Archive | Management


4:14 pm
August 14, 2017
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Uptime: Manage Development of Asset-Management Skills


By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Businesses gain a significant strategic advantage by developing and deploying targeted skill sets within their organizations. It only makes sense since there is no worthwhile substitute for a competent, engaged group of people focusing on strategic improvements.

One of the biggest challenges is that of limited resources to develop and conduct training in the workplace, including staff to develop, time to deploy, and time to train. However, the lack of formal and structured training often leads to human variation and errors, resulting in unreliable equipment and work processes.

While formal training is a must-have process for assuring equipment reliability, we should also recognize that traditional approaches to training may no longer be efficient or effective. Now is the time to find ways for training on a strategic employee-qualification process—one that builds individualized workplace competence toward strategic goals. Let’s explore how training and development processes can become part of the systems approach to asset management and conform to the ISO 550001 Standard.

Competency development

Begin by thinking beyond the activity of training to the goal of training, which is to build competence. Competence can be defined as “a cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge, and skills enabling people (or organizations) to act effectively in jobs or situations.”

So, what would a systematic approach to competency-based training, education, and development look like? Start with these recommendations for six basic elements of a Competency Development System based on ISO 55001:2014 Asset Management Standard requirements. These elements aren’t sequential or linear. They’re interdependent.

Organizing for Training Management. Strategic alignment assures that training is truly focused on business goals. Components should include:

• a strategically focused training organization charter
a training- and development-systems leader
training-program and materials developer(s)
records management, document control, and change management.

Defining Development Roles & Responsibilities. Training and development activities for building asset-management competence must be directly linked to business goals and specific job-performance requirements. Actionable components should include:

• overview, i.e., job role, classification, qualifications
asset-management competencies (see “IAM Competencies Framework,” from the Institute of Asset Management)
general duties, i.e., responsibilities, accountabilities
• specific asset-management-related job-performance requirements

• duty-task analysis (duty-task list), frequency of performance, difficulty/criticality ratings
• standards, references, and resource materials, i.e., policy, procedures, job methods, work instructions, certifications, and license
• updating of asset-management-related job methods and procedures.

Establishing a Training & Qualification Process. The most intensive element is dedicated to training activities and assuring qualification of individuals completing the training. Components should include:

• skills/knowledge verification, assessment

• qualified to perform
• development opportunity.

• training and development plan/schedule

• business priorities and needs
• individual needs
training/development schedule.

• job-role instruction

• assigned instructor/trainer/coach/mentor
duty-task referenced, i.e., standards, references, and resource materials, job-task breakdown
job instruction/development, i.e., classes, on-line instruction, seminars/workshops, self-study, on-job training/development.

• on-job performance qualification

• duty-task referenced
performance demonstration
qualified/not qualified
periodic re-qualification.

• training and qualification documentation

• individual skills and qualification profiles
• individual training and development plans.

Establishing an Asset-Management Training-Program-Development Process. Training-program development is a multi-faceted process designed to assure consistent and standardized approaches, coupled with strategic alignment. Components in this element that drive various components in Training & Qualification Processes include:

• alignment with asset-management-system requirements, i.e., asset-management organization structure, Strategic Asset Management Plan, business priorities, individual roles and responsibilities (new employee, experienced employee, contractor, vendor, supplier)

• alignment with asset management life-cycle organization requirements, i.e., design engineering, procurement, construction, installation, startup, commissioning, operations, maintenance, decommissioning/restoration.

Recruiting & Selecting the Right People. Formal recruiting and selection is essential regardless of whether the right people are identified from within the organization or hired off the street. Components for success must include these considerations:

• job-performance-based requirements
related experience and competency demonstration
work-group and organizational-culture compatibility.

Monitoring Training & Development System Effectiveness. The systems approach to asset management requires regular reviews and audits of the effectiveness of the business and work processes. The following components are recommended:

• periodic training-and-development-system review, performance evaluation
identifying and pursuing improvement opportunities
incident investigation (failure analysis)

• qualification-requirement verification
training-and-development needs
training-and-development-improvement opportunity.

See my August ISO 55000 Asset Management column for more on applicable elements. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and member of the Institute of Asset Management, focuses on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


3:53 pm
August 14, 2017
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Don’t Let Tribal Knowledge Slip Away

The loss of invaluable ‘tribal knowledge’ at a site is inevitable over time, but not insurmountable.

The loss of invaluable ‘tribal knowledge’ at a site is inevitable over time, but not insurmountable.

Tribal knowledge, i.e., unwritten rules or information not known by everyone in an organization, typically resides in the minds of long-term employees. Garnered over time through the school of hard knocks, most of this invaluable, undocumented knowledge is lost when those employees retire. While this may not have been much of problem in the past, it’s now hitting a crisis point, given the perfect skilled-workforce storm bearing down on plant maintenance departments everywhere.

Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, notes that the Millennial generation, which, so far, has tended to avoid the types of jobs that keep plants up and running, will comprise approximately 50% of the workforce in 2020. With the number of industrial-mechanic positions projected to grow 16% from 2014 to 2024, it’s imperative for maintenance organizations to move quickly to develop adequate talent pipelines. According to Billy Hamilton, senior vice president of Human Resources for Motion Industries (Birmingham, AL), operations that aren’t proactive in this regard could find themselves facing devastating levels of production downtime.

What can you do?

