Industrial, Service, Maintenance, Industrial Solutions, Industrial Contractor, Electrical, Maintenance, Renfrow Industrial

Take Baby Steps on Industrial Internet of Things

Collect usable data as the first step toward effective analysis.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) offers manufacturing organizations almost unimaginable potential to change the way managers and operators do their jobs by connecting production equipment to the cloud. In fact, Accenture, the global management consulting and professional services firm, has forecast that IIoT could add as much as $14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030 by increasing productivity and detecting production problems early, while they can be corrected efficiently and economically.

For many, figuring out how to install the sensors and interconnections necessary to link all their hardware to a central database can seem like an overwhelming and expensive prospect. Large manufacturers typically have the ability to invest in implementing facility-wide or enterprise level IIoT platforms. Small to medium-sized organizations, however, often feel hamstrung by far smaller IT budgets and staffs, as well as by management’s unwillingness to accept the temporary disruptions to production a facility-wide conversion to IIoT might cause.

First things first

For manufacturing organizations like these, consider the “baby steps approach,” sometimes also called a discrete implementation. Essentially, this means that, early on, it’s important to stop worrying so much about uploading lots of data to the cloud and doing trending analysis, but focus instead on collecting usable data from equipment where it wasn’t being collected before. Think about taking on one small project at a time and mastering it before moving on to the next challenge.

This approach to IIoT focuses on making progress incrementally in a way that doesn’t come with the same financial, personnel or workflow interruption consequences that larger systems would. It offers a more realistic and economical starting point for many smaller manufacturing organizations. Starting with one specific application, rather than trying to apply IIoT to the whole facility, makes implementing IIoT far more manageable and affordable. What’s more, it forces managers to focus on a specific problem, ensuring a quick payback on the effort. By providing a fast return on a modest investment, it also inspires confidence that future steps will provide equally positive results.

Compressed air is an expensive resource in any manufacturing facility, so monitoring the performance of the compressed air system is a good first step in a discrete implementation of IIoT. Keeping these systems operating at peak efficiency offers big payback because losses due to leakage waste lots of energy. Inline sensors can be installed to monitor compressed air system variables such as pressure, flow, humidity, temperature and power consumption. Once collected, this data can be sent to a platform for conversion into a form that’s useful to the maintenance team. This data collection point can be the start for a facility-wide system for monitoring leakage and other system losses.

Five ways to think small about IIoT

Keeping these five tactics in mind can simplify the early stages of IIoT implementation for small to medium-sized companies:

1. Make your first bite a nibble, not a gulp. In just about every organization, the larger the budget for a project, the more people who must approve it and the more intense the payback monitoring will be. However, it can be tough to show a return on investment (ROI) quickly with an IIoT implementation because the implementation team is learning as they go. Rather than asking for all the money up front, it’s easier to ask for a few hundred dollars to cover the cost of some smart sensors, demonstrate the value of the information they deliver, and build management confidence in the concept.

2. Focus on the biggest trouble spots. Take the time to review maintenance records to determine which machines or processes in your facility represent the most significant sources of maintenance problems. These are the points where you should begin collecting data. Equipment with hard-to-find parts or difficult or expensive to repair also should be at the top of your list, as well as any machines that could represent a danger to personnel or other pieces of equipment if they fail because a problem went undetected.

3. Determine what you need to monitor to improve that asset’s operating efficiency. Component parameters such as temperature, pressure, humidity and vibration provide important clues that can indicate an asset’s condition and spot trouble before it happens. Collect the pertinent data and take a methodical approach to using this information. Assume that you’ve installed some smart sensors to monitor the voltage level of one of the components of a specific piece of equipment; an elevated voltage over an extended period might be an indication of future problems.

The next step is to decide how frequently this data should be reported back to the controller. Too long of an interval runs the risk of missing a fast-emerging problem, making it impossible to react in a timely way. Too short an interval can generate a flood of data that’s never analyzed and never used.

4. Choose a robust internet infrastructure. The solution chosen should include a centralized collection server capable of receiving and transmitting data from all the sensors and other devices that could eventually be integrated into the network.

One method of data transmission is through the programmable logic controller (PLC), which is easy to implement. Choosing the right protocol to connect sensors with controllers and actuators is critical to the success of any IIoT implementation. IO-Link is a cost-effective open communications protocol that supports simple, scalable, point-to-point communications between sensors or actuators and the controller. It also allows two-way communications to receive data and then download a parameter to the device/actuator.

