KCF Technologies Blog

How teamwork can help us all win in business

By Aaron Spak

It’s springtime, which means Little League season is underway around the country. In these games, youngsters are learning the power of teamwork. It’s consistently reinforced from the pregame warmup to the high-fives at the end of the game. They play their hearts out, but when they get stuck, they know where to look for help – because the coach will be there. At least among the Dads that I coach with, fundamentals and teamwork are the things we stress the most. At 7 and 8 years old, that’s what these kids need.

I had the pleasure of attending the annual awards ceremony for the Manufacturer’s Association of Southcentral PA, where one of KCF’s clients, Glatfelter Paper, was given the 2016 Manufacturing Innovator of the Year award. They received this award because of how effectively they have adopted new technologies to transition to a predictive maintenance strategy. Their success with SmartDiagnostics® has led them to instrument ALL critical machines in their facility.

What was most interesting was listening to their acceptance speech. To Glatfelter, at least as important as the technology is the teamwork associated with making it work successfully. They acknowledged that it was people that made it successful, and that partnering with others is critical to getting the results they wanted. That sums up the secret to success of any new technology or process implementation: you need to build a team around it, define success, measure your progress, and focus on long term improvement. That much everyone knows – the new piece is that teamwork often requires looking outside your company to partners who are dedicated to helping you reach your goals.

KCF’s most successful client relationships are based on mutual dedication to common goals: improving the efficiency of maintenance processes, avoiding waste, and solving the most challenging problems that affect the reliable operation of complex machinery. We’re proud to help Glatfelter achieve recognition for manufacturing innovation, and to be recognized as their partner in improving their maintenance program.

When you are evaluating partners for new technology or different processes, make sure you evaluate their track record of working with their clients through the whole journey. Just as in Little League, it’s teamwork that helps us win in business. Play ball!

How do you bridge the gap between adoption and acceptance?

By Ben Lawrence

You think it’s taking a long time for your team to embrace your latest Industrial IoT plan or Predictive Maintenance (PdM) strategy?  At least you’re not Nils Bohlin.

Nils knew in the 1950s that his simple invention would save tens of thousands of lives every year and cost next to nothing to produce.  And by the 1960s, Bohlin’s invention became a mandatory component of every automobile manufactured for the U.S. market.  His invention?  The seat belt.

Bohlin’s invention should have been an overnight success, right?  Just like you with your IoT and PdM plans, Bohlin checked every box:

  • He designed a tool that was inexpensive and simple to use.
  • The boss (in his case, the U.S. Government) made it mandatory.
  • The marketing department (in his case, the U.S. Department of Transportation) spent millions imploring people to use it.
  • His invention brought more success stories every day of lives being saved.

Hooray!  Seat belts, like your IoT and PdM strategies, make perfect logical sense.  Obviously everyone instantly embraced Bohlin’s invention – as they will your IoT and PdM strategies – and enthusiastically changed their old habits, didn’t they?

Well…  not exactly.

More than twenty years after Bohlin’s seat belts had gone mainstream, usage by the mid-1980s was still a measly 21%. By the mid-1990s, usage was up to 60% – but still, that’s a ridiculous amount of noncompliance with the simplest thing any of us can do to survive a car accident.

Why the gap?

It took decades for drivers and their passengers to get over this mental hurdle…
Old School driver mentality: “If you’re a passenger in my car and you put on your seat belt, you’re telling me you don’t trust my driving skills.  You insult me.”
Old School passenger mentality:  “I don’t want to insult the driver by putting on a seat belt.”

And here, my friends, is the hurdle to your shining new IoT and PdM: No matter how logical your plan or how much proof you have about its effectiveness, few of your colleagues are going to be as excited as you until they understand that you’re not implementing this because they’re incompetent, but rather you’re implementing this to enhance the great work they already do and to keep them safe.

How can you avoid poor Nils Bohlin’s decades-long gap between implementation and acceptance?  One way is to celebrate your maintenance team’s downtime avoidances as much as you celebrate their reactive saves.  Another might be to reward your team based on how much downtime they erase from the historical averages.

In my opinion, companies place too much emphasis on the logical argument for implementing IoT and PdM (cost savings, ROI, downtime, more data, increased production) and not enough emphasis on formulating the best incentives and recognition for their front-line employees to quickly, enthusiastically use it.

What are your thoughts on implementing these strategies?  How is your company avoiding the Nils Bohlin “adoption lag” when rolling out new technologies or maintenance practices?

Northeast paper plant gains competitive advantage with predictive maintenance

By Ben Lawrence

Ensuring smooth functionality of a winder machine is a herculean task. First, it’s huge. It’s impossible to get a sense of the scale of one of these machines without standing next to it. Second, it’s multi-faceted, made up of various components performing different tasks that must work together in concert. Third, it’s complex, constantly running under different conditions, loads, paper types and combinations of other factors.

The critical points within a winder machine that must operate at optimum performance are numerous. To monitor the health of each point has been difficult and hazardous; to get a picture of the machine’s overall health, under different operating conditions, has been impossible.

Enter preventive maintenance. Change out components, replace parts, run your machine to failure. The reality is that preventive practices will catch and avoid a failure only 20% of the time. That’s right—80% of the time, preventive maintenance is a waste of resources. Worse, each preventive operation comes at the risk of safety to your crew or accidental damage to your equipment.

Now there’s a new way, as a small paper plant in the Northeast learned after reaching its breaking point. Literally.

Facing recurring failures on its winder, the plant called on KCF Technologies engineers to add our SmartDiagnostics® sensors to critical points on the machine. Onsite set ensured that every sensor was properly placed and figured to alarm threshold, and ongoing monitoring by KCF’s team yielded quick troubleshooting. Our engineers’ analysis of the data captured by the sensors revealed not only which component in the machine was failing, but also WHY it was failing. The component was undersized and unable to handle the pressure being applied by the machine.

Enter predictive maintenance. Tools like SmartDiagnostics® sensors are changing the game by letting you catch failures under changing and unique operating conditions and isolate individual component failures more quickly.

Even more impactful, predictive monitoring allows our engineers to study the entire machine or system, NOT just the health of an individual component at a specific point. The resulting analysis indicates WHY a failure is recurring, in the case of our plant in Pennsylvania, or how to predict and avoid failures in the future.   

With downtime costs at as much as $40,000 per hour for a winder machine—plus the cost for temporary fixes and lost customers—predictive maintenance has been a game-changer for this small Northeast paper plant. After more than a century, the plant is regaining a competitive advantage by getting predictive.  What they lack in size and power they make up for with the intelligence and agility offered by SmartDiagnostics® predictive tools.

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