Necessity for solving problems is the mother of Tips & Tricks

When Tips & Tricks first debuted in the 1980s, maintenance (and manufacturing for that matter) was straddling that line between high-tech and low-tech. There were increasing uses of monitoring equipment and sensors that helped the maintenance manager stay on top of equipment performance. There were also those nagging little problems for which experience – and a little grease – w...


When Tips & Tricks first debuted in the 1980s, maintenance (and manufacturing for that matter) was straddling that line between high-tech and low-tech. There were increasing uses of monitoring equipment and sensors that helped the maintenance manager stay on top of equipment performance. There were also those nagging little problems for which experience %%MDASSML%% and a little grease %%MDASSML%% was the best solution.

For example, here’s an October, 1989 Tip about aligning jackbolts from John Vibber at Total Petroleum: “Prior to attempting the alignment, remove the jackbolts, take them to the machine shop and bore a cup in the end of each bolt. Remove the balls from an old ball bearing and insert a ball in the cup on each bolt. (A dab of grease on the ball will provide sufficient adhesion.) The ball bearing surface eliminates walking and reduces the force needed to turn the bolt.”

In that same issue, Kathy Vaughn from BASF suggested the best way to move and align a drop ceiling panel was to take a large paper clip, push it into an indentation in the ceiling, position the tile and pull it into place. It solved one of the more nagging problems with drop ceilings everywhere. It was a tip replicated more than 10 years later from Vince Goodnough of the Tennant Co. %%MDASSML%% except Vince’s tool of choice was a corkscrew.

By 1994, Tips & Tricks was generating 100 suggestions a year. The editors broke down the Tips to specific areas of the plant floor. Among the Tips offered that year:

  • Punch a hole in a paint can rim to allow paint to drain back into the can and now accumulate on the rim

  • Use a pusher handle to guide wood through a table saw and keep hands away from the cutting surface. A spring attached to the pusher maintains force to eliminate kickback

  • Run wire through conduits more easily by tying the wire to a wad of paper and a string, and then using a vacuum to suck the paper ball through the conduit. The string and wire will follow

  • Glue flexible magnetic strips to the back of a voltage meter in an electrical enclosure, leaving both hands free

  • Avoid dropping loads with strap slings the last few inches by placing ice underneath the load, then sliding the straps out. As the ice melts, the load slips gently into place.

    • Tips & Tricks offered both unique ways to use common products and new ways to use existing technology. Sometimes, it involves some basic science such as oil and water not mixing. That was the key to solving this problem from 2000: “Most floor drains not actively used tend to dry out. Sewer gases can escape from them when this occurs. Can the gases be stopped from escaping?”

      The solution from Paul Salvo at Eaton Corp.: “Pour

      Over the years, Tips & Tricks reminded plant engineers that there was more than one way to solve common problems. Off-the-shelf solutions, however sophisticated, were no match for the ingenuity of plant engineers and the resourcefulness of creative minds. As with so many great inventions, they were born of necessity as simple, elegant answers to thorny questions.

      By 2005, Tips & Tricks had turned 20, and editors went back for a fresh look at the old ideas, republishing 20 of the best. One favorite was from 2003, which suggested one good way to string wires or cable across a drop ceiling was to attach the wires to a tennis ball, then simply toss the ball across the ceiling to the opening in the ceiling where the wires should run.

      Readers already had two choices for replacing the drop ceiling after running the cable %%MDASSML%% large paper clip or corkscrew.

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