Archive | CMMS


5:52 pm
November 15, 2016
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SAP Material Masters: How do they integrate with the rest of your ERP system?

Someone once told me that the material master is the center of the universe in SAP. There is much truth to that statement.

randmIn dealing with multiple maintenance plants all over the country, the biggest issues I see after an implementation are how the material masters for maintenance were set up. Material masters integrate with every process of your ERP system. They can control a portion of your financials, affect your work orders, wreak havoc with purchasing, and create a situation in which your company is non-compliant with regulations on PSM (process-safety management). What follows is a common, yet critical, issue regarding safety stock.

Material 123 has a safety stock set in the material master (transaction MM02) for a quantity of nine. Someone at the site puts in a reservation for a quantity of 10. We will call this individual person A. Person B puts in a reservation for the same material for a quantity of nine. Person B gets the material delivered from the storeroom to the required area on the same day that it has been reserved. Person A waits for an extended period and doesn’t understand why he is not receiving the materials he ordered.

Material 123 has a safety stock set in the material master (transaction MM02) for a quantity of nine. Person A wants 10 units of Material 123. Person B wants nine units.

Material 123 has a safety stock set in the material master (transaction MM02) for a quantity of nine. Person A wants 10 units of Material 123. Person B wants nine units.

There are two problems with this scenario.

The storeroom receives all reservations for materials through a transaction, MB25. This screen shows by work order, cost center, or requester what material is being requested and the delivery date for which the requirement should be filled.

All reservations for materials are received through a transaction, MB25. This screen shows by work order, cost center, or requester what material is being requested and the delivery date for which the requirement should be filled.

All reservations for materials are received through a transaction, MB25. This screen shows by work order, cost center, or requester what material is being requested and the delivery date for which the requirement should be filled.

If the inventory clerk does not have the requirements date set in order, it is possible that orders are filled out of order. In this situation, person A should have had the requirements filled before person B.

The second problem occurs when MRP (materials-requirements planning) is running. SAP will see that the safety stock is set at a quantity of nine. Therefore, that is all that the system will ever try to keep in stock. When A and B entered a total requirement quantity of 19, the quantity of nine in stock will be issued and MRP will create a requisition for the remaining amount. However, this will still produce a deficit, as the safety stock requires nine.

To assure persons A and B receive the units they need, the site should run transaction MC44. This will generate the exact number of inventory turns in a period, per material.

To assure persons A and B receive the units they need, the site should run transaction MC44. This will generate the exact number of inventory turns in a period, per material.

To fix this problem, the site should run transaction MC44. This will generate the exact number of inventory turns in a period, per material. It shows that the material is consumed at a rate higher than the safety stock setting and will allow the analysis and data to confirm that the safety stock should be increased to a number that will meet the site’s requirements.

Ensuring that safety stock is set to an accurate number can reduce the amount of purchase requisitions created and assure that orders are filled in a timely manner to meet requirements and, in parallel jobs, will not be delayed. MT

Kristina Gordon is SAP Program Consultant at the DuPont, Sabine River Works plant in West Orange, TX. If you have SAP questions, send them to and we’ll forward them to Kristina.


6:46 pm
October 11, 2016
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Keeping Maintenance Scheduling on Track

Create a revision code in SAP to mark the jobs that need to be completed each week.

Create a revision code in SAP to mark the jobs that need to be completed each week.

By Kristina Gordon, DuPont

The maintenance scheduler plays a critical role in any maintenance organization. This individual coordinates the production requirements with maintenance and engineering activities. The scheduler makes sure equipment is available to meet production demands, in a way that optimizes total business cost (production downtime, maintenance cost, MRO inventory cost).

It is very difficult to keep a schedule on track when you have shutdowns, material availability issues, and line breaks happening on a daily basis. The following Q&A may help make possible what many say is impossible.

Q: How far out should I be scheduling work?

A : Industry standard says you should have a maintenance work schedule completed four weeks out. Those schedules should have your jobs loaded at 100% for week one, 80% for week two, 60% for week three, and 30% for week four. This leaves room for critical jobs that must be moved around on your schedule or emergency situations, allowing you to stay on target.

randmQ: When I pull my backlog of work up in SAP, how can I mark the jobs I want to work on each week?

A: Creating a revision code in SAP is a very simple way to mark the jobs that need to be completed each week. Transaction OIOB will allow you to create the revision. Before you begin, you should create a naming convention for your revisions.

In this example, the revision that would be applied to the work order would be WWU-WK01. The second part is the description of the revision. The start and end date will be used by the system as the dates during which the work is allowed to be performed. That time is confirmed in the system.

Q: How do I make sure that I am scheduling my PSM (process-safety management) critical work first?

A: In SAP, PSM Critical Equipment can be marked with a permit. Permits are configured and can denote several different types of equipment such as PSM critical and ISO9000. Work can be found by searching for a PSM permit. You can also use characteristics to mark this type of work.  It is important to note however, that every PSM-critical piece of equipment may not always be placed on work orders or maintenance plans that are PSM critical. It is possible to complete non-PSM jobs on PSM equipment.

Q: How do I know when the planners have completed the planning process and the job can be put on the weekly schedule?

A: One way to accomplish this is to use user status’s. These are configured to meet your business needs, but can indicate that such tasks are completed, such as the job walk down completed, identifying other work streams that need to include planning hours, such as scaffold or insulators, and when all materials have been received and/or kitted. Once the user status indicates that the tasks are completed and ready to schedule, the scheduler can then place the job on the weekly schedule.


In the September 2016 installment of this column, the answer to the last question was cut off. Below is the question and the entire answer.

Q: If I have created a task list and need to move it to my work order, how can I do it without copying and pasting every line?

A: In the tool bar at the top of the page in IW32, click on Extra>Task List Selection>Direct Entry.  In the pop-up box you will be asked to click the radio button next to functional location task list, equipment task list, or general task list. Enter the group and group counter of the task list you would like to import. Click the check mark and the task list imports into the operation tab of the work order. MT

Kristina Gordon is SAP Program Consultant at the DuPont, Sabine River Works plant in West Orange, TX. If you have SAP questions, send them to and we’ll forward them to Kristina.


