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.
Tips for getting back on track
Each PdM program restart project is unique to a plant and its processes. The steps taken will depend on the extent of the program’s decline as well as its causes of failure. Southern Gardens Citrus’s PdM program restart was on par with a new implementation, suggests Russ. “We started at the nuts and bolts of reliability: building the CMMS, getting the asset criticality squared away, making sure we did some PM optimization, and trying to eliminate some of the waste and focus our efforts,” he says.
Russ continues: “I built processes and procedures for each individual technology, starting with IR, and incorporated industry best practices found at conferences and training classes, including the safety aspects. We basically built the program before buying and handing out the tools. But the most important step of all was to get buy-in from both the executive level and craftsman level.”. Now, he says, “We’re doing great with ultrasound, infrared, oil analysis, vibration, motor testing, and some nondestructive tests such as liquid dye penetrant testing and pipe inspections. We can justify our own existence every year without a problem.”
He strongly urges documentation of basic roles and responsibilities, processes, and procedures in a PdM restart. “If someone wins the lottery or is hit by a bus, you’ll have something there to follow,” he says.
Schwan’s Anderson recommends a five-step plan for restarting PdM:
- Educate all affected employees and management about the value of these programs.
- Have a detailed plan for how you will implement the programs and develop sustainable systems for their effectiveness.
- Provide thorough training in the tools and systems being implemented.
- Communicate to the organization all of the cost savings and avoidances as evidence of how the program adds value.
- Have a plan for continuous improvement.
Unfortunately, most organizations have to go through a little pain to realize the errors of their ways, Dufresne indicates. For one facility experiencing a high level of unreliability, Dufresne evaluated the landscape and used the P-F curve to get the organization refocused on PdM tasks that would add the most value. After an inventory and audit of the technologies the site was using, the shortfalls of each tool and process were identified and corrected. Personnel also were retrained on how to inspect equipment and collect data. These actions had an immediate impact on the organization.
“I recommend starting with the one discipline that will add the most value to your organization and making it right before adding others,” says Dufresne. “Also, all PdM programs should be audited on an annual basis to ensure they are operating as effectively and efficiently as possible.”
Considerable support is needed from the plant leader to move a PdM program forward again. “Find the right person to lead or drive the effort – someone who is passionate about the technology and a firm believer in the program,” suggests The Wonderful Co.’s Kazar. “Sometimes new software must be purchased, support licenses reinstated, and training given to new personnel,” he says. “Procuring training dollars is in itself a huge hurdle for some plant budgets.”
Kazar emphasizes the need to quantify all of the program’s benefits for upper management and putting the value into managers’ vernacular – the language of business. Share the findings throughout the plant via a monthly enewsletter or other form of communication, because operating in a vacuum will never breed the support needed to develop and sustain a viable PdM program.
SRP’s Jones recommends making sure the details of the program are communicated on a frequent basis to those responsible for maintaining the equipment. “Weekly meetings with individual stakeholders would be good,” Jones says. “Monthly should be the minimum frequency. Consider utilization of contractors for data collection and analysis if you are lacking qualified, interested internal resources.”
It’s best to focus on known problem areas, suggests Bloch. “By inference and with few exceptions, the most rapid payback is obtained by eliminating repeat failures,” he says. “Statistically, 7% of one’s equipment population devours 60% of available funds.”
PdM alone will not improve reliability, cautions Bloch. “We don’t pay sufficient attention to the basics, such as avoiding failure with low-risk designs, and we must not tolerate unexplained repeat failures,” he says. “PdM will tell us what part is deteriorating, but we must employ other means to uncover and then rule out failure causes. All too often, the root of the problem is a lack of insistence on conscientiously implemented details. Look to the growing pool of disciplined, well-rounded technician-retirees for help in teaching these details.”
Some organizations will invest in initial training and tools but not follow through to keep the program alive and well, remarks SKF’s Trainor. It’s easy to buy hardware and software for data collection and analysis, he suggests, but what matters is the commitment the company is willing to make to investing in its people. Education can take place in informal lunch-and-learn sessions or as part of daily planning meetings or operations review meetings.
Finally, track and tell your story: Document – both in time and dollar value – and share successes to inspire your team to continue making progress. “I think people are wired this way,” says Trainor.