“As it turns out,” Hamilton explained, “there are a number of steps a site can take to mitigate the issue at hand.” Among them:

First, partner with your human-resource department to determine if the skill sets you need now are the same ones you will need in the future. If so, sit down with your plant-maintenance personnel and determine a likely timeframe for retirements. Waiting until an employee tells you that he or she is retiring is far too late. Create a part-time program for those who think they are ready to retire. You might be able to keep them engaged for   several years.

randmIn addition to discussing retirement with maintenance-team members, start documenting processes in detail, preferably through video recordings. The cost associated with recording these processes is minimal if the data accelerates the learning curve of new employees.

Next, reach out to your already-retired maintenance personnel. Many retirees find themselves bored six months to a year after leaving the workforce. You might be surprised to find a number of highly skilled workers willing to work part-time, even if it is only a few weeks a year during a plant shutdown or major overhaul. In light of the lessons these people might pass on, a flexible work arrangement with them would be well worth having.

Finally, work with your local high school, vocational school, and/or community colleges to develop a certification program. Offer apprenticeships and help with obtaining the necessary equipment for the school. Again, there are upfront costs involved, but over the long run, they’re minimal if you develop a skilled workforce that meets your needs.

Don’t wait.

Hamilton acknowledges that there’s no silver-bullet solution for the problem of lost tribal knowledge. “But,” he said, “being proactive, flexible, and creative in your planning for this loss will certainly lessen the pain. The key is to start as early as possible.” MT

Billy Hamilton has 26 years of experience in the field of human resources, which includes his current role with Motion Industries, Birmingham, AL, and, prior to that, work with companies such as Overhead Door Corp. and Lockheed Martin. For more information on a wide range of plant-maintenance topics, visit


1:46 pm
August 14, 2017
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Integrated Asset Management Training

The ISO 55000:2014 Asset Management Standard could play a major role in industry in the coming years. Keep up to date with our ongoing coverage of this Standard at

The ISO 55000:2014 Asset Management Standard could play a major role in industry in the coming years. Keep up to date with our ongoing coverage of this Standard at

Asset management is part of a much larger organization-wide system of systems. For example, ISO 55000:2014 (2.6) describes an “Integrated management systems approach…” that builds “on elements of other management systems, such as environmental, health and safety, and risk management.” The Standard also points out that such an approach can “improve integration across different disciplines and improve cross-functional coordination.” The clincher is that, because asset management touches so many parts of the organization, it is a natural candidate for an integrated-systems approach.

My August “Uptime” column lists recommendations associated with six basic, interdependent elements of a Competency Development System. Here, we discuss what’s required.

Competence building

Asset-management systems, as specified by ISO 55001:2014, require definitions of applied skills and knowledge for a variety of personnel with asset-management-related roles and responsibilities in an organization. ISO 55001:2014 (7.2) defines requirements for such competence accordingly:

• Determine the necessary competence of persons doing work…that affects its asset performance, asset-management performance, and asset-management system performance.

• Ensure these persons are competent on the basis of appropriate education, training, or experience.

• Take actions to acquire the necessary competence and evaluate the effectiveness of the actions taken.

• Retain appropriate documented information as evidence of competence.

• Periodically review current and future competency needs and requirements.

ISO 55002:2014 offers guidance for implementing an asset-management system that is consistent with ISO 55001, the Asset Management Standard.

Competence is discussed in the context of Section 5.3—Organizational Roles, Responsibilities and Authorities this way: “It should be clear which role is responsible for which activity. This can be achieved through the development of job descriptions or through including asset-management responsibilities in existing job descriptions. When assigning internal roles, consideration should be given to:

• individual experience and competence (see 7.2)
• support through training and mentoring.

Let’s continue to the section regarding Competence (7.2). “Competency in asset management should be addressed at all levels of the organization in a way that ensures alignment between roles and levels and not just for those considered asset managers. For example, a competent trades person should be able to demonstrate clear competency in specific asset-management-related tasks…” (7.2.1).

Section 7.2.2 continues with some guidance for determining competence. “The organization should determine the competence required for all asset-management roles and responsibilities, and the awareness, knowledge, understanding, skills, and experience needed to fulfill them. The organization should map its current competencies to its required competencies to determine any gaps.”

Finally, following its discussion of gap analysis and improving competencies and training, Section 7.2.2 suggests “All persons assigned roles and accountabilities within the organization that can have an impact on the asset-management system should have those roles and responsibilities communicated to them, be provided the training, education, development, and other support needed to perform their role, and to be able to demonstrate the competencies required.”

A formal competency development system must exist as an interdependent process within the asset-management system to conform with ISO 55001 requirements and successfully manage asset performance and reliability in an era of painful skills shortages. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, focuses on the people-side of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


1:18 pm
August 14, 2017
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Reliable Security Depends on Reliable Operations

Y-12 is the only site in the Nuclear Security Enterprise that can produce lithium materials. Replacement of the lithium operations is anticipated in the mid- to late-2020s.

Y-12 is the only site in the Nuclear Security Enterprise that can produce lithium materials. Replacement of the lithium operations is anticipated in the mid- to late-2020s.

