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Best Practices Awards for 2008

Feb. 13, 2008
Most organizations need examples that demonstrate how to introduce best practices, show the potential payoffs, and provide inspiration for those who must overcome cultural inertia and make effective changes. That's why we present you with your picks of the year’s leading applications.

What is a Best Practice? We’re partial to the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) definition: “A Best Practice is 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 why we offer the Plant Services Best Practices Awards. All that’s needed to enter is a 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 it public knowledge.

Entries submitted by Sept. 1, 2007 were included in this year’s selection. We edited them as necessary for clarity, divided them into four categories, and posted them behind registration pages in a secluded region of www.PlantServices.com.

We wrote summaries of every proposed Best Practice and its results (leaving out any product or company names), and in December we e-mailed the summaries to registered Plant Services readers, inviting them to vote by registering and accessing the full stories. Registration is used only to ensure the integrity of the voting process – information is not shared with others or used for any other purpose.

The winners presented here were determined by tallying the number of qualified readers who had accessed each entry. Here you’ll find comprehensive excerpts of this year’s winning stories, as well as brief descriptions of the runners-up.

We want to thank those of you who responded to our e-mailed ballot, not only for helping to select the winners, but also for being interested in improving their operations, and thus all our lives, by learning from the application stories.

We also thank all who entered for being willing to share the results of your fine work with your peers, and for taking the time and making the effort to write it up. We encourage everyone to enter the 2009 Plant Services Best Practices Awards.



Reduce space heating energy consumption

Durr Industries, North American, in Plymouth, Mich., is a global supplier of painting systems and air pollution control equipment for the automotive, aerospace and other markets. Gordon Harbison, a certified energy manager, is leader of Durr’s project development team. His job is to reduce energy consumption and the cost of operations for Durr’s customers. So management says, “If you can do it for them, then do it for us.”

In spring 2005, Harbison decommissioned the gas-fired boiler at Durr’s 240,000 sq. ft. facility. The 20-year-old boiler had a capacity of 10,350 lbs/hr and was in good working order. However, it was inefficient, and rising energy and maintenance costs made it expensive to operate. The boiler heated a manufacturing area using fan coil and unit heaters distributed around the plant. The office had hydronic heating coils, hydronic baseboard radiation, a hydronic snow melting system and a combination of air handlers, both hydronic and indirect gas-fired.

Durr also wanted to address cold dock door areas, achieve more even temperatures throughout the building and improve ventilation with outside air to address a negative air pressure problem. The ultimate goal was to reduce energy and operating costs enough to pay for their new heating equipment.

The 180,000-sq.-ft. production area, with 25-ft. ceilings, was a challenge because of its uneven roofline, mixture of high-bay and low-bay areas, hanging lights, many windows and hard-to-heat dock area. They considered an infrared heating system, but Durr soon realized it would be too expensive, difficult to install and wouldn’t solve the negative air pressure problem.

Roof-mounted Blow-Thru industrial space heaters from Cambridge Engineering became the obvious choice. This direct gas-fired heating equipment operates at 100% combustion efficiency because there are no flue or heat exchanger losses. The equivalent AFUE rating, or thermal efficiency, is 92%. John McGraw, the Cambridge Territory Manager who handled this project, says, “Cambridge Blow-Thru heaters have the highest-certified dual-temperature rise/outlet temperature ratings of 160°F, which differentiates our design from less-efficient direct gas-fired, draw-thru type heaters.”

The 160°F max ratings result in smaller but more powerful units, and the highest BTU/CFM rating. McGraw explained, “The Cambridge burner also is more energy efficient because the high temperature rise allows it to heat just the right amount of fresh outside air to address the building’s combined air infiltration, make-up air and space-heating needs. That means more heat, when and where Durr needs it, like at cold dock door areas.”

