Archive | April, 2000


3:47 am
April 2, 2000
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How Do You Spell e-Maintenenace?


Robert C. Baldwin, CMRP, Editor

The Rodney Dangerfield refrain “We don’t get no respect” keeps popping up again and again in maintenance circles. If we really want to change the image of maintenance and become the next hot business function, perhaps we should put a small e out front. It seems to work for e-Business and e-Commerce. What do you think of e-Maintenance? If we were to adopt e-Maintenance as a new functional title, what would e represent? Several possibilities come to mind.

An efficient maintenance organization has a certain measure of respect. It meets the expectations of most managers, especially those who have a traditional view of the maintenance function and demand “Do more with fewer people and less money.” Efficient maintenance is a given. There are plenty of metrics we can use to track progress in this area, including maintenance cost compared to estimated replacement value and number of maintenance personnel compared to total plant personnel.

Although maintenance efficiency is always desirable, close analysis of maintenance work will show a substantial amount of it simply isn’t effective; it doesn’t contribute to availability, life extension, or functional reliability no matter how productive the work force. Effective maintenance commands a larger measure of respect. As management guru Peter Drucker put it: “Productivity is doing the job better, but doing the right job is more productive.” Effective maintenance is measured by reliability performance metrics such as mean time between failure, uptime, and availability.

Effective maintenance delivered efficiently is a worthy goal, but nothing gains much respect in the boardroom unless it is a value-adding activity that contributes directly to enterprise performance.

One measure that works well for enterprise performance is overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), which is the product of asset utilization (uptime), throughput, and acceptance (quality). OEE is scaleable. It can be applied effectively at the machine, production line, or the plant level and it can be linked to enterprise metrics such as return on net assets (RONA), economic value added (EVA), and shareholder value.

So, how do you spell e-Maintenance? It’s easy. Just add up the “e”s. e(fficient) Maintenance + e(ffective) Maintenance + e(nterprise) Maintenance = e(xcellent) Maintenance. MT


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3:45 am
April 2, 2000
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The CMMS Marketplace 2000

Last year at this time I did a piece on the directions of the CMMS market in general and I feel somewhat vindicated that, indeed, the presence of the Web has reached even further into the business of maintenance management systems.

The question I get asked often from managers, however, is “what is next?” While usually this is in the context of them attempting to pick a CMMS, understanding some of the changes in the market is important if you plan any direction shifts with a CMMS. There are several key areas where the CMMS marketplace will be im-pacted. These are:” The influence of all this “e” stuff” The push for integration” The consolidation of the CMMS market.

I’ll address each one of these and why it’s important to you.

Influence of all this “e” stuff
You can’t turn on a TV without eCommerce, eTrading, eMarketing, e-everything exploding in your eyes and ears. The truth is that the Web will stop being an “e” thing in the coming year. Rather than being something different and new, it is going to simply be THE way business is done.

CMMSs already have started integrating Web interfaces and some vendors have made their data accessible on your side of the firewall via a Web browser. This is nothing—the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Integration efforts are already underway with some companies to tie in suppliers and vendors via the Web and CMMS. The latest big thing: ASP (application service provider) offerings of a CMMS. Here’s the future&you log onto the Web at any time from any location to check work order status, to close out work orders, or to double check your team’s schedule for the coming day. Customers of your services will be submitting work requests online, and from anywhere they can log on with a Web browser.

Push for integration
Integrating other systems and hardware into a CMMS is far from new and innovative in and of itself. This dates back to the glory days of the first barcode system integrations. This new wave of systems and hardware integrations has been slow in coming, but its presence is starting to emerge.

First, you have the integration to hardware. How will this impact you? In many ways, and some of these are already starting to enter the market. Your HVAC system will cut work orders when it goes down, and issue preventive maintenance work orders when its performance drops. When a production line goes down, work orders will go out automatically complete with the appropriate job plans to fix it and assigned to the people certified on the repairs. Condition monitoring systems will be more evolved into your CMMS so anything monitorable in your facility will be tied to the CMMS.

