8 steps to improve asset reliability: Part 2

Establish a solid foundation for reliability by first focusing on the basics.

By Jeff Shiver, People and Processes

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Many organizations struggle with a high level of uncertainty when it comes to asset reliability. Whether equipment will be available when it’s needed to meet customer demands may be anyone’s guess. Loss of availability results in increased human and monetary costs and often can jeopardize safety or environmental regulations compliance.

When digging deeper to determine the root causes of unreliability, you’ll often find the MRO storeroom not functioning well, the PM program poorly designed (at best) and without use of effective condition-based approaches, a lack of maintenance planning, and a minimal weekly maintenance schedule. Add to that limited partnerships with other stakeholders, such as production teams, which often don’t make the equipment available for maintenance. Production personnel often lack standardized work practices themselves and induce failures while operating the equipment.

To establish a solid foundation for reliability, the organization must first address the basics. There are eight steps to accomplish this, presented here in no particular order.

Click here to read "8 steps to improve asset reliability: Part 1"

5. Planning to ensure reliability in all your assets

Enforce the use of standardized work procedures. The intent is to eliminate poor work behaviors as well as human error. Variability creates uncertainty. If everyone performs a task their own way, who’s to say which way is the right way? When you have failures, how can you determine what specifically caused the failure?
Planned work avoids delays, ensures materials availability, and drives craftsperson efficiency. When I talk about craft efficiencies, I’m not asking people to work harder. I am simply trying to give them the tools, materials, and equipment access they need to do their job better. From a reliability perspective, job plans developed by the planner are written to a specification (i.e., torque values, gaps, fits, clearances, belt tension settings, alignment tolerances).

Unfortunately, even if organizations have a dedicated maintenance planner-scheduler, it’s unlikely that the person in that role is used correctly per organizational best practices. Often, planner-schedulers have received no formal planning and scheduling training or coaching in the position. I go to sites to find sometimes 10-12 planner-schedulers. These individuals have been in the role for years – sometimes eight years or longer – without having an understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Effective planning is a key component to ensuring asset reliability in the short and long term.

6. Proactive scheduling

Poor maintenance scheduling practices (or a lack of scheduling) indicates reactivity in the organization. In reactive organizations, partnerships between maintenance and production are limited, and many times the departments are siloed. As one example, a recent site where I taught a planning and scheduling course had no formal meeting for sharing production planning schedules, production requests, or maintenance requirements for building a maintenance schedule. The technicians were left to negotiate downtime across many different functions to perform maintenance. The organization was very reactive, and maintenance costs were higher than necessary.

As a minimum, there should be a weekly schedule completed in the current week for the following week. Ideally, we prefer a more forward-looking, two-week scheduling horizon. You already know up to a year or so in advance the PMs that will be triggered (these provide the base of the schedule), and you also know of engineering projects on the horizon. Add to that the delivery of specific long-lead items.

Think of it as a conveyor. At the head of the conveyor, items begin to drop on (PMs). As the conveyor advances to the current week, other items, such as material deliveries and engineering work, drop on the conveyor. The conveyor continues to move forward to the current week. It’s like time: it doesn’t stop coming forward. Shorter forecast items start dropping on the conveyor. Think of the conveyor discharge as the current week. These items build the schedule for next week.

An effective schedule ensures that we have the time to do the work right and reduce potential rework from rushed efforts. Coupling effective planning with scheduling is another driver toward increased asset reliability.

7. Continuous improvement loops to move forward

With respect to work completion, specifically for planned and scheduled work, we must have a continuous improvement loop to improve the processes. Many proactive organizations issue a feedback form with the work-order package. Using Deming’s concept of the “plan, do, check, act” cycle, this piece is the “check” portion. Here we address the following questions:

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