National Security Complex mini city.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Spanning 2.5 miles between its east and west boundaries, the 74-yr.-old Y-12 National Security Complex is a “mini city” inside the city of Oak Ridge, TN. Within its secure borders, are 379 buildings of manufacturing, production, laboratory, support, and research and development areas managed by Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC (CNS) under contract for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Y-12 also includes its own armed security force, fire department, steam plant, medical facility, cafeteria, and electrical-distribution center, all of which accommodate the nearly 8,000 people who work within the “city” borders each day.

Led by director of enterprise reliability and maintainability Joe Boudreaux, a 45-member reliability team is responsible for the proactive maintenance strategies of the buildings on the 811-acre campus. Deep into the second of a five-year reliability-improvement program, the team has built a firm foundation and is now strategically navigating its road map with the ultimate destination of establishing a sustainable, proactive maintenance program.

“Within the building site there are mini-plants within the city,” reliability and maintainability manager Paul Durko explained. “And within each of those mini-plants, certain processes, systems, and cultures that exist. Our goal is to secure a sustainable system of processes that work across the board, promoting an increase in overall reliability for this aging site. But it also has to be a system that will translate to a new facility—a $6.5-billion Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) that will be built and in operation by 2025.”

The Y-12 site houses many facility types, including some areas with gloveboxes.

The Y-12 site houses many facility types, including some areas with gloveboxes.

Y-12 history

Since 1943, Y-12 has played a key role in strengthening the United States’ national security and reducing the global threat from weapons of mass destruction.

The Y-12 National Security Complex is one of eight sites in NNSA’s Nuclear Security Enterprise (NSE). Y-12’s unique emphasis is in the processing and storage of uranium and the development of technologies that are associated with those activities. CNS also manages the 18,000-acre Pantex plant in Amarillo, TX, which is the primary U.S. nuclear weapons assembly, dismantlement, and maintenance facility. A majority of the weapons-related operations at Pantex are conducted on 2,000 acres of the site.

Constructed as part of the World War II Manhattan Project, Y-12 provided the enriched uranium for Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan to help the U.S. and its allies end a war that had taken 63 million lives worldwide. Afterward, Y-12 provided lithium-separation functions and key components for thermonuclear weapons. Y-12’s expertise in machining, handling, and protecting radiological materials has made the Oak Ridge site central to the nation’s nuclear security.

Y-12 has developed state-of-the-art capabilities in three core areas: nuclear technology and materials, security and consequence management, and manufacturing and technical services. Y-12 lends its specialized expertise to other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, state governments, and private-sector companies.

Projects at Y-12 include providing protective equipment to soldiers in combat, training National Guard units for radiological emergencies, and creating machining platforms that improve production and efficiency.

More than 9,200 Tennessee citizens work at Y-12, including federal and contractor staff.

“Our primary responsibility is to make sure the nuclear weapon is reliable,” Boudreaux said. “We do all of the testing and checking to make sure that if there is ever a need to use a nuclear weapon, that that weapon will work. The whole goal of the plant is global threat reduction, and when you think about all of the components that go into that, there are a lot of different things that have to be done here. So it’s not just a single process.”

In the early days, as it is today, maintaining building and process support systems was just as important as the process itself. In this photo, two men work on converter motors in Beta 3 while two others observe.

In the early days, as it is today, maintaining building and process support systems was just as important as the process itself. In this photo, two men work on converter motors in Beta 3 while two others observe.

Pursuing world-class reliability

With a commitment to reliability and with corporate support, Y-12 commissioned the Univ. of Tennessee’s Reliability and Maintainability Center (UTRMC) to perform benchmark assessments. The next step was building pillars for the foundation of an overall reliability program. This included plans for an improved culture, PM optimization, training and education, full utilization of technology and software, increased ratio of proactive to reactive maintenance, continuous-improvement plans, scheduling improvements, and employee retention.

The UTRMC provided a subject-matter-expert (SME) analysis of the current state of the Integrated Work Control (IWC) and Maintenance Execution processes. The evaluation consisted of site visits and evaluations of the essential elements including:

• synchronization of production, engineering, and maintenance reliability improvement efforts
• targeted opportunities for improvement
• plant employee training opportunities
• methodology for transitioning plant personnel from tactical (reactive) maintenance
• methodologies to a strategic posture
• development of a reliability-based plant culture.