A focus on PM optimization, culture change, sustainable processes, and employee empowerment drives reliability efforts at the Y-12 National Security Complex mini city.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Spanning 2.5 miles between its east and west boundaries, the 74-yr.-old Y-12 National Security Complex is a “mini city” inside the city of Oak Ridge, TN. Within its secure borders, are 379 buildings of manufacturing, production, laboratory, support, and research and development areas managed by Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC (CNS) under contract for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Y-12 also includes its own armed security force, fire department, steam plant, medical facility, cafeteria, and electrical-distribution center, all of which accommodate the nearly 8,000 people who work within the “city” borders each day.

Led by director of enterprise reliability and maintainability Joe Boudreaux, a 45-member reliability team is responsible for the proactive maintenance strategies of the buildings on the 811-acre campus. Deep into the second of a five-year reliability-improvement program, the team has built a firm foundation and is now strategically navigating its road map with the ultimate destination of establishing a sustainable, proactive maintenance program.

“Within the building site there are mini-plants within the city,” reliability and maintainability manager Paul Durko explained. “And within each of those mini-plants, certain processes, systems, and cultures that exist. Our goal is to secure a sustainable system of processes that work across the board, promoting an increase in overall reliability for this aging site. But it also has to be a system that will translate to a new facility—a $6.5-billion Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) that will be built and in operation by 2025.”

The Y-12 site houses many facility types, including some areas with gloveboxes.

The Y-12 site houses many facility types, including some areas with gloveboxes.

Y-12 history

Since 1943, Y-12 has played a key role in strengthening the United States’ national security and reducing the global threat from weapons of mass destruction.

The Y-12 National Security Complex is one of eight sites in NNSA’s Nuclear Security Enterprise (NSE). Y-12’s unique emphasis is in the processing and storage of uranium and the development of technologies that are associated with those activities. CNS also manages the 18,000-acre Pantex plant in Amarillo, TX, which is the primary U.S. nuclear weapons assembly, dismantlement, and maintenance facility. A majority of the weapons-related operations at Pantex are conducted on 2,000 acres of the site.

Constructed as part of the World War II Manhattan Project, Y-12 provided the enriched uranium for Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan to help the U.S. and its allies end a war that had taken 63 million lives worldwide. Afterward, Y-12 provided lithium-separation functions and key components for thermonuclear weapons. Y-12’s expertise in machining, handling, and protecting radiological materials has made the Oak Ridge site central to the nation’s nuclear security.

Y-12 has developed state-of-the-art capabilities in three core areas: nuclear technology and materials, security and consequence management, and manufacturing and technical services. Y-12 lends its specialized expertise to other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, state governments, and private-sector companies.

Projects at Y-12 include providing protective equipment to soldiers in combat, training National Guard units for radiological emergencies, and creating machining platforms that improve production and efficiency.

More than 9,200 Tennessee citizens work at Y-12, including federal and contractor staff.

“Our primary responsibility is to make sure the nuclear weapon is reliable,” Boudreaux said. “We do all of the testing and checking to make sure that if there is ever a need to use a nuclear weapon, that that weapon will work. The whole goal of the plant is global threat reduction, and when you think about all of the components that go into that, there are a lot of different things that have to be done here. So it’s not just a single process.”

In the early days, as it is today, maintaining building and process support systems was just as important as the process itself. In this photo, two men work on converter motors in Beta 3 while two others observe.

In the early days, as it is today, maintaining building and process support systems was just as important as the process itself. In this photo, two men work on converter motors in Beta 3 while two others observe.

Pursuing world-class reliability

With a commitment to reliability and with corporate support, Y-12 commissioned the Univ. of Tennessee’s Reliability and Maintainability Center (UTRMC) to perform benchmark assessments. The next step was building pillars for the foundation of an overall reliability program. This included plans for an improved culture, PM optimization, training and education, full utilization of technology and software, increased ratio of proactive to reactive maintenance, continuous-improvement plans, scheduling improvements, and employee retention.

The UTRMC provided a subject-matter-expert (SME) analysis of the current state of the Integrated Work Control (IWC) and Maintenance Execution processes. The evaluation consisted of site visits and evaluations of the essential elements including:

• synchronization of production, engineering, and maintenance reliability improvement efforts
• targeted opportunities for improvement
• plant employee training opportunities
• methodology for transitioning plant personnel from tactical (reactive) maintenance
• methodologies to a strategic posture
• development of a reliability-based plant culture.

We talk a lot about the ratios between how many corrective maintenance jobs to do and how many things we do that are proactive,” Boudreaux said. “When you look at Y-12, you can’t just look at that globally. You have to look at the individual component. If you would take a step back, we are a very reactive maintenance organization. So what we have done over the past few years is try to turn that from a very reactive program into a proactive program. A lot of things we are seeing are all these unplanned failures. And honestly, maintenance has become very, very good at firefighting. But it is very, very expensive to do that.”

The pursuit for world-class reliability has been a slow but fruitful process. 

“The way that our program was set up, we feel like we have turned the big battleship,” Boudreaux said. “It’s a big ship and requires a slow move to get it to turn that corner.  One way to be more cost effective is to decrease the amount of corrective work that we do. How do we do that? We reinvest in the plant. We get new equipment, and we maintain it the way we are supposed to, but we also look at the equipment that we have and ask what we can do to increase the reliability of those assets. We know that doing preventive maintenance is safer, but we can also save costs this way.”

One huge early success has been optimization of the PM program.

“We have increased the interaction of our crafts with the development of our packages,” Boudreaux explained. “By going through our PM Optimization (PMO) process, we now have more thorough documentation and better estimates of the time and resources required for each PM. We can now identify the costs and the benefits.”

