I absolutely love attending industry conferences. The networking. The energy. The idea-sharing. But what I enjoy more than anything else at these conferences is listening to the case studies.

Perhaps that is why I'm really looking forward to RELIABLE PLANT 2009, Noria's international best practice conference, coming up on September 1-3 in Columbus, Ohio. This year's get-together boasts a heavyweight lineup of case studies within the five concurrent events: Lubrication Excellence 2009, Reliability World 2009, Plant Energy/Sustainability 2009, Lean Manufacturing 2009 and Plant Safety 2009.

There are so many good ones, I know I won't be able to take them all in (that's where the take-home CD of presentations will truly come in handy). But let me share with you a sampling of case study sessions that I won't miss at RELIABLE PLANT 2009:

Case study: "Lubrication Program Transformation at Albemarle" (Lubrication Excellence)

Speakers: Christopher Knight, reliability engineer, and Kirk Williams, reliability technician, Albemarle

Synopsis: In the last five years, lubrication at Albemarle went from "a necessary evil" to "a must-have". In this case study, the speakers will share how Albemarle implemented 5-S visual systems for lube points, transitioned from time-based to condition-based oil changes with quantifiable savings, used lubricant usage trending as a predictive tool for mechanical seal failures, empowered lube technicians to order parts and implement reliability in the field, and implemented 5-S methods in lube storage areas.

Case study: "Holcim's Maintenance & Reliability Training Program" (Reliability World)

Speaker: Bill Lyons, maintenance optimization manager, Holcim Inc.

Synopsis: In recent years, Holcim has expanded its training program to focus on front-line workers. Technicians and front-line workers form the foundation of any maintenance and reliability program. They must be able to collect predictive maintenance data with a high degree of accuracy and repeatability. If the raw data that is collected is of poor quality, any resulting analysis and decision-making will be flawed. Recognition of the importance of this "people foundation" is at the heart of Holcim's development of the Maintenance & Reliability Training Program, which focuses on individuals who have the most contact with equipment on a daily basis. When they are equipped with the tools to succeed, plants succeed. The MRTP is a multi-disciplinary program with specialties in lubrication, vibration, thermography, EMD and inspections.

Case study: "Lean's Inseparable Link to Reliability ... and Vice Versa" (Lean Manufacturing)

Speakers: Rich Hirsh, global director of Continuous Improvement, and Bill Schlegel, director of manufacturing processes and technology, Novelis

Synopsis: Normally when we think about "reliability", our minds conjure up images of vibration analysis, infrared thermal imaging, preventive and predictive maintenance, and scheduled work outages. In the world of lean, similarly, people often think about the tools of kaizen, pull systems, kanban and value stream mapping. In this session, the presenters will explore how reliability and lean are inseparably linked and will go beyond the discussions of tools into how Novelis is building its "renewed" manufacturing company around these systems.

Case study: "Worthington Steel Got Safe, and So Can You!" (Plant Safety)

Speaker: Ryan Lamb, regional manager of environmental, health and safety, Worthington Industries

Synopsis: In just one year, Worthington Steel's 185 employees in Delta, Ohio, decreased the plant's number of injuries from an average of more than 10 per year to zero, including a record 561 days injury-free. In this session, the speaker will share details on implementing and sustaining the company's SafeWorks safety management program that has created a culture in which employees across the company now expect to finish each month with zero injuries.

Case study: "Reducing Energy and Emissions Saves Navistar Money" (Plant Energy/Sustainability)

Speaker: Terry Sexton, regional environmental coordinator, Navistar

Synopsis: As part of Navistar's sustainability initiatives, and to prepare for a "carbon-constrained" future, the company developed internal energy conservation and greenhouse gas reduction goals in 2008 for its manufacturing facilities. Using the 2008 monthly energy consumption intensities as a baseline, facilities are challenged to annually reduce electricity consumption intensity during production periods and non-production periods between 2009 and 2013. Meeting the stated goals will reduce energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate potentially millions of dollars by the end of the fifth year.

To learn more about the 100-plus sessions taking place at RELIABLE PLANT 2009 or to cement your attendance at the conference, visit http://conference.reliableplant.com. September 1-3 is right around the corner!

- Paul V. Arnold, editor-in-chief