Prove the value of predictive maintenance (PdM) to senior management: Part 2

April 1, 2011
Proof of predictive maintenance benefits can have an astronomical effect.

Part 1 of "Prove the value of predictive maintenance (PdM) to senior management" discusses appropriate PdM technologies for the situation, the degree to which they should be applied, presenting your case for enhanced Pdm and getting executive-level buy-in.

The constellations of the zodiac appear along the path of the sun, in what’s called the ecliptic. More than 2,000 years ago, skywatchers studied these star patterns and predicted how the movement of the planets “through” them affected civilization on Earth.

Many individuals still cling to the promise of these predictions, or horoscopes, based on astrologers’ interpretations of star patterns in the ecliptic, even though most astronomers dismiss it as a bunch of silly cosmic mumbo jumbo.

Plant and maintenance managers might sometimes feel similarly pressed to defend the merits of predictive maintenance (PdM) techniques. A PdM program requires the use of technologies that help industrial personnel to make better decisions on when to performance maintenance. And these technologies cost money.

Plant floor partisans

It’s also helpful to have the backing of the plant-floor personnel who must use the PdM technology. After all, they will be bringing the grand plan to fruition and achieving the predicted financial results. The last thing you need now is subtle sabotage.

“Our plant,” says Therma-Tru’s Neubauer, “uses a two-pronged approach. We include operations or maintenance in the decision process, and we provide the end user with as much of a turn-key product as possible. This means that if you sell them on the use of a process and then require them to finish the tasks, the buy-in goes away quickly.”

Demonstrating how PdM will improve their jobs will save time, recommends Applied Facility Solutions’ Wallace. “Foster a sense of ownership in the program by making them active participants in every phase of PdM implementation,” says Wallace. “Communicate successes and needs for improvement. Reward and thank the technicians and operators who are key members of the team.”

Ideally, adds Machinery Management’s Taylor, those technicians and operators should be the ones to initiate the project. “If you can’t orchestrate that, get a couple of the thought leaders on board early,” he suggests. “Publicize the downside, from their point of view, of the current situation. Then start building a desire for change in the workforce.”

With any initiative, says Allied’s Trulli, the best way to ensure buy-in is to ensure the individuals involved have a good understanding of the program and the benefits they’ll experience. “This understanding is best accomplished through education, communication and involvement,” he says. “Ensure that, wherever appropriate, plant floor personnel have an opportunity to participate in maintenance and reliability initiatives. Personnel participation adds additional resources and provides insights that might otherwise be overlooked, as well as build buy-in, support and ownership. Much like your safety initiatives, good maintenance and reliability programs require a significant amount of culture change. Without full buy-in and support, the full return on your program investments won’t be realized.”

Sans cable

An up-and-coming approach to industrial maintenance involves wireless communication between and among the various elements of the maintenance team — the CMMS, schedulers, technicians, upper management and other relevant stakeholders, and it has its advantages and its shortcomings.

“It’s not always user-friendly to take PdM on-condition readings,” warns Therma-Tru’s Neubauer, “because of a safety issue or because it requires disassembly to get to the reading point so using either remote devices or remote data logging units make real sense.”

However, on-the-go CMMS technology makes operational maintenance more streamlined and thus effective, argues Smartware’s Lachance. “Better, faster data entry ensures that the information needed for PdM is more accurate and faster to analyze,” he says.

Machinery Management’s Taylor agrees. “Wireless should be considered strongly,” he says. “Wireless makes it much easer to use installed monitoring because you eliminate much of the cabling. The savings in manpower for walk-around monitoring, reduced mistakes and improved data will repay the higher up-front cost quickly. You’ll also get a shorter delay in notification if something goes wrong.”


Wireless technologies, while not widely deployed yet, are emerging quickly as a cost-effective way to monitor machines more efficiently, adds Allied’s Kilbey. “In the typical walk-around data-collection program, once-per-month data is collected and then analyzed,” he explains. “Wireless systems allow data collection at variable intervals as short as every minute or less. An experienced analyst can spend more time analyzing them, rather than walking around collecting data. In addition, startup and installation costs of wireless might be one-quarter to one-half the cost of wired systems.”

The installation of permanently mounted transducers and online monitoring systems can be cost-prohibitive for standard asset applications, warns Allied’s Trulli. “Traditionally, these applications were reserved for expensive or process-critical equipment that presented access problems or significant consequence of failure,” he says. “With ever-evolving technologies and costs associated with wireless systems becoming more attractive, this opens the door for future wireless systems. Wireless systems offer the opportunity for quick implementations with reduced installation costs as well as tie-ins to existing process monitoring systems. In addition wireless options offer enhanced online continuous monitoring solutions, as well as effective remote analysis capabilities. Keep an eye out for continuous developments; developers are probably already working on the Apple and Android apps for this.”

Oops, my bad

The best-laid plans are of particular interest to our old friend, Murphy. Things can go wrong. It’s one thing for a piece of hardware to fail unexpectedly, but it’s quite another to find that human error was responsible for a debacle.

