Thursday, 27 October 2016

Lubrication FMEA: The Big Picture

Article extract from ReliabilityWeb:

The global failure modes are:
  • Obsolescence (10%)
  • Breakage (10%)
  • Surface degradation (80%)

The surface degradation causes are:
  • Corrosion - Why we paint and use protective coatings
  • Wear - Why we lubricate
  • Adhesive wear
  • Abrasive wear
  • Surface fatigue
  • Corrosive wear
Obsolescence at 10 percent appears to be growing with rapidly changing technology and increasing government regulations. Do you remember the U.S. government's Cash for Clunkers program? If you operate a coal fired power plant, can you see obsolescence on the horizon?

Breakage, also at 10 percent, is for the design engineers to use FMEA to determine how to handle today's increasing power densities and lighter weights while improving reliability in future process systems and equipment.

Surface degradation at 80 percent is further divided into wear at 65 percent and corrosion at 15 percent. With respect to lubrication, corrosion can be eliminated at this level because paint and protective coatings or stainless steel and other corrosion resistant alloys are used to protect equipment surfaces against environmental damage.

By eliminating 35 percent of the global failure modes, a Tribologist or lubrication engineer can focus on wear when using FMEA. If you don't have a lubrication engineer on your FMEA team, get one! Many organizations do not have an engineer with any formal training in lubrication or tribology - the study and application of the principles of friction, lubrication and wear.

Adhesive Wear

Adhesive wear is a direct result of metal to metal contact. Surface asperities contacting under load while sliding will generate heat, friction and wear due to insufficient or loss of the lubricating film. The range of adhesive wear can be as low as running-in wear with a poorly specified break-in oil up to catastrophic damage with surfaces welded together due to total loss of lubrication.

The most important physical property of a lubricating fluid is viscosity. Viscosity measures a fluid's resistance to flow as it relates to load, temperature and speed. Viscosity determines the ability of the lubricant to enter the contact zone of the moving surfaces and remain in the contact zone under the applied load for the necessary time to prevent metal to metal contact.

Today's equipment design engineers now see the lubricant as an integral component to improve reliability. That is why it is important to read the original equipment manufacturer's manual and review the recommended oils and greases. However, when an existing process or machine is being applied in a new way, any change to the operating load, temperature, or speed must be analyzed to maintain the proper oil film.

Abrasive Wear

While the saying, "cleanliness is next to godliness," does not appear verbatim in the Bible, it certainly needs to be a commandment for proper lubrication practices. Abrasive wear is caused by suspended hard particles in lubricants. These particles are a combination of wear particles generated by adhesive wear, dirt and other abrasive particles from the process or environment and, in some cases, from the degradation of the lubricant itself. Abrasive wear is why we use filtration and seals.

Never assume a new hydraulic system or piece of machinery is clean and never assume a new lubricant is clean. New machinery and systems must be flushed to remove contaminants that entered during manufacturing and assembly. If you want clean new lubricants, then you must specify the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO) cleanliness requirements for new lubricants and even then, use filtration to transfer the new lube from its container into the reservoir or sump.

Using dirty lubricants affects the entire system or machine because abrasive particles circulate throughout until they are filtered or settle in the reservoir.

Surface Fatigue

Machinery components do not last forever; they have a designed life for their useful purposes. Premature surface fatigue is usually the result of over-speed or overload of the equipment, especially in the case of bearings and gear surfaces. Even in a perfectly lubricated bearing, if you double the speed, bearing life is reduced by 50 percent and if you double the load, the life is reduced by 87.5 percent.

We are a nation of tinkers and profit-driven to increase system production by making things faster (speed) or doing more work (load) in the same amount of time. By our own actions, surface fatigue has a dotted line impact on why equipment breaks.

Surface fatigue is extremely difficult to detect in operating systems because it is easily masked by catastrophic adhesive wear or catastrophic abrasive wear caused by large chunk spalling. Detection in operating equipment is difficult and typically requires partial disassembly and bore scoping by a trained technician, or direct reading ferrographic analysis of wear particles. In many cases, surface fatigue is only confirmed by complete machine disassembly and inspection of the failed component using magnetic, X-ray, ultrasonic, or scanning electron microscope devices.

Corrosive Wear

Over time, oxidation causes lubricants to become acidic. Acidic lubricants are responsible for most surface corrosion. This can be measured by the increase in the total acid number (TAN) of the used oil compared to the new lubricant's referenced TAN. In most cases, if the used oil TAN number is 2.5 higher than the new oil's referenced TAN, then the used oil is sufficiently acidic to cause surface corrosion. Oxidation reactions with the lubricant also cause internal deposits of gums, varnish and sludge. Surface corrosion caused by additive reaction is rare. It is generally found in additive reactions with copper or silver surfaces. This is easily detected using elemental oil analysis.

In conclusion, by adding the above risk priority numbers (RPNs) in Figures 2-5, the sum is 65.005% representing the global percentage of equipment failure modes caused by surface degradation. The best way to reduce this global failure mode percentage in your processes and equipment is to improve your lubrication program.

The lubrication program should emphasize the selection of lubricants that must be application driven based on the load, environment, temperature and speed of the process. The lubrication program also must ensure the five basic rights of machinery, which are the right lubricant of the right quality delivered in the right place at the right time in the right amount. Formal lubrication training is needed to establish a truly effective lubrication program. Most organizations require a cultural change in the way they view lubrication fundamentals.

John Cummins is vice president of product technology at Hydrotex®, a manufacturer and distributor of high performance lubricant and fuel improver solutions. He is the Dean of Hydrotex Lubrication University, a comprehensive lubrication education program for the sales field and Hydrotex customers. He is a certified lubrication specialist by the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE).

Project life cycle support using RAM analysis

Article extract from DNV GL blog, part of ReliablePlant newsletter:

RAM (Reliability, Availability and Maintainability) analysis are commonly used to support the decision making process. The analysis can be used throughout the project life cycle to support the decisions that have to be made at each of the various stages:

Project lifecycle

Conceptual Design
The Conceptual Design is a preliminary stage where a description of the proposed system in terms of a set of integrated ideas and concepts are made. The result is the generation of many Design Concepts which are supported to  evaluate the feasibility of each conceptual alternative. Advanced RAM analysis allows quick screening of various development options to assess suitability (from a functional & commercial perspective) of the proposed designs.

Front End Engineering Design stage
Once a number of options have been selected, a more detailed analysis can be carried out to choose major equipment types and maintenance philosophies. At this stage, the most important decisions in regards to concept and plans for the project are made. Some of the questions that you might want to answer at this stage are:

  • How does equipment/unit reliability impact production?
  • What happens if equipment performance is worse than expected?
  • What size storage tanks (equipment) should I have?
  • What is the impact of unit over-design (catch-up) margins?
  • What is the optimum unit configuration in order to maximise production/availability and maintenance reduction?
  • Will it be possible to meet the customers’ demands for products?
  • What is supply efficiency to each customer?

