Archive | Work Processes


4:05 pm
July 7, 2016
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Change Your Game to Proactive

Basketball arena

Expanding the definition of reliability to include the human element can transform an organization’s culture and boost overall business performance.

By Jeff R. Dudley, HSB Solomon Associates LLC

Question: What’s a common denominator among the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates?

Answer: The ability to change the game in their respective vocations or pursuits.

Game changers are entities that transform existing situations or activities in significant ways. They develop ideas or means of performing that completely alter the way a situation, profession, or even an industry develops. Each of aforementioned groups or individuals had a profound impact on their profession. At times, they appeared iconic, having a significant impact on the culture around them. Looking at them, you would label them as leaders, innovators, and proactive in their approaches.

When businesses exhibit these characteristics, they are thought to have great leadership and considered to be forward thinking or proactive. They’re also typically highly successful in their respective sectors.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 10.29.45 AM

Culture continuum

All businesses develop a culture that defines them. The more leadership-focused an organization is, the more proactive it becomes. Figure 1 illustrates a culture continuum moving from highly reactive to highly proactive, highly manager-led to highly leader-led, and low reliability to high reliability. As an organization’s culture moves more to the right side of the chart, the opportunity for achieving game-changing performance increases. That’s good news. The bad news is that it’s still uncommon to find organizations moving toward and performing on the far right.

Unlike individual game changers, countless organizations that hope to achieve game-changing performance often lack the culture to sustain the dedication and commitment to excellence that will keep that performance going. Instead, they languish in a reactive, manager-led state. The biggest obstacle to their success is that it is simply easier to be complacent than to constantly strive for improvement.

Staying reactive leads to inevitable outcomes

By necessity, reactive organizations have to be manager-led—everybody has to be told what to do. Since seeking permission is standard operating procedure, things happen much slower. With risk-taking held in check, very little innovation occurs. As a result, such organizations become stuck in “this is how it has always been done” mode.

Following the same old path and holding risk in check, however, has another downside: Reactive work, coupled with lack of planning, leads to greater risk to employees and the business itself. Let’s examine some data that support this pattern.

The Solomon Associates, Dallas, “International Study of Plant Reliability and Maintenance Effectiveness” (RAM) study shows that third- and fourth-quartile (Q3 and Q4) performers are more reactive than first- and second-quartile (Q1 and Q2) performers. (All Solomon studies break results into performance quartiles with Q1 being the best and Q4 the worst.)

This research also shows that the majority of work done by companies with reactive cultures is significantly less planned and scheduled. Moreover, there’s an elevated potential for high-level emergency work that must to be completed. All of these factors potentially put employees at a higher risk. According to the compiled data, reactive organizations do approximately twice as much work as their proactive counterparts.

So how does the reactive culture put businesses at risk? Reactive cultures incur significantly more asset downtime and, as a result, are not capable of producing as much product as they could, therefore becoming less profitable. Reactive cultures are also less productive, from all aspects of running a business. They experience higher operating costs, compared with proactive cultures, and generally spend less time operating their assets and more time fixing them.

Another issue to consider has to do with the frequency and severity of environmental incidents. Solomon’s data indicate such incidents occur more frequently in a reactive culture and become more noteworthy than with proactive cultures. Obviously, these types of issues can have a negative impact on business sustainability.

In any organization, profitability is driven by asset availability and the cost to produce that availability, assuming a saleable product with sufficient standard margin. Reactive cultures typically have a strong cost focus, allowing cost to drive reliability. This type of environment creates a short-term focus on profitability and often results in de-capitalized assets and unsustainable profitability.

Performance improvements

As a culture moves to a proactive mindset, the organization becomes more resilient and possesses the capacity to turn the previously described negatives into positives—something we refer to as “LeadeReliablity.” This is where game-changing performance occurs.

As proactive organizations evolve, they become more leader-led. Administrative leaders trust that employees have been trained, know what to do in most situations, and will do it well. They use their leadership skills to teach others how to lead in their area of expertise, developing leadership traits in all employees. As more personnel apply their skills and ideas, innovation and improvement flourish. As the pattern continues, the organization transforms itself. Everyone begins to act like a leader, and performance, as a whole, improves dramatically.

Risk also is minimized because of the proactive nature. The opposite of what was previously discussed is true: Fewer employees are involved in every task and overtime is typically held to a minimum. Tasks are planned, scheduled, and completed on time, with little emergency work. Employee risk is minimized because most work and potential hazards are thought out ahead of time. These organizations typically have stellar safety results and performance.

Business risks are minimized as well because these organizations are reliable suppliers to their customers—and their customers know they can depend on them. As a result, these organizations are the ones other customers turn to when reactive organizations cannot meet their commitments. Proactive organizations create customer loyalty.

Proactive cultures focus on reliability first and allow cost to create the desired reliability, which sometimes means that, in the short-term, they spend more in a targeted fashion to address a specific issue. The outcome of this mindset is high reliability at the optimum cost to achieve it.

Game changing

While proactive cultures that continue on their reliability journey become game changers in all areas, the change in reliable performance is especially noteworthy. These organizations stand out because they have patiently and bravely followed a path that has made them significantly different from others. They excel in the following three areas:

Culture: Organizations that excel in the area of culture focus tirelessly on minimizing unplanned events, identifying the abnormal, and not allowing the abnormal to become normal. They plan, schedule, commit to, and complete tasks as planned and scheduled. They do not accept the status quo and know they can continuously improve.

Individuals in these types of organizations think of themselves as a “leaders” who can make a difference in what they do. By constantly focusing on “what could go wrong,” they don’t allow unplanned events to be disruptive. If and when problems do arise, they have already decided what to do about them. They believe they can learn from everything and take every opportunity to teach what they have learned. They are well trained and follow procedures, yet treat each procedure as a living document that can be improved. They have authority and freedom to act to address any situation. They use experts inside and outside the organization to reach solutions. Others desire to be a part of such organizations.

Reliability: Organizations that excel in this area consider reliability in broader terms than those with an asset focus. Their definition of reliability also deals with how personnel conduct their business and meet their commitments. They realize that, without reliable personnel, their assets don’t stand a chance. Because their focus is on a long-term commitment to reliable assets, however, such organizations deliver impressive results. Q1 performers consistently deliver more than 97% mechanical availability. More than 75% of their downtime is due to planned turnarounds.

