Eli Lilly’s Wenzel Embodies the Spirit of ICML

Suzy Jamieson, ICML

Ten years ago, ICML held its very first examination session in Biloxi, Miss., changing the course of the machinery lubrication industry. In the small pioneering group of only six practitioners stood Rendela Wenzel, who took it upon herself to be part of the very first group of ICML candidates. By successfully completing that first ICML exam, she not only became one of the first ICML-certified professionals but also the very first ICML-certified female practitioner.

In celebration of ICML’s 10th anniversary, we wanted to tell Wenzel’s remarkable story.

Wenzel remains one of a still few female reliability engineers and machinery lubrication practitioners. Although part of an ICML-award-winning team, she was one of the people ICML recognized at the 2011 Reliable Plant Conference in Columbus, Ohio, as embodying the spirit of ICML in the area of certification.

Wenzel is currently the corporate lubrication technical team leader for Eli Lilly. She has 14 years of experience in maintenance and operations, troubleshooting maintenance issues, implementing solutions to these problems and supervising skilled trades. Wenzel has a level II certification in both lubrication and vibration analysis, and a level I certification in both infrared thermography and ultrasonic analysis. A Six Sigma Green Belt and a certified maintenance and reliability professional (CMRP), she has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in business administration. Wenzel is also a member of ICML and the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP).

She began her career at the Chrysler Foundry in 1997 as a process engineering intern in the core delivery area. After a few months, Wenzel became the team leader for operations and maintenance for the cleaning area.

“All engineers at Chrysler start out on the floor to gain experience working with the people and equipment that they support and redesign,” Wenzel says. “This was an excellent opportunity for me to be able to see the struggles that workers have with equipment and learn how to design those issues out with mechanical solutions. I also learned to work with people of various backgrounds in a union environment and still be able to be effective at implementing those solutions.”

Wenzel then moved to International Truck and Engine (Navistar) in 1999 as a maintenance engineer over the crankshaft line for the steel business unit at the Indianapolis engine plant.

“I was tasked with developing a job description for a maintenance engineer and a predictive maintenance program for the entire site,” she recalls. “Navistar knew that this was a new role in industry, and they needed individuals to go out and get trained on how to implement it in their facilities. This is where I learned about Noria and the ICML.”

Rendela Wenzel (center) and her team from Eli Lilly were the recipients of the 2008 John R. Battle Award.

Rendela Wenzel (center) and her team from Eli Lilly were the recipients of the 2008 John R. Battle Award.


Wenzel’s task was to develop a lubrication program and implement it in a union environment.

“I went to Oil Analysis I and II training from Noria and became MLA I certified through ICML in January 2001,” she says.

Wenzel took the information she learned back to her facility and developed a robust and highly successful lubrication program, which was later replicated at Melrose Park and also the Huntsville, Ala., facility. She was able to transform the culture of reactive maintenance into a proactive environment that valued reliability activities and wanted them integrated into their PMs and daily operator tasks.

“I took the structure of the existing vibration program as a model and integrated an oil and thermography program into the PM tasks and jobs of the craftsmen,” Wenzel notes. “This was a daunting task in a union environment. Oil analysis was an extra task for the machine repairmen, and thermography was an extra task for the electricians.”

Oil analysis became something that Wenzel and her team did routinely over the next three years to diagnose many potential failures, which resulted in greater uptime.

“I implemented the changes in very small increments, including oil leak-detection devices such as a UV light and dye that could find oil leaks,” she says. “One leak in our facility equated to more than $42,000 per year in savings. I decreased oil consumption by 25 percent and eliminated time-based oil changes. I added proper sampling ports, revamped our lube room and instituted an operator machine-cleaning program. The production on our bottleneck step increased by 10 percent, which eliminated one shift per week of overtime.”

Wenzel then had the opportunity to obtain her master’s degree in 2003 and wanted to broaden her experience base by switching industries. She started with Eli Lilly in 2003 as a reliability engineer in the insulin side of the business. Her role was to be the reliability engineer over the Humalog product line in B130.

Along with Kurt Bittner of PSEG Nuclear and Scotty Lippert of Clopay Plastics, Wenzel was honored at the 2011 Reliable Plant Conference in Columbus, Ohio, as representing the spirit of ICML.

Along with Kurt Bittner of PSEG Nuclear and Scotty Lippert of Clopay Plastics, Wenzel was honored at the 2011 Reliable Plant Conference in Columbus, Ohio, as representing the spirit of ICML.


“I took the knowledge from my Noria training and replicated my efforts in B130 to establish a robust and successful oil analysis program,” she says. “My building was certified by the corporate lubrication technical team as world class in the fall of 2003 and was the first manufacturing facility to be certified by the corporate team. This was a great achievement only being with the company five months.”

For a minimal investment of $5,000, Wenzel took the shell of a lubrication program and turned it into the pilot plant for the rest of the company to follow. After replicating this program for the remaining manufacturing facilities at Eli Lilly, the corporate team applied for the ICML John R. Battle Award.

“Our team decided to use my area for the application, and we were the 2008 John R. Battle Award recipients,” Wenzel says. “I took over the reins of the corporate lubrication technical team from Wayne Ferguson in 2009. Since then, we have maintained the 12 areas of the company that are world-class certified, established two lubrication courses (basic and advanced lubrication fundamentals) at Lilly for all engineers, supervisors and crafts, and are in the process of replicating all these policies and procedures to all our sites.”

To date, more than 900 Eli Lilly and contract employees who come into direct contact with critical machinery have been trained in lubrication fundamentals.

When asked to think back to Jan. 26, 2001, the day she took that first ICML exam, and about her journey until now, Wenzel offered a gracious response that demonstrates why she is one of the best examples of the spirit of ICML.

“The last 10 years have been a very rewarding journey for me through three different types of industries, learning the cultures, designing and implementing lubrication programs, and developing policies and procedures to ensure the longevity of the programs,” she adds. “I feel very blessed to have been put in the situation to be able to make a difference by helping make equipment safer, more reliable and easier to maintain.”

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