Advanced RAM analysis helps you to decide what is the best configuration for your assets and aids you in answering these and many more questions.

Detailed engineering
The Front End Engineering Design (FEED) stage leads to the creation of primary design documents such as process flow diagrams (PFDs), Process & Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs), equipment lists and equipment datasheets. Once the FEED has been finalised, a much more detailed design for the system is specified. At this stage, the questions are much more specific:

  • What happens if I improve equipment reliability?
  • What is the financial impact of investing in more reliable equipment?
  • Should I spare equipment to increase reliability?
  • How many spares do I need to have and how would it increase system reliability?

Advanced RAM analysis ensure that the system design meets your required performance targets.

By identifying the critical elements and the bottlenecks in the system, the results from an Advanced RAM study can be used to feed in to other methodologies, such as Risk Based Inspection (RBI) and Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM). Subsequently, the output from the RBI and RCM processcan then be fed back into the model to provide a final picture of system performance.

Operational Stage
During the Operational phase, it is not very cost-effective to make decisions in regards to the design. However, Advanced RAM analysis can also be used to assess impact of planned modifications. The most common evaluation carried out during the Operational stage is related to the maintenance philosophy which, basically, refers to number of spares, re-stock time and available personnel. There is always a trade-off between the cost of lost production versus the cost of maintenance.

For mature systems, as we keep asking more of our ageing assets, the Advanced RAM methodology allows you to find potential areas for rejuvenation or facilities life extension. Many sensitivity cases can be applied to a mature system model, which will indicate to various rejuvenation options and the potential gains quantified.

A platform at the end of its lifecycle must be assessed to extend their production. Many parameters must be evaluated:
  • Ageing systems and old technology – what is critical when it comes to production loss?
  • Decommission of problematic systems – which system should be turned off?
  • Where should I focus main preventive maintenance?

Sometimes, due the high number of variables in an oil and gas development, it is not easy to identify at where the operational expenditure exceeds the revenue, making the system no longer economically viable. By modelling all the transient behaviours of a system, Advanced RAM analysis helps you to  evaluate decommissioning strategies viability.

Taking Predictive Maintenance to the Next Level

Article extract from ReliablePlant newsletter:

Predictive maintenance is a term coined years ago as the means to use technology to identify a component defect in its earliest stage of degradation. Today some also call this same process condition-based maintenance (CBM). Either way it is detecting defects early. The premise behind this activity is when a defect is detected early; the repair can be performed during a scheduled outage. The lead time prevents secondary costs that would be incurred by an unscheduled outage due to the lack of defect knowledge. We break defects down into two categories; the first is the primary state of failure and the other is secondary state of failure.

Primary failure:

A primary failure is the first detectable signal that a defect exists. For example, if you are dealing with equipment the first detectable signal a component is failing could be a vibration signature that exposes a bearing fault frequency.

Secondary failure:

If the same bearing as above fails catastrophically all the additional damage incurred is considered secondary failure. When the bearing that was identified in the primary state fails catastrophically the shaft will drop from lack of support causing shaft and housing damage. The shaft and housing damage did not have to occur, but did. Therefore it is considered secondary failure.

Secondary failure is most often a result of not taking action on items exposed from the predictive maintenance technologies exception reports. When the primary bearing defect is exposed, the fate of the component can only be imminent failure.

Whether secondary damage occurs, is up to the management since they control when the repairs take place. Unfortunately, the first usual response to a high priority defect is “will it make it to the next shutdown?” Then the premise of condition based maintenance has been at best diluted or at worst ignored.

Taking the predictive maintenance job to the next step:

No one cares more about making a correct defect call than the Reliability technician. Whether it is a defect discovered using vibration, ultrasonic, infrared, or any other of the numerous predictive maintenance technologies available, the Reliability technician wants to confirm it was a valid diagnosis.

What normally happens is the Reliability technician will wait for the components of the diagnosed defect’s to be removed and retrieve it for examination. When confirmed as a valid call, the component is normally saved as a trophy of sorts. This is understandable as the technician is proud of the fact the call produced a defect that could be corrected before secondary damage could occur.

It should only make sense they would have the most interest in finding the solution. With some additional basic knowledge they could determine how the defect materialized. With basic fracture pattern knowledge, technician’s would be able to identify the failure mechanism by reading a fractured component’s surface. To determine if a part failed due to fatigue or overload is a great step toward knowledge and/or solution because the two failure mechanisms only can occur under conditions specific to each mechanism.

As an example, let’s say a shaft failed and the technician can determine it is due to fatigue. Let’s further say he or she can also determine the fatigue was due to misalignment. The technician can show proof both by reading the vibration signature and by reading the failed shaft’s surface.

What is there to gain from this?

  • Predictive Maintenance Technicians that truly understand failure mechanisms and how they occur.
  • Solutions and corrections in the field that last longer because they are based on verified knowledge.
  • Higher level of documentation accuracy on work order closeout.
  • Technicians that participate from a higher level of knowledge on root cause analysis teams.
  • Higher morale because of value-added input.
  • Higher overall equipment Reliability.

Taking predictive maintenance to the next level is a natural progression of a company’s overall Reliability approach.

About the Author:

Mark Latino is President of Reliability Center, Inc. (RCI). Mark came to RCI after 19 years in corporate America. During those years a wealth of reliability, maintenance, and manufacturing experience was acquired. He worked for Weyerhaeuser Corporation in a production role during the early stages of his career.  He was an active part of Allied Chemical Corporations (Now Honeywell) Reliability Strive for Excellence initiative that was started in the 70’s to define, understand, document, and live the Reliability Culture until he left in 1986. Mark spent 10 years with Philip Morris primarily in a production capacity that later ended in a reliability engineering role. Mark is a graduate of Old Dominion University and holds a BS Degree in Business Management that focused on Production & Operations.

This article was previously published in the Reliable Plant 2014 Conference Proceedings.
By Mark Latino, Reliability Center Inc.

Increase Performance with an Engaged, Healthy Workforce

Article extract from ReliablePlant newsletter:

As you begin a new year in your organization, you must commit resources to answer the latest challenges and bring success to the bottom line. One of the main concerns in many companies is employee well-being and health. Indeed, to meet all of the challenges you face this year, you will need to ensure that your workforce is engaged and healthy.

For many people, the resolution of daily exercise is made each year only to dwindle and flame out over the coming days, weeks or, in a few fortunate cases, months. Some folks actually do make it a lifelong way of life, and I applaud those who do. However, the vast majority of people typically fall back into their old routines without making any real changes to improve their health and well-being.

Within an organizational setting, ergonomics and stretching can be key elements in achieving success in this area. I would be interested in knowing how many people have formal before-work and during-work stretching regimens in place to engage their workforce and potentially provide a method to improve the health and well-being of their employees. Of course, you can place programs, documents, checks and measurement systems in the environment, but without an engaged and healthy workforce, you are still lacking the essential element for any change program’s success.

