How to Tackle the
Most of us agree that training is essential to an
effective maintenance operation. But how good are your instructional
programs? Typical training deficiencies include:
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:
- 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
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.
- Don't concentrate "expert power" in a few people. Spread the
- 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.
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
Maintenance Tip No. 2
Misuse of WD-40 is a widespread practice. Although
is an excellent lubricant that is useful in many ways, it just
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
pressure or in heat. Yes, it will "fix" a sticky breaker (for a while).
But here's what else happens:
WD-40 is an excellent product. However, like any lubricant, it has
limitations. Respect your equipment by respecting those limits.
- It attracts dust that would not otherwise be there.
- After a short period -- perhaps just hours -- it's been
out by pressure or evaporated by heat.
- The dust remains behind in the now unlubricated
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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
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
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
maintenance responds to the failure alert and ends when the equipment
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
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,
tools, drawings, and a troubleshooting guide may cost a few bucks to
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
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
NEC in the
Do you have heat tracing? If so, you need either:
- Ground fault protection, or
- An alarm indication of ground faults if the two conditions of
Each shipment of an industrial chemical comes with an
MSDS, which you may be tempted to throw away because "we already have
MSDS for this." Keep in mind that MSDS can change. That's why you get a
new one with each shipment.
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
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
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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