Gain control of your repairs and spares to avoid costly downtime

High-quality repairs are required to achieve high performance in machinery.

By Craig Cotter, PE, CMRP

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A reliability-centric organization makes reliability the focus of the maintenance and operations departments. The company must have a strong, independent reliability leader, but fixing and replacing equipment are still part of the equation. Part III of this multi-part series explains how to handles repairs and spares.

Click here to read Part I Click here to read Part II

Precision, high-quality repairs are required to achieve high performance in machinery, which is defined as more than 80 months in general-purpose equipment or no unscheduled downtime in special-purpose equipment. Precision repairs are a result of skilled craftsmen, quality parts, quality repair standards, quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) processes, and proper documentation.

The personnel, whether company employees or hired contractors, must be highly skilled craftsmen. Reliability department engineers must work with the maintenance department to determine the skills required of the workforce, develop training for the craftsmen, and regularly test/qualify them. For example, the plant machinery specialist should develop, train, and test the craftsmen on the skills required to work in the plant. Figure 1 shows an example of a list of required machinery skills. Each asset should develop its own list based on the plant’s core tasks and skills required to complete those tasks. Each task should have a defined set of steps, conditions, and standards, and these should be taught to the personnel and repeated over a three-year cycle. This list should be a living document in that the list of tasks will change based on the plant’s evolution over time.

Figure 1. Each asset should have its own list based on the plant’s core tasks and skills required to complete those tasks.
Figure 1. Each asset should have its own list based on the plant’s core tasks and skills required to complete those tasks.

 An additional benefit of a craft training program is that it can be used as part of an apprentice training program. The current demographics of the workforce dictate that a plant must be able to develop its own skilled workforce, which is essential for ensuring quality repairs in the plant. If a company does not grow its own skilled in-house workforce, the company will have to spend time and effort finding and qualifying outside craftsmen, be prepared to pay a higher premium for such skills, and accept the risk of inconsistent repairs resulting from high contractor turnover. In-house skilled craftsmen are, in the long term, a cheaper and more effective workforce.

Fix it right

The spare-parts process plays an important role in achieving quality and timely repairs. All equipment must have complete bills of materials (BOMs) set up in the asset’s CMMS system with the correct parts stocked so they can be located quickly and easily. The spare-parts process for special-purpose equipment is critical; the right process can cut repair times in half, contributing to profits by increasing production uptime. A good process will also reduce the costs associated with labor and expediting parts and will avoid issues associated with non-conforming spare parts.

Quality spare parts are critical for maintenance employees to perform their jobs and ensure reliable operations after an overhaul.

Organizing your critical spares is an enormous undertaking, but with excellent rewards, including cutting repair times in half, increasing the quality of the repairs, and lowering the repair costs. When faced with decisions of faster, better, or cheaper, most organizations settle for two of the three, but spare parts organization is clearly a way to achieve all three simultaneously.

The process requires developing several processes, including:

  • creating standard BOMs for the equipment
  • developing inspection and testing plans for all parts 
  • implementing a QA/QC process and using QM in your CMMS
  • reviewing existing spare parts per the inspection and testing plans
  • ordering all parts to complete the BOMs
  • kitting the parts per machine, which includes kitting the specialty tools
  • implementing a process to control the kits, inspect them, and review them periodically
  • developing a process of repairing parts and replenishing the kits.

Each part of the process is critical and must be performed by a dedicated machinery specialist, not only to set up but also to maintain the process. Adding the above responsibility to existing personnel will result in marginal results or failure of the process. If your organization does not have enough equipment to justify a dedicated machinery specialist, then your site may consider using a corporate employee to set up and review the process for multiple assets and a local machinery specialist to maintain the program.

Inspecting spare parts

Why is it important to inspect your incoming spare parts? To show the importance of QA/QC for all parts coming into your warehouse, consider the three-year summary of OEM compressor parts coming into an asset, shown in Figure 2.

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