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M-News Edition 3
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M-News - the Maintenance Newsletter

Edition 3, November 1999

Welcome to the third edition of M-News, a free newsletter on topics of interest to Maintenance professionals, brought to you by the Plant Maintenance Resource Center. My apologies for the long gap between this issue and the previous one - we are now back on track to make appearance of the newsletter a bit more regular.

We aim to bring you the latest news and views on what is happening in the world of Maintenance. If you wish to receive notification of future copies of this newsletter by email, please register here. If you have any feedback on the newsletter, or have something to contribute, please send me an e-mail.


In this edition...
Feature Article - Root Cause Failure Analysis - Understanding Mechanical Failures
Design for Maintainability Survey - Results
Feature Article - Moving to World Class Maintenance - It's Like Driving Your Car
Condition Monitoring Survey
Free Download - CMMS Cost/Benefit Evaluation Software
Product Review - Electroluber
On the Lighter Side - Engineering Humour

Feature Article - Root Cause Failure Analysis - Understanding Mechanical Failures

Machines aren't supposed to break, and mechanical components such as shafts, fasteners, and structures aren't supposed to fail. But when they do fail, they can tell us exactly why.

Neville Sachs, President of Sachs, Salvaterra & Associates contributes this article, which was recently published in Reliability Magazine.

The article puts the proposition that the causes for more than 90% of all plant failures can be detected with a careful physical examination using low power magnification and some basic physical testing. . It discusses the basics of what to look for, when visually inspecting mechanical parts or components that have failed, and explains the different characteristics that can be seen for brittle failures, versus ductile failures. It explains, through the use of many examples, how to determine whether the load applied cyclically or was single overload, and how to determine the direction of the critical load.

Overall, it is a valuable primer for those involved in conducting root cause failure analysis.

The full article can be read here.

Design for Maintainability Survey - results

The recent Design for Maintainability Survey drew valid responses from 50 individuals. Although, drawing conclusions from a small sample such as this is somewhat dangerous, the survey appeared to throw up one or two somewhat controversial findings:
  • 18% of respondents regularly apply external standards for Design for Maintainability
  • 42% of respondents regularly apply formally documented internal standards for Design for Maintainability
  • 76% of respondents rate the maintainability of their plant and equipment as Good, Very Good or Excellent
  • 84% of respondents rate the reliability of their plant and equipment as Good, Very Good or Excellent
  • Generally, those respondents who indicated a higher use of formal design for maintainability processes (based on external or internal standards), rated the maintainability and reliability of their plant and equipment higher than those that did not use formal standards.
  • Generally, Plant Reliability and Maintainability was rated higher by those respondents who indicated higher involvement in Design for Maintainability processes by Maintenance Managers, Maintenance Foremen and Supervisors.
  • Controversially, based on the results recorded, it would appear that a higher level of involvement by Plant/Maintenance/Reliability Engineers in the Design for Maintainability process, while leading to higher reliability, had no impact on maintainability. Are our engineers too theoretical, and out of touch with the practical realities of the real world?
  • Even more controversially, based on the results recorded, it would appear that a higher level of involvement by Maintenance Crafts/Tradespeople in the Design for Maintainability process actually leads to poorer equipment maintainability. Can anyone explain this?
For all the results, click

Feature Article - Moving to World Class Maintenance - It's Like Driving Your Car

Herman Ellis of QMS contributes this article. The article likens moving to World Class Maintenance to driving your car. As you start off driving through the countryside, in low gear and at slow speed (open top!), you can afford to chat, look around, comment on the scenery and generally take it easy. However, as you move closer to World Class Maintenance, you get faster and faster, and the car (Maintenance Department) you are driving has to change from a comfortable family sedan, to a lean, mean, racing machine. To read this article, click here.

Condition Monitoring Survey

The latest Plant Maintenance Resource Center survey is on Condition Monitoring. Let us know what your organisation is doing in this area here.

