Archive | June, 2002


1:28 am
June 2, 2002
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Creating a Successful Maintenance Council

Three organizational models—one may be right for you.

Most large, multi-plant companies have launched a maintenance council in the past decade. While some have achieved significant success, most are still floundering for direction and concrete results. What are the differences that make some successful and some status quo?

There are a number of models we have observed that work successfully to add value to a multi-plant company. They include networking and competency development, coaching for change, and agents of change. These models are outlined in the section Council Models Compared. Although designed for multi-plant companies, some of the concepts discussed here can be adapted to a plant maintenance leadership council.

Whichever model applies to you, there are three phases in a council lifecycle: initiation, growth, and maturity. Successful completion of each phase is a prerequisite to move to the next one.

Initiation phase
Our objective in initiating the council is to structure it for long-term success. The consequences of failing here is a council that is not respected, has no cooperation from the rest of the manufacturing community, and fades away into that sunset of committees unable to create value. So all efforts here should be directed toward a successful launch. The following issues are critical to a successful beginning:

  • Top leadership must endorse the need, the goals, and the methods of the council.
  • A champion of sufficient stature needs to make a priority of establishing the council.
  • The council leader must be respected as a doer, probably the person who is too busy for this job. Experience shows that other things being equal, it is better if the leader comes from production rather than maintenance.
  • The structure of the group needs to support ongoing scrutiny and visibility, and show a willingness to be accountable for its actions.
  • The council must represent production in a significant manner, if necessary to the exclusion of maintenance staff. If possible, get more than one representative per facility to ensure continuity if people change jobs often. Get involvement by a balanced group (including maintenance, production, engineering, staff), and don’t be afraid of having hourly involvement. It may take more time at this point to achieve union or hourly ownership, but it will pay off in implementation.
  • The council must be seen as action- and goal-oriented, and can’t spend its start-up capital (goodwill in the formation of anything new) by having meetings that don’t seem to get anything done.
  • Certain methods and deliverables will yield success. These include developing a charter, developing an estimate of value to be captured, and developing a communications plan.
  • The council must identify how group funding will work, both for the time and travel expense, as well as any outside services.

Delivering value
Three successful internal maintenance consulting organizations we have known or been involved with (Rohm and Haas, DuPont, and Alcoa) have greatly simplified the identification of value. Each uses a single measure for maintenance cost and product throughput. While each uses a slight variation of definition, they come down to this concept: Cost is measured as Maintenance Expense as a Ratio of Replacement Asset Value.

In some industries this is routinely benchmarked, especially in refining, where the Soloman Study is a standard measure that a majority of companies use to gauge their performance. In others there may be no standard of performance and even measuring Replacement Asset Value (RAV) is difficult to determine. So the council needs to involve the company’s accounting department to assure a consistent measure of maintenance expense among all plants exists, and secondly that there is a consistent means of valuing RAV. This is sometimes taken from the Maximum Probable Loss calculation of the property and casualty insurer if no better measure exists.

Throughput, or capacity utilization, or uptime, or overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) measures how well the plant is making use of the inherent utility of the equipment assets under management. Each of these measures can be tied to a financial amount.

A concern on this point is that sometimes only a small amount of downtime is mechanical or unplanned. The council needs to decide if all sources of downtime are going to be reviewed, or only those directly affected by maintenance. For instance, sometimes a plant is not sold out, or is sold out seasonally; whatever result the team and plant come up with needs to be justifiable, and owned by the plant leadership.

Typically, for a company whose overall maintenance costs might be $100 million, we have seen that 15 to 25 percent savings is available by meeting a reasonable expectation of performance by every plant. Capacity utilization can usually be improved by 10 to 20 percent as well, although we have been seeing steady improvements in many industries, especially those that routinely benchmark performance such as chemicals and refining.

Getting started in a way that creates enthusiasm, support, and expectations of good things to come will make or break the overall effectiveness of the council. We would suggest that from the first meeting of the council, no more than 12 months pass before beginning work at a plant site.

Growth phase
Having successfully gained the attention of leadership, recruited movers and shakers to the council, and created the structure for success, it’s now time to begin meeting expectations. That means successful change at a plant location.

It will be clear early on that there are three types of plant managers the council will deal with. First, and most apropos to this section, is the leader who welcomes improvement, seeking out methods and sources to continuously make his plant more effective. Second is the plant manager who is in trouble and knows he needs to do something to improve because his money or his job is on the line. Finally, there is the plant manager who wants no part of this program. His reasons may be several: he has too much on his plate already; timing isn’t good because of construction or a turnaround; the plant is already very good and does not want or need corporate interference; or the plant does not want to expose itself to measurement and comparison because it won’t look very good.

