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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Assessing the criticality of your assets.

It seems fairly obvious that if you were going to improve the management of your assets that you would start on your most critical equipment. So do you know what is the most critical equipment on your site? Are there specific machines that are more critical than others and why? Are there specific components that will stop critical plant if they fail? Can the unplanned failure of your plant lead to an environmental or safety issue?

Some will say that criticality assessments are often a waste of time and that this information is in the heads of experienced plant personnel. In many cases this is true, as you only have to ask a production planning about demand and production managers where the biggest margins are. Then there are the obvious plant services such as Power systems, Water supply, Gas supply, Boilers, Cranes etc. Often the loss of any of these services will stop a whole plant, so in most cases these will be considered critical assets. The other areas where criticality if often well understood is where failures lead to significant cost to repair , environmental or safety issues.

The above statements indicate that the assessment of criticality is a piece of cake, so do you need to do it and if so how do you go about it? Often statutory requirements mean that records must be kept from this type of assessment. If statutory requirements do not effect your industry it is still a good idea to complete an assessment and document your logic behind the assessment. This takes the emotion out of deciding where asset management improvement should be focussed on. Using a simple tool in Excel or Access will help expedite the process and provide a convenient place to store the data.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ensuring Plant Maintenance work does not create process bottlenecks

With there being a never ending need for manufacturers to produce at reduced cost, all opportunities to improve output must be investigated and exploited to maintain a competitive advantage. One strategy in improving output is to review and address the conditions or events that restrict the output of production facilities, which is often referred to as bottle-necking.

Bottle-necking can occur in any aspect of a manufacturing process, from the supply of raw materials through to delivery of product to a customer and the causes will vary significantly between industries and processes. An aspect of manufacturing where bottle-necking is often found is in the inability of the equipment to reliably produce the required output. Potential causes for this may be physical such as the equipment breaking down often, Human such as poor work practices, or Latent causes such as ineffective planning processes. Maintenance and reliability issues touch on all of these potential causes and this paper discusses what aspects of Maintenance effect plant output and then what actions can be taken to mitigate these negative effects.

The Reactive Maintenance Organisation.

A typical reactive maintenance organisation displays the following characteristics:
• They plan and schedule their preventative work on the day the task is required.
• Breakdowns are commonplace and are attended to at the expense of completing planned tasks.
• Downdays are not planned into the production schedule.
• Documented planned maintenance tasks are few.
• There are no dedicated maintenance planners.
• Materials are not effectively managed.
• Bills of Materials are incomplete or don’t exist.
• Operation security risks have not been assessed.
• There is no structured system for development of maintenance plans.
• Technical information is not well managed and often difficult to find.
• Modifications to plant are made without applying a change management process.
• Analysis of failures does not occur.

The equipment being maintained by organisations in this “reactive spiral” is likely to become less reliable over time because critical preventative tasks are not being completed and root cause of failures is not often addressed. At some stage in this reactive spiral plant reliability may become a bottleneck in the production process.

How a reactive organisation can generate bottlenecks.

Planning and scheduling.
Terry Wireman is an author of more than 9 books that focus on maintenance. Terry claims that highly reactive maintenance organisations can spend as little as 2 hours per day on the tools, and unplanned work can cost up to 5 times the cost of a planned task. With tool time being so low, how effective will planned outages be? In reality good planning and scheduling will improve tool time to at least 6 hours in an 8-hour shift, so in this instance a previous 8-hour outage could be reduced to less than 3 hours. If your process is capacity constrained then this will eliminate a 5-hour bottleneck, however if capacity is not an issue then up to 3 times as much work may be completed in the same time frame, effectively reducing the cost to maintain. When you apply this logic to a 12-month schedule of work and include some large multi-week shutdowns it becomes clear that improving the planning and scheduling of maintenance work is well worthwhile. Without going onto extensive detail there are a few critical steps related to implementing effective planning and scheduling.
• You have to accept that there is a need for change and the management must support the change.
• Dedicated maintenance planners must be deployed, whose sole task is to plan and schedule work. (Not execute it)
• Detailed task lists have to be developed for all repetitive tasks
• Spares and Bills of materials must be effectively managed.
• A process must exist to manage work through the system.
• Planned outages must be put in place and this process must be locked in with production.
For those that want to head down this path or improve their current systems, there are many excellent texts and consulting organisations available that could assist.

Breakdown Maintenance.
Breakdown of equipment can be a significant cause of bottlenecks in production processes. There are fundamentally two forms of breakdown that create bottlenecks. High frequency short duration breakdowns and extended delay breakdowns. The effects of an extended delay are obvious; no production equals no output, but how often is the cause of the breakdown assessed with a view of eliminating the defect.

