The Big Interview

Through the looking-glass: 50 years in polymer repair market

belzona april16 1Today we are interviewing Geoff Binks, who has dedicated 50 years to a major polymer coating and composite manufacturer, to ask him about his experience in the industry and maintenance sector.

Geoff was born and raised in Harrogate and joined Belzona in 1965 direct from Technical College with a chemistry background. He first worked in R&D on a broad range of products, particularly the Belzona Metals which saw radical development in 1968 with the introduction of the first Belzona Super Metal formulation.

CMMS implementation questions answered

ems jan 16Engineering Maintenance Solutions asked Ian Higham*, head of maintenance, MCP Consulting Group Ltd, 10 questions that need answering prior to considering CMMS implementation.

Understanding Compressed Air Production Costs

nov 15 33Understanding Compressed Air Production Costs

Businesses must look beyond the initial purchase price of a compressed air system and consider the factors that affect the total cost of ownership (TCO), explains Mark Whitmore, General Manager at BOGE. (Read More)

What Makes A Good Hygienic Pump Repairer?

nov 15 29What Makes A Good Hygienic Pump Repairer?

Tom Cooper of AxFlow looks at what it takes to be a good hygienic pump repairer

There are many pump repairers, fewer hygienic pump repairers and fewer still good hygienic pump repairers. This because it takes more than a clean bench and a box of antiseptic wipes to make a good hygienic pump repairer.  To become a member of this select band of pump repairer requires a combination (Read More)

Idhammars Systems Managing Director of Operations, John Roberts Launches blog to provide key updates and insights into lean manufacturing and maintenance.

Idhammar MDIdhammar Systems, leading provider of lean manufacturing and maintenance software including CMMS and OEE systems announced the launch of their lean manufacturing and maintenance blog [November 2012, UK] which aims to provide relevant and engaging content that explores the benefits of adopting lean practices and software to uncover areas of waste and inefficiency.





Suggestion Schemes, do they work?

Does an employee suggestion scheme offer an additional way to engage with staff and involve them in continuous improvement, or is it just another initiative that will fall by the wayside? The not for profit organisation; IdeasUK, clearly thinks suggestion schemes are useful. They manage a conference each year with the grand title, ‘International Ideas Week’. They estimate their member companies have enjoyed savings of £90 million as a result of the 120,000 suggestions they received from their employees. Research across 120 UK organisations by the Institute of Work Psychology at Sheffield University appears to confirm their view that staff suggestion schemes do have an impact on employee creativity and involvement.

That said, like most initiatives, a staff suggestion scheme in isolation will not change the culture of an organisation.

What are the pitfalls?

There are several to be considered and addressed. Employees may use the scheme to let off steam, not always a bad thing but it will need to be controlled. A lack of transparency will also cause issues; once dropped in the box any progress through the scheme can be invisible, especially if the innovation manager is busy. Certainly the most significant reason why these schemes collapse is the failure to keep staff informed of progress. That lack of feedback could stop an employee making any further suggestions. Inevitably, suggestions from several people can be similar, and may come in at the same time. Plus, there is also a risk that employees may be de-motivated if ideas are not accepted so these points must be carefully considered. 

Simplicity is probably the key.

Like most initiatives, simplicity together with providing early feedback to the employee within a few days of the idea being put forward are probably key to its success. The early response should perhaps include some form of reward or recognition, to encourage creative behaviour and increase willingness to share ideas. 

Do on-line suggestion schemes have a higher chance of success?

Paper-based suggestions can sometime cause more issues than they are worth, that’s why an online, browser-based scheme makes the process more efficient, saves space and will encourage more employees to take part. This, in turn, will provide a higher chance of success.

Some businesses are already reaping the benefits of an on-line suggestion scheme. A good example is the Siemens plant in Congleton; employing 400 people and generating over 4,000 suggestions a year with around 3,000 of those implemented, generating savings of almost £1m a year. Significantly their scheme has no paperwork, just an intranet application with each manager evaluating the ideas. When an idea is accepted, recognition is in the form of vouchers, with £50 being typical, the Siemens concept being recognition on acceptance is a better incentive than larger amounts after the idea has been implemented. A key factor to their success is the publication of department league tables, with further departmental awards giving the mangers an incentive to accept and implement good ideas.

What types of rewards should be considered? Ask your staff for their preferences and be prepared to offer several different incentives for a good idea. Cash will be high on the list but time off, vouchers, meals out, holidays, even company shares may be important factors for some employees.

