7 steps to implement an Operational Reliability strategy

Jan. 20, 2022
Seven guidelines on how to re-educate your team and restore your assets.

Operational Reliability is the system to re-educate ourselves while restoring and improving our equipment. Some simple steps are as follows:

  1. Clean, Inspect, and Lubricate (CIL) work should be developed for each area of operation.
  2. CILs should be uploaded into the CMMS and turned into a task list for regularly scheduled activities.
  3. An initial cleaning standard should be established and documented.
  4. A cross-functional team should be developed for initial roll out.
  5. An audit should be developed to audit against the standards set for each line and executed by plant leadership.

Through Operational Reliability we change our people’s habits and our equipment performance. The condition of our equipment as well as our environment in which they operate represent the image of our organization. This image influences everyday decision making amongst our employees. People accept the conditions of their equipment and environment as normal and often tailor their attitudes and behaviors according to the standards set in these terms. This ensures people become more competent and learn to be disciplined and effective.

The benefits of Operational Reliability include:

  1. developing our people and enabling them to take care of their equipment
  2. influencing the personal attitudes, values, and behaviors of our employees to continually enhance the conditions in which they work
  3. creating the foundation and the resources for performance improvement
  4. drastic equipment performance increase
  5. minimization of speed losses and minor stops
  6. improvement of quality defects
  7. more uptime
  8. increased throughput
  9. lower costs.

Through daily inspections, cleaning, and lubrication practices we can measure, prevent, and restore deterioration to our equipment. The expectation is that a team, made up of maintenance, operations, and leadership employees, will roll out strategy beginning with one piece of equipment. They should use the following seven steps:

  • Step 1.  initial cleaning
  • Step 2.  eliminate sources of dirt and hard to clean & inspect areas
  • Step 3.  create and maintain cleaning, inspection, and lubrication standards
  • Step 4.  general inspection
  • Step 5.  operator inspection
  • Step 6.  area activities standardization
  • Step 7.  team development and operator-driven reliability.

Step 1: Initial cleaning

The goal of the initial clean is to clean the line or piece of equipment, identify defects, order the parts, and hand off a machine back to the operations and maintenance groups defect free and ready to maintain.

The steps are as follows:

  1. identify an asset to pilot
  2. identify a team to perform initial cleaning
  3. provide training for cleaning expectations
  4. schedule time to take asset down
  5. plan for initial cleaning
  6. initial cleaning and defect identification preparation and planning (log for tracking defects tied to work orders)
  7. initial cleaning activities
  8. defect identification logging through work order creation and promotion of continuous defect identification
  9. introduce first temporary standard
  10. solution problems / order parts
  11. reschedule time to restore equipment and solutions
  12. continuous follow up on completion of work orders related to found defects
  13. follow up through measurements.

The three focus areas of deterioration

a. Deterioration prevention
    i. operate equipment correctly
    ii. maintain basic conditions (cleaning, lubrication, tightening)
    iii. make adequate adjustments through center-lining (mainly during operation and setup)
    iv. record all data on losses
    v. collaborate with maintenance department to study and implement improvements

b. Deterioration measurement
    i. conduct daily inspections
    ii. conduct certain periodic inspections

c. Restoration
    i. make minor repairs (simple parts replacement and temporary repairs)
    ii. report promptly and accurately on losses
    iii. assist in repairing larger issues

Step 2: Eliminate sources of dirt and hard to clean & inspect areas, including:

  1. analyze sources of dirt and hard to clean areas
  2. implement solutions, update cleaning standard, monitor results
  3. improve difficult to inspect areas.

Step 3. Create and maintain cleaning, inspection, and lubrication standards (CILs), including:

  1. create and maintain cleaning and inspection standards
  2. study the lubrication system
  3. simplify the lubrication system
  4. create a visible lubrication system
  5. introduce a lubrication schedule
  6. train the operators
  7. monitor results.

Clean to inspect for operator care

Cleaning is an important first step in operator care and reliability gains because:

  • Insufficient cleaning causes losses.
  • The cleaning activity itself exposes hidden defects.

