Record Number of First-time Attendees Marks Reliable Plant’s Successful Return to Indy

Natalie Blythe, Noria Corporation

More than 1,000 maintenance and reliability professionals congregated at the Indiana Convention Center for Noria Corporation’s annual Reliable Plant Conference & Exhibition. Held April 17-19, Reliable Plant 2018 marked the 19th installment of the world’s premier conference for those in the maintenance and reliability industry.

Kicking off 2018

Prior to the event’s official start, attendees were onsite for four pre-conference workshops. The sessions, which shared insights and tips on hot topics in the industry, included “Achieving Better Maintenance Management with Proven Leadership Tactics” by Doc Palmer of Richard Palmer & Associates and “How to Get Lubricant Selection Right Every Time” by Bennett Fitch, director of product development and services at Noria.

“At this point in my career, the learning curve is flat or fairly flat, but still today I’ve been wowed with some of the information I’ve come across and just different perspectives on how to raise our game and dealing with other professionals, telling how they do this or that,” said Wayne Tillotson, manufacturing engineer and maintenance manager with TODCO/Overhead Door.

Later in the day, several attendees had the exclusive experience of visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a behind-the-scenes tour. Sponsored by SDMyers, the Indy Track Tour gave participants the opportunity to visit the Indy Hall of Fame Museum as well as see the victory podium overlooking the racetrack and ride through Gasoline Alley.

Opening Session

On Tuesday, April 17, Reliable Plant kicked off with the opening general session emceed by Wesley Cash, director of technical services for Noria. After welcoming everyone, Cash told the audience that “Reliable Plant is not your ordinary conference. It’s a gathering of people driving change in our industry.”

Cash highlighted the six companies that have been with Reliable Plant for all 19 years: ALS Tribology, Beckman Coulter, Dexsil, Esco, Spectro Scientific and Y2K Filtration. He also touched on the 21 new companies exhibiting in Indianapolis. With sponsors such an integral part of the Reliable Plant experience, each sponsoring company was recognized and presented with a trophy during the opening general session.

Moving on in the program, Cash switched the focus to the need for professional development, sharing his personal story of gaining advanced skills and how training and certification go hand-in-hand when elevating your skillset.

“Before I started with Noria, my lubrication experience was largely the wrong way to do things. As we think about reliability and condition monitoring, we know these are skilled tasks. You have to be skilled to take oil samples and vibration readings to know what the signatures are actually telling us,” he said. “And what skilled task can we do without training? It’s very hard to do, so training is very important. Certification adds weight to your voice, to your suggestions, to your recommendations.”

Cash then introduced Leslie Fish, executive director of the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML), who touched on the number of certified individuals in the audience.

“It is awesome to see all of the certifications that have been given out over the number of years for everyone out in the audience,” she said. Fish also gave the audience a brief overview of the ICML and all the offerings for industry professionals.

A highly anticipated portion of Fish’s presentation was the revealing of the 2017 recipients of the John R. Battle Award for lubrication excellence and the Augustus H. Gill Award for oil analysis excellence: Jacobs Engineering and Ingredion (Winston-Salem).

Jacobs Engineering, working out of the Kennedy Space Center, was named the 2017 Gill Award winners. The company worked with NASA on applying reliability-enhancing strategies at the Kennedy Space Center to develop a world-class oil analysis program.

“We’ve been working toward this level of excellence since 2013 when the contract started, and we are looking forward to continuously improving throughout the rest of the contract,” said Sean Hollis, reliability engineer at Jacobs Engineering.

As the recipient of the Battle Award, Ingredion (Winston-Salem) underwent a complete transformation in its lubricant storage and handling practices, resulting in the company creating a world-class lubrication program.

“This journey started in 2009. I entered the picture a few years ago and have been really blessed to work with the team you see up here,” said Jeff Mohn, maintenance manager at Ingredion. “The team has worked incredibly hard and gone through a lot of training. We’ve worked through our shutdowns and any other available time for them to get to this point. They’ve done an incredible job. I also appreciate the support outside the company, working with Noria.”

Glad to Be Here

The opening general session then shifted into the keynote address by Greg “Boss” Wooldridge, who shared his story of leading the Blue Angels and how he’s learned keys to developing high-​performing teams.

Referencing the “Glad to Be Here” stickers placed on chairs in the room, Wooldridge said those serve as an everyday reminder of the Blue Angels, the foundation of their culture and their sense of attitude.

