New department responds to popular demand

For years, our annual "Tips & Tricks" feature generated requests that we run these kinds of great ideas in every issue.


For years, our annual "Tips & Tricks" feature generated requests that we run these kinds of great ideas in every issue. So here it is: A monthly department of ideas for faster, easier, or less expensive ways to deal with plant engineering and maintenance tasks.

Two types of ideas come from our readers: Those that allow the seemingly impossible to be accomplished, and those that are shortcuts. The word "shortcut" is used here in its most positive sense, referring to an approach that gives the desired result (or perhaps better) with less time, effort, or expense.

All too often, what is common knowledge or standard procedure in one plant, industry, or trade may be unknown elsewhere. Perhaps there's a cherished trick that's been passed along to you, or maybe you've got a clever idea of your own.

Each reader-submitted maintenance suggestion selected for publication will earn the sender $35. Granted, this is not a lot of money. But the goal here is to share ideas, not to make money. There is no limit on the number of ideas submitted. The best and most widely useful ideas will be published in our annual "Tips & Tricks" feature article.

How to submit ideas

Simplicity and widespread applicability are the two most important criteria for suggestions.

If you come up with a good idea, send us a detailed explanation. State the problem that existed, and then present the solution provided by your tip. It's important to include drawings, sketches, or color photos if they help to make the idea and its use clear. Also include a brief professional biography, your company mailing and/or e-mail address, and daytime telephone number.

Accurate pressure

Problem: In checking fluid handling devices, readings of the inlet and outlet pressures are often desired. Using two separate gauges can be misleading because of possible gauge inaccuracy.

Solution: Get inlet and outlet pressures from the same gauge by installing it with two valves so that each reading can be taken, one at a time. The gauge may not be exactly accurate, but the differential reading is likely to be more accurate than if two gauges are used.

Contributor: Gordon R. Watson, PE, Fluor Daniel, San Jose, CA

Pulling knobs

Problem: Small knobs that press onto their shafts can be difficult to remove.

Solution: Slide the edge of a handkerchief or thin rag under the knob, add two or three twists, then pull the knob off.

Contributor: Kelly Scott, Plant Maintenance, Quartztek. Inc., Phoenix, AZ

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