I would also be interested in the cultural changes that have taken place as organizations instituted these types of programs as part of the standard work process of each day. In previous environments, I have seen where the day begins with music playing across the organization and people rising to their feet in their workgroups, moving to a series of well-designed stretches. Once completed, the group comes together for the five-minute pre-production review and then goes to the line to start the day. Have you been involved in a program like this? If you have made the transition to this sort of cultural change, how was it accepted? Do you still have it in place?

I firmly believe that people come to work each day looking for something to awaken their senses and bring joy to their time. This may be just the thing to improve recordable case-rate injuries from sprains and strains suffered at work. It definitely is a plan to consider for the new year.

Help Workers Get What They Need

Article extract from ReliablePlant newsletter:

If you are like me, you've listened to the Rolling Stones over the years. Their contemporaries, the Beatles, became more artistic and lyrical as they evolved, but for driving party music, the Stones are still hard for any band to beat.

I even heard the words to one of their songs quoted recently: "You can't always get what you want." This much I already knew, but what follows has a lot of meaning in continuous improvement: "But if you try sometime, you might find you get what you need."

So many times in problem-solving work, you do all of the analysis with the really smart, expert people and come to what you truly believe is the right answer — one that you really want to work. But then you find when you implement it, "You know, it just didn't work," or "It just didn't last," or "Nobody would buy into it."

Most people tend to get hung up on what they want rather than what they need. They want their elegant solution to work. They fall in love with it. For engineers, this is usually the technical solution. Having found that perfect solution, well, let's not waste any time getting it in place. Forget all of that soft-skills stuff; just make people do it now.

For some, change management is simply convincing people to do things that, for various reasons, they don't seem to want to do.

Others have talked of the frustrations and time consumed in hunting down and eliminating the wily, elusive, supposed single root cause, as opposed to just implementing some of the many solutions to various, fairly obvious contributing causes that just make things quickly better. This isn't saying that structured analysis isn't necessary, but rather that it's not the biggest part of fixing or improving.

Unfortunately, because they tend to address fundamental issues, too many of the "best" solutions become larger, which usually means expensive and time consuming. That's also frustrating, as managers will usually push back at the thought of expensive.

I remember a problem that was aggravating and constantly frustrating plant personnel (as well as affecting productivity and quality) that could have been fixed for about $2,000. The solution had been developed with some help, but there was another, much more extensive engineering project in the works with a price tag of $80,000 that also would have taken care of that problem, among other things, so why spend the $2,000? Besides, adding in the fix on the small issue would help justify the big project.

Unfortunately, after a number of months of management pushing back, the $80,000 project was abandoned. Sadly, the $2,000 project seemed to have been forgotten by then. Months of productivity and an opportunity to build some ownership were lost. It was their solution; they would have made it work. Instead, there was ongoing frustration at the needless waste and at being ignored. Of course, management again paid the price of being tagged with "too cheap to do the right thing."

The real trick in all of this is finding the way to "what we need." So, what is missing? What do you have to "try sometime?"

Well, how about listening to people? How about giving them the opportunities to make changes? How about helping them rather than telling them? Amazingly, people really know a lot about what the issues are and how to deal with them if asked and given the opportunity rather than being pushed aside while the experts deal with it.

Implement a process that uses communication to build ownership. This doesn't just happen, and you can't just do it now and again when you have some time. It takes a routine, everyday, structured process that will go on forever. Issues and improvements are identified and discussed. Actions (including communication) are decided on, along with any necessary follow-up.

The daily, small-unit shift exchange meetings can be the most powerful way to get this to happen. It also takes the involvement of supervision, maintenance personnel and even engineers to get to what you need. Although people know what they need, they usually require some help getting there and are typically receptive to genuine attempts to assist them. Engineers and managers are there to help people find their way to the right answers and, in doing that, develop to their potential.

Remember, the right approach is not to get people to do things that they probably don't want to do, but just to help them get to what they need.

About the Author
Currently working as a consultant, John Crossan retired after spending 30-plus years with the Clorox Company. His roles for much of the past 14 years were mainly focused on improving operations by ... 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Create a Culture to Retain Top Talent

Article extract from ReliablePlant newsletter:

Now more than ever it is important to understand what keeps people working and doing their best for the organization. While the current economic situation has created tough times for businesses, it has also created one of the highest unemployment rates in decades. However, there is a misnomer related to today's high unemployment rates, and that is that people will not leave their organization because it is too difficult to find a job.

The fact is that talented people can find a job anywhere. One of the ways to lose talented workers is through passive recruiting. This is a process where companies who are hiring (and there are still plenty of them) are vigorously recruiting talent who are not looking for another job. For all intents and purposes, these employees are happy with their current company and satisfied to have a good job. The recruiting company approaches these people offering more money, better working conditions, more benefits, higher status, etc.

One of the most important tasks ahead of you is to keep the existing workforce engaged and productive. To accomplish this when people are anxious about the future of the organization or the prospect of being the next to go, it is a matter of showing your employees that you value them and their loyalty and that they are not just a commodity.

You not only want to keep them, but you also want to motivate and inspire them to perform exceptionally for the organization. Pat Galagan, editor-at-large for the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), had this to say in the March issue of Economy Watch: "People are critical to the success of every organization. The leaders and organizations that adopt the smartest strategies for attracting and retaining their key talent will survive this economic crisis and be in a prime position to come out of it poised to move ahead of their competition."

Employee turnover is a serious matter. It is not only costly to the organization, but it also creates low morale and serious talent gaps. You should be measuring your turnover rate. Anything above 5 percent should be of great concern. You can also calculate your retention rate. However, the retention rate alone can be misleading. For example, if you hire 100 people at the beginning of the month and 10 people leave at the end of the month, your retention rate is 90 percent. The formula for calculating retention is:

In this example, the retention rate looks excellent. It appears that you have lost only 10 employees. But what if you hired 50 employees after the first day of the month and 40 of them left before the end of the month? You will get a truer picture of employee attrition if you measure turnover. The formula for calculating turnover is:

In this example, even though your retention rate is 90 percent, your turnover rate is 50 percent.

However, measuring the retention and the turnover rate still does not tell the whole story. Consider examining the voluntary vs. the involuntary turnover. In order to reduce turnover, you must have a strong understanding of how many people are leaving voluntarily. Only then can you take action to reduce the turnover rate. In the above example, of the 50 employees who left the company, 39 left as a result of permanent layoffs and one was fired for violation of company policy. The remaining 10 were recruited away by the competition. Below is the formula for calculating voluntary turnover.