As a result, processes can be adjusted remotely. The advantages of IO-Link include the automatic detection and parameterization of the IO-Link device, device monitoring, diagnostics, changes on the fly and reduced spare part costs. Ultimately, the key to unlocking the power of smart sensors is in making diagnostic information easy to access. IO-Link allows for cyclic data exchange capabilities so that programmers easily can send the information directly to where it is required, either to a human-machine interface (HMI) screen, a signal light or a maintenance request. If sensor or actuator parameters need to be changed or calibrated, this can be done remotely, even while the production line is running, ensuring that shutdowns, stoppages and unnecessary costs are avoided.
A different approach to data transmission is outside of the PLC, which has the benefit of not adding data/message traffic to the controller’s scan time. One especially economical approach to gathering data is as simple as attaching a wireless smart sensor to a piece of equipment to support remote advanced condition monitoring.
Information can be transmitted directly to a robust data platform on the user’s mobile device, which trends, assesses and monitors machine health quickly and accurately. Filtration is a good example – the state of a filter’s life can be assessed by comparing the differential pressure of the inlet to the outlet side of the filter.

Another example is measuring temperature trends for the hydraulic power unit – an increase in the pump outlet’s temperature can indicate the pump is losing efficiency and starting to fail. Being able to monitor equipment performance issues and evaluate the data onsite helps managers identify problems early and fix them before an equipment failure occurs.

5. Balance monitoring frequency with operational costs. Cloud-based solutions allow for around-the-clock monitoring, as well as alerting operations or maintenance personnel when conditions exceed preset limits. But there can be a point of diminishing returns. In the early stages of the implementation, focus on maximizing the quality of the data being collected, rather than the amount. Installing hundreds of sensors to generate masses of data doesn’t necessarily produce any useful information. It’s far more important to focus on collecting the right actionable data.

Article Provided By: Plant Engineering

If you would like to discuss how Renfrow Industrial can help you call us at 1-800-260-8412 or email info@renfrowindustrial.com.

Industrial, Mechanical, Service, Maintenance, Industrial Solutions, Industrial Contractors, Mechanical, Renfrow Industrial, Spartanburg, Charleston, South Carolina, Industrial Automation

Four Ways Industrial Automation Will Evolve

Industrial automation has continued evolving as machines become more connected and smarter while reducing maintenance costs for companies.

Industrial automation traces its roots back to the 1970s when the original distributed control system (DCS) was developed. Once Dick Morley, a mechanical engineer, developed the first programmable logic controller (PLC), several startups released human interface software to help add innovative automation solutions to a wide range of industries.

Industrial automation hasn’t stopped evolving. New sensors, amplifiers, displays, controls, recorders, valves, actuators, and more are being released constantly. Many manufacturers focus on niche applications, and most suppliers only recently have begun expanding products beyond their initial applications and local geographies.

Automation uses control systems to operate equipment such as machinery, networks, and navigation with little or no human involvement. Industrial automation is often accomplished by mechanical, hydraulic, and electronic systems. US car manufacturers have been early and heavy adopters of industrial robots, with General Motors being the first to establish an automation department.

Manufacturers use industrial robots and intelligent machines to care for various operations that require speed, stamina, and accuracy. Industrial automation can reduce energy usage, materials used, and labor waste. Industrial robots typically help perform long production runs for large manufacturers, but new capabilities may soon bring industrial automation to small and medium industries.

Four ways industrial automation will evolve

Industrial robots now being developed and deployed will be multi-functional so that a single machine can be used for several different tasks. Industrial automation systems also will have the ability to make decisions and work autonomously without human help. This will allow humans to work in more rewarding jobs with more efficiency and productivity than before.

1. Low maintenance

Manufacturers know downtime kills productivity, so they’re putting pressure on engineers to make sure robots of the future will require less maintenance. New industrial robots will need to be easy to deploy, operate, and maintain as the majority of employees using these robots may be lacking programming and engineering skills.

2. More intelligent

Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence will make robots smarter. Intelligent robots will be able to sense and predict changes and adjust on their own, and industrial robots will be able to solve more complex tasks without human input.

3. Highly connected

The concepts being developed by the Industry 4.0 revolution (referring to a new phase in Industrial Revolution that focuses on interconnectivity, machine learning, automation, and real-time data) include networked connections that will allow robots to collaborate, not only with humans, but with other industrial robots. Industrial automation will work with more synergy than ever before.

4. Human safety

Robots are already being used in environments and processes that are dangerous for humans, but with human-robot collaboration set to increase, how they work together will be improved. Even mobile industrial robots will be able to detect and predict human behavior to increase safety in the workplace.

Article Provided By: Plant Engineering

If you would like to discuss how Renfrow Industrial can help you call us at 1-800-260-8412 or email info@renfrowindustrial.com.

Maintenance, Service, Electrical, Mechanical, Industrial, Renfrow Industrial, Spartanburg, Charleston, South Carolina

Portable Cooling Based on Facility Needs

How to Specify Portable Cooling Based on Facility Needs

Selecting the most effective unit for the application means managers need to understand cooling needs and equipment requirements

Portable cooling systems are essential assets for institutional and commercial facilities. The need for these systems can typically fall into one of two buckets. They either provide supplemental cooling to boost existing systems, handle maintenance situations or cater to a special event, or they are used in emergency situations to address the failure of existing buildings systems.