“Make sure that adequate data-gathering training is used,” says Therma-Tru’s Neubauer. “And look for ways to do online data collection that don’t require the use of human input.”

Human error always will be a risk, asserts EMP’s Smithman. “Whether it’s in collection, interpretation, implementation or programming, human error is a risk in any technology program,” he says. “The goal is to reduce human error, not eliminate it. That said, a manageable combination of test standards and methodologies, the criteria for alarm and failure values, and continuing education are all important.”

Training and mentoring are the best ways to improve human performance, agrees Allied’s Kilbey. “The lack of training, as well as lack of written standards, is why many humans fail at maintenance tasks,” he explains. “Classroom training from qualified subject matter experts to a standard such as ISO or ASNT, combined with mentoring from more experienced personnel is a great way to start. Following training and mentoring, a methodical process should be enacted to collect good, repeatable data. Well-marked data collection points and well-marked pads for vibration also will help minimize human error. Finally, document your process in written standards and operating procedures that become living documents.”

Applied Facility Solutions’ Wallace suggests a phased approach. “Start by implementing an effective training program,” says Wallace. “Develop a small cadre of well-trained technicians before rolling the program out to the larger workforce. These individuals will become the nucleus of the PdM program. Having written procedures for each PdM work order will reduce confusion and eliminate guesswork about the tasks to be performed.”

Install as much monitoring as possible, along with well-thought-out warning and alarm levels, suggests Machinery Management’s Taylor. “A common mistake is to make alarms too sensitive, so the human gets overwhelmed by the number of alarms,” he says. “Build common repair work orders ahead of time, so they’re ready when needed and so you don’t have to do it under pressure. Develop written work instructions and procedures and use them. Keep them up to date. Airline pilots use check lists, why shouldn’t we?”

As with any task, the best way to eliminate mistakes is to have a process or procedure in place with a verification piece added to ensure a quality deliverable, says Allied’s Trulli. “PdM programs require many facets of consideration, but the best place to start is with developing technology-specific personnel and technology standards,” he suggests. “It’s extremely important to ensure that the personnel assigned to maintenance or asset-care initiatives have the training, experience, certifications and skill sets necessary to perform those tasks consistently and effectively. Technology procedures lay out a road map for proper equipment, program setup and design, data collection, analysis and reporting. A comprehensive technology procedure intended to foster a best-practice operation drives effective, high-quality results. Couple these practices with a process for work assessment and verification and the potential for human error is reduced greatly.”

PMs should highlight areas of concern for each machine, says Smartware’s Lachance. “Before acting on those areas, perform more detailed research,” he says. “For example, a CMMS with asset life-cycle analysis capabilities can show how effective an asset is based on its age, mean-time-between-failures and cost trends. If the asset appears in jeopardy, you easily can drill down into the individual asset’s trend analysis and work order history to reconcile against erroneous data entry or other human errors. CMMS-based maintenance history is important and a good tool to identify errors.

Digital teamwork

Just as it’s important to get the people involved in PdM working as a team, it’s equally important for the technologies selected to work together smoothly. “The best way to integrate the CMMS and the PdM technology,” says Therma-Tru’s Neubauer, “is to connect the online data collection into a condition-based inspection that alerts a subject-matter expert when there’s an abnormal condition, as signaled either by a trend of data points or a single reading. The alarm gives the option to issue a work order either to do a corrective action or to monitor the situation, or ignore it altogether if the alarm was false or incorrect.”

PdM work should be issued from the CMMS, recommends Applied Facility Solutions’ Wallace. “This ensures the cost of repairs, and corrective actions are being captured in the work order history,” says Wallace. “Problems found as a result of PdM work orders should be followed up and issued as corrective work orders in the CMMS.”

Smartware’s Lachance agrees. “PdM is an integral part of a CMMS and should be part of a cohesive module, not a bolted-on tool,” he says. “It should reside directly in the system. A quality CMMS program provides one-click analysis to see various PdM-oriented reports.”

Machinery Management’s Taylor has a slightly different take. “I think you should use the CMMS to plan and schedule the monitoring,” he says. “Then use the PdM software to collect data and do analysis. The information, not the data, should go to the CMMS for job planning and history collection.”

The best way to use CMMS, says Allied’s Trulli, is to use it to the fullest extent possible. “We discussed being able to track metrics associated with your PdM, maintenance and reliability programs,” he says. “The plant CMMS should be the method used to track a vast majority of the metrics associated with your PdM program. The plant CMMS system with enable you to track time associated with PdM/PM activities, as well as corrective actions generated to ensure proper work flow to support your desired proactive work models. In addition, failure coding and equipment information, as well as repair history, should be entered and used for reliability and continuous improvement initiatives. It’s desirable to persuade your CMMS system to function as a common reporting system for applied CBM technologies. These considerations and many more should be used to produce a central hub for comprehensive maintenance and reliability program management.”

A version of this article, "True believers: Proof of economic benefits can have an astronomical effect," appeared in print in the April edition of Plant Services magazine.

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