Is a PM program sustainable?

6 steps to get your preventive maintenance program started and stay proactive.

By Randy Quick, Kerry Ingredients and Foods, and John Crossan, Consultant

In brief:

  • One of the many counterintuitive realities of the maintenance world is that reactive maintenance costs so much more and is so much less effective at maintaining reliable, productive operations than proactive maintenance does.
  • There are leaps of faith necessary to get to the world of proactive maintenance, and it takes strong commitment at all levels in a plant to make those leaps.
  • The first ingredient is preventive maintenance in the general sense — “inspection to identify issues and deal with them, before they develop into actual losses.”

Even though most people in manufacturing and service industries are well aware of the concepts of preventive maintenance, many plants continue to perform maintenance in a mostly reactive “fix it when it breaks” mode. Sadly, some who have implemented PM strategies steadily fall back into these old ways, even after having seen the proactive nirvana of fixing things before they break.

SMRP Conference

Randy Quick, CMRP, engineering manager at Kerry Ingredients and Flavors, and John Crossan, CMRP, consultant, will present “Key Items in Successful, Sustaining Preventive Maintenance Implementations” at the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals Annual Conference in Indianapolis on Oct. 16 at 1:15 PM. The presenters will describe, from their history of maintenance improvement implementations in more than 50 plants, what they have seen work, and not work, in achieving an effective, sustained preventive maintenance program. They will describe typical characteristics of successful and unsuccessful efforts and key essential success mechanisms. Learn more about the SMRP Conference.

Surprising? Not really. The world of manufacturing still has, and probably always will have, daily pressures that tend to drive value for the immediate more than for the longer term. We just seem to need that sense of urgency.

Talking to folks in reactive plants, they typically also understand the concept of preventive maintenance, but they just can’t see how it could fit into the way they normally operate. Many of the reasons are common:

  • “We just don’t have enough people or enough time to be able to get all that PM work done.”
  • “We’re just too busy doing what we need to be doing.”
  • “We live in the ‘real’ world.”

One of the many counterintuitive realities of the maintenance world is that reactive maintenance costs so much more and is so much less effective at maintaining reliable, productive operations than proactive maintenance does. It can be four to 10 times more costly. It takes four times longer. And, worst of all, the work usually has to be done over again the right way. And this says nothing about the cost of the lost production and all the associated risk and cost that goes with that.

Truly, good maintenance takes time and money. Poor maintenance costs a lot more time and a lot more money.

There are leaps of faith necessary to get to the world of proactive maintenance, and it takes strong commitment at all levels in a plant to make those leaps. It’s even harder to stick with them when daily events and pressures are tearing away at the fiber of these commitments.

If we build it, things will get better. Equipment will be more reliable, and maintenance will be less costly. The first ingredient is preventive maintenance in the general sense — “inspection to identify issues and deal with them, before they develop into actual losses.”

The reactive world

If you haven’t been there lately, here are some typical characteristics of the reactive world:

  • Mechanics spend most of their time responding to trouble calls. Without effective PM inspections, the first sign of any equipment issue is usually something pretty serious, an equipment breakdown or a quality or performance problem. Plant-wide broadcast paging systems calling for mechanics used to drive us all crazy. Now the more subtle personal radios only annoy the mechanics carrying them. Things may seem a bit better, but they’re not really.
  • Operators automatically call for maintenance if they have issues. These may be equipment malfunctions or just simply an adjustment. Operators are not expected, encouraged, or trained to be self-sufficient or even to contribute. There is no structured operator involvement in eliminating issues or making improvement. “We tried letting them do it, but there were just too many problems.” But how hard did we try?
  • Repairs are made in a “fix and forget” mode. Permanent follow-up fixes to emergency repair work hardly ever occur, and, unless the event was pretty disastrous, there is no analysis or follow-up action to prevent future occurrences. Sadly, when the analysis does happen, it’s often focused on who’s to blame, rather than what went wrong.
  • It’s always “on to the next issue,” and no one has the time or inclination to record the history of past issues because there are urgent new ones to deal with? “It’s just the paperwork.”
  • It’s difficult to find the time to get PM work done. Typically maintenance personnel are too busy with repairs or operating issues or “high priority” work. To many, at all levels, inspections just aren’t real, tangible work — not like fixing or building actual things — so it obviously doesn’t warrant a mechanic’s time.
  • Only maintenance personnel perform equipment care tasks or inspections, other than general equipment cleaning. Again, operators are not expected, encouraged or trained to perform equipment care and this is simply wasting valuable, capable, resources, both operators and mechanics. Henry Ford was truly a manufacturing genius, but one thing he didn’t get right was his perceptions and use of his workforce. He led the way in paying people more for their work, so they could afford to buy his cars, but didn’t want them to think on the job, even though he was paying for their thinking as well as their physical capability. That was many years ago, and we should all have realized what he got wrong by now. But for some, “command and control” is the only management style they know and believe in. Some still expect people to “just show up and do what they’re told.” The good news is that this is a smaller group all the time. Some of the apprehension stems from looking at the expense of expensive, event-based downtime training, rather than building in training as an ongoing, routine part of the everyday job activity. 
  • Only a small percentage of any scheduled work gets done. Emergency work or poorly prioritized urgent work constantly takes precedence. Unscheduled work is always incredibly inefficient, and is flatly a waste of valuable maintenance resources, and this cuts into resources available to do PMs. Only when needed work is identified before an issue develops, and when the needed repair is planned and scheduled, can maintenance resources be effectively and efficiently used.

