Restart your PdM program, Part 1: The rocky road to reliability

Diagnose what went wrong and get back on the predictive maintenance track.

By Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor

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If you’ve ever had to restart a predictive maintenance (PdM) program, you’re not alone. Everyone seems to have at least one story about a PdM initiative that failed or was ineffective. How can you make sure yours will go right when it’s launched and perform well over the long haul?

So many reliability professionals were eager to share their advice and experiences that this story will be presented in two parts. The common themes and unique pearls of wisdom will help you to avoid the costs and frustration of PdM restarts and put your program on the path to lasting success.

The rocky road to reliability

Programs that fail often go out with a whimper. “I found ultrasound and infrared devices in a dust-covered box in a cabinet when I was hired here 10 years ago,” says Brendon Russ, reliability engineer at Southern Gardens Citrus, a division of US Sugar. “My job was to restart a multifaceted PdM program that had been dropped.”

The plant had fallen into the trap of thinking that PdM would result from just buying a tool. This had caused previous PdM attempts to fail, explains Russ. “There was this thought that by buying this device, we now have PdM, and life would be great,” he says. “There wasn’t really any foresight into building a PdM program, including the processes and procedures to govern the use of PdM or the training and information-sharing needed for others to understand the program and its value.”

Shayne Jones, O&M manager for maintenance at Salt River Project (SRP) Navajo Generating Station witnessed a PdM initiative fail for common reasons. “There was a lack of visible support from management; no synergy; employee turnover; poor communication of program value to equipment owners, maintenance, and operations staff; and infrequent promotion of finds and saves,” remarks Jones.

It used to be that the PdM technology caused problems, but now the technology is so easy to use that the problems stem from the people and their actions (or lack thereof), says Michael Trainor, manager of asset reliability consulting at SKF.

“One plant had a mill motor on a critical sawing operation indicating a problem over three months, and even though the vibration analysis was very sound and the work request entered in the CMMS was adequate, the mill’s maintenance team took no corrective action. In the third month, the critical motor had a catastrophic failure,” says Trainor. “The team’s inaction caused eight hours of downtime, more than $18,700 in repair work costs, and roughly $950 of mechanic labor costs.”

Many companies will initiate a PdM program and then check the task off their list as done. This always leads to failure, suggests Joe Anderson, senior reliability manager at The Schwan Food Company (Schwan). “I have witnessed a few failures and walked into plants that have remnants of what was once a good program,” he says. “Usually it was due to a combination of three things: The program manager failed to show the value PdM provided to the organization, the management changed, (and/or) there was insufficient knowledge and training.”

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