Calculating your turnover rate and understanding why employees leave is critical to retaining your top talent. The following are steps that you can take to create an organizational culture that contributes to talent retention:

  1. Create an environment of trust
    • Honor responsibilities to workers: Determine what you believe are your responsibilities to your workers. The best way to do this is to ask them. Is it more, cleaner or nicer break rooms/restrooms? It could be any number of things. The best organizations take the time to find out. Is it better communication? Often it's the little things.
    • Ask for their ideas and implement as many as possible
    • Follow through on commitments
    • Ensure fairness in company policies
    • Hold everyone accountable in a consistent manner for delivering on goals

  2. Give people meaningful tasks
  3. Create a motivated, inspired, satisfied workforce
  4. Create conditions for job satisfaction
  5. Make employees feel connected, like they belong to the company, and the company values them
  6. Foster a culture of engagement
  7. Reward and recognize
    • Identify behaviors that support the culture and reward those employees who demonstrate those behaviors
    • Determine how to recognize: Ask employees, "Do you want to be recognized in public or would you prefer private recognition?" Also, be sure to personalize the presentation.
    • Be consistent and fair in recognition
    • Create developmental opportunities

What does your company do to try to retain right-fit talent? What does your company do to reduce voluntary turnover? Or, what doesn't your company do?

About the Author
Deborah K. Zmorenski, MBA, is the co-owner and senior partner of Leader’s Strategic Advantage Inc., an Orlando, Fla.-based consulting firm. During her 34-year career with the Walt Disney ... 

Improving Maintenance in the New Year

Article extract from ReliablePlant newsletter:

Let's assume you have an average plant and the economy is tight. You can't travel, and you must save money. What should your New Year's resolution be? Here are some suggestions:

1) If you are going to cut maintenance cost, you cannot focus on cost itself but rather on what drives cost. Perhaps use an analogy in safety. You can't just send out a memo or shout "improve safety." You need to fundamentally change the way people behave. Another analogy is energy cost. How would you reduce energy cost? You have to focus on things that save energy and drive that cost such as leaks, insulation, etc. When it comes to maintenance cost, often it is just slashed without considering the effects of that cost cutting. Again, focus on what drives maintenance cost, not the cost itself.

2) Get a common understanding between operations and maintenance on what constitutes good maintenance. I recently worked in a plant that has tried for years to improve reliability. However, when asked what constitutes good maintenance, operations answered that "75 percent of the work is executed the same day," while maintenance answered that "good maintenance is when 4 percent of the work is executed the same day." Plant personnel must sit down and define "what good looks like." Otherwise, you will never be able to drive improvement in the right direction.

3) Only request maintenance jobs to be done today or tomorrow if it is absolutely necessary. This is a principle that makes sense and that most people understand, but few actually do. It is the classic know-do gap. It is also often triggered by not trusting the maintenance department. If it is not submitted as an emergency, it will not be done. In the past, people have started to scream louder and louder to get jobs done. Eventually, everybody is screaming. Managers must take charge and enforce a meaningful priority system.

4) Inspect equipment with detailed look, listen, smell, feel inspections together with a minimum of an infrared gun, flashlight and a stroboscope. There is no way you can plan for next week if you don’t know what is about to break down. Many plants are in a catch-22. "There is no time to do inspections because we have too many breakdowns" is something I hear several times a month. Management has to take charge and break out of this cycle. It will initially cost some additional time that will be saved in both maintenance cost and uptime later. There's no magic formula. It's very simple. Collect the tools, find a craftsperson who is highly skilled and willing to do the inspections, and get going. Detailed documentation is necessary at some point, but it is more important to begin the process.

The above is a good list to start on for the average plant. Most plants do some of this already; however, they just need to improve. There is no capital cost — just the cost for doing repairs that must be done anyway earlier and cheaper.

Using ‘Unscheduled’ Oil Analysis for Early Predictive Maintenance

Article extract from ReliablePlant newsletter:

Most oil samples are taken based on a fixed schedule. For large, stationary rotating equipment, monthly or bi-monthly samples are common. Proactive maintenance programs depend on regular checks for oil cleanliness, dryness and lubricant quality. However, machines can and do fail for a variety of reasons, and there is a certain randomness to the onset of these failures. Furthermore, the failure development period is equally unpredictable, with some failures taking months to develop, while others are sudden and abrupt.

In the March-April 2013 issue of Machinery Lubrication, I addressed machine criticality analysis as an essential tool to define the Optimum Reference State (ORS) for numerous lubrication and oil analysis activities. The Overall Criticality Matrix (OCM) is constructed from two assessments: the Machine Criticality Factor (MCF) and the Failure Occurrence Factor (FOF). The MCF relates to the consequences of machine failure while the FOF relates to the probability of machine failure. Both the MCF and the FOF are highly influenced by the effectiveness of “early fault detection.” In other words, the effectiveness of early fault detection sharply reduces machine criticality (for details on this, read the article

Figure 1. Early Predictive Maintenance P-F Interval Scheme
This is the critical link to the “unscheduled” oil analysis strategy. Its theme is not just predictive maintenance (PdM), but more specifically, early predictive maintenance (EPM). Let’s start by reviewing the widely used P-F interval. A modified version is shown in Figure 1.

The “P” is the point when an abnormal wear condition or fault is first detected. The “F” is the functional or operational end of the failure cycle requiring repair or replacement. Failures with short development periods usually go undetected when tests (e.g., vibration and oil analysis) are performed infrequently (even monthly analysis is viewed as infrequent). Conversely, frequent detection methods not only can report a developing failure but also have the potential to detect that failure early (in the incipient stage). There are specific tactics and tools for doing this well.

Again, the secret to this strategy is the frequency. It enables a much higher percentage of failure detection (saves) events, especially earlier detection. The purposeful benefit is mitigated machine damage and reduced or no unscheduled downtime (longer P-F interval). While PdM concentrates on predicting the end of a machine’s (or lubricant’s) service life, EPM puts critical focus on timing - not just detecting - by detecting early. It seeks a budding problem, not a burgeoning problem.

Detection by Multi-Modal Surveillance

In Noria’s seminars, we use the expression, “You can’t catch a fish unless your hook is in the water.” Likewise, in oil analysis, you can’t catch a fault unless your hook is in the water. There’s an earlier tier to oil analysis called the “detection phase,” which in my view is a huge untapped opportunity in condition-based maintenance. Most scheduled oil analysis programs skip over the detection phase by attempting to catch impending machine failures and only take infrequent snapshots of oil condition.

Figure 2. Combining lab data with surveillance data for a complete picture of machine condition
The detection phase of EPM is continuous failure surveillance across numerous parameters. It integrates skillful and frequent human inspection tactics with other conventional monitoring technologies. A few years ago, I wrote a column on the power of the one-minute daily inspection. This is a critical and often underutilized modality of surveillance and detection.

Fundamentally, the detection phase of EPM is anything and everything that can be done to detect (not analyze) failure in progress. It includes all of the following:

  • Daily routine visual inspections of the oil (level, color, opacity, foam, varnish, tank condition, leakage, magnetic plugs, etc.)
  • Audible inspections (change in machine sound)
  • Temperature inspections (touch, heat guns, gauges, etc.)
  • Portable PdM technology inspections (vibration overalls, thermography, acoustics, motor current, etc.)
  • Mechanical inspections (shaft movement, seal conditions, open gear wear, etc.)
  • Instrument and gauge inspections (flow rates, proximity probes, pressure, bypass indicators, etc.)
  • Onsite oil analysis screening tests (crackle, blotter, viscosity, ferrous density, patch, etc.)

