Maintenance On The Floor Reliability

On The Floor: One Question, Lots of R&M Tips and Tricks

Jane Alexander | March 13, 2017

Sharing proven R&M tips and tricks can make life easier (and happier) in all plants.

As the headline on this page notes, we posed just one question to EP Reader Panelists this month. It must have been a good one: Oh, how they came through with answers (lots of them). 

Q. What was their (or a client’s/customer’s) top reliability or maintenance tip or trick and why?

To be clear, we also asked respondents to discuss the value their submitted tips or tricks have for their organizations (or their clients/customers) and how they might be of value to other Reliability and Maintenance (R&M) pros, regardless of industry sector. Edited for brevity and clarity, here’s what several Panelists shared.

College Electrical Lab, Manager/Instructor, West…

Knowledge of process equipment is one of the most important pieces of data needed for trouble shooting. We developed a program supported by skilled technicians that we do weekly with our newer crews: One of the experts on a piece of equipment will take two or three other technicians to the equipment and discuss how the equipment works, past problems, past solutions, troubleshooting concepts, equipment-danger symptoms, etc. This process is similar to a doctor’s morning hospital rounds with medical residents. The program has been very effective in reducing downtime.

Industry Consultant, Northeast…

The neatest trick that I’ve ever used in explaining equipment problems is to look at the machine with a strobe light. Freeze the image (set the strobe frequency) at the frequency of the peak vibration, then shift the strobe frequency by 10 or 20 cpm and focus on the machine. You’ll be able to see the relative movement and it gives a “real time” ODS (operating deflection shape). Using this, my clients have seen coupling torsional vibration waves in tank-mounted bases that are 1/4-in. high.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…

I would say, once you find a program that works, stick to it. As I’ve mentioned in past EP Reader Panel discussions, we had struggled with our R&M and PM programs for years. The company finally brought in a consultant who listened to the end users (the trades people). When the resulting program was rolled out and the maintenance team saw that their ideas and suggestions had been included, they took ownership of it. Before, whenever “flavors of the month” were rolled out, they were introduced as, “this is the program, and this the way it’s going to be done.” And they generally failed.

Industry Consultant, Mexico…

My top tip is to review asset history (at least a year’s worth) to detect major and repetitive failures, through statistical analysis, and using paretos, compare with the PMs to assure you have specific procedures to attack potential failures.

Technical Supervisor, Public Utility, West… 

In the power-generation industry, one of the most valuable assets is the (GSU) generation step-up transformer. The lead-time to replace a failed transformer is very long, and the chance of a failed unit causing a catastrophic fire is high. The electrical-power industry has developed online monitoring systems that monitor partial-discharge (PD) activity on transformer internals and high-voltage (HV) bushings. This monitoring equipment is “cheap insurance” that can detect problems and alarm on transformer or bushing internal issues. That can prevent transformer and bushing failures and keep the generating units operating safely. 

Industry Consultant, International…  

While this may not be a tip or trick, as such, I’ve found that equipment ownership and assigning operator responsibility can pay big dividends and drive reliability-cost improvement when properly applied. I may have mentioned this in previous EP Reader Panel discussions, but one of my major clients established an “Equipment Ownership Program” where operators, sometimes in partnership with a maintenance person, “owned” the equipment. The program was confined to critical equipment elements involving major production units, not just any items. These positions eventually became highly sought after. Maintenance personnel still handled overhauls, supervised lube programs, and dealt with major repair situations, of course. Equipment uptime improved dramatically.

CBM Specialist, Power Generation, South… 

While performing thermal imaging, I use a high-definition, name-brand camera that normally operates in the automatic mode. I, however, like to obtain most images using the manual mode. Here’s my timesaving tip: To quickly obtain the correct span for an image, I fill the viewfinder with the desired image. The camera will automatically select the desired span. Pressing the manual button simply locks in the span that has been acquired by the automatic function of the camera. This will provide an object of interest with a span very close to what is desired. It’s a simple way to adjust the span of the camera and provide a fast, accurate thermal image.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities,  Midwest…  

I recommend using a pocket-sized laser thermometer (that fits in your shirt pocket) because it’s easier to carry (and not forget). Mine has a range of  –22 F to 932 F, which covers most temperatures that our maintenance personnel confront. It also has an AA battery (not the button style). On a related note, you can convert any type of expandable pocket tool into an easy-to-carry expandable ruler. Using a scribe/awl or etching tool, simply mark your distances on the tool when it is fully extended. I’ve picked up many of those types of tools as tradeshow giveaways over the years.

Industry Consultant, Southeast…

What a couple of our clients have recently found helpful is the idea of a line-of-sight through their businesses from top to bottom (strategic direction) and bottom-to-top (performance management). As they plan maintenance, this concept is helping them to think of why they need an asset, what performance it needs to deliver, and how they determine that it’s not performing adequately (through SCADA, field inspection, notification from Operations and/or Engineering). This is allowing them to define what type of maintenance an asset needs, what data they need to collect prior to doing preventive maintenance, what data they need to document while inspecting for the need for corrective maintenance, and, getting all of that configured in their work-management system. 

The line-of-sight aspect focuses the conversation on why: why are you inspecting that asset, why are you doing that every six months, why are you collecting that piece of data. 

The result of one of those conversations was that tracking the physical condition using inspections and a 1-to-5 score wasn’t particularly helpful. What they really needed were notifications from Operations personnel, who observed the asset in the field and were the first to know that it wasn’t performing or able to perform its service function.

Not to worry

Although we couldn’t include every tip or trick our Panelists submitted, we’re not done with them. We’ll be using their additional recommendations and — I hope — some from you non-Panelists, in another way.

Check out below to learn how everyone can participate in “EP’s Tip of the Month” program.

Introducing EP’s “Tip of the Month” Program

As a reliability and/or maintenance (R&M) professional, do you have a tip (or many) that could provide value for others working in the field? Is it a quick, proven problem solution, a clever workaround, or a better way to perform a task, evaluate a situation, document an issue, or communicate information? Please tell us about it and why it could help other R&M pros. We’ll be posting these tips online, and select one each month to publish in this space. Anything goes, as long as it’s work related.

Email your tips to Be sure to include your full contact information (name, title, organization, location, phone, and email) in case we need to reach you. That’s the only way we’ll consider posting and/or possibly selecting your submission as a “Tip of the Month.” (If you wish to remain anonymous, we’ll honor your request. We still need your contact info, however.) And, no, you do not have to be a member of the EP Reader Panel to contribute. We look forward to receiving your tips!





Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander

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