A worker wearing protective gear walks down a hallway in Building 9212. The building’s aging infrastructure and equipment make obtaining replacement parts for electrical, ventilation, fire-protection, and other systems a challenge.

A worker wearing protective gear walks down a hallway in Building 9212. The building’s aging infrastructure and equipment make obtaining replacement parts for electrical, ventilation, fire-protection, and other systems a challenge.

The next step is communication. “It hasn’t been a difficult sale because very few people would drive a car for two years and never change the oil,” Boudreaux explained. “A robust PM program just makes good sense.  And we now have documentation that clearly lays out the tenants of reliability. We now have a road map that explains what we have done and what we should be doing over the next few years. Part of the plan is to ensure this plan is communicated to everyone in the plant.”

Communication helps to provide influence within the organization.

“Paul’s [Durko] responsibility is to influence the maintenance craft, for example,” Boudreaux said. “He works with the maintenance manager and his maintenance-execution team. He is arranging for additional training to help improve skills and capacity. With great communication and influence, we can produce a better-quality product for our customer. The road map shows how everything fits together for the future.”

One of Y-12’s core missions—maintaining the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile—translates into the overall reliability mission.

“If you want to think of similarities, you can look at the production goals for our different systems,” Durko said. “We must break down the different processes, look at the availability requirements for that equipment, and understand what we are doing to ensure the equipment can meet those production goals. What we did well for many years is that when it breaks, we are going to fix it. With an aging facility and with this aging work force, the challenge now becomes how to do it cheaper. How are we effectively managing our assets? What appropriate programs do we have in place to ensure that that equipment will operate when it is supposed to operate? This is how we integrate the idea of reliability across the site.”

With a distinct plan and road map to get there, all the pieces begin to come together.

We understand that each milestone is just a piece and not overall reliability,” Durko said. “We now consider all of the tools in our tool belt—RCM analysis, PdM technologies, SAP integration, procedural requirements, etc. Bringing all the tools together to make the systems cost effective and also ensure the safety of our people and equipment are the ultimate ingredients that will get us to overall reliability.”

Operations at Y-12 are varied and complex, presenting a wide range of maintenance challenges.

Operations at Y-12 are varied and complex, presenting a wide range of maintenance challenges.

Proactive maintenance

The focus in the first year was building a robust proactive maintenance program, Durko said. “Our past strategies and mission focus have caused us to become superb at finding ways to keep our failing systems running. We have begun shifting our mindset.”

The Y-12 site averages 2,750 completed maintenance orders each month, with an average of 99% utility availability, and has set a goal of 40% reduction in planning time.

“We are now averaging 64% reduction in planning time,” Durko said. “We are also proud that we recently reached 50,000 safe work hours with the PMO program. A bonus result is a 20% reduction in execution time. That is easy to sell to customers. Any time you say optimization, you automatically think of cutbacks and loss of jobs.” He added that because the plant had been in a reactive mode, they have been able to talk about the amount of reactive versus proactive work and actually improve the PM program.

The proactive maintenance strategy includes condition-based maintenance using ultrasound and vibration analysis tools, Durko said. “Also, document control is a key tool. We are dependent on what all that data is telling us to be able to make our decisions.”

With the proactive strategy taking shape, the next step is standardization, Durko said. “Having a repeatable process is key. We have standardized the format in a way that the crafts can better use—they actually helped us develop the format, so now it’s about execution. Next, we want to find a way to better rely on our predictive methodologies and leverage our technology. Hopefully, the data will tell us what is the next step. Meanwhile, we are refining our lubrication program with ultrasound and honing our precision-maintenance skills.”  None of the improvements made thus far would be possible without the interface and support of the technician work force.

When Y-12 researchers aren’t analyzing uranium, they are finding new ways to detect it. This photo is from a project designed to grow lithium semiconductor crystals suitable for radiation detection, which is the first step in solving a global shortage of Helium-3, the most common element used in current detectors.

When Y-12 researchers aren’t analyzing uranium, they are finding new ways to detect it. This photo is from a project designed to grow lithium semiconductor crystals suitable for radiation detection, which is the first step in solving a global shortage of Helium-3, the most common element used in current detectors.

What’s next?

The next goal is to increase condition-based maintenance work by 15% in the next fiscal year. 

“I don’t think our road ever ends,” Boudreaux said. “You can always find a way to be even more reliable. But if we have that foundation, and we build off of that, then every time we bring something in, we can evaluate it against what we are trying to achieve with the program and see whether or not it has value. Having a firm foundation allows us to do that. The exciting part is to have some programs in place and begin to see the data that tell us it’s working.” MT

Y-12 by the numbers

Y-12 today:

• 811 acres, including 150 that are high security
• 7.3 million sq. ft. of laboratory, machining, dismantlement, research and development, and office areas
• 343 buildings, 13 mission-critical facilities
• 48% of all Y-12 facilities are more than 60 years old
~9,300 personnel at Y-12
~4,700 CNS employees; remainder are subcontractor and federal employees
Deferred maintenance of $354 million
• Contracts with more than 770 small businesses, totaling $177 million in FY 2016.

Y-12 site includes:

• 550,000-sq.-ft. on-site leased facilities (Jack Case and New Hope Centers)
• 24 mi. of paved roads
• 10 mi. of overhead steam lines
• 3 mi. of natural-gas-distribution lines
• 55 mi. of aerial electrical-distribution lines
• 10 mi. of underground electrical-distribution lines
• 19 mi. of main water piping
• 50 mi. of storm drain lines
• 15 cooling towers.

