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Close to 1,100 maintenance and reliability professionals congregated at the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland, Ohio, to celebrate Noria’s 20th installment of the Reliable Plant Conference & Exhibition, the world’s premier conference for those in the maintenance and reliability industry.
Prior to the conference’s official start, attendees were onsite on Monday, April 15, for four pre-conference workshops. The sessions, which shared insights and tips on hot topics in the industry, included “Key Principles and Best Practices for Better Maintenance Management” by Christer Idhammar and Owe Forsberg of IDCON, and “How to Integrate Multiple Condition Monitoring Technologies for Maximum Reliability” by Walter Barringer of Allied Reliability.
“I usually go to two conferences each year, and I always come here in the spring,” said Doc Palmer, managing partner at Richard Palmer & Associates. “Reliable Plant brings a good cross section of people to learn from others. I work for an electric utility, and electric utility people go to electric utility conferences, paper mill people go to paper conferences, and that’s not where you pick up the good ideas. Everybody has pumps, assets and a big deal is lubrication, and Reliable Plant brings a lot of people and talks about a lot of subjects. This is the No. 1 conference for me.”
Later in the day, several attendees had the opportunity for a private, after-hours guided tour of ALS Tribology’s laboratory facility. During the tour, attendees received a closer look at the lab, as well as met with key ALS Tribology staff who shared insights on the facility and company.
On Tuesday, April 16, Reliable Plant kicked off with the opening session featuring Wesley Cash, emcee and director of technical services for Noria. Welcoming everyone to the 20th installment of Reliable Plant, Cash told the audience, “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 20 years: ALS Tribology, Beckman Coulter, Dexsil, Esco, AMETEK Spectro Scientific and Y2K Filtration. Cash also touched on the 35 new companies exhibiting in Cleveland. Sponsors are an integral part of the Reliable Plant experience, and all the sponsors were recognized during the opening session.
Moving on in the program, Cash switched the focus to professional development, emphasizing the need for training as well as the available certifications in machinery lubrication and oil analysis, including the new Machinery Lubrication Engineer (MLE) certification from the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML). While speaking about ICML, Cash reminded the audience that the awarding of the John R. Battle and Augustus H. Gill Awards was moving to Noria’s Machinery Lubrication Conference & Exhibition, happening Nov. 4-6 in Houston, Texas.
The opening session then shifted into the keynote address by Commander Mark McGinnis, a U.S. Navy SEAL, who shared his message, “Battle-Tested Principles for World-Class Leadership.” McGinnis, who has a decorated, 17-year career as a U.S. Navy SEAL, kept the audience engaged by discussing his personal background, the SEAL qualification process and everything it takes to achieve this elite status.
McGinnis highlighted and defined the three SEAL leadership principles of shoot, move and communicate, while translating how those principles are applicable to the corporate world in the form of focus, trust and communicate. For each principle, he told a story from his training and time as a SEAL and how, ultimately, these key principles make the difference between life and death in the SEAL world or success and failure in the corporate world.
These principles, according to McGinnis, are time-tested and combat-validated, with more than 50 years of SEAL history, and have the ability to transform an organization from good to great. SEALs perform at a world-class level with their mission starting when other special operations forces say it cannot be done or it’s outside of their capabilities. Translating that into the corporate world, McGinnis said you want an organization or a team that looks at a task, goal or desired end state and says, “We can get there, and we’re going to get there.”
At the end, McGinnis re-emphasized the SEAL message of “all in, all the time” and how that applies to everyone in the room. “You’ve got to be all in all the time,” he said. “You’ve got to be completely committed to what it is you are doing to help the team versus the individual.”
After his keynote’s conclusion, McGinnis opened the floor for questions from the audience. Creating a personal atmosphere by asking the attendees' names and where they were from, McGinnis answered questions ranging from what kept him motivated to continue his SEAL training to how he maintained his “true north” in terms of ethics and how his military skillset translated to civilian life.
Following the opening session, there was tremendous buzz as the exhibit hall opened for the first day. A steady stream of attendees, looking for the latest technologies and solutions to their everyday issues, visited the record-breaking 131 exhibitors occupying the Huntington Convention Center. This diverse mix of companies, which covered all facets of the maintenance and reliability industry, provided any type of solution for issues faced by our industry.
“You guys had more vendors than I’ve seen ever, and I made an effort to walk and see every vendor I wanted to see,” said alumnus Ben Staats, reliability manager at West Fraser.
Each year, the conference sees the return of several long-standing exhibitors who are continually impressed with the Reliable Plant experience.
