The top 10 stories of 2016: what you still can learn

Readers picked their favorite stories of the year, and there are many great tips on that list.

By Bob Vavra, CFE Media December 20, 2016

The top 10 stories referenced by readers at cover every topic from global manufacturing to arc flash to maintenance. While many readers took advantage of the online articles in 2016, there’s still time for everyone to get a little something from each article.

Here’s a look at the top 10 articles referenced online from 2016, a link to the full article, and a nugget of wisdom from each one:

1. Global Manufacturing and Automation Summit

On the subject of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), said Chris LeBeau, global director of IT at Advanced Technology Services, Inc. (ATS) said at the Summit, "IIoT gives you more information about what you should already know." He said the key questions to ask are, "How can do I that better, and will this information allow me to do it better? Whatever metrics you use, make sure you use them right. Make sure it’s locked down and has a consistent view."

2. Diagnose bearing failures beyond root cause analysis

The unverified quote attributed to Albert Einstein, "Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler" is a useful mindset when determining the root cause of a bearing failure. In order to correctly determine the reason why a bearing failed, a systematic way of problem solving needs to be employed by a reliability team. Root cause failure analysis (RCFA) is a problem-solving method used to determine the cause of an incident and separate it from the effects, as well as filter out the non-auditory noise, which can prevent the team from solving the problem and implementing the necessary corrective action.

3. Safety, every day—for 18 years

"Everything is about the team. It’s the team above the individual," said Paul Beaumont, the safety manager at Baldor’s Belton, S.C. plant. "It’s safety first-always. In this organization, it’s safety, then quality, then the customer, and then the financials. There’s a sense of urgency to improve everything. Any safety program we’ve got out there, we’re continually trying to improve on. If they see something, they’re going to say something. We try to make sure nobody gets offended, but they are going to say something to you." 

4. Involving operators in equipment maintenance plan 

The success of your equipment maintenance plan (EMP) will depend on how involved operators were in its development and implementation. Are operator experience and abilities underutilized in your organization for the purposes of improving and sustaining asset reliability? Even if you don’t have an operator care (OC) program in place, you should consider operator care’s mitigation capabilities when a strategy is required to lower risk to the value stream.

5. 2016 Maintenance Study: Seven key findings

The study found 76% of manufacturing facilities follow a preventive maintenance strategy; 61% use a run-to-failure method and 51% use a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Preventive maintenance, reactive maintenance, and predictive maintenance are three strategies that most reduce the probability of failure.

6. How an arc flash relay reduces costs

Use of an arc flash relay greatly reduces the hazard risk category of the panel or enclosure that it protects and can even (in some cases) eliminate it altogether. A qualified engineer should make that determination.

7. Preventing VFD faults and failures

Properly sized and configured VFD systems can help optimize performance, save energy, and permanently lower machine and robotic lifecycle costs. Conversely, faults and failures can escalate into costly downtime. Operators must quickly identify and resolve problems.

8. How to balance your PM workload

Before you begin, here are some fundamentals: Be comfortable with linking cells in formulas within a spreadsheet program, such as Excel Have the right people with the right skills available to do the work. Develop a balanced PM work schedule based on the shop’s capacity to make sure the work can be completed in a timely manner.

9. Why Lean fails so often

Lean is a thinking system that includes tools, not a system of tools. When leadership doesn’t understand this basic fact, there’s a low ceiling on improvement. Slapping tools on a factory without specific just-in-time purpose that matters to employees, and on top of whatever is already in place, won’t work. Yet, it’s a common form of Lean implementation.

10. Four causes of water hammer, and how to prevent damage

Unfortunately, 82% of the steam systems in North America are experiencing some type of water hammer. Many mistakenly believe that water hammer is unavoidable and a natural part of steam and condensate systems but this statement is entirely false. If the system is properly designed and correctly operated, water hammer in any form will not occur. It is possible to have high-pressure steam systems operating without water hammer and enjoy a long operational life from the steam component.  

-Bob Vavra, content manager, CFE Media,