2:01 pm
September 15, 2016
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Improve Your Planning Efficiency

randmBy Kristina Gordon, DuPont

Accomplishing daily work in a reliability and maintenance operation involves performing several critical functions, among them planning, scheduling, identification of equipment criticalities, and work history. In many cases, it seems to take forever to complete even the smallest task in SAP. That does not need to be the case. What follows are SAP solutions for four of the most common maintenance-planning questions.

Q: What is the most efficient way to extract a list of proposed job plans (work orders)?

A : In transaction IW38, create a variant. A variant saves the selection of values that you use to run a report or transaction the same way every time. You can create as many variants in one transaction as you need, depending on the data that you are interested in seeing. Variants can be global, meaning everyone in your organization can see and choose to run, or you can make the variant user specific. This hides your variant and only allows you as the creator to use it.

Selection criteria may include your maintenance plant/planning plant, orders outstanding and in progress, and orders that have no date limitations. You may also want to exclude work orders that have been released or TECO’d.

Use other filters as appropriate, such as plant section and work center. Once you complete the selection process, click the save button and the variant screen will pop up allowing you to save the selection you have entered. When creating a user-specific variant you will always name the variant U_(user name given to you to log into SAP). Now that you have a standard selection criteria, you will be pulling your work orders up the same way every time.

This example illustrates the process of extracting a list of proposed job plans.

This example illustrates the process of extracting a list of proposed job plans.

Q: How can I tell if my material will be available and ready on the day I plan my job?

1609rmcsap04pA: In transaction IW32, after adding your components to the work order, click the icon shown on the right (material availability, overall) in the tool bar at the top of the page. The material-availability icon compares the basic start date of the work order with the material delivery time to verify whether the part will be on site when needed. SAP will display a message to indicate that all requested materials are available. Otherwise, it will display the material numbers that have conflicting delivery dates.

The Gen. Data tab displays your component-detail screen.

The Gen. Data tab displays your component-detail screen.

Q: If I am planning a job months in advance but want my materials received as soon as possible for kitting or job readiness, how can I request my material delivery time be changed?

A: Under the components tab of your work order, highlight the material for which you would like to have the delivery date moved. Then click on the Gen. data tab at the bottom. This brings up your component-detail screen. The requirements date will be displayed and it should match the work-order start date.

In the offset field, enter the number of days the materials are needed in advance with a negative sign, then enter the unit of measure for days. Click the enter button and you will be asked if this date can be met. Click the enter button again and the requirements date for the materials will move to the new requested date.

This feature is for stock and non-stock items. It works with MRP to create your purchasing documents and updates the reservations list for onsite materials.

In the offset field, enter the number of days materials are needed in advance, using a negative sign.

In the offset field, enter the number of days materials are needed in advance, using a negative sign.

Q: If I have created a task list and need to move it to my work order, how can I do this without copying and pasting every line?

A: In the tool bar at the top of the page in IW32, click on Extra>Task List Selection>Direct Entry.  In the pop-up box you will be asked to click the radio button next to functional location task list, equipment task list, or general task list. Enter the group and group counter of the task list you would like to import. Click the check mark and the task list imports into the operation tab of the work order. MT

Kristina Gordon is SAP Program Consultant at the DuPont, Sabine River Works plant in West Orange, TX. If you have SAP questions, send them to and we’ll forward them to Kristina.


9:49 pm
June 13, 2016
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On The Floor: Some Panelists See True Benefits of CMMS Systems

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

The capabilities of computerized maintenance management software systems (CMMSs)—and how plants use them—are a hot topic across industry. This month, we encouraged our MT Reader Panelists to discuss the state of such systems and level of usage at their sites (or, if consultants or suppliers to industry, at their client/customer sites). We started with three questions:

  • Did the responding panelists’ organizations (or those of their clients/customers) use a CMMS and to what degree?
  • What benefits have the organizations seen from such systems?
  • Had the reasons or cost of these CMMS implementations been justified?
  • We received a number of very detailed answers and present them here (edited somewhat, as always, for brevity and clarity).

Industry Consultant, West…
All of my clients use a CMMS, at this time (SAP PM).  [The degree of deployment] ranges from one group using it for every maintenance activity, to another that uses it less than half of the time, i.e., limiting use to only activities that help metrics generated from work-order reporting. (More time is spent skewing the metrics than would normally be spent on actual maintenance, but the metrics do look awesome!)

According to my clients, one of the most notable benefits is the improved communication between operations and maintenance. Both sides find value in this. The CMMS users don’t usually see the justification of the cost and are vocal about that. But the company [client] bean counters insist there are significant cost benefits.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Manufacturing, Midwest…
At our facility, we use a Maximo CMMS as part of our toolbox. When an operator has a problem, the job is put into the system. All PM [preventive maintenance] planning goes into it. The system is fully utilized to generate problem areas. We input as much information as possible.

We are currently building a database that includes what parts are used on which machines. This allows us to see part usage, which we can use for PM work. All of our uptime and downtime reports are taken from this information. This has also allowed us to adjust PM frequency changes.

One of the things I personally did when I worked on the floor was to include as much information as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I helped myself with this information. I put in parts used and even what I did to fix the problem. Like I said, I treated it [the CMMS] as a tool, in my toolbox. A lot of the people on the floor were reluctant to use it. I feel now that they are finally seeing how the system is an asset.

[In the past] my biggest complaint was always “garbage in is garbage out.” [But], we’ve seen a cultural change, and I am ecstatic that the system is finally being used properly.

Retired Industry Consultant, Northeast…
About 30% [of my former clients] used their CMMS properly, but in a limited manner: tracking and assigning work, parts, labor, patterns of failure, and costs. Several attempted to use just parts of the process, i.e. scheduling of maintenance and tracking costs of parts and time, and about 40% tried and dropped the process as being too complex, or not showing the expected returns. (Plants with fewer than four mechanics typically didn’t bother; those with 10 or more dabbled with several types.)

