“Reality is merely an illusion,
albeit a very persistent one.”
- Albert Einstein
Noria Corporation, the publisher of Machinery Lubrication magazine and its sibling publications Practicing Oil Analysis magazine and Lube-Tips e-Newsletter, is an unconventional publisher. Why? Because in addition to publishing on the topics of machinery lubrication and oil analysis as they relate to equipment maintenance and reliability, the entire editorial team is comprised of practicing professionals that make up the leadership of Noria’s consulting and service team. In fact, Noria’s service practice represents the largest part of its business. Many of you have attended Noria’s training seminars and/or engaged Noria for other technical services, for example.
Because Noria is so vertically integrated in the machinery lubrication industry, its efforts in one part of the business can sometimes overlap other parts of the business. Noria receives questions about this from time to time, so I’ve decided to discuss it publicly in this column to clear up any confusion.
While you know me as the senior editor for Noria Publishing and the author of this Viewpoint editorial column and an occasional contributor of technical articles in Machinery Lubrication, Practicing Oil Analysis and Lube-Tips, I’m actually moonlighting in this capacity. My day job is co-founder of Noria Corporation and vice president of our rapidly growing services organization. Likewise, Jim Fitch, the editor-in-chief for all of Noria’s publications, author of the “As I See It” column in Machinery Lubrication and the “From the Editor” column in Practicing Oil Analysis, is a founder and the president of Noria Corporation. As Noria’s most experienced and well-known consultant, Jim spends most of his time in highly specialized consulting activities and failure investigations, or serving as a mentor to the rest of our highly skilled technical team. Mike Ramsey, the other founder and vice president of Noria Corporation, runs the publishing division and serves as Noria’s operations manager.
It seems like most of the questions about Noria relate to strategic partnerships into which Noria’s services division enters. For example, we have a strategic alliance with the Allied Services Group, because they represent a collection of complementary maintenance service providers, for which we provide the lubrication and oil analysis part of the reliability and maintenance equation. Likewise, we have or have had strategic relationships with several lubricant companies such as Dow Corning-Molykote, ChevronTexaco, Shell and others. If a lubricant company wishes to offer a service at which Noria is particularly good, it often opts to resell the Noria service under a co-branding arrangement in lieu of reinventing the wheel by developing the offering themselves.
Strategic partnerships are not unusual in business. We enter into strategic partnerships to take advantage of synergies that enable us to better serve our clients. We are attracted to strategic partners who possess complementary core competencies, have a strong presence in a geography in which we have not yet penetrated, possess foreign language and culture skills and/or specialize in a particular industry in which we’re interested. For instance, Noria’s partnership with the Allied Services Group provides us with core competency in thermography and vibration analysis by our association with the other member companies, which enables us to remain focused on machinery lubrication - our core competency and passion.
Our partnerships with lubricant companies provide us with a greater reach into the marketplace via the lubricant companies’ vast networks of distributors and business development specialists. These strategic alliances don’t represent any change in ownership or control at Noria. Jim Fitch, Mike Ramsey and I, along with our key directors and managers, run the business. Noria maintains only one hard, fast rule when it comes to working with strategic partners - vendor neutrality. For instance, we are happy to work with any lubricant company, but not at the exclusion of any other.
Depending upon their scope, our strategic partnerships might encompass any combination of the following services offered by Noria:
Lubrication Program Design - Entirely design and document a machinery lubrication and oil analysis program, including equipment modifications, detailed procedures, task periodicity, etc.
Education and Training - General or specific training on a range of machinery lubrication and oil analysis topics. This includes live, facilitated online and self-directed online methods of delivery.
Contract Lubrication Technicians - For many clients, we place skilled Noria lube techs on-site on a full-time basis. They work for the client under the direction of Noria’s senior technical team.
Regional Lubrication Engineers (RLEs) - Many clients want the benefit of a lubrication engineer, but don’t want or need to staff it on a full-time basis. RLEs are apportioned to several plants/sites that get the benefit of a highly skilled, full-time lubrication engineer without the full-time commitment.
Premium Oil Analysis Program (POAP) - Noria doesn’t operate a laboratory, nor do we wish to. There are lots of good labs already in existence. Rather, Noria offers (POAP), a remote oil analysis diagnostic service to help bridge the gap between the oil analysis lab and the in-plant work planning system. Our diagnosticians know how to turn oil analysis data into work orders and communicate effectively with the team at the plant, including mechanics, planners, engineers and other condition-monitoring specialists to solve problems.
Miscellaneous Consulting - Includes any consulting services that don’t fit neatly into one of the business activity categories, such as failure investigations, expert witness services, strategic/technical marketing consulting to companies who wish to enter or improve their effectiveness in the machinery lubrication and oil analysis market, etc.
Figure 1. Noria’s Business Model
You might ask “why would a publisher also operate a service business that creates all this confusion anyway?” From the start, Noria’s business model was conceived around, and it continues to center around, knowledge dissemination. We believe that practicing in the field about which we publish improves the quality, timeliness and usefulness of the editorial content in our publications. We don’t just write about this stuff - we actually do it. Likewise, consulting and the provision of other professional services require that Noria’s consultants and technicians possess effective written communication skills, which we continuously hone and improve through the publishing process. And education requires excellent graphics for PowerPoint slides, etc. Our graphics team is top-notch. As a reader of Machinery Lubrication, I’m sure you can attest to this. In other words, every part of the business positively affects one or more other parts of the business. It’s a business model that works for us.
Another activity that is near and dear to our hearts at Noria is our support of the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML). ICML is a not-for-profit organization. Its mission is to serve the machinery lubrication end-user community. Several Noria team members were involved with the founding of ICML. It now operates on its own, completely separate from Noria, providing technical certification in alignment with ISO, recognizing excellence in various aspects of machinery lubrication with awards, participation in standards activities, etc. To show support, Noria, like several other companies, is a sustaining member of ICML. However, ICML has its own board of directors, which is made up of lubrication and reliability professionals from such companies as General Motors, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Cargill, ExxonMobil, Shell, etc. In addition, a paid staff carries out daily activities of running the organization. ICML offers its services globally - both directly and through key alliances. In fact, ICML’s executive administrator, Suzy Jamieson, was raised in Brazil, is a U.S. citizen and lives in Australia, from where she manages ICML. That truly puts the International in ICML!
So, if you see Noria out there doing new things, we are just doing our part to push Lubrication Excellence one step further - and having a great time doing it! That is my Viewpoint. As always, I’m interested in yours.