Archive | July, 2004


4:14 pm
July 1, 2004
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Successful Warranty Management Captures Funds

Establishing claims process requires multi-department cooperation.

Warranty management is a task that has no predetermined home. It is a materials issue, a finance issue, a maintenance issue, and a contract issue. But frequently the maintenance management team is tasked with managing asset warranty issues.

Fine tuning the warranty claims process will have a positive financial impact and boost asset management data. Understanding the warranty management process is easy and will recoup money due to an organization.

Hurdles to success
Successfully filing and winning claims requires multi-department cooperation. This is the primary reason many organizations pass on warranty management. Warranty claims are easily missed by management teams in many locations; with managers stretched as far as they can go, there are often more tasks to do than can be accomplished.

It is also understood that organizations must turn over every rock for opportunities to save money and stretch budgets; warranty claims represent an opportunity that can reap a return for the effort and have a low impact on daily duties. These dollars are already due to the organization yet rarely collected.

Establishing a warranty program is essential for a new facility, but the constant refurbishing of older assets and facilities also will reap a return if the warranties are maintained, including work completed during a shutdown and new additions to an existing plant.

The primary cost of having a warranty program for the average manufacturing plant is the cost to establish the program and get the assets lined up in a depository or database. The ongoing training and cost of performing the claim process is minimal and will pay for itself many times over. Here are examples of data points that may be required to file a claim:
• Unique ID number
• Date and proof of sale
• Copy of warranty guidelines
• Date of asset being commissioned
• Past work orders of PMs completed
• Digital photo of asset as used

What kinds of assets could potentially develop into a claim? Computers, vehicles, buildings, and major plant system components such as steam, electrical, and air pressure systems are all examples of items worth tracking to make sure the vendor is backing up its products. There is also the production equipment such as steel presses, ovens, injection molders, printing presses, lift-cranes, or whatever is used in the business.

Often the largest claim is not the pieces and parts but the labor cost to replace or repair these items. Depending on the vendor, the work may be done by in-house technicians or by vendor representatives who come on site and complete the work. The protocol for who will conduct the warranty work should be established in the original purchase contract.

Establishing the purchase contract
The warranty process begins with the contract for the asset or service being purchased. The language in the contract determines the potential benefit that can be awarded to an organization. Most transactions occur without due diligence on the guarantee or warranty. Here is a short list of items that should be inserted into the purchase agreement when possible:
• Length of warranty period
• Length of time a claim/dispute can go on and its consequences
• Vendor response time to the issue
• Necessary backup data to support a claim
• Protocol for conducting the actual warranty work
• Collateral damage (roof leaks into warehouse, gas leak into environment)
• Labor rates (matching current costs)
• Loss of production revenue due to equipment failure
• Who pays for shipping if a part has to be shipped
• Reimbursement type: replacement parts, cash, or store credit
• The choice to upgrade the equipment if it is being replaced
• Restocking fees if the vendor uses parts out of the storeroom
• Temporary replacement parts while the dispute is ongoing

Take the time to define the warranty contract language. Even if the vendor rejects some of the language submitted as the wish list for warranty management, it will be useful for negotiations in the future.

Organizing the claim process
Once the best warranty language has been developed and used in the contracts, it is time to organize the claim filing process within your organization.

Depending on the size and complexity of an organization, the number of people involved will grow or decline. Regardless of organization size, these tasks must be completed to have claims awarded some level of return:
• Ensure there is a purchase contract with specific language
• Identify that an asset in need of repair is still under warranty
• Write the actual claim and file it with the vendor
• Acquire, store, and present the actual item under warranty
• Present adequate historical data to support the claim
• Manage communications from the vendor
• Receive result (no award, cash, parts, store credit, labor hours)

The average plant will probably require the assistance of many departments to get the preceding list completed: executive management and purchasing to provide contract language; maintenance to provide the identification of warranty, actual part, and PM work order history; IT or materials to provide historical data to support the claim; maintenance to provide the claim filing and vendor communications; and, finally, finance to register the return if it is cash or store credit, or materials or storeroom personnel if the return is actual parts and pieces.

Figure 1 depicts the information flow that occurs to provide a repeatable warranty process for an organization with a high volume of maintenance repairs and a corresponding number of parts.