Only one major client identified real benefits per advertised claims, and saved time and money, but it [had] made significant changes to its communication infrastructure, i.e. adding PDAs (personal digital assistant devices] with bar-code readers, bar-coding all machine parts, having assignments downloaded (via wifi) to local machine-control centers, uploading [equipment] life info and wear activity to a central controller, and assigning work to mechanics’ PDAs. The rest of our clients claimed some benefits, but the CMMS system was not used fully, [meaning that it was] not much better than a simple scheduler.

Most users claimed the effort to enter initial data was too intensive. Very few CMMS programs allowed easy transfer of existing data sources, especially paper- or card-based methods. Also, few companies had a real tracking system, being inventory-of-parts-based rather than actual trouble or need based. Getting to a reliability-initiated process also requires a cognitive shift for most maintenance managers, who are still locked into failure mode.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…
Our university has CMMS for about 70% to 80% of our buildings, and any time we remodel one, we try to add it to the system. We use it as much as we can, including for trend logs; tracking alarms; making adjustment; scheduling on/off times and occupied/unoccupied modes; troubleshooting equipment; monitoring labs that have limited access, yet are critical areas; and to save as much energy as possible.

The cost of our CMMS can vary with each project. The university has standards for each type of remodel, be it housing, labs, hospital, or classrooms. Most of the time, we don’t get all options a CMMS system could provide, but we learn to deal with whatever we do get.

Our major problems arise when a sensor fails, power is interrupted, etc. Since all of our computerized maintenance management isn’t part of the same system, our staff must learn several different CMMSs. Other issues that seem to take a lot of time are checking alarms in about 80 buildings and hundreds of pieces of equipment with limited access to computers.

Sr. Maintenance Engineer, Process Industries, Midwest…
We use an EAM (Maximo) and are on the latest version.  It is ingrained in all of our plants’ practices for maintenance, purchasing, inventory management, and workflow of business processes for approval of CAPEX, engineering requests, EHS reports, process improvement ideas, etc. We have been on the system since 2007. 

We’re now utilizing a third-party mobile software that integrates directly with Maximo, and are expanding to bar-coding and mobile work practices. Reporting has been the biggest hurdle, since the out-of-the-box reports leave something to be desired. In-house report developers help get customized reports written.

Typical expected benefits include tracking asset management, costs, etc.  They lead to sound business decisions for improving maintenance practices, inventory management, vendor leverage, and improved work efficiency. We’re always trying to get more from the CMMS, but we’ve definitely been able to use the data from all parts of the system to help drive business decisions.

Maintenance Supervisor, Process Industries, Canada…
We’re currently working with Synergen (an Oracle-based CMMS product). It’s used extensively in our pulp mills and, to some degree in the solid-woods side [of our business]. We use it for our maintenance planning and scheduling, accounting, and stores-inventory management.

There are huge benefits from having a coordinated system. It still needs to be developed (it’s a work in progress), but the BOMs [bill of materials], shutdown, and daily maintenance scheduling [capabilities] are invaluable. We don’t currently track our failure codes (not entered at the source), but work-order history and costs do allow for some analysis.

Costs are completely justified. We would be in the dark without it [our CMMS]. Having access to the purchase-order system, stores inventory, bill of materials, and work-order requests all work toward having a leaner system with the required information available to the right employees.

College Electrical Laboratory Manager/Instructor, West…
We have two CMMS systems: one old and one newer. They’re set up among five processes, each with its own maintenance team. Both systems are used, but not to their full extent. The main problem seems to be the time required for data input. Our maintenance staff’s hourly wage is approximately $30, and if each person takes one hour a day to input data, the cost becomes high.

For the use we get out of our CMMSs, the benefits are great: reduced downtime and parts costs, improved staff management, etc. A side benefit is associated with honesty in doing PMs and paperwork. I think the newer system takes too much administrative time compared to overall benefits.

I’m not sure about the cost justification. People filling out the information are mechanics, not secretaries. If you hire one extra person per shift to input data, the program cost increases. We really use the systems for tracking PMs, predictive maintenance, parts inventory, and developing equipment history. MT


7:46 pm
February 8, 2016
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Voice From the Field: Patience and Perseverance

"The goal is to be a world-class utility and become the benchmark for others."

“The goal is to be a world-class utility and become the benchmark for others.”

Clinton Davis helps to shape and implement maintenance and reliability overhaul of major utility.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Growing up in Gwinnett County, GA, Clinton Davis was raised to believe that fixing things yourself is just a way of life. All of the men in his family were union plumbers and his father, Wayne, had a motto: “Never pay someone else to do something you can do yourself.”

The everyday practice of this philosophy provided Davis with hands-on experience in breaking down equipment, learning how it works from the inside out, paying attention to the details, and taking pride in putting it all back together and watching it work.

Davis remembers one single event that shaped his career path. He was 16, and the rear drum brakes on his 1978 Pontiac Grand Prix were worn out. He bought the parts, lifted the car, removed the wheels, drums, shoes, and hardware and then realized he didn’t know how to put it back together.

“I had not paid attention when I was taking it apart,” he said. “I was in a hurry and wasn’t patient.” He reluctantly asked his father for help.

His father explained to him that Lesson One in any project is the importance of paying attention to the details. “We walked back out to the car and my Dad told me he was only going to show me how to do this once. He put one side back together, and I had to watch him closely. Then he left me to figure out how to repair the other side. Many hours passed and when I was finished, he checked my work and gave me a few suggestions so I would learn.”

Six weeks later, Davis had to repair the front brakes. This time, he remembered the details. “I’ve been wide open ever since.”

Since that time, the now-43-year-old Davis remembers this experience with every project he undertakes. “I take my time when I break things down, even with projects and work requirements. I take the time to understand how all of the elements work together. This creates a better understanding and makes it easier to put it all back together.”

The experience was a turning point in shaping the direction of Davis’ career path. “It was just one of those moments in your life when everything falls into place,” he said. “I wanted to have the opportunity to work with my hands. And now I love to dive into the details. Most of our technicians are in these roles because they feel the same way. We find out a piece of equipment failed, we repair it, and then it is back to 100 percent. There is a lot of pride involved in what we do every day.”