Regardless of which bucket a given situation falls into, it is important to understand the way the selection process before the event can determine success or failure. For successful selection, maintenance and engineering managers need to understand their facilities’ characteristics, including size, activities, and key features, as well as current and anticipated cooling capacities and the equipment’s impact on in-house operations.

Factors for success

Each scenario requiring portable cooling demands a different approach from managers. In order to select the most appropriate unit, managers need to consider these factors:

Facility size and location. In considering the space to condition, managers can estimate 1 ton of cooling — 12,000 Btu — per 500-600 square feet of space. This rule of thumb is for the average building. Some consultants increase it to 1,000 square feet per ton of cooling for a newer, more energy efficient space, and it can be decreased for an older, less efficient building.

It is also important to understand the space’s heat gain as a result of its placement within the building. Interior spaces have less thermal gain than the same sized space with significant fenestration and exterior walls. Managers should anticipate adding 1,000 Btu per hour to the equation for each window.

Occupancy. This rule of thumb for commercial and institutional spaces is for square footage only. Managers need to add individual heat gains to the calculation for each expected occupant and intended equipment load.

They also have to consider the space’s expected average and maximum occupancy and potential phasing for this occupancy. By selecting several smaller portable cooling units, managers can stage them, depending on the occupancy instead of short-cycling a larger unit until meeting the intended load.

Activity. Intended activity is an important factor to understand because it can have a significant impact on required cooling capacity. By referencing the ASHRAE Handbook — Fundamentals, managers can see the combined sensible and latent heat gain per person can be 330 Btu per hour for sitting in a theater, 450 Btu per hour for moderate office work, and 850 Btu per hour for moderate dancing.

Equipment. Depending on the space and activity, equipment can play a significant factor in estimating heat gain. For an office space, typical overhead lighting is about 1-1.4 Watts per square foot — 3.412 Btu per square foot.

Typical office and computer equipment is becoming more efficient, and managers can use default factors for estimating purposes. This factor can range from 0.5 Watts per square foot to 2.0 Watts per square foot based on equipment selection and office density.

Data centers and server rooms. These locations typically do not require extended occupancy or lighting, so managers can size them based on manufacturer recommendations for the size, quantity and loading of network racks. As with typical office equipment, managers can determine the maximum heat load from the nameplate wattage and working with the IT department to understand the capacity these systems will be loaded to.

Article Provided By: facilitiesnet

If you would like to discuss how Renfrow Industrial can help you call us at 1-800-260-8412 or email info@renfrowindustrial.com.

Maintenance, Service, Industrial, Contractor, Mechanical, Renfrow Industrial, Spartanburg, Charleston, South Carolina

Advances Have Long-Term Benefits

Advances in Paints and Coatings Have Long-Term Benefits

Specifying to meet facility sustainability needs means staying abreast of changes in products and applications

The new generation of paints and coatings is offering maintenance managers a range of potential benefits that were unavailable only a few years ago. In order to meet user demands related to ease of application, appearance, durability, and sustainability, manufacturers have reformulated existing products and introduced new ones.

These advances put an even higher priority on two challenges facing managers who specify these products for their institutional and commercial facilities: staying abreast of advances in paint and coating formulations and matching new-generation products to the specific needs of their buildings.

Focus on formulations

Social responsibility has become an increasing concern among both managers and manufacturers as they seek to continuously minimize harm to the environment and improve their image. Many of the enhancements in new paint and coating formulations involve reducing volatile organic compounds (VOC).

Earlier efforts by manufacturers had focused on VOCs in liquids that are released as paints dry. Over the past 30 years, 90 percent of VOCs have been eliminated from paints and coatings, aided by state VOC emissions standards, some of which are more stringent than federal standards.

Now scrutiny has expanded to include enhanced additives that yield long-term absorption from the air of harmful compounds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering tightening the ozone level standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65-70 ppb. As this decision nears, manufacturers are formulating new products to comply with the most stringent rules. One side benefit for managers is formulas with even lower VOC levels. LEED, the green building certification rating system, includes points for meeting low VOC standards.

Additional advances in new zero-VOC latex paints include using baking-soda-like technology to reduce indoor odors. No silica is added, so it also can withstand frequent washings without losing its odor-reducing properties. It also has antimicrobial properties, so it resists mildew formation, and it offers easier application and better durability and hides characteristics.

