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3 common plant problems and how to overcome them

May 10, 2022
Jeff Shiver says clearly define responsibilities and implement a system to track performance and knowledge sharing.

After doing several reliability assessments in recent months across different companies and industry verticals, I wanted to share some of the common issues and thoughts on how to overcome these problems to drive better performance.

From the Plant Floor

From the Plant Floor is a new monthly column that explores reliability challenges faced by organizations and solutions to overcome them.

Organizational alignment

People are swapping roles more frequently than ever it seems. Organizations are struggling with many personnel movements, in or out of the business, and internal moves. It’s common to find individuals floundering due to the lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The graphical business processes and RACI charts might be right under people’s noses, but the information is not shared. I’ve talked with several site managers who have transitioned into new roles only to find themselves defining personnel responsibilities to get things moving forward. Have an onboarding process that shares the roles and responsibilities. Set the expectations and then hold people accountable to meet them.

Root cause analysis

Nearly every group claims to do Root Cause (Failure) Analysis, but in reality, few get the desired results from a return perspective. Every group has some triggering event criteria that drive the start of a 5 Whys or deeper root cause investigation. Usually, there is an electronic form that the operator fills out stating what happened along with the date and time. The investigation consists of a few individuals, often managers and supervisors, sitting around a table. The people who witnessed it or might have something legitimate to say about how the equipment is operated or maintained are missing. Speaking of process, there is no framework followed, and the opinions in the room have bias. The document is updated with a few assumptions, maybe with some perceived root causes, and sent up the management chain if required to meet regulatory documentation requirements. There is no communication back to the plant floor on the findings. Maybe a work order is written, but more than likely, an email is sent asking someone to take some action. At that point, the analysis outcome dies a slow death. Nothing changes. Simply put, there is no follow-up.

There are software tools that centralize the incident reporting, quantify the risks and losses, document the analysis, and track the intended actions to fix the issues. While that’s a better solution, simply using a spreadsheet as a tracking tool is an improvement over random email. Record the event, the date and time it occurred, quantify the loss in dollars or product volumes; use failure codes to categorize the event, the recommended actions, who is assigned the action, and the expected completion date. Once per week, bring up the tracking spreadsheet in the production meeting and get updates in the group setting. From a reporting perspective, show how many events by category have occurred, the total losses, and improvements implemented in trend format. Determine if you are trending better or worse and adjust as needed.

Maintenance planning and scheduling

The list is long for maintenance planning and scheduling. Individuals with little to no craft skills are placed into the planning and scheduling role. Then, no training is provided. If training is provided, there is no mentoring on applying the skills learned. So, these individuals are set up to fail out of the box. The MRO storeroom is a mess. Bills of materials (BOMs) don’t exist. Maintenance planning consists of trying to find parts for all work, not just planned. Forget the development of corrective job plans. Logged work order hours match the estimated PM hours without exception. The crafts rarely provide detailed feedback, and at times, that feedback is ignored by the planner. And lastly, there are no performance indicators to drive the desired behaviors.

To address planner development, develop formal qualifications, and assess competency; use planner scheduler certifications that include training and coaching. The competency assessment should continue until the planner reaches the desired level of performance. Address the issues with the maintenance systems. Establish job planning criteria to include corrective and PM job packages. Teach the value of the feedback loop to ensure that PMs and job plans are updated. Audit by taking groups and walking down completed work to ensure all are meeting the expectations. Fix the processes where required.

In each section, the items don’t require significant change. It’s just forward to the basics with the foundation and following through. What is keeping you from getting there? Please do share. 

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

About the Author: Jeff Shiver
Jeff Shiver CMRP is a founder and managing principal at People and Processes, Inc. Jeff guides people to achieve success in maintenance and reliability practices using common sense approaches. Visit www.PeopleandProcesses.com or email [email protected].
About the Author

Jeff Shiver | Founder and managing principal at People and Processes, Inc.

Jeff Shiver CMRP is a founder and managing principal at People and Processes, Inc. Jeff guides people to achieve success in maintenance and reliability practices using common sense approaches. Visit www.PeopleandProcesses.com or email [email protected].

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