Many impending and precipitous failure conditions that were first reported by scheduled oil analysis could have been detected much earlier if better and more frequent inspection methods were in place, such as those in the list above. The economics of early detection are enormously improved as well.

As noted previously, failure detection and failure analysis are different concepts. Once an abnormal condition has been detected, it can be investigated further to determine where it is coming from, the probable cause of the failure, how severe and threatening it is, and the corrective action. This is where oil analysis and other predictive technologies can be very valuable. “Unscheduled” oil samples can then be forwarded to the lab for troubleshooting purposes (diagnostics and prognostics). These include samples from secondary sampling ports to help localize the source of the problem.

In the laboratory, specialized qualitative and quantitative tests can be performed to characterize the nature of the condition. These might include wear particle identification (XRF, SEM-EDX, analytical ferrography and many others). The skills of a triboanalyst and a multi-technology PdM specialist can combine lab data with surveillance data for the most complete picture of the machine’s condition (see Figure 2).

Proactive Maintenance Still Requires Scheduled Oil Analysis

Unscheduled oil analysis is not an alternative to scheduled oil sampling and analysis. Routine oil analysis is still needed for many reasons. The most important is proactive maintenance, which uses oil analysis to monitor and control the presence of failure root causes. These include verification of the lubricant’s physical and chemical properties as well as contamination control. The benefits of a fine-tuned proactive maintenance program are much slower machine wear rates (longer machine service life), fewer overall machine failures and less associated downtime.

When proactive maintenance is combined with EPM, a comprehensive and more efficient condition-based maintenance program results. Early predictive maintenance is about extreme vigilance. It involves the development of more effective inspection skills and a more effective means of inspection (machine modifications). It also requires a culture change and management support for remediation of machines that have not yet failed.

About the Author
Jim Fitch Photo
Jim Fitch, a founder and CEO of Noria Corporation, has a wealth of experience in lubrication, oil analysis, and machinery failure investigations. He has advised hundreds of companies on developing ... 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Anatomy of a Grease Gun

Article extract from ReliablePlant newsletter:

While anatomy is commonly associated with biology and medicine, this article does not include the study of the human body. However, the typical illustrative methods used for detailed examination and analysis of bodily features have always been an effective learning tool in the classroom. The anatomy lessons within Machinery Lubrication will apply these same methods for various topics within our industry.

In this issue, the grease gun will be dissected to uncover all of its component characteristics. In addition, several other related topics will be discussed, such as common grease gun disorders, symptoms of incorrect greasing volume or frequency and best practices for using a grease gun.

Types of Grease Guns

Grease guns have three ways in which they can be powered: by hand, air or electricity. Aside from these variations, the hand-powered (or manual) grease guns can either be manufactured with a lever or a pistol grip. The benefits to each of these depend primarily on the intended application and the lubrication technician’s personal preference. One other major variation to the grease gun is how the grease is to be loaded: by suction fill, cartridge or bulk.

Manual (Lever) – This is the most common type of grease gun and can supply around 1.28 grams of grease per pump, which is forced through an aperture from hand pumps.

Manual (Pistol Grip) – This variation of the lever-type grease gun allows for the one-handed pumping method, which is very common. It provides approximately 0.86 grams per pump.

Pneumatic (Pistol Grip) – This grease gun uses compressed air directed into the gun by a hose activating a positive displacement with each trigger.

Battery (Pistol Grip) – This is a low-voltage, battery-powered grease gun that works comparably to the pneumatic grease gun. It offers the advantage of being cordless.

It’s fundamental that grease is used as a lubricant because it clings to a machine’s moving surfaces without easily leaking away like oil. For this reason, the filling and refilling of grease in grease-lubricated machines must be treated differently than that of oil-lubricated machines. Therefore, it is essential that the proper grease gun operation is understood and managed by lubrication technicians for bearing and machine reliability. Simply knowing the signs of overgreasing and undergreasing and how often to reapply can go a long way in extending machinery life.

Connectors, Adapters and Couplers

A grease gun may come with the standard connection adapter such as a hydraulic coupler, but there are several variations depending on the application. The standard hydraulic coupler is the most commonly used and most applicable. A 90-degree adapter is ideal for fittings in confined areas that require a 90-degree bend. A needle-end adapter provides a thin, precise amount of grease for tight places, while a three-jaw swivel coupler offers a variety of locking positions for different applications.

Flexible Hose vs. Fixed Tube

The decision to use a flexible hose or a fixed tube depends on the machine’s grease-fitting type and ease of location, as well as the type of grease gun used. For example, a hard-to-reach location would benefit from a flexible tube. On the other hand, lever-style grease guns require both hands to pump the grease and would favor the fixed-tube alternative.


Grease gun meters can be retrofitted onto a grease gun to help optimize lubricant consumption. Plastic caps provide benefits such as preventing corrosion and debris. They also can be color-coded so that cross-contamination does not occur. Other accessories such as sonic/ultrasonic devices are also available.

Grease Fittings

Grease fittings have several names such as a Zerk fitting, grease nipple or Alemite fitting. This is the lubrication point where the grease connector is attached. The standard hydraulic grease fitting is most commonly used for standard applications. It can be either upright or angled. The button-head fitting is ideal for good coupler engagement when large volumes of grease are being added. A flush-type grease fitting is preferred when space is limited for standard protruding fittings, while the pressure-relief vent fitting helps prevent higher pressures that could lead to damaged seals.

Machine Health Risks Associated with Grease Guns

High Grease Gun Pressure

A high-pressure manual grease gun is designed to deliver from 2,000 to 15,000 psi. Applying too much pressure while greasing will damage the bearing seals, which rarely handle more than 500 psi. Symptoms of high grease gun pressure include collapsed bearing shields, damaged bearing seals, grease driven into electric motor windings, and safety and environmental issues.

Regreasing Frequency

Managing regreasing frequencies to optimal conditions is necessary to avoid long-term machine health problems. If the frequency is too long, symptoms may include lubricant starvation, which promotes wear, friction and grease contamination. If the frequency is too short, excessive grease consumption and safety and environmental issues may occur.
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Overgreasing and Undergreasing

It is important to know the exact amount of grease necessary for your greasing application to avoid overgreasing or undergreasing. Symptoms of overgreasing include damaged seals and motor windings, environmental issues, and fluid friction, which leads to increased heat generation, higher grease oxidation rates and higher energy consumption. Symptoms of undergreasing include bearing starvation, which results in friction wear and increased contamination.