Comprised of a primer with high-adhesion properties and a topcoat, it is environmentally friendly and is low VOC and free of hazardous pollutants. It also helps meet stringent regulatory demands, and it resists strong acids and strong bases. It is unaffected by solvents up to 300 degrees, and workers can apply it in a range of thicknesses with standard spray-painting equipment.

Water-based formulations with natural additives now exceed the sustainability performance of their oil-based counterparts. As a result of this growing trend, water-based paints now represent about 80 percent of the market, while oil-based paints represent 20 percent.

Sustainability demands also are driving the development of other new waterborne paints, which are 80 percent water with other solvents, such as ethyl glycol. These paints are broadening applications to prevent metal corrosion as an option to more expensive metal alloys.


By Thomas A. Westerkamp


If you would like to discuss how Renfrow Industrial can help you, call us at 1-800-260-8412 or email  info@renfrowindustrial.com.

Electrical Wiring, Maintenance, Industrial, Service, Mechanical, Contractor, Renfrow Industrial, Spartanburg, Charleston, South Carolina

Safety Standards Evolve, Do You

Electrical safety standards are evolving. Are you up to speed?

Are you doing everything you can to keep your workers safe?

In 2018, Plant Services conducted its first electrical safety survey, and the results were head-turning.  Close to one-quarter of survey respondents said that they had been involved in an arc flash event, and 60% reported knowing someone who had been involved in such an event. These frightening incidents not only pose a risk to worker health and safety, but also they can disrupt business, damage equipment, create legal liability issues, increase insurance premiums, damage a company’s reputation, and result in regulatory fines. As industrial technologies and regulations continue to evolve, what’s the best way to keep your high-efficiency electrical equipment maintained while still keeping your workers safe?

Here are three pieces of guidance from industry experts to help you better navigate electrical safety issues.

Performing risk assessments

Risk assessments are critical to evaluating a PDS’s reliability and are most effective when facility managers are conducting them proactively. However, the unfortunate reality is that many assessments are conducted reactively, with managers commissioning inspections of their electrical infrastructure only after an event that has seriously affected personnel or operations has occurred. Such an event may be an arc-flash incident, a ground fault occurrence, an electrical fire, a shock event, or an unexpected power outage.

To avoid negative and unsafe events, electrical power engineers recommend conducting comprehensive assessments of electrical systems every five years. Because most electrical equipment has an average life span of 20 years, it is good practice to assess the entire PDS every five years to determine the present state and deterioration rate of each piece of equipment. Also, because electrical equipment deteriorates at different rates, the inspections and risk assessments provide facility managers a firm understanding concerning the present state of their PDS and information as to where or when they may need to replace or modernize a piece of equipment or enhance equipment maintenance. Understanding a PDS’s maintenance or upgrade requirements will give a better picture of the system’s reliability and risks.

Work to eliminate or mitigate risks

A notable change in NFPA 70E 2018 is a heightened focus on hazard elimination. In fact, the hierarchy of risk control methods has now moved from an informational note to part of the standard’s mandatory language. When it comes to implementing safety-related work practices, the standard clearly states that hazard elimination shall be the first priority. This means that taking steps just to mitigate a hazard may not be enough to protect your employees and plant and reduce your liability.

The risk control methods essentially break down into six areas: elimination, substitution, engineering controls, warnings, administrative controls, and PPE.

If elimination isn’t an option, then substitution is the next best thing. This could mean opting to use less-dangerous equipment, such as nonelectrical or battery-operated tools. Engineering controls are next in the hierarchy and can be as simple as ensuring ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection or as advanced as changing the relay logic in your power distribution system.

An estimate of the likelihood of occurrence of an arc flash incident

One important change to NFPA 70E was the addition of Table 130.5(C), which states that on electrical equipment in any condition (normal or abnormal), performing infrared thermography and other non-contact inspections outside the restricted approach boundary does not increase the likelihood of occurrence of an arcing fault and arc flash incident, so additional PPE is not required. However, the table further clarifies that this does not include opening equipment doors or covers that expose bare energized conductors or circuit parts – which specifically does increase the likelihood of occurrence of an arcing fault and arc flash.

Although not specifically mentioned in Table 130.5(C), opening an EMSD cover like that on an infrared viewing pane does not expose bare conductors or circuit parts. One can thus interpret that in this instance, no PPE would be required. In this manner, the use of an EMSD and changing the work process to keep the equipment in a closed and guarded condition while performing the CBM task seems to follow substitution stage guidelines of the hierarchy of control.


Learn More Here


If you would like to discuss how Renfrow Industrial can help you call us at 1-800-260-8412 or email  info@renfrowindustrial.com.