On the software side, ERP integration efforts are going to continue to the point where it will be harder to distinguish the CMMS as separate software. In the back office, CMMS integrations (thanks to open systems architecture) are going to be tied to your purchasing, accounting, accounts payable, and asset management systems. The age of the maintenance department being a hidden operation that functions on its own is coming to an end&it will move to the forefront of systems technology. The days of maintenance getting hand-me-down PCs are ending because the technological firepower provided there will feed numerous systems in the organization and be a means of reducing costs rather than being mere overhead.

Consolidation of the CMMS market
Simply put, the CMMS market two years ago was 248 vendors. That number has dropped due to consolidations in the market. This trend will continue into this year. Already there have been several mergers in the industry among some of the larger systems. Soon smaller players, unable to keep up with technology changes, will sell their client bases to more powerful companies that possess the technology to succeed. Within a few years, there will be 3-10 players in this industry, perhaps even fewer. The days of the mom-and-pop operations cranking out a FoxPro system and entering the market are more fond memory than practical reality.

I’m asked often into what form the CMMS will evolve, and the truth is it has plateaued as a product. New software innovations will not drive changes in the software. Remember, these are work management tracking systems. Work does not change that dramatically. Once we reached the point where we had scheduling, PMs, etc., there was little room left for the CMMS to grow into organically. What is left is CMMS’s emerging into the Web (and all that that implies) and the hope that one day, work orders can be closed verbally rather than typing. MT

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9:06 pm
April 1, 2000
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Reliability Concepts and Tools

How to accurately predict the competitive advantages and quantify the business benefits associated with improving reliability.

A previous article “Profit Driven Reliability” discussed a six-step work process to increase profitability with reliability improvements. This article will define the foundation concepts and tools needed to apply the process.

To improve profitability by improving reliability means there must be a partnership with the business. One end of the partnership is the commitment that a reliability project will deliver certain competitive advantages to the business. The business must uphold its end of the partnership by committing to act on these competitive advantages. A key to this process is the ability to accurately predict the competitive advantages associated with improving reliability.

Defining reliability
This article defines reliability as a measure of a system’s ability to consistently function as designed or at its highest level of performance. This definition extends reliability beyond failure of a manufacturing process or equipment and includes the impact of availability, maintainability, first-pass yield, weight yield, etc.

With this definition, reliability can be applied to any system to measure the effect of deviations from design or optimal performance. The system can range from the entire value chain to a heat exchanger. The components of the value chain include the process for billing customers, a manufacturing site, an operating area within the manufacturing site, and individual equipment within an operating area. Failures in the value chain could include errors in customer invoices as well as manufacturing equipment functioning at a level lower than design or optimal performance. For example, a heat exchanger would suffer reliability losses if it were kept in service while severely fouled.

Business benefits
All business benefits achieved through reliability boil down to improved profitability achieved through competitive advantages. Reliability improvements deliver competitive advantages by reducing the hidden penalty for unreliability. The first step to harnessing reliability is defining the hidden penalty of unreliability which occurs in three forms: lost production time, avoidance costs to mitigate the consequences of unreliability (for example, redundant or oversized equipment), and customer-imposed penalties. All three forms result in lost profit opportunity.

Lost production time is converted into lost profit opportunity using site-specific variable profit margins. This form can be the most expensive method for paying for unreliability since it limits the ability to take advantage of margins from incremental sales. Profit margins from incremental sales are higher since they are based on the variable portion of cost of goods sold (the fixed costs have already been covered).

Lost production time is the lost production expressed as equivalent downtime. Equivalent downtime is the downtime that would have resulted in the same lost production. For example, a process with a design rate of 1000 lb/hr that actually ran at 750 lb/hr for one hour had an equivalent downtime of 0.25 hr.