The high frequency short duration breakdowns are far more sinister. Often these types of failures are hidden as the operations staff have developed work arounds such as following an unapproved procedure, cycling the power or slowing the process down. In time the operations staff begin to accept these delays as being normal. Does your business measure how often these events occur and how much time is lost for each event. Its one thing understanding what these losses are, but another entirely when it comes to eliminating these defects. Reactive organisation rarely find the time to address the root cause of any issues.

The key steps for reducing breakdowns and hence removing a potential bottleneck are:
• Use your CMMS to record all breakdowns no matter how small they are.
• Use Pareto graphs to regularly assess the failure data to identify chronic reliability issues.
• Determine which of these issues are causing the most significant losses or causing unacceptable bottlenecks. These issues will be the highest priority.
• Determine which of these issues are particularly annoying to the operations personnel. There may not be significant financial gain in focusing on these issues however it is likely to have a positive effect on motivation.
• Utilise run charts to determine if improvements have been successful.

Planned outages.
To maintain plant and equipment to an acceptable standard it is vitally important that Maintenance related outages are valued and embedded in the production schedule, however in reactive organisations it is common to see downday schedules changed or canceled.

It is not desirable for Maintenance work to be planned and scheduled, only to find on the day that the equipment cannot be put down due to production requirements. This indicates a fundamental issue with the production planning system as missing critical maintenance may lead to chronic losses, which in turn will reduce output. There often is also a significant effect on the Maintenance organisation in that the well-planned job now has to be moved, and work has to be found for the previously scheduled workers. If the planned outage itself is causing a bottleneck then the reason for the outage and allocated time need to be reviewed.

Maintenance Strategies.

Maintenance strategy is concerned with deciding how to maintain a plant, setting up an appropriate maintenance organisation, establishing usable maintenance systems and directing the maintenance effort. Before you can plan and schedule you have to have a maintenance strategy because if you haven’t defined what you need to know, how can you plan what to do?

Well constructed maintenance strategies will be unique for each type of equipment and will include a number of different activities which when applied will assist in ensuring that equipment can reliably meet its production requirements. Maintenance Strategies generally fall into one of four categories.
1. Run to failure. This is a legitimate strategy when the implications of the failure are minimal or there is no way of predicting the failure. Lighting is an excellent example of this
2. Condition Monitoring. (VA, Thermography) These technology driven inspections are the preferred method for understanding whether equipment requires overhaul, as they are usually non intrusive and can predict issues accurately. The theory goes, “If its not broken, don’t try to fix it”.
3. Fixed time inspection/replacement. Fixed time inspection is another form of CM but may require some intrusive work. Fixed time replacement is used where the wear out rate of any item is well known. E.g. Oil in a car.
4. Fixed time overhaul should be a last resort for most organisation and should only be used, when wear out rates are very well understood.

How Maintenance Strategies can create Bottlenecks.
In years gone by, when maintenance labor was plentiful, there were some very extensive Planned maintenance programs in place, with most being based on the “best guess” of the experienced people in the business. The results were often a plant that was being overserviced or the servicing was occurring on equipment that had very low failure rates. In the last 20 years there has been a significant movement to actions being based on the mitigation of failure modes, using tools such as “Reliability Centered Maintenance” or “PM Optimisation”. The aim of these tools is to help ensure the right strategy is applied based on sound knowledge and data. The effect of this is that over servicing is eliminated and the focus of maintenance is moved towards condition-based assessment, which generally can be completed on line. Over servicing leads to longer down periods, an increase in the incidence of premature failures, and can possibly create a process bottleneck. Having correctly developed and deployed maintenance strategies will mitigate this possibility.

The Maintenance Organisation.
There are two significant aspects of the maintenance organisation that may have an effect on process throughput; the structure of the organisation and the skill level of the members.

The Optimum Organisational structure.
Ultimately the aim of the maintenance department is to ensure equipment can meet the output requirements of the business at the lowest cost. Leading from the earlier discussion it is clear that the less reactive your business is the more efficient and cost effective you will become, so the organisation needs to be heading towards a structure that supports planning, scheduling and good materials management practices. On the other side of the equation the organisation may need to be able to respond quickly to emergencies, and then be able to have time to assess the failures. Ultimately it is critically important that the structure in place helps support “ownership” of equipment and issues at a trade/craftsman level.