Spending on Reliability and Maintenance: Cost control is not the driver for organizations that excel in this area. During their journeys, spending is optimized to deliver desired asset reliability. The culture has a positive impact on the amount of spending that occurs. A focus on proactive discovery, addressing abnormal conditions, planning, scheduling, and efficient completion of the work drives costs to the optimum level. As the culture continues to develop in such organizations, spending is driven down. Note that game changers are not the lowest-spending organizations. In fact, our research has shown that the lowest-spending operations typically have poor reliability and are normally Q3 performers).

Scoring big

If you want your organization to be the Michael Jordan of its industry, you must focus on reliability. Your definition of reliability will put employee-behavior at the forefront. Reliable human behavior creates reliable asset operation.

During the journey, you will focus on growing a reliable culture and target your spending. You understand you are not under any less constraint than your competition. But, because you are constantly becoming more reliable, you target your spending to eliminate future spending. As a result, you are constantly becoming more profitable than if you had not started this journey. You do not make promises to customers, employees, and stakeholders that you cannot keep.

As a result, you and your organization become a game changer in the area of reliably running your business and create customer loyalty, employee engagement, and sustainable profitability. MT

Jeff Dudley is a senior consultant with Dallas-based HSB Solomon Associates LLC ( He has spent more than 30 years in the reliability and maintenance arena. Contact him at

learnmore2Choose Reliability or Cost Control

Set Your Mind for Complete Reliability

Seven Steps to Culture Change

Match Attitude, Structure, to Change Culture


6:24 pm
June 13, 2016
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Seven Steps to Work Order Success

Tunneller sinker worker connecting equipment in tunnel of seweк collector at undergroung working

Follow these seven guidelines to realize success with work-order procedures.

If these planning and scheduling guidelines aren’t SOP (standard operating procedure) around your maintenance department, they should be.

By Steve Mueller, Daniel Penn Associates

Want to help your maintenance team become more effective? While new computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) are making everyone’s job easier, certain procedures are sacrosanct, regardless of technology. These guidelines should be part of every maintenance department’s operation.

1. Supervisors are responsible for execution of the current schedule. Planner/schedulers are responsible for creation of the future schedule.

Don’t ask supervisors to do their own planning and scheduling. Their value is in managing the execution of work; let them focus on that. Planners and schedulers pay for themselves if the organization is large enough (an old rule of thumb is one planner for every 20 workers). To adapt and adjust to changing priorities, the planner and the supervisor should communicate frequently about job plans.

In general, planners and schedulers should not be involved with current jobs. Supervisors will manage new jobs that invariably pop up and disrupt the current week’s schedule.

To maximize the shop’s capacity, the scheduler may have allocated tasks to specific workers. The actual assignment of work, however, is solely the responsibility of the supervisor. There should be no territorial disputes about this.

2. No work orders will be released without a “ready” status code from Dispatch or Planning.

“Ready” means ready. In other words, material, tools, work-site access, permits, and other items are all in order so that the job can begin. Once a work order is released, there should be nothing to prevent the job from starting. Adhere to this guideline and you’ll avoid that black hole of released but unworkable jobs that can linger in a supervisor’s backlog.

3. Every worker should start each shift with ready work.

Too often, the first 20 to 30 minutes of a shift are spent doing everything but working—sometimes because no one has been told what to do. Don’t let this happen in your shop. The schedule should have work orders ready to go first thing. If there aren’t any scheduled work orders, you should have some shop, 5S, or other work ready to go.

4. All planned work should include estimated hours, a status code (from the CMMS if available), and priority.

If there are no estimated hours, the job is not a planned job and not ready for work. The status code indicates that the job is ready for work. The priority helps everyone understand how important the job is in the event of a resource or schedule conflict.

5. The requester’s “priority” always yields to an agreed-upon order of importance.

For example, maintaining negative air pressure in an isolation room in a hospital is agreed upon as being more important than fixing a thermostat in the executive suite, regardless of the priority given by the requester. It’s wise to make sure that “agreed upon” levels of importance for requested work are really agreed upon by all involved so there’s no argument down the road. The scheduler assigns a priority such as “urgent,” ”important,” or “routine,” based on established criteria. For obvious reasons, emergency work is not scheduled and should be performed immediately.

Keep in mind that preventive maintenance will always be a top priority—and may even have a dedicated crew to assure that it is accomplished on schedule.

6. All work must be on a work order.

The paperwork may come afterwards, as in the case of urgent/emergency work, but all work must find its way to a work order and into the CMMS. No exceptions.

7. Work orders are to be closed out on the same day they are completed.

Closing out a work order on the same day that it’s completed keeps the data and the metrics current. Managing the backlog is critical to managing maintenance. This becomes very difficult if the backlog in the CMMS doesn’t reflect current reality.

Although this list could certainly be expanded for specific circumstances, these seven guidelines are key for most maintenance organizations. Above all, maintenance teams must communicate constantly to make sure all parties are in synch and all work orders are completed to spec and on schedule. MT

As director of Commercial Operations for the West Hartford, CT-based management-consulting firm Daniel Penn Associates (, Steve Mueller focuses on the needs of private-sector clients. His 30 years of consulting experience include working with all levels of management in a wide range of industries, and addressing virtually all business processes, from service to manufacturing.

learnmore2 Polish Up Your Maintenance Planning


4:23 pm
May 16, 2016
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Maximize Millennial Workers

Millennials checklist on clipboard for survey of generation with age born between 1980 and 2000, social and connected, and cause driven

For many, the millennial generation presents a significant workplace management challenge and is often labeled lazy and entitled. Unlike previous generations, this group approaches things in a very different way. Like it or not, they are the future. In fact, that future is now. Millennials currently make up more than 35% of the workforce and that number will be just short of 50% by 2020. In other words, if you’re not one, you have to learn to work with them.

At the Uponor Connections 2016 users conference, held this past March in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Ryan Avery (a millennial himself) in his talk, “Motivating Millennials,” shed some light on what makes that generation tick. Uponor North America, headquartered in Apple Valley, MN, is a manufacturer of PEX piping systems.