Equivalent downtime = 0.25 hr

=( (1000 lb/hr – 750 lb/hr)/1000 lb/hr) x 1 hr

Frequently, the primary business benefit of recovering lost production time is to support increased sales volume with available capacity gains. Prediction of available capacity gains can be tricky. Fig. 1a shows that the elimination of 17 days of downtime increased available capacity by only 14 days (unit availability increased from 77 percent to 81 percent). The other 3 days appeared as additional noninstrumentation downtime.

At first glance, the increase in noninstrument downtime appears to be the result of deterioration in noninstrumentation reliability. Appearances can be deceiving since the failure rate for noninstrumentation failures before and after the reliability improvement was 0.08 failure/hr. Instead, elimination of 17 days of downtime provided noninstrumentation failures more opportunity to occur, as shown in Fig. 1b.

The situation shown in Fig. 1b becomes even more complex when you add another unit as shown in Fig. 2a. Adding another unit means that the effects of unreliability upstream and downstream must be included in the evaluation of improving reliability.

The system shown in Fig. 2a would have an average annual production of 216,000 lb (216 days of production), despite the fact that each unit is individually capable of producing 281,000 lb (281 days of production). As in the prior example, a portion of the lost production time is unrecoverable. As can be seen in Fig. 2b, approximately 18 percent of each unit’s capacity is lost because of reasons unrelated to its reliability. These are interaction losses. During an interaction loss, a unit is a victim of upstream (or downstream) unreliability.

Unit interactions will change the business value of eliminating downtime. For example, eliminating all of Unit A’s instrumentation downtime will increase production only by 11 days. Eliminating instrumentation failures in both Units A and B will increase production by 22 days. The key to accurately predicting the business value of increasing production by eliminating downtime is quantifying the unrecoverable time. This quantification may require reliability modeling tools.

The hidden penalty for unreliability may appear as an avoidance cost. Maintenance expenditures are a classic example of an avoidance cost. Maintenance is performed to avoid loss of equipment function. Avoidance costs also may be incurred to protect production capacity and the ability to meet customer expectations from unreliability. These avoidance costs include:

  • Inventory—buying time for the downstream process during an upstream upset and vice versa. This is a method for increasing system output without increasing unit reliability. The value of inventory can be illustrated using the simple system shown in Fig. 2a, modified by adding a 1500-lb storage tank between Unit A and Unit B (Fig. 3a). Adding 1500 lb of storage capacity is equivalent to adding 1.5 days of recovery time to the system. Assuming that the tank is half full when a unit goes down, the down unit has 0.75 day to recover before shutting down the other unit. This recovery period allows a unit to continue running. Fig. 3b shows how this recovery period increases site production from 59 percent (216,000 lb/yr) to 65 percent (238,000 lb/yr). This increase implies that inventory can be reduced by increasing reliability. For example, eliminating instrumentation failures in both Units A and B will eliminate the need for inventory in a site that must produce 238,000 lb/yr.
  • Increased capital investment—building oversized facilities in anticipation of reliability losses. The facility shown in Fig. 3a can deliver an annual production of only 238,000 lb. If the business required an annual production of 365,000 lb, Units A and B would have to be designed for a maximum daily rate of 1500 lb and the storage tank size would have to be increased to 2250 lb. The storage tank size must increase proportionally with the maximum rate because its size is based on the recovery time it provides.
  • Increased order lead time—forcing the customer to bear part of this hidden penalty by accepting longer lead times. Order lead time behaves as pseudo-inventory. If an order arrives while the site is down, order lead time gives the site a chance to recover without missing the order.
  • Increased staffing or overtime—buying the ability to recover quickly from a reliability failure.
  • Increased shipping costs—shipping by a more expensive channel because product was not available in time to use normal channels.
  • Finally, customers may decide that the hidden penalty for unreliability is not high enough. They may decide to up the ante for eliminating unreliability by:
  • Shifting sales to your competitors—reliability influences many product attributes important to customers such as quality, stable supply, price, and short lead times.
  • Increasing receivables—unreliability may result in unsatisfied customers who withhold payment until satisfied.