The old steam system would overheat the 60,000-sq.-ft. office space in the afternoon, which affected worker productivity. Performance Engineering Group, a Michigan-based company, provided the new heating equipment. Alan Deal, the company’s president, says, “The challenge for upgrading the office heating system was finding a new location for the gas-fired hydronic boilers, and figuring out a way to vent them.” The solution was to install three Raypak boilers outdoors. Two 1,800,000 BTU-per-hour boilers were put on the roof and one 500,000 BTU-per-hour boiler was located on grade level. The boilers have an 87% combustion efficiency, which is the highest available for this application. A minimum inlet water temperature of 120°F allowed for greater energy savings. The system also was part of a separate snow-melt application that required the use of glycol.

The facility was occupied when the new heating systems were installed, but no temporary heating was required. Dave Williams from Kropf Service Co., the local contractor Durr hired to service its HVAC equipment, says, “The new heating system improved ventilation for the plant, solved the negative air pressure problem and provided more even temperatures with increased comfort levels.” Productivity in the office and plant improved because of more effective temperature control.

Before the conversion, Durr averaged 4.48 MCF/HDD consumption for the steam boiler system. After the conversion, it was reduced by 23% to 3.44 MCF/HDD. Harbison says, “The energy savings and reduced maintenance costs enabled us to meet our payback goal for the conversion.” From an environmental standpoint, this decreased carbon dioxide emissions by 393 tons, the same effect as planting more than 1,180 trees each year or taking 72 cars off the road.

Cambridge Engineering (www.cambridge-eng.com)


Closed-transition transfer switch safely supports peak-shaving program

A utility’s program to shave peak loads by offering discounts to customers willing to operate standby generators during periods of peak demand languished due to power interruptions caused by manual open-transfer switches. A new closed-transition transfer switch design safely and automatically transfers load to local generators without interruption, revitalizing the program and saving energy costs for both the utility and its customers.

Cummins Power Generation (www.cumminspower.com)

Identify excess energy consumption with data loggers

A metal products manufacturer paired up with a consulting engineering firm to perform runtime monitoring on its air compressors to understand usage patterns on a 24/7 basis and identify reduction opportunities. Two weeks of data was collected with data loggers, offloaded to a PC and analyzed using the datalogger software. Unusually high compressor runtimes were correlated with excessive usage. Correcting the excessive usage “will save the client a substantial amount of money.”

Onset Computer Corporation (www.onsetcomp.com)

Save energy by recovering heat from drain water

Hot water from thermally-intensive processes can be drained through a heat exchanger that pre-heats incoming cold water. Approximately 40% of the heat can be recovered, which allows owners to reduce energy costs, increase capacity and/or downsize water heating equipment.

RenewABILITY (www.renewability.com)



Safety is increased by a non-penetrating rooftop railing system

Scientific Protein Laboratories (SPL) operates a 96,578-sq.-ft., FDA-audited manufacturing facility in Waunakee, Wis., to produce Heparin and pancreatic enzyme products. In 2006, the company added 4,800 sq. ft. to a six-year-old metal building originally erected in 2000. The first floor provides office space, and the second is used for warehouse storage. Rooftop safety was a concern because of a need to access rooftop equipment for maintenance. SPL wanted a railing system that could be installed without penetrating a standing-seam metal roof.

Eileen D. Spahn, associate project manager for SPL, contacted Kee Industrial Products, Inc. of Buffalo, N.Y., to inquire about its KeeGuard rooftop safety railing system. Comprised of galvanized pipe rails, upright assemblies and structural pipe fittings, typical KeeGuard systems are counterbalanced to allow installation without penetrating the roof. They meet OSHA Standards 29 CRF 1910.23 and 1926.500, which require the presence of a barrier within 6 feet of roof edges. Counterbalanced weights, however, wouldn’t work on SPL’s standing seam roof.

Customized layouts are standard for KeeGuard. Every installation is designed around the roof configuration, maintenance equipment and skylights. Pavel Tretyakov, fall protection manager for Kee Industrial Products, says the best solution was to apply a fastening system designed specifically for metal roofs. Base plates are clamped to the roof seams and uprights, and 4-in. toe boards then connect to the plates.