We talk a lot about the ratios between how many corrective maintenance jobs to do and how many things we do that are proactive,” Boudreaux said. “When you look at Y-12, you can’t just look at that globally. You have to look at the individual component. If you would take a step back, we are a very reactive maintenance organization. So what we have done over the past few years is try to turn that from a very reactive program into a proactive program. A lot of things we are seeing are all these unplanned failures. And honestly, maintenance has become very, very good at firefighting. But it is very, very expensive to do that.”

The pursuit for world-class reliability has been a slow but fruitful process. 

“The way that our program was set up, we feel like we have turned the big battleship,” Boudreaux said. “It’s a big ship and requires a slow move to get it to turn that corner.  One way to be more cost effective is to decrease the amount of corrective work that we do. How do we do that? We reinvest in the plant. We get new equipment, and we maintain it the way we are supposed to, but we also look at the equipment that we have and ask what we can do to increase the reliability of those assets. We know that doing preventive maintenance is safer, but we can also save costs this way.”

One huge early success has been optimization of the PM program.

“We have increased the interaction of our crafts with the development of our packages,” Boudreaux explained. “By going through our PM Optimization (PMO) process, we now have more thorough documentation and better estimates of the time and resources required for each PM. We can now identify the costs and the benefits.”

A worker wearing protective gear walks down a hallway in Building 9212. The building’s aging infrastructure and equipment make obtaining replacement parts for electrical, ventilation, fire-protection, and other systems a challenge.

A worker wearing protective gear walks down a hallway in Building 9212. The building’s aging infrastructure and equipment make obtaining replacement parts for electrical, ventilation, fire-protection, and other systems a challenge.

The next step is communication. “It hasn’t been a difficult sale because very few people would drive a car for two years and never change the oil,” Boudreaux explained. “A robust PM program just makes good sense.  And we now have documentation that clearly lays out the tenants of reliability. We now have a road map that explains what we have done and what we should be doing over the next few years. Part of the plan is to ensure this plan is communicated to everyone in the plant.”

Communication helps to provide influence within the organization.

“Paul’s [Durko] responsibility is to influence the maintenance craft, for example,” Boudreaux said. “He works with the maintenance manager and his maintenance-execution team. He is arranging for additional training to help improve skills and capacity. With great communication and influence, we can produce a better-quality product for our customer. The road map shows how everything fits together for the future.”

One of Y-12’s core missions—maintaining the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile—translates into the overall reliability mission.

“If you want to think of similarities, you can look at the production goals for our different systems,” Durko said. “We must break down the different processes, look at the availability requirements for that equipment, and understand what we are doing to ensure the equipment can meet those production goals. What we did well for many years is that when it breaks, we are going to fix it. With an aging facility and with this aging work force, the challenge now becomes how to do it cheaper. How are we effectively managing our assets? What appropriate programs do we have in place to ensure that that equipment will operate when it is supposed to operate? This is how we integrate the idea of reliability across the site.”

With a distinct plan and road map to get there, all the pieces begin to come together.

We understand that each milestone is just a piece and not overall reliability,” Durko said. “We now consider all of the tools in our tool belt—RCM analysis, PdM technologies, SAP integration, procedural requirements, etc. Bringing all the tools together to make the systems cost effective and also ensure the safety of our people and equipment are the ultimate ingredients that will get us to overall reliability.”

Operations at Y-12 are varied and complex, presenting a wide range of maintenance challenges.

Operations at Y-12 are varied and complex, presenting a wide range of maintenance challenges.

Proactive maintenance

The focus in the first year was building a robust proactive maintenance program, Durko said. “Our past strategies and mission focus have caused us to become superb at finding ways to keep our failing systems running. We have begun shifting our mindset.”

The Y-12 site averages 2,750 completed maintenance orders each month, with an average of 99% utility availability, and has set a goal of 40% reduction in planning time.

“We are now averaging 64% reduction in planning time,” Durko said. “We are also proud that we recently reached 50,000 safe work hours with the PMO program. A bonus result is a 20% reduction in execution time. That is easy to sell to customers. Any time you say optimization, you automatically think of cutbacks and loss of jobs.” He added that because the plant had been in a reactive mode, they have been able to talk about the amount of reactive versus proactive work and actually improve the PM program.