Unfortunately, most people are oblivious to customer-imposed penalties since neither the manufacturer or its customers may identify unreliability as one of the root causes of dissatisfaction.

Reliability modeling tools
Computer simulation tools may be required to link reliability improvements to increased production, reduced order lead time, or reduced inventory. Depending on system complexity, these tools can range from spreadsheets to a discrete event simulation model. All discrete event simulation models share common capabilities such as defining the relationship between reliability, productive capacity, inventory, quality, missed shipments, and order lead time. Some of the commercially available reliability modeling tools currently may not possess all of these capabilities; however, if the tools are based on discrete event technology this is a limitation of their current stage of development. The information required to use these models will vary from case to case; however, all models will need the following information at a minimum:

  • Definition of the probability of failure.
  • Definition of the consequences of a failure (shutdown, run at reduced rates, lose batch, produce off-specification material, etc.).
  • Definition of how long it takes to return to service. This may be explicitly defined with a single time (6 hr) or a probability distribution (50 percent of failures require 6 hr, 50 percent of failures require 12 hr). It also may be implicitly defined by describing what must occur for the unit to come up (repairs will require 6 hr once a mechanic is available).
  • Definition of storage capacities.

Models that seek to link reliability improvements to order lead times, finished product inventory, or saleable capacity also will require information about order predictability and size. MT

This article is based on a paper presented at Process Plant Reliability 99, October 1999, Houston, TX.

Carol Vesier, Ph.D., is principal at RonaMax, LLC, Yardley, PA 19067; telephone (215) 736-2315

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4:37 pm
April 1, 2000
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Prescription for Total TPM Success

A proven 12-stage “Western” approach to successfully installing Total Productive Maintenance and setting the stage for world-class performance

At least every second attempted installation of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) results in failure. What went wrong? The reasons are many:  lack of proper understanding of the total effort required, lack of management support, lack of sufficient TPM staff, union resistance, not enough training carried out, change of priorities, lack of persistence, failure to develop a good installation strategy, and simply choosing the wrong approach.

So, what is the right approach? What are the common traits of successful TPM installations? Over the past 10 years, the author has been involved with dozens of TPM installations worldwide. The approach to TPM that follows is based on that experience. It outlines what it takes to produce excellent results. A 400 percent return on investment (ROI), plant capacity increases of more than 10 percent, and productivity improvement of 50 percent have been accomplished by using this approach to TPM installation.

The 12-step process is designed to create proper TPM understanding; accomplish TPM acceptance; create TPM support from management, unions, and employees; create enthusiasm and positive expectations for TPM; develop a realistic custom installation plan; and accomplish world-class results in a timely manner.

1. Collect InformationThe first order of business for installing a successful TPM program is to collect information about TPM and to understand how it works. The person leading the effort must understand what TPM is, how it works, the proper installation sequence, what it can do for the plant, the amount of effort that will be required, how long it will take, etc.

Information resources include TPM conferences, TPM seminars, TPM literature (books, magazines, the Internet), benchmarking programs, and conversations with experienced practitioners and consultants. Formal trip reports from conferences and plant visits are valuable resources for the following initial auditing and presentation phase.

2. Initial audit and presentationAfter gathering information on TPM and surveying current conditions, the next step is to present a proposal to management. This activity can be carried out by a consultant, plant personnel, or both.

Consultant or trainer involvement typically begins with a plant visit (usually a half day) to observe production operations, learn about the equipment (type, function, condition, problems, losses, etc.), study maintenance operations (structure, size, tasks, PMs, etc.), gauge orderliness and cleanliness in the plant, and talk to employees to determine their motivation and attitude.

The consultant then can develop and conduct the TPM presentation to management (which should include union representation). The presentation normally takes about 4 hr, including questions and answers, and covers the following:

  • TPM overview (What is TPM?)
  • What TPM can do for the plant
  • Sequence of a typical installation
  • How to develop proper strategy and a customized installation plan
  • How management and the union must support TPM
  • How to get organized for installing TPM
  • Expected costs and benefits, including ROI

The presentation also can be made by plant personnel covering the same points laced with examples and impressions from seminars, conferences, and plant visits. The presentation should end with a recommendation, typically a recommendation to install TPM, beginning with a proposal for internal TPM training followed by a TPM feasibility study.