Michelle Segrest is president of Navigate Content Inc., and has been a professional journalist for 28 years. She specializes in creating content for the industrial processing industries. If your facility has an interesting maintenance and/or reliability story to tell, contact her at


7:38 pm
August 10, 2017
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Can You Be Lean Without Reliability?


By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee Reliability & Maintainability Center

The goal of most facilities is to increase production and reduce costs. Implementing a Lean process enables an ongoing focus on continuous improvement by constantly reducing waste from, among other things, overproduction, material movement, excess inventory, and rework. In short, it’s a systematic method for removing non value-added practices.

My Lean implementation experiences involve more than 30 elements, including 5S, mistake proofing, TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), just-in-time (JIT), and kaizen. When I roll out a reliability and maintainability (R&M) process, it’s done with 14 elements, including work management, equipment and process design, TPM, standardized processes, and root-cause analysis (RCA).

The most successful Lean and reliability processes start with organizational culture (first improving employee engagement, developing a culture of discipline, and forming an operations and maintenance partnership). Lean and reliability reduce defects. Lean builds quality in station and reliability reduces designed-in R&M issues as organizations move from reactive to more-proactive maintenance. Lean uses a kanban (pull-system) to build product on-demand, and reliability promotes condition-based maintenance to respond to demand, i.e., measured target values.

Many additional things need to happen to make Lean and reliability successful, but they should all be driven by small-team continuous-improvement efforts. Lean and reliability basically share a number of similar core processes. A few key ones include:

• focus on the operator/autonomous maintenance
standardized work/processes
waste reduction
continuous improvement
data-based decision-making.

In actuality, reliability shares and improves many of the elements needed for Lean.

In actuality, reliability shares and improves many of the elements needed for Lean.

Reliability also supports Lean through lifecycle asset management that increases Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and reduces cost. After all, unstable machine conditions make a pull-system difficult or impossible.

The toughest part of implementing Lean and reliability is culture-related, i.e., when transfer to daily practice needs to occur. Implementation might work for a short time, but can it sustain? Unstable (low-reliability) processes can’t be sustained. Kaizen is much easier and positive when sites have a history of team problem solving.

My research has shown that top-quartile companies in reliability, i.e., lowest reactive maintenance:

• were 27% better in OSHA Recordable Incident Rates than the average of the remaining facilities.

• averaged 7% higher OEE than Middle (2nd and 3rd quartile) performers and 11% higher OEE than those in the bottom quartile.

• averaged nine suggestions per employee versus one for the lower 75% of companies.

• were 28% better in maintenance cost (expressed as a percentage of sales) than the middle 50% and 69% better than the bottom quartile.

A study of more than 400 facilities showed that more than 70% of Lean implementations failed, i.e., attained less than half of the expected business results. Reasons for these failures often involve not being culturally ready, lack of workforce discipline in standardized work, and employees not engaged in continuous-improvement efforts.

My facility assessments indicate a high correlation between improved organizational culture and increased plant reliability-process maturity. While it’s critical to have the right processes in place, improving culture helps operations quickly achieve top-quartile performance.

Reliability shares and improves many of the elements needed for Lean. It can also provide detailed technical direction on process variability and capability. Using Weibull analysis, you can better plan for maintenance and calculate such things as how much variability is acceptable and if the operation is running at the highest possible throughput.

To answer the question in the title, the foundational elements of Lean and reliability are so intertwined that you can’t accomplish Lean without reliable people, processes, and production machinery and equipment. MT

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at


7:22 pm
August 10, 2017
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Drowning In Data? Look To The ‘Stars’

Identifying and acting on the right data can transform reliability and maintenance programs from resource black holes to key business drivers.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Advances in common communication protocols and wireless networks have created the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), technology that connects everything from material supply through manufacturing to product shipping. As IIoT data quantity increases, plant personnel are in danger of drowning in a flood of information. The dilemma for many is how to make sense of it all and derive answers that help them successfully operate and maintain their processes. Keith Berriman of Emerson (Round Rock, TX) advises to “look to the stars.”

To put things in context, a bit of history is in order, beginning with the ancient Greeks. They, according to many scholars, were some of the first people to recognize patterns among the seemingly endless numbers of stars filling the night skies from horizon to horizon. Assigning names to groups of conspicuous stars, i.e., constellations, they wove references to them into their beliefs, literature, and other forms of cultural expression. Over the centuries, explorers and others have looked to many of these constellations to locate certain stars that could help them navigate the globe.

While not advocating that plant personnel take up actual celestial navigation, Berriman encourages them to consider a similar approach when dealing with the seemingly endless amounts of IIoT-generated data they’re confronting. As he explained, they can locate specific “stars” in their facilities that will tell them about the condition of assets and processes and, in turn, allow them to take action to prevent and mitigate failure. It’s an approach that’s feasible for virtually any plant.

“From an economic perspective,” Berriman said, “the cost of installing connected devices that run on wireless networks has fallen to less than 20% of traditional wired devices. This allows us to install sensors on all sorts of equipment that we previously would have to monitor with hand-held devices or through some type of invasive inspection.” That’s the good news.