How Output is Measured

It is common for maintenance departments to have a wide variety of grease gun types, makes and models. This can cause grease-related disorders due to cross-contamination and inaccurate knowledge of each grease gun’s output per stroke. Grease guns are known to vary in the amount of grease that is output from 0.5 grams to more than 3 grams. This inconsistency depends on factors such as the type, model and age of the grease gun.

To overcome this problem, it is necessary to calculate the amount of grease that is released from a grease gun per stroke. To do this, use a calibrated scale and consistently pull 10 strokes of grease onto the scale. Once this value is known, divide by 10.

Grease Gun Best Practices

  • Calculate the proper amount of grease needed for the relubrication of bearings based upon the calibrated delivery volume of the selected grease gun.
  • Use a vent plug on the relief port of the bearing to help flush old grease and reduce the risk of too much pressure on the bearing.
  • Use extreme caution when loading grease into the grease gun to ensure that contaminants are not introduced. If using a cartridge, be careful when removing the metal lid so that no metal slivers are introduced into the grease.
  • Make sure the grease gun is clearly marked to identify the grease with which it should be charged. Do not use any type of grease other than that which is identified.
  • Always make sure the dispensing nozzle of the grease gun is clean before using. Pump a small amount of grease out of the dispensing nozzle and then wipe the nozzle off with a clean rag or lint-free cloth before attaching it to the grease fitting.
  • Clean the grease fitting of all dirt before attaching the grease gun. Inspect and replace damaged fittings. It is helpful to use grease-fitting caps to keep them clean, but still wipe fittings clean before applying grease.
  • Ensure that the proper grease is used at every grease point. Applying the wrong grease can cause an incompatibility problem, which can quickly cause bearing failure. Lubrication points should be clearly identified as to which grease is to be used. This can be done with colored labels, adhesive dots or paint markers.
  • Grease guns should be stored unpressurized in a clean, cool and dry area and in a horizontal position to help keep the oil from bleeding out of the grease. Grease gun clamps make storage easy and organized. Also, cover the coupler to keep it free from dirt and contaminants.
  • Calibrate grease guns regularly to ensure the proper delivery volume.

Anatomy of a Grease Gun

The lever is used in manual configurations of the grease gun for hand-pumping the grease from the barrel to the hose or tube.

The trigger and handle are used in manual configurations of the grease gun for hand-pumping the grease from the barrel to the hose or tube in a similar way as the lever.

The barrel is the exoskeleton of the grease gun that houses either the grease tube or the grease supplied from bulk storage.

The grease tube (or cartridge) is an inserted housing of grease that is replaceable when grease is depleted.

The hydraulic coupler (or connector) is the connection point that holds the hose or fixed tube attached to the head of the grease gun.

The head of the grease gun contains grease pathways and valves that allow the pumping of grease to travel from the barrel into the flexible hose or fixed tube.

The filler nipple is the injection point for grease from a filler pump.

The air-release nipple allows air to escape after new grease has been added to the grease gun and pumped into the head.

The spring provides the pressure onto the plunger.

The follower rod (piston rod, barrel rod, plunger rod) helps the plunger follow a uniform path as it keeps pressure on the bottom end of the grease tube. It also acts in pulling back the spring prior to inserting a new grease tube.

The follower handle offers a grip when pulling the follower rod prior to inserting a new grease tube.

The plunger provides uniform pressure to the back end of the grease tube as grease is depleted.

The flexible hose is used interchangeably with a fixed tube for flexible positioning of the connector or coupler.

The fixed tube is a rigid form of a flexible hose.


About the Author
  Bennett Fitch is a technical consultant with Noria Corporation. He is a mechanical engineer who holds a Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA) Level III certification and a Machine Lubrication ... 

Drive Success with Emotional Intelligence

Article extract from ReliablePlant newsletter:

What is emotional intelligence (EI)? If you ask this question, you will probably get many different and vague answers. The fact is that the concept of EI in the workplace and the connection between EI and leadership abilities is still being studied.

Since 1990, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, who are considered the leading researchers on EI, have defined it as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” In short, it is the mental ability to reason about emotions, and the capacity to improve thinking and gain better results by using emotions.

Salovey and Mayer have created a model that identifies four factors of emotional intelligence:

  • The perception of emotions
  • The ability to reason using emotions
  • The ability to understand emotions
  • The ability to manage emotions

These four factors refer to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Salovey and Mayer propose that the four factors of their model are prioritized from the more basic psychological processes reflecting the relatively simple abilities of perceiving and expressing emotion to the more complex and conscious higher level reflecting the regulation of emotion.

It is a growing belief that leaders and workers who demonstrate emotional intelligence can go a long way toward helping companies improve productivity and profitability. For example, the department head who is brilliant, has a high IQ and may be an expert in his field can get superior results if he also knows how to stay motivated under stress, motivate others, foster complex interpersonal relationships with employees and clients, and build teams.

The Difference Between EI and IQ

EI is the ability to use both your emotions and cognitive skills. EI competencies include empathy, intuition, creativity, flexibility, coping, stress management, and intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. In contrast, IQ is a number used to represent the apparent relative intelligence of a person. IQ is the measure of cognitive abilities only (e.g., the ability to learn, the skilled use of reason, the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria such as tests).

Consider the following two examples:

Anna had a high IQ. She showed strong reasoning skills, was analytical and was focused on tasks. She learned new things quickly. However, she discounted how she and others were feeling. She was known to lose her temper if things did not go the way she expected or wanted. She found it difficult or impossible to relate to people who were not as smart as she was and lacked empathy for others. As a result, her ability to be effective in team situations was limited, even though her IQ was very high.

Jose had a high EI. He demonstrated strong interpersonal and intrapersonal relationship skills, making friends easily and managing his emotions well. This made him highly effective in his work, even though there were others who had higher IQs. A key component of his success, his high EI allowed him to consider the emotional component of interactions, using both his cognitive abilities and his understanding of emotions. He was creative and flexible in the face of adversity and resilient after setbacks. As a result, he was able to influence and motivate people because he understood and took into consideration what mattered to them. His authenticity and integrity made him a natural leader.

The Connection of EI to Effective Leadership and Organizational Success

Organizations are facing enormous challenges related to the downturn in the economic environment. Today, it is recognized that leadership skills are the most important asset of managers. At the heart of great leadership skills is the ability to develop and maintain interpersonal relationships. These skills include communication, active listening, managing conflict, inspiring and motivating individuals and groups, initiating and managing change, and collaborating and cooperating with other to reach shared goals.

The above skills are all traits that are shared by leaders with high EI. This then is the link that connects leaders with EI. Evidence is beginning to emerge that leaders with high emotional intelligence tend to demonstrate an open-mindedness that creates generous, people-oriented attributes, helping them to attract and keep great colleagues and employees.

