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Predictive versus preventive

March 18, 2004
"If engineering doesn't have to worry about reliability issues and can focus on improving the manufacturing process, we have done our jobs," says a predictive maintenance program manager for Intel.

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In 1998, Intel's Hillsboro, Ore., facility began migrating toward a more predictive maintenance strategy, enabling maintenance technicians to maximize system reliability by identifying and correcting potential problems before equipment fails or production is interrupted. "Our primary goal is to make our preventive maintenance work invisible to engineering," says Mick Flanigan, a predictive maintenance program manager and project leader at Intel's Northwest Regional Operations facility. "If engineering doesn't have to worry about reliability issues and can focus on improving the manufacturing process, we have done our jobs."

Tools save time

Technicians use infrared scanning, vibration, temperature and oil-composition analysis tools to monitor machine conditions. Flanigan says the majority of Intel's maintenance activities will always be preventive-based, but they are now using predictive maintenance tools to flag conditions in the field well in advance of a failure.

"In the past, we would tear a machine apart without any data that could help identify the specific nature, extent or cause of the problem," he says. "As a result, the job scope was often more extensive and costly than necessary. Now, we're able to pinpoint the problem much quicker and attack it directly."

Technicians use Entek Datapac handheld data collectors to collect equipment data on a monthly or weekly basis, depending on the type of equipment (Figure 1).

Prior to the program, technicians would record data on a clipboard and then manually input it into a system. Now, once the information is gathered, it can be automatically downloaded from the handheld data collectors directly into Rockwell Software Emonitor Enshare Enterprise Asset Health software. The software analyzes the data, measures it against preset parameters, and provides advance warning of equipment abnormalities and potential points of failure.

Costs are justified

To illustrate the value of predictive maintenance, Flanigan and his team developed a solid business case. They started by using real application examples and carefully documenting uptime performance results.

"To a large degree, we are dealing with an intangible when we're talking about the potential of downtime events and the value of loss avoidance," Flanigan says. "In the end, after developing a justification using two separate methods, we were able to develop both hard, tangible results and significant soft-cost avoidance projections."

Flanigan's team used much of the same cost projections and performance data to show other Intel production sites the value of a predictive maintenance program. But selling the idea to other facilities was challenging, as the concept garnered mixed reviews. Some of the "old school" technicians at other facilities felt predictive maintenance would be a waste of time, while others immediately saw the potential benefits.

"With the work we did in Hillsboro, people across the maintenance organization were able to see the real cost savings, as well as the long-term strategic benefits," Flanigan says.

Worth rolling out

At Intel's Hillsboro, Ore., site, about 4,000 pieces of equipment (94% of the facility's qualified equipment) are now involved in the program. Intel has found countless minor vibration issues and identified several hundred major vibration problems. The plant has realized a five-to-one return on investment, and the program helped the company avoid estimated lost-production costs of more than $1.4 million in 2002 alone. Intel Oregon has not had a catastrophic equipment failure since early 2002.

Intel is now testing newly purchased equipment before and after installation, prior to warranty start dates, to ensure it meets the company's strict manufacturing standards. By testing equipment against written specs for vibration and sound, Intel is able to verify that machines meet standards before they are installed.

"Now, we're not tagging equipment as ours until it meets our vibration criteria, our infrared criteria and many other processes as well," Flanigan says. "When we bring this equipment into our facility, we have better assurance that it's going to last beyond the warranty. Surprisingly, this is the area of the program where we've seen our biggest hard-cost savings."

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