Monday, December 31, 2012

What Are Your Three Reliability Resolutions?

Photo by Shon Isenhour
Reliability Resolution Wrecker
Yes it is that time of the year... resolution season. Everyone is planning to lose weight, get in shape, learn a new instrument, lower their stress levels, spend more time with the family, play more and harder or some other life change. If you live your life in a operations, maintenance, and reliability role the one thing you need is more time to make these resolutions possible. The problem is that many of us can not go to the gym or spend more time with the family when your reactive facility requires your constant attention. I have lived in that reactive world. The plant controlled my life instead of the leadership controlling the plant. I think the plant gremlins went into overdrive around the holidays. the facility tended to break down on holidays and important weekends and required a trip into the plant to sort it out. So thinking back what resolutions would I have most liked to make the plant's "Reliability Resolutions?" Here they are:
1. We were good outage planners and executioners but we needed to rely less on preventative maintenance outage work and more on the predictive tools. We needed to stop the invasive downtime requiring inspections and incorporate and trust the predictive tools to provide surgical precision with in our outages. This would have shorten outages and decreased infant mortality.
2. We needed a resolution to make precision maintenance our new standard. We needed to provide the training and the reinforcement structure to drive proper alignment, balancing, torquing and lubrication.
3. We had an ageing workforce so our third resolution should have been one aimed at capturing their knowledge within the EAM or CMMS. There was a lot of equipment history with in the heads of the "mature"crafts. If we could gather this data and add it to the precision maintenance mentality resolution we could make a step change in the infant mortality rates and reoccurring failures.
So these are my three "Reliability Resolutions." With these resolutions we could have begun the process of retaking the facility and controlling it instead of letting the equipment be the boss. If we kept our focus then in no time we would have had the free time to focus on our personal resolutions again. What would your three "Reliability Resolutions" be? If you don't mind sharing then please post them below.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wrapping Up The Year In Reliability With A Challenge

2012 has been a very interesting year. We have seen increased national focus on manufacturing and some additional focus on engineering as well. We have seen some industries began to gain strength and production demand while others are not so patiently waiting for their own increase.
From an asset management standpoint, efforts continue to increase as the new ISO 55000 standards gets closer to reality. You should see more and more discussion on this topic in the new year. I will feature some here at
In general reliability improvement efforts seem to be stable and possibly showing the beginnings of increased focus for next year. Many industries are hesitant to dive in until the beginning of the year when "things will be clearer." If you are trying to get your organization to move forward you may hear many excuses for the delay but they tend to fall into two categories. Below I have listed the two and a few simple thoughts on how best to help each group pull the trigger on reliability.
Group 1. We are too busy to take on reliability at the moment...
Goal you create: More uptime through reliability
For these folks I would suggest that you might want to help them to see all of the production losses they are facing and showing them how to support the reliability improvements efforts without affecting current production demands. One way to do this is through a reduction in non value added activities and the associated downtime. One example would be having a small group eliminate non value adding preventive maintenance task. This effort will increase uptime of the equipment by reducing the downtime required for PM activities and free up resources to work on other improvement task by reducing the maintenance work load. The site might use the freed up labor to work with planners and improve job plans and incorporate precision maintenance. This would eliminate more maintenance downtime and build the improvements. By the end of the year these sites should be making more product and more profit because of their reliability improvements. 
Challenge: This group may try to delay the improvement for tomorrow because they are just too busy making the production for today. You have to break that cycle by creating a burning platform and a reason for change.
Group 2. We are not busy enough to take on reliability at the moment...
Goal you create: Lower manufacturing cost through reliability
Interestingly, the tactics here are similar to the previous group in that we want to reduce non value added task but the goal is completely different. This time we don't always want more production since the demand is low but we want to produce what we need at the lowest cost possible. This can be the perfect time to attack long standing reliability issues because the work can be done at a much lower cost by planning it out and scheduling it using the down time provided by lower demand. Since production downtime cost is the biggest part of the spend for many improvements this makes it easier to do during a slowdown. Now we need to free up money and labor to pay for the reliability improvements and one way that we can do that is through refining your equipment maintenance plans to remove unnecessary part expense and labor cost. The quickest way can be a combination of RCM and PM review and RCA done to prevent failures, stop re-occurrence and remove any item that does not address a known and likely failure mode. By reducing activity for activities sake you reduce material cost and contractor cost while also reducing infant mortality.
Challenge: In this group the fear of failure is high due to economic pressures and this fear can stop the organization from being able to make the changes that lead to the improvements. Master the elements of change management to ease the transition.
Now there are many other ways to go about addressing both of these situations but they are both situation specific and a function of the sites maturity. You may even find that both of these situations exist in your site.  Feel free to reach out and we can discuss your specific details and craft a plan directed at your needs.