“The foundation of our culture was this sense of gratitude, this sense of happy to be here,” he said. “That sense of gratitude powered us through tough times, and that is what’s important about ‘glad to be here.’”

Peppering his keynote with multiple videos and photos, Wooldridge shared an impressive image of six planes flying in tight formation and asked the audience how far apart the jets were. After hearing answers from the audience, he said the jets were only 36 inches apart.

To illustrate just how close that is, Wooldridge had the audience stretch out their arms to the next person, telling them that the planes were as close as the next person and that it all came down to trust and how much you trust that next person or that next jet.

Wooldridge further told the audience how your mindset can transform your performance and how achieving the highest level of performance takes the mindset of a champion. Holding up his helmet, which represents “one-tenth of one-tenth of 1 percent of all the pilots in the world,” Wooldridge said that only six pilots get to wear that helmet every year, and every year three of those six pilots are replaced in a natural rotation due to concern over complacency.

Upon enlisting in the U.S. Navy after college, he decided to be an aviator and soon realized how difficult the training would be. He developed a life-changing perspective after gaining a second chance to master catching the third wire when landing.

“You fly the airplane; the airplane doesn’t fly you,” Wooldridge said. “In life, when you’re faced with challenges, you’ve got the tools, you’ve got the skills. Grit your teeth and make it happen.”

Finally, the Blue Angels called, and Wooldridge led the team two times before deciding to retire. He later was asked to come back and command the team a third time.

Transitioning into how he developed and worked with a high-performing team, Wooldridge shared the Diamond Performance Framework, which consists of four components: beliefs, brief, contracts and debrief.

As an ambassador of goodwill, Wooldridge relayed the story of him leading the Blues to Moscow for a competition with the Russian Knights team. The teams allowed each other to fly in their planes, and despite the language barrier, the trip was successful.

“They were just like us,” Wooldridge said while showing pictures of the trip. “We appreciated their discipline and precision.”

Driving home his message of “Glad to Be Here,” Wooldridge focused on the debrief aspect of the Diamond Performance Framework, saying that it was a crucial part of both the framework and the Blue Angels’ performances.

“No matter how the day went, we had a great appreciation and tremendous gratitude for what we go to do, and the processes we used made us thankful,” Wooldridge added. “It wasn’t a beat up on individuals; it was a safe place. We talked about what went wrong, but we celebrated what went right.”

On the Floor

Following the opening general session, a steady stream of attendees, looking for the latest technologies and solutions to their everyday issues, visited the 115 exhibitors occupying the Indiana Convention Center. This diverse mix of companies, which covered all facets of the maintenance and reliability industry, provided every type of solution for issues faced by this industry. Each year, the conference sees the return of several long-standing exhibitors who are continually impressed with the Reliable Plant experience. One of those companies is Turner Industries, which has been with Reliable Plant for four years.

“We love coming to Reliable Plant,” said John Josserand, manager of business development with Turner Industries. “We’ve seen a lot of new customers we haven’t seen before, and we get a lot of exposure to a part of the country that we’re not in. We’ve had some good folks coming by. We thought day one was representative, but day two has been even better.”

Tony Nguyen, director of strategic transformation and innovation with SGS North America, and Rich Wurzbach, president of MRG Laboratories, partnered on the exhibit floor and shared their excitement over the diverse mix of companies and attendees.

“Just looking at the number of new companies and visitors, I see there’s a push out in the marketplace to train their operators and personnel,” Nguyen said. “So, this is the right place to be to influence and show them the gears and technology.”

“It was exciting for me on the first day when it was asked how many new people were here, and it was more than half,” said Wurzbach. “That’s a great opportunity to reach out to a whole new segment to educate them on oil analysis.”

