The Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) defines a Best Practice as, “A process, technique or innovative use of resources that has a proven record of success in providing significant improvement in cost, schedule, quality, performance, safety, environment or other measurable factors that impact the health of an organization.”
SMRP committee members and contributors are doing the industrial maintenance and asset-management profession a great service by defining terminology, building consensus standards and collecting a body of knowledge that includes Best Practices. The SMRP’s formal process of soliciting proposals, submitting them to its membership for comment, refining and agreeing upon the results, and making them available to all, is invaluable.
But defining Best Practices only gets you part of the way. To implement them, most companies and individuals need concrete examples that demonstrate how to introduce them, show the potential payoffs in both qualitative and quantitative terms, and provide inspiration for those who must overcome cultural inertia and make effective changes.
That’s what inspires the Plant Services Best Practices Awards. All that’s needed to enter is a true story about an application that fits the SMRP definition. Entries may be submitted by plant personnel, vendors, engineering firms, consultants or anyone who is familiar with the application and has permission to make that knowledge public.
Entries submitted before Sept. 1, 2008 were included in this year’s competition. We edited them as necessary for clarity, divided them into four categories, and posted them on www.PlantServices.com. Then we e-mailed the summaries to registered Plant Services readers, inviting them to vote by signing in and accessing the full stories.
The winners presented here were determined by totaling the number of readers who had accessed each entry. On the following pages you’ll find comprehensive excerpts of this year’s winning stories, as well as brief descriptions of the runners-up.
Synchronous belts save energy in HVAC
Reichhold Inc. is a global supplier to the composites and coatings industries, with 18 manufacturing facilities in 11 countries. Its facility in Durham, N.C., was spending about $80,000 per month in energy costs to operate this equipment during the summer.
A Reichhold maintenance technician approached a representative of Gates Corp., maker of industrial power transmission belt drive systems, to survey the plant for potential energy savings. The Gates representative found 21 HVAC units with 30 hp motors, 44 fume hood exhaust fans with 5 hp to 10 hp motors, and four cooling tower fan drives with 50 hp motors, all V-belt-driven.
As a first step, the Gates representative recommended turning off any equipment when it was not in use. He also recommended purchasing two preventive maintenance tools to accurately align and tension the belt drives: a laser alignment device and a sonic tension meter. When properly aligned and tensioned, a new V-belt drive will operate at 98% efficiency. Misalignment of the pulleys and improper belt tension, however, can cause efficiency to drop below 90%, wasting energy and shortening the life of the drive. By implementing these simple procedures, the Reichhold plant reduced annual energy consumption and saved $60,000 in the first year.
As a second major step, the Gates representative analyzed the existing belt drives on each piece of equipment noted above. He performed the analysis using a belt-drive selection tool called Design Flex Pro, a free software program available to design engineers, maintenance engineers and Gates distributors. In addition to designing belt drives, the program determines proper belt installation tension, calculates belt pull, determines the belt horsepower capacity, and estimates the energy savings of a synchronous belt drive over a V-belt drive.
The Reichhold facility had two 1,320-ton chillers with matching cooling towers. Each cooling tower had two fan drives fitted with six-strand V-belts. With the motors running at 100% capacity, the drives were generating 26 hp. The software analysis recommended conversion to a 14-mm Gates synchronous Poly Chain GT Carbon belt drive.
Initially, only one of the fan drives was converted so results could be compared between the existing V-belt drive and the converted synchronous belt drive. The difference in performance was substantial. With the motor operating at 100% capacity (60 Hz), the synchronous belt drive generated nearly twice the horsepower (51 hp versus 26 hp for the V-belt drive). This greater efficiency allowed the plant to operate the motor at 80% capacity (48 Hz) and still achieve the desired horsepower. With the motor drawing 20% less power to achieve the same result, energy costs were reduced. Estimated yearly cost savings for converting all four fans is $12,595, including reduced downtime and maintenance costs.
A similar approach with the HVAC drive units and rooftop exhaust fans gave estimated savings of $10,608 and $11,000 per year respectively, for a total of more than $34,000 per year in reduced energy costs. In addition, the synchronous belts will run for years without re-tensioning or replacement, saving additional downtime and maintenance costs.
