1660318501395 2001fromtheeditor

Rust never sleeps, and neither should your maintenance staff

Jan. 21, 2020
Are you and your team staying fit and fresh in the face of new technologies, asks Thomas Wilk.

When I turned 40, my then eight-year-old nephew asked me what it felt like to be so old. I commented that it felt the same as being eight, but that it could hurt a little more to exercise, especially when I stopped for a long time and then restarted.

From the Editor

This article is part of our monthly From the Editor column. Read more from Thomas Wilk.

He thought about this, and responded with eight-year-old decisiveness that he would never let things go like that. He would not be taking any time off from exercising. The rust would not build up on him, not ever.

It’s ten years later now, and I think about that conversation all the time. It was definitely top of mind when Sheila Kennedy wrote her 2016 article “Shake Off The Rust,” in which she asked maintenance and reliability experts for their advice on how to re-start stalled predictive maintenance programs.

One of the themes that emerged in her article was the value of preventing rust from building up on your program in the first place. Each maintenance program is unique to a facility and its assets; however, Kennedy identified several PdM program failure modes that were often common across programs and facilities. These modes included inconsistent application of predictive technologies, as well as a lack of urgency to design the program correctly in the first place.

Both of these modes stem from a certain difficulty in changing conventional ways of thinking and doing things. In other words, problems often emerge when too many people let the rust build up. Often times, the catalog of known failure modes for various assets can guide maintenance program development. But sometimes, the failure mode is so new and strange that preparing for it feels impossible.

This month’s cover story was inspired by just such an incident: the September 2019 drone attacks on two Saudi Aramco oil processing facilities. While Saudi infrastructure had been targeted in the past by ballistic missiles, the drone attacks revealed new vulnerabilities: Drones are harder to detect and shoot down than missiles, and can cause damage and disruption hugely disproportionate to their cost.

In her cover story, Kennedy focuses on the value of “resilience” when preparing for new and unexpected industrial attacks, whether physical (like the drones) or cyber. The emphasis is less on 100% prevention, and more on the speed of recovery for the facility if or when an attack is successful. (Sheila also explores the emerging maintenance utility of drones in this month’s Tech Toolbox column.)

Amazingly, officials from the Saudi Arabian energy ministry said that full production would be restored to close to normal within two to three weeks, by the end of September. Clearly this type of disruption had been prepared for – a demonstration of resiliency in action.

I hope you enjoy this first issue 2020, and may your new year’s resolutions help you shake any rust off quickly.

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

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