Bachmann Construction, a design-build contractor from Madison, Wis., installed the KeeGuard system on the building expansion to form a walkway 21 ft. from the roof’s edge and a 16-ft. by 20-ft. area around an HVAC unit in the middle of the roof. Lengths of 11/2-in. schedule 40 pipe rails were cut to length and connected with Kee Klamp slip-on, steel pipe fittings.

The modular KeeGuard system can be reconfigured to meet changing needs. In addition to base-mounting plates, toe boards and clamps, the KeeGuard railing system features main upright assemblies designed for metal roofs, railing flanges, pipe connectors and corner elbow (90°) joints. The components of the KeeGuard railing are galvanized for corrosion resistance.

Although the customized KeeGuard system didn’t penetrate the roof, further modifications were required. Endres Manufacturing Co., Waunakee, Wis., designed and constructed a ladder with a birdcage-style barrier to provide safe access to the roof from the side of the building. “But this left too wide a gap between the two returns, ladder and cage, and the location of the handrails,” Spahn says. Bachmann Construction designed and built two D-returns, using Kee fittings, to bridge the gap at the ladder and to eliminate a potential safety hazard.

Railing system durability and ease of installation was why SPL selected KeeGuard, Spahn says. Only a hex wrench is needed to connect the non-penetrating mounting plates to the rails. This can save as much as 50% of the installation costs compared to welded railings.

The manufacture of biopharmaceuticals is a highly regulated industry that puts product safety at the forefront. By using the KeeGuard non-penetrating railing system and complementary ladder and cage when expanding its facilities, SPL not only found a solution that preserved roof integrity but also provides optimal safety for its maintenance workers.

Keeguard (www.keeguard.com)


Reduce maintenance and consumable costs with high-capacity filter elements

Commodity air filters offer lower initial cost but require more frequent replacement. High-capacity filters are still in service after four years, resulting in lower part and maintenance costs.

Donaldson Torit (www.donaldson.com)

Save space and cost with integrated switchboards

A pre-wired, integrated switchboard (ISB) is used instead of installing and wiring separate transformers, power and lighting panels and lighting contactors. The freestanding ISB is more compact, uses less conduit and cable, and saves hours of assembly and installation time.

General Electric (www.ge.com)

Monitor fly ash levels reliably and accurately using microwave switches

Accurate bin level measurements inside the flyash hoppers under an electrostatic precipitator are compromised by flyash properties such as repose angle, temperature, dielectric constant, material buildup and space limitations. A non-contact, span-measuring, microwave-based switch system has proven to safely and reliably measure flyash by detecting material in the path of the energy beam. The maximum range of the switches is more than 300 feet. Sensitivity adjustments are used for higher-dielectric materials (paper bales, plastic film) or very small ranges (less than three feet). 

Hawk Measurement Systems (www.hawklevel.com)

Lower pump life cycle costs with dynamic seals

Traditional packings and mechanical seals require clean liquids, typically water, for lubrication. The cost of a seal water system be as high as $20,000, plus energy and water consumption. A dynamic seal contains the pumped liquid by centrifugal force and pump suction-side pressure. While it does consume some power, its lifecycle costs can be significantly lower.

ITT Goulds Pumps (www.gouldspumps.com)

Replace mercury level switches to eliminate potential contamination

A utility power plant replaced feedwater level switches with mercury-free switches. Dealing with spilled mercury is a difficult task, and won’t be necessary with the new switches.