Replacing aged oil-burners with high-turndown, gas-fired condensing boilers provides significant energy cost savings.
Consider air filter TCO
A global manufacturer learns exactly how to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) of air filters.
Camfil Farr (www.camfilfarr.com)
Upgrade pump seals
Reducing internal friction and losses improved process water pump efficiency from 46% to 80%.
Dow Corning (www.dowcorning.com)
Replacing metal halides with fluorescents gives two-year payback and annual energy savings of $382,000.
Orion Energy Systems (www.oriones.com)
Cure pump failures with corrosion-resisting bearings
The Geysers is the largest geothermal power field in the world. Because geothermal power is constant (and nearly free), The Geysers have become one of the most reliable energy sources in Northern California. Currently, the Calpine Corp. owns and operates 19 of 21 power plants at The Geysers, and is able to harness the superheated steam to generate 725 MW of electricity.
Despite its advantages, geothermal power has one limitation. Some of the 350 steam wells eventually will exhaust their supply of steam. In response to, operators in the field inject water into the ground to replenish the steam for power generation. The injected water includes recycled condensed steam as well as treated wastewater.
The conventional bearings being used in the pumps that handled this duty were failing because of high temperatures and the corrosive, silt-laden properties of the water being injected.
To solve the problem, the engineers at Graphite Metallizing developed a special grade of Graphalloy (GMK-GEO) and used it to manufacture bearings that could handle the severe service. Graphalloy is a graphite and metal alloy bearing material used in self-lubricating bearings and components for machinery and process systems. It’s produced by impregnating a graphite substrate with molten metal at high temperature and under high pressure. Used as a bushing or wear surface, it survives dusty atmospheres, high temperatures, submersion and corrosive environments. It doesn’t swell, shrink or cold flow.
Graphalloy is self-lubricating and used for difficult applications where a rolling-element bearing would fail. Graphalloy deposits a graphite layer on the inner race, which isn’t normally removed by high temperatures or submersion in a fluid. It’s not normally a competitive replacement for a ball bearing where there are no environmental complications.
Pump bushings are intended to be wear parts, absorbing the shocks, rubbing and abrasion of normal use without damaging the shafting. Where hard carbon materials can score shafts to the point they are actually cut, GRAPHALLOY provides non-galling, self-lubricating bearings. A moderate hardness is used in most pump applications to ensure that expensive shaft materials will be protected.
Under run-dry conditions, the graphite provides continuous lubrication, without the need for grease, oil or other forms of lubrication. It deposits a thin film of graphite on the shaft to reduce friction, and the metal impregnant helps to transfer heat from the rubbing surface to the housing.
Graphalloy has much higher temperature limits than many thermoplastics available today. Run-dry transients will not melt the Graphalloy as it may do to other materials. Normally, pumps can be put back in service immediately after dry running transients while plastics usually require replacement.
Due to their ability to perform well under harsh operating conditions, Graphalloy bushings and bearings have been a critical component used in the power-generation industry for more than 50 years. There are grades that are able to withstand temperatures ranging from cryogenic to more than 1,000°F and remain dimensionally stable even when submerged or under load. Because of their long life and self-lubricating qualities, they are especially suitable for installations that cannot be easily accessed or where performing regular maintenance is difficult.
Graphite Metallizing Corp. (www.graphalloy.com)
Reduce oil mist emissions
Bearing isolators coalesce droplets to prevent air quality and contamination issues with mist-lubrication of bearings.
Inpro Seal (www.inpro-seal.com)
Run lift trucks 24/7
A bus bar system recharges batteries while the trucks continue to operate.
Improve vacuum dryer seals
Long drying times and product contamination due to abrasive wear of and leakage at vacuum dryer seals is solved by improved seal design.
Engineer an intrinsically safe Fieldbus
Using a split architecture allowed more devices per segment for a smaller footprint and lower cost.
Moore Industries (www.mooreindustries.com)
Measure product temperatures with infrared
Directly measuring product temperatures solves measurement problems, improves product quality and reduces maintenance of temperature sensors.
