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2007 Best Practices Awards

Feb. 20, 2007
Your votes determined which plant received our Best Practices Award in five different categories.

View top finishers by category:  Energy | Equipment| Management | Predictive | Software/Systems


Winner : Lighting retrofits lead efforts to conserve energy

During the next two years, 148 GE Industrial manufacturing plants and warehouses worldwide — 110 in the Americas, 36 in Europe and two in Asia — will undergo extensive lighting retrofits that could cut annual lighting energy costs an average of 50% at each facility.

Based on extensive energy-savings analysis conducted at 65 of the 148 facilities, the retrofit will allow each location, on an average annualized basis, to reduce energy consumption by 1.4 million KwH and realize approximately $86,000 in energy cost savings. Estimates for the completed 148-facility retrofit include reducing energy consumption by 210.5 million KwH and saving $12.8 million in energy costs, annually, when compared with the older lighting.

Another forecasted environmental benefit is producing 155,700 fewer metric tons of CO[-]2[-], which equates to the pollution from nearly 30,000 average-sized cars or the good that comes from planting more than 70 square miles of trees.

In August 2004, before GE launched its ecomagination environmental initiative, Jack Fish, vice president of global manufacturing, GE Consumer and Industrial, asked his team to devise a plan to cut energy costs by 20%. He wanted to counter forecast energy price increases that were sure to affect the profitability of GE Consumer and Industrial's Appliances, Lighting, Lighting Systems and Electrical Distribution operating units.

Conversations with plant managers and lighting executives kept returning to lighting retrofits, which the lighting unit had been promoting externally among customers as the fastest way to slow down watt-hour meters, and thereby cut wasteful spending on energy.

“An overall cost-of-light calculation used by the Lighting business sealed the deal,” notes Fish.

The calculation points out that as little as 4% of the overall cost of light may be attributable to the cost of lamps. Eight percent is commonly traced to installation and maintenance, while the majority, as much as 88%, represents energy consumption. (These percentages are approximations. Actual costs vary based on local electricity and labor rates, the nature of the facility, the type of lighting installed and other factors.)

“Very few GE Consumer and Industrial plants were using energy-efficient linear fluorescent lamps,” reports Fish. “We simply weren't taking our own good advice. Now, though, we're on track to achieve a 50% reduction in lighting energy consumption at these plants. That's two-and-a-half times our initial savings target.”

In many of the plants targeted for retrofits — 10 plants have been converted as of January 2006 — older technologies such as standard high-pressure sodium or standard metal halide lamps are the previous lamps of choice. Primary elements of each upgrade are six-lamp T8 High Bay linear fluorescent systems featuring UltraMax electronic ballasts, which cut power consumption by more than 50% — from 465 to 220 watts per fixture at the ballast. This energy-saving choice also dramatically upgrades the quality of light. With the new T8 lamps, the color-rendering index (CRI) climbs to 80 from 22 CRI for standard high-pressure sodium lamps or 65 CRI for standard metal halide lamps. The horizontal foot-candle measurement — how wide light spreads out as it's projected from a fixture — more than triples.
General Electric, www.gelighting.com.
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Runners up

Save energy with synthetic oils

In a variety of common industrial machines, including compressors and gearboxes, synthetic oil improves energy efficiency between 1% and 14% compared to mineral oils. For example, a 60-hp gearbox uses 7.5% less energy with synthetic oil, giving an annual energy savings of $1,904 at 6 cents per kWh.
Anderol, www.anderol.com.
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Save energy by coating worn pump internal surfaces

A large water treatment facility restored worn and corroded centrifugal pump internal surfaces with sandblasting and low-friction coatings applied in the field during pump rebuilds. Tests performed on a 75-hp Goulds pump in the facility showed energy efficiency improved 18% by refurbishing (from 64% to 82%) Devcon, www.devcon.com.
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Purifying compressor oil saves energy and maintenance

An ultra-fine particle filtration and ion-exchange acid adsorption system on a rotary-screw air compressor extended fluid life more than three times, separator life more than two-and-a-half times, and reduced energy consumption an estimated 3%, yielding a 125% ROI and a payback of less than 10 months.
Fluid Metrics, www.fluidmetrics.com.
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Replacing V-belt with synchronous belt drives saves energy and maintenance

Air-conditioning V-belt drives were failing prematurely because of excessive sheave wear. Replacing them with non-slip synchronous belt drives reduced maintenance and parts-replacement costs and produced energy savings of 8%, resulting in a payback of six months.
Gates, www.gates.com.
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System approach improves efficiency and compressed air quality