Don’t forget the tax implications, anything your employees receive should be treated as a benefit and will be subject to income tax and national insurance. There may be some exceptions, a £25 encouragement award for a good idea can be tax-free and ideas that result in identifiable savings can permit an employee to receive up to 10% of the amount saved in the first year, to a maximum of £5,000. Check with your accounts department to see which awards will be the most efficient.


Pictured: The Idhammar Suggestion Scheme



Getting started with your own suggestion scheme

Many employees will already have some ideas and will be keen to put them forward once the suggestion scheme is in place, some may even have a few to share. So here are some examples of how to make your on-line based suggestion scheme a simple six step process:


·         Where do you work (function)

·         How can we contact you?

·         Your idea?

·         What problem will your idea resolve?

·         How does it resolve the problem?

·         What benefits do you envisage?


The real key is to use the power of the computer to ensure that feedback is appropriate, timely and as automated as possible. Measure the manager’s response and progress as a key part of the scheme. 

An online suggestions scheme should cost very little to operate, so compare those costs to the direct savings to be made by implementing staff suggestions. A return on investment in the region of three-to-one could be achievable. On average, every employee has at least one or two good ideas each year. If you're not capturing them, you could be wasting money.

It’s also important not to think of a suggestion scheme as an isolated element, it is part of the continuous improvement toolkit and works in parallel with OEE measurement systems. When the CI technician identifies a significant loss in the OEE system, and then receives a suggestion from an operator showing how that loss can be reduced or prevented, everyone wins.

alanfranceAlan France, Operations Director of Idhammar Systems, has extensive experience in lean manufacturing with a background that includes several years as Engineering Systems Manager for the largest food company in Europe. A systems specialist, he now consults on the importance of underpinning lean initiatives with realistic targets and sound metrics.

Contact him by e-mail, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or visit for more information on Suggestions Schemes, CMMS and OEE software.

Event Alerts and Maintenance Teams

Alan France, Operations Director of Idhammar Systems, discusses his experiences at MAINTEC as well as the benefits of integrated OEE and Maintenance systems which can help to improve efficiency and real time communications between operators and maintenance staff in the production process.
Maintec is nearly upon us again, Idhammar as usual will be exhibiting. I have attended the show for many years, it’s not as big as it used to be, but it’s still a good place to meet old friends, perhaps even a chance to gain new business.  My first involvement with the Maintec gang was the 7th National Conference on Computers for Maintenance Managers in November 1986 at the Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly where a crowd of 280 delegates congregated. I worked for Express Foods Group at the time and my paper was titled ‘Justify Stock Control First’. The paper aimed to demonstrate the the value of computer based spares control as a way of preventing so much time being wasted searching for spares which were probably there, and then inevitably buying a pile more anyway.   I do find it frustrating that 25 years later so many large factories have little spares control and ‘guess’ at likely values in excess of £750k. It was, and still is, down to the perceived workload involved in identifying items, which only takes a long time if you never actually start.

Q & A Article regarding Modern Insulation Testing

Jon Barrett of EMS chats to Mike Herring of Whitelegg Machines, on the aspects of conventional insulation testing of electric motors and how the trusted Meg-ohm test has some major limitations in what it can find.
JB: Mike, what are the traditional methods for testing the insulation systems of electric motors?
MH: The majority of companies use a low resistance ohm-meter and a DC meg-ohm test.
The ohm-meter is used to check for balance between the three phase windings, and can locate loose connections open circuits and dead shorts. The meg-ohm test is used for checking the insulation resistance to earth by applying typically 500 volts DC to the winding (for a 415volt AC motor) and noting the leakage current and the meg-ohm or gig-ohm reading after one minute. Low meg-ohm readings indicate a winding problem or shows that the windings could be damp for example.  



Whilst the adage that ‘prevention is better than cure’ is well known and respected within the industry, particularly where plant equipment is concerned, standing by these words requires walking the fine line between suffering the occasional failure of a machine and overmaintaining equipment.

Predictive maintenance (PM) is the tool that helps us walk this fine line. Knowing what is wearing (or failing in some other way), and how fast this is taking place, enables repairs to be undertaken as and when necessary, thus maximising the life of good components. It also facilitates the timely removal of parts which have worn unexpectedly fast.

Science Friction: FM and Manufacturing

As assets become smarter and CMMS/EAM packages become more integrated across various asset classes within a manufacturing company, responsibility for facility management (including facility maintenance) has become spread over multiple departments. Historically, facility and plant maintenance were the sole responsibility of the Maintenance Department which ultimately reported to the Plant Manager or Works Manager.  However, plant equipment is the focus of most Maintenance departments in a manufacturing environment, except in the largest and most complex multi-site facilities.  

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