Winner of the 2001 "Maintenance Tip of the Year" is Brian Berg, Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co., Wausau, WI. He received $1000 for his suggestion on how to filter dirty air in a work area. Runners-up were Robert Hans, Sonoco-U.S. Mills, Inc., Menasha, WI, and Monte Hyler, ABB Automation, Analytical Div.
By Joe Foszcz, Senior Editor, Plant Engineering Magazine February 15, 2002
Entering the contest
First Place
Second Place
Third Place

Winner of the 2001 “Maintenance Tip of the Year” is Brian Berg, Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co., Wausau, WI. He received $1000 for his suggestion on how to filter dirty air in a work area. Runners-up were Robert Hans, Sonoco-U.S. Mills, Inc., Menasha, WI, and Monte Hyler, ABB Automation, Analytical Div., Lewisburg, WV. Mr. Hans presented a solution for starting screws in tight places, and Mr. Hyler explained how to determine if an unattended switch had opened and closed again.

Countless time-conserving, money-saving, aggravation-avoiding ideas for solving typical plant maintenance problems are used by Plant Engineering readers. Unfortunately, all too often the knowledge base of these inexpensive, easy-to-implement problem-solvers is not universal.

Sharing simple, shortcut maintenance methods or procedures with others in the profession is the basic intent of Plant Engineering magazine’s 14thannual “Tips & Tricks” article. Reader-submitted maintenance suggestions selected by our review committee will appear in the July issue. (Those not picked for that article will be considered for use in our monthly “Simple Solutions” department.)

In addition to submitting maintenance ideas, we want our readers to pick the “best” tip of 2002 from among those published. A reader service number will be assigned to each entry so you can vote for the five entrants you think are the most appropriate or practical for solving your maintenance problems.

The highest vote-getter will be rewarded with $1000. The two runners-up will each receive $250. All other items published in “Tips & Tricks” and “Simple Solutions” will earn $35.

Entering the contest

Look around the plant, or call on your past experiences. Do you see a short-cut method for handling a maintenance problem, or recall a technique that solved a problem in the past? The ideas do not have to be a big deal, or even original with you. What is common knowledge or routine in one plant, industry, or area might be a revelation elsewhere.

If you come up with a good idea, send us a detailed explanation. State the problem that existed and present the solution provided by your tip. Drawings or color photographs visually depicting the ideas are extremely important to the impact and understanding of the tip. Also include your title, company mail and e-mail address, and daytime phone number.

Send your ideas to Joe Foszcz, Plant Engineering magazine, 2000 Clearwater Dr., Oak Brook, IL 60523. Ideas can also be e-mailed to , or faxed to 630-320-7145.

Entries must be received by April 15, 2002 for consideration.

First Place

Cleaning dirty air

Problem: When working in a dusty area or around sanding-type operations, dirt seems to be floating everywhere and settles on everything. Is there an economical way to capture the dust before it enters the plant environment?

Solution: A simple dust collection system can be made for less than $20. Get a 20-in. x 20-in. box fan, 20-in. x 20-in. furnace filter, and four pieces of tape. Tape the filter on the suction side of the fan and position it near the dust-generating source or in the dusty area to capture the particulate. This filter position allows you to see when it needs cleaning or replacing, and the airflow helps hold it in place.

Second Place

Holding onto screws

Problem: Inserting screws into small or tight places on a wall or overhead is often a difficult, frustrating task if you don’t have a magnetic screwdriver handy. There just isn’t enough room for your fingers to hold onto small screws while trying to drive them home. Is there a way to get this job done?

Solution: Push the screw through a piece of paper; the threads hang onto it for you. Then hold the paper from the side and push the screw into place with the screwdriver. When the screw is safely in the hole, simply tear the paper away and finish tightening. This method works at any angle, even upside down.

Third Place

Flashing clock provides answer

Problem: It seems a 115-V circuit is losing power intermittently, but you can never catch it in the act to be sure. Is there a quick and simple way to find out if there is a problem?

Solution: Plug a cheap digital clock into the circuit. If the power goes out and comes back on (or even flickers, depending on the sensitivity of the clock), it will be flashing. In the circuit ilustrated, it is suspected that T1 is momentarily opening up and reclosing during the night. Connect the digital clock across the circuit, with its neutral connected to terminal 5 and the hot lead to terminal 2. If the clock is flashing the next morning, but T1 is closed, you know that it opened and closed during the night. An hour meter can be connected with the clock if you need to know how long the outage lasted.