Avery started his talk by making it clear to the baby boomers in the audience that they are the reason millennials are the way they are. Boomers had to work hard to move up the ladder and didn’t want their kids to have to do the same and now get to work with the result of that approach. What follows are more insights from Avery that, if you’re a baby boomer or part of some other generation, will help you understand and benefit from what can prove to be a talented group of workers.

—Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director

Ryan Avery assigned shapes to the two generations.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 8.45.27 AM

The triangle represents baby boomers and their hierarchical approach to life and work. Millennials are the circle because they have a community approach and like to be coached. They don’t appreciate bosses and like to be part of a team. The shape for GenX people is a square.

While boomers grew up in and work in an aggressive/demanding culture, millennials do better if things are explained. They like to know why things are done or need to be done.

When millennials are presented with a task, they like to start with the result/goal and then be allowed to figure out how to get there. Established procedures aren’t always of interest to them. If they see a better way, they want the freedom to take that path. That path doesn’t always fit in the conventional 9-to-5 workday.

When communicating with millennials, stop multitasking — put your phone down and your computer screen aside. This applies to anyone, but managers should take care to talk to millennials like they matter. Four of five employees do not feel valued at work. That one valued person will give 90% more of himself/herself than the other four. Keep in mind that employees spend more time with managers than their loved ones. Pay attention to the person opposite you.

Millennials stay at their jobs an average of two years, meaning that they aren’t interested in the conventional end-of-the-year reward/bonus approach. They are much more receptive to little rewards throughout the year, such as meals or gift cards. Avery suggested that paying their monthly Netflix fee would be an excellent reward.

Millennials like a cause, which translates to the fact that they are more willing to participate if there is a social responsibility involved. Instead of a bonus, give them money to donate to their favorite cause or provide days off so they can volunteer to help others.

Instead of smoke breaks, provide social-media breaks.

They like to collaborate and don’t like to compete.

They are not big fans of the word “but.” Instead of  “Good idea, but . . .” try “I like your idea and another way to accomplish it is…” MT


3:49 pm
May 16, 2016
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On The Floor: Maintenance-Scheduling Triggers — Part 2 of 2

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

As noted in the April issue’s introduction to this, two-part “On The Floor,” when it rains, it pours. The overwhelming and detailed number of responses we received from our Reader Panelists regarding maintenance triggers simply wouldn’t fit in two pages. Alas, even with this second installment, we regret that we haven’t been able to capture all comments. To recap, we had asked these questions:

  1. What triggers our Panelists’ maintenance scheduling, or if they are consultants or industry suppliers, that of their client(s) or customer(s)? Sensors? OEM recommendations? Daily walks/PdM tool data? Word of mouth? A combination?
  2. Which approaches work best for them, and why, and vice versa?
  3. Would Panelists (or their clients or customers) want to change their current maintenance-scheduling process(es), and could they? If so, what would they do?

Edited for brevity and clarity, here are several additional responses.

College Electrical Laboratory, Manager/Instructor, West…

In our organization, we have different levels of maintenance staff. The maintenance crew ranges from technicians who have been at the job for 22 years to the college grads with two to three years on the job. Their diagnostic methods are very different. The operation uses a CMMS program to track the health of all process equipment. The seasoned technician walks around and touches all of the equipment at least once a day, checking for temperature, vibrations, loose parts, and strange smells. The newer technician uses some state-of-the-art test equipment: infrared heat sensors, vibration monitor, and sound-level indicators. All data go into the system so any potential problems can be handled.

The process that works best varies because experience comes into play. Some pieces of equipment are very old and have their own personalities. Test equipment does not always catch some of the problems, but the experienced maintenance staff seems to be able to diagnose a pending problem through their touchy-feely methods. Keeping track of this history has reduced downtime on most of the equipment. Education on all processes and updated technologies has added to our success.

We’ve been able to add preventive-maintenance hours to the schedule when we have tooling changes and other production breaks. Each experienced technician has a newer technician assigned to him for in-depth training. Every shift has a 15-min. maintenance-planning discussion before starting the daily operations.

Sr. Maintenance Engineer, Process Industries, Midwest…

[At our plant] it’s a combination. Before last year, it was mostly set frequencies based on historical failure data, daily walks, or OEM requirements. Now, we have tied our real-time data-collection system to our EAM software and are doing more and more condition-based scheduling using online temps, vibes, run-hours, levels, etc. We still do “all of the above,” but have become more well-rounded.

I’m not sure there is a best approach. Any of them work. It’s dependent on the situation. In some cases, walk arounds are the best because the equipment is new, or not in a harsh service, or has no failure history. In other cases, we have to monitor key operating metrics very closely to detect slight changes that signal the start of the failure curve. The best approach is often learned from past results.

It would be great to have everything monitored online and condition-based, but it’s not feasible, so, we continue to be flexible and adjust where necessary, using all forms of monitoring to gather the needed data.

Planned Maintenance, Supervisor, Midwest…

Our maintenance is scheduled through a combination of methods. Sometimes maintenance, such as filter replacement, lubrication, and some oil changes, is performed after the equipment has operated a predetermined number of hours. Other areas we have been able to extend oil life through PdM methods such as oil sampling and analysis data. The majority of scheduled maintenance is the result of condition-based monitoring through our scheduled PM inspections. Sadly, the dreaded, unexpected equipment/component failure too often determines scheduling for us.

Lubrication best practices, combined with using the run-time hours of the equipment to determine lubrication frequency, have made a positive impact. Predictive oil sampling and analysis activities have given us a better understanding of the condition of our gearboxes and air compressors. Performing condition-based inspection tasks is key to allowing us to schedule maintenance in a timely manner that helps us avoid extended and untimely equipment outages. Of course, for all of the obvious reasons, the reactive, “repair after failure” type of work on production equipment should be avoided at all costs.

I hope to see more of our maintenance activities scheduled as a result of PdM activities. These include expanding and improving our oil-sampling program and developing and expanding the thermal-imaging best practices we are just getting started. I am convinced we would benefit from vibration monitoring and analysis and would like to see it added as one of the predictive techniques we use. I support these types of practices and the need to get key personnel formally trained to fully realize the benefits of these activities.

Sr. Facilities Engineer, Discrete Manufacturing, Southeast…

We basically begin with OEM recommendations and add to them as we learn more about the equipment.

