Walk your area down before you build a maintenance strategy

To learn more about ultrasound technology, read How to use ultrasound to improve lubrication practices.

Conference season is upon us, and last week was the 9th edition of UE Systems’ Ultrasound World.  My favorite benefit from these conferences is the chance to talk with smart, seasoned people who share experiences and ideas freely. Did you ever notice that the people who really know their stuff are always excited to share any of it that might be helpful to you? It’s the dweeb who has built his career on one or two facts that ferociously guards his “intellectual property.” 

In one presentation last week by Charlie Peterson of Peterson Predictive Maintenance I managed to jot down eight blog topics. Now there’s an hour well spent with a guy who knows his business.

One of the sound bites I took away from Charlie’s presentation was “Walk it down. Before you get into the details of condition monitoring, understand how your area is running.” This is crucial advice. Gather the team that will build PdM strategies and take a look at the macro picture of your new area. Talk to the people who live and work there along the way.

Does the housekeeping need to be squared away before anyone will believe that progress is possible? Are there safety problems with guards, catwalks, railings, eye wash stations and fire extinguishers? Is the lighting adequate and can the gages, sight glasses and other process indicators be read easily? Are there obvious leaks, spills or contamination taking place? Do the machines have appropriate ground straps properly connected? Are piping, insulation and covers in place and doing their jobs? How does the place sound and smell? Do the workers wear proper protective gear and observe basic safety protocols?

J. Stanton McGroarty, CMfgE, CMRP, is senior technical editor of Plant Services. He was formerly consulting manager for Strategic Asset Management International (SAMI), where he focused on project management and training for manufacturing, maintenance and reliability engineering. He has more than 30 years of manufacturing and maintenance experience in the automotive, defense, consumer products and process manufacturing industries. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Detroit Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in management from Central Michigan University. He can be reached at smcgroarty@putman.net or check out his .

This is a list of questions you can answer and document within an hour. The answers will provide you with your first round of maintenance work orders. If you involve the local people, they will begin to sense the change you want to create from the beginning. Most of the early fixes are highly visible and gratifying to the people who have to live in the area. Typically they will be glad to help if the understand that your objective is to make their area a better place to work.

Then as you begin to add the more expensive and less intuitive tools for condition monitoring, they will be accepted as part of the momentum you have already begun to build. After all, they’re being installed by the team that already cleared the junk out of here and got things working better and more safely.

Of course the ultrasound conference wasn’t all about basic blocking and tackling. There was a great deal of talk about the synergistic use of ultrasound with vibration analysis, thermography, and lubrication management.

Ultrasound is a favorite technology of mine because it feels like an extension of human senses. On the other hand, ultrasound charts are now getting more and more of the kind of frequency-based analysis that has been applied to vibration. You can find your flat-sided balls, scalloped races, and bent cages on ultrasound plots, too. I still like the organic applications, though, like listening to bearings while you grease them. That way you can get the grease that’s needed without pumping in a bunch extra that will dissolve the insulation on your motor windings. People who should know keep saying that over-greasing kills more electric motors than anything else. That’s a costly way to wreck your machinery.

Ultrasound, vibration analysis, thermography and tribology can all be first introduced as tools for diagnosing and repairing equipment that has begun to fail. Then, once everyone understands the value of condition monitoring tools, the foundation will be laid for the more exotic and far-sighted applications.

It all starts with the walk-down. Just ask Charlie.

Read Stanton McGroarty's monthly column, Strategic Maintenance.