“Existing customers come back for continuing education, and we get to meet new customers all the time, which keeps us coming back,” said Scott Howard, training and education director for Hy-Pro Filtration. “So far it’s been very positive.”
“We are proud to be a sponsor for the past several years, and this year has been a great show,” said Ron Boffa, industrial specialist for Chevron. “We’ve seen customers as well as a lot of new people interested in ISOCLEAN. I like being at this show because it’s specific to in-plant needs – the people who talk about reliability, process improvements and maintenance improvements. It’s very specific to the industries we are targeting.
“There’s always new technology and new people, which allows a real learning environment,” Boffa continued. “When we all share information, we’ll all do much better in what our capabilities are. This year has been particularly fun because I’ve run into people I haven’t seen for years. I’ve been around for 35 years in this business, so seeing old colleagues with competitors or with support companies has been fun. We’ve seen a good mix of the younger folks who have come through and are eager to learn, and it’s a good platform for them to come and learn.”
Another return exhibitor to Reliable Plant was Augury.
“We really like Reliable Plant,” said Michael Patton, account executive for Augury. “A lot of our end users attend this show, and interacting with them at this level and at this event is really important for us. When you look at Reliable Plant, it’s a good variety of all things regarding maintenance and reliability that a plant is looking for – everything from your lubrication systems all the way down to your predictive maintenance or vibration like Augury handles.”
GenesisSolutions, another long-standing exhibitor, was equally impressed by the show’s performance.
“Bar none, it’s one of our most successful conferences,” said Rajiv Daljeet, senior account executive for GenesisSolutions. “We get more business out of this conference than just about anything else we attend. Reliable Plant is a place where you can gel with peers on a common platform, on a common level to understand what reliability means to your organization. The relationships we develop from this conference are long-lasting. You come back here and see people year over year. Business may not come in the first time, but two years in and three years in, we start seeing the same people and we start seeing the loyalty. It builds those relationships, and we keep seeing success out of this conference.
“There’s been a lot of new people, and we’ve connected with a lot of new people,” Daljeet continued. “I’ve also connected with new people from familiar companies, and that is more important than anything else, because once you start a relationship with a company, you need to spread the word and start the relationship.”
Echoing his thoughts was Jeremy Drury, vice president of IoT Diagnostics, another returning exhibitor.
“It’s great to talk to people who are actually on the floor,” he said. “It’s easy to get into corporate-level conversations around IoT, and sometimes that’s the dangerous level of the conversations because they leave it to the people on the floor to figure it out. It’s good to bridge that gap together for the people. It’s been a big move with people doing real IoT at this point, so it’s been awesome.
“There has been a lot of new faces this year and definitely a handful of familiar,” Drury continued. “It’s been great because we’ll have one rep of a company come by and talk to us, and within a few hours more reps from the same company will come back and talk to us. People seem excited about what we’re doing here, and it’s been great to connect with people.”
Several exhibitors used Reliable Plant 2019 as a platform for introducing their company to the marketplace as well as launching new products.
“I’ve been to other trade shows and was told this was a very good experience, and so far I’ve been proven right,” said Kevin Smith, account manager for Closed Loop Recycling. “The traffic has been wonderful, and it’s not even the traffic. It’s actually the quality of the people stopping by the booth who are actually end users of our products and services.
“Out of the other shows we’ve been able to go to, this has been a quality, good show,” he continued. “If you want qualified good leads of people who are actually using your product and have good stories about your competition, this is the show to go to.”
“It’s our first year here, and we thought we’d try it out,” said J.R. Smith, manager of infrared thermography for Hartford Steam Boiler. “It’s been very beneficial. For what we do, this is a great conference with a lot of like-minded people and a lot of industry-specific companies that we deal with, so it’s perfect for us.”
In addition to new exhibitors, Reliable Plant 2019 saw a high number of first-time attendees who were thrilled to be in Cleveland for the conference. One of these new attendees was Kelly Main, maintenance scheduler/planner for H-P Products.
“I felt like I needed the training. I needed a lot of training and a lot of help, and I needed resources,” Main said as to why she attended. “I felt this would step me in the right direction and help me out in my position.
“The conference has been great,” she continued. “I’ve gotten to network with people, and I found a lot of resources for my parts side. It’s given me more resources to help me out with my position. I’ve already told my boss I’m coming to Reliable Plant next year.”
Another new attendee was Tim Large, maintenance technician for Michigan Power. “We have a continuing education program and have to go to two places, and I’ve never been to Reliable Plant,” he said. “Reliable Plant was recommended by one of our sister companies in Sabine, Texas. He recommended this show because they go to Noria workshops, and I hadn’t been, so I decided to come.