I believe that, over time, knowledge is gained that must be implemented into the scheduling. Each user has different issues with the equipment and the OEM specs are just a jumping off point. How critical [certain] equipment is to your operation also comes into play.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

Our building engineers make daily rounds of all their buildings and track how long belts and air filters have been installed. Greasing equipment and any oil changes are done per OEM instructions, as best as we can. Our utility laborers change air filters, as needed, when asked by the engineer in each building.

We try to avoid breakdown maintenance as much as possible. Our chillers are rodded out at least once a year, and as needed. A contractor does winter maintenance on all stand-alone chillers, and we clean stand-alone cooling towers as needed after cleaning for season start-up.

We have several dual-temperature water buildings and normally only change each one from winter to summer and summer to winter annually. We try to do heating repairs in summer and cooling in winter. About 80% of our buildings use steam/chilled water from our utilities plants. Our plate and shell and tube heat/cool exchangers are cleaned/rodded as needed. We monitor our systems on CMMS as much as we can. About 60% is in the CMMS, but not all systems have full controls.

This approach works very well, considering how much equipment and how many employees we have. We take care of approximately half of a university campus, i.e., 7 to 8 million sq. ft., spread over about 40 buildings. We cover these buildings 24/7 with a combined crew of about 45 building engineers, laborers, and supervisors.

We’ve only had minor changes to our approach in the [many] years I’ve been here. The fact that all employees are taught it from day one seems to be the main [reason for its success].

And now, some final food for thought

Acknowledging that he has no current clients, a retired industry consultant still wanted to weigh in on the topic of maintenance triggers. His comments seemed to be a good way to bring closure to this two-part Reader Panelist discussion. Or maybe they’ll keep the discussion going in other places.

“I don’t have any current clients, (retirement tends to slow things a tad),” he wrote, “but those I had tended to perform as-per-schedule tasks, with reactive tasks done to fix the squeaky wheel.”

According to this respondent, only two of his major clients actually performed effective scheduled maintenance regularly. “The rest always seemed two steps from panic. Even with CMM programs and sensor-indicated needs, most were always attempting to catch up, typically complaining that a lack of staff or supplies was holding things up. Major contributors included poor problem-solving skills, fixing symptoms, not looking for root causes, or an attitude of ‘why mess with it while it’s working.’”

In his opinion, these problems are ongoing, in industry and elsewhere. “It seems that this is an international issue,” he lamented. “Worldwide, no one asks ‘why?’ Even here at home, life-style poor health is blamed on others (bad genes are becoming vogue, bad advice runs a close second), ignoring the basic fact that we are what we eat and modern North Americans have better choices than most medieval kings.” MT

About the MT Reader Panel

The Maintenance Technology Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed and their responses are not necessarily projectable. Note that our panel welcomes new members. To be considered, email your name and contact information to with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.


8:23 pm
April 11, 2016
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On The Floor: Maintenance-Scheduling Triggers — Part 1

What drives your maintenance scheduling?

What drives your maintenance scheduling?

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

When it rains, it pours. At least that’s what happened with April’s Reader Panel questions. They triggered an outpouring of responses—including several extremely detailed ones. In fact, we received so many thoughtful replies that, to fit them in, we’ll need to run them over two months. The questions we asked were:

What triggers our panelists’ maintenance scheduling, or if they are consultants or industry suppliers, that of their client(s) or customer(s)? Sensors? OEM recommendations? Daily walks/PdM tool data? Word of mouth? A combination?

Which approaches work best for them, and why, and vice versa?

Would panelists (or their clients or customers) want to change their current maintenance-scheduling process(es), and could they? If so, what would they do?

As always, we’ve edited this first wave of responses for brevity and clarity.

Maintenance Supervisor, Process Industries, Canada…

We use a combination of approaches. We have maintenance [personnel] and operators that use handheld devices with routes for regular inspections. Data is uploaded and emails are automatically sent out. Benchmark work orders in our CMMS are set to generate area-shut/routine work. We also have completed most of the areas on RCM. There’s still work to do to get PM work orders in the system, but that’s a continuous work in progress.

The handhelds are great if the operators/maintenance guys give us the correct information. The downside is the handhelds typically add to the huge list of emails that not everyone can read and some things fall through the cracks, i.e., minimum manning/new planners, and supervisors’ inexperience. [Other things that work well include] identifying critical assets, looking at types of failures most likely to happen, determining inspection frequency, and then “training the guys out in the field on what to look for.” Training on the sense and meaning of what can go wrong and what that looks like is critical for getting good data to act on.

Currently, work orders that are being generated are “go look at stuff”—they don’t identify or convey what should be getting done. A review of basic PMs needs to be done, as should a site/area audit to look at what is actually being inspected.

[I would recommend] providing some instruction for the operators and maintenance staff on the sense and meaning behind the PM program and ensuring there is feedback with follow-up discussions when reports coming in.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Manufacturing, Midwest…

Our main scheduling is actually handled by our PM coordinators—who do an outstanding job handling several hundred machines per plant. Each one of our plants has a PM coordinator. If I had to choose a main trigger, it would be sensors. Our Maximo system also sets off triggers if we find an abnormality on a machine. Scheduling is generally [based on] an annual, semi-annual, or quarterly check on the machines. In our departments, we have multiple sets of machines, so we’re really doing one PM after another from cell to cell.

I really can’t say that our system has one approach that works better than the other. The biggest obstacles we run into are machines not being released from production to do the work.

The only thing that will correct that problem in our plants would be to have maintenance departments treated as a separate business and be given priorities when PMs are scheduled. Until then, we will still struggle to hit 100% compliance consistently.

Industry Consultant, Northeast…

To me, a combination of [maintenance-scheduling] triggers is best, but that requires a very dedicated planner who really understands how the world works. The most intelligent approach probably combines some fixed-time replacements, i.e., re-lamping an area or cleaning air handlers in late fall, with data supplied by predictive tools like vibration and infrared scanning.

Vendor recommendations can be a gamble. I know of a large OEM that suggests replacing bearings before they reach their design life, and the company designs around the L10! While reliability pros recognize that type of replacement practice actually reduces the reliability of the product, many of the OEM’s customers think the vendor is always right. (Along those lines, [reliability icon] Charles Latino used to say, “Never have a vendor do your failure analysis unless you have an experienced professional looking over the vendor’s shoulders.”)