System Components Corp., Clark-Reliance (www.clarkreliance.com)



Cut production costs with preventive and proactive maintenance

J&L Fiber Services was experiencing high production costs due to lost productivity caused by excessive machine downtime. Factors that contributed to the majority of the difficulties were:

  • Reactive maintenance accounted for nearly 100% of maintenance activities
  • Lack of preventive and proactive maintenance were taking their toll
  • Maintenance procedures weren’t tracked to provide activity history
  • Repetitive machine failures weren’t addressed
  • Maintenance wasn’t a core competency

Advanced Technology Services (ATS) went to work to implement a sustainable solution to help J&L Fiber Services achieve its business goals of delivering focused, reliable manufacturing solutions to customers. They took the following steps:

  • Monitored preventive and proactive procedures through work-order management to reduce amount of reactive job orders
  • Performed root cause analysis on machines experiencing repetitive failures, reducing repair time and improving manufacturing costs
  • Implemented and reviewed preventive maintenance procedures
  • Provided continuous improvement solutions through Six Sigma implementation
  • Drove data- and fact–based maintenance solutions

Using teamwork, ATS and J & L Fiber Services implemented and have maintained programs that have proved successful.They have:

  • Raised overall machine availability to 99.7%
  • Reduced scrap by 38%
  • Implemented a continuous improvement environment
  • Documented the lowest machine downtime hours on record
  • Achieved and maintained 100% PM compliance

Mike Hoffmann, Director of Operations at J&L Fiber Services says, “ATS has improved key machine uptime at J&L and enabled us to focus on improving efficiency and throughput. ATS has also been able to repair many hard-to-find components that would have had key equipment down for prolonged periods of time.”

Advanced Technology Services (www.advancedtech.com)


Save time and cost by in-situ machining of large seal surfaces

During a scheduled maintenance outage, a power plant found that the steam generator man-way opening seals in a Class 1 pressure boundary area needed repair. The hemispherical head’s material properties proved extremely difficult to work with and the man-way was located in a tight space. A portable boring machine was adapted so it could be set up quickly, operate within the port’s extremely tight spaces, and perform a precise dry cut through the challenging material. The entire machining job was completed within a 24-hour time allotment.

Climax Portable Machine Tools (www.cpmt.com)

Minimize machine tool downtime with outsourced repairs of way covers

CNC machine tools may be taken out of production by worn, dirty, bent or corroded way covers, or covers damaged by lift trucks, falling parts or flying parts that weren’t properly secured in the machine tool. Way covers are shipped to an outside repair shop where they are analyzed for damage, quoted, repaired and shipped back to the company, usually the same day.

Hennig (www.ame.com)

Crew size for 24/7 operation minimized by CMMS

A 47 million gallon-per-year ethanol uses computerized maintenance, work order tracking, scheduling and inventory management to allow it to run 24/7 with very little downtime. Software tells the six-person in-house maintenance crew when and how to complete scheduled maintenance tasks, complete with safety procedures. Conscientious maintenance and production teams result in never having a total shutdown due to equipment failure.

Mapcon (www.mapcon.com)



Prevent catastrophic motor failures with current signature analysis

Current signature analysis (CSA) has become the standard for detecting broken rotor bars by analyzing the sidebands around line frequency. Another useful tool is demodulated current spectrum analysis (DCSA) that enhances the ability to detect broken rotor bars, especially on 2-pole motors. Our first case study will present a situation where CSA and DCSA were used to detect broken rotor bars on a two pole motor.

The polarization index (PI) is a standard metric for insulation testing. It’s a ratio of measured resistance at 10 minutes divided by the resistance measurement at 1 minute. This ratio reveals the general health of a motor’s insulation system. Plotting the resistance measurement at 5-second intervals produces a polarization index profile (PIP), which can be used for additional analysis of the insulation system that can’t be obtained from the standard polarization index.

Power quality is a measure of the quality of the motor’s voltage and current. Analyzing the harmonics, voltage and current unbalance, over- or under-voltage, and over-current conditions reveals what may be causing nuisance trips, voltage swells or sags, and other power system problems.

Routine EMAX testing of a 3,500 hp, 2-pole, 4,160-volt, 3,590-rpm AC induction motor revealed a 0.7419 dB peak level of the pole pass sideband, which exceeded the alarm setpoint of 0.3 dB. This suggested rotor bar problems, but vibration analysis indicated a healthy motor. In the face of this contradiction, the decision was made to monitor the motor and trend the test results.