The top 10 attended learning sessions in Indy were:

  • From Firefighting to First-Class Maintenance by Don McDaniel and George Miconi of Worthington Industries
  • Procedure-based Maintenance: Taking Maintenance to the Next Level by James Kovacevic of HP Reliability
  • How to Apply Reliability-centered Maintenance Concepts in Your Daily Work by Jeff Shiver of People and Processes
  • How to Interpret an Oil Analysis Report by Evan Zabawski of TestOil
  • Understanding the Complexities of Airborne and Structure-borne Ultrasound by Andy Page of Allied Reliability
  • The Power of Correlating Oil Analysis and Vibration Analysis Results by Andy Page of Allied Reliability
  • Ultrasound-assisted Lubrication: 3 Approaches to Improving Bearing Lubrication Practices by Adrian Messer of UE Systems
  • 10 Keys for Improved Plant Reliability by Shon Isenhour of Eruditio
  • Using Infrared Thermography for Successful Condition Monitoring by Phil Pollard of FLIR Systems
  • How to Write More Effective Maintenance Work Orders and Task Descriptions by Michael Mazur of Schwan’s Global Supply Chain

New in the Marketplace

Several exhibitors used Reliable Plant 2018 as the platform for introducing their company to the marketplace and launching new products. Ohio-based Nikola Labs was one of the first-time exhibitors at Reliable Plant 2018.

“It’s our global launch, and this is a well-regarded show with a strong connection to potential customers,” said Will Zell, CEO of Nikola Labs. “If you’re looking to connect with people in reliability and maintenance, this is the place to be. It’s been a wonderful conference, and we will be in Cleveland next year.”

RDI Technologies, another newcomer to Reliable Plant, showcased its IRIS M System, which uses motion amplification for measuring and quantifying structural assets.

“We’ve attended Reliable Plant as attendees before, and we know the reputation of it,” said Jeff Hay, CEO of RDI Technologies. “It also allows us to get in front of a different audience. Traffic has been really good, really solid.”

Another attendee who decided to showcase his company for the first time at Reliable Plant was Jeremy Drury, vice president of IoT Diagnostics.

“I walked the show last year and enjoyed the boots on the ground and the customers who are here. These are the guys and gals who are experiencing the stress and frustration - who I’m talking to on a daily basis,” Drury said. “We’ve had lots of great conversations, and we’ve already got six new products we are working on based on the conversations we’ve had.”

“When you go to the networking events, you see so many clusters of people talking,” Drury continued. “Everyone knows each other; there’s a great community feel. You have access to great solutions, and it’s great for education. This is a great place to connect with people who are dealing with the problems that we are trying to solve on a daily basis.”

Another exhibitor who used Reliable Plant 2018 as a platform for new product launches was Luneta. The Oklahoma-based company, which has exhibited for three years at Reliable Plant, debuted its bottom sediment and water (BS&W) bowls.

“It’s been a great conference,” said Tom Fitch, CEO of Luneta. “We’ve had a lot more leads and people filling out our contact forms than in previous years.”

Exhibit Hall Buzz

Doug Sackett, industrial sales manager with Total Specialties USA, has been coming to Reliable Plant for 12 years as an attendee, in addition to promoting the company on the exhibit hall floor.

“Reliable Plant is always a great experience because we put it together not only as a marketing/sales tool but also for a training tool for our sales guys,” Sackett said. “This year, we’ve had a lot of new customers. In the opening ceremonies, when they asked if it was your first time, I estimated about 70 percent of hands went up. That’s great from our standpoint also because you get to meet a lot of new faces.”

GenesisSolutions, another long-standing exhibitor, was equally impressed by the show’s performance.

“We’ve gotten more business out of this conference than any event we attend on a year-to-year basis,” said Rajiv Daljeet with GenesisSolutions. "The level of quality of people attending this conference is better than anything else I’ve seen recently. I actually had three separate people come to me and tell me this conference is the best they’ve attended.”

Reliable Plant 2018 also saw a high number of first-time attendees who were thrilled to be in Indianapolis for the conference.

“It’s more than I could have expected,” said Rose Wilson, process safety management/risk management program coordinator at George’s Inc. “All of the information and knowledge you can acquire on all different kinds of pumps, oils, etc. – it’s everything that a manufacturing facility needs to know.”

Davey’s Story

As a cornerstone of Reliable Plant, the annual offsite, non-​denominational prayer breakfast was held Wednesday morning, April 18. Hosted by SDMyers, the breakfast featured Davey Hamilton, Indy race car driver, and Mike King, former chief announcer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

Hamilton’s story is one of faith and well-known in the Indy Racing League circuit. Starting his career in 1996, Hamilton had a stellar career, making 56 series starts and finishing in second place three times. But all that changed in June 2001 at the Texas Motor Speedway when he was involved in an accident.

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Hamilton said. “I’d never been hurt before. When I hit the wall, the wind was knocked out of me, and I knew my legs were broken.”

