The zen of holistic reliability

By Steve Gabauer   


Making decisions based on data and evidence.

Good maintenance delivers improved safety, lower energy consumption and reduced costs. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Good maintenance delivers improved safety, lower energy consumption and reduced costs. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Managing maintenance departments holistically is a must as focus shifts from reactionary maintenance, repair and periodic overhaul of equipment to providing reliability through total asset management. The emerging concept in this field is evidence-based asset management (EBAM), which bases decisions on data plus credible evidence, using the most advanced decision-making tools available.

Putting an effective system in place requires a strategic asset management master plan that ensures all stakeholders buy in, particularly senior management.

Maintenance management systems were discussed by a variety of presenters at a MainTrain conference convened by the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC).

Christer Idhammar, one of the presenters and founder of consulting firm IDCON Inc. in Raleigh, NC, noted technology is okay, but improving reliability through better maintenance is 90% about people and processes, and only 10% about technology. The question is: do you focus on the right things, or just on doing things right? Everybody doing it right the first time, every time is the only way for a culture of excellence to be achieved.


Take planning and scheduling, for example. Serge Doucet, a maintenance planning specialist at ProSygma Reliability and Maintenance Professional Services (based in Longueuil, Que.), said planning is about how to best perform a job, while scheduling determines when the job should be done. When there is no planning and scheduling, the work order backlog is out of control, emotions take over when prioritizing work orders, equipment history in the CMMS is incomplete, and there are no performance indicators. Also, some repairs take forever, there is a majority of emergency work orders, maintenance employees are shuffled all day, and maintenance supervisors struggle every morning over what work to assign to which crew.

Minimizing total cost

A good planning and scheduling environment ensures all maintenance tasks are captured on a work order that’s part of an effective priority system, and that standard procedures are continually updated and optimized. The benefits are a decrease in delays, getting more work done with the same number of people, reduced downtime and increased in equipment availability.

Ramesh Gulati, the asset management and reliability-planning manager of the aerospace testing alliance AEDC/ATA- Jacobs in Tennessee, emphasized the obvious: best practices and asset lifecycle management help minimize the total cost of ownership, which consists of acquisition cost (20% to 25%), installation cost, operation and maintenance costs (70% to 80%), and disposal costs.

Most of the cost of ownership is in the operations and maintenance phase (O&M) and depends on how assets are designed, built, installed, commissioned and operated. Ergo, reliability, maintainability, sustainability and safety are attributes that should be designed in.

It follows that operators and maintenance professionals are involved in the early stages of equipment design and development. Create a plan, establish procedures and test performance during commissioning. This is important because most O&M costs for the lifecycle of an asset are fixed during the design/build phase.

Ask yourself these questions regarding lifecycle cost (LCC): Is equipment specified and bought based on long-term best LCC or on the lowest bid? Are the operations and maintenance departments involved in early specifications and the design of the equipment? And are there standards for reliability and maintainability?

Changing roles

There are other questions to ask. For instance: are operators doing 50% of basic equipment inspections and essential care? Are operators trained to do basic equipment inspections and essential care? Are stores organized to support efficient maintenance? Do KPIs drive better performance? Do you know how many maintenance people are the “right” number? What’s the expected attrition rate, which can drive up backlog, overtime and contractor hours.

Another aspect that needs to be factored into the mix is changing rules.

Roop Lutchman, the lead for consulting firm GHD Inc. in Mississauga, Ont., noted there are specific drivers for optimal asset management. Existing rules don’t apply because businesses face new challenges. Here is Lutchman’s top 10 list of new rules:

• Business planning in silos is replaced by whole business planning.
• Operation by gut feel and intuition is changed to comprehensive risk management.
• Siloed ad hoc decision-making gives way to optimized decision-making.
• Meaningless KPIs are replaced by LOS-driven performance management.
• The proliferation of non-integrated systems is fixed by system rationalization and integration.
• Under the old rules, the focus was on process efficiency; under the new rules, the focus is on effectiveness.
• Instead of low wrench time, the focus is on high pay-off activities.
• Managing lifecycle phases in silos is replaced by sequencing the asset value chain.
• Supervising and managing people changes to leaders of change.
• Ad hoc innovation and continuous improvement changes to formalized innovation collaboration and continuous improvement.

New rules offer obvious benefits. They include improved response to customer needs; lower taxes; reduced failures and production delays; business costs are minimized; and financial crises are averted.

An effective maintenance strategy also includes applying machine diagnostics. Condition-based maintenance (CBM) has become a key strategy for improving maintenance reliability. Bill Winkler, an electrical consultant with the Canadian Copper and Brass Development Association, warned poor control of electric motor efficiency creates significant costs that are often invisible.
CBM and predictive maintenance determine the reliability of equipment. PdM identifies the changing conditions that alert the owner to an increasing risk of functional failure, or when the equipment will cease performing as required. CBM is used to make planned maintenance decisions based upon tests and inspections. Both control and manage costs associated with the equipment lifecycle and productivity.

Equipment failure is expensive, but it can also be catastrophic. A holistic reliability and maintenance management system goes a long way to ensuring physical assets continue to be primary revenue generators.

Steve Gahbauer is an engineer, a Toronto-based business writer and a regular contributing editor to PLANT.

This article appears in the April 2016 issue of PLANT.


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