The motor was retested periodically and the data indicated a 1,420% increase in the peak level of the pole pass sideband from 0.1814 dB at 3,591 rpm to 2.5851 dB at 3,592 rpm. Trending showed an exponential increase in the pole pass peak levels, which is indicative of at least one broken rotor bar. Also, load variation increased 275% from 0.855% to 2.345%. The load variation should be constant from test to test under normal operating and motor conditions. The current spectrum showed an increase in sideband activity around the fundamental frequency, which also indicated broken rotor bars.

The motor was pulled and a rotor influence check (RIC) test indicated a rotor anomaly. Upon disassembly, inspection revealed 22 of 51 rotor bars were broken or cracked. The root cause was bad brazing in the joints between the bars and end rings from a rotor repair performed several years earlier. The total cost to repair the motor again was $90,000, but had it run to failure, the cost would have been $370,000, a savings of $280,000.

A polarization index profile test on another motor showed a low PI value and short initial rise-time to a relatively low value overall. This is indicative of a damp insulation system. The insulation resistance for this motor should be at least 100 megohms and a PI value greater than 2.0. After the cables and components were dried, another PIP indicated a motor with a healthy insulation system. When insulation systems become contaminated, the PIP has a significant amount of spiking in the profile.

Initial testing on a third motor indicated voltage harmonics greater than 5% and full load amps (FLA) of 107%. The power distribution system was researched to identify the cause. A 480-volt, 2,500-KVA transformer was feeding eight motors and five DC drives. This suggested the DC drives themselves were degrading the power quality.

Further testing compared the difference between loaded and unloaded conditions. With no load, current harmonics (THD) were <2%, voltage harmonics were <1%, full load current of 105% of rated current, and the system voltage was 475 volts. When loaded, current harmonics (THD) > 5%, voltage harmonics >7%, full load current of 108% of rated current, and a system voltage drop of 21 volts.

A report was written and filed away. Then, the plant installed a microprocessor-based lock system for the loading dock. The system worked fine most of the time, but periodically the locks would open and close spontaneously. The vendor installed the system and it was under warranty. The controller manufacturer replaced several electronic cards and two complete controllers.

The plant realized the power feed for the controllers came from the motor control center that fed the problem motors and drives. A review of the earlier report suggested that line filters should be installed on one of the new controllers. The problem for the dock lock controller disappeared.

The lessons are that broken rotor bars can be detected using a battery of online and offline testing, a modification to the standard polarization index test is a benefit when analyzing the health of insulation systems, and that you can use power quality to analyze a power system and correct harmonics that motor drives introduce.

PDMA (www.pdma.com)


Increase quality production by identifying underperforming process control assets

Using real-time data directly from existing control systems, software focuses attention on underperforming components of the control system. By exceeding expected production targets and discovering hidden process performance opportunities, a A cracker operation is on track for a full return on investment within six months of start-up.

Expertune (www.expertune.com)

Reduce downtime by coordinating maintenance activities with reliability software

A steel company was able to bring together a wide range of equipment condition data, including maintenance inspections, operator rounds and online information, using reliability software. The more complete picture of equipment health and performance, online in real time, allows automatic tracking and alarming on asset condition, triggering online or email alerts and driving corrective work orders into the CMMS. Significant improvements in asset performance include an 88% reduction in downtime at the company’s rod mill and a 30% increase in meltshop throughput.

Ivara (www.ivara.com)

Improve refinery reliability with alarm rationalization

Years of configuring alarms at multiple levels without rationalization led to more than 5,000 tags configured with alarms, each having as many as six or more alarms. Managing alarms was becoming increasingly time-consuming and problematic for the process control team. Instead of embedding alarm management in a new DCS, the plant implemented a separate system to manage alarms for both new and existing DCSs. The plant performance level went from stable/reactive to robust in four months, with 261 tags rationalized.

Matrikon (www.matrikon.com)

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