Maintenance, Service, Electrical, Mechanical, Industrial, Renfrow Industrial, Spartanburg, Charleston, South Carolina

Simple Errors to Costly Mistakes

New Houston airport building opens, but with $600K mistake


Dive Brief:

  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport officials in Houston are welcoming employees to the first completed project of the facility’s $1.2 billion overhaul this week, but a construction blunder has left the $18 million administration building without water service and the airport facing a fix that will cost $600,000, KTRK ABC 13 reported.
  • When the new project management building opened six months behind schedule, crews discovered that the water line they planned to use was dry. A $100,000 system of temporary tanks and pipes will provide water to the building for the next six to nine months until a new $500,000 permanent pipe can be installed.
  • Airport spokesman Bill Begley told KTRK that a lengthy city permitting process could have delayed discovery of the dry line but that all parties likely contributed to the error.


Dive Insight:

The massive capital project underway at the airport has drawn criticism as the project management building is the first sign of progress despite the airport having already spent $80 million, with $51 million of that going to planning consultants.

As far as the water service mistake, the airport construction project is proof that no matter the amount of planning — or how much it costs — things don’t always go as expected.

When the new $2 billion Rocky Mountain Regional Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado, opened last year — $1 billion over budget and five years behind schedule — VA officials discovered that although the building was twice the size of the hospital it was replacing, design errors meant that the new facility could not accommodate all planned services. Even though construction cost twice as much as originally planned, the VA will have to shell out for renovations to the original hospital so that it can continue to provide patient care while the VA looks for an ancillary building near the new hospital — another extra expense.

When construction of the $2 billion Miami Intermodal Center began in 2011, designers overlooked one major detail: The platform built specifically to accommodate long-distance Amtrak trains was 200 feet too short. The most obvious fix — extending the platform — is out of the question because that would place the structure and train traffic into a busy intersection.

In September, Capital Rail Constructors, the general contractor for the $5.8 billion Washington, D.C., rail extension revealed that approximately 400 concrete rail ties were 1/2 inch higher in the center than on the sides, which could cause the train tracks to tilt outwards. CRC and manufacturer Rocla Concrete Tie, which maintains the ties meet project specifications, are still working on a solution. However, rail officials now have decided that they want the ties replaced, according to WTOP.


If you would like to discuss how Renfrow Industrial can help you call us at 1-800-260-8412 or email  info@renfrowindustrial.com.

Mechanical, Electrical, Industrial, Maintenance, Service, Renfrow Industrial, Spartanburg, Charleston, South Carolina

World-Class Manufacturing Maintenance Practices

10 steps to achieve world-class manufacturing maintenance practices

Lean out your maintenance process and deliver cost savings and greater efficiency.World-Class Manufacturing Maintenance Practices

Manufacturers worldwide know that Lean maintenance practices cut costs and improve production by minimizing downtime. But the reality is that for many U.S. manufacturers, up to 90% of the maintenance they perform is conducted on a reactive rather than proactive basis. Some blame the age of their equipment, the absence of spare parts and the rapid pace of manufacturing.

But it is possible to implement production maintenance best practices, and doing so will save time and money while increasing production in the long run. Here are 10 steps you can follow to establish Lean maintenance best practices at your manufacturing operation:

Step 1: Gather data and calculate downtime costs. Before you can successfully transition to maintenance best practices, you’ll need to gather data to identify the scale of the challenge. Assemble information on machine downtime, meantime between machine failures, expenditures on parts, technology usage, technician response time and the percentage of on-time deliveries. This will enable you to calculate the average cost of one hour of downtime.

Step 2: Determine the dollar value of maintenance. With an average per-hour downtime cost estimate in hand, you can project how much money maintenance improvements would save. You can make reasonable assumptions by applying the per-hour cost of downtime to machine availability, determining how much value an increase in availability will add to the organization. You’ll likely find that even a small increase, such as 5%, translates into a huge improvement.

Step 3: Analyze operational variables. When determining projected productivity increases resulting from improved machine availability, it’s also important to factor in the savings your maintenance operation can realize by addressing operational variables. For example, take a look at how a better plan to handle critical spares, introduction of a work order system and faster technician response time could impact availability.

Step 4: Invest in a technology solution. As you’ll see in step 3, controlling variables adds significant value, and a technology solution can make it easy to improve the handling of variables across the board. A Computerized Maintenance Monitoring System (CMMS) provides work order information and improves technician response time, also lowering the mean time to repair and reducing downtime overall.

Step 5: Start scheduling preventive maintenance. With a CMMS that enables you to process work orders, you can easily monitor all manufacturing assets in your operation and track critical parts and spares. This means you’re ready to schedule preventive maintenance and generate checklists to manage maintenance tasks.

Step 6: Deploy a scheduler planning function. As you transition from reactive maintenance to a more proactive stance, you’ll need to schedule technicians’ time for preventive maintenance and ensure that the right parts are available when needed. A scheduler planning function is a critical tool for reducing downtime and maximizing the value of preventive maintenance.