A leader with high EI is more likely to have the ability to align personal and subordinate goals to accomplish company goals. In their book, "The Flight of the Buffalo," James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer cite four responsibilities that a leader must implement at all levels of an organization:

  • Transfer ownership for work to the people who do the work.
  • Create an environment that is conducive to the transfer of ownership, a place where each person wants to be responsible for his or her own performance. This means that the leader must paint a clear picture of what great performance looks like for the company and the individual, focusing on performance factors; aligning organization systems, processes and structure to enable successful performance; engaging each individual’s heart, mind and hands in the business of the business; and energizing, motivating and inspiring people around the business focus.
  • Develop individual capability and competence.
  • Create conditions in the organization that challenge every person to continually learn and grow in skills and knowledge.

These four principles of leadership responsibility align personal and company goals through emotional intelligence.

A study that shows a direct correlation between high EI within leadership ranks and bottom-line profitability was conducted by Harvard psychologist David McClelland in 1996. He studied a large global food and beverage company and found that division leaders with high EI outperformed yearly earnings by 20 percent, while those without high EI underperformed by the same amount.

Danger to Leaders of Emotional Incompetence

Developing emotional intelligence means acknowledging that emotions are always present in the workplace and then consciously doing something intelligent with the emotions. People tend to vary dramatically in the skills to which they use their own emotions and react to the emotions of others. This can be the difference between good leaders and bad leaders.

The behaviors related to low or no EI can be devastating to the overall health of an organization. In 2002, Fortune magazine ran a series of articles on why companies fail. In one such article titled, "Fearing the Boss More than the Competition," the following was stated: "Sometimes CEOs don't get the information they need to make informed decisions. The main reason, says Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and author of the book 'Primal Leadership,' is that subordinates are afraid to tell them the truth. Even when a boss doesn’t intend to quash dissent, subtle signals – a sour expression, a curt response – can broadcast the message that bad news isn’t welcome. That's why, according to a study by Goleman and two associates, higher-ranking executives are less likely to have an accurate assessment of their own performance."

As an executive and management coach, it has been my personal experience that challenges of the leaders with whom I work are seldom related to lack of technical skills but most often are related to emotional failings; they are too authoritarian, they cannot handle conflict, they generate fear rather than respect, etc.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence Today

The best leaders employ many tools and have the ability to be flexible in their leadership style, demonstrating situational leadership. There is no question that effective leadership determines the success of an organization. Organizations that place a strong focus on leaders who demonstrate high EI are able to see the results of high-impact leadership behaviors. High-impact leadership can instill trust and passionate commitment to the organization’s goals, mission and vision, especially during today’s turbulent times. It is this commitment that drives success and profitability.

About the Author
Deborah K. Zmorenski, MBA, is the co-owner and senior partner of Leader’s Strategic Advantage Inc., an Orlando, Fla.-based consulting firm. During her 34-year career with the Walt Disney ... 

Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce

Article extract from ReliablePlant newsletter:

Leaders today are facing the most complicated workforce in the history of corporate America. For the first time ever, four generations are working side by side, each at different life stages, and each with conflicting perspectives, expectations and needs.

The members of each of these groups – the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y – have largely been shaped by the social and economic events that have occurred during their lifetimes, and each group has very different perspectives and expectations as they relate to jobs and leaders.

The Multi-Generational Workforce

The following is a brief description of each of the four generations, including their characteristics and the social and economic conditions that shaped these people's values and work ethic. Please note that there is more than one opinion on the actual dates used to identify the lines between generations, so it is possible you may have read or heard slightly different dates.


This generation is also referred to as the veterans or the silent generation. There were 52 million Traditionalists born between 1901 and 1942. They are the keepers of the workplace Holy Grail of yesterday and a pain in the neck to the action-oriented boomers and technology-savvy Xers. While it is true that they are nearing the end of their full-time work life (less than 5 percent are active in the workplace today), they are still solid, no-nonsense performers who tend to exhibit the following characteristics:

  • American values
  • Civic pride
  • Loyalty/dependable
  • Respect for authority
  • Disciplined (value obedience over individualism)
  • Believe in the concept of law and order
  • Live by the adage, "An honest day's pay for an honest day's work."
  • Oriented to the past (may say things like, "In my day …")
  • Conformers
  • Logical

The Traditionalists grew up in the industrial age where wonderful, grand inventions made life easier (automobiles, railroads, motels, service stations and air travel). Manufacturing offered consistency in processes and unheard of conveniences as well as guaranteed income. Many of this generation abandoned farms that had dried up during the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s and went to work in the factories in the cities. When the country called for service during World War II, they served with pride and without hesitation. This generation lived through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, learning self-discipline to survive. They did not live beyond their means and learned to work hard to take care of their families.

In general, this generation believes in doing the right thing. Decisions and actions should be logical and justifiable. They are disciplined and dislike confusion. They may be resistant to change and need all of the information to make a decision or to be convinced to change. They do not take work for granted, and they have a strong sense of responsibility to family and the job.

The Traditionalist's leadership manner tends to be that of a directive leader with a command-and-control style. Traditionalists will have difficulty in an open and empowered environment, preferring to be the executive decision-maker with the expectation that people will do what they are told.

As the leader, they expect that they will be followed unconditionally as they did when they were the employee. They did not question the boss, and they expect their decisions will be honored without question. They may exhibit traits of the "Type A" manager with a "My way or the highway" attitude. As you can imagine, this leadership style does not sit well with the younger generations, especially X and Y.

You can assist the Traditionalist leader by:

  • Being patient but firm
  • Clearly articulating the rules or parameters of the company culture
  • Coaching them on their people skills
  • Assisting them with change
  • Providing information in a timely manner
  • Respecting and valuing their life and work experience
  • Holding everyone accountable for performance and behaviors

Baby Boomers

Born between 1943 and 1960, the Baby Boomer generation, at 76 million, is the largest ever born. Baby Boomers can be broken into two groups: those born in the 1940s and those born in the '50s. There are subtle differences. Those born in the '40s may also exhibit some Traditionalist attributes and characteristics. This generation is best known for their "Peter Pan" syndrome attitude toward life. You may have heard a Baby Boomer say, "50 is the new 30." They are having too much fun to grow up.

Overall, Baby Boomers grew up in optimistic, positive times of economic growth and expansion. The Vietnam War is the defining moment for Boomers. They were the first generation to buck authority and question the country's leaders, protesting the Vietnam War and defecting to avoid service, unlike the Traditionalists who jumped at the chance to serve their country in World War II.

Children of Traditionalists who had found relative stability in the factory and industrial jobs, these children were coddled and nurtured. Their Traditionalist parents wanted to provide them with the things that they did not have. Baby Boomers were told that they were talented and smart and could be anything they desired. As a result, they grew up believing in themselves and their ability to accomplish anything. For the typical Baby Boomer, no challenge is too big. They aggressively tackle problems and have a strong desire to succeed.