When comparing other organizations to Fig. 1 remember that this is the best practice for a high-volume repair organization. The best practices for other organizations will likely have some variation. Consider the importance of each connecting line. If one of these transactions works improperly, the whole process suffers. If one of the most important transactions fails, all claims could fail. Reviewing the manner in which an organization conducts these 20 transactions will reveal the strengths and weaknesses.

Measuring return on investment
Many organizations require that each internal project have a return on investment (ROI). The level of return often helps to prioritize the opportunities. Measuring the return on investment will again need cooperation from a number of areas. There needs to be an initial effort to organize some reports that collect the necessary data:
• Number of contractor hours repairing or replacing items under warranty
• Claim dollars returned form all asset types
• Warrented replacement parts and their corresponding values
• Claims that resulted in store credits
• Hours of warranty work completed on computer and IT systems.

This original collection of data, perhaps from the past 2 years, will provide a baseline of how well the warranty process has performed and how the same measurements will work in the future. To capture the real ROI, the organization also should record the hours now being spent on claims processing. This will help justify the progress and show where there may be a need for further process improvements. This data can be used in the future to justify the purchase of an extended warranty of a new asset.

It is common to have an organization look over the past few years and have only a few big claims to show for its efforts. Perhaps the real savings were higher than reports show, but if the data is not captured, there will be no evidence to judge how well warranty management is working. Document what has been collected over the past few years and use that as the benchmark.

Warranty returns run in cycles and, depending on the age of the infrastructure and age of the primary equipment, the return will fluctuate. Because last year brought $96,500 in warranty returns does not mean this year will necessarily provide $99,000. It may be higher or lower, but if the organization does not make an effort to improve the warranty claim process the result is likely to be significantly lower than its potential.

Overall, the competitive nature within manufacturing today requires that any opportunity to save money should be evaluated. The process of establishing and auditing the warranty process is relatively simple. Very few claims ever need serious negotiation skills so the money or return is there for each plant to capture. Given the value of the return, managing the warranty process for all purchases is a smart move. MT

Joe Mikes is an operations and asset consultant. He can be reached at 8534 Tambor Way, Elk Grove, CA 95758; telephone (916) 682-9294


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2:30 pm
July 1, 2004
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The Effectiveness Equation for IR Thermography Programs

Calculation can identify where specific improvements can be made to an infrared predictive maintenance program.

The world was changed when Albert Einstein introduced the equation E = mc2, not so much for the fact that it led to the understanding of atomic energy, but that for the first time it united the physics of energy and matter.

In the same manner, to be able to truly evaluate the effectiveness of an infrared predictive maintenance program there must be an understanding of the relationship between the equipment that is to be inspected and the problems that are found and repaired. Too often the focus is on only the infrared images that the camera produces while the solutions that the data produced from the program can provide get lost.

It all boils down to a simple but fundamental law that is expressed by the equation E = IR∞ which focuses on measuring the effectiveness of the overall infrared program as well as on each of the individual components that contribute to its success. Both components help answer critical questions as to where specific improvements can be made that will lead to a world class infrared predictive maintenance inspection program.

I = the effectiveness ratio of the ability to test all of the equipment/inventory that has been or should be inspected (for a specific inspection)

I is the ratio of the number of pieces of equipment in inventory that actually have been tested divided by the total inventory of what was supposed to be tested (total inventory tested, plus what was not able to be tested at the time of the inspection because of various reasons, i.e., not running, not accessible, under repair at the time of the inspection, etc.).

I = itested /itotal inventory: tested + not tested

Example: Suppose that there are 100 pieces of equipment in inventory that need to be tested. On the day of the inspection, only 75 pieces of equipment are available for testing because the other 25 pieces of equipment are not running. To solve for I, divide the number of pieces of equipment that were actually tested by the total number of pieces of equipment that were to be tested in inventory.

itested = 75

itotal inventory: tested + not tested = 100

I = 75/100 = 0.75 or 75 percent

This represents the effectiveness of being able to test everything in the facility that should have been tested. A low percentage indicates a program that is not very effective at actually testing the equipment that has been selected to be inspected. A high percentage indicates a program that is very effective because the majority of the equipment is actually being tested.