Use start-up services
Traditional maintenance outsourcing drives cost-cutting and transfers less important activities to a third party while plant management continues to manage maintenance itself. The problem with this approach is that after limited financial benefits have quickly been realized, there’s no room for additional improvement. Suppliers focusing on protecting thin margins are reluctant to enter a necessary partnership with the company to further improve the customer’s processes. ABB Full Service, conversely, is a performance-based maintenance partnership that drives operational excellence through sustainable productivity improvement and reliability excellence.
With ABB Full Service, ABB shares risk by contractually committing to key performance indicators (KPIs), such as increased overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and reduced total maintenance costs, and assuming full responsibility for customer maintenance. One of the greatest advantages of the ABB Full Service approach is that it enables the customer to focus on what they do best, while ABB concentrates on leveraging maintenance to improve customer profitability.
The approach in a greenfield site includes key additional steps that help accelerate business improvement and minimize risk. At the conclusion of each phase, ABB and the customer discuss goals, accomplishments and next steps:
- Front-end engineering
- Detail engineering
- Equipment selection and procurement
For example, Vale Inco is a $1 billion greenfield nickel mine and concentrator. Remotely located with little local infrastructure, the mine opened in 2005 and employs more than 350 people with an expected annual production of about 50,000 tons of nickel for a minimum of 14 years.
The entire maintenance function is handled by a partnership between ABB and Iskueteu, a local company specializing in construction and operations support. ABB began by providing reliability consulting for the equipment selection, construction and maintenance planning phases. Additionally, ABB provided training for commissioning, startup and ongoing operations, and through the Iskueteu partnership, is now responsible for maintaining the process equipment, site facilities, the port and the mine. One key challenge was the management’s strong desire to “hit the ground running” to achieve rapid plant startup and accelerate equipment performance.
In the commissioning phase, ABB and Vale Inco worked together to facilitate an efficient start to the next phase by ensuring pertinent equipment, tools and procedures were prepared, and key contractors were recruited. This involved developing the Maintenance Management Master Plan, a proven ABB methodology that improves maintenance by instituting best practices, and actively participating in the health, safety and environmental continuous-improvement discussions.
Another key initiative in the commissioning phase was employee training and competency management. This included refining training materials, conducting equipment-specific training and doing company team-building exercises. In addition, Iskueteu/ABB participated in ABB Full Service training, which included defining and developing roles and responsibilities, and training on work-order systems, customer relations and the ABB Full Service agreement. One of the training approaches implemented was ABB’s Competency Development Program, where each maintenance employee has a specific personal development program that helps him complete a quality job safely, efficiently and effectively the first time. In Vale Inco, the program methodology identified more than 1,200 specific training programs required for maintenance operations to be successful.
Startup at Vale Inco involved implementing maintenance programs and plans, including condition-based, time-based and breakdown maintenance. During implementation of condition-based maintenance, Iskueteu and ABB introduced new techniques, including ultrasonic testing, and developed an effective inspection strategy for each group of equipment. Furthermore, an Asset Management Program, which included life cycle costing models and replacement strategies, was developed.
Creating an optimal Asset Management Program for a greenfield site was a significant challenge since there was no historical asset and performance data to perform benchmarks and predict asset failures. So, during the startup, ABB and Vale Inco began measuring relevant performance indicators, including OEE and operating costs, and developed and implemented continuous improvement programs.
In the final ABB Full Service phase for greenfield sites, primary maintenance programs were executed, managed and supervised, and non-routine maintenance activities were performed. Also, KPIs continued to be measured and reported against targets, and root cause analysis procedures were implemented.
Vale Inco’s commitment, ABB management’s expertise and the Full Service methodology helped Vale Inco achieved 90% of rated capacity for the mine concentrator in just three months after startup.
In addition to an accelerated ramp-up, Vale Inco achieved significant performance improvements through incentive-based contracts, and experienced no major disturbance due to heavy investment on employee training. In fact, Vale Inco achieved 1,000 days without lost time from injury.
Achieving a fast ramp-up coupled with high employee satisfaction drove Vale Inco to realize commercial nickel production significantly ahead of schedule and attain an all-time high production level.
“We achieved commercial production well ahead of our original schedule,” said Peter C. Jones, president and chief operating officer of Vale Inco, in 2006. “Thanks to this excellent ramp-up, we expect to produce some 5,000 tons of nickel more than expected.”