A new program for improvement

Davis is currently the section manager of asset reliability and performance management for the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources (GCDWR). Prior to this role, he worked for 13 years as a technician, analyst, and section manager. For the past two years he has been supporting a 3-to-5-year program designed to improve the maintenance and reliability at the GCDWR’s five facilities, which includes two water plants, three wastewater plants, and a pumps/tanks/boosters group.

Within the facility operations, there are approximately 222 employees. Davis’ section has a staff of 15 full-time professionals and two interns. “We support operations and maintenance from the customer perspective,” Davis said. “Our planners and schedulers are assigned to facilities and report there every day to plan and schedule for maintenance and operations. My staff is not all here in the central location. They are out in the facilities where they are needed.”

Getting the new program started was not easy.

In 2006, Davis was working as a trades technician on wastewater equipment in a centralized maintenance group. At that time, the wastewater and water plants were in separate divisions. The utility decided to implement a CMMS program at one of the facilities and Davis was selected for the implementation team, along with two other colleagues. They collected data, groomed data, coded data, and put it together to form the foundation for the new system. The team worked with some outside consultants for guidance and expertise. Eventually, his two colleagues moved on to other things and Davis was given the opportunity to run with it.

“I managed some maintenance-related projects and facilitated an RCM pilot project for one of our plants in the late 2000s,” Davis explained. “One of the drivers and takeaways from that project was realizing we needed a good system to make the most use of all the data so we would have the information we needed to make good decisions. Prior to that, everything was kind of paper-based and maintenance records were not as good as they should be.”

The GCDWR underwent a complete reorganization in January 2014. The implementation team researched other utilities that had been positively affected by good maintenance and reliability programs. “The goal is to be a world-class utility and become the benchmark for others,” Davis said. “We did some peer exchanges with other utilities to learn how they are structured and organized. We studied the maintenance, reliability, and operational programs they have in place and how they communicated with their staff. These were all things we had struggled with organizationally in the past.”

With the reorganization, the utility moved from having water, wastewater, and pump/tanks/boosters as three separate entities to a homogenous and united family of facilities.

0216voice2“Previously, all of these sections kind of functioned as little islands all unto themselves,” Davis said. “Everyone in each facility reported to the plant manager or plant superintendent. We had warehouse, maintenance, operations, housekeeping…everybody worked for the plant manager and they all did things a little differently. There was not a lot of sharing of resources from plant to plant. When large projects came up at one facility, it was difficult to get help from the other facilities.”

Backed by strong leadership, support, and executive sponsorship, the entire system was restructured to break down the silos and effect positive changes in operations, maintenance, and reliability.

“We had some programs in place, but prior to the reorganization it was all kind of ad hoc,” Davis said. “We had a vision of what we wanted to be and what we wanted to do, but we had to figure out how to get there. We had to figure out what that road map would look like.”

The utility partnered with a local firm to dive into the weeds. In March 2014, they performed an asset-management best practices assessment. The firm spent two weeks on site, studied all of the data, interviewed technicians and operators, and got a feel for the morale and the culture.

“Beyond that, we did some staff engagement, which was something that had seldom happened in years past,” Davis said. “We brought in maintenance and operations coordinators and supervisors from all of our facilities for workshops to find out what was important to them. We made sure that senior management was not at the workshops. This gave them freedom to speak and be honest. We wanted to find out what they needed to be more effective in their roles.”

Implementing the program

From the assessment and the employee-engagement exercise, a 3-to-5-year road map was developed.

The assessment effort focused on seven key areas with 79 sub-elements. It included everything from effective planning and scheduling to having enough information in the job plans, to lubrication procedures, to communication.

“We can’t possibly implement everything on this road map individually or with a small group,” Davis said. “So we use a team-based approach, broken down into five focus areas.”

  • leadership
  • operations excellence
  • predictive maintenance
  • reliability engineering
  • work management.

Team members are operators, maintenance professionals, and warehouse staff. They work with sponsors and facilitators to get all of the elements implemented. Whether it is a change in the CMMS, exploring bringing in facilitators for certain projects, or critical equipment, the whole plan involves the team members so everyone will have an opportunity to shape the utility’s future.

“We have made some great progress in the past few years,” Davis said. “Planning and scheduling and warehouse staff have been through best practices implementations. Maintenance planning and scheduling was previously executed by our trades coordinators. We refocused and retrained the planners and schedulers, and have made enormous positive changes in quality and efficiency.”

For predictive maintenance, a team of internal technicians was formed. They are now in the middle of a 2-year project. Previously, contractors were used for this and there was no continuity.   Oil sampling, precision alignment, and predictive maintenance are being performed internally by the predictive-maintenance team and maintainers at the facilities. Training and certification is offered to staff who perform these functions and more than 20% of maintenance technicians in infrared thermography and machinery lubrication have been certified.

“We trained our reliability engineers on root-cause analysis and did some cause mapping,” Davis said. “Our leadership team is focused on improving communication and helped train our supervisors and managers on meeting facilitation and public speaking.”

Planning and scheduling improvements

0216voice3Before the reorganization, the CMMS system generated work orders and the trades coordinator assigned them with no formal process. The utility personnel struggled to execute all of the required maintenance tasks.

“We were deferring about 10% of our routine maintenance because we just didn’t have the resources,” Davis said. “With the training of our planners and schedulers, we were able to get them focused on their core functions with weekly schedules and goals. They have used this to balance resources for maintenance. Now, if we have 400 hours available next week for maintenance at a facility, we are going to schedule 400 hours of work that is due to be completed. This keeps the maintenance staff focused on the schedule and getting the work executed.”

Prior to that initiative, the utility was only completing about 35,000 work orders/year, of which only 70% was work that had been planned and scheduled. As of December 2015, 89% of the work within facility operations is now formally planned and scheduled with an average of 59,000 work orders/year using the same-size staff. Completion times also dropped significantly from 3 hr./work order to just more than 90 min./ order across all proactive and reactive maintenance.

