2023 industry wrap-up: The best of From the Plant Floor

2023 industry wrap-up: The best of From the Plant Floor

Dec. 19, 2023
In this year-end wrap-up, we highlight Jeff Shiver’s most popular, most insightful columns. 

From the Plant Floor is a monthly column that explores reliability challenges faced by organizations and solutions to overcome them. In this column, Jeff Shiver, CMRP, Plant Services contributing editor, and founder and managing principal at People and Processes, Inc., shares common-sense approaches over a broad range of topics affecting engineering, maintenance, and operations. In this year-end wrap-up, we highlight Jeff’s most popular, most insightful columns. 

Are your FMEAs focused on the asset or on the line?

Through his books and teachings, Ron Moore has been a great resource on my reliability journey. Moore taught me to leverage failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) to prioritize continuous improvement activities beyond the individual asset and at a higher level, at the line or plant level. Likely, items from your analysis will surprise people in the room. Raw or packaging logistics may consistently delay production startups. A lack of shipping trucks may force the line down when warehouse space does not exist to put the finished product requiring shutdowns or delays. Human Resources may take too long to fill open positions, then temporary personnel fill the empty operator slots without training, causing improper operation and downtime. Engineering may be required for reengineering specific asset functionality. And maintenance may have issues to address as well.

Get a grip on your value contribution

From a purely business perspective, what should your contribution be in terms of real money? When I share this concept in courses that I lead, most have never stopped to ponder the answer and are quite surprised at the exercise results. 

In discussing your contribution to the team and to the business overall, recognize that providing $135k of value is only covering costs (of a $100k salary). At that level of contribution, you have added no additional value that enables the business to continue. While excess revenue and ultimately profit seem like dirty words in our world today, they are required to sustain the business going forward. Think about that new laser alignment system or infrared camera that was just purchased for your use. If everyone’s contribution only covers their cost, then there is no money to purchase those tools.

At this point, you might be asking what your contribution should be. The short answer is a multiple of three to five times. For some businesses, it is seven times your cost or higher. Using the previous example, this means that the contribution must be in the $400K-$675K range. Using the seven times multiplier, it is almost $1M. Improving your multiple separates you from the competition.

When human error is the root cause, the cause becomes the failure mode

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) statistics suggest that human error is a causal factor in 80-90% of all mishaps. In John Moubray’s RCMII book, over 70% of equipment failures are self-induced, with 40% coming from human error. Winston Ledet’s work at DuPont suggests that 84% of failures are due to careless work habits.  If these numbers are so high, shouldn’t we do something about it? When determining that human error is the root cause, the cause becomes the failure mode. If the failure is an inappropriate response to other failures, it is listed as a failure effect. The best way to overcome human error is to involve people. People commit errors, can identify errors, and can provide effective solutions.

Is templating maintenance a power play or a shortcut to failure?

Sharing some “from the plant floor” case studies:

  • One manufacturing company uses identical machines across their enterprise. Templating worked for them, as they saw a significant improvement in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), reduced downtime by 30%, and reduced maintenance costs.
  • A chemical plant attempted to apply templates across similar reactor units but with different operational demands. This approach resulted in several unnoticed signs of wear in specific units, leading to unexpected equipment failure. It resulted in significant production loss, revealing the need for more operating context-specific maintenance procedures.
  • Another group has similar but not identical assets across their sites. Approximately half of the facilities used the templated approach, while the other half developed individually tailored schedules based on each asset's specific conditions and operational history. Plants with individually tailored procedures and frequencies saw fewer unexpected failures and less downtime, even though the initial PM development process took longer. 

No doubt, templating PM procedures is another tool in the toolbox. However, please don’t overlook the value of having personnel trained in reliability-centered maintenance concepts to know how and when—and more importantly, when not to—apply templates.

Take steps to quantify the value of your PM optimization efforts

It was late afternoon at a recent maintenance and reliability conference when a young aerospace engineer asked a session presenter, “How can we measure the improvement in our preventive maintenance (PM) program? We've started putting much effort into PM optimization, and we want to see tangible results.” 

To gauge the effectiveness of improvements, first ensure the maintenance system and associated processes are implemented to help get the correct data. Ask, “Without opening individually completed PMs, can I query the system and report the specific PMs where corrective actions were generated from the inspection?” Then, ensure the technicians follow the proper business process to get the data based on the system implementation. 

Depending on the system implementation, leverage corrective actions from the PM or PdM as a work type or the ability to generate follow-on (child) corrective work orders that link to a specific PM as needed. Simply adding notes to the PM work order itself will not typically enable you to efficiently analyze the value of any PM task list across many work orders. The same concept applies to items like failure codes as well.

Reusable job plans: a return on investment worth every minute

I am often disappointed with the lack of a standard job plan library. It seems that we constantly reinvent the wheel on every outage. In many sites, the average skill levels have declined significantly over the last ten years. The standard job packages are training tools as well. When I dig deeper, I’ll inevitably hear from a planner: “I’m not going to tell a journeyman mechanic how to do their job with a listing of task steps.” Yet, planners tend to be unaware that self-induced failures, including human error, are the most significant contributors to equipment downtime and higher costs. 

The next planner rebuttal is that they can look up history and drill into past purchase orders on a work order to see the parts used. And the bill of materials (BOM) provides the parts. Why not just use historical data over investing in creating a standard job plan library? It's a fair question. With a treasure trove of historical data at our fingertips, why invest additional resources in crafting reusable job plans? Digging deeper, there's a compelling case for developing these strategic tools.


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