There are many very competent vendors, but unless they know exactly how you are using their equipment, how can they do a good job suggesting maintenance procedures.

Sr. Maintenance Mechanic, Process Industries, South…

We use most of these [sensors, OEM recommendations, daily walks/PdM tool data, word of mouth] to some extent. We rely most heavily on PdM tool data for planned repairs with daily walks becoming a distant second. We use OEM recommendations for our newer equipment, but still verify the intervals with PdM tools. I don’t believe you can ever entirely eliminate walk-arounds. The senses that most of us possess, coupled with the desire for zero unplanned shutdowns, are still some of the best diagnostic tools available.

I think any of these methods can be very good, depending on the individual that uses them. PdM tools, in my opinion, are the best trigger available, provided they are in the hands of a trained person with the desire to learn and continue to improve their skills.  Daily walks are also great if done by the right personnel. OEM “recommendations” are just that—and should be used with the backdrop of experience your company has with similar machines.  As I alluded to earlier, I find OEM recommendations are very helpful with our new equipment, with which our experience is very limited.

I think ours [approach to maintenance scheduling] is heading in the right direction: away from time-based and more to condition based with the proper tools and training. I hope we continue to proceed this way.

The only downside I can see is the maintenance of the actual PdM tools. Training for employees, calibration, and repairs of the tools can be expensive and a great temptation to forgo during a tight budget cycle. Once this is done with no immediate consequences, it is very easy to repeat, sending your maintenance program a giant leap backwards. Sometimes “bean counters” don’t understand the value of trending data.

Industry Consultant, West…

Most of my clients use time-based maintenance plans, generated from experience combined with known best practices from other facilities within their companies. One of these clients has attempted to use counters within SAP, but at this point, that has not worked well for them.

All [of my] clients are using predictive techniques, with some success, and most count on the tribal knowledge of the facilities. Most of the technicians with that knowledge are close to retirement, and the knowledge is not being shared well. MT

Editor’s Note: Part 2 in the May issue.

About the MT Reader Panel

The Maintenance Technology Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed and their responses are not necessarily projectable. Note that our panel welcomes new members. To be considered, email your name and contact information to with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.


5:24 am
April 11, 2016
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Culture Changed At This Indiana Refinery

The CountryMark refinery, one of only two refineries in the state of Indiana, processes 28,000 barrels of crude oil daily. All images courtesy of CountryMark.

The CountryMark refinery, one of only two refineries in the state of Indiana,
processes 28,000 barrels of crude oil daily. All images courtesy of CountryMark.

A WorkPlace Excellence Program redefines the way CountryMark operates every day and makes maintenance take a back seat to reliability.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

The CountryMark distillate hydrotreater was built in 2006 to meet EPA Utra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel requirements.

The CountryMark distillate hydrotreater was built in 2006 to meet EPA Utra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel requirements.

For 73 years, the Countrymark maintenance team operated in a reactionary mode—and they were good at it.

In a crucially competitive market, the Mount Vernon, IN, oil-refinery leadership team realized the operation needed a complete overhaul to streamline processes, get control of inventory, and optimize workflow. Through a carefully conceived and well-executed plan, it is making a 180-degree switch to a predictive and preventive structure that has already increased production, decreased equipment failure, and saved costs.

Pat Ward, CountryMark’s vice president of Operations, is the corporate sponsor of the company’s WorkPlace Excellence Program, an idea that was born in 2008 and put into action in early 2013. Ward said he knew that one day CountryMark would have an interesting before-and-after story to tell.

“I would describe the ‘before’ maintenance program as classic reactionary—something would break and we would fix it,” Ward said. “Our craft people are very skilled and very knowledgeable about our equipment so, in this reactive structure, it is a testimony to them that we were as productive as we were. You can be very good at fixing things, but working in a reactive way comes at a very high cost.”

CountryMark operates one of only two refineries in Indiana and processes 28,000 barrels of crude oil every day while producing 450 million gal. of high-quality gasoline and diesel fuel each year. On the logistics side, trucks pick up crude from tank farms and deliver it to the refinery or to another tank on the pipeline system that gathers the crude from a three-state area. On the finished-product side, a distribution system includes a pipeline that connects terminals in Indiana where the finished product is sold.

A vital benchmark in the oil and gas industry is availability. CountryMark ranks high in this category worldwide as one of the most available facilities from an equipment standpoint.

“This is important to the manufacturer because it means you can capture most of the margin available,” Ward explained. “That’s how you win or lose in our business. If you have availability in your equipment and your process, then you can succeed. But we were doing this in a very reactive and expensive way.”

The goal was to maintain the high availability while driving down the cost and managing the risks effectively. However, arbitrarily cutting cost and putting the availability at risk could never be the answer. “We had to find a way to work differently. It was a question of committing the people, the funding, and the changes in our system so we could implement something better.”

Developing the program

CountryMark’s leadership fully invested in the WorkPlace Excellence Program. Proactive and preventive maintenance training began several years ago with consulting firm Life Cycle Engineering (LCE), Charleston, SC. Coaches were brought in to train leaders in four focus areas:

  • operations improvement
  • work management
  • reliability engineering
  • materials management.

Two systems were targeted for replacement or an upgrade. The CMMS system needed to be replaced and the financial-management system upgraded. The enterprise system existed, but it needed an upgrade to accommodate the new maintenance-management system software interface and inventory module.

The first step was preparing the organization for the change, with extensive training and multiple teams defining the work process in the four focus areas. In addition to key skills training, the teams included a combination of planners, craftsmen, frontline supervisors, maintenance managers, warehouse workers, and operators who were all involved in mapping out more than 30 new work processes.

Ward put EAM manager Mike Willman in charge. The LCE coaches for each of the four focus teams began working full force in February 2014.

Left. The CountryMark refinery, as seen from a plane that flies over the company's pipeline system every two weeks, checking for any potential problems in the company's pipeline system.

The CountryMark refinery, as seen from a plane that flies over the company’s pipeline system every two weeks, checking for any potential problems in the company’s pipeline system.

Putting the plan in motion

EAM coordinator Leslie Alton became the guardian of the program and the champion of change.