The last thing he remembers after the accident was being placed into a helicopter and overhearing the medical staff at the hospital saying someone was going to be a double amputee. Hamilton soon realized the staff was talking about him. He endured 21 surgeries in two years while attempting to reclaim his life.

“I didn’t want to end my career,” he said. “I wanted to get well and walk.”

In 2007, Hamilton was given the opportunity to race again when he partnered with Hewlett-Packard. Shortly afterward, Hamilton met George Del Canto, and together they founded Kingdom Racing, a Christ-based racing team with a mission to “deliver God’s word through motorsports.” Since then, Hamilton has continued to live his passion. In 2011, Hamilton formed Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports with Indy Car veteran Sam Schmidt. He is now the managing director of Kingdom Racing.

Broadening Educational Horizons

With a focus on education, Reliable Plant offers attendees the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills through unique learning sessions. For 2018, attendees chose from nearly 90 learning sessions on topics ranging from vibration analysis and infrared thermography to condition monitoring and oil analysis.

Reliable Plant also offered attendees the unique opportunity to participate in one of four certificate programs. For 2018, the certificate programs were maintenance management, condition monitoring (sponsored by Allied Reliability), contamination control (sponsored by Polaris Laboratories) and lubricant selection (sponsored by Chevron).

As the final full day of Reliable Plant, Wednesday saw attendees taking every advantage to not only expand their skills but also exchange knowledge with industry professionals.

“For me, it’s been a very gratifying experience,” said Nnamdi Achebe, lead engineer/country manager for Petrosave Integrated Services. “Every time I come here, it presents a great opportunity for me. There’s always something new to learn.”

Ray Ardahji, principal consultant with Michiana Lean, said he returns to Reliable Plant each year for the lessons learned, knowledge and experience.

“If you want to learn from experts in industrial lubrication and maintenance excellence, come to the workshops and sessions,” Ardahji said. “You have a one-stop shop for all these experts in one event.”

Saul Cizek, maintenance planner at the Upper Occoquan Service Authority and a speaker at Reliable Plant, said he returns each year due to the support, encouragement and sense of community.

“It’s an innovative experience,” he said. “I can’t tell you how much this gets my juices flowing to go back and do maintenance because reliability is so important to all of us.”

To exchange industry knowledge, Reliable Plant gives attendees the opportunity to attend facility tours. This year, more than 60 individuals were given a private tour of the Polaris Laboratories facility in Indianapolis on Wednesday evening. Guided by Bryan Debshaw, CEO of Polaris Laboratories, attendees participated in a discussion panel along with networking and a dinner.

Unforgettable Night

For those not on the facility tour, their destination on Wednesday evening was Lucas Oil Stadium. Against a backdrop of racing vehicles and classic rock and roll, attendees were treated to an unforgettable night of food, fun and networking. Starting at 5:30 p.m., the certificate program participants congregated in a VIP section for food and drinks, along with the formal presentation of their certificates.

And the Winners Are ...

The show prize giveaway is always a highlight of this annual event, and this year, Reliable Plant upped the ante by offering two attendees the opportunity to win one of two giveaways: an eight-day Alaskan cruise or a six-day Hawaiian getaway. To be eligible for the drawings, attendees had to fill out and complete a stamp card by visiting the show prize sponsoring companies.

On Thursday, April 19, a crowd gathered around the show prize booth as Mike Ramsey, president of Noria, announced the two winners: Ricardo Peruchi, first-time attendee and reliability manager at Gerdau, and Dave Kesterson, lubrication manager at Dupont Washington Works.

Finishing Strong

Reliable Plant 2018 wrapped up its successful week in Indianapolis with two post-conference workshops: “Lubrication Excellence Essentials for Leaders” by Jim Fitch, CEO of Noria, and “Designing and Procuring Equipment to Increase Reliability” by Jerry Putt, senior technical consultant for Noria.

“Everybody at this show is in this industry or cares about this industry, and they come here for a reason,” said Jonathan Paul, director of sales for Axel Royal. “If you’re a maintenance plant manager or a reliability manager within your own plant, this is definitely a show you want to come to because you can learn a lot about how to make your plants more efficient.”

Reliable Plant Conference & Exhibition will celebrate its 20th anniversary in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 16-18. To register for Reliable Plant 2019, visit

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About the Author

Natalie Blythe is Noria's Director of Publishing & Communications.