The proactive maintenance strategy includes condition-based maintenance using ultrasound and vibration analysis tools, Durko said. “Also, document control is a key tool. We are dependent on what all that data is telling us to be able to make our decisions.”

With the proactive strategy taking shape, the next step is standardization, Durko said. “Having a repeatable process is key. We have standardized the format in a way that the crafts can better use—they actually helped us develop the format, so now it’s about execution. Next, we want to find a way to better rely on our predictive methodologies and leverage our technology. Hopefully, the data will tell us what is the next step. Meanwhile, we are refining our lubrication program with ultrasound and honing our precision-maintenance skills.”  None of the improvements made thus far would be possible without the interface and support of the technician work force.

When Y-12 researchers aren’t analyzing uranium, they are finding new ways to detect it. This photo is from a project designed to grow lithium semiconductor crystals suitable for radiation detection, which is the first step in solving a global shortage of Helium-3, the most common element used in current detectors.

When Y-12 researchers aren’t analyzing uranium, they are finding new ways to detect it. This photo is from a project designed to grow lithium semiconductor crystals suitable for radiation detection, which is the first step in solving a global shortage of Helium-3, the most common element used in current detectors.

What’s next?

The next goal is to increase condition-based maintenance work by 15% in the next fiscal year. 

“I don’t think our road ever ends,” Boudreaux said. “You can always find a way to be even more reliable. But if we have that foundation, and we build off of that, then every time we bring something in, we can evaluate it against what we are trying to achieve with the program and see whether or not it has value. Having a firm foundation allows us to do that. The exciting part is to have some programs in place and begin to see the data that tell us it’s working.” MT

Y-12 by the numbers

Y-12 today:

• 811 acres, including 150 that are high security
• 7.3 million sq. ft. of laboratory, machining, dismantlement, research and development, and office areas
• 343 buildings, 13 mission-critical facilities
• 48% of all Y-12 facilities are more than 60 years old
~9,300 personnel at Y-12
~4,700 CNS employees; remainder are subcontractor and federal employees
Deferred maintenance of $354 million
• Contracts with more than 770 small businesses, totaling $177 million in FY 2016.

Y-12 site includes:

• 550,000-sq.-ft. on-site leased facilities (Jack Case and New Hope Centers)
• 24 mi. of paved roads
• 10 mi. of overhead steam lines
• 3 mi. of natural-gas-distribution lines
• 55 mi. of aerial electrical-distribution lines
• 10 mi. of underground electrical-distribution lines
• 19 mi. of main water piping
• 50 mi. of storm drain lines
• 15 cooling towers.

Michelle Segrest is president of Navigate Content Inc., and has been a professional journalist for 28 years. She specializes in creating content for the industrial processing industries. If your facility has an interesting maintenance and/or reliability story to tell, contact her at michelle@navigatecontent.com.


6:33 pm
July 12, 2017
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Powering Auto Production

A highly sophisticated electrical protection-and-control system helps Mercedes-Benz keep the power running and its people and equipment safe.


By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

When electric current flows through an air gap between conductors, it creates an arc flash. Sparks fly, equipment can explode, and anyone who happens to be nearby can be injured—or even killed.

“The heat and light energy radiating from an arc flash is so intense it can do extensive damage to the equipment and can pose a very dangerous hazard for workers who are exposed to it,” explained Randall Sagan, an electrical engineer who is responsible for designing the power system for the 8.5-million-sq.-ft. Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. (MBUSI) facility in Vance, AL. “The faster a breaker can trip to turn off power and extinguish the arc, the less energy is emitted and, therefore, the risk from injury is reduced.”

Engineer Randall Sagan provides more detail about the Mercedes-Benz power system he designed.

The risk of an arc-flash event is one of the reasons power-system maintenance is the single most dangerous activity technicians perform in a year’s time at this facility. “The maintenance teams don’t normally work on the power system very often,” Sagan said. “When you consider utility substation crews working on substation equipment every day—they are very good at it because they practice the same types of activities over and over. Our maintenance teams may be working on chillers, air compressors,  pumps, or air filters most of the time. And then once a year, they go do power-system maintenance. Now they need to open and close breakers, rack breakers out of their cubicles, and put safety grounds on the cables. This is not something they do every day. The danger is real and these guys understand the risks involved.”

Historic Alabama plant

Mercedes-Benz is a global automobile manufacturer—a division of the German company Daimler AG, headquartered in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg. The brand is known for its luxury vehicles, buses, coaches, and trucks.

