Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Unreliability

Both coins are fake silver
We are at a point where imitations, knock off, and off quality parts are making their way into our traditional MRO supply chain. Some estimate as much as ten percent of the materials purchased last year were counterfeit. If you look around you will begin to see the effects of these cheap parts. It is costing sites maintenance dollars, production output, and safety performance. It started with imitation bolts that did not meet the grade standards. Then it became apparent with wiring and electrical parts. Now we are seeing knock off bearings, belts, electrical cards and even whole machines. They are produced in China and India where making a perfect look alike copy is culturally a revered skill.
While in China recently I was shown domestically produced equipment that were copies of designs out of Europe and the US.  I even brought back a few copied items to share with my others to make the point. I chose smaller items that travel well but they are available in all sizes. The first one is the US and Chinese coins shown above and the second is the 14 gauge wire shown below. The orange and green spool of wire is labeled as 14 gauge but when you compare it to true 14 gauge RCA wire it contains about half the copper strands and total mass and is encased in a clear plastic shell that magnifies the copper making it look just like the nice heavy gauge wire. The coins were such accurate copies that even using some of the more common test they could not be distinguished. They ring like silver and they weigh the same as the silver coin they mimic but you guessed it they are not silver. I saw other items as well including bearings, grade 8 bolts, electrical connectors, all in perfect copy packaging but with no guarantee of their reliability.
If they were truly exact copies then other than the obvious intellectual property rights issues it would
RCA cable is real Pyramid Power is undersized fake
no be so bad but many of these copies are made with substituted material. For instance a bearing may look like a perfect copy all the way down to the packaging but the metal and production process used can be wildly different. Some are produced with scrap metal with no eye to the metallurgy required.
In the electrical world you see parts and electrical boards that have been copied or re manufactured after not passing initial quality inspections. These off quality boards were meant to be destroyed but instead were sent to facilities where they are "repaired" with no assurance of quality and reentered into the supply chain as "new" parts. The US government and aviation industry have both experienced this in the last year and the cost to replace the counterfeit components after the fact was staggering.
This is leading to failures that are affecting safety, environmental and profitability of facilities both in the US and abroad. I have provided a few links below to further educate about the potential of this problem to affect you and your facility now and in the future.  

Reference Links:
Google search for fake bearings
IHS Parts
SAE Parts
Google search for counterfeit parts

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Best Practice Metrics Performance Requires Best Practices...

Over the years I have worked with many sites all over the world specifically to help them with assessments of their "As is" state. These were in preparation for their reliability, safety, and operations improvement initiative that will help them attain their "to be" state and the performance gain that is associated with that improvement.
The assessment process has many different variations depending on the site and the topic but all of them should have three things in common. The three are:
  • a metrics or key performance indicator review
  • practices and documentation review
  • interaction with as many of the affected and involved individuals as possible to understand application, culture, and norms 
If you are lucky then all three will tell a similar story and you can begin to plot a course to the "to be" state and the value of that progression. This does not always happen. Sometimes two will agree but one does not support the others. It is a bit like looking down at the dash of the car and seeing that your oil pressure is low and you are idling at 500 RPMs but your speedometers says you are traveling at 145 MPH. This indicated disconnect is concerning. Let me give you two industry examples. In the first example, let us say you are assessing a facility and you find well documented business processes but mediocre metrics performance and when you go to the plant floor and speak with the crafts, operators, and the supervisors you realize they don't know anything about the processes or the metrics. Or another possibility, maybe you find that the metrics show great performance but there are no or very limited business process and from the discussions with the site personnel you discover the site culture does not support the current level of metric performance or suggested reliability. This is where the improvement process can bog down. In the first example you would need to investigate to truly understand, but it appears on the surface that the business processes may have come from somewhere else and were never embraced or lost support for what ever reason. In the second example, the metrics may have been "optimized" over time which can cause them to get to a point where the math that is used to make them look so good is beyond science. I worked in one facility many years ago that regularly ran with an overall equipment effectiveness or OEE of 115. They ran a 115 with mediocre practices so there was still room for improvement. If they got it all right, there was potential to see 125 on a 100 scale metric but alas it did not happen as far as I know. Maybe they decided to change the math.
My point is that if the three areas of focus do not match you may want to use some root cause analysis tools to find the underlying causes. Once these are found then you can explain the disconnect between the three areas. The second step is to help the site see the mismatch in metrics, practices, application and culture. I like to use our maturity matrices which you can get here to help with this element. The site has to understand that world class performance on metrics has to be supported by world class performance in business process, culture, and application. Once they are comfortable with this then they can begin to embrace the true "as is" and discover the true potential that they can capture in the gap.
Have you experience the mis-match?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Failure curves and P-F intervals linked and explained: Tying the two most important reliability engineering curves together to generate a better picture of failure