Because they are driven to succeed and want to please, they are the generation known for their "live to work" philosophy. In general, Baby Boomers can be characterized by their:

  • Passion about participation and spirit in the workplace
  • Belief in civil rights, empowerment and diversity
  • Belief in growth and expansion
  • Pursuit of personal gratification
  • Service orientation
  • Drive and ambition
  • Ability to build and maintain relationships
  • Desire to please (family, friends and bosses)
  • Lack of interest in all things budget-related

As leaders, you can expect Baby Boomers to demonstrate a consensual style of leadership. They prefer to get everyone involved, consider everyone's ideas and are concerned about the feelings of others. They bring heart and humanity to the office, preferring to create a level playing field for all. They are excellent at building and maintaining relationships.

Baby Boomers are change agents. They believe in growth and expansion and will seek new opportunities to be successful, in turn creating success for the organization. They are very service-oriented and tend to thrive in service-industry roles. They will work hard to achieve goals, and it is not unusual for their goals to be tied to the goals of the organization. They will look for companies whose values align with theirs; and when they find those companies, their loyalty is unmatched.

It's important to know that Baby Boomers like tangible rewards. The rewards do not have to be big or include money. They will certainly value a superior's adulations, but when those adulations come with certificates or small takeaways that can be shown to family and friends, you will find that they will give exceptional levels of service.

There are several challenges for Baby Boomers as leaders. Because they want everyone to be happy, they tend to avoid conflict. It may be very difficult for a Baby Boomer leader to hold people accountable, especially if it involves reprimanding and/or firing someone. They are also not generally budget-minded, as evident in this "plastic generation's" mountain of personal debt. This does not mean that they cannot become competent at budgeting. However, you will find that this is a task they will prefer to delegate if possible. Because the Baby Boomers tend to be self-focused, they may not be open to others' ideas and tend to be poor listeners.

You can assist Baby Boomer leaders by helping them to:

  • Learn to actively listen
  • Develop budgeting skills
  • Learn skills for holding people accountable for delivering results
  • Stay focused on project goals

Generation X

Born between 1961 and 1980, this generation, the first children born to the Baby Boomers, are referred to as the latch-key kids. While their parents were working their way up the corporate ladder and working long hours, the Xers came home and took care of themselves. A relatively small generation, approximately 51 million born in the United States, this group saw their parents working incredibly long hours with little free time. Consequently, the Xers made a choice, and that choice was to work to live. Don't be misled; the Xers can be driven in their work if what they want requires it.

One of the biggest misnomers is that the X generation is lazy and does not want to work. These comments are most often made by Boomer or Traditionalist bosses, and this could not be more wrong. Xers just see work differently. They see it as a means to end, not their life. They're willing to work hard but would prefer that the work happen on their terms.

The X generation grew up during more uncertain times. They are the generation that graduated from college and were not able to find a job in their field. They are the children of a 60-percent divorce rate, so they often were raised by one parent or shuffled between parents. They are the first generation of children to experience terrorism on our soil.

Because they learned to take care of themselves at an early age, this generation tends to exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Edgy and skeptical
  • Change masters
  • Technology savvy
  • Self-reliant and unimpressed by authority
  • Private/keep their own counsel
  • Have a non-traditional sense of time
  • Are non-conformists and unimpressed by authority

As leaders, they tend to be fair, straightforward and competent. Their communication style is open and honest, and they tend to "tell it like it is."

Challenges for Xers as leaders are that they can be more focused on the task rather than the people. They do not necessarily build relationships easily, and their communication style tends to be brutally honest.
You can assist the Generation X leader by:

  • Helping them to focus on building relationships
  • Teaching them soft skills (e.g., coaching and counseling) that complement their technical and operational skills
  • Assisting them in developing people-oriented communication skills
  • Explaining the "why" behind policies and procedures
  • Being frank and honest in your communications with them (i.e., say what you mean)

Generation Y

Born between 1981 and 2000, this generation, also called the Echo generation because they closely echo their Boomer parents' attributes and characteristics, is the result of parents who felt guilty about how they raised their Xer children. These parents were devoted to this generation and its needs, making time in their schedules to be soccer moms, little-league dads and making sure that they enjoyed life. There were swimming lessons, dancing lessons, camp and any other form of activity that would make the Generation-Y children happy. As a result, these children led a structured and sheltered life, tending to have great relationships with their parents, believing them to be cool and more like friends.

Because of their diverse activities and exposure to many different kinds of people at an early age, much of it through technology, they are very global. They do not know of a time without the Internet. They have Internet pen pals all over the world.

Generation Y is worldly and very accepting of differences in people. They often see these differences as an opportunity to learn new things and make new friends. They are the most diverse generation ever born, judging people for who they are rather than their ethnic origins, race, religion or sexual orientation.

Having grown up during a time with little strife, a booming economy, doting parents and unprecedented technological advancements, the Y generation tends to exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Hopeful and optimistic
  • Coddled and nurtured
  • Educated
  • Technology savvy – even more so than the X generation
  • Respect and revere their parents
  • Resist traditional categorization by race, religion or sexual orientation
  • Look at things non-traditionally
  • Multi-taskers and easily bored
  • Global

For managers, this generation is the most baffling. Compared to the X generation that required little motivation, were self-starters and did not need micro-managing, the Y generation needs structure and specific direction with follow-up. As more of this generation enters the workforce, companies should begin now to prepare for new ways to recruit, hire and retain these employees. Orientation programs are a must-have, and the style of orientation program must transition from lecture to interactive if companies are to keep the Gen Yers' interest and ensure that they retain the information necessary to deliver on the organization's goals. On-the-job training must be specific, detailed and structured, with check-in and follow-up phases built into the training.

Once they are onboard, the following tips for leading the Y-generation employees will help to create an environment that will retain these employees and ensure that they are motivated to be productive:

  • Explain the "why"
  • Involve them and ask their opinion
  • Treat them and others with respect
  • Make time for orienting them
  • Provide supervision and structure
  • Use a team concept
  • Offer more and quality training
  • Offer mentoring
  • Recognize and reward

Generation Yers have yet to move into the workforce management ranks in big numbers. The youngest are in middle school, and the oldest have recently graduated from college. So while it is not yet known what type of mangers this generation will prove to be, some indications are that they will be more like their Boomer parents, exhibiting a consensual, people-focused style of management.

Leading the multi-generational workforce can be challenging and rewarding, providing opportunities to capitalize on diverse ideas and work styles that bring innovation to the organization. Great leaders will learn to tap into the resources of the multi-generational workforce, mitigate conflict and leverage the varied talents of each employee.

Important Note

One caution I would give in studying this type of information is that there is a real danger of putting people in a box and stereotyping them based on the era in which they were born. Keep in mind that there are Traditionalists who love change and Baby Boomers who hate public recognition. I've said this many times before, and it has become my mantra for leaders: "The best strategy for leading your teams is to know each person as an individual." However, this information can be very useful for understanding how to best motivate, identify and solve conflicts within, and hire for your team.

About the Author
Deborah K. Zmorenski, MBA, is the co-owner and senior partner of Leader’s Strategic Advantage Inc., an Orlando, Fla.-based consulting firm. During her 34-year career with the Walt Disney ...