Normally, management will make a positive decision at this point. This decision must include a commitment to strongly support TPM, carry out the necessary training and the feasibility study, appoint a TPM coordinator, and create the TPM steering committee.

3. In-plant TPM trainingIt is important that significant TPM knowledge be distributed to appropriate plant personnel. This typically is accomplished with a 2-day seminar in the plant or at a nearby hotel. An external TPM specialist typically conducts the seminar.Seminar attendees should include middle management (supervisors), maintenance personnel, and operators. Representatives from the union and human resources department should be included. Members of the future feasibility study teams must participate.

4. Study team training Additional training is required for members of the team that will conduct the TPM feasibility study. Not only must team members know TPM, they must understand the feasibility study process. Training is normally conducted by an external specialist or consultant in a 1-day course at the plant. The course typically includes exercises on running equipment (equipment condition analysis and overall equipment effectiveness) and review of a sample feasibility study report. Tasks and schedule for the study also are developed at this time.

5. Feasibility studyIt is the author’s experience that just about every successful TPM installation worldwide has been preceded by a good feasibility study. How can you develop a good TPM strategy and a customized (pilot) installation plan if you don’t know the exact amount and distribution of your equipment’s losses, or the current equipment condition, or the current skill levels of your employees, or the current type and amount of maintenance done for your equipment? The results of your feasibility study will establish a base line, against which you can measure TPM results and progress and also will allow you to set realistic goals, based on the data obtained.

A typical feasibility study program is outlined in the section “TPM Feasibility Study.”

A feasibility study typically includes two to six teams (five to nine members each) and takes 8 weeks. It will include overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) observations and calculations for 40 to 100 percent of important equipment. The study will evaluate the condition of that equipment and current and future required maintenance activity. Skills of plant personnel, cleanliness or orderliness of the plant, and plant culture (attitude, motivation, and management style) will be studied also.

6. Feasibility study presentation Considerable thought should be given to the formal presentation of the results of the feasibility study. The presentation, with appropriate visual aids, normally takes about 2 hr. Both management and the union should be in the audience.

The presentation should propose an installation strategy and identify a pilot installation. It should conclude with a recommendation that TPM be installed.

At this point, management will make a second and final commitment to install TPM. The level of enthusiasm is normally quite high, and the need (and benefits) to apply TPM have been clearly demonstrated. The cat is out of the bag now, because almost everybody has had some exposure or heard about TPM during the execution of the feasibility study. The OEE results are typically much lower than management thought (especially if all they have had as reports were uptime figures), creating a strong motivation to get going and improve the productivity of equipment and the quality of product.

The feasibility study presentation meeting can be regarded as the TPM kickoff.

7. Pilot installation A TPM pilot installation should cover between 10 and 25 percent of a plant’s equipment, not just a few selected machines. There should be a minimum of six TPM teams to insure survivability of the installation should one or two teams fail. Here you can test various approaches to learn which is best for the plant-wide installation.

Areas appropriate for pilot installations are those where major improvement is needed (too many breakdowns, delays, or idle time, or low capacity or productivity), where feasible (good motivation found during the feasibility study), where quick success is likely, and where it is difficult (if it works there, it will work everywhere).

A good feasibility study is required for all pilot areas. All employees in the pilot areas must receive TPM training and team leaders also must be trained. Clear goals and deadlines must be established and team meetings held on schedule.

8. Plant-wide installation Most companies (and TPM coordinators) wait too long before expanding their TPM installation. There is no need to wait for final results of the pilot installation because you will know fairly soon if the approach you have selected will work (especially if you are on the ball and measure results). A good and well thought out staggered expansion plan is important, as is a detailed installation plan for each additional area.