Where do we start? The Golden Rule in corporate life is that first impressions will last forever. That means there is only one chance to do this right, to make a positive difference, and for the work to be viewed positively (these are not quite synonymous). So we begin by looking for a site champion with these characteristics:

  • The potential champion is considered successful already; his patina of success will rub off on the council’s activities.
  • Potential champion knows how to run projects, how to take the personal interest necessary to make things successful.
  • There is a defined business opportunity whose scope is neither too small to matter, nor too big to be an unqualified success..
  • This project is personally and professionally important to the plant manager

Next the council needs to have a method to proceed. One very important deliverable from the initiation phase is an assessment method and an implementation method. Rohm and Haas used an outside maintenance consulting firm to help create an assessment methodology and an implementation approach(es). DuPont embarked on a global maintenance cost benchmarking study with a consulting firm. So this is a proven way to get started.

Getting plant ownership goes beyond the plant manager’s support; before starting, the entire leadership team will need to understand the outcomes, the resources required, and any out-of-pocket costs associated with the project. There needs to be a workplan, sample documentation, and delineation of responsibilities.

Typical results of implementation are cutting overtime in half or more; reducing contractors to only specialty work; and improving availability of specific equipment centers by as much as 10 percent. It is true that getting to these levels may require 6-12 months of continuous support, but without such results the maintenance council is seen as little more than a group who meets and accomplishes very little.

Most plant managers dream of these results. A plant manager who has made the effort and gained the results becomes a strong council advocate to his peers to invest in similar efforts. The role of the council is now to assure that its success is presented across the company, preferably by people from the successful plant itself. This sets the stage for the next phase, maturity.

Maturity phase
Sometimes the greatest predictor of failure is success. A great deal of time and attention go into the initial effort to produce great results at the pilot plant. There is a tendency to forget these lessons and to relax.

The pilot plant was chosen because of its strong leadership and bias for measuring results and holding people accountable. Less able plants will now come forward looking for similar results but without the full understanding of what it takes to change that was demonstrated by the pilot.

How does the council overcome this barrier?

The answer has several parts. First is to document the methods and lessons employed to get the results the first time. The path has been developed, and it can be improved each time the group goes to another site to work. The second factor for success is to continue to work with volunteers who have demonstrated successful ability to change. In other words, keep stacking the deck as much as possible.

A third factor that appears to be vital in institutionalizing change is the creation of an internal consulting organization, dedicated to guiding change at the plant level. Essentially the group becomes semi-professional, with the ability to:

  • Develop and execute marketing strategies.
  • Develop and refine methods.
  • Create relationships among field managers.
  • Recruit within the company for those individuals who can lead change.
  • Attract a permanent funding method by reselling its services.
  • Work on new problems and situations throughout the plant.

Both DuPont and Rohm and Haas have developed an internal consulting capacity to meet maintenance and reliability opportunities head-on. In doing so, they created a new language and awareness within senior management in their companies. As the understanding of the value to be created grew, management compensation programs were changed to reflect progress on maintenance expense and uptime.

An example of the best
Dick Pettigrew led the formation of Rohm and Haas’ maintenance council. Most of the steps discussed here were steps he led. He had a champion, Tom Archibald, who is a manufacturing executive and a strong supporter of the program.

They learned by doing, experimenting, and tirelessly promoting their efforts both inside and outside of the company. They used consultants, engineering specialists, the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP), and other professional associations to educate the internal team. As time went on, Pettigrew relied less on outside experts and more on his own cadre of internal experts.

As their successes grew, so did their influence in the company. Getting additional funding for more positions wasn’t easy, but by demonstrating and marketing results, they have become an integral part of their leadership’s toolkit for change. More recently, the internal consulting group has been asked to take on other challenges of lean manufacturing, in addition to their work on reliability and maintenance.

With careful attention to methods and communication, a maintenance council can be a vehicle for change within your company. The results will easily be worth the extra effort, because so often we observe few results from a lot of hard work. MT

S. Bradley Peterson is president of Strategic Asset Management Inc., 258 Spielman Hwy., Suite 202, Burlington, CT 06013; (800) 706-0702

Council Models Compared

The council’s primary purpose is education—learning from each other, creating specialist teams, problem-solving, sharing practices, etc.


