It’s well-known that performing maintenance on a condition-based or reliability-centered basis is the preferred method for plant maintenance operation. This is the safest and most cost-effective method, and it’s the objective for most organizations. But how does one begin the journey?
why a reliability office?
In 2012, Kimberly-Clark’s Fullerton, CA, mill was operating on a reactive maintenance basis. Equipment was in continuous failure mode. The mill repaired the equipment on the premise of getting it running as soon as possible, and subsequent failures of the same equipment were not considered. The years of reactive maintenance caused the mill to become the worst performer in its fleet, which in turn lowered the mill’s morale and raised operations costs.
As part of the mill revitalization effort, the movement from reactive to condition-based maintenance was identified as an important step. From this movement, a reliability office was created. The reliability office is a team of personnel trained in condition monitoring techniques and technologies whose work is dedicated to searching for equipment faults and pending failures. This team recommends corrective actions for its findings and performs root-cause analysis of failures.
The original team consisted of an engineer, two mechanics, two electricians, and a lubrication attendant. The reliability office’s focus was the tissue manufacturing department. As the team demonstrated success and reduced delays in tissue manufacturing, it added members and expanded its responsibilities to other areas of the mill. The expanded responsibilities led the team to grow. Today the reliability office consists of a team leader, a mechanical engineer, three mechanics, two electricians, and two lubrication attendants.
Defining the mission and vision
The broad assignment for the reliability office was to improve equipment reliability in tissue manufacturing. As a team, we developed a common vision of the end state we were attempting to achieve: “to drive the Fullerton Mill from a reactive/preventative maintenance culture to a proactive/root-cause elimination maintenance culture.”
Now that we had our vision, we had to define how to make it a reality. We created a mission statement that would define our actions and we connected it to our mill’s objective:
“Through the creation of sustainable best-in-class condition monitoring programs, we will increase the reliability of the Fullerton Mill assets to deliver business results.”
How and where to begin
Simply having a vision and mission statement would not be enough. We had to execute. With a daunting mission and a wide range of tactics and strategies available to employ, this could have been overwhelming. Immediately implementing all of the various condition monitoring technologies – vibration, lubrication, ultrasound, motor current analysis, etc. – did not appear to be the best strategy. We decided to focus on two or three technologies at the start, become very proficient with these, and then add another strategy each year. We knew that with whichever technology we selected, a sustainable program would require proper equipment, training, systems development, and documentation.
The Fullerton mill previously had a similar condition-monitoring program, which was suspended by mill leadership in a cost-cutting effort. As a result, we didn’t need to create everything from scratch. To that end, we started with three questions.
1. What equipment did we already have?
Answer: four laser alignment tools, four handheld vibration analyzers, and two infrared cameras.
2. What previous training or experience did we already have?
Answer: one to two people trained and experienced with vibration analysis, two to four people who had laser alignment experience, and one individual with infrared camera experience.
3. Were any condition monitoring systems currently in place?
Answer: No formal condition monitoring programs existed, but we did have SAP. Within SAP, there existed routes for lubrication, oil sampling, vibration, and infrared at various intervals.
Based on the answers to these questions, we decided to begin with lubrication, vibration, and infrared. We had a base knowledge, equipment, and some routes in SAP for vibration and infrared, which made these two technologies a good choice. We prioritized lubrication over laser alignment, since it affects almost all equipment and can be practiced every day. Laser alignment is a higher skill that can be taught, but it offers only limited opportunities for practice. Lubrication is the foundation upon which all other condition monitoring technology programs are built. Without proper lubrication, it would not matter what other condition monitoring programs were in place, as all of the equipment would be in a constant state of failure.