Davis credits this success to the effective implementation of maintenance planning and scheduling, warehouse best practices, training of staff, and using key tools and technology such as infrared thermography, vibration-analysis tools, condition assessment, and precision-alignment equipment. He added that using the CMMS every day to analyze information and find key areas for improvement is essential.

Emergency work orders are not formally planned, of course, but must be addressed immediately. The benchmark for planned and scheduled maintenance work orders is 95%. “It is ok if emergency or urgent work break the schedule,” Davis said. “But we must also take the time to investigate the failure and try to prevent it from happening again. My personal philosophy is that every failure is an opportunity to improve how we manage our assets. We are not perfect and, when something happens, we need to use it as an opportunity to understand what happened, why it happened, and learn from it.”

Lessons learned

Challenges and mistakes along the way are simply a part of the journey. Davis said that the biggest mistake that can be made in implementing any new program is neglecting to engage the entire staff.

“We have some sharp people, but people are not always willing to tell you what they don’t like or if something is not working,” Davis stated. “If you are not engaging with them and working to get that information it may be a missed opportunity. I am a believer that negative feedback is sometimes the best information. Sometimes it’s a training opportunity or a need to improve a process. When we started out we talked about all the things we wanted to do from a technology standpoint and a best-practice standpoint. But without engaging the staff, we wouldn’t have made so much progress so quickly. We help them to understand how what they do every day relates to the big picture.”

Davis said the biggest challenge in implementing the new program was addressing the overall culture of the organization. “When we reorganized there was uncertainty. We moved some people around because we needed their knowledge and expertise in other areas. Most people don’t like change, and it is still a work in progress. We want people to enjoy their work and share their opinions and concerns.”

Building the right team is also essential, Davis said. “We look for people who have aptitude and ability, and this is equally and sometimes more important than the functional ability to do the job. We are always looking for team players.”

With continuous improvement the never-ending goal, the work is never done. The checklist comes from the details and the daily progress that contributes to the overall big picture. 

Davis has learned that when assembling and implementing a program such as this, a focus on “everything” may get you nowhere. “It’s never going to be finished. You have to focus on getting the staff’s skills up to speed, mentoring, bringing in some experts, and start a little smaller. You must pare it down to what you need in the immediate future, and what you can successfully implement and sustain. Then build upon that.”

The GCDWR’s road map is laid out sequentially. “So, if I float off the planet tomorrow someone can come in and make sense of it,” Davis stated. “And, like my father taught me, it’s always about paying attention to the details. Through this 3-to-5-year program, we came out of the gate after the first assessment at 47% out of 100, give or take. We just had our 2015 assessment and we are up to 63%. These are the opportunities I enjoy because it visualizes all that progress of all those little details. And it’s easily shared with other people. We can all see the progress.”

From the age of 16, Clinton Davis knew he wanted to work with his hands, repairing and building things. So whether it’s rebuilding the ’78 Pontiac or helping to implement an entire maintenance and reliability best-practice program for a huge utility, he uses these skills and lessons learned to this day. MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She is co-owner of Business Discovery Services Group in Birmingham, AL and spearheads the company’s Marketing Services division. She has worked as a journalist in the industrial processing industries for nine years. If you know of a M&R professional who is making a difference at their facility, please send an email to


7:45 pm
February 17, 2015
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Living With And Learning From Your Data


Big Data can be too big for some. Getting a grip on it—and its value—means separating wheat from chaff, say experts, and acting on revealed trends.

By Rick Carter , Executive Editor

A January advertisement for SAP claimed that “complexity” costs the world’s top 200 companies $1.2 billion annually. It goes on to say that “Simple saves.” And while some maintenance professionals might find SAP’s plug for simplicity amusing, the business-management software giant is on the mark—not just for the eye-catching dollar amount, but for the cause of those wasted dollars.

Definitions of “complexity” vary, of course, but in the current manufacturing environment, one factor maintenance pros increasingly view as a complexity contributor is data. Suddenly, there seems to be a data surplus. You can’t live without it—the challenge, in fact, has always been to obtain more data—but technology has now met the challenge, and then some.

“With the continued adoption of industrial automation systems, device and equipment data is originating from a variety of technology platforms,” says Juan Collados, Principal Applications Consultant for Schneider Electric. “This includes SCADA and distributed control systems, safety management systems, manufacturing execution systems and mobility applications, to name just a few. Add to that the Internet of Things, where billions of devices and machines are becoming interconnected on a global basis, and we can see why we now have an overabundance of data.”

ABB’s Kevin Starr, Director of Product Management for Process Automation Service, likens manufacturers’ exposure to data as taking a drink from a fire hydrant. “You get really wet,” he says, “but you don’t know what hit you.”

Context drives value

For Starr, Collados and others tasked with making sense of data for clients or crew, determining exactly what does hit you is the real issue, and cannot be a random action. The same technology that provides the quantity can manage and guide it, they say, but it’s first necessary to know exactly what is valuable for your operation. Data is too often “served up without specific context,” says Collados. “Acquiring quality data and transforming it to actionable information, therefore, becomes a focal point in enabling an effective asset-management strategy.”

Here, “quality” means data that has value in its ability to provide useful interpretation of equipment status and trends. But with so much data pouring in, value takes on new meaning, too, says Gil Acosta, Director of Engineering Services at eMaint, a New Jersey-based provider of CMMS software-as-a-service solutions. Asked what he tells clients who are looking for guidance on how to handle the abundance of incoming data, Acosta says he guides them “into finding the metrics of importance. I’m careful to use the word ‘importance’ because it’s easy to get caught up in the standard measurements out there. And if you get too involved in them, they may not be that meaningful at your place of business.”

Metrics that should be reviewed, suggests Acosta, include Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) and Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). “These are old, reliable measurements that are still useful, but don’t always tell the whole story any more.” They carried more weight, he says, when reliable data was in short supply. “They were a way of getting a small sample size and turning it into information. Now, with the massive amount of data that we have, we have way more calculations available to us than just MTTR or MTBF. We have trend analysis.”