In 1994, the company broke ground in Vance, AL, to build its only North American manufacturing facility. The company chose the 1,000-acre spot between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham because of its proximity to the interstate, a railroad, and utilities. Alabama Power worked as a partner and built an on-site substation to provide power only to this Mercedes-Benz plant, which produces more than 300,000 vehicles annually. The facility manufactures models GLS, GLE, GLE coupe, and some C-class sedans.

The company hired Sagan for his experience designing power systems at Kentucky Utilities and the Georgetown, KY, Toyota Motor Manufacturing facility. “When I got here [MBUSI], this was just a big muddy field, and the power system was a blank sheet of white paper,” he recalled. “You talk about an engineer’s dream come true!”

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., produces more than 300,000 vehicles a year in Vance, AL.

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., produces more than 300,000 vehicles a year in Vance, AL.

A need for redundancy

For Sagan, the main focus for the original power-system design was redundancy. “I knew that this would give us more flexibility for performing maintenance, as well as providing a more-reliable system in the event of a failure,” he said.

Sagan explained that mechanical systems typically use “N+1” redundancy. “If you need three pumps, then you install four. That way if one of the pumps fails, you turn on the backup,” he said. But for a power-distribution system to be fully backed up, “2N” redundancy is required. This means every major piece of equipment has a backup installed—one-for-one.

“Alabama Power fed the plant with two substation transformers,” Sagan said. “We essentially designed two complete power-distribution systems in the plant. Each one is a mirror image of the other and is fed from each of the Alabama Power transformers. This 2N redundancy approach was carried all the way down to the 480-volt bus duct distribution systems in each of the shops.”

Tie breakers at the main switchgear and at each unit substation provide the ability to back feed a section if something fails or needs to be shut down for maintenance.

A 2N redundancy approach assures that power is always available for the assembly line and all other areas at the Mercedes-Benz plant.

A 2N redundancy approach assures that power is always available for the assembly line and all other areas at the Mercedes-Benz plant.

Massive power, reliability, safety

A recent plant expansion to accommodate an increase in production capacity created a need for increased power. The original power system Sagan designed has operated efficiently and effectively for the past 23 years, but the increased load was going to exceed the capacity of the main “M1” switchgear and require a new lineup of medium-voltage switchgear, “M2.” Sagan used this opportunity to implement a safer and more reliable protection and control scheme.

“The original concept was to copy what we had on M1 and make M2 match,” explained Sagan.  “I met with relay manufacturers and asked them to show me what features were available in this day and age. There was some pretty impressive stuff, but it seemed like everything was focused more on reliability. I was more interested in improving safety. While reliability is certainly important, a lot of the protection schemes they were showing me were way more complicated than what I thought I needed for a car plant.”

During an internal presentation, a sales engineer mentioned how faster circuit-breaker tripping times improved power-system reliability. That caught Sagan’s attention, and he asked about the impact on arc-flash mitigation. From that point forward, the discussion focused on a protection scheme that emphasized safety.

“Of the hundred or so different options available, I picked out the six or seven that made sense for this project,” Sagan said. “Without making it overcomplicated, we came up with a design that utilized much more advanced components and would achieve a safer system. This is the safest medium-voltage switchgear in any Mercedes-Benz facility in the world.”

The M2 switchgear is the safest medium-voltage equipment in any Mercedes-Benz facility, worldwide.

The M2 switchgear is the safest medium-voltage equipment in any Mercedes-Benz facility, worldwide.

Communication-assisted protection and control

One of the main features that makes switchgear so safe is the communication-assisted protection and control scheme. Sagan explained that all of the relays are connected by a fiber-optic network to an automation controller. The automation controller is located in an HMI (human-machine interface) cabinet a safe distance away from the switchgear. This allows an operator to open or close circuit breakers from the HMI screen rather than operating a control switch while standing right in front of the breaker.

“If there is a fault or a problem with the breaker when it is opened—like an arc-flash event—and you are standing right in front of it, you are at risk of being injured from the arc flash,” he emphasized.

Another major component that improves the safety of the M2 switchgear is the arc-flash-detection system. This system uses 44 arc-flash sensors embedded throughout the switchgear. Each relay has four sensors connected by fiber-optic cables. If an arc flash occurs on the part of the circuit protected by a specific relay, light is transmitted to the relay from the sensors. This, along with the fault current detected by the relay, causes the relay to trip its circuit breaker extremely fast.