“We had used Excel spreadsheets for years,” Alton said. “But we had outgrown that program. We started working on gathering all the documentation and taking pictures of each of the objects (assets) and gathering their specifications. We now have close to 45,000 documents for all the assets. It is a fantastic equipment library that required 10 to12 people several years to compile.”

CountryMark graduated to a progressive software system. “It allows us to break everything down to the asset level, but we can roll it up based on equipment types or units,” she said. “This gives us granularity of how much an asset is costing us.”

The company’s assets include pumps, seals, motors—whatever is required to process crude into sellable products. However, 45,000 documents does not equal 45,000 assets. There are about 10,000 assets identified currently.

Alton’s role is to guide the program, identify roadblocks and opportunities, and make them visible so the best solution can be created.

Focus teams

The four focus teams are cross-functional, self-directed, and responsible for executing the master plan. They include site workers with diverse skills and abilities. The teams evaluate processes to identify opportunities for improvement and train in best practices.

Below. CountryMark employees work to optimize refinery operations while ensuring the health and safety of all workers.

CountryMark employees work to optimize refinery operations while ensuring the health and safety of all workers.

Operations improvement

The key component of this focus is making sure operations is inspecting equipment and identifying issues before failure occurs. Equipment-care rounds happen four times during a 12-hr.  shift.

There is a crucial relationship between operations and maintenance. Operators write most of the work requests because they are working with the equipment 24 hr./day, 365 days/year.

“When the equipment isn’t performing as well as it should, operators write a work request that has to be clear and succinct. In the new system they can sort through it to be sure someone else hasn’t already submitted it,” Ward said. “We didn’t have this previously. Operators also set the work priority. If it is an emergency, such as an equipment breakdown, this becomes a number-one priority. We break into the schedule in this case. If there are too many emergencies, then you are not doing very well in terms of cost management and efficiency.”

Operators are the first line of defense in terms of equipment care, so they sometimes perform maintenance tasks. They can also monitor the equipment and provide insight to prevent future issues. 

Work management

The work-management team ensures that all maintenance work is identified, planned, scheduled, and completed in a way that optimizes resources. Once the work is planned, materials are kitted and made ready for the craftsmen. Maintenance includes four planners (one for each craft), a scheduler, 36 craftsmen, and maintenance manager Randy Yeida, who has been with CountryMark since 1990.

Craftsmen are divided into four specialties—pipe fitters and certified welders, electrical and instrument shop, rotating equipment, and the craft shop (carpenters, insulators, general maintenance). Yeida meets with the maintenance supervisors every morning to discuss the schedule. The craftsmen are then assigned to work orders.

“We continue to try to be more preventive than reactive,” Yeida said. “Before, we were doing 30% to 35% emergency work. It’s been a culture change to go the other way. The goal now is to be less than 10% emergency work. Right now we are at about 20%.”

Planning the work makes the difference. Maintenance planners plan the jobs and ensure the parts are available before each job is assigned. Material-management kits the parts. “When the craftsmen go to work on a job, the tools are ready, the parts are ready, and the job is ready to be performed,” Yeida said. “This makes them more efficient.”

The maintenance team is responsible for more than 10,000 pieces of equipment, including pumps, motors, instrumentation, automation, transmitters, control valves, and other components. They work a regular 8-hr., Monday through Friday schedule, but analyzer technicians are on 12-hr. shifts with operators.

CountryMark pipeline welders help maintain the integrity of the company's pipeline systems in the tri-state area. This ensures that the necessary crude oil reaches the refinery and finished products travel safely to terminals to be picked up by CountryMark member owners.

CountryMark pipeline welders help maintain the integrity of the company’s pipeline systems in the tri-state area. This ensures that the necessary crude oil reaches the refinery and finished products travel safely to terminals to be picked up by CountryMark member owners.

Reliability engineering

This reliability engineering area of focus involves reducing failures. Fewer failures mean less repairs and reduced downtime. Equipment is assigned a criticality and ranking that drives preventive/predictive maintenance and spare-part inventory decisions.

Repeat failures are investigated to find ways to engineer out the cause. Maintenance tries to prevent the failure.

“First, you plan and schedule and get efficient in the maintenance work, which raises the cost effectiveness of your crafts and reduces the backlog of work,” Ward said. “But the big win is when you can eliminate defects or failures completely. In planning and scheduling, the craftsmen capture the reasons for failure and record the work they did to repair it. This generates a rich history of equipment performance from failures, which is then available to reliability engineers who identify ways to eliminate the failures.”

Materials management

The materials-management team ensures that the right materials are in the right place at the right time with acceptable quality and at the optimal cost to support planned and unplanned maintenance work. It involves purchasing, kitting, and consolidating storage locations. Since the program began, storage locations have decreased from 48 to five. More than 600 pumps and thousands of other components were entered into the new CMMS system, organized, and relocated.

This program streamlined the massive inventory. With the help of the planners and kitting process, the craftsmen and foremen can now focus on critical maintenance work. The turnaround time for jobs has significantly decreased. The team created a system where all purchase orders are processed and monitored for future use. Now there is a visibility of repairs and job histories.

Read more about the refinery’s materials-management program here.

CountryMark employs more than 500 highly skilled maintenance and reliability professionals.

CountryMark employs more than 500 highly skilled maintenance and reliability professionals.

The transition

The company understands that developing and implementing this program is a multi-year effort if they want it to be sustainable. There is confidence that the broad group of professionals with different work skills can map it out in a way that is comprehensive and understandable.

“The maintenance work we are doing today is what we did in the past,” Ward said. “We just used to do it in our heads, and we did it 50 different ways—and often after the fact. Now we have one process. It works more smoothly and all the different players do their part. The enabling part was to take some people out of the craft line and teach them to be good planners. This was a 100% culture change.”

The process is precise, but it is also fluid. Feedback and positive change is constantly encouraged.   

“If you have 35 work processes to follow every day, it’s really important that you stay disciplined with following it,” Ward said. “Leslie audits the system. She actually goes out into the field to see how we are planning and executing all the pieces. She makes sure everything is actually flowing the way it should. If it’s not, we improve the process. We get input from people from the field, bring it back, make the change in the process, then go back and implement the change.”

A refinery-management team meets on a regular basis to review recommended changes that will lead to improvement.