  • Low cost
  • Builds organizational knowledge
  • Increases technical skills
  • Leads to functional improvements
  • Can be done on a part-time basis


  • Slow to build value
  • Strengths may not exist in company
  • May not influence operations/engineering
  • Knowledge may not be implemented

Coaching Model

The council sets up a direct assistance organization, leading member plants in assessing their gaps, and coaching for change.


  • Can lead to significant value creation
  • Cost billed to plants that want help
  • Creates examples of success
  • Raises visibility of maintenance in company


  • Where to acquire and maintain skills?
  • Change may be quite slow or nil
  • Too limited assistance to drive change
  • May not get high priority in plants
  • Maintaining organizational visibility

Consulting Model

The council’s primary purpose is developing a corporate plan and structure for change and significant value creation.


  • Highest value to company
  • Works best with large number of plants
  • Significant change agency for company
  • Replaces need for external consulting


  • High cost
  • High leadership and ownership requirements
  • High skill requirements
  • May lose staff to outside interests

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8:27 pm
June 1, 2002
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Selecting Accirate PM Task Frequencies

Whether initiating a new preventive maintenance (PM) program for your plant, or upgrading the return on investment from your existing PM resources, you need to answer two basic questions: “What PM tasks should be performed?”, and “When should these tasks be done?”

I would submit that the application of the Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) process, if done properly, will provide the best possible answers to the “what” question. However, contrary to a perception held by some maintenance engineers, RCM does not directly answer the “when” question.

In fact, my experiences over the past 20 years in working with clients on PM optimization using RCM have shown the “when” question (referred to as interval frequency or periodicity) is by far the more difficult issue to solve. So just how can we accurately specify PM task frequency? The answer is … not easily.

We have three ways to approach the assignment of a task interval. Here is a brief synopsis of each:

Option 1
Ideally, we would like to have a statistically accurate picture of the time-failure distribution of each failure mode of concern for each component in our plant. With such information in hand, we can pinpoint parameters such as mean time to failure (or MTBF if the failure pattern is random) and can precisely define end-of-file characteristics. Then, we can specify the level of risk that we wish to take vs dollars involved, and accurately define the desired frequency in an appropriate measurement (hours, cycles, days, etc.). The problem here, of course, is that we almost never have enough data to use this approach.

Option 2
The most commonly accepted approach is to use our collective “best judgment,” and essentially guess at the frequency. Obviously, if we cannot do Option 1, there is little other choice.

While the “best judgment” approach is universally employed, my experience says that it usually selects frequencies that are very conservative, e.g., overhauls are done long before they are really necessary. Thus, we waste resources and especially expose ourselves to the risk of human errors if the maintenance action is intrusive in nature.

Option 3
There is a third option, and it works. It is called age exploration (AE), and is simply an empirical approach wherein we meticulously determine the as-found condition of equipment whenever a PM task occurs. If the condition is OK, we open up (or conversely, close down, if necessary) the current frequency before the next scheduled PM is conducted.

Here is how it works. Say our initial overhaul interval for a fan motor is 3 years. When we do the first overhaul, we meticulously inspect and record the condition of the motor and all of its parts and assemblies where aging and wearout are thought to be possible. If our inspection reveals no such wearout or aging signs, when the next fan motor comes due for overhaul, we automatically increase the interval by 10 percent (or more).

We repeat the process, continuing until, on one of the overhauls, we see the incipient signs of wearout or aging. At this point, we stop the age exploration process, perhaps back off by 10 percent, and define this as our final task interval.

United Airlines used this process for one of its hydraulic pumps. The overhaul interval started at about 6000 hours. The AE process was used over 4 years to extend the interval to 14,000 hours. It was also discovered that on the same population of pumps, the premature removate rate (the rate at which corrective maintenance actions were required) decreased over the same 4-yr period. This suggests that as the amount of human handling and intrusive overhaul maintenance actions decreased, so did the human error resulting from these actions with the net effect that corrective maintenance actions also decreased.

The problem is that this can take a long time before the correct frequency is finally established, but if we never start the AE process, then we are destined to live forever with the wrong frequency. (See Reliability-Centered Maintenance, pgs 186 to 189 for more details on AE.)

In summary, we are usually stuck with Option 2 for starters, but considerable savings can accumulate if we also invoke an AE process in those areas where the PM task cost is significant. MT


Anthony M. “Mac” Smith, San Jose, CA, is a pioneer in the application of Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) to complex plants and facilities. Mac has 47 years of engineering experience, the past 18 of which focused on RCM program installation. He is recognized internationally for his book Reliability-Centered Maintenance (now out of print, but available from the author).