A plant consolidated 400 hp of air compressor capacity into an engineered system including storage, air treatment and controls. On startup, the new system used about 175 hp, a 50% reduction in power consumption. Data from the control system led to further energy savings and consumption is now down to 130 hp to 140 hp.
Kaeser, www.kaeser.com.
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Save energy with a high-turndown boiler

A plant replaced bent-tube atmospheric boilers (maximum efficiency 75% to 80% at 100% output) with a high-efficiency, high turndown boiler (efficiency 85% or higher at loads from 35% to 100%). The plant experienced a 30% increase in per-therm productivity and 23% decrease in gas usage per pound of product.
Miura Boiler, www.miuraboiler.com.
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Winner: Reliable pH sensor improves product, process and profits

As a member of the Degussa Fine Chemicals Division, Raylo’s Edmonton, Alberta facility is Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) certified. All the production equipment must be tested and certified, which involves a strict qualification process for regulatory compliance and regular audits by the U.S. FDA. “The majority of our business involves exports to the United States. If we don’t receive FDA approval, we will go out of business,” says Rob Pastushak, senior technical supervisor of pharmaceutical manufacturing for Raylo. “We must clearly demonstrate that we control every aspect of our manufacturing process at all times, and that our instruments are properly calibrated on a regular basis.”

To assure consistent product quality and maximize batch yields, Raylo launched an effort in 2003 to improve the efficiency of its manufacturing process. Pastushak focused on pH measurement.

“Measuring pH was a problem at that time because of the unreliability of our pH sensors. They simply could not hold up under the aggressive chemicals that we use, such as hydrobromic acid,” Pastushak says. “The organic solvent constituent caused the probe’s O-rings to degrade during the most critical point of the process. In many cases, three probes, at approximately $600 per probe, would fail while processing just one batch.” Once the O-ring degraded, the pH probes no longer provided accurate readings.

To resolve the pH measurement issue, Pastushak researched several probes and decided to test the Foxboro 871PH Series sensor, from the Measurements and Instruments Division of Invensys Process Systems. The 871 is a rebuildable pH probe that incorporates patented technology from the award-winning Foxboro DolpHin pH sensor line.

Raylo put the Foxboro 871PH through extensive testing before integrating the unit into the manufacturing process. During an initial one-month test, Raylo discovered that the 871PH allowed them to control pH faster because it adjusted to solution changes more quickly. “The results have been consistent from batch to batch,” says Pastushak. “As soon as we add a solution to adjust pH, the probe responds immediately and provides the new pH reading. We’ve found it to be accurate within 0.03 pH units, which is well within our target limits.

“We can now complete a pH adjustment in three hours rather than the 18 hours to 24 hours it previously took,” says Pastushak. “And we no longer have to take 40 samples to the lab to confirm measurement accuracy — we only take one, as a matter of quality assurance protocol.”

The 871PH sensor also is very durable, according to Pastushak. “The one we deployed two years ago looks like it did the day we bought it,” he says. “All we do is clean it after each use. The Ryton bodies are holding up extremely well. They display no degradation, pitting or corrosion, even though we run the gamut of pH ranges, solvents and aggressive conditions."

During the past two years, Raylo has replaced three legacy probes within its manufacturing process and plans to replace three more. The company has a second manufacturing facility with 15 probes that will eventually be swapped out.
Invensys, www.foxboro.com.
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Runners up

Deter droppings without harming birds

Clear plastic spiked strips disrupt roosting patterns. Less roosting leads to fewer birds and droppings.
Bird-X, www.bird-x.com.
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Reduce extrusion press downtime with wear-resistant alloy ways

Aluminum-bronze extrusion press ways at a refractory powder manufacturing facility required regular adjustments to compensate for wear, and replacement every two years. Replacement ways made of ToughMet 2 CX90 last at least twice as long and require fewer adjustments. The new ways are saving hours of adjustments and one day of planned shutdown per year to replace the ways.
Brush Wellman, www.brushwellman.com.
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Improve product consistency with conditioned steam

Starter medium for agriculture experiments was inconsistent because of carryover chemical contamination during steam sterilization. The facility installed steam filters that remove condensed liquids, 100% of visible particles, and 98% of particles at or larger than 0.01 micron, resulting in cleaner, more consistent product.
Parker, www.parker.com.
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Prevent early failures with misalignment-tolerant adaptor-mounted bearings