“This is the fastest any relay can detect and issue a trip command on any Mercedes-Benz power system in the world,” said Sagan. “Because the relays are able to trip circuit breakers in less than 7-milliseconds, the arc-flash energy is drastically reduced.”

Each feeder relay also has arc-flash sensors in its main bus section. In this case, if a short circuit occurs upstream of the feeder breaker, the relay transmits a message through the fiber-optic network to tell the main relay that an arc flash has been detected. This allows the main breaker to trip and extinguish the arc flash 10 times faster than is possible on the M1 switchgear.

Most industrial plants rely on traditional time-current-coordination protection schemes for their medium-voltage switchgear. In this type of scheme, relays on the main breakers have a time delay to coordinate with downstream relays. This prevents the main breaker from tripping for a fault on one of the feeders and shutting down the whole bus. But, if the fault is on the main bus, the main breaker still has to trip.

“The breaker may delay as much as one second before it trips,” Sagan said. “That is a long time in the arc-flash world, which means that you could be severely injured or even killed if you are exposed to the energy from that arc flash.”

To overcome the time-delay problem with the main breakers, Sagan again used the high-speed fiber-optic network communications. “Because all of the relays can communicate with each other, the system is able to distinguish between a fault on one of the feeders from a main bus fault. This allows the main breakers to trip much faster, thereby reducing the arc-flash hazard.”

Power-system functions are conducted at the HMI (human-machine interface) module, located safely away from the switchgear.

Power-system functions are conducted at the HMI (human-machine interface) module, located safely away from the switchgear.

Expansion requires new infrastructure

The 1.2-million-sq.-ft. body shop expansion project also required increasing the assembly and paint shops. Several loads were re-circuited to the new M2 switchgear to free up capacity on M1. New circuits were then installed at M1 to feed the new body-shop expansion.

“By doing this, I was able to rebalance the plant loads and maintain the full 2N redundancy throughout the system,” Sagan said. “We literally now have the ability to fail half the transformers in this plant and still run full production.”

Sagan explained that his experience earlier in his career made him realize how important backup redundancy was for the power system.

“Not only does this provide flexibility for supporting production in the event of a failure, but it also allows us to shut down major parts of the system for maintenance,” he said. “Instead of having to schedule maintenance blackouts, we simply transfer the load using the redundancy. Then we can perform maintenance testing during the week on straight time, instead of having to make a mad dash to get it all done over a weekend.”

Technology’s safety benefits

Safety was a major emphasis for Sagan when designing the new unit substations for the plant expansion. Power-system studies revealed that the most dangerous arc-flash hazards in the plant were found at the 480-V main breakers at the unit substation transformers. A typical unit substation steps down from 13.8 kV to 480 V for distribution in the shop areas. In a conventional transformer protection scheme, the primary disconnect switch has fuses that protect the transformer.

“The problem is that if there is an arc-flash event when someone is opening or racking out a 480-volt main circuit breaker, you are relying on the fuses on the high side of the transformer to blow to turn that arc flash off,” Sagan explained. “Because the fault current has to go through the windings of the transformer, the fuses are operating in their time-delay range. The amount of current available at the transformer, and the longer clearing time of the fuses, result in extremely high levels of arc-flash energy. There is no personal protective equipment available that can protect a person in that situation.”

To mitigate such dangerous levels of arc-flash energy, Sagan used a transformer differential protection scheme on the new unit substations. The fuses in the primary disconnect switch are replaced with a medium-voltage vacuum circuit breaker. A differential relay measures the current going in and coming out of the transformer. If there is a difference between the two, then the relay assumes there is a short circuit inside and issues a high-speed trip command. The relay also has the ability to detect fault current on the 480-V main breaker. 

“Because it can trip the primary circuit breaker so much faster than fuses would operate, this scheme reduces the arc-flash hazard to much safer levels,” Sagan explained. “All of the new substations utilize that scheme. And, with the addition of remote-control panels for all of the circuit breakers, the whole unit substation is much safer to operate.”

A substation such as this may have between 15,000 and 20,000 A of fault current available. The arc flash that would be created could be between 30,000 and 35,000 F—four times hotter than the surface of the sun.