Trend analysis can be as simple as a “change in slope,” says Acosta. It can occur over any period of steady data input of important measurements, as opposed to the former need to catch changes during the brief windows of observation that were typical in traditional data-capture techniques. Important measurements are anything condition-related: temperature, pressure, hours of operation, amperages and others. “And with many condition data points, you can start to monitor trends,” says Acosta, “and see changes in the condition of that asset, making MTTR and MTBF less useful.”

Most of the maintenance pros Acosta meets quickly agree on where such data detail can lead. “It’s the kind of information they have been missing for years and would love to suddenly have,” he says. “Things like cost of ownership, energy consumption, labor consumption, parts consumption. So when they learn how their work-order system collects that data, and how easy it is to get those reports out of the system, the process itself almost becomes an afterthought because it’s so simple. It’s the concept of starting with the end in mind,” he says, “and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that phrase. I tell folks to concentrate on the data you want to extract from the system to help you make better decisions. Invariably, I’ll get three or four things right away. Then I’ll say, let’s work backwards. Let’s make sure the data source is there to answer that.”

Let your system do the work

Starr uses a simple analogy to describe ABB’s current approach to providing data context from automated systems. “We’ve put in devices that assimilate the information and sort it,” he says. “And if you can imagine the old game Stadium Checkers with the marbles that would fall into holes at different levels, that vision is really accurate because you have all these levels now, and so much information, but nobody can see anything, so you have to filter it so it catches.”

Some call this process “data reshaping,” says Starr, which “basically means that you’re looking at statistical computations and probability of wave patterns in the data that correlate with known problems. This allows you to then sort it into smaller bins a human can look at and interpret. That’s the new skill I see evolving and is very much needed.”

When it comes to automated systems, this skill is sometimes more easily handled at the vendor rather than plant level. Starr therefore recommends that every time you add a layer of automation to make your life easy, you should add a service component that makes sure that level of automation gives you the right answer. ABB offerings in this regard include its ServicePro Service Management System, a global, real-time database of proven maintenance best practices and schedules.

“ServicePro,” Starr explains, “allows us to look at failure rates from the factory, replacement times, how long should it take, how often should it fail, and we make comparisons with global figures to this particular site. If a part fails on average once a year, but at your plant it fails once a month, we know something’s wrong. One of the issues with data,” he adds, “is that you can make it read whatever you want. But when you have a global average and you have thousands of items—we’re now managing 600,000 parts—you get updates every day” and, ideally, a relatively clear path to problem-solving.

An in-field factor that lends support for a service like this is equipment age. Certain older control systems can make data-capture difficult. “For example,” says Starr, “if the system is not OPC-compliant—and there are many out there like this—you can really be flying blind. A lot of [manufacturers] are trying to compete in this century with old technology. And if you don’t maintain these assets, at some point you’re going to be out of business because you just can’t see the information.” While this stance usually requires him to explain why new systems are so much better, Starr says this is an easy task. “The new systems have fail safes, redundant servers and decoupled processes for collecting data so you can’t harm them by trying to extract data [as in some older systems]. And when customers see what can be done, they’ll often say they want this every day, which means they’re talking about an integrated solution.”

Collados concurs that the newer your equipment, the better your data analysis can be. But he also recommends creating system and data solutions that don’t depend on a single vendor’s approach. “Maintenance professionals should ensure their data collection and analysis solutions are vendor-agnostic to both the sources of data, control and safety platforms, and the business systems (CMMS\EAM) being utilized to manage industrial assets,” he says. “Ease of use leading to end-user adoption is critical, where applications should provide an end-user experience that offers a clearly perceived benefit relative to the implementation and operability investment. Applications should be uniquely intuitive and offer standard configuration ease-of-use concepts such as wizards, drag & drop and templates. Equally important, is support from all levels of management in implementing a clearly understood asset-management strategy.”

When data speaks

Getting management support is clearly an ongoing challenge for some maintenance operations. With modern data elements, the process can be much easier, provided data meanings are properly collected and conveyed. “Too many maintenance professionals treat every asset in the plant the same way,” says Acosta. “This is often because it’s so obvious to them when an asset needs replacing that they don’t bother to calculate the return on investment. But not everything is a bald tire. They need to be able to say it’s costing X per month to maintain it, the number of PMs it needs is up, the warranty has expired and it’s near failure. They then have to be able to say, if you give me X to replace this, I’ll give you a return of some sort.”

The response to this approach is typically an approval for funding, says Acosta. But too often the story is not presented that way and the request will be “added to the list.” Noting that the data to support this type of story is probably already in the CMMS, Acosta adds that “you must do the homework to understand what the investment part of it is, and then interpret what you’ll get back. For example, how will current costs change once I make the investment? Answering that means tracking the labor, the parts, the oil consumption and everything else that goes into maintaining an asset.”

And that’s where Big Data can simplify the entire process. Not only can it rapidly take maintenance and reliability teams many steps forward on their continuous-improvement path, it can help bridge the skills-shortage gap most operations now face. “It used to take a person five years to get to the point where they could really maintain a site,” notes ABB’s Starr. “Now, with the tools we have, we can take somebody who is relatively new to the industry and in six months to a year, they’ll be doing work that took me 10 years to figure out. So we’re moving in the right direction.” MT

The 3 Main Types of Data

Data-collection-and-analysis training requirements can be described from the following three distinct, but interrelated perspectives, says Juan Collados, Principal Applications Consultant for Schneider Electric.

Disconnected and Stranded Assets
Equipment and devices outside of the automated control and safety network, where a mobility solution can be effectively implemented. This often comes in the form of operator rounds or planned inspection activities supported by mobile data-capturing capability. Data is either manually collected or automatically entered through handheld device such as an infrared camera. Condition-based data for this asset base also often originates from third-party services, such as oil spectroscopy and analysis contractors. Regardless of its origin, the data is still relatively raw. However, it can be monitored with rules- and template-based condition management applications to make it truly actionable.

