Improving Sustainability with QCS Lifecycle Management

By: David Maddux, Business Manager, Elwyn Green, Business Manager, & Bill Weiss, Director of Operations
(Click HERE to register for the Webinar on 03/31/15  @1:00pm EDT where TSP Business Manager, David Maddux, will present this paper)

Since their inception, Quality Control Systems (QCS) have played an integral role in the quality and efficiency of the paper industry. There are occasions when it is time to upgrade to the latest version of QCS due to obsolescence or cost effective technological advances. However; in these days of being asked to do more with less, there are incidents when the capital dollars needed to upgrade are just not available. Agility is required in these circumstances to sustain the life of the QCS while maintaining or improving profitability. In recent years forward thinking QCS engineers have found many of the answers in system virtualization, recycled or repaired parts, alternative parts solutions, being better prepared for the corrective maintenance evolutions, and improved preventative maintenance programs to improve the QCS life cycle and prolong the need for capital.

Pulp and Paper Professionals have long recognized the contributions that the Quality Control System (QCS) provides the industry. Because the QCS is responsible for measuring, reporting, and controlling the variability in the machine direction (MD) and the cross machine direction (CD), they are also well aware of the impact felt when the equipment fails to perform.

Even though there have been technological advancements by the QCS suppliers, many paper companies evaluate the business and financial reasons and deem it unnecessary to upgrade. Through the years QCS suppliers have released numerous generations of Quality Control Systems that are still in existence today. Some of them go as far back as the 1980’s. In any case, the personnel responsible for the maintenance and performance of the QCS equipment have been tasked to seek better performance and extend the life of the legacy systems.

There are challenges to be dealt with when a mill decides to preserve a legacy QCS; however, not identifying the hurdles and having processes in place to address them will expose a company to risks.  Listed below are a few of the more common hurdles that paper mills and their QCS personnel have encountered through the years.

• Parts obsolescence. With the shorter life cycle of PC/server technology, this is becoming even more of a challenge.
• Communication difficulties with newer data historian and other process control equipment such as DCS and PLC.
• Age of equipment.
• Lack of technical support. Once a particular product has entered the end of life phase and is considered no longer supported, it can be difficult to find senior level support.

1.  QCS maintenance personnel have discovered several unconventional methods to address parts obsolescence.

a.  In order to replenish legacy parts at a significant savings, sources in both circuit board repair centers and recycled parts suppliers are being used on a routine basis. Some of these pioneering engineers have even leveraged their technical know-how to find cases where parts substitution is feasible. For example there are methods for replacing tape and hard drives with solid state devices. Another example is replacing a cross directional control cabinet obsolete PLC with a desktop and an off-the-shelf data acquisition device.

b.  Since PC technology changes faster than most QCS systems upgrade, virtualization is a proven method for addressing obsolescence and extending the life cycle of PC/server based systems in many cases. The principal idea behind hardware virtualization is not complex. To create a virtual machine (VM), the physical computer is being emulated using software. To take it a step further, several operating systems are capable of running on a single physical machine by using multiple VMs at once.

2.  As mills upgrade to data historians and other process control equipment, they are learning to leverage other technological advances to add communication interfaces. Many of the legacy systems are not compliant with communication protocols, such as OPC. This makes communication difficult when mills have upgraded other technical equipment; however, there are several companies available that specialize in creating inexpensive and proven interfaces that will solve issues communicating with data historians and other process control equipment problem for the legacy QCS. This allows legacy system data to be used in new ways.

3.  When you think about the age of the equipment, right away you must acknowledge how important it is to be in a more predictive maintenance mode instead of preventative maintenance. Knowing that it is impossible to stop every failure and how important it is to minimize downtime, you must also acknowledge how important it is to be better prepared for the corrective maintenance evolutions. As always one of the first steps is analyze the spare parts inventory and identify the vulnerability. As always, better historical sensor documentation leads to earlier recognition when trouble is on the horizon. It is also important that the maintenance personnel be familiar with the built in diagnostics and maintenance programs available. New diagnostic capabilities are being developed by field engineers to better predict the maintenance that is needed even on legacy systems.

4.  In order to address the lack of technical support, it is incumbent upon the mill to ensure that the personnel servicing their legacy QCS be invested in so they have the skills necessary to maintain and optimize the aging equipment. In order to make-up for the lack of technical support it is imperative that the service personnel have access to subject matter experts that are still available. Allowing remote monitoring from senior level process control experts is a means to obtain extra support if needed.

By removing the perceived obstacles and being willing to try effective solutions many mills are not only extending the life of their QCS, but also lowering the total cost of ownership, thus allowing mills to spend the savings on other critical components to quality and production.

Chappell, David. “Virtualization for Windows: A Technology Overview” San Francisco. 2008. Web. 17 Jan. 2014

How To Find A Mentor

We’ve all heard that mentoring is a great way to kickstart new waves of success at work, but if you don’t already have a mentor, finding one can be daunting. Whether you have someone in mind already or have no clue where to start, these beginner tips will help you match up with the right person.

