Who owns plant reliability?

March 22, 2016

Can a Reliability Engineer or Reliability Manager make a facility or organization reliable? This is a very important question that may be worth discussing within your organization to ensure proper expectations and success.

A more practical definition of reliability may be:

Equipment performs the way you want it to when you want it to”.

Reliability is very easy to define, stuff but achievement of this simple goal is complex and unfortunately unattainable for many organizations. Reliability requires a holistic approach that involves the complex interaction of Maintenance, see Operations, Supply Chain, Engineering, Procurement, Management, Process and Vendors. Consistency, focus and strategic implementation directly correlates to the success of any effort and this is true for your reliability efforts. Therefore, a consistent and strategic top down focus is required from management and throughout each of these groups. Organizational misalignment leads to competing groups and will make sustainable reliability within your organization extremely difficult, and maybe even impossible to achieve.

Reliability Engineers and Managers can support reliability through leadership, training, tools, etc. However, the answer to the question is that everyone within your organization is responsible for reliability. It is critical that everyone within an organization understands this and that reliability is made a goal for each of these groups with defined metrics to track understanding and achievement.

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Will welding arc light damage my laser shaft alignment system?

March 15, 2016

Often, welding operations such as MIG and TIG will be occurring in the presence of your laser shaft alignment system. The question often comes up: will this light energy damage the optics? The answer is no.

However, if you must weld in the presence of your laser alignment system, a greater source of damage could be from the heat, sparks, and electrical energy that is emitted from the process. We do not recommend leaving equipment attached to anything being welded due to these dangers. Welding is like having a continuous lightning strike occur and electrical voltage differences and resulting magnetic fields could cause electrical damage. Remove your equipment to protect it from such hazards.

As far as light energy goes, OSHA has standards for minimum eye protective shade numbers ranging from “4” for gas welding to “11” for shield metal arc welding and finally up to “14” for carbon arc welding processes. NASA recommends a number “14” for directly viewing solar eclipses. All of this is for protecting the human eye, which is less resistant to damage from light than a laser detector. A laser detector is designed to continuously absorb direct laser light energy over a continuous period of time. This is far more light energy than the human eye would encounter from arcs and sunlight with proper protective gear. Warning labels caution you not to stare directly into the laser beam!

Many laser alignment systems have special protective coating on the detector that is optimized for the specific laser wavelength of light it is intended to detect. This helps prevent interference from the bright sun causing measurement error. Many laser systems are used in bright sunlight, and some work better than others under such conditions. Since the welding energy would at most be of the same intensity as direct sunlight, this would most likely not cause damage. Of course, you could also put the protective caps on to be completely safe.

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What is your maintenance focus at your facility?

March 8, 2016

Most companies focus on repairing equipment after some functional failure has occurred and getting the equipment operational again. Is that the primary focus of your facility? Different studies have been completed by different organizations, which, while the percentages are different, all point to some very consistent and vital information. Design (engineering), installation (contractors, internal resources) and operation of the equipment all introduce equipment defects and drive reliability in your facility. Maintenance cannot overcome poor design, installation and operation. Your maintenance staff can only deal with (repair) the consequences.

Your reliability efforts should be focused on preventing the introduction of defects in your equipment. This will help ensure equipment reliability leading to lower maintenance costs, increased capacity and other positive results. Ensure that your equipment is designed, installed and operated with reliability in mind. Make sure that you focus on the prevention and elimination of equipment defects as well.

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What the $125 million dollar lesson on metric and imperial units taught us

March 1, 2016

The Mars Climate Orbiter was launched by NASA on Dec 11, 1998 to study the Martian climate. On its arrival at Mars on September 23, 1999, communication was lost shortly after an orbital insertion maneuver was performed. The cause of the failure was a lower than anticipated altitude with a resulting burn-up of the orbiter. It was entirely due to human error. The error occurred because one piece of software entered the required force in pounds and a separate piece of software interpreted this as newtons. The result was $125 million dollar lesson on the importance of consistency in units.

When performing an alignment, consistency with measurement units is the key to preventing costly errors. We recently conducted a training class for a company that worked on the metric system. Our alignment systems allow for easy conversion “on the fly” between imperial and metric units, so we simply operated everything in the metric system. We then started noticing that some students were taking much longer times on their alignments than usual. It became apparent they were misinterpreting the values of the shims, which are express in “thou” and thought they represented some form of a metric value. Fortunately it was not a $125 million mistake as this can simply be a lesson to be learned in training.

When working with different units, consider all of the stakeholders involved in the project. Who will operate the tool? Who will make corrections? Who will interpret whether or not the alignment is acceptable? You will have to determine which units of measurement will be the standard for the entire project. Fortunately, if someone makes a mistake with units for corrections, they will most likely not see the alignment improving. However, if there is a mistake on units for acceptability criteria, this could be dangerous. There is a big difference between 1 mm and 1 thou! Avoid multiple conversions for the alignment process. Standardize on one set of units and remain consistent for the whole project. If there is a need to convert units during the alignment, make very sure everyone understands when this happens and why this is the case.

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What key performance indicators (KPIs) do you track to determine success with condition monitoring efforts within your company?

February 23, 2016

Maintenance and reliability professionals track many key performance indicators (KPI’s) to measure the success of their efforts. These indicators can be overwhelming, but are necessary to confirm proper direction and achievement of desired results.

It is important that your CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) has the ability to categorize work orders. Condition monitoring work orders should be categorized by main types and by sub-types (vibration, lubrication, thermography, ultrasonic, electrical, etc.) upon creation within the CMMS.

Your CM and Reliability team should actively track condition monitoring work orders by total created, their type (vibration, lubrication, etc.), status (in process, scheduled, completed, etc.), average length of time to completion, by rejection results, and so on.

These indicators will allow you to ensure that a healthy amount of CM work is available and that this work is given priority, being properly planned, scheduled and executed. It does no good to detect and report a conditional change in equipment only to have it ignored, not properly repaired and then result in a functional failure.

Additionally, technology alarm status can be compared to open corrective work orders in your CMMS. For example, a corrective work order should exist addressing each severe alarm condition (red) reported by a CM technology. If a corresponding work order has not been created, then you should ask “Why”? Is it due to a bad technology alarm? Did the CM analyst miss something or fail to report the condition or repair? Or did the planner or scheduler simply overlook or ignore it?

Monitoring these indicators can help ensure that your CM program is providing continual results that will move your reliability efforts forward.

What indicators do you track to determine success with condition monitoring efforts within your company?

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How to maximize profits with proper machinery alignment

February 16, 2016

It’s a cruel reality, treat but in a business-minded world companies are concerned with only one topic: PROFIT. And there are two ways to go about maximizing profits: Either increase the number of sales or decrease the total costs. One aspect of business that has a significant impact on a company’s profits is expenses incurred due to equipment failure. Yet the maintenance cost for down equipment is just a piece of the pie that comprises the total costs, mind and often the expense of parts and labor to repair the machine can be one of the smaller costs. Other, diagnosis more significant costs include lost production, contractual penalties, consequential damages, and liability for injury, all of which can exceed the cost of the repair itself. One way to decrease a company’s machinery failure rate and thereby increase profits is through proper alignment. Good alignment allows machines to run more efficiently, consuming less power and increasing output. Power loss (or power savings) is only a ‘small piece of the saving pie’. However, it will be always significant. For instance, alone a 30 kilowatt per hour reduction in power consumption on a large compressor train at $0.06 per kwh can save you up to $15,768.00 in electricity per year.

Precision alignment pays by reducing operating cost, downtime costs, improving machine reliability, and increasing uptime and profits.

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