Instrumented Equipment and Components
This asset base is typically within the control and safety network and can provide valuable maintenance-relevant data that can be transformed into actionable information through condition-management solutions. This data is typically stored in process historian platforms and can be collected through a variety of “data source” communication protocols such as ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) or OPC. Condition-based maintenance rules utilizing analysis tools such as thresholds, statistical process control or even simple expressions can then be associated with the collected data. The analysis should yield the desired results, typically in the form of notifications to maintenance and operations, automatic generation of contextual event-driven maintenance work orders or requests, and an ongoing optimization of the overall maintenance plan.

Intelligent Devices and System
This asset base generally resides within the instrumentation layer, but can include larger equipment and systems. Both can provide critical process and maintenance-relevant data, including, but not limited to, information relating to its current state and health through its self-diagnostics capabilities. It includes devices, such as smart-valve positioners and transmitters (level, pressure, etc.), as well as major equipment, such as HVAC systems in a data center or cleanroom. This type of asset provides advanced data broadcast capability directly through the base-level automation network. It utilizes a variety of real-time digital communication fieldbuses, such as HART, Foundation Fieldbus and Profibus, to name a few. Despite its complex nature, device manufacturers now provide rich human-machine interface applications that empower end-users to easily interface with this type of device or equipment. Vendor-neutral HMIs based on open standards are also available and increasingly relevant since one HMI can be used with any device regardless of the original manufacturer. In many cases, smart-device manufacturers provide not only the quantity of data required to manage the asset, but also offer richness to information quality and context.

Don’t miss Juan Collados’ free Webinar “Lower Your Maintenance Costs Through a Condition-Based Management Approach,” Thursday, Feb. 19. For information or to register, visit


12:56 pm
November 4, 2014
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The Reliability-Driven Maintenance Organization


Getting there requires taking a close look at weaknesses and taking measurable steps to correct them. Here, a respected industry expert shares tips on how to become a high-performing operation.

By Christer Idhammar

Any plant maintenance department wants to be known as a cost-effective organization. For our purposes, “cost effective” means maintenance without waste: where waste is the gap between how good the organization is and how good it can become. Waste includes poor safety, losses in quality and high costs.

In a poorly performing maintenance organization, the gap between the real and the ideal world tends to increase over time because it reacts to problems instead of preventing them. As a result, there isn’t time to take measures that will break this reactive work cycle. Even in periods when equipment is operating well and no panic-work comes up, the maintenance organization tends to slow down and wait for the next problem. This creates a culture where maintenance personnel think it is useless to start other work because they will be interrupted with real, or often perceived, urgent work. So even between reactive work, maintenance personnel accomplish very little.

From an operations standpoint, this situation can be comforting because it means maintenance can deal with equipment problems on short notice. It is far easier for operations to call maintenance to fix a problem when it occurs than to write a work request to correct an anticipated problem. This type of relationship typically occurs when operations does not feel responsible for the cost of maintenance. Even if most work is requested by operations, the maintenance manager is in the hot seat if budgets are overrun.

A high-performing maintenance organization is far different. It is founded on anticipating what will happen in the future and planning and scheduling corrective actions in advance. It is not only DO-oriented, it is THINK-oriented. It is an organization that continuously designs out problems and improves.

  • Correcting attitudes and cultures
  • To develop a high-performing maintenance organization, the first steps are:
  • To fully understand how good the organization is currently, and locate the gaps where improvement can occur
  • To develop and commit to an action plan to close the gaps, including clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • To change work attitudes and culture.

In some plants, the typical first step toward improving maintenance performance is to purchase a new computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or instruments for predictive maintenance. They may also implement fragmented improvement initiatives using Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), 5S or similar tools. And while these are good tools, they often fail because they are implemented before an organization does the basics well or changes the work culture to support their efficient use.

Bill Gates addressed succinctly the potential value of technology-based tools when he said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient, well-defined operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient or poorly defined operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

Measuring results

To measure the results of maintenance activities, plants traditionally view good maintenance in terms of low costs. With few exceptions, this cost is always considered too high. This view of maintenance stems from an old attitude, which is that maintenance only costs money and does not contribute to productivity.

Plants must change the way they measure maintenance results. Analysis of production advancements over the past 35 years reveals that many process industries have more than tripled their production output. During this time, the number of operators has decreased about 30%, while the number of maintenance crafts people has decreased about 6%. This growth in productivity can be traced to increased automation and more reliable equipment—and it’s not necessarily a result of efficient maintenance.

A common way plant maintenance departments measure their effectiveness is to compare maintenance costs with other plants. This is the wrong thing to do, because those who are not the top performer in the comparison will waste time explaining why the figures are wrong instead of focusing on how to improve. We also know that different accounting principles can make a difference of up to 100% in what is considered a maintenance cost, capital investment or operations expense.

The focus must instead be on learning about activities, technology and processes that drive reliability, safety and cost. Better planning and scheduling of maintenance work correlates directly to high manufacturing reliability, better safety and lower costs. It is also important to understand that predictive maintenance alone does not prevent anything. It only gives information on failures that are developing toward a breakdown. But with this information, plants can “anticipate” the future and plan and schedule corrective maintenance actions.

In the best case, plants can schedule the corrective action to be executed in a maintenance “window.” This is an opportunity that presents itself when equipment is down for reasons other than planned and scheduled maintenance, such as changing belts, unscheduled shutdowns, cleaning and other tasks. The link between predictive maintenance and planning and scheduling of work is an essential basic reliability and maintenance process. Executed with precision, it will increase quality product throughput, improve safety and reduce costs.

Performance indicators*

The right thing to do is benchmark the maintenance department and measure continuous improvement internally. If comparing with other organizations, plants should learn what processes best performers use to drive improved reliability and maintenance costs, and how they execute them well.

To continuously improve execution of essential processes, it’s necessary implement performance indicators as close to the action as possible. This will motivate and trigger actions that will influence the overall performance.