I wish you a great year of reliability in 2013 and I challenge you to attack unreliability in 2013 where it lives, in the minds of your organization. Create Desire, Educate, Apply, Sustain!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Retropost: Do you have an "Elf on a Shelf" in Your Facility?

 Do you have an "Elf on a Shelf" in Your Facility?: The Elf on a Shelf has become a great behavior modification tool in many households. In ours, all we have to do is point at the little guy a...

Monday, December 17, 2012

3 Reasons Why Operations Does Not Support Maintenance and Reliability

One of the most common things maintenance folks say is that operations does not support maintenance and reliability. It sounds like this:
"If it weren't for operations we would be reliable"
"They think their job is to break it and then it is our job to fix it... and fast"
"They will not let us have the equipment for PM and they wonder why it breaks down"
Want to know what operations has to say? Here are three quotes and a set of underlining causes:
1. Operations says: "Every time I give them the equipment for PM downtime it runs worse on start up than it did at shutdown"
Reason: Maintenance overly relies on invasive PMs that induce infant mortality instead of using Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) which is performed while the equipment is running and does not induce failures. If maintenance could get fifteen percent of there labor dedicated to CBM and then fifteen percent dedicated to PM then the balance would be better and the number of maintenance induced failures would drop. One example is eliminating the PM where you open a gearboxes up for a gear inspection and transitioning them to CBM inspections which can accomplish the same task without the potential for reassembly errors or foreign contamination in the gear box.
2. Operations says: "Maintenance never sticks to the schedule. They ask for 8 hours and take 16" Maintenance creates a schedule with work that is only marginally planned and then overruns the outage timeline because the estimates are completely inaccurate. If you don't take the time to break the job down into estimable task or steps then it becomes very hard to produce and accurate schedule. The way this sounds in the field is "Oh that job, it will take about a half shift for two guys"
3. Operations says: "This equipment runs better if I can just keep it running and keep maintenance out of it."
Maintenance does not practice precision maintenance therefor as work is completed defects are induced and equipment fails prematurely. One example is the installation of a bearing on a shaft with a hammer and chisel instead of a bearing heater and impact fitting tools.

The point here is that if we as maintenance and reliability professionals start by addressing our issues it becomes much easier to ask operations to address theirs. Or to say it another way:
If you wanna make the world a better place
take a look at yourself, and then make a change

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Looking Back for the Keys to Sustainability

