Tips & Tricks

The collision of the creative and practical parts of the brain gives us the world’s great inventions. The basic tools man has invented – the lever, the wheel, the pulley – haven’t been improved on centuries later, but the way those tools are adapted continue to evolve. Electricity is a force of nature and physics, but the taming of that force allows it to move mountains ...


The collision of the creative and practical parts of the brain gives us the world’s great inventions. The basic tools man has invented %%MDASSML%% the lever, the wheel, the pulley %%MDASSML%% haven’t been improved on centuries later, but the way those tools are adapted continue to evolve. Electricity is a force of nature and physics, but the taming of that force allows it to move mountains and still remain safe to use.

This is how Tips & Tricks was born 20 years ago %%MDASSML%% by facing the problems we see each day on the plant floor and crafting a creative solution. Hundreds of great ideas over two decades have helped PLANT ENGINEERING readers out of tight spots and helped get the job done safely and efficiently.

Even in today’s high-tech world, the basics of tools and nature haven’t changed. How we use them has changed dramatically. But there always will be room in a high-tech world for innovative ways to move motors, measure voltage or simply fill in a hole. Here are the 2007 contributions from PLANT ENGINEERING readers to the legacy of Tips & Tricks:

Moving motors to change bearings

When changing a bearing, coupling, etc. the motor normally needs to be moved out of the way to access the equipment. For heavier motors, remove the motor mounting bolts, disconnect the coupling and lift each foot with a small flat pry bar. Put a 1/8” x 4” nipple under each foot and roll the motor out of the way. Once out of the way place a washer in front of and behind two of the roller pipes to keep it place. After repairs, remove the washers and roll it back into place and remove the roller pipes.

Jack Jones

Electrical Engineer

Guardian Industries Corp., Pittsburgh

Saw in reverse

When cutting PVC with a hole saw. Run the saw in reverse and the holesaw will not twist and jerk out of your hand.

Ken Borgen

Maintenance & Facilities Manager

The Michaels Furniture Co., Sacramento, CA

Test lights as indicators

I find neon test lights to be handy when used as intended, but also as indicator lights. Cut off the tips, crimp on terminals, and install across AC components. Use several, as test lights are inexpensive, have a wide-voltage AC range, and don’t take up much space. Troubleshooting is easier when watching a sequence of events. I leave them in place, because there is not much reason to pull them out. Watching them helps explain operating details to someone else.

Craig Cox

Project Engineer

Corporate Engineering, Racine, WI

Filling the gap

When filling in a hole that has been worn open past an acceptable tolerance, a piece of copper pipe (with an outside dimension of the size that is needed) can be inserted into the hole. A welder can fill the gap between the worn sides of the hole and the copper pipe. When the welding is complete, simply knock-out the piece of pipe.

Gary Hawkins

Plant Engineering Supervisor

3M, Nevada, MO

Testing fan speeds

Hinge a small vane in the moving air so it rests on a contact point that triggers a solid state relay, Adjust the vane’s weight so the switch opens when the fan’s speed is higher than desired. When it slows down, the contact closes and the speed increases. The switch contact can be optical to avoid the exposed arc of a true mechanical point contact.

Craig Cox

Project Engineer

Corporate Engineering, Racine, WI

Protecting bump strips

On automatic doors, when there is a bump-strip to prevent shutting while anything is in the way, a flexible piece of material can be used to cover the bump-strip so that if an item such as a pallet jack in the door is moving when the bump-strip is contacted it will not pull the bump-strip out of its track.

Gary Hawkins

Plant Engineering Supervisor

3M, Nevada, MO

Testing for loss of ground

Use a non-contact voltage tester for the loss of ground to electrical equipment. Test first in an outlet, then hold the tester close to the metal case of a piece of equipment connected to the outlet with a three-prong plug. If properly grounded, the probe will not light or sound. Then connect the three-prong plug to a two-prong adapter. Plug into an outlet, and then hold the voltage probe close to the metal case. The probe will sound and light indicating voltage.

Bennie Kennedy

General Industries Outreach Electrical Safety Trainer

Square D/Schneider Electric

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System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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