Industry experts, decision-makers, and practitioners from around the world recently gathered for Noria Corporation’s 15th annual Reliable Plant Conference and Exhibition held April 22-24, 2014, in San Antonio, Tex. The premier event for lubrication, oil analysis, and reliability professionals attracted approximately 1,000 people, including attendees from 42 U.S. states and 27 countries.
Nearly 90 learning sessions on a variety of topics were available for attendees to choose from, with case studies on how Domtar achieved a world-class lube room, how W.R. Grace improved equipment reliability through root cause failure analysis, how Saudi Aramco overcame problems and challenges with lube oil condition monitoring, and how Sinclair developed a lubrication program and achieved a change in culture.
“The learning sessions offered very good information,” said Tony Dunsky of ACH Foods. “There was a lot to take home. We can evaluate our systems from this information very easily and see our strengths and weaknesses. This will provide a path to improve our operation.”
The exhibition hall featured more than 100 industry-leading companies and organizations showcasing a broad range of products and services. Many innovative products were also unveiled, including new offerings from Luneta, Air Sentry, Esco, Intertek, SKF, Turner Industries, and NanoMech.
“I loved the format of learning sessions mixed with exhibit hall time,” noted NV Energy’s Kasey Davis. “I found several products and vendors on the exhibit hall floor that I never knew existed. It is a great place to learn firsthand who the leaders in the industry are.”
Providing an ideal stage for learning, analyzing, comparing, networking, and benchmarking, this year’s event saw an increase in the number of organizations sending groups of employees for the valuable training presented. Group attendance helps assure that everyone is on the same page and exposed to the same training and product information while also offering an opportunity for offsite teambuilding and camaraderie. Among the companies with multiple representatives in attendance were Boeing, DuPont, Holcim, Michelin, MillerCoors, Nissan, and International Paper.
In the opening general session, Noria’s CEO Jim Fitch gave an update on the state of the industry. The International Council for Machinery Lubrication’s Suzy Jamieson then presented the John R. Battle Award for lubrication excellence to the Sinclair Wyoming Refinery.
The keynote address was delivered by Jim Morris, whose meteoric rise from 35-year-old high school teacher to major-league baseball pitcher in three short months was the inspiration for Disney’s blockbuster film “The Rookie.” Morris spoke about the power of dreams and their ability to inspire and transform human life.
Before the event, half-day pre-conference workshops were presented on managing the implementation stage of a world-class lubrication program, interpreting oil analysis reports, and the fundamentals for designing and procuring equipment to increase reliability.
“I attended the pre-conference workshop on managing the implementation stage of a world-class lubrication program with Noria’s Alejandro Meza,” said Craig Pederson of Land O’Lakes. “He is very knowledgeable, and his presentation was great. I took quite a few notes. What I gathered from it will be very useful.”
The International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) offered onsite testing for those looking to earn certifications during the conference. The social highlights of the week were the end-of-day receptions, which gave attendees the opportunity to network with their peers while enjoying hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and local-flavor entertainment.
“This is a great place to come as far as networking, getting to know people, and getting revitalized to go back to your job,” remarked Holcim’s Larry Blevins. “I have a fairly new program, so it is nice to come and talk to some people who have gone through the same thing and maybe made some mistakes I’m making. It’s always nice to hear someone tell you that this is a mistake before you are about to do something.”
The event came to a close with two random drawings for show-prize giveaways. All registered attendees who visited each of the sponsoring exhibitors’ booths were eligible to win two Craftsman extreme garage tool sets, including workbenches, premium heavy-duty tool chests, rolling cabinets, and lots of extras. The lucky winners were Richard Salazar of Southwest Research Institute and Brad Little of Greenheck Fan Corp.
“I thought I was dreaming,” Salazar said of hearing his name called. “I said, ‘Wow, that’s me.’ I don’t win very often. I haven’t won anything in like 15 years, so I was surprised.”
Little was also stunned to hear his name announced. After he had driven nearly 26 hours from California to San Antonio to attend the conference, winning the show-prize giveaway helped make the journey well worth his time and effort.
“This has been a fantastic experience,” Little added. “I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of people here. It was great to meet management professionals, engineers, and mechanics all on the same road to excellence.”