Expansion initiatives should begin every 3 mo (6 mo maximum) using the same priorities and decision criteria as for pilots. The installation strategy may have to be adapted for each new area. Successful installation usually can be completed in 3 yr, even in large plants.

9. Introduction audit To insure good progress and a proper and successful installation, audits have proven to be very valuable. There are two types of audits: the first audit is fairly simple and checks if the TPM fundamentals are done correctly (teamwork, organization, tasks, PM development, etc.) and whether the program is on schedule. They are typically carried out 6-12 mo after launch by internal or external specialists.

10. Progress audit The second audit is much more demanding and is usually the last step before the certification. A high percentage of the TPM goals are accomplished (and can be clearly demonstrated) and TPM is now practically a way of life in the audited areas. This audit will point out existing deficiencies (and opportunities) to bring TPM to a successful conclusion. The theoretical part of the audit will be done in the office with the team going over a lot of data followed by a practical part out in the plant around the equipment.The progress audit comes 18-30 mo after launch to determine if and how:

  • Preventive maintenance is carried out by the TPM teams
  • Equipment improvement activities have been executed according to schedules
  • An OEE of at least 85 percent has been reached
  • The improved equipment condition has been accomplished and documented
  • A ratio of 80 percent proactive vs. 20 percent reactive maintenance has been accomplished
  • The planned levels of skill have been accomplished

11. Certification The certification process is gaining more and more importance, especially in Europe and for automotive plants and suppliers where it is used to show the customer that equipment and product quality have been improved and that procedures are in place to maintain equipment to the highest levels and that this process is permanent.

The International TPM Institute certification process is based on a strict set of certification requirements.

12. TPM Award The final and most rewarding step of a TPM installation is achieving the TPM Award. The award testifies that your plant is world-class: highly productive, produces only top quality product, maintains its equipment in top shape, and has a culture based on teamwork. Only a few companies in the Western world have the TPM Award, but that record is now improving as we learn how to successfully install TPM using a custom-made Western approach that fits our culture and exact needs. MT

Ed Hartmann is president of International TPM Institute, Inc., a Total Productive Maintenance and maintenance improvement consulting company, Allison Park, PA. He can be reached at (412) 486-6340

TPM Feasibility Study: Agenda for Training and Execution

A feasibility study is an important element in a successful TPM installation. This agenda outlines the feasibility study process developed and used by International TPM Institute.
1. Learn and practice overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) observations and calculations

  • Select equipment to study (for today and during feasibility study)
  • Finalize forms for your equipment (enter reasons for breakdowns and idling/minor stoppages on OEE form)
  • Plan and schedule practice run (today)
  • Designate teams for the feasibility study
  • Practice OEE observations and calculations (today) and review
  • Organize for daily input and calculations (computer spreadsheet) during feasibility study
  • Develop detailed schedule for OEE measurements (during feasibility study)
  • Develop plan to summarize OEE data for all equipment and areas
  • Make Pareto charts

2. Equipment condition analysis (ECA)

  • Practice equipment condition analysis (today) and review
  • Feasibility study teams and operators fill out forms during feasibility study
  • Assess condition of tools, dies, and fixtures along with major equipment