Even if our PM inspections do identify needed repairs ahead of time, it doesn’t do us any good if we don’t avoid the issue before it happens. So once we decide to make that leap, how do we go about it?

1. First, we need to commit maintenance personnel and equipment to PM to break the reactive cycle. This is the leap of faith the entire organization first must make and then commit to in the way they work every day. It’s not easy, and there are always emergencies — real ones and more dubious ones. Weaning the organization away from constant, instant-gratification, quick responses and making them more self-sufficient and less dependent on maintenance help is a big part of it.

The simplest way is to schedule individual mechanics to PMs for a shift and then operate as if they weren’t even in the plant. They’re not available to be sent out on emergency work, unless it’s something truly serious. It’s as if they’re on vacation or they called in sick. One plant manager, to make the point, resorted to insisting that he needed to be called at home if a mechanic was to be taken off of PM work to deal with an emergency.

This is often a maintenance service philosophy issue. We want to provide good service, but some plants view all of their issues as warranting emergency responses. We can never provide the needed reliability if we’re wasting valuable resources, and that’s not good service.

2. Commit daily operating personnel time and equipment to clean-inspect lube (CIL). This aids tremendously with the maintenance personnel workload and builds essential operator ownership and capability. This is work that operators can do with some training and ongoing periodic follow-up and assistance. They are the logical ones to do it, as they are constantly with the equipment and will be most aware of the condition of the equipment and how it is operating. And, despite common belief, the vast majority really want to do it, as they know it helps them and it builds the motivational ownership that everyone wants and needs.

Taking some brief downtime every shift to let operators do this work will really pay off. Remember that 15 minues is 3% of a shift. Some will agonize over giving up any production time, even when the runtime percentage is pathetic, routinely losing many, many production minutes per shift, every shift. But, again, counterintuitively this small loss will gain back many more minutes than it loses. Building and encouraging operator self-sufficiency will really cut down on emergency maintenance trouble calls.

3. PMs should be developed initially by technical elite but reviewed and adjusted on an ongoing basis from input by all. Ownership is without a doubt the most important ingredient in improvement activity and must be fostered. People generally are much more accepting of procedures they have a hand in creating and improving. It seems that PM content should be owned by the technical experts, but this does nothing for ownership, and besides it isn’t even the best way to keep them current and accurate. Definitely the first pass at PM and CIL should be pulled together by technical experts, just to get a starting point, but after that they belong to the people who use them. A routine structured update process involving everyone is essential.

4. Have ongoing structured daily review of issues by operators and maintenance personnel. This is the primary mechanism for PM CIL updating, effectiveness improvement, and involvement. Reviewing production loss issues daily in a production shift exchange meeting most often leads to constant modifications to PM or CILs. This must be a structured, routine, and well-facilitated, activity that happens every day. Informal improvement activities are too easily postponed for any number of reasons and just will not sustain. Only committing to a regular schedule and participation will keep things moving forward. Maintenance is a key part of this, even if initially they won’t want to come.

5. Planner/supervisor/lead should review completed PM work orders with mechanics. All completed PM work orders should have some comments on issues found, and follow-up work orders should be generated from them. It generally takes some effort to get mechanics in the habit of doing this because it’s all “just the paperwork” to them.

Every PM work order is important, but if no one ever seems to look at them or seems to place any value on them, then pretty soon mechanics begin to wonder if they warrant spending their time on them. Maybe they should just go back to just working on emergencies, as people seemed to value that work and them more. People these days are very aware that, if their contribution doesn’t seem to be valued, that has a direct relationship to job security, so the value of PM work must be constantly reinforced. Simply having someone routinely talk to you about what you found helps tremendously.

6. Have ongoing structured PM training and an auditing mechanism involving maintenance leads, supervision, and technical personnel to build capability and demonstrate importance and value. On some regular schedule, time needs to be spent with folks doing PMs and CILs, just to be sure the work spelled out is accurate and people are looking at the right things in the right way. Not so much for mechanics, but for operators, this is an important part of ongoing training. Besides it’s an opportunity for technical personnel to get a look inside equipment and see what’s really happening there (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Time needs to be spent with folks doing PMs and CILs, just to be sure the work spelled out is accurate and people are looking at the right things in the right way.
Figure 1. Time needs to be spent with folks doing PMs and CILs, just to be sure the work spelled out is accurate and people are looking at the right things in the right way.

 

Summary

Randy Quick is engineering manager at Kerry Ingredients and Foods in Beloit, Wisconsin. Contact him at rdquick1@gmail.com.

John Crossan is a consultant and author of the Manufacturing Ownership blog. Contact him at john@johncrossan.com.

Preventive maintenance is tough to get started and tough to maintain, mostly due to normal daily pressures. It takes strong leadership and commitment to keep it going.

Typically most time is spent on the technical detail of a PM program and technical accuracy is important, but the human aspects of ownership and value are far more important in sustaining the effort. If these are not in place, the program will inevitably struggle to get started and just fade away over time.

Managers and people in plants inevitably change, and new people coming in will, and should, always question the value of what’s in place. PM programs, like anything else, are not immune from having inefficient and wasteful activity build up in them. The structured, routine, review and follow-up mechanisms involving everyone are vital in keeping the program vital and essential, making sure that it is very obvious to all that it’s generating real value.