The ideal structure will be different for every business but as a guide there should be:
• A Maintenance and reliability manager. (May of may not be reporting to a production manager.
• Maintenance planners/schedulers. (Ratio around 1 for every 10 trades)
• A reactive maintenance crew that deals with all breakdowns and unscheduled work.
• A maintenance crew that deals with Planned, Preventative and Predictive maintenance.
• Condition monitoring and reliability Engineering resources.
• Shutdown contract resources for work greater than base load.

Training and skill levels.
Fundamentally if your workforce does not have the skills to complete a task correctly you will get a second class result. Maintenance workers must have the appropriate tertiary training in their specific skill area, and the organisation should ensure that the workforce are keep up-to-date with equipment and technology they have installed.

How the Maintenance Organisation can create bottlenecks

An inadequate Maintenance organisation structure can create process bottlenecks. If your reactive crew is not resourced enough then you may have equipment down waiting on repair. If there is little or no higher-level technical support, short delays could become much longer ones. When there is not enough people in your planned Maintenance crew, or they are not trained correctly in completing a task, an 8-hour shutdown may become a 12 hour shutdown. All of these possibilities will reduce output and potentially create a bottleneck in your production process.
The steps required to help prevent your maintenance organisation from creating process bottlenecks need to address both the Org structure and training issues.

In relation to training you will need to understand what skills your team requires to maintain the plant. This will have to be matched against the current skills set and the gaps identified. From this available training programs will need to be developed and a training schedule built.

With the Organisation structure it is important to understand your current work patterns. How much of your current load is reactive verses proactive? Are you not completing all required maintenance work? This information will help you understand where the labor should be placed and may highlight areas where not enough labor is available. If you are moving to or improving your planning and scheduling the split between reactive and proactive will have to be reassessed as your systems improve. The ultimate aim is to have a less reactive workforce.

If your process bottlenecks are linked closely to the maintenance and reliability of your equipment, it is most likely you have a highly reactive maintenance organisation. To move from a primarily reactive regime significant focus must be placed on developing and deploying systems that move the organisation towards being proactive. This requires effective planning and scheduling, well developed maintenance strategies, a detailed work management process, a skilled workforce that is resourced adequately, a process to determine and rectify the root cause of failures and a good materials management process. In reality all of these traits are commonly accepted as being best practice and the application of them will limit the Maintenance and reliability of equipment being a cause of process bottlenecks.

Friday, January 29, 2010

All 4 installments of the Eight Critical Elements of Asset Management Survey now avaliable.

Follow the link to access parts all 4 installments of the assessment of results from this survey.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Maintenance Strategies. A preview of the results from the Eight Critical Elements of Asset Management Survey

Maintenance Strategies.
A strategy is the who, what, when where and how of maintaining your assets. Strategies are not “set and forget”, they are living documents that should be reviewed and improved continuously. What methods do you use to review strategies? Do the strategies address the failure modes of your assets? Who is involved in the review process? The review and development of strategies is a critical component of Asset Management.

In years gone by, when maintenance labor was plentiful, there were some very extensive Planned maintenance programs in place, with most being based on the “best guess” of the experienced people in the business. The results were often a plant that was being over serviced or the servicing was occurring on equipment that had very low failure rates. In the last 20 years there has been a significant movement to actions being based on the mitigation of failure modes. Some of these tools are breifly described below.

Tools for Improving Maintenance strategies.

A tool is anything used as a means of accomplishing a task or purpose. The following generic tools are used widely in determining new or revising existing Maintenance Strategies.

Reliability Centred Maintenance. RCM
Reliability Centred Maintenance is defined by John Moubray as “a process used to determine what must be done to ensure that the physical asset continues to fulfil its intended functions in its present operating context” (1993, pg.7). RCM was born from the airline industry in the US in the early 70’s in response to the statutory maintenance requirements that had to be applied to larger aircraft such as Boeings 747. It was determined that the cost of applying the standards to these aircraft would make them uneconomical to operate (Smith and Hinchcliffe, 2004). The basis of RCM is to ensure equipment maintains its function and the process requires that the following seven questions be answered (Moubray, 1993).
1. What is the function of the equipment and what are the required performance standards?
2. In what ways can it fail to perform its function?
3. What could cause each functional failure?
4. What happens when the failure occurs?
5. In what way does the failure matter?
6. What can be done to prevent the failure?
7. What has to be done if the failure can’t be prevented?
Smith and Mobley (2008) highlight the following types of asset management strategies that may be developed from an RCM process.
1. Condition based tasks. E.g. Oil is sampled from a transformer and the results of the analysis determine if further maintenance is required.
2. Scheduled restoration. E.g. A Sheave bank running in a corrosive environment that requires overhaul at fixed intervals.
3. Scheduled Discard. E.g. The replacement of oil in a combustion engine.
4. Failure finding task. E.g. Calibration of instrumentation. The fault may not be discovered until the calibration is done.
5. One-time change. Typically a one off redesign.
RCM in its pure form is a resource hungry process that should only be applied to the most critical of assets. The results from the process if performed properly and coupled with assessment of historical failures will produce efficient and effective maintenance strategies, but this will be at the expense of a significant amount of time for plant staff and the project analyst.
Failure Modes and Effects Analysis. FMEA.
A Failure Mode and Effects Analysis is an integral part of the RCM process and deals with questions 2, 3 and 4 of the 7 RCM questions listed above. Teng and Ho (1996) define FMEA as a technique that identifies the potential failure modes of a device or product, determines the effects of these failures and assesses the criticality of the failure.