In a reactive organization, break-in work must be reduced. During transition to an organization in control, planning and scheduling quality can be an indicator. Trends in backlog, overtime and contractor hours can also be meaningful indicators when the organization is starting to gain control. When an organization gains control over its maintenance strategies, it becomes important to measure Root Cause Implementations completed and problems eliminated. To do this properly, clear definitions on what’s measured are necessary.

In a study of 38 process lines, the only strong correlation between low and high performers is how well they planned and scheduled maintenance and operations work. All machines that planned and scheduled more than 50% of work had measured Reliability (as % Quality x % Time, with Time based on 8760 hours available per year) of over 85%. Top performers that planned and scheduled between 75% and 90% of all work achieved a Reliability of 92–96%.

Work measurements

Plants that use hands-on tools or other types of work measurements as a way to determine maintenance efficiency are doing the wrong thing. Here’s why:

  • They do not promote cooperation between management and crafts people.
  • They do not consider those who may be busy doing the right thing. For example, in the work-measurement system, thinking time and trouble-shooting time is considered hand-off-tools and, thus, non-productive.
  • Almost all time identified as non-productive by work measurement is typically attributed to a lack of work management and planning and/or scheduling. In fact, it is a result of poor management.
  • When equipment is operating, it is not always true that maintenance people who are busy with hands-on tools are productive. In fact, they can be busy doing the wrong things or only pretending to be busy.
  • In a scheduled shutdown, it is true that people are more productive if they can work on planned and scheduled work without interruptions. Again, only good planning and scheduling—good management—can accomplish this.

Partnering in reliability

To achieve results-oriented reliability and maintenance, plants must realize that production is a partnership between operations, maintenance, stores and engineering. The traditional view is that maintenance is a service organization; operations is the internal customer of maintenance; stores support maintenance; and engineering is an isolated “happy island.” The right thing to do is to view these sectors as partners in a joint venture to reliably produce quality products.

In this partnership, maintenance will deliver equipment reliability; operations will deliver production process reliability; stores will continue to support maintenance; and engineering will support both maintenance and operations, as well as practice life-cycle costs (LCC) or asset management in its design, specification and selection procedures for new equipment. This means that equipment selection will be based on the cost to buy and cost to own. The concept includes reliability and maintainability analyses.

Recognition is important

Most maintenance organizations can verify that they receive recognition when they fix a major breakdown, but seldom hear anything when they prevent a breakdown. While there is nothing wrong with recognizing good work in a breakdown situation, if this is the only time maintenance people are recognized, it sends the wrong message. This type of recognition fosters a culture of maintenance heroes or “Maintenance Tarzans.” They become action-oriented, which can make it difficult for them to transition to more planned, scheduled and organized maintenance work.

Overtime compensation can motivate, especially considering that breakdowns are about 74% more likely to occur when the full crew is off site. However, this is changing as the Y-generation enters the job market—a group that values time off more than higher pay. Plants need to remember that poor maintenance is visible and good maintenance is invisible, because it is less action-oriented. It is always right for plants to recognize implemented improvements, failure avoidance, planning and scheduling performance and overall reliability.

Performance-improving tips

The following strategies can help develop a high-performing organization:

Work management and planning & scheduling: Most frontline supervisors schedule work to the people they have available. The right thing to do is schedule work that must be done, prioritize it based on risk and what is best for the business, then schedule people to execute this work.

Time estimates are almost always based on four or eight-hour time segments. In many cases, no fewer than two people are assigned to each job. This provides the supervisor a buffer of resources he or she can use for jobs added to the schedule on short notice. In this setup, scheduling-compliance can wrongly appear to be high. Therefore, it’s better to schedule work with real time estimates and include problem solving, or thinking time, as part of all work done by crafts people.

In a high-performing maintenance organization, 20% of all effort hours should be used on problem elimination or continuous improvement that will “design out maintenance problems.”

Anticipation: Most plants have morning meetings to discuss what happened the previous day and night, and what is planned for the current day. High- performing maintenance organizations will spend most of this meeting on what will happen tomorrow and next week. Though it sounds unrealistic, this can be done because very few problems occur and little time needs to be spent on yesterday’s problems. The focus should be on future activities.

Following the same principle, the organization should work on a monthly or weekly forecast and finalize the next day’s schedule about four hours before the end of each day. The schedule should be communicated to crafts people before they leave for the day so they can prepare for the next day’s work.

Flexibility: The 12- to 14-person craft-line-oriented maintenance organization is, or must soon be, a thing of the past. Craft lines should not limit work flexibility—only work skills to do a job safely should be a constraint. This will often require changes in union agreements and a focused training program for crafts people. Experience indicates that if management presents a clear plan, it will be well received.

Lost-production analyses: These types of analyses often reflect lost production only by department. Such a procedure does not build a partnership between departments, nor does it solve problems.

The better approach is to define, solve and classify a problem by department, equipment and type of failure after analyses are complete, then follow up on how to solve the problem in the future.

Storeroom closure: Many maintenance organizations waste up to 30% percent of their time walking to the store(s) and searching for parts. Plants should plan and schedule maintenance activities so stores can prepare and deliver parts where and when they are needed. This will require a Bill Of Material (BOM) populated to 95%+ accuracy.

Technical documentation: All technical and economic information about equipment should be readily available. The equipment, loop or circuit number should be the key to this information. At a minimum, all parts kept in stores, or not kept in stores, should be tied to equipment identification in the BOMs. The lack of good and reliable documentation is one of the reasons why most maintenance planners do not have time to plan.

Maintenance shift coverage: Most three-shift plants have maintenance resources on the late shifts. Some have a maintenance supervisor on each shift. Ideally, a plant should operate without maintenance people on the night or evening shift. This is possible only if maintenance believes the plant can operate 16 hours without major maintenance problems. If this is not possible, the plant should do something about it.

The above issues are select examples of actions and cultures that will promote high-performing maintenance. It is important that a plant maintenance organization seriously examine how good it truly is, determine if it is promoting the right things and if improvements are needed. Only then can a maintenance organization proceed to make the changes needed to become as good as it can be. MT

Christer Idhammar is the Founder of IDCON, Inc. (