Step 7: Introduce predictive tools. Preventive maintenance reduces downtime, and a predictive maintenance checklist can improve machine availability even more. The type of predictive tools you’ll need will depend on the equipment your team maintains. Electrical equipment can be hampered by overheating, so a thermography tool can prevent trouble before it results in downtime. Rotating equipment requires vibration analysis, and aircraft need ultrasound scanning for leaks.

World-Class Manufacturing Maintenance Practices

Step 8: Move toward Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). After the predictive maintenance plan is in place, the next step is to get operators involved in TPM. To leverage operators’ familiarity with manufacturing assets, find simple solutions that enlist operators in maintenance, such as keeping assets clean and freshly painted to aid in visual inspection or installing sight gauges that enable operators to monitor fluid levels.

Step 9: Implement a Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) strategy. Once you have practices, technology and monitoring tools in place, you can begin practicing RCM to drive downtime to even lower levels. With a clearer view of machine capabilities and status, you no longer have to take equipment offline for preventive maintenance until your data indicates imminent failure. You can maximize value with a cost-benefit analysis of maintenance vs. productivity needs.

Step 10: Bring in third-party technicians as needed. Achieving world-class maintenance involves a cultural transformation, and with a shortage of skilled technicians, it may be necessary to bring in third-party resources to establish metrics and define processes. If you are looking outside your company to achieve the cultural shift you require, make sure you get references from existing customers to ensure the right fit with your organization.

Deploying Lean maintenance practices takes analysis, planning and skill. Above all, it requires a commitment to move from a reactive to a proactive state of mind. By following these 10 steps, you can implement world-class maintenance practices at your manufacturing operation and significantly improve productivity.


If you would like to discuss how Renfrow Industrial can help you call us at 1-800-260-8412 or email  info@renfrowindustrial.com.


Maintenance, Service, Industrial, Contractor, Renfrow Industrial, Spartanburg, Charleston, South Carolina

Outsourcing and the Bottom Line

Outsourcing and the Bottom Line


Whether a manufacturer is doing it to stay “lean and mean” or their hand is being forced by the emerging skills gap, outsourcing can keep a firm’s bottom line on the up and up.

Alongside Deloitte, the Manufacturing Institute’s most recent data shows the skills gap is widening and will leave more than 2.4 million open positions by 2028. The study included an online survey of more than 400 US manufacturers, interviews with executives from manufacturing organizations, extensive analysis of secondary data and economic projections.

Of the manufacturers surveyed, 42 percent indicated a strong affinity toward outsourcing as a solution to the current skilled worker shortage.

In addition, staying lean and padding the bottom line on outsourcing things like maintenance have always been part of the standard protocol, especially for the smaller companies that can’t afford to retain specialists on their staff.

“That’s why we’re in business”, Paul Kumler said, SC Aerospace board member and President of KTM Solutions.

“In-house engineering is expensive, particularly if not fully utilized,” he said. “It’s much more cost effective to purchase what you need when you need it.”

Because a manufacturer’s true merit is based on production and the delivery of goods, reducing cost at all positions is mandatory. As a result, a firm’s greatest advantage is standing around them.

By utilizing an outside firm to manage maintenance on equipment and buildings, John Brasher, VP of Operations at Renfrow Industrial, said “it will prolong the life of the larger assets.”

“Capital expenditures are not always approved, so manufacturers must take care of these assets,” he said. In addition, “they can reduce their cost and only use labor when it is fully needed. Also, a manufacturer can avoid the extra W2, wages, taxes and insurances.”

The bulk of South Carolina’s manufacturing firms are small companies competing for a spot along one of the larger OEM’s supply chains. Production, efficiency and cost-effective services are paramount here.

CEO of Manufacturing, said outsourcing services can increase responsiveness, especially at smaller companies without multiple dedicated resources.

“Maintenance is usually shared, and let’s face it, issues are placed on the back burner and deferred maintenance becomes the new standard,” he said. “Third-party vendors have the expertise, skills and resources necessary to drive traditional management services costs down. As a result, companies end up paying less for outsourced services than the costs of operating an in-house maintenance team.”

Whether a firm is plugged into the state’s automotive sector or the emerging aerospace industry, operating lean and finding the most cost-effective method of producing and delivering components to the BMW’s, Michelin’s and Boeing’s of the world will remain.

Supply chain management and logistics are very important in an industry that fine-tuned the concept of “just-in-sequence” Thomas Koehler said, General Manager of Berrang.

A missing component could bring down a whole assembly line of a manufacturer, he said.

In this industry, it is simple. Build quality and cost-effective goods and deliver them on time to customers.

After all, “the cost of downtime is immeasurable,”

“Outsourcing maintenance increases responsiveness and ensures timely service to customers.”