An aggregate plant experienced high incidence of conveyor bearing failures because of misalignment of adaptor-mounted bearings. Bearings that operate normally with larger misalignments reduced failures and speeded installation.
Rexnord, www.rexnord.com.
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Simplify process equipment heating with dedicated controllers

A PLC-based heat sterilization system can be replaced with dedicated controllers that combine the functions of a PID process controller, over-temperature limit protection, solid state relay power switching, heat sinking, mechanical contactor power disconnect, profile ramp and soak in one compact package with embedded code, reducing cost and streamlining FDA validation.
Watlow, www.watlow.com.
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Minimize production downtime by contracting for grooved piping

A large steel mill minimized production downtime required for rebuilding a continuous caster by contracting with a piping supplier that used a grooved piping system. The contractor met a compressed time schedule and minimized lost revenue associated with the 42-day shutdown.
Victaulic, www.victaulic.com.
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Winner: Reliability excellence cuts maintenance costs 25% at Alcoa plant

Alcoa’s Warrick Primary Metals has been in continual production since 1960, today producing 265,000 metric tons of primary metals for beverage and food cans and other flat-rolled aluminum products. The plant’s 2003 base-case maintenance costs were high compared to other Alcoa facilities, averaging almost 15% higher on a per-metric-ton basis.

The company’s lean manufacturing system was producing results, but sustainability continued to be an issue because of unreliable equipment and unstable processes. The company engaged Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) and the Ron Moore Group (RM Group) to produce an Alcoa-focused Reliability Excellence Process, deployed in three “waves.”

Wave 1 commenced in June 2003 with RM Group imploring key plant leaders to take an “asset owner” philosophy. This approach focuses on accountability. Wave 2 followed in August 2003 with a full Reliability Excellence assessment using LCE’s Rx Methodology. LCE conducted interviews with more than 90 operations and maintenance constituents, both hourly and salaried. The results were a detailed financial impact analysis, including costs and return on investment (ROI) scenarios related to improvements in maintenance, and an implementation plan designed to close gaps in maintenance processes and practices.

Wave 3 took hold in September 2003 with operations and maintenance teams leading the plan implementation. Operations and maintenance leadership held an employee education program, explaining new roles and responsibilities under the new Reliability Excellence Process. Training workshops on reliability enhancement techniques were held, and maintenance processes and performance measures were established and communicated.

As a result of the three-wave reliability process, Alcoa determined that accountability for asset ownership and plant performance should rest with its operations teams. Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) measures were established by examining historical plant equipment performance levels to determine optimum capabilities. Operations and maintenance teams worked together to apply OEE measures within each work function in the smelting plant. OEE goal setting identified more than $8 million in potential annual savings.

Alcoa redefined its maintenance planning approach, placing increased emphasis on proactive programs and processes. Operations and maintenance teams met regularly to review needs, determine priorities and schedule needed maintenance. Improved communication enabled operations teams to have direct input into when jobs were scheduled and worked.

Three maintenance schedulers were added to improve the ratio of crafts personnel to maintenance planners from 35:1 to 20:1, further enhancing the company’s ability to carry out proactive maintenance.

The plant also revamped its parts and tools distribution, moving from a decentralized to a centralized model. It now prepares work kits for each maintenance job to ensure that maintenance teams have everything they need to complete a job on schedule.

Alcoa established a documentation section on its information technology server and began to develop “bad boy” lists of equipment with performance issues. This further enhanced planned maintenance activities by enabling operations and maintenance equipment reliability teams (ERTs) to better prioritize maintenance by identifying its effect on production.

The process has reduced maintenance costs 25% from the 2003 base period to 2006, and a cost savings of $5.7 million in 2006 through improved equipment and process stability. Cumulative maintenance and reliability cost savings since 2003 have produced a return on investment of 16 to 1.
Life Cycle Engineering, www.lce.com.
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Runners up

Use a service contractor to overhaul practices

Under a pay-for-performance contract at an electronic components factory, MTBF was increased more than 100% from Q1 to Q2; the preventive/corrective ratio average increased 17% year over year; and there were no accidents in the service organization.
ABB Services, www.abb.com/service.
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Shop-floor displays communicate with production

Electronic displays at a build-to-order electric motor manufacturer connect operations, engineering, quality and maintenance to communicate production instructions, provide real-time quality alerts and collect operator feedback about production problems and suggestions for improvements.
Baldor, www.baldor.com.
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Perform steam surveys with clamp-on flowmeters