Go with someone you know.
Sometimes companies or business programs pair mentors and mentees, and teaming with a stranger through an organized program often works well. However, if you’re looking for a mentor on your own, it’s not a good idea to ask a stranger. Mentoring is a big investment for both parties, and it’s not something to take lightly. If you ask a complete stranger to mentor you out of the blue, they’re unlikely to say yes; even if they do, you have no idea what you’re getting into.

What if I don’t know of anyone I want?
You may not know anyone who makes an obvious mentor, but don’t give up. Maybe your favorite potential mentor doesn’t have time, or maybe you can’t think of anyone you’re excited enough to learn from. Try asking great people who inspire you for a recommendation instead. When people know you well and have seen your proven strengths, determination, and reliability, they’re likely able to suggest someone specific who can help you achieve goals and make great choices.

Be clear about expectations.
When talking to potential mentors, know what you’re looking for out of the partnership. What exactly do you hope to learn or gain? If you’re not clear in the beginning about what you want most, could end up with someone who can’t deliver what you’re looking for, and you’ll both be unhappy.

Go with your gut.
As you meet with potential mentors, be honest with yourself about personal feelings. Some people are easy to click with right away, but others may strike you as a poor fit. To get great guidance, you have to feel comfortable enough to be honest and open. If you’re not at ease or someone just doesn’t feel right, listen to that instinct and keep searching.

Know what you can contribute.
Mentoring is a big commitment, and it shouldn’t be a one-way street. When someone mentors you, they offer wisdom and knowledge that can only come from experience. Prove you are worthy of their attention by continually demonstrating your skill level, commitment to taking on new responsibilities, active participation, and encouragement of success in others. Listen for opportunities to help your mentor so your relationship can be balanced, even it’s through paying it forward by mentoring someone else.

Career Branding: What It Is and Why It Matters

You may be thinking, “I’m not in marketing. What does branding have to do with me?” If you are eager to move ahead in any career, you need to know all about career branding—what it is, why it matters, and how to create and manage your own personal career brand.

What is career branding?
Career branding is all about creating a reputation—aka, a brand—that describes and portrays your career and professional persona. It’s about who you are, what you do, how you work, and where you want to go. Like a consumer brand, a career brand not only tells your story, it sets the stage for an illuminated future career path. A career brand goes beyond the basic resume to deliver a more complete picture of who you are professionally.

How do I build a personal brand?
Begin by researching yourself. Telling your own story is hard, so look at your experience objectively. List everything you normally would in a resume (education, experience, milestones), then go a step further and do a comprehensive online search on your own name. What does your presence look like on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, open forums, etc? If it helps, have a friend do the search with you and see what they think. Does your online presence (or lack thereof) portray you as a savvy professional, a nobody, or a mess?

Clean up your online image.
A solid personal brand has the full package of a great resume, interpersonal skills, and online presence. If you have zero online presence, it’s time to start that blog or Twitter account and build some search results for your name. If you have online accounts but have let them lapse, spruce up your SEO with updates about what you’ve been doing to stay sharp or thoughts on the latest industry news. If your online profiles are downright embarrassing, do whatever you can to tidy up by removing and untagging photos, deleting updates that don’t show your best, and improving or deleting anything you are able to edit. (Sometimes it’s easier to delete an entire profile and start from scratch.)

Consider building a personal website.
Creating your own website is a snap, and it can be a great way to not only boost your search engine results but also showcase much more than a resume can. A website give you total control over content, so you can post a resume as well as additional pages to outline your career mission statement, awards, samples of your work, links to social media accounts, and even a blog.

Building a personal career brand may sound big, but it isn’t impossible. Anyone can build a better brand with time and effort, and being able to project a strong work ethic and talent base can help you no matter what field you’re in.

TSP Acquires Service Contract Portion of IMS, Inc.

We are pleased to announce the acquisition of the service contract portion of Industrial Maintenance Services, Inc. (IMS). This is yet another purchase TSP leadership has been diligently working on to expand and strengthen our Industrial Automation Solutions business unit.

This strategic move allows our headcount to continue its growth, with approximately 100 employees now dedicated to our Industrial Automation Solutions customers.

TSP and IMS were both founded around the same time and have similar backgrounds. IMS grew strongly in the ABB QCS/DCS (Quality Control Systems/Distributed Control Systems) area, while TSP was larger and grew more in the Honeywell QCS/DCS area. For TSP, this is a natural acquisition that will benefit our customers and employees alike. We will now be the largest third party service group in the QCS/DCS industry. This ensures TSP’s ability to supply excellent on-site QCS/DCS service at a competitive price, something our customers have certainly become accustomed to.

Many people have worked long hours to make this purchase a reality and we are grateful to their dedication. During this transition we will work diligently with our customers to make the switch as seamless as possible. IMS is committed to making this transition be so smooth that the only change customers see in the short term is a name change, and in the long term a more robust company with more resources, backing and technical support.

TSP grows in many ways, and we are thrilled to make this announcement today and watch our Industrial Automation Solutions continue to succeed.