PdM pitfalls and how to avoid them

Win major payoffs from PdM with a strategic, step-by-step approach.

By Bob Koehler

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As an electrician for more than 30 years, I was intrigued when our reliability crew started to implement condition monitoring processes with a support system that valued contributions from technicians.

A new, predictive maintenance culture emerged before our eyes. Electricians used to change a smoking motor in an emergency situation. Now, motors were being changed as part of a planned work schedule with the right parts at hand. There was no production downtime rush.

I’ve seen the implementation of new technologies and training to understand these new tools’ potential, as well as greater interaction among management, engineering personnel, and craftspeople who are respected and valued – unheard of for an old electrician who has seen every “flavor of the day” management program.

There have been some who have resisted, but these individuals tend to soon find a way out and leave the work to those who appreciate a tough job that offers freedom and rewards. This is, after all, the maintenance method of the future.

Out of this new culture has grown a desire for constant improvement. The dividends are obvious to anyone who knows popular maintenance culture.

One of the great things about our facility’s transition to a PdM approach is that I was given opportunities for self-evaluation and testing in accredited technology and professional fields. I am a certified maintenance reliability technician (CMRT), and all eight of our reliability group members passed the CMRT test from Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals. It validated the level of the program’s operation. World-class benchmark practices – and the sharing of these both internally and with visiting business units – became expected.

Culture change is one of the most difficult things to implement. I had a discussion with a couple of our old-hand mechanics about the importance of the change from area-specific maintenance, where one technician owns one area and knows the failure modes to maintain reliability, to condition-monitoring maintenance. The ability to have techs come in and do a sweep of machinery health with new tools is the new world. To be competitive, you can’t afford to have one technician, no matter how dedicated he or she is, be confined to one area.

I asked the technicians what happens when the area maintenance person is off or when he or she transfers. Where’s the dedicated maintenance provider then? The logic is undeniable, but it’s a hard pill to swallow for a proud maintenance craftsman. Giving that same experienced technician condition monitoring tools will multiply his or her effectiveness.

Making these arguments will ease the pain of change, but it takes coaching from someone who understands the trenches to make a new approach and a new mentality stick. Reinforcing the program’s worth helps technicians focus on improving overall machinery health rather than obsessing over repairing one piece of failing equipment immediately. Craftspeople, especially old-school dedicated craftspeople, love to fix things. To limit that experience to one failure found leaves the 10 other failures that haven’t been found out yet.

Sharing success stories and experiences should be a tool for implementing PdM in other company locations. Besides helping avoid problems that have already been experienced in starting a PdM program, it gives hope to the techs who are encountering difficulties in changing culture and applying new condition-monitoring tools. To know that there are others who are experienced and who have been through similar circumstances and are willing to share and listen takes away from the isolation that maintenance technicians often perceive.

Keep in mind...

As you progress along your PdM journey, keep the following truths and best practices in mind.

A tech who has no training won’t know what is and isn’t important when gathering data. Guidance in data gathering and analysis is essential. I learned so much when I started, but I had an experienced motor tech to mentor me. Confidence is built on success.

Training in aspects of whatever test equipment is being used for condition monitoring is a necessity. Providing accurate and incisive analysis and reports will give a technician credibility. There must be a basis for craftsmen and planners to act with surety on technicians’ recommendations.
Get rid of the “How long until we fail?” mentality. Once an anomaly has been discovered above a set point for failure mode, planning to remove the equipment should start. Removing the equipment with optimum time for work that doesn’t interfere with production uptime and having jobs completely kitted and ready for the area maintenance craftsmen are vital to successful predictive maintenance.

Costs of replacement equipment should be calculated with savings of lower repair costs and downtime reduction from unplanned equipment maintenance.

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