Maintenance risk management

Our delegation to the SMRP Annual Conference just came home. As always, the conference offered over a hundred great speakers dealing with real-world reliability and maintenance topics. There was also strong evidence of ongoing growth in the adoption of business tools, as well as the technology we’re all trying to comprehend. The term “business case” no longer prompts yawns and eye-rolling when it creeps into a reliability discussion.

Being part of the bring-your-own device (BYOD) crowd is great fun, too. Heck, I’m now attending trade shows with only an iPad for photos, note taking and email coverage. Not having to drag along either a PC or a paper conference book really makes me feel as if I’m getting away with something. A messenger bag has replaced my briefcase now. But I didn’t hear any metro-boy jokes, so nobody had to get slugged with my new purse.

J. Stanton McGroarty, CMfgE, CMRP, is senior technical editor of Plant Services. He was formerly consulting manager for Strategic Asset Management International (SAMI), where he focused on project management and training for manufacturing, maintenance and reliability engineering. He has more than 30 years of manufacturing and maintenance experience in the automotive, defense, consumer products and process manufacturing industries. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Detroit Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in management from Central Michigan University. He can be reached at or check out his .

My favorite part of this conference, as with most conferences, was the down-to-earth advice being shared by some of the seasoned speakers. This year I heard a dozen great ideas, but my favorite came from Jack Nicholas Jr. PE, CMRP. Jack was lecturing on a three-tiered reliability system he developed for a client. The system is worth a read. I’m sure it’s in the conference documentation, but the sound bite that made me dive for my tablet was this – “Make a list of your at-risk assets.”

Duh, right? Of course there should be a list of equipment that is either in trouble or threatening to put you in trouble. Well, where’s yours? If you’re a plant manager or chief engineer, it’s probably in your desk drawer, or in your head. You know which assets they are. Half of the list is probably semi-permanent, the same few pieces of equipment that have been the plant bottlenecks for years. The rest are probably assets with temporary repairs, back-ordered parts, workarounds, safety issues or other things that keep guys like us awake at night.

Who else has a copy of your list, and what are they doing about it? Who is going to make sure that fixing them is part of the planning for the next shutdown or next year’s budget? Who is twisting the engineers’ tails to make sure that they are paying attention?

The next time Murphy decides it’s your month to be his chew toy, you know he’ll look at his copy of your list and decide where to take the first bite. How about making it your team’s list, one that gets discussed at least monthly, hopefully in a project update meeting? Share ownership of your problem assets. Document your list, and then make it an action list.

Start with a simple list of the assets, adding a short description of the problems that make each one worrisome. Add some data – OEE, annual deferments, rejects, lost production. Is there a threat of safety or ecological exposure? Try to provide the approximate value of fixing or preventing the problem. Then identify the logical people to apply the fixes, including those who must provide funding, then ask them to add some names and dates to implement the improvements. Make sure each issue comes up at least 13 times a year – monthly in team meetings and annually in problem owners’ performance reviews.

It’s always going to be lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be just you and Murphy. Share the ownership of your problems and you’ll multiply the number of people working on solutions. Thanks, Jack.

Read Stanton McGroarty's monthly column, Strategic Maintenance.