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8:24 pm
June 1, 2002
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Who We Are & What We Do


Robert C. Baldwin, CMRP, Editor

“We need a few good definitions [of who we are and what we do] that can serve as a starting point for the discussion we have with operations, top management, human resources, finance, and others outside our field. Do you have the courage to offer some suggestions?”

That was the challenge in April’s Uptime editorial. Responses were few. . .next to none. It would seem that we really don’t know who we are or what we do, or there are some maintenance and reliability practitioners who do know but are afraid their definitions won’t measure up. However, here are a couple that we would like to offer as models.

Physical Asset Management: A comprehensive, fully integrated, strategy, process, and culture directed at gaining greatest lifetime effectiveness, value, profitability, and return from production and manufacturing equipment assets.

That comprehensive definition is offered by John Mitchell at the beginning of the first chapter of Physical Asset Management Handbook (Third Edition (ISBN: 0-9717945-1-0), John S. Mitchell, Editor in Chief, 2002, 280 pages, 8.5 x 11 in., Clarion Technical Publishers , Houston, TX). He goes on to note that physical asset management provides systematic prioritization and implementation of processes, practice, and technical improvements to ensure full compliance with safety, availability, performance, and quality requirements at least sustainable cost for operating, market, and business conditions.

This formal definition is valuable because it covers all the bases and can form the basis for an official definition for company reports and manuals. Equally valuable is the following three-word definition:

Machine Condition Management.
This definition is offered by Russell Huggins of PdP Services, a Charleston, SC, provider of predictive maintenance services and systems.

“I just finished reading through the April issue of Maintenance Technology magazine,” he wrote in his e-mail. “Your Uptime editorial got my attention. I have been focusing my services and product sales effort on the water and wastewater treatment industry, in the traditional sense, a nonmanufacturing industry. For the most part, the front-line managers and supervisors do not understand the traditional terms such as predictive maintenance, reliability centered maintenance, etc. Therefore I have starting using the term ‘Machine Condition Management’ in describing our services and products. They seem to easily grasp this term. I believe the key word is ‘Management’.”

Both definitions work for me. I hope you can put them to use. MT

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7:25 pm
June 1, 2002
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Free Expert Advice on the Web

We all know that free advice is certainly worth what you pay for it. Your boss, your friends, your co-workers, your spouse, and even your kids are full of all kinds of free advice. You may be surprised to find you can get access to a fairly large group of experts in almost any category on the Internet. The advice is free and usually delivered via e-mail within the same day you ask the question.

Many of these “Ask an Expert” services are nontechnical, yet still provide an interesting array of expert topics. Others offer a wide selection of experts that can relate to questions about lubrication, bearings, CMMS, seals, electricity, boilers, and even plant automation.

Abuzz is an expert advice service operated by The New York Times. According to the site, experts are “knowledgeable, intelligent people like you. They’re not paid experts, but people who enjoy sharing knowledge for knowledge’s sake.” We found most of the information nontechnical; however, if you want to know where to locate the best BBQ in Memphis, this is the site for you. Answers usually arrive in a few hours but can take up to 1 day.

We found a real surprise at AllExperts. This site was well organized by topic and included a brief biography and a rating system for each expert. Follow the links to Industry, then to Manufacturing, and you will be presented with categories including plant operations and maintenance. We found CMMS experts, predictive maintenance experts, and more at this site. The detailed profiles will help you target your question to the right expert. You can sign up as an expert if you want to share your knowledge with the rest of the world.

AskMe offers another good site with some industrial, chemical, electrical, and other engineering topics for those seeking more technical information. The site also offers an easy-access archive so you can see previous questions and answers. This site seems like one of the most well established as it claims more than 10 million users. You also can ask a question anonymously at this site; however, you have to check back to see your answer posted at the web site.

The Reliability Center offers a free reliability search service performed by an expert. According to the site “trying to find information on the Internet can be very time consuming and frustrating.” All you need is an e-mail address and the item or topic you would like to find on the Internet. They will e-mail answers to you as quickly as possible.

We also found several Internet sites that offered “pay for advice” and “live expert” sites that charged fees for answers. We did not try any of these sites, as they seemed to have a large focus on personal subjects. We recommend trying free expert services before you pay for services at other sites.

The next time you have a question, log on, ask your question, and get ready to learn from an expert. MT

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