The economics of expanding a multiple-building facility depended on a centralized steam system. A survey using clamp-on flowmeters gave the critical information needed to account for any additional development costs without interrupting steam service.
GE Sensing, www.gesensing.com.
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Forklift-mounted cycle counting system ends inventories

Inventory checks via mobile computers during normal parts picking improves accuracy and shows potential to eliminate physical inventories. A plastic closure manufacturing facility has gone from quarterly physical inventories (35 people and one day of lost production) to a single year-end inventory.
Glacier Computer, www.glaciercomputer.com.
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Rebuild and upgrade instead of buying new equipment

Drive systems and controls on an unreliable horizontal boring machine were redesigned and rebuilt in-house. Compared to a replacement machine at about $500,000, cash outlay for new components was $50,000. Downtime was reduced from 40% to 5% with much higher machining accuracy. Payback was less than one year.
Larson & Toubro, www.larsontoubro.com.
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Winner: Detect thermal problems with online non-contact IR thermometry

Thermal monitoring systems employing noncontact infrared (IR) sensors can measure temperature just about anywhere on the factory floor. These versatile devices measure and accumulate real-time data, and are well suited for environments with moving targets, inaccessible objects and high temperatures. An IR thermometer has no energy interference (thus, no energy is lost from the target), and no risk of contamination or mechanical effect.

IR sensors incorporating a miniature sensing head and separate electronics can be located in confined spaces close to hazardous process areas. They are able to withstand ambient temperatures as high as 180° C without any cooling, and cover measurement ranges from approximately -40°C to 600°C.

Unlike standard thermocouples, IR sensors don’t require any type of electrical isolation. The sensors can provide 20:1 optical resolution (a 1 in. diameter target can be measured from a 20 in. distance), avoiding the danger of accidental contact with high-voltage equipment.

For example, IR sensors allow maintenance staff to check for heat produced by loose electrical connectors or corrosion buildup; locate problems in battery banks and power panel terminations, ballasts, switch gear and fuse connections; and identify hot spots.

In a typical plant application, maintenance workers might use an IR-based thermometer to monitor the performance of a motor driving an air conditioning unit. Installing a permanent sensor makes it easier to detect overheated bearings or other hot spots and implement true predictive maintenance procedures.

IR sensors also can be used to keep track of electrical phase temperatures affecting motors, pumps, belt drives and other machinery. By continually monitoring phase temperatures, technicians can detect overload conditions on one or more phases, as well as identify phase distortion or imbalance.

As power demand rises in data centers and manufacturing plants, their electrical switchgear and distribution components need to handle the increased load. Currently, many companies perform annual thermography scans for predictive maintenance. But at some point between normal maintenance intervals, system components may reach a premature limit. Continuous thermal monitoring solutions with trending and graphing capabilities enable technicians to review temperature data, decide how well equipment is performing and look for problems occurring under specific operating conditions or during certain production periods.

Continuous thermal monitoring provides a safer, non-intrusive alternative for equipment inspection. With traditional physical maintenance, there always is a chance of an accident causing failure of the equipment or putting personnel in harm’s way. In the worst-case scenario, a technician can be killed from an accident or arc flash. Noncontact thermal monitoring eliminates concerns about electrical isolation, insulation and EMI flashover associated with contact probes. IR sensors can accurately measure temperature without contacting the surface of the target.

In the case of electrical switchgear, thermal measurements are sometimes limited to snapshot scans through a glass observation window ­ a safety interlock will disable the unit if its enclosure door is opened. IR sensors allow precise temperature readings to be taken without accessing the equipment and under full load conditions.

Thermal monitoring systems can provide alarms alerting operators when maximum temperature levels have been reached. Reviewing alarms and/or trend data can highlight a problem before it grows into an expensive failure or catastrophic event.
Raytek, www.raytek.com.
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Alarm and event archiving speeds recovery from unplanned shutdowns

A North American energy producer’s SCADA system couldn’t provide accurate event time stamp of the alarms or store the alarms for later use, noticeably increasing recovery time from an unplanned shutdown. The company implemented a system to store and view alarm and event data from the sequence-of-events recorder in its PLC controls system. The ability to store and view events lets maintenance personnel accurately and expediently troubleshoot the system. Easy access to data lets engineers provide confident support, reducing maintenance, downtime and lost revenue.
Matrikon, www.matrikon.com.
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Monitor machine tool spindles to prevent out-of-spec products