A low tested inventory ratio indicates that only a few pieces of equipment were actually tested. This can be for reasons that may or may not be influenced by the thermographers’ efforts. A high ratio indicates that the majority of the equipment was actually tested, and since the purpose of having an infrared inspection program is to test equipment, the more equipment tested that is part of the infrared predictive inspection program, the better.

R = the effectiveness ratio of the ability to repair the problems that have been found (covering all inspections)

R is the ratio of the number of successfully repaired problems (closed, spanning all inspections) divided by the total number of problems that have been found (all open and closed problems, spanning all inspections).

R = rtotal problems repaired /rtotal problems found spanning all inspections

It is important to understand that a problem can span multiple inspections and still be the same problem (a chronic problem). It is not uncommon for 15-25 percent of problems that are written up in an inspection to be chronic problems. A chronic problem is not a new problem (acute problem written up only once), but the same problem on a specific piece of equipment that spans multiple inspections (chronic problems). This is an important point when considering what the true number of problems is at a specific facility.

If a method of tracking chronic problems vs acute problems is not established in a program, then total problem counts will be greatly distorted, greatly increasing the number of problems and falsely showing more problems than actually exist.

Take a look at the total effectiveness of repairs. Suppose that 10 problems were found during equipment inspection. Of the 10 problems that have been found, how many of them have been actually repaired correctly (rescanned, reconciled, and found to be correctly repaired)?

Example: Assume that five of the 10 problems have been repaired correctly and verified with infrared. From this the effectiveness ratio of the repairs can be established compared to the total number of problems that have been found during the life of the infrared program.

rtotal problems repaired to date = 5

rtotal problems found to date = 10

R = 5/10 = 0.50 or 50 percent

This represents the closed effectiveness ratio of being able to repair all problems that have been found.

A low closed repair ratio indicates that only a few problems have been actually repaired correctly. The reasons for this may go beyond the responsibility of the repair personnel’s efforts to effectively fix the problems such as not being able to take the piece of equipment out of service to repair it correctly. A high ratio indicates that the majority of problems have actually been repaired correctly.

∞ the number of inspections that have been done over time

∞ represents the goal that there will be many inspections running on to infinity (understanding that that will not likely happen but it represents the life of the infrared program in perpetuity).

E = total effectiveness of the infrared program

From this, the individual components that comprise the success of an infrared predictive program can be used to evaluate its success.

E = IR∞

I = 0.75
R = 0.5
0.75 x 0.5 = 0.375 or 37.5 percent program effectiveness

If 100 percent of the equipment had been tested that was selected to be tested (100/100 = 1) then the effectiveness ratio would equal 1 x 0.5 = 0.50 or 50 percent.

If everything was tested (100/100 = 1) and fixed (10/10 = 1), then the effectiveness ratio would be 1 x 1 = 1 or 100 percent successful.

Although a 100 percent success rating is unlikely for any infrared program, it is the trends that these numbers reflect that show the real picture of what is going on within a program, or from one program/site/facility to another. Careful monitoring of these ratios will provide a clear perspective as to the health of a facility’s infrared predictive maintenance program and the total effect it has on the bottom line.

Indicators to watch
If the I ratio is usually high and then starts to drop, this could be an indicator of poor scheduling of equipment to be tested when in reality it is not running or thermographers are not completing their inspection routes.

If the R ratio is low, then most likely there is no ability to take the equipment out of service to fix it, there is a poor quality of workmanship on the repairs that are being made, or a poor quality of replacement parts are being used.

Effective programs
The benefits of a successful infrared predictive maintenance inspection program are tremendous. Some forethought and a solid foundation in managing the data of what is to be tested, what was not, what problems were found, and whether they were fixed, will provide the expected return on investment over time.

Using a mobile database for developing the infrastructure to handle the data for tracking what is and is not tested, as well as reconciling open chronic and acute problems over time, is the key for the effective use of the E = IR∞ formula. The database can easily be queried to provide the necessary reports to evaluate the effectiveness of each of the contributing components as well as the overall program. Keeping it simple and remembering that it all boils down to the formula will be the guide to a world class infrared predictive maintenance program. MT

Fred Colbert is a Level III certified thermographer and instructor, and currently the president of Colbert Infrared Services, Inc., 929 19th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122; (206) 568-4431

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