Dirt in rotating parts, sliding parts, pneumatic and hydraulic systems, electrical and control systems, or sensors causes malfunctions and reduces function. Failure by wear, clogging, resistance, speed losses are different types of defects. Defects are anything that is abnormal from the expected ideal condition. Insufficient cleaning causes forced deterioration. All these losses are solved through a thorough cleaning of equipment and countermeasures to keep the equipment clean.

Defect Identification while cleaning

Because the key reason for cleaning is to identify abnormalities while cleaning, it is important to understand how to do this. Abnormalities will be found both while cleaning and ideally while the line is running since many abnormalities are undetected when the equipment is down.

Anyone can find an abnormality through the use of their senses (touch, smell, see, hearing). Individuals on the team should become like human sensors. This thorough approach increases the chances of detecting hidden abnormalities such as abnormal vibration, noise, odor, and overheating just to mention some. (Note: all of these can only be detected during equipment operations.)

Today, many defects are hidden because the equipment is dirty. Equipment inspections fail to expose these “hidden” defects. By cleaning the equipment thoroughly, we expose every defect. The key concept is: Cleaning is Inspection. When we clean, we touch every part of the equipment and therefore inspect every part of the equipment.

The analogy that is often used to describe this idea is that of washing your car. When you wash your car by hand, you see every dent and scratch. This “inspection by cleaning” process is part of the daily work while operating the equipment. This skill is developed, practiced, and improved and it becomes part of daily work and is used throughout the entire plant.

Teams should expect to reduce losses because of their operator care activity. Daily equipment loss data provides the picture of current and ongoing losses. Priority can be put first on that part of the equipment that experiences the most losses.

Ongoing, daily data can then be used to assess loss elimination progress, review failures as they occur, and focus the daily cleaning and inspection activities. Daily data should include things such as the number of touches (the number of times a person has to physically do something to keep the equipment running as designed), or the number of minor stops or breakdowns.

As they review the data, teams should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Should our activities have prevented the loss?
  • Was the loss caused by insufficient cleaning?
  • Was there a problem we should have detected while cleaning, but failed to see?
  • Are we cleaning and inspecting the right areas?
  • If we found a problem, did we fix it in time, or was it fixed incorrectly?
  • Is the cleaning we are doing having no effect on the operation of the equipment?
  • Are we cleaning items more frequently than needed to maintain ideal conditions?

From this assessment, the team should adjust their work. They may need to:

  • focus their cleaning to inspect in critical areas
  • adjust how they are handling the problems they find
  • obtain some training on how to detect the type of problems that are causing the losses they have.

Cleaning sounds easy, but here are a few things to think about before you start cleaning:

1. Preparation: Most deep cleaning will require the operation to be down, which means preparation is critical. The boundaries of the operator care activity need to be clear; before pictures should be taken, cleaning supplies (rags, cleaning solution) and tools should be available; safety maps and risk prediction forms should be available, MSDS information should be reviewed for the cleaning solutions to be used.

2. Cleaning techniques: First, the most contaminated areas must be cleaned thoroughly. Following some tips to be considered during cleaning:
    a. Clean from top to bottom, center to outside to keep already clean areas clean.
    b. Touch every part of the equipment.
    c. Lids and safety panels must be opened, and internal parts of the machine inspected, cleaned, and checked for looseness of bolts, screws, nuts, or photo-eyes.
    d. Clean all auxiliary parts of the machine.
    e. All objects near the machine that are not necessary must be eliminated.

3. Closing out the cleaning activities: After the team has completed the cleaning activity, it is important that before they leave the area they:
    a. check the area for tools, or trash
    b. capture after pictures
    c. put supplies away
    d. perform a test run.

4. Turnover of cleaning activities to line operations: At the end of a cleaning session, it is important to make sure that the equipment is ready for operation. A summary of the teams’ activities should be provided to the oncoming team in case issues arise later. Cleaning activities should not cause any type of loss to the line.