Recognizing that out-of-tolerance production is worse than an unplanned outage, an engine component plant is piloting vibration-based condition-monitoring systems on machine tool spindles. The pilot is intended to determine how far in advance bearing damage can be detected, reduce stoppages caused by bearing or other machine-induced failure (i.e. unbalance, misalignment, resonance), compare predictive to time-based and run-to-failure strategies, and increase knowledge about design and implementation of spindle-monitoring systems.
SKF, www.skf.com.
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Monitor machine tool cells with a centralized PC-based SCADA system

An engine plant installed PC-based cell controllers to monitor CNC machine tool operations and alarms, and bring information into production monitoring, control and annunciation systems. Alarms are processed and sent to display boards for immediate attention by service personnel, and equipment functions are monitored plant-wide for analysis and process improvements.
Siemens, www.siemens.com.
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Winner: Reduce inventory costs with automated cribs

Vending machines have long been used as a vital element in tool management. Expanding on the concept, automated crib-based systems designed specifically for MRO parts and maintenance can help substantially reduce inventory, save floor space and minimize crib labor costs while ensuring that costs are being charged for jobs where they are used.

In a traditional maintenance crib, tools and parts are dispensed from storage areas known as cribs. Sometimes the cribs are manned, which means that employees must sign for the materials they use. At other times, materials are left for employees to take as they need them: a situation that can lead to inaccurate inventories, waste and sometimes even theft.

An automated crib-based system is managed every step of the way. The entire inventory of MRO parts and tools can be stored in vertical lifts capable of storing parts as large as 2,000 lbs. “When a person needs a part, they go to the system and input their ID,” explains Tom Jamieson, president of ShelfPlus.

“Once recognized as authorized, the employee uses a touch-screen to specify the part/tool they need. The system then releases it, the employee takes it, and then gets back to work.”
By requiring the employee to log in every time they need material, a maintenance department can accurately track which parts are being used for which machines/orders. This not only ensures accurate job costing, but it generates an easily-retrievable audit trail for budgeting true costs. Detailed reports show where products are being used and who is under and over budget, and give detailed information about each item's history.

As well, “When Bill takes out a $2,500 PLC controller from the crib, we know that he took it at 7 a.m. and used it on Press 27 at 8:45 a.m.,” says Larry Harper, president of WinWare. “Automated tracking allows plants to accurately track parts on-hand, and to minimize time lost due to out-of-stocks.” Experience has shown that when parts and tools are tracked to each job and department, inventory cost reductions can be expected in the range of 15% to 20%.

“What really amazes people when they first install it is the amount of floor space saved. One CompuCRIB can store the capacity of more than 50 sections of shelving,” says Gary Ash with Regal Tooling. By using vertical space, the system decreases floor space requirements, and large, high-load-capacity shelves can safely store large parts.

One of the big issues in managing any multi-shift maintenance crib is how to staff the crib on second and third shifts. Many plants struggle with balancing the cost of manning the crib versus using an open crib and facing inaccurate inventory levels. Automated cribs solve this problem. Plant maintenance personnel have direct access to parts and supplies by password security. Each transaction is monitored and recorded with a time and date stamp, allowing control of an unmanned supply crib. A video monitoring system ensures accuracy and control of the entire system.

So how much money can plants save using automated crib systems? “Overall, we estimate that plants with some form of electronic parts management system can save 20% by adding our system,” says Cribmaster’s Larry Harper. “Those plants that are stilling using a manual system can save up to 40%.”
ShelfPlus Automated Storage Concepts, www.compucrib.com
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Use an EAM system to improve performance

A cement plant expanded the scope and functionality of its CMMS system to reduce inventory and improve maintenance efficiency. Inventory has been reduced $2 million, equipment utilization is up, and preventive procedures for emission controls have been validated, which provides proof of emission control abatement and avoids significant fines.
Avantis, www.avantis.net.
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Leverage a single hosted EAM system over multiple plants

A multi-plant paper company replaced a variety of maintenance management systems and integrated procurement with its corporate system using a hosted enterprise asset management (EAM) application. The paper company estimates savings of $500,000 over five years using the hosted application and shared-services inventory system. It also has reduced inventories and has better leverage on money spent for high-volume items.
Indus, www.indus.com.
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Streamline shutdowns by integrating planning, scheduling and tracking

To keep daily maintenance and shutdowns on track, a nuclear generation facility tightly integrated its scheduling system with its planning and cost-tracking system. The integration helped reduce refueling outages from 50 days to 25 days, saving $450,000 per day in lost revenue. When an unplanned outage occurs, the plant can synchronize systems quickly and build an accurate schedule for repairs.
Impress Software, www.impress.com
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