The after picture

Deep into the WorkPlace Excellence Program, a typical day at the CountryMark refinery now begins with operations performing care rounds. If something small and manageable needs repair (something that won’t shut down production or cause a health or safety risk) the job is assigned a 3, 4, or 5 priority so the job can be planned. Then it goes through work approval.

The planners then take over and create the needed work orders. They identify the crafts involved and determine the amount of time it will take. If parts are needed, they make sure they are available or parts are ordered. When all tools and parts are kitted, the job is scheduled with careful coordination between operations and maintenance.

The planned work schedule for the following week is posted on Friday and all kits are delivered before the Monday workweek begins. Then the craftsmen perform the jobs and enter the details into the system (including fault and failure codes), creating a useful work history. The planner checks the work order and closes it. Reliability professionals can then analyze key details such as mean time between failures.

If it is an emergency job—priority 1 or 2—the schedule must be interrupted to make the necessary repairs.

“In the world we live in today, after a year of implementation, everyone can write a work request,” Ward said. “If approved, operations sets priorities, and the work is planned. If there is a pump that we have to tear down and replace the bearings, for instance, the planner will walk down the job and then electronically step out each task. They determine the type of labor, the manpower, and the materials needed for each task. Only when the plan is completed and materials are on hand do we put the work on the schedule.”

Many key performance indicators are measured in the new system, Yeida said. These include metrics on schedule compliance, PM compliance, planned work vs. actual work, emergency work, priority percentages, scheduled vs. available, available craftsmen, and ready-to schedule jobs.

The culture change

With every change, training is required. People must be trained on processes, but it is also important that they can understand why the change has happened and buy in.

Alton said she remembers a specific moment when she could see a shift in attitude. The pump shop previously had hundreds of bins for the 600-plus pumps. Many of the materials were redundant, and no one knew what was in stock or where it was located. The pump-shop planners had been using the bin system for decades and they were accustomed to using them.

One pump-shop planner, Jeff Goad, was resistant to embrace the new system, Alton remembered. However, he worked with the materials-management team to ensure that all the pump parts were identified. “He came in one day and was just amazed that he could finally identify the parts he needed, and know where they were stored because now there was visibility,” Alton said. “He said, ‘This is so much better than those grey bins we used to have.’ He is now leading the charge for maintenance procedures for rotating equipment. He now understands and recognizes that we must have the PMs inside the system to ensure we are improving the reliability. The system is working.”

Ward saw the shift in culture change when warehouseman Larry Conyers bought into the new system. He had worked in the warehouse for 30 years. “We got into the reorganization and migrating to the new computer system. When they made the change to his warehouse, Larry literally went on vacation because he couldn’t watch the change. We were changing the way he had done things for three decades. Often, people in a situation like this will not survive, but Larry is a survivor and is now one of the leaders of the entire system. With time, the light bulb went off and he realized the system works. This realization helped him to become the champion he is today.”

At first, the planners were a bit overwhelmed, Ward said. “They knew how to plan work because they were good craftsmen. But it took time to adjust to sitting at a computer and planning a job for a fellow craftsman. In the beginning, we were planning just a handful of jobs a week. The thought of planning all the work seemed daunting. They learned quickly that even the smallest plan can be a journey. It takes several years to really perfect it. They thought they were wasting time to do this. But in the end, they saved time. Now we create 300 to 400 plans per month.”

Yeida has also seen the shift in culture among his maintenance team. “We must work on this on an ongoing basis, and it takes a while to see results,” Yeida said. “I had one guy who was kind of a naysayer, but he got called in in the middle of the night to work on a job. He said, ‘Man, we should have done this years ago. I got here and all the parts were ready, and I was ready to do the job. It didn’t take long to complete it, and I was able to go home early. The system is working.’ This is cool, because then they tell their buddies.”

Ward agreed that word of mouth can be powerful. “The energy it takes to move the organization forward is huge,” he said. “It must be sustained because there will be setbacks. Some individuals never get to that epiphany, but for most, they do. And when they do, they bring others with them.”

The key to sustainability, according to Ward, is actively managing the work process, finding better ways to work, and training, and to frequently review the suite of metrics to chart the progress.

“We still are in implementation,” he said. “We still have some people who are just now catching on. It’s kind of like a marathon—some people are already finished while some are just starting. But this is becoming how we work. It’s new. It’s different. But we have burned the ships, and we are not going back.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She has covered the industrial processing industries for nine years. If you would like Michelle to tell your maintenance and reliability story, contact her at

Co-Op System—Local Ownership, Local Impact

CountryMark has been a farmer-owned cooperative since 1919 and is the 12th largest agricultural co-op in the U.S. It is owned and controlled by member cooperatives that are owned and controlled by farmers or local agricultural producers. The cooperative’s products and services are available to the public, and co-op members are also customers.

Patronage profits are returned to members, distributed in proportion to business volume. CountryMark profits remain in local communities to support local economies.

The company supplies fuel to member cooperatives in Indiana that distribute the premium-quality fuels through a network of more than 100 retail fuel stations, as well as more than 200 petroleum tank-wagon and transport routes. CountryMark Advantage Lubricants are distributed to member cooperatives in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky.

CountryMark products fuel an estimated 65% of Indiana farmers and power about 50% of the buses that deliver children to school each day within the CountryMark trade area.

The CountryMark Process

CountryMark is an American-owned oil exploration, production, refining, and marketing company. It is the largest buyer of Illinois Basin crude oil, which is sourced from the oil fields of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. The oil is then refined to the highest specifications at the CountryMark refinery in Mount Vernon, IN.

Fuel quality is protected as it travels north along a 238-mile private pipeline. State-of-the-art blending technology at each CountryMark fuel terminal ensures that biodiesel and ethanol blended fuels are formulated for optimal driving performance and winter operability.

CountryMark also produces a complete line of high-quality lubricants, and it carries API-certified TerraCair diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). CountryMark fuels, lubricants, and DEF are delivered daily to farms, fleets, and families across the Midwest, and are available at more than 100 CountryMark-branded fueling stations. More than 65% of Indiana farmers and 50% of Indiana school corporations are powered by CountryMark fuels.

CountryMark’s upstream business includes a team of petroleum-exploration professionals, geologists, production engineers, drilling specialists, and reservoir managers. CountryMark’s oil-exploration and production group manage 1,400 oil wells in six states producing 3,500 barrels of oil each day. 