An FMEA completed on DC machines in an Australian Steel mill revealed the following most likely causes of DC machine failure to be:
1. Contamination of motor by Dust, Dirt fumes etc.
2. Inadequate maintenance practices. (Internal and contract)
3. Inadequate brush tension
4. Over tensioning of belts or shaft misalignment.
5. Overheating due to ineffective ventilation
6. Neutral axis and compounding issues.
7. Overloading.
8. Inadequate lubrication (Too much or not enough).
9. Incorrect or ineffective protection devices.
These findings were used to improve the existing PM’s with excellent results. Over a 3 year period there was a 70% reduction in DC motors that failed in service.

Planned Maintenance Optimisation. PMO

Planned Maintenance Optimisation is a process where existing PM inspections and failure history are used to form the basis of a new set of strategies. This can provide a similar output to classical RCM in far less time. As unknown failure modes are not addressed in the first instance the process allows for input of potential failure modes after the initial assessment. This process couples the PMO top down approach with the RCM bottom up approach and in many cases will be the best option for mature businesses with existing PM systems and access to failure history. New businesses with no existing systems or failure history will need to apply more classical methods such as a RCM or a knowledge based process.
Management support of strategy optimization.
The most significant step related to gathering management support for a strategy review process is educating them in the critical elements of asset management. It is common for managers to see maintenance as a cost that can be cut, and not an investment in the future of the operation. Question 57 is aimed at gauging whether management support the review of, and optimization of maintenance strategies.

Question 57.

The results here were surprising with 54% rating a 4 or a 5. This indicates management have a clear understanding of the importance of optimisation of maintenance strategies. A further 30% support strategy review but do not have a clear understanding of the benefits. With this high level of management support there should be little reason not to progress with improvements.

Scheduled review of strategies.

How many businesses have been using the same strategies with little or no review processes in the last 10 years? When your tradesmen suggest a change to a strategy is there a system in place to review the suggestion for suitability? There needs to be a systems in place to review older PM’s to determine if they are still relevant and are addressing known or potential failure modes.
There also needs to be a system in place to capture and review feedback gathered from the tradesmen who are doing the task. One of the most significant contributors to work instructions not having any feedback left on them is that when comments had been made before, no actions followed. This is an incredible demotivator for many. Question 58 will determine how often maintenance strategies are reviewed.

Question 58.

With 39% of respondents scoring a 4 or a 5 the level of formal review of strategies was higher than expected. 52% of respondents indicated a less formal or more ad-hoc manner of strategy review, with 9% having no process at all. To remove the waste from maintenance strategies and ensure actions within these strategies are effective a process involving the identification and mitigation of failure modes must be applied. This can be in the form of FMEA, RCM, and PMO etc. The other point to remember is that strategies will need to be changed to accommodate changing production demands. For this reason, a formal review schedule should be put in place. This could be in the form of regular audits of work instructions or detailed reviews of total strategies.

Maintenance supervisors and strategy review.

With strategy review being a critical component of this element, it becomes clear that someone needs to be responsible for the review process. Question 59 questions whether the development and review of Maintenance strategies is included in the job responsibilities of Maintenance supervisors.

Question 59.

The telling result here is that 39% of maintenance supervisors that review their strategies in an ad-hoc manner and a further 30% that do little review or none at all. With only 31% scoring a 4 or 5 this is an area of significant opportunity for many businesses.
Include the review of maintenance strategies in the job goals of maintenance supervisors at all levels. The Maintenance Team Leader may be responsible for feedback on work instructions, the Area Supervisors could arrange regular work instruction audits, where the maintenance manager may include large formal strategy review processes in the maintenance budget. Making people responsible for strategy review will make it occur and the benefits will come.