Eliminate oily smoke
Mist collectors solved maintenance and air-quality problems with electrostatic precipitators.
Donaldson Torit (www.donaldsontorit.com)
Create a clean assembly area
Contamination problems were controlled using curtain walls.
Goff’s Enterprises (www.goffscurtainwalls.com)
Reduce risk of falls
A roof railing system was installed without penetrations to improve safety.
Kee Safety (www.keesafety.com)
Dispense wire quickly and cleanly
Wire and cable storage and dispensing system saves time, labor and floor space.
Move to condition-based maintenance
In the past, maintenance work on turbines and generators was almost always done according to the machinery OEM’s recommendations. It’s easy to plan maintenance using this method, but it’s also extremely expensive. OEM maintenance recommendations are generally determined in a manner that allows them to be used universally, meaning they apply to assets that have been operated under the most aggressive conditions, as well as those run under ideal conditions, leaving little room for the unique operating circumstances that might apply to each asset.
Operators such as E.ON Benelux adhered to the OEMs’ prescribed maintenance intervals without question. This resulted in our turbines and generators being opened quite frequently for inspection and revision. Machinery that was functioning properly was opened (unnecessarily) for inspection, and components that were well-worn-in and functioning perfectly were replaced simply because they reached the interval recommended by the OEM rather than their actual condition. Additional perfectly functioning parts were replaced even though they hadn’t yet reached their recommended replacement interval simply because the machine was open and waiting until the next planned outage would exceed the recommended interval.
Errors often occurred during disassembly or assembly, introducing problems where none existed. New parts have a higher probability of failure (infant mortality) than parts that are already functioning properly, and wearing-in of replacement parts can introduce operating constraints. In summary, this calendar-based approach to maintenance can have the unintended effect of reducing machinery reliability and availability, not to mention the additional maintenance costs it incurs.
In the early 1980s, we began to realize that technologies allowing us to assess the actual condition of our machinery were becoming quite sophisticated, and that this capability could have a large influence on both the maintenance work performed and the corresponding availability of our units. Basically, by accurately determining the condition, the right maintenance could be carried out at the right time, thereby avoiding unnecessary work and risks. We began investing in both the manpower and equipment that would allow us to accurately assess the condition of the machine fleet and to determine and plan, on the basis of this condition, the necessary maintenance activities.
We further understood that condition-based approaches could be divided into the following broad categories: condition monitoring (CM), or the use of measurement technologies to determine the condition of an asset while it is operating, and condition inspection, or the use of inspection techniques to determine condition; specifically, those techniques that require no (or very little) machine disassembly and are minimally disruptive to operations.
However, while we knew that condition-dependent approaches held great promise, it was equally clear that failure-dependent and usage-dependent approaches would continue to have a place in our overall maintenance program. To help us decide what approach to use for each asset and failure, we devised a set of attributes/questions:
- Mechanism of failure: What will cause the failure?
- Probability of failure: What is the likelihood the failure will occur?
- Effects of failure: Are there serious consequences to the failure?
- Symptoms of failure: Can the failure be predicted?
- Mitigation of failure: Can the failure be prevented (such as through modification)?
The answers are used with the pictured flowchart to determine the appropriate strategy.
The aim of the CDM philosophy is simple: to increase the availability of a component or asset at lower costs and with manageable risk. E.ON Benelux has successfully employed the CDM approach to achieve this. We have lengthened maintenance intervals, particularly in the case of our steam turbines and generators, and we have lowered the percentage of time during which the machinery is not available. An additional advantage has been that even when an unforeseen calamity occurs, the historical data collected by our condition-monitoring systems provides us with much better insight into the behavior of our machines, enabling extremely goal-oriented repair or maintenance work to be carried out, because the nature, location and severity of the failure can often be determined before the machine is opened.
General Electric (www.ge.com)
Filter hydraulic oil
A portable filter unit removes fine hard and soft contaminants to prevent and solve hydraulic system malfunctions.
Modernize turbine controls
A new system improves turbine reliability and availability, consolidates data reporting and archiving, and offers plant-wide, single-interface control.
Filter cooling water
Keeping cooling water clean with full-flow filters improves equipment reliability.