The bad news is, despite the affordability and widespread availability of continuous-monitoring technologies, personnel still need to know what to look for amid the data that constantly streams from them. Unfortunately, all systems for analyzing such information are not created equal. “Depending on the system you use,” Berriman observed, “you may not be getting a full and correct picture of equipment and process conditions in your plant.” This is where his “look to the stars” approach to data pays off.

Bringing order to chaos

Berriman’s approach starts with sorting data into fixed and variable groups. “This,” he said, “helps us solve the risk-identification and -mitigation equation.”

Fixed data is set when the plant or system is built or modified. This includes:

• plant layout
• equipment design
• equipment data
• material master data (spare/OEM parts)
• performance parameters
• potential failure data.

These items become the known variables in the risk-identification and -mitigation equation. Variable data, though, changes during the operation of a process or asset, including, among other things, as a result of raw-material composition, process variation, weather, equipment condition, and work history.

By selecting the right data points, personnel can populate the equation and determine their position, which, in this case, means the condition of their site’s assets. Doing this requires building a set of “constellations” to identify and capture critical asset data.

A reliability program is designed to proactively identify and mitigate failures, while eliminating defects. A maintenance program is designed to preserve or restore function to a system. Effective data constellations allow reliability and maintenance teams to detect and repair problems before they have an impact on performance.

Data and reliability programs

An effective reliability program consists of interconnected building blocks that include the following four steps, aimed at identifying impending failures with enough warning to allow repair or replacement. Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) determines the causes of unexpected failures to improve the program and avoid similar events.

Build a complete master equipment list (MEL). The MEL includes the fixed data for the next steps in the process and the information required for planning and scheduling work and ordering parts and materials.

The MEL also contains an organized hierarchy of assets that users can follow to identify equipment. Ideally, the branches should extend down to the “functional location,” i.e., the place in the process where an asset operates. Associating a particular asset with a unique identifier allows it to be tracked as it moves from one location to another.

To complete the MEL, fixed data must be associated with each asset. This includes, among other things:

• equipment type (pump, motor) classification (centrifugal), location, process and operating information, process drawings, size, power, material of fabrication, and motor-frame size

• bills of material (BOMs), i.e., spare parts needed to make repairs to the equipment.

CMMS systems organize and sort this information in various ways and allow the roll-up of metrics, costs, and information to identify performance and trends.

Rank asset criticality. With an accurate MEL, sites can rank the criticality of their assets. While organizations often focus on one potential impact, such as production or safety, to completely understand the relative criticality of their equipment systems, they need to review a number of factors. Five basic categories are used to determine asset criticality:

• safety
• environment
• production
• maintenance cost
• quality.

Additional categories may be used and the weighting adjusted for the specific process under review. Weighting uses a series of questions with points associated with the severity of impact.

Ranking asset criticality requires data and expertise. The resulting distribution can be sorted into categories to determine the next level of analysis and develop preventive- and predictive-maintenance (PM and PdM) programs. Criticality should also be used to prioritize work and ensure high-risk issues are addressed in time to prevent failure.

Develop strategies. At this point, strategies to detect and mitigate impending failures can be developed. Tools for doing so include Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) and Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). They ask structured questions about the function of an asset, how it might fail, the impact of failure, and how to detect signs of failure. Since RCM requires a team of subject-matter experts and significant time, it should focus on the critical group of assets and systems. FMEA, which can be conducted by one or two participants, should focus on the essential group. Templates can be used to create strategies for the monitor group. In applying templates, it’s crucial to understand the context of an asset, given the fact the same equipment in different locations may not require the same strategy.

Note: Since the impact of their failure isn’t great, assets that fall into a No Scheduled Maintenance group won’t require routine or continuous monitoring.

Select PM/PdM condition-monitoring tools. Understanding failure modes allows personnel to select the appropriate tools for the job. Typically, this selection is based on the warning that a tool provides and the cost of performing the task. The classic P-F (performance-failure) curve illustrates the relative effectiveness of different techniques. IIoT data allows sites to combine indicators and move further back up this curve to provide earlier warnings of failure and, thus, allow plant personnel more time to plan repairs and procure replacements.

Once personnel know the data they require from a site’s network of instruments, analytics, and inspections, they can generate alerts and warnings to restore assets to good operating condition. The more advanced warning they have, the more planned and organized they can be. To that end, they should set warning alarms that allow time to plan and action alarms that indicate when prompt intervention is required. These alarms, and the data they generate, are an important part of the solution to the risk-identification and -mitigation equation, in that they help determine asset condition. As Berriman emphasized, however, “The information must still be acted on.”

Data and maintenance programs

Regardless of industry sector, type of operation, or location, one constant is the basic maintenance process. All plants need to complete the following six steps to be consistent, strong performers

Identify work. Maintenance work is identified through a variety of sources. Most work should come from PM/PdM activities and the previously described warnings and action alerts. However, there will be issues identified by operations that the program missed, requested improvements, and other tasks. These issues need to be reviewed and approved before effort is expended on planning and scheduling.

Work entering the system needs to be reviewed for the completeness of information and approved before moving to planning. Known as gate keeping, this requires a dedicated resource for consistency. Ideally, the gate-keeping role belongs to Operations, i.e., the equipment owners.

Plan work. Planning is where a job is broken down into a logical sequence of tasks, maintenance craft assigned, parts ordered, and other resources identified, including such things as scaffolding and contractors. A good job plan allows accurate scheduling and work execution. Job plans should include safety and environmental precautions, work permits, and other procedures. Data collated at this step should include equipment data, materials/parts data, work history, safety/environmental data, and resource availability.