During the early development of what would become Reliability Centered Maintenance, Nowlan and Heap gave us six failure curves to the left. When folks first see that sixty eight percent fall into the infant mortality curve then the doubt fairy tends to show up. "Sixty eight percent of the failures in my facility are not instant or early on start up." With this thought they then discount the incredibly important failure mode data provided to us from these studies. What they are missing is the connection to the P-F curve below.
So if the failure curves show the probability of defects introduced over time based on an individual failure mode then the P-F shows the resistance to failure over time once the failure defect has occurred. Nolan and Heap did not say that sixty-eight percent of your assets will catastrophically fail on or near startup they said that sixty-eight percent will have a defect introduced that will then travel down the curve of the P-F becoming more prone to functional and catastrophic failure. This trip down the curve may take 5 days, 5 weeks, or 5 years depending on the failure mode and operating context. This means they don’t fail instantly, but they do fail prematurely because of the defects introduced during or shortly thereafter maintenance activities. So think of the six failure curves as the probability of introduction of a defect and the P-F as the path of that defect to functional and catastrophic failure. I hope this helps you send the doubt fairy packing and you can begin to better understand both curves and the additional knowledge they can provide.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tips for Your Scheduling Process Via Video

Today I thought I would share with you a video post on maintnenance scheduling with a few tips for taking your planned jobs and generating the most effective schedule.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Are You a Reliability Champion or Reliability Killer?

As I travel from plant to plant and facility to facility I see both Reliability Champions and Reliability Killers.
First, lets talk about the "bad guys." These are the people in the organization that are not necessarily against getting better but they do not "have the time" to make the improvements and certainly do not want to wait for others to either. These folks are quick to say "When is the asset going to be back up?" without asking "what caused the problem?" and "How do we prevent it from happening again?" These are the ones who will spend the companies money to buy predictive and precision maintenance tools but because of the learning curve, do not allow them to be used lest they slow down the repair process. Their goal is not to fix it right just to fix it again and preferably as fast as possible. During one extended visit to a site I watched the company spend a substantial amount of money on alignment equipment and training but as soon as the crafts tried to use them and took a few extra minutes the supervisor yelled at them "to get that stuff off there and use a strait edge. We have to get this line up!" He was a Reliability Killer.
So what does a Reliability Champion look like? They are still concerned with getting the equipment fixed but they allow that bit of extra time that can get us to root cause and improve the precision of the repair. They use your target business processes. They know if we take a little down time now then I prevent a lot of downtime in the future. Their definition of fixed is a permanent repair not one requiring baling wire, duct tape and a hammer. They like to fix it once and forget it (after it is recorded in the CMMS).
In the end the reliability killer can be neutralized and in some cases even converted to a champion. It starts with communication and the creation of awareness and then as the killer sees the error of his ways and why changing could benifit him then he can accept more knowledge that can used to correct the situation or at least stop the killing. It is not eazy but it is possible with a plan and the desire to communicate.
So which category do your leaders fit into? Are you the Champs or the Killers? What are your plans to change that?