“It’s been wonderful,” he continued. “I like the fact that instead of being site-based with one particular class, you can choose a lot of different ones and can get a good, broad knowledge of what is going on in particular things and with the individuals teaching. I will come back next year without a doubt.”
Tuesday evening capped off with the meet and greet reception, sponsored by Hy-Pro Filtration. Attendees and exhibitors alike enjoyed refreshments and music while networking with colleagues and celebrating the successful wrap of day one in the exhibit hall. Tuesday evening also featured a private tour of the TestOil laboratory facility, where attendees got a closer look at the company’s lab as well as met with key staff who shared insights on the facility.
As a cornerstone of Reliable Plant, the annual offsite, non-denominational prayer breakfast was held Wednesday morning, April 17. Hosted by SDMyers, the breakfast featured Alan Ross, CEO and founder of Kingdom Companies, who gave a message on “Revealing God’s Heart: A Workplace Journey.”
With a focus on education, Reliable Plant offers attendees the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills through unique learning sessions. For 2019, attendees chose from nearly 90 learning sessions on topics ranging from vibration analysis and infrared thermography to condition monitoring and oil analysis.
“Eighty percent of my time was in the sessions, and you had some good speakers,” said Staats. “I learned something from each of them. I come to these conferences to make sure I’m not missing out and to get new ideas for our company.”
Reliable Plant also offered attendees the unique opportunity to participate in one of four certificate programs. Conducted by industry experts, the certificate programs are specialized learning paths that consisted of a half-day pre-conference workshop, followed by four required learning sessions during the remainder of conference. For 2019, the certificate programs were Maintenance Management (sponsored by IDCON), Condition Monitoring (sponsored by Allied Reliability), Planning and Scheduling (sponsored by People and Processes) and Plant Maintenance Digitalization (sponsored by Mobideo).
Main was also a participant in the Planning and Scheduling Certificate Program. “(Instructor) Jeff Shiver is absolutely amazing. He has so much knowledge and is someone I’d want to learn maintenance and scheduling from,” she said.
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.
“I really enjoy the experience of Reliable Plant because it gives me an opportunity to see what everyone else is doing,” said alumnus Lee Weaver, maintenance management at Roseburg Forest Products Co. “I love the sessions to share knowledge, network and talk with other people. I use this also as an opportunity to bring my employees to drive that culture shift, to see what’s happening out there and to see what everyone else is doing.”
Echoing his thoughts was Jeremy Wright, director of product management for ATS.
“This year has been an excellent year for me,” Wright said. “I got to complete a lot of my objectives, which were everything from learning to meeting new people to meeting old friends, catching up with them, and seeing new technologies. As a company, ATS is moving more into the digital age, and we wanted to learn more about remote monitoring and remote sensing. We wanted to meet some of the guys here carrying these products, how they are managing these technologies and getting an overall feel for that space and how it’s progressing.”
“There’s always new knowledge and new technology here that we pick up and use back in our plant,” said alumnus Joe Sharp, predictive maintenance tech for International Paper.
While hundreds participated in the Wednesday evening networking reception, sponsored by Chevron Lubricants the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was the destination for those seeking a unique experience. Sponsored by SDMyers, the evening featured an exclusive tour and galley talks with docents, followed by the opportunity to browse exhibits. Each guest also enjoyed dinner at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and received a commemorative gift on the bus trip back.
A main highlight of Reliable Plant is the show prize giveaway, and this year Reliable Plant celebrated its 20th installment by giving away 20 prizes, including the grand-prize Disney World vacation package. 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 18, a crowd gathered in the lunch area as Ryan Kiker, group publisher for Noria, announced the winners of the prizes. One by one, 19 individuals were called out to receive prizes, which included a $100 Bass Pro Shop gift card, a hunting blind, laser range finder, Apple watch, DeWalt seven-tool combo kit and $2,000 in cash.
In the end, a lucky ballot was pulled from the hopper, and Bobby Runions, supervisor at LaFargeHolcim, was announced as the winner of the grand-prize Disney World vacation package. “It’s unexplainable,” he said. “I’m just shaking.”
Following the giveaways, the exhibit hall officially closed, and Reliable Plant 2019 wrapped up its successful 20-year celebration in Cleveland with two post-conference workshops: “Designing and Procuring Equipment to Increase Reliability” by Jerry Putt of Noria and “SuccessIRies 201: Hands-on Thermography Workshop” by Jim Seffrin of Infraspection Institute.
Reliable Plant Conference & Exhibition will celebrate its 21st installment in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 7-9, 2020. To register for Reliable Plant 2020, visit Conference.ReliablePlant.com.