Four short steps to maintenance excellence

In a production environment, you want the lines to meet quality goals and standards with just enough maintenance to sustain reliability. In any environment, an asset must provide that reliability and, thus, must be maintained. There are four basic requirements you must have to be successful in proactively maintaining assets.

In many organizations, the word maintenance provides little value. The true objective of the maintenance function often is misunderstood. But if it’s developed and managed with discipline, it provides great value. It maintains company assets so that they meet the reliability needs at an optimal cost. Many people don’t understand that reliability is what an organization wants, not maintenance. Reliability is the outcome of maintenance.

In other words, reliability is what you must have so assets meet your needs with repeatable results. In a production environment, you want the lines to meet quality goals and standards with just enough maintenance to sustain reliability. In any environment, an asset must provide that reliability and, thus, must be maintained. There are four basic requirements you must have to be successful in proactively maintaining assets.

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Understanding: Everyone in an organization must understand the basics of maintenance and asset reliability as well as share a vision of the maintenance process. This can easily be accomplished by having everyone from upper management to production or operations personnel attend training on the basics of maintenance and reliability. Consider using someone from outside your organization to provide this training. Let me know if you’d like to have a sample curriculum for training all levels of management.

Execution: Discipline must be applied to the execution and management of the maintenance and reliability process. To the maintenance mechanic, it means making repairs following prescribed steps and specifications exactly the same way every time. To a maintenance manager, this means making sure technicians are trained to a specific standard before being turned loose. Humans aren’t machines and human error is the largest reason for less than adequate equipment reliability. Many studies have proven that 70% to 80% of equipment failures are self-induced. Even with procedures in place, if management doesn’t provide adequate training, maintenance personnel will induce equipment failures.

Structure: Preventive maintenance must be defined, managed and executed as a controlled experiment. If you find you’re performing preventive maintenance on equipment that continues to fail, you’re doing reactive maintenance. Define your PMs based on a formal work identification process that maintains reliability using RCM, FMEA, etc. Some organizations have been successful with a PM program that was developed on the basis of someone’s experience or an OEM’s recommendations.

Measurement: To paraphrase Deming, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Managing the maintenance and reliability process requires leading and lagging key performance indictors. Every level in the organization must be able to look at some simple measurement that tells them their particular score in the game. For example, an operator manages the reliability process by performing inspections on their equipment and reporting problems before they create partial or total functional failure. If an operator isn’t engaged in the maintenance of their equipment, failure will occur. A maintenance manager manages using KPIs such as PM compliance. If PMs aren’t completed on time, failure will occur. This concept seems simple, but many people don’t want to know the score in the game because they fear bad numbers. Well, the number is the number, whether you measure it or not.

One method of knowing the score in the game is a KPI dashboard: a set of KPIs that reveal how one’s area of responsibility is functioning in the world of maintenance and reliability. A simple KPI dashboard for a maintenance manager might include PM compliance, scheduled compliance, percent of planned work, mean-time-between-failures and budget compliance. An operator might have a KPI dashboard that includes PM compliance, MTBF and the number of breaks in the maintenance schedule. So you see, the dashboard shows performance data for an area of responsibility and it can reveal problems before they affect capacity, cost or quality.

Follow these four steps to get you started on the path to a true world-class maintenance operation. Each step is simple, however, each takes time, money and a certain amount of discipline. Ignore them at your own risk. They’ve been proven for more than 40 years and have been applied by some of the greatest companies in the world. I wish you success in your endeavor. Let me know if you have any questions or need advice.

E-mail Ricky Smith at askrickysmith@gmail.com

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  • In defining the KPIs, I believe it is important to know what can be measured with existing IT-Tools in each Company (or plant, sub-plant) and what data is needed. Define only those KPIs you need, not more since otherwise people get frustrated because they have to gather and work with data that is not used anywhere. Then they become sloppy, since "nobody is looking at this unimportant data anyway" and soon you important data will also suffer.

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