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October 25, 2007 A Penton Media Publication Vol. III No. 20

How to Tackle the Training Deficit

Circuit Breaker Maintenance Tip No.1

Circuit Breaker Maintenance Tip No. 2

Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

Common Repair Mistakes, Part 1

NEC in the Facility


Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz


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    How to Tackle the Training Deficit
    Most of us agree that training is essential to an effective maintenance operation. But how good are your instructional programs? Typical training deficiencies include:
    • Two or three "stars" get the lion's share of training.
    • Managers attend offsite training under the "teach-the-teacher" concept, but then are too busy to instruct others.
    • Backshift workers (usually the most junior) have the least support when something goes wrong but are last in line for training.
    • Rather than being fully educated to do a particular job, people get a hodgepodge of unfocused training they soon forget.
    • You regularly see mistakes that properly trained people wouldn't make.
    Being methodical and focused solves equipment problems. Tackle "knowledge-deficiency" issues the same way. One effective tool is the training matrix. Training matrix tips include:
    • Don't concentrate "expert power" in a few people. Spread the wealth.
    • Rather than make senior people the experts on everything, make everyone an expert on something.
    • Develop two "experts" for each piece of critical equipment, with different experts for different equipment.
    • For each individual, focus on one area at a time so that training sessions build on each other. For example, Joe trains in power quality until he's completed all PQ cells in the matrix. Mary trains in PLCs until she's completed all PLC cells.
    Employees who resist improving their skills will drag your organization down. Talk with your HR rep about how to stop wasting training dollars (and possibly wages) on those people.

    Circuit Breaker Maintenance Tip No.1
    Use the manufacturer's recommended lubricant, not "whatever's handy." Mixing lubricants can be worse than not lubricating at all. Consult a lubrication compatibility chart, which you can find online.

    Circuit Breaker Maintenance Tip No. 2
    Misuse of WD-40 is a widespread practice. Although WD-40 is an excellent lubricant that is useful in many ways, it just shouldn't be used in some ways -- especially in circuit breakers. As a light lubricant, it doesn't have a carrier to retain it in the mechanism under pressure or in heat. Yes, it will "fix" a sticky breaker (for a while). But here's what else happens:
    1. It attracts dust that would not otherwise be there.
    2. After a short period -- perhaps just hours -- it's been squeezed out by pressure or evaporated by heat.
    3. The dust remains behind in the now unlubricated mechanism.
    WD-40 is an excellent product. However, like any lubricant, it has limitations. Respect your equipment by respecting those limits.

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    Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    A stamping press has been stopping for no apparent reason. You look in the PLC log and notice more than a dozen light curtain interruptions. The light curtain has been calibrated three times, and the operators insist their hands were nowhere near it. There are also several high-temperature triggers. The log shows that die coolant temperature was 600°F one minute and normal the next. What is the most likely problem?

    The answer to this question appears at the end of this newsletter.

    Common Repair Mistakes, Part 1
    During a repair, have you ever counted the trips back and forth for parts, materials, manuals, and tools? While equipment is down, it's not making money. And while repair techs are walking back and forth, they aren't doing repairs.

    If you calculate those trips and add up the minutes spent walking, you may be shocked at how much "repair time" isn't spent on repairs. Make sure it's an accurate assessment. The repair time clock starts when maintenance responds to the failure alert and ends when the equipment is back in service.

    Next, multiply this walking time by the revenue-per-hour of whatever equipment is down. That's how much revenue that walking costs your company. The wages of idle operators and repair techs push the total cost even higher.

    To reduce this cost, determine the reason for each trip. Then, find a different way to satisfy that reason so you eliminate that trip.

    Tip: Place fully stocked repair kits near critical equipment. A well-planned locker with specific tools, test equipment, fasteners, hand tools, drawings, and a troubleshooting guide may cost a few bucks to set up. You may also spend a few more bucks to stock it with spare parts needed for the three most likely repairs. Even so, this costs less than the downtime.

    Rather than wait for critical equipment to fail so you can troubleshoot the repair process (which is a problem anyhow, because the focus is elsewhere), save your company money by doing a dry run. Go out on the floor and physically walk through each step. Brainstorm ways to eliminate trips for parts, tools, etc. Don't do a big write up "back-at-the-office." Instead, record every problem and idea as you go (you can review it later). If you think you don't have time to do this, look at those lost revenue numbers. Even if you leave noncritical equipment down while "rehearsing," there are few better ways to use your time.

    NEC in the Facility
    Do you have heat tracing? If so, you need either:

    1. Ground fault protection, or
    2. An alarm indication of ground faults if the two conditions of 427.22 are met.

    Each shipment of an industrial chemical comes with an MSDS, which you may be tempted to throw away because "we already have an MSDS for this." Keep in mind that MSDS can change. That's why you get a new one with each shipment.

    Quiz Answer
    Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    The normal rule of troubleshooting PLC problems is to start with the control elements (seldom is the malfunction in the PLC). But this appears to be an input problem. The false triggers on the light curtain indicate a bad photo eye or light source and possibly a cabling issue. The wild swings in temperature input point to a cabling issue. The most likely problem is inductive coupling.

    One fix is to reroute the cable. However, this doesn't prevent a recurrence. Install a signal converter near the temperature sensor for a 4mA to 20mA loop. Putting all direct sensor signal lines on 4mA to 20mA loops will prevent similar problems with other inputs.

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