Involvement in Strategy review.

An effective strategy review process will only occur if a representative of all stakeholders are involved in the process. This will gain a significant amount of local knowledge as well as building ownership of any revised strategy. Questions 60 will determine to what degree operations and maintenance employees are involved in the development of strategies.

Question 60.

What is pleasing here is that 35% of respondents indicated that operations and maintenance personnel are regularly or always involved in strategy review. 32% of respondents indicated some input while 33% have little or no involvement. The aim here should be that there is always involvement with stakeholders. When strategy review processes occur in isolation it is unlikely that the outcome will be as best as it could be, as one persons view will be not uncover all possible failure modes or the actions that will prevent the failures. The ideal situation is to have a senior mechanical fitter, an electrician, an operator and maintenance leader involved in the review process. The important aspect here is to get a total understanding as to what failures occur and whether the actions currently occurring address these failures. If no actions are currently in place the group should decide on what actions to implement, and making these decisions as a group will build ownership of the strategy. It is worthwhile considering the use of a strategy review tool and experienced facilitator during these reviews.

Maintenance strategies and the CMMS.
If you have a CMMS, it will have the ability to store and manage the work instructions that are working documents of your asset management strategies. Question 61 is aimed at understanding the level at which strategies and work instructions are stored in the CMMS.

Question 61.

With only 40% scoring a 4 or a 5 in this question there is clear room for improvement. As your CMMS is generally made to manage your strategies it is the obvious this is where they should be kept. If there are some work instructions or operating procedures that are kept in other systems, then these should be linked to the CMMS. This may be the case if a third party is providing software tools to help with strategy development.

More sections of this survey will be posted in the blog over the next few weeks.

Friday, December 4, 2009

An excellent article on safe electrical testing

This article from Fluke via reliable the plant website is a must read for electrical workers. In my industry we have moved on from alot of this thinking, but old habits die hard.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

SAP. An excellent system...at a cost!

I attended the SAP PM conference on the Gold Coast Australia mid November, and as usual found the content varied in quality, however I came away thinking that I had learned something from this event which has been running for over a decade.

The most interesting information was related to the advancements coming with the new SAP gui and the endless amount of add on tools that are being developed to complement SAP, many of which were presented at the conference.

The common feeling myself and some of my colleagues had after attending a presentation or visiting a vendor was, "That looks really great, but I expect it will cost too much". I then walked away disappointed in that any of these advances are not likely to be seen for some time as they have to be applied at a corperate level at significant cost.

I would like to here of any tips or tricks that utilise SAP PM' s standard functionality, that can be applied locally and only cost time?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What standards do you accept in relation to safety?

I was lucky enough to be able to take some time out in Cairns this month, which is located in Tropical far North Queensland in Australia. (For non Aussies) Cairns is a base for a fleet of large boats that take people out to the Great Barrier Reef every day. I gotta say, if you get a chance to do this it is really worthwhile.

So what has this got to do with Safety?

I dont spend a lot of time around boats so it was interesting to me to watch the practices of the crew which do everything from run the boat through to serving the passengers. While standing on a large floating platform that had hand rails all round, I watched a crew member climb over the hand rail, stand on the side of the pontoon and time his jump onto another boat that was tied up but pitching badly. He then ran to the nearest handrail climbed rapidly up a verticle ladder, while the whole time the boat was pitching all over the place. A minute later he did exactly the same in reverse. Now I'm sure he had done this many times before, but the margin for error was enormous. If he had slipped while jumping he could very easily been squashed between two boats, or bashed his head on the side of the boat. Being a manager who has safety embedded in my brain, I should have questioned what he was doing, but been complacent in an environment I was not used to, I said nothing. ( Not so good)

Would we accept this behavior in industry? This sort of behavior at my work place would have started a safety inquisition, final warnings given and communication to the world. In hindsight I believe when this sort of behavior is accepted in any workplace, it is only time until the big disaster occurs. They really aren't looking after their own.

On the other hand the processes for ensuring all customers are accounted for at the end of the day are exceptional. All passengers sign on when boarding, and countersign when they enter the boat for the return journey. After that two crew members do an independent count to ensure all are on-board. What a great system, so why do they look after their customers so well?

For those Aussies, you may remember a few years back two Americans were left behind on a reef excursion and never found again.

It shouldn't take a disaster to ensure excellent safety system are in place. A culture of safety must be embedded in organisations.