“We are definitely dealing with extremely high levels of energy,” Sagan said. “It can be extremely dangerous to workers who have to interact with this gear. By utilizing protection schemes that are designed to reduce the arc-flash energy levels, we are also in effect making the system more reliable. An arc flash with that much energy could kill somebody and is also doing a tremendous amount of damage to the equipment. So, if I can reduce the amount of damage to the equipment I may also be able to reduce the cost to repair or replace it.”

Sagan achieved his goals to make the power system safer and more reliable. With almost four decades of experience, he said he considers this the greatest engineering achievement of his career.

And it all started with a blank page and unlimited opportunity.  MT

Michelle Segrest is president of Navigate Content Inc., and has been a professional journalist for 28 years. She specializes in creating content for the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 46 cities in six countries on three continents. If your facility has an interesting maintenance and/or reliability story to tell, contact her at michelle@navigatecontent.com.


6:23 pm
July 12, 2017
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Change Your Lubrication Mindset

Achieving desired goals requires an honest assessment of the status quo.

Oiling Gears Close-up

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

While physicians can diagnose health issues and recommend appropriate treatments, patients can often help themselves get better by changing some of their personal habits and/or lifestyle choices. Mike Gauthier of Trico Corp. (tricocorp.com, Pewaukee, WI) stated that the same holds true with equipment-lubrication issues. As he put it, most industrial operations “could gain a gold mine of benefits” through better management of lubricants and lubrication practices associated with critical equipment. “But only if they really want to change.”

According to Gauthier, if your plant is like countless others, with thousands of lubrication points spread out across multiple areas, the idea of changing its lubrication mindset, including simply getting started, might seem daunting. If that describes your situation, Gauthier suggests taking a graduated approach based, in large part, on an understanding of your organization’s current lubrication practices. He offers several tips for moving forward with this approach, along with sample questions from a 13-page self-assessment form that could help facilitate needed changes.

A graduated approach

“Sometimes,” Gauthier explained, “sites look at reliability programs on a scale of 1 to 10, and then fail to put a program in place because they could only hope to reach a 5.” The good news, he said, is that personnel don’t have to solve everything at once. Moreover, not every plant needs to achieve world-class status to realize a bottom-line boost in reliability.

A graduated approach can be a better option. It begins with identification of your most critical assets and the problems associated with them, establishment of key performance indicators (KPIs), and setting goals. If you can document the benefits of incremental reliability improvements, this typically creates all the buy-in necessary to get to the next level. “Start with one production line, building, or area,” Gauthier advised, “then build momentum from there.”

Before you can set reasonable goals and a plan to achieve them, however, you must fully understand your current practices. That’s why an honest self-assessment is an essential first step. To that end, Gauthier suggests taking a moment to consider your site’s current maintenance strategy. How would you characterize it?

1. (Poor) Reactive—running-to-failure and fixing things when they break down

2. (Fair) Preventive—preventing breakdowns by performing regular maintenance

3. (Good) Predictive—periodically inspecting, servicing, and cleaning assets

4. (Excellent) Proactive—predicting when equipment failure might occur

5. (Optimum) Condition Monitoring—continuously monitoring assets while in operation.

Once you’ve come to terms with the overall maintenance strategy, it’s time to dig deeper into how the site tackles lubrication. To simplify the process, Gauthier recommends going through a detailed, lubrication self-assessment exercise. Sample questions include:

1. Storage, handling, and disposal: What system best represents your current visual aid for lubricant management?

• We have adopted a color-coding system or a similar system using shapes.
• We only use one grease, one hydraulic fluid, and one gear oil. A color-coded visual-aid system is not necessary.
• No color-coding or labeling visual-aid system has been adopted.
• Not sure.

2. Lubrication and re-lubrication practices: How are equipment-oil changes determined in your facility?

• Oil changes are initiated based on oil analysis provided by a commercial partner or independent oil-analysis laboratory.
• Oil changes are initiated based on oil analysis conducted in the plant by certified lubrication technicians.
• Oil changes are performed based on a visual assessment done by our lubrication technicians.
• Oil changes are done on a calendar-based interval.
• Oil changes are done on an as-needed basis, due to a failure, a rebuild, or replacement.

3. Contamination control: What is the most common method for excluding contamination from sumps and reservoirs in your facility?