The output of this step is a backlog of planned work to build schedules and balance workforce composition, especially where contract resources are used to augment in-house maintenance personnel.

Schedule work. This step takes the job plan data for duration and resources, and integrates production-planning data and asset criticality to create a maintenance schedule that fits the production schedule. This requires collaboration between departments to understand priorities, equipment availability, and other issues. The scheduler role should be owned by Operations since, again, it owns (controls) the equipment.

The outputs of scheduling are long-range plans and a weekly calendar of maintenance work used to create daily schedules. Daily scheduling is a joint effort to select new work for the next day from the weekly schedule and to ensure incomplete work is carried forward.

Execute work. When a day’s schedule is completed, Operations can prepare the equipment and Maintenance can execute the work. This phase includes the integration of unplanned work that might supersede scheduled tasks, known as break-in work. This work needs to be managed to prevent organizations from becoming highly reactive.

Maintenance supervisors need to monitor progress on work to communicate with Operations and to ensure time is added to the next day’s schedule for incomplete work.

Follow up/capture data. Upon completion of work, data must be captured to drive analysis, planning, and other activities. That includes capturing “as found/as left” data for instruments, repair history, failed components, time, materials, and labor, among other things. The information should then be recorded in the CMMS for future use. Responsibility for this step typically falls to maintenance technicians and supervisors.

Analyze data. Once data has been captured, analysis can be performed on failure modes to determine and mitigate bad actors, or equipment with high costs and downtime. Cost and lost-production data can be used to understand budget variances and drive key performance indicators (KPIs). Reliability teams use maintenance data for detailed statistical analysis, such as Weibull, that identify patterns of failure and predict future events.

Navigating your data

According to Keith Berriman, the Industrial Internet of Things is an opportunity to increase the generation of accurate timely data without the use of invasive and time-based processes. As the integration of systems improves, the interconnectedness of data allows more accurate and simplified presentation of information for repair/replace decisions.

“But,” he cautioned, “too much unnecessary data can obscure the information personnel are looking for and hide problems that might become critical and dangerous. While technology is a great enabler, without a strong foundation, it won’t deliver the results plants seek. “The key,” Berriman concluded, “is to be able to identify and then act on the right data.” Looking to specific “stars” in your plant is a good way to ease that voyage. MT

Keith Berriman P.Eng, CMRP, is a senior reliability consultant for Emerson, based in Edmonton, Alberta. For more information, email


7:13 pm
August 10, 2017
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Study Helps You Evaluate Your Industry 4.0 Future

parrmugAlmost any conversation you have these days involving manufacturing technology will either begin or end with discussion about Industry 4.0 (Manufacturing 4.0, Internet of Things, Industrial Internet of Things, cloud computing, smart factories). In my analysis, so much of the talk is just talk. People realize that they need to embrace Industry 4.0, in many cases, because others say so, and in some cases because they know that it is the future of manufacturing, that the future is here, and that many are already getting left behind.

The questions on my mind are where companies may be on the continuum that moves them to full implementation of Industry 4.0 technology and what factors must be addressed? I recently received answers in the form of a white paper summarizing research that Frost & Sullivan’s Digital Industrial Group ( conducted in collaboration with NTT Data Services, Plano, TX.

The publication, “Manufacturing 4.0: A Playbook for Navigating the Journey to IT Modernization & Transformation,” outlines six critical issues in today’s manufacturing ecosystems that must be addressed if an enterprise is going to embrace and benefit from Industry 4.0. (The white paper refers to it as Manufacturing 4.0. It would really help if everyone would just settle on one name.) Of those six issues, the research data from four of them paint a rather strong picture about the current status of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing.

New research from Frost & Sullivan and NTT Data Services reveals just where manufacturing enterprises are on the path to full Industry 4.0 implementation.

New research from Frost & Sullivan and NTT Data Services reveals just where manufacturing enterprises are on the path to full Industry 4.0 implementation.

The Factories of the Future issue looks at end-to-end digitalization of manufacturing processes, i.e., IP-enabled factories. The research question was “How extensively has your company IP-enabled and networked its plant-floor equipment today and what do you expect the extent will be in five years’ time? Responses were not a surprise: 32% answered “Partially” for today and 46% said they are just getting started. Only 9% answered “Extensively” for today. The five-years-from-now answer was a mixed bag: 34% answered “Partially” and 55% answered “Extensively.”

The issue of Transformative Technologies asks for the most important business factor driving a company’s move toward Manufacturing 4.0. The leading factor, by a wide margin, was Operational Efficiency at 32%. The next closest factor, at only 17%, was “Increased competition due to globalization,” followed by “Customer expectations” at 16%.

The Next-Generation Manufacturing Leadership issue is also revealing. The question: What do you think are the three most significant challenges to implementing Manufacturing 4.0 in your company? “Understanding the benefits/challenges” led the way at 37%, followed by “Corporate culture” at 29% and “Lack of buy-in from the C-suite” at 26%. Tied at 25% were “Finding skilled people,” “Change management,” “Developing a Manufacturing 4.0 strategy,” and “Identifying opportunities and ROI.”

