The common denominators boil down to assurance of reliable equipment assets and successful delivery of product.
By Jeffrey S. Nevenhoven, Life Cycle Engineering (LCE)
Among reliability and maintenance (R&M) professionals, there are many opinions about the universal or, more precisely, not-so-universal nature of maintenance practices. We’ve all heard statements along the lines of “this organization is different,” “we’re not like them,” or “those best practices won’t work or fit here.” One perception shared by many working in the R&M trenches is that maintenance in a batch-processing manufacturing environment is considerably different from maintenance in a continuous-flow operation. Another common perception is that maintenance principles and practices within the world of non-manufacturing facilities differ greatly from those in a manufacturing organization. But do they really?
At first glance, those strongly held beliefs might seem justifiable. Below the surface, however, the inner workings of any organization are quite similar when it comes to R&M requirements. Why, then, do so many people contend that reliability and maintenance are handled differently within distinct organization types? A number of factors drive those beliefs, including operating environment, regulatory requirements, organizational structure, leadership style, business priorities, expectations, and past practice. On top of that, many influences figure into the perception that something will or will not work within a specific organization.
In reality, physical assets are void of emotion and thought. Regardless of location or organization type, such assets need to be operated and maintained appropriately and, in turn, be available to deliver reliable service, as required. Without reliability, business risks increase, asset-performance levels decrease, and costs escalate.
So different, but so similar
Assets, systems, procedures, departments, and workers exist to produce a product or service, regardless of organization type. In the healthcare sector, the product is patient experience. Within amusement, entertainment, and sports markets, it is fan/customer experience. Within the travel industry, it’s passenger experience. Within the education system, the deliverable is student experience. And, within manufacturing, the product is ultimately consumer experience.
Consider, for example, two starkly different environments: a healthcare operation and a refinery. On the exterior, a healthcare organization, such as a hospital, looks very different from an oil-and-gas refinery. Hospitals consist, primarily, of aesthetically appealing buildings and grounds while oil refineries consist of tanks, piping, and other industrial-looking structures. As we enter these operations, noticeable differences still exist.
Inside the hospital, we observe doctors, nurses, patients, and other healthcare professionals at work. At the refinery, we see operators, crafts, engineers, and other industry specialists performing their duties. One facility encompasses exam, emergency, and operating rooms, labs, registration desks, and waiting areas, while the other encompasses control rooms, repair facilities, material storage areas, and production equipment and environments.
Once we look beyond the exterior differences, though, similarities become more noticeable. Despite one organization focusing on patient health and the other on refining crude oil, both share a long list of common business practices, have comparable organizational structures, and utilize physical assets. Both are delivering a product, and both require reliable, well-maintained equipment to do it.
Healthcare operations, such as hospitals, fall under the category of facilities maintenance, or facility management, while refineries in the oil-and-gas industry fall under the factory-maintenance category. Despite the differences in form, fit, and function, these operations are very much alike when it comes to sustaining maintenance requirements. After all, the maintenance processes and practices to ensure that the HVAC system in a hospital is operational and reliable are similar to the efforts required to ensure the reliability and operation of a refinery’s cooling system.
The HVAC system in a hospital’s operating room requires the utmost care and reliability. Temperatures and airflow must be regulated within specific parameters throughout the entire surgical procedure to help prevent infection and promote healing of a patient. If the HVAC system is not working reliably, entire operating suites can be shut down, resulting in canceled surgeries, reallocation of patients to other hospitals, and even possible litigation and damage to reputation.
The process of refining crude oil into consumer fuels and other products entails several chemical-process steps that generate enormous amounts of heat and pressure. The cooling-water system, which is associated with a cooling tower, helps control these extreme temperatures and pressures by transferring heat from hot process fluids to the cooling system. Much like the HVAC system, the cooling tower is a critical asset that requires reliable operation. Unless it performs reliably, product delivery, product quality, energy consumption, the environment, and employee safety can be severely compromised.
Have the parallels between these different types of organizations become clearer?
A hospital HVAC system and a refinery cooling tower incorporate mechanical, electronic-control, transmission, and power systems, all of which need to be maintained properly. To achieve this, facility-maintenance departments and their factory-maintenance counterparts need to ensure that the following foundational methods are established and functioning well. Think of these methods as “focusing on the fundamentals” or “the blocking and tackling” of maintenance:
Asset-care program. Most assets within any organization require some level of preventive care. This includes routine cleaning, lubrication, inspection, and adjustment to maintain reliable operation which invariably includes time-based and condition-based maintenance. This should all be documented and monitored through the maintenance strategy program.
Work-management system. The work-management system encompasses the framework, infrastructure, processes, and resources needed to manage asset-care activities, reactive or proactive. It provides the means to identify, prioritize, perform, document, and report work.
Planning and scheduling function. The planning and scheduling function defines the what, how, who, and when for proactive-maintenance work activities. The collective effort of planning and scheduling aims to minimize asset downtime, improve workforce efficiency and, reduce maintenance-induced failures.
Stores (MRO) inventory-management function. To effectively fulfill its mission, the maintenance function requires reliable and prompt material support. A proficiently managed MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) inventory storeroom contributes to improved equipment reliability, workforce efficiency, and cost control.
Reliability engineering. The reliability engineering function is responsible for driving out sources of repetitive failure. Its mission is to provide leadership and technical expertise required to achieve and sustain optimum reliability, maintainability, useful life, and life-cycle cost for an organization’s assets.
Computerized maintenance-management system (CMMS). Proactive-maintenance organizations use data to effectively handle work activities, report performance, track costs, and enable continuous improvement efforts. The CMMS automates these processes, captures data, and provides information required to enable resource productivity and asset reliability.
Regardless of where an asset resides, reliability depends on core reliability and maintenance fundamentals that span all industries and organizational types. Whatever the assets may be, i.e., motors, pumps, compressors, robots, conveyors, boilers, elevators, escalators, pelletizers, utilities, mobile equipment, fire-suppression systems, rotary-tablet presses, chillers, rolling mills, roadways, buildings, you name it, all require specific amounts of downtime for proactive preventive- and predictive-maintenance activities, including, but not limited to, replacement of wear parts, rebuilds, upgrades, and other improvements. Levels of maintenance may vary by organization type, but the fundamental requirement for it is universal. MT
A senior consultant with Life Cycle Engineering, Charleston, SC, Jeff Nevenhoven helps clients align organizational systems, structures, and leadership styles with business goals. Contact him at jnevenhoven@LCE.com.