• Breather or vent originally installed by the OEM on the component.
• Normally closed, desiccating, and particulate-filtering breathers.
• No breathers of any type installed on any equipment.
• Standard, normally opened, disposable desiccant breathers.
• Standard particle filters on breather ports.
• Not sure.

4. Sampling technology: What location best describes where most oil samples are taken from your oil-lubricated equipment?

• Static oil reservoirs or sumps through the vent or fill ports.
• Turbulent zone in a representative location.
• Long runs of straight pipe.
• Downstream of system components and upstream of system filters.
• Not currently taking oil samples from any component or system at a regular frequency.

5. Lubrication-analysis program: Who is responsible for setting oil-analysis alarms and limits for the majority of your equipment?

• Not currently using oil analysis as a condition-based maintenance tool.
• Lab owned by our lubricant supplier sets all alarms and limits.
• We have not set any alarms or limits.
• We worked closely with a commercial laboratory to help define the most appropriate alarms and limits to help us achieve our reliability and production goals.

Often, according to Gauthier, the hardest part in improving management of lubricants and lubrication practices at a site is for personnel to be honest enough among themselves to acknowledge/admit to their current situation. “But if an organization is serious about changing its lubrication mindset,” he said, “this type of self-assessment will put it on the path to success.” MT

Mike Gauthier is director of Global Services for Trico Corp., Pewaukee, WI. To access the complete lubrication self-assessment described in this article, click here.


4:54 pm
July 12, 2017
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Move from Time- to Condition-Based Lubrication

Increasingly sophisticated machines and operations require more than legacy PM approaches.

With plant equipment and processes growing more sophisticated and demanding by the day, so must everything that keeps them up and running, including approaches to machinery lubrication. Integrated, proactive-maintenance technologies and strategies are key for fast-paced industrial operations that want to be competitive, and are easily justified in economic terms.

With plant equipment and processes growing more sophisticated and demanding by the day, so must everything that keeps them up and running, including approaches to machinery lubrication. Integrated, proactive-maintenance technologies and strategies are key for fast-paced industrial operations that want to be competitive, and are easily justified in economic terms.

By Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK), CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor

The term “time-based maintenance” is well understood in industrial operations. The premise is simple. A regular maintenance/lubrication event is scheduled on the basis of a calendar anniversary, i.e., weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, or other interval, or on a machine’s run-time clock, i.e., 100, 250, 1,000 hr., or some other specified number of hours. Foundational to legacy preventive-maintenance (PM) programs, this type of event scheduling has served industry well for decades.

Plant equipment systems and processes, however, are becoming more complex and demanding by the day. In turn, they are requiring increasingly sophisticated maintenance approaches. Going forward, if they haven’t already done so, sites will need to adapt to an integrated, proactive-maintenance approach that maximizes machine availability and reliability. The economic justification is simple.

In a legacy time-based event, a forced machine downtime is usually scheduled to perform maintenance or lubrication, e.g., oil change. Older equipment designs usually dictate that a machine must be shut down and locked out to determine its status and conduct scheduled activities in a safe manner. This method obviously has an impact on an operation’s throughput capability.

Given today’s fast-paced operating environments, a forced two-hour downtime to change oil on a calendar schedule—whether it needs to be changed or not—is no longer acceptable. We still need to change oil, but we need to treat that oil as we would any asset and maintain it over an extended lifecycle. That means changing it only when conditions warrant change. This type of monitoring strategy reduces machine intervention and increases production throughput, as well as reduces costs related to the purchasing, handling, and disposal of lubricants at a site. It also fits perfectly in any corporate asset lifecycle or sustainability initiative.

Moving from a time-based to a condition-based lubrication program is an ideal change-management vehicle for transforming and improving an operation’s state of lubrication. Successful design and implementation of a condition-based lubrication program can manifest itself in different forms, depending on a plant’s industry sector and current state of lubrication. Several “conditional” strategies can help your site gear up for this move with little effort and expense.

Implementing conditional strategies

Two basic elements underpin a condition-based lubrication program. The first speaks to the integrated, proactive-maintenance approach through involvement of operators as the primary “eyes and ears” in performing daily machine condition checks. The second element assures consistency and accuracy in the execution of value-based condition checks and lubrication actions.