From time to time I get to go back and visit plants and facilities that were clients of mine from years ago. This week happens to be one of those weeks. I find it so exciting to go back and see what they have held on to, what they have improved, and where they have slipped back and why. Interestingly I see different things in each site. Some sites progress with continued focus on reliability, others moving  into other initiatives like lean or six sigma and build off of their reliability results further building success and a third group lose focus and slides back toward the old norm and the reactive philosophies of the past. These sites have many reasons why they slip back including leadership changes, union issues, retirements, sudden changes in the market place.
The question for today’s blog is how do we lock it in? How do we sustain the cultural change that has been or is being completed?
The plants that have the most success have done these four things.
First they have moved past a champion model. Reliability for them is more than just one person’s vision. They do not have one single leader for the initiative that either charismatically leads the pack or forces compliance within the site. They have many folks who see the benefits of reliability and evangelize it consistently. Nearly all implementations start as a champion model with a key leader but the sustainable ones work this down into the organization and develop and army of like-minded drivers that demonstrate that reliability is the new way we do business.
Second, they communicated broadly as they implemented with a plan, consistent activity, and increasing site involvement. These groups start by going through a risk analysis of the transformational change. They look to understand what might go wrong and what they can do to mitigate that risk. They communicate at every stage of the process and the message and media changes based on the risk and the needs of the impacted. They focus on situational leadership and provide the individuals with what they need to help them progress through the change and then sustain.  In short they plan their communication and they work the plan increasing involvement and pushing toward the tipping point and increased likelihood of sustainability.
Third, they have a clear goal, vision, and business case and they reject things that go against that vision.  If the vision changes then that is fine but they work hard to communicate the changes. They evaluate all initiatives site wide and include only the ones that support the goals. Of those they select they sequence them in a way that supports and allows them to build. This means they may do a part of one initiative with the required resources and then complete a section of another selected improvement strategy knowing that they will build on each other and help improve overall site performance. If they take this approach then they build a system unique to them that can be developed without overloading the resources and provides for stable continuous improvement.
Fourth, they use metrics effectively. They don’t focus on every metric all the time they focus on the metrics that drive the behaviors that they need to change at that moment. Once the behavior is changed and becomes the new norm then they move their focus to other metrics and other behaviors.
There are other factors that come into play but these are some key success factors that seem to be present for success and sustainability.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Data Collectors or Dust Collectors: Three Ways to Knock the Dust Off

We all love shiny new reliability toys, right?
Well I am spending the week in the middle of a conference center full of beautiful shiny new condition monitoring/ predictive maintenance tools in Bahrain at the Maintcon conference. I know that the IMC-2012 International Maintenance Conference is kicking off as you read this in Florida as well. So, literally thousands of people will be in a sea of shiny new equipment this week. They will check out the newest in touch screen technology, they will ogle at the cool wireless features and they may even lust after the robustness of these new super industrialized models.
But let me share a dirty secret, many of them are not looking at data collectors they are actually looking at future dust collectors.
While sitting around with many of the leaders of the companies that provide these incredible technologies they have all lamented with sad eyes about the cool tools that have never made it into regular use in some facilities. One vendor said it makes him want to cry when he sees "his equipment setting on the top shelf with a layer of dust on it." They are proud of their work and they want to see it used to improve facilities reliability. Below are some of the actual excuses mumbled by maintenance folks in facilities globally for why there is dust on their technology:
  • "No time to get trained on the unit" Training issue
  • "No one does anything when I identify a fault" Communication, Process, and Training Issue
  • "No budget left for training class" Training Issue
  • "To busy fighting fires" Process issue
  • "The other maintenance guys don't trust the technology" Training issue
  • "Operations will not give me the down time" Process issue
  • "The old way was easier" Training issue
  • "I can't get the time to mount the sensors" Process and Priority issue
  • "I didn't order it. I wanted the other one." hmmmm.... Attitude issue? OK, how about change management issue
So what can we do? Here are three thoughts that might help you avoid your own set of dust collectors.
First, don't buy technology if you don't have the basic business processes in place. Good technology with bad processes just makes bad things happen faster. Think about how you are going to use the technology. How will you plan and then schedule the resolutions of the findings? If you can not plan and schedule the repairs then you are merely refining your run to failure strategy and continuing to make repairs at 5 times the cost.
Second, package the training into the purchase price of the unit and issue one purchase order. Don't try to "buy it in bits" Get it all at once or wait until you can. You will want to capitalize on the fact that it is new to get folks to engage in the training and apply the technology in the field. Of course you should train your users to operate it but don't forget to create awareness training for those that will be affected like your craftsmen who will make the repairs based on the technology and your planners who will use the findings to plan the work.
Third, plan the time to set it up right. Develop your equipment list, routes, and alarms right from the start. Going back after the fact is gruesome and frustrating and working in a bad database just makes an analyst mad.
What things have you done at your site to prevent your data collectors from becoming dust collectors?
Please feel free to share below.

Have a great week