3. Develop tasks, schedule, and staffing plan for the feasibility study

  • Form a team (one per plant) that will carry out “skills required vs. skills available” analysis (during feasibility study)
  • Develop customized form for selected machines
  • Develop chart of skills and check correlation to current pay grades
  • Summarize data and develop required overall training plan
  • Determine trainability of operators; check past participation in training courses and results
  • Determine motivation; interview operators and supervisors as needed
  • Form a team that will analyze current maintenance operations
  • Develop a customized form for current maintenance analysis and proposed maintenance for selected, representative equipment and carry out analysis. Use a neutral team
  • Assess current preventive maintenance (PM) program and results (including status of checklists, PM work orders, PM schedule, PM compliance, PM reports, equipment history, predictive maintenance, etc.)
  • Assess maintenance management in general: work order system, maintenance information system (CMMS), planning and scheduling, maintenance control (reports), organization, etc.
  • Collect maintenance costs (especially breakdown repair costs) and other data for baseline
  • Form a team (one for the whole plant) that will assess and report on housekeeping, cleanliness, discipline, procedures, etc.
  • Document equipment problems (dirt, rust, spills, leaks, low oil levels, loose and missing parts, etc.) with color photos
  • Form a team to assess and report on corporate and plant culture and on existing teamwork. Items to be covered include:
    • Level of employee involvement, enthusiasm, team spirit, etc. (include management style, empowerment, delegation, etc.)
    • Number and location of existing teams
    • Function (purpose) of existing teams
    • Are they still active?
    • How will future TPM teams fit into the current existing team structure?
    • Can existing (manufacturing) teams be converted into TPM teams?
    • Can TPM be added to existing teams?
  • Develop feasibility study schedule (typically 8 wk)
  • Establish and document the baseline (all current data)
  • Use failure information sheet (FISH) as a test (especially if there is no usable breakdown data) and expand when ready to respond to operator’s suggestions
  • TPM coordinator develops a draft (outline) and then writes the feasibility study report (input from all teams). Include typical examples of losses and improvement opportunities (benefits)
  • Develop a custom TPM pilot installation plan that will:
    • Include two areas (departments) minimum
    • Propose number of TPM teams
    • Provide a training plan
    • Provide an installation schedule
  • Prepare for the feasibility study management presentation that should:
    • Present all important data from the study in organized form
    • Provide for across-the-board participation (including operators and maintenance)
    • Propose the TPM organization (at least for the pilot installation)
    • Present a draft TPM vision, mission statement, policy, and strategy
    • Propose a TPM logo (and motto, if appropriate)
    • Present goals (including ROI) and schedule for the pilot installation
    • Propose additional public relations and TPM information activities
    • Present draft of master plan

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2:36 pm
April 1, 2000
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Handheld Technologies Defeat Paperwork Delays

For maintenance professionals, hardware and software for handheld computers have evolved quickly. Cost-effective methods for eliminating paperwork and improving cycle time on repairs are at a technician’s fingertips. Adding to the momentum is an explosion of wireless solutions–the most appropriate of which have been adapted to boost productivity among maintenance professionals.

Improving productivity
“Wrench time, that’s what it is all about,” says Richard Marzec, director of maintenance and engineering at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center, a 4 million sq ft medical campus in Chicago.

Regardless of the maintenance challenge or the facility to care for, managers such as Marzec are increasingly looking for handheld technologies that:

  • Provide immediate, measurable, and sustained productivity gains for maintenance technicians
  • Free support staff to tackle more strategic initiatives
  • Are easy to use and easy to learn, enabling passive capture of data that can be sent quickly to a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS)
  • Deliver flexibility so technicians can transmit data through wireless gear, docking stations, or a convenient land line.

One such program is SMART, a software solution deployed on Windows CE handheld computers featuring touch-screen technology that points a technician to familiar maintenance terms. Developed by Syclo of Barrington, IL, it is easily configured to meet the diverse maintenance demands of organizations including a large metropolitan hospital, a major Las Vegas hotel, a military base, a manufacturing plant, and an office complex operated by a high-tech member of the Fortune 50.

Las Vegas provides a compelling example of maintenance that has to be done right and done immediately. If a high roller is bothered by a leaky faucet in his luxury suite, the maintenance department has to hurry to make the drip a distant memory.

“We have more than 100 trades people working 24 by 7,” says Jethro Spurlock, CMMS systems administrator for the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, which has 5000 rooms. “That level of activity generates a tremendous amount of paperwork and data entry. We deployed SMART with its wireless capability. Now we’re performing more work and can provide our customers with up-to-date information.”

With aging equipment, tight budgets, and performance pressures always present, developing a preventive maintenance (PM) program can make all the difference. The key to any successful PM program is collecting data from the shop floor or field. With handheld devices, information such as failure codes, pressure readings, and visual inspections is captured with the tap of the screen.