Some maintenance personnel might argue that the old PM job tasks stating “Fill reservoir as necessary” or “Lubricate as necessary” are perfect condition-based instructions. Not so fast: Those instructions, unfortunately, rely solely on maintainer experience. They will not deliver consistency and accuracy without controls that dictate how we assess a machine’s condition and take appropriate actions built into the “necessary” part of the work-task equation. That’s where implementation of the following conditional strategies pays off.

Strategy 1: Reservoir-fill condition

If a lubrication system is to deliver peak performance, it will require an engineered amount of lubricant. In re-circulating and total-loss systems alike, designated minimum and maximum fill amounts aren’t always clearly indicated on the reservoirs. In such cases, the first step is to ensure that a viewable sight gauge is in use, complete with hi-lo markers for manual checks.

For critical equipment, an advanced approach can utilize a programmable level control to electronically indicate the fill state to operators and maintenance personnel. Some equipment, of course, is designed with reservoirs inside the operating envelope that require machine shutdown to perform checks or fill up. These systems can be inexpensively redesigned with remote “quick-connect” fill-lines piped to the machine perimeter that will allow the reservoirs to be filled to correct levels while the machine runs. (For additional tips, see this article’s “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

Strategy 2: Oil condition

When the term “condition-based” is used, oil analysis often comes to mind. The first stage in controlling the oil’s condition is to ensure the product is put in the reservoir at the correct service-level of cleanliness and that a contamination-control program is in place. This will require a number of things: an effective oil-receiving and -distribution strategy, operators and maintainers working together to keep the lubrication system clean, use of desiccant-style breathers, and remote, “quick connect” fill ports that can be hooked up to filter carts outside of a machine’s operating envelope. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

The second stage is to monitor the oil’s condition for contamination, oxidation, and additive depletion through the use of oil analysis. Extracting oil samples for testing purposes is predominantly a manual process that can be conducted outside of a machine’s operating envelope through a remote-piped “live” re-circulating line or by using a remote-piped sight-level gauge with a built-in extraction port.

Based on a condition report, the machine’s oil can be cleaned by using a filter cart, with no downtime, or replaced at a conveniently scheduled time. An advanced alternative is to use an inline sensor to monitor and electronically indicate pre-set oil cleanliness and water-presence alarm levels. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

Oil-temperature condition is important wherever ambient temperatures fluctuate and an oil might become too viscous to be pumped through a system. This situation can create a bearing-starvation effect. In environments where this could happen, a thermostat-controlled automotive block heater or battery blanket heater can be incorporated in the system to ensure lubricant usability and machine uptime.

Strategy 3: Machine condition

The ultimate lubrication-control is based on equipment running condition. Effectively lubricated machinery will require less power to operate and bearing life will be extended by as much as three times that of ineffectively lubricated machines. Correctly engineered and set up, automated, centralized lubrication-delivery systems ensure the right amount of lubricant is applied in the right place, at the right time. If your plant’s equipment is predominantly manually lubricated, investigate converting to automated systems that require less maintenance and return their investment in weeks or months. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

Automated systems are highly adaptable to new IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) protocols. The capability now exists to install bearing-heat sensors (that set temperature ranges of different bearings) for monitoring, amperage metering (needed because friction demands an increase in motive power that translates through amperage draw), and sensing of oil levels and cleanliness.

Condition signals can be sent to an automated system’s lubricator to turn on and off for a timed or actuation cycle, or to indicate an alarm state. These conditions can be monitored with software tools and used for computer-based automated decision making to reset a lubricator program based solely (and precisely) on condition needs of a machine within its ambient operating environment.

Remember this

Condition-based lubrication respects and treats the oils that a site relies on as integrated assets in equipment and process uptime. The condition-based approach is an excellent first step for a site that wants to shift its focus from legacy PM approaches to integrated, proactive-maintenance strategies. Regardless of industry sector, this type of maintenance is what plants of today and tomorrow require to be competitive. MT

Condition-based lubrication and system design are among the topics covered in contributing editor Ken Bannister’s 2016 book, Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities–3rd edition (Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA), co-written with Heinz Bloch. Contact Bannister at kbannister@engtechindustries.com, or 519-469-9173.

learnmore2“All Sight-Level Gauges Aren’t Created Equal”

“Control and Avoid Lubricant Contamination”

“Put Portable Filter Carts to Work”

“Implement an Oil-Analysis Program”

“Practical Oil Analysis: Why and What For?”

“Tune Your Lubrication-Delivery System”