By: Joe Toppe


If you would like to discuss how Renfrow Industrial can help you call us at: 1-800-260-8412 or via email at: info@renfrowindustrial.com.




Maintenance, Service, Industrial, Contractor, Mechanical, Renfrow Industrial, Spartanburg, Charleston, South Carolina

Reduce Reactive Maintenance

10 Ways to Reduce Reactive Maintenance


For purposes of this article, reactive maintenance is any planned or unplanned work with a priority designation of emergency or urgent, therefore requiring immediate attention. Plus, there could be work of any priority that is “worked on” outside of the weekly schedule, which this author calls “self-inflicted reactive maintenance.”

Problem Statement

Organizations that are predominantly reactive typically do not believe it is possible to perform work any other way. Overall, they are frustrated, which in turn impacts morale. Maybe it is a training issue or maybe it is a leadership issue. Either way, it is affecting worker productivity due to the majority of work being unplanned. Unscheduled work also affects job safety. When workers feel rushed, bad things happen. Lastly, those organizations with poor reliability typically waste 10 percent of their revenue.

Renfrow Induistrial
Figure 1: Impact of reactive maintenance

Ten Actions Worth Considering

This article provides 10 distinct actions you can take to become more proactive. As you will see, the asset management system (AMS) plays a major role. Typically, users struggle to leverage the AMS in support of asset reliability, but the reason for this simply may be because you need a more encompassing set of instructions. So, here they are.

  1. Establish a solid preventive maintenance (PM) and/or predictive maintenance (PdM) program. Where possible, establish maintenance strategies using formal reliability centered maintenance (RCM) analysis. Otherwise, rely on manuals from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and staff experience. Place emphasis on condition monitoring technologies, such as PdM, which makes it easier to recognize defects. With early identification, the staff can prevent unplanned breakdowns and collateral damage. By proactively planning needed repairs, the organization saves cost. In support of your PM/PdM program, you should ensure that some maintenance staff members have certifications in PdM technologies (e.g., vibration, ultrasound, infrared, tribology), as well as knowledge in precision maintenance skills.Tip: Link PM/PdM to failure modes and store this relationship inside the AMS in the failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) register where they are easily referenced.
  2. Establish a reliability team. It helps to have more than one person focused on asset reliability and plant availability. This group would rely heavily on the AMS system for failure analysis, as well as decisions pertaining to root cause analysis, RCM and localized FMEA.
  3. Perform root cause analysis (RCA) on worst events to identify the true cause based on the trigger point.
  4. Perform a localized FMEA where needed, for instance to evaluate a specific system or asset to isolate a problem and validate failure modes by comparing AMS failure history (failure modes) to the FMEA register.
  5. Utilize defect elimination techniques, such as brainstorming, quality circles and kaizen events, all of which involve working level and cross-functional groups. Conduct system walk-downs and record problems as a group. Summarize findings and propose solutions.
  6. Establish a core team to manage the complete AMS system. Train the staff, establish business rules, build standard operating procedures (SOPs), set up mandatory fields and choice lists, run error checks, survey the users for problems and conduct periodic audits. Most importantly, set up the AMS with the endgame in mind (e.g., failure analysis). The core team should maintain a five-year plan for direction/guidance in support of operational excellence.
  7. Perform formal job planning to provide sequenced steps, material/craft requirements, safety/hazard precautions, as well as reference materials and permits. This is being “fully planned.” Job instructions help keep workers safe, organized and informed. Job plans also help the craft follow standardized actions to ensure asset performance. The planner role is multifaceted, but key points include a job plan library, backlog management, foundation data accuracy and a maintenance of asset-to-spares library.
  8. Create a formal weekly schedule process by selecting the fully planned work that can be relied on by operations, maintenance, warehouse/purchasing, and health, safety and the environment (HSE). Some schedulers also attempt to bundle like work from the backlog, or they may perform plant system window scheduling. Tip:If the organization is mostly reactive, it may be good to create a reactive maintenance team and let the others focus on proactive work. Oddly enough, this action will help management emphasize the weekly schedule with “no excuses not to perform.” Lastly, train maintenance to not perform self-inflicted reactive maintenance whereby they purposely decide to do unscheduled, low priority work.
  9. Trend percent reactive to manage reactive work. Be sure you can extract reactive maintenanceusing structured query language (SQL). This can be an important metric for trending and comparison. Reactive work is usually Priority 1 (emergency), Priority 2 (urgent) and any other work order that breaks into the schedule. Otherwise, if you are repairing an asset, such as a condition based maintenance discovery, you should have time to properly plan and schedule this work. Therefore, it is not reactive.
  10. Capture good failure data, specifically failure modes. Use this failure data in failure analysis (e.g., asset offender report) to determine worst offenders. Properly stored failure data (e.g., validated fields) can reduce failure analysis time by up to 90 percent if it is actionable (e.g., retrievable via SQL) as opposed to pure text. Inaccurate/incomplete data, however, can severely limit the ability to extract meaningful reports (e.g., failure analytics). By combining the failed component, component problem and cause code, you can create the failure mode that is used to identify optimum maintenance strategy.Tip: Failure data should also include work order feedback (e.g., suggestions from the maintenance technicians), such as issues pertaining to ergonomics, maintainability, safety and design flaws.

