MRO Magazine

Big Changes Begin

MRO Magazine   

Human Resources Machinery and Equipment Maintenance

This article is part of an ongoing series. The introduction appeared in Machinery & Equipment MRO's February 2005 issue and the series has run in every issue since. Previous instalments are archiv...

This article is part of an ongoing series. The introduction appeared in Machinery & Equipment MRO’s February 2005 issue and the series has run in every issue since. Previous instalments are archived online at In this issue, we pick up where we left off in our February 2007 issue, as maintenance manager Bob Edwards and his team at the Plentya Paper Company wrap up a meeting to discuss various maintenance methodologies.

The meeting had gone much better than I could ever have hoped for, as most of our guys clearly understood the principles of some of the maintenance tactics — even if they didn’t know the jargon. So it was with anticipation that I waited as John, our vibration analysis consultant, came into the mill early the next morning to set up the parameters for the pulper gearbox that had failed a couple of months ago.

“Hi Bob,” he said. “I hope that work with the ultrasonic helped the cause the other week.”

“More than you can imagine,” I replied. “We’re all-go again and we’ve started the education process for the guys. That reminds me, is there any way you could put together a little session on predictive maintenance for us?”


“Sure, just let me know how deep you want to go. But first, let’s get this gearbox set up in the system. Where’s the guy who’s coming with me?” asked John.

I took him to meet Ivan in the stock prep area.

“Hi Ivan, maybe you can talk to John about the PMs today, and take a walk around the equipment,” I suggested as they set off to look at the pulper gearbox.

I dropped by Carol’s desk as I returned to my office. “I was serious about the reliability position I offered to you,” I said. “Do you really want to get more involved? The guys seem to respect your knowledge, so you’re halfway there.”

“I was serious too,” Carol replied. “Why do think I take all of these courses — I’ll never know as much as the guys about how to fix the equipment, but there’s no reason I can’t know at least as much, if not more, about the new technologies and techniques.”

“You’re right, but to switch subjects, how are the work orders going?” I asked. “Are we receiving any more?”

“Yes we are, and more importantly, when we get them back there’s a lot more information on them. We’re beginning to develop some interesting trends. For instance, we seem to be repairing the seals on the pump in the wastewater pit every couple of weeks. I wouldn’t have noticed before, but now that we’re getting the work orders, it sticks out like a sore thumb.”

“That’s nice to know, but what are we going to do about it. Isn’t the point of measuring to change something? “I replied. “Let’s get Dave to take a close look at what’s happening — he likes to get involved. In fact, I’ll pop down and talk with him now — I noticed he was building a pump in the shop.”

On the way to the shop, I met Joe, our plant manager, who reminded me that he still needed a business case if we were going to invest in any new technologies. “As I said, Bob, I’m going to have to have something to support our decision.”

Just that sentence made me feel both excited and a little scared; Joe had taken some ownership for the decision to move forward with condition-based maintenance, so there would be no turning back now.

As I arrived at the shop, Dave was finishing off the assembly of the pump. “How’s it going, Dave?” I started. “Carol tells me we’re having a lot of problems with the wastewater pump.”

“Yes, the mechanical seals are failing every month or so,” he replied. “I’m pretty sure it’s nothing to do with the seal or with the way it’s installed. I’ve followed all of the installation instructions very carefully. It seems to fail the same way each time — the face of the seal just cracks.”

“Maybe we should get the seal supplier in to take a look,” I suggested.

“Like I said, Bob, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the seal. I think you should get the pump manufacturer in to find out if they have seen this before,” said Dave.

“Why would I call them in? You’re the guy that knows the most about the problem,” I answered.

“And I’m the guy that has to keep changing the pump! Okay, I’ll call the rep today,” replied Dave.

I set off to find John and Ivan to see how they were making out with the pulper gearbox. But when I got there, they were nowhere to be found, so I thought I’d go back and talk with Carol about what Dave was going to do. I also wanted to follow up with her about her upcoming presentation on predictive maintenance. When I got back to Carol’s office, I was surprised to find Ivan, John and Carol studying drawings and manuals.

“What exactly am I missing?” I asked, a little upset that the three of them were obviously deciding without me what the next step should be with the pulper gearbox.

“Ivan and John wanted to look at the drawings and manual for the pulper gearbox so they could determine exactly what they are looking for,” replied Carol.

“This really is a complicated piece of equipment,” said John. “You have the frequencies from the drive motor, the hydraulic coupling and all of the different components of the gearbox. If you want to monitor it for vibration, all of these will have to be detailed to help with the analysis. The other point you need to decide on is how often you want to take measurements.”

“We’ll need to talk about that and the rolls on the paper machine,” I answered. “How did you decide the frequency for your other customers?”

“Well, it was a joint decision, because it depends on history, criticality, probability, risk tolerance and last but certainly not least, cost,” said John. “There’s no cookie-cutter answer, Bob, but from what I’ve seen so far, you might even want to consider on-line monitoring for some of your pieces of equipment, even though most companies consider it expensive.”

“I think we need to sit down and go over the options — and soon. Can you stay behind on Monday after the presentation — which reminds me, Carol will be helping with the presentation so maybe you want to talk about that today,” I suggested.

“Ivan has been asking me about how he can start to monitor the pumps in stock prep. He says there are more than 100 pumps there so you may want to prioritize the ones you want to monitor. I have a small device that gives overall vibration readings. You can’t really analyze with it but it does tell if there’s an increase in vibration. I can lend it to you for a week or so,” offered John.

“Great, I’ll take it!” exclaimed Ivan, obviously beginning to feel part of the movement. “But what will I do with the results?”

“I’ll set up a spreadsheet on the computer down in the shop and you can just plug in the numbers,” said Carol. “Once you’ve decided what pumps you want to measure, I’ll change the PM to reflect that. We’ll also have to decide what the limit is for this measurement so we can react, and we should determine what we need to do when we hit that limit and I can put that on the PM.”

“Hang on a minute,” I cried out. “We’re just borrowing the device so let’s see if it will help us out before making all of these changes.” I was beginning to feel a little irritated that everyone else was taking responsibility and making decisions for things I would normally take care of.

“Sorry Bob,” said Carol. “I thought that you would welcome Ivan getting involved. My part would only take about five minutes to set up.”

“I do, but I need to keep control or who knows what will be going on,” I replied as I left for my office.

When I got back to my desk, I started to reflect on why I had gotten so upset with Carol, John and Ivan looking at the manuals, and why I didn’t want Carol and Ivan taking the initiatives without me. I realized that the idea of getting everyone involved had really appealed to me, but in reality I wasn’t so comfortable giving up my control and authority, as it had taken me years to get them.

It dawned on me that not only were our tactics goi
ng to change, and the way the guys were involved would change, but my role and the dynamics between me and the group would be the biggest change and challenge for me — unless I was prepared to let go of some responsibility. I called Carol on the phone to make sure that Ivan and John were still with her and headed back to her office.

“Carol, you should go ahead with the spreadsheet and PM changes. It’s a great idea and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ivan found. This whole thing is beginning to take on a life of its own and I need to adjust to it,” I said. I then explained what I had been thinking about in my office.

“I hope I can keep up with you guys,” I thought out loud as I left them to it.

Key Points

* You don’t have to use complicated programs to start. Overall readings and a spreadsheet will do the job.

* As you move to world-class maintenance, the only constant will be change. Be prepared and open for it, as you never know where and when it is going to arise.

Cliff Williams is the maintenance manager for Wrigley Canada, in Toronto, Ont., and a consultant with TMS Total Maintenance Solutions of Markham, Ont. He can be reached at


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