5. The cleaning should take place at the end of the shift with the goal of setting the next shift up for success.

And finally, keep a record of how much time your team is cleaning. All cleaning time is a loss; ideal is 0. Any progress to eliminate effort loss on keeping the machine clean should be captured.

Step 4. General inspection

  1. Have leaders study the equipment.
  2. Train the operators.
  3. Apply everything learned about the equipment and point out problems.
  4. Promote visual management.
  5. Define inspection standards.
  6. Check results.

Reasons for inspection initiative failures

Many companies ask their operators to conduct some form of inspection, but they fail to produce significant results for three familiar reasons:

  1. Inspection is demanded but workers are not encouraged to prevent equipment deterioration (lack of motivation through lack of direction).
  2. Inspection is demanded but insufficient time is allowed for it (lack of opportunity).
  3. Inspection is demanded but the necessary skills are not taught (lack of ability).

Inspection functions must be well-defined

Problems with inspection are inevitable when maintenance engineers prepare inspection checklists and simply hand them to operators. The engineers invariably want too many items inspected and tend to consider their jobs finished when they have prepared checklists. They do not indicate which items are most important to check and how much time is needed; nor do they consider that inspection procedures might be streamlined or that operators may need to be taught certain skills in order to perform them.

Operators need inspection skills

The first requirement for autonomous general inspection is operators who are knowledgeable and confident about their equipment. Once operators have had instruction in inspection skills and practice in conducting general inspections, they can prepare checklists that meet their own requirements.

Determining inspection intervals and times is also critical, since the work must be done while equipment is scheduled to operate.

Step 5. Operator inspection

  1. Integrate cleaning and lubrication standards with general inspection and introduce basic points.
  2. Prepare checklists for full implementation by all shifts, all operators.
  3. Implement Visual Management at the operational level.
  4. Promote communication and start a team performance control system (metrics to measure how well the implementation is going and meetings to analyze successes and opportunities)
  5. Check results from past to today.

Step 6: Area activities standardization

  1. Assess current operational standards and update them.
  2. Apply 5S to work area.
  3. Identify basic losses relating to equipment.
  4. Systematically eliminate defects by applying problem solving tools.
  5. Develop a weekly team performance control system, meetings to create action item lists, assigning people and dates for completion of tasks, and follow up and review. Also, create visible metrics to show area operations your progress.

Step 7: Team development and operator-driven reliability

A. Integration and management
    1. Integrate activities and safety, quality, and maintenance controls.
    2. Apply suggestion system.
    3. Manage the area’s material flow.
    4. Develop a high value-added data collection system.
    5. Achieve 100% conformity to improve MTBF, MTTR, and other associated losses.
    6. Develop a daily team performance control system (daily morning meeting to discuss performance, list top three factors needing problem solving tools applied, and follow up on outstanding tasks needed to be complete.)

B. Analysis of losses
    1. Analyze area costs and losses.
    2. Apply problem solving tools to highest priority losses.
    3. Identify and analyze hidden losses.
    4. Identify countermeasures to eradicate hidden losses.
    5. Acknowledge the area improvement targets, plan for improvement, and follow up actions.

Resource: Nakajima, S. (1989). Tpm Development Program: Implementing Total Productive Maintenance (Preventative Maintenance Series) (English and Japanese Edition). Productivity Pr.

This story originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

About the author: Joe Anderson
About the Author

Joe Anderson

Joe Anderson is a partner and chief operating officer for ReliabilityX. Joe helps companies reach their full potential through improvement gains and lowering costs, giving them a competitive advantage on their journey to excellence. As an active columnist in Plant Services magazine, Joe shares his over 25 years of experience in maintenance, reliability and management excellence in various industries with the world through his writing. He is a CMRP, CRL, CARO, MLT2, MLA1, LSSGB, IAM-55k, CRL Black Belt and was recognized as one of the top 50 leaders in the country by the United States Congress, being awarded the National Leadership Award. He has also brought humor to the world through his experiences, and it can be seen in the character creation of Captain Unreliability.

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