Precision Maintenance Needs Precision Data

In Figure 2, you see an ideal design for setting up an AMS with emphasis on failure analysis. Also note the unique design for building the failure mode, which is the combination of (1) failed component, (2) component problem and (3) possibly the cause code, depending on how you stored this data in the FMEA register. Other key elements of this process include the trigger points for RCA, work order feedback, a reliability team and the asset offender report, such as the mean time between failures (MTBF) analytic. With the asset offender report, you can focus on“bad actors” and manage by exception.

Renfrow Industrial
Figure 2: Asset management system workflow

According to RCM expert Jack Nicholas, “The single most important thing to assure reliability is to rely on procedures, staff feedback with follow-up and reinforcement. Good procedures help ensure precision.”

Work order feedback can capture suggestions for improvement. Although not shown in Figure 2’s diagram, there also needs to be process audits, data error checks and business analyst (working level) surveys.


Reducing reactive maintenance is not an impossible task. The trick, however, is to start small. Perhaps you’ll focus on the critical assets first. The AMS software may need to be configured and training will be required. Asset reliability and job safety is everyone’s job. All that is needed is a roadmap to get there.


Reduce Reactive Maintenance By: John Reeve

Maintenance, Service, Industrial, Contractor, Mechanical, Renfrow Industrial, Spartanburg, Charleston, South Carolina

Little Things Make a Big Difference

Preventative maintenance can have far-reaching effects, so take the necessary steps. Don’t let something as small as a hydraulic hose failure cost your factory a sizable sum.

Manufacturing is a vibrant economic force in the United States, adding trillions of dollars to the economy every year. U.S.-manufactured goods have quadrupled in the last 25 years, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

But in this burgeoning industry, much depends on the little things – for example, the soundness of a hose.

Imagine an assembly line flanked by robotic arms with their jerky, coordinated movements, welding and painting pieces that move through the process. It’s a technologically impressive system, often involving artificial intelligence. But one hydraulic hose failure can suddenly put a brake on the entire operation. The “smart” factory of the future isn’t so smart when it’s at a standstill.

This can be an expensive accident. Often, it’s entirely preventable.


Check out your hoses and joints

Being proactive in this regard can save a factory a lot of time and money. That means checking your hydraulic and pneumatic hoses, making it a scheduled maintenance activity.

A visual check can catch problems before they immobilize your operation. It’s a simple process: First, make a checklist and tick off each item on the list. Begin your inspection by examining the exterior of each hose. Look for cuts in the hose’s cover, along with other telltale signs of wear. One obvious sign is when the wire reinforcement is showing. Some hoses also kink with age. When any of these “red flags” is evident, be sure to schedule a hose replacement during the equipment’s downtime.

Note, too, that you can shield your hoses from the ravages of wear by covering them with protective sleeves. These come in metal coils, textile, plastic and other materials. They can be worth the investment, extending the life span of your hoses.


Problems on the inside

If you don’t find problems on the external surfaces of your hoses and joints, that’s a relief. But it doesn’t necessarily mean all is well. Sometimes there’s damage inside a hose, even when the outside shows no evidence.

Such damage is usually the result of contaminants in the fluid. Erosion dislodges particles from valves and pumps over time. These contaminants tear up the inside surface of a hose as they course through the system, acting like tiny blades.

Unfortunately, your visual inspection is unlikely to uncover such issues going on inside your hoses. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your oil and other fluids are changed on a regular basis. Equally important is replacing filters at scheduled intervals to ensure that any loose particles are effectively screened out.


Check the fittings

Once you’ve checked the hoses, make sure they’re compatible with the fittings. While it’s ideal when hoses and fittings all come from the same manufacturer, this is often not the case. If your hoses and fittings are mixed brands, check them out to make sure they’re in sync with one another. The manufacturer’s information should be visible. A good hose vendor will tag the hoses after replacing them, allowing you to check easily for hose-to-fittings compatibility.

You should also look over your fittings for potential problems. There should be no oxidation, rust or moisture at the joints. If you see any of this, consider replacement.


Preventing trouble

Preventative maintenance can have far-reaching effects, so take the necessary steps. Don’t let something as small as a hydraulic hose failure cost your factory a sizable sum. Schedule regular checks and follow up with any issues you find. You’ll be glad you did.

The robots may even thank you.


By: Craig Heitkamp

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