That Next-Generation Manufacturing Leadership issue tells me what I’ve suspected: Most people are at the beginner end of the spectrum and need substantial education and help. But there’s also a question of how convinced enterprises are that Industry 4.0 really is the future. In the Changing Workforce Dynamics issue, 42% say that Manufacturing 4.0 is “A game changer, truly a new era.” But 50% feel that it’s “Significant, but not transformative.”

I’ve only hit the highlights of this research report. No matter where you are on the path to full Industry 4.0 implementation, this study is compelling. Download it here. MT


7:28 pm
July 12, 2017
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Uptime: Curiosity — It’s Fundamental To Reliability Improvement

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Have you ever wondered why something is the way it is? Why is the sky blue? Why does it rain so much (or not enough)? Why don’t “they” understand maintenance?

Consider small children asking “why” again and again and again (often to the dismay of weary parents or caregivers). Those little ones are simply being curious, and for good reason. Curiosity is how humans learn—including in our work lives.

A strong desire to know or learn something.

Think about your plant: Is curiosity thriving there, or is it being stifled?

Frequently, we see what occurred and, sometimes, how it occurred. But how often do our second natures kick in and compel us to explore why something occurred (the cause)? Unfortunately, the real “why” may not be observable—it could be hidden. Consequently, it’s not uncommon for individual and/or implied organizational responses to run along the lines of “it always does that” or “I don’t really know.” Being able to answer “why” questions depends on the curiosity of personnel. I am convinced that being curious is the fundamental ingredient in reliability improvement.

In today’s workplaces, though, curiosity alone isn’t enough. It takes motivation to be curious (motivation to dig deeper into issues). All too often, the motivation (or available time) to ask “why” is insufficient for getting to the root cause of a problem, which, accordingly, is the first step in problem elimination.

Internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role, or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal.

Let’s explore these elements of a reliability-improvement work culture.

Reliability and curiosity

Usually, the first response in a plant when equipment breaks down is “fix it.” The typical first question is “What happened?” followed by “How do we fix it?” Only when we ask how and why equipment fails, do we actually begin solving the main problem.

(NOTE: It’s not unheard of for a “what” question to elicit this type of implausible response from personnel: “Nothing happened; the machine is running perfectly.” If true, that would basically reflect a state of reliability at its best, a highly unlikely situation. Be sure to ask why that machine is running perfectly.)

Although curiosity should be used to drive your reliability program, roadblocks are a fact of life. For example, how often do you hear these statements in your workplace:  “We don’t have time.” “It’s not my job to ask why.” “I’ve often wondered why, but every time I bring it up, there seem to be bigger issues.” They’re indicative of low levels of desire to know or learn more about an issue.

why question in wood type

Motivation to be curious

Organizational curiosity is a requirement for improving and sustaining reliability. The question is, how do we motivate individuals, and the organizations they comprise, to be curious?

Benefiting from curiosity in a workplace depends on the work culture that top leaders create. The motivation to be curious on the job is more than an individual factor. While an individual may be internally motivated to be very curious on the job, the organizational (external) motivation to be curious may not be there. Individual curiosity may be stifled, not recognized, and/or not appreciated.

Business author Harvey Mackay described the potential of individual curiosity this way: “Pay attention to those employees who respectfully ask why. They are demonstrating an interest in their jobs and exhibiting a curiosity that could eventually translate into leadership ability.” In other words, curiosity is also fundamental to effective leadership.

High-performing organizations have a passion for eliminating problems, improving performance, and engaging everybody in the process. A compelling business case, in turn, can be a real motivating factor for improving organizational performance and reliability, as well as improving equipment performance and reliability.

Inspiring and enabling curiosity

Leadership is the heavy-lifting component in motivating curiosity. Whether it’s top management or group leaders, plant leadership must be inspirational in the quest for organizational and individual curiosity. Consider the following real-world example.

Serving as a long-term consultant to an established manufacturing operation, I noticed what appeared to be excessive amounts of finished product being discarded as scrap. To be sure, legitimate defects, some big, but mostly small, were leading to the situation. Still, I felt it reflected a waste of good money—in terms of material, labor, and overhead—and a huge loss of equipment effectiveness and sales revenue.

When I asked why those mountains of scrap were being produced and thrown away, the response was typically, “That’s the way it is here.” While the organization, as a whole and individuals in it, clearly understood the scrap as waste, they considered it acceptable, i.e., already built into their costing and production-planning standards. Despite the collection of waste data in production-report databases, no waste metrics were being trended.

At some point, after extensive work with this operation to improve equipment performance, I found a relatively easy way to put a dollars-and-cents value to the waste. It came from asking “why” and exploring the production database for answers. My calculation of the actual seven-figure cost to produce scrap at the plant evidently resonated more with management than the previous reports of waste amounts and percentages. As a result, the site’s C-level leaders launched a waste metric and engaged work groups at the machines and in the manufacturing process to regularly ask “why.” Scrap products are now counted and monetized, something that’s reportedly setting the stage for cost savings.

What about your operations? How can you motivate organizational curiosity and inspire individuals to ask “why.” Consider these tactics:

• To paraphrase W. Edwards Deming, maintain a “constancy of purpose for the improvement of product and service.”

• Become obsessed with the elements of the organization’s competitive advantage.

• Model the way: Walk the talk, ask “why,” and invite others to pitch in.

• Disrupt the status quo as it interferes with performance improvement.

• Celebrate improvement efforts and wins.

In the meantime, never forget that answers to “why” questions are the first steps toward reliability improvements in your plant. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at