The imperative for speed
A handheld system is built for speed. Compared with the 3 to 6 months it can take information technology professionals to properly install a CMMS project, a palmtop initiative should take less than a week for equipping and training technicians. Similarly, a system upgrade can be as simple as issuing a CD-ROM for installation–and perhaps an hour of technical support on the phone if the maintenance organization needs to tailor the application.

“I needed a system that was highly configurable–something that I could essentially customize without weeks of work by consultants,” says Daniel Lockhart, CMMS administrator for Hewlett-Packard in Colorado Springs, CO. “I needed something that I could adapt quickly when our office and manufacturing facility’s needs changed. We added 125,000 sq ft of floor space within the past two years. However, because our maintenance systems were already automated–and easily modified to account for new situations–we were able to serve our internal customers in the additional space without adding headcount.”

Many maintenance managers are looking for a speedy, sustainable surge in productivity as they bring in a new system.

“Moving our $30+/hour technicians from shuffling paper to the handheld product reduced our foot traffic and end-of-shift paper chase,” said Marzec of Rush-Presbyterian. “Since we deployed SMART, I can report a 28 percent increase in completed work orders, and that percentage is increasing.”

Maximizing CMMS investment
Many organizations have implemented MAXIMO from PSDI, Bedford, MA, as their CMMS, then discovered how powerful the system can be with the right handheld technology.

“Our technicians pick up the palmtops and in just 30 seconds synchronize with the CMMS, receive their work assignments for the day, and are on their way,” says Mary Knuff, building operations and planning manager for J.C. Penney’s world headquarters in Plano, TX. “At the end of the day they synchronize their palmtops to the CMMS–no paperwork, no data entry, and no hassle.”

At Johnson Controls, the world’s largest provider of integrated facilities management, “We got to be No. 1 by identifying best practices and real solutions that control costs and deliver excellent service,” says Laura Mitchell, director of information technology in the company’s integrated facilities management business unit. “We deploy that knowledge to our sites worldwide. About two years ago, we saw that replacing paper work orders with a handheld solution was the best use of technology to improve productivity. After a worldwide search of technology providers, Johnson Controls has now standardized on SMART. We are already seeing solid productivity gains among our technicians.”

How time factors into decision-making
It can take time to figure out how to streamline long-established processes. The Johnson Controls team at Fort Irwin, the U.S. Army’s national training center in California, reduced a standard 12-step maintenance process to six steps after adopting the palmtop approach. Accordingly, administrative, supervisory, and maintenance technician personnel at the base, who averaged 17 min. to generate and close out a paper work order, have cut that time in half.

It also can take time to replace an organizational mindset, such as specifying laptop computers for maintenance technicians. While information systems professionals may swear by laptops for their work, a tradesman can’t carry a bulky 6 lb. computer on his tool belt. In addition, maintenance organizations with large headcount quickly discover the considerable budget savings of outfitting a technician with a palmtop versus a laptop.

Palmtops for maintenance
It boils down to time spent performing the work and capturing the data that drives effective management decisions. Handheld, wearable solutions represent the best use of technology to improve maintenance productivity. With handhelds, maintenance organizations eliminate paper work orders and data entry, account for work that slips through the cracks, and accurately track parts used, record accurate labor, and capture critical failure information. The ability to collect and distribute accurate information may be the single most important factor in achieving maintenance excellence.

Handheld computing is bringing applications out of the office and delivering knowledge to the mobile work force. Sophisticated CMMS software and advances in handheld computing make palmtop computing the next best use of technology to increase productivity.

“Due to better data recording, we have been able to prove the reliability of equipment and reduce preventive maintenance on cooling systems from monthly to quarterly,” says Lockhart of Hewlett-Packard, whose CMMS was able to triple the number of work orders tracked after instituting handheld technology. “Technicians are doing a better job of documenting what work has been done, additional work to be done, and material being used.” MT

Information supplied by Syclo, Barrington, IL; (800) 567-9256

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