Free Download - CMMS Cost/Benefit Evaluation Software

Courtesy of Stephen Ninnes of Maintenance Experts, we are happy to provide you with the opportunity to download, free of charge, some software that will assist you to develop a Cost-Benefit statement for your proposed CMMS implementation. While the software is provided by Maintenance Experts, it is sufficiently flexible to be used to evaluate the potential benefits of any CMMS. The benefit estimates developed are somewhat on the simplistic side, but nevertheless, the software is a useful tool to kickstart a more detailed evaluation of benefits, if this is necessary.

Note that, to run the software, you need to have either MEX (full or demo version), FLEET MEX (full or demo version) or MS Access 97 (with Developer Tools) installed on your PC. Demo versions of MEX and FLEET MEX are available from the MEX website at The Cost-Benefit software is downloadable here. The size of the download is 495kB, which should take around 2.5 minutes to download over a 28.8K modem connection.

Product Review - Electroluber

The Electroluber is a useful and innovative addition to the field of automatic lubrication equipment. Distributed by C & L Supply Co in California, it has several features that set it aside from more traditional automatic lubrication systems.

The Electroluber unit is a self-contained, automatic unit that dispenses a small amount of lubricant into the bearing casing. It is generally installed with one Electroluber unit for each bearing that is to be lubricated. The unit comes as a sealed unit, pre-filled with the lubricant of your choice. Sealed refills are also provided, minimising the chances of the lubricant getting contaminated. Oil contamination is, most tribology experts will tell you, the single biggest cause of premature bearing failure in industry, so this feature is, on its own, highly valuable. Three sizes of unit are available, which should cover most general industrial applications, although the Electroluber is not a viable solution for large lubrication applications which require custom designed lubricant systems (such as large open-gear grinding mills and rotary kilns). The unit can be set so that the contents of the unit are dispensed over any time period from 14 days to a year.

The mechanical components of the Electroluber are extremely simple. An electro-chemical cell generates inert nitrogen gas, which is then used to exert a controlled pressure on a simple piston, which, in turn, forces the lubricant out of the unit. Nitrogen has specifically been used in this application because it is non-flammable.

Those familiar with RCM concepts will recognise that, while installing an automatic lubrication system can help in reducing bearing failures by ensuring that the right quantity of the right lubricant gets to the right place at the right time - what happens if the automatic lubrication systems itself fails? Unless the appropriate maintenance regime is put in place for maintenance of the automatic lubrication systems itself, then failure of the lubrication system may go undetected for quite some time - perhaps even until the bearing that is supposed to be lubricated is irreparably damaged. Most often, the appropriate maintenance task, apart from periodic refilling of the system, is to check that the system is still operating. Traditional automatic lubrication systems often make it hard to determine whether the system is operating correctly or not. The Electroluber has an indicator light on it, which is illuminated if the unit has electrical power connected. While it is possible that, even though there is electrical power to the unit, that lubricant may still not be getting to the bearing, this is, at least, one useful tool to simplify routine operating checks. Another useful feature is that the unit is translucent, meaning that the lubricant level within the unit can be clearly seen, without the need to open the unit - again, making checking the operation of the unit easier (and reducing the chance of contamination).

Electroluber units are already in place in a wide range of applications in a wide range of industries, from building services, through manufacturing, to heavy industrial applications, such as mining. A CD-ROM is available, free of charge, which outlines the features of the Electroluber. For more information, visit the Electroluber website at

On the Lighter Side - Engineering Humour

A pessimist looks at a glass of water and sees that it is half empty. An optimist looks at the same glass of water and sees that it is half full. An engineer looks at the same glass, and considers that it is 100% overdesigned for the task it is intended to fulfil.

I hope you have enjoyed this newsletter. All feedback, comments and contributions to future editions are very welcome (as are enquiries about sponsorship of this newsletter).

Alexander (Sandy) Dunn
Plant Maintenance Resource Center

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