4:58 am
March 18, 2016
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People Culture and Change

“I love researching solutions to problems, evaluating the best path forward, and implementing improvements. Reliability has an endless supply of opportunity.” —Robert Bishop

“I love researching solutions to problems, evaluating the best path forward, and implementing improvements. Reliability has an endless supply of opportunity.”
—Robert Bishop

Robert Bishop combines technical expertise with leadership to improve reliability at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

A passion for people and equipment allowed Robert Bishop the opportunity to find his dream job at the intersection of reliability and systems improvement. “I enjoy dealing with the equipment side of things, but I also love to deal with people,” the Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMS) maintenance engineer said. “I realized early on that this is part of who I need to be professionally.

With a degree in mechanical engineering from the Univ. of Rochester and a master’s of science in bioengineering from Syracuse Univ., Bishop had many career options. He worked in validation for 12 years and then had to make a decision to either be a lifer or diversify.

“I knew that if I didn’t do something soon, the decision would be made for me,” he said. “The opportunity came for the role I’m currently in, so I took the leap. From the first day I sat in this chair, I’ve never regretted it. If I could sit down and create the perfect job for myself, I couldn’t come up with a better fit.”

Three and a half years later, Bishop has balanced his technical skills with strong management skills to launch and implement many successful reliability programs for BMS.

“The best thing about my responsibilities is the ability to enhance and improve our systems,” he said. “No matter where you are on the continuum there is opportunity to improve. Technology is always changing and people are always joining the team. I love researching solutions to problems, evaluating the best path forward, and implementing improvements. Reliability has an endless supply of opportunity.”


Maintenance and reliability philosophy

Bishop said he believes strongly that action is more impactful than ideas.

“My overall reliability philosophy is to create robust systems, to educate your team, and then get out of the way and let them be successful,” he said. “People are more important than knowledge. I try to remind myself that it’s great to have a lot of ideas, but if we don’t actually do anything, we are never going to go anywhere. You can’t just drag your feet forever. You can force people to do what you want, but if you don’t invest in the people and acknowledge that they are the ones that makes things happen, you’re not going to see that benefit for the long run.”

Bishop works with 550 other employees at the BMS biological site in Syracuse, NY. The equipment is similar to what is typically used in a brewery, but with more filtration and chromatography steps. His team of 10 maintenance professionals works on tanks, filters, pumps, gearboxes, skid-based equipment, centrifuges, chromatography, and filtration skids. The larger team involves about 100 people at the site responsible for facilities and engineering. Bishop serves as a maintenance engineer but also is the acting maintenance manager, so he is responsible for maintaining the equipment, as well as the asset-management department and the CMMS system. The non-process equipment is handled through an outsourced maintenance company and there is also a facilities-management group.

Bishop’s connection with people extends to mentoring others to reach their goals and succeed.

He remembers an example when a young woman within a different organization at the site had an interest in reliability but didn’t have any background in it. “Over the course of about a year we had some meetings, lunch-and-learns, and many discussions on the topic,” Bishop said. “I provided her with reading material and links to webinars that would help her to learn. She recently sat for her Certified Reliability Leader exam and passed. I’m very proud of her and know that someday she will have a more formal role in the field of maintenance and reliability.”

Although Bishop spends each day in strategy meetings, but also solves day-to-day issues. He drives root-cause analysis, launches new systems, and is involved in upgrades to the CMMS system. One of his most successful best-maintenance practices is reporting by exception. “I don’t need to know when everything is going well. I need to know when things are not going as planned so I can communicate to the larger organization,” Bishop said. “I try to look for what isn’t supposed to be there.  For example, when you look at the integrity of the data in our CMMS system, you can create all the reports you want. Sometimes, it is beneficial to go look for things you don’t expect to find. For example, I don’t expect to find a blank priority field. But if I write a query for that and pull up all work orders that have blank priority fields I can ask ‘Why?’ I share an office with our reliability engineer and we report to different reporting structures within our larger facilities but we work closely together and there are a lot of topics that flow back and forth.”

Bishop focuses on high-value work. “We all could spend 90 hours a week working and still not get everything done. We have to identify where to put our effort.”

His commitment to people and processes does not go unnoticed by his peers.

“Robert is a well-respected member of the reliability community both internally at Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, and externally,” said George Williams, BMS associate director of asset management, Global Facilities Services. “Robert was awarded the BMS Reliability Excellence Leader of the Year award for 2015. Additionally, he was a finalist for the SMRP Rising Star award and leads their Biologics and Pharmaceuticals VSIG. He is a contributing author and presenter at multiple conferences annually. Rob consistently looks to contribute, collaborate, and improve what we do every day. His ideas have turned into standardized approaches for BMS shared throughout our network and helping to drive us to reliability sustainability.”

“With all of the achievements and accolades, most notable is that Rob is a leader. He is humble, gracious, and looks to develop others, which creates an environment where everyone contributes and feels welcomed. He has a rare combination of skills and knowledge, combined with drive, motivation, and impeccable soft skills to navigate the difficult terrain of a global company.”

Programs that make a difference

0316f1-tipsBishop is proud of several programs he has driven. He implemented one for paperless work orders that saved the company 120,000 pages of paper/year and also saved four full-time equivalent (FTE) efforts. However, he repurposed the people and no one lost their job. The program made valuable data available in real time while improving the quality of work.

He also drove a year-long PM-optimization program and implemented a lubrication-enhancement program that allowed closed systems, consolidated lubricants, and visual-management improvements.

The lubrication program focused on a BMS site that’s been around since 1943. It was originally a facility that produced penicillin during WWII, and had gone through a lot of evolutions through the decades. Many  of the lubricants on site were not needed. In fact, some of the drums of oil were 10 to12 years old.

“There were lubricants with slow turn, and it just wasn’t ideal,” Bishop recalled. “We didn’t know where everything went. A maintenance technician, who was here for 30 years, had a cheat sheet and knew which oil went in which gearbox. It worked great, but was not a very robust system. When I came into my role here, I took it upon myself to pull together a team that analyzed where everything was being used, and then we brought in one of our vendors who helped us consolidate.”

The program allowed the site to downgrade from 46 lubricants to just eight oils and four greases.

“We closed up the systems provided by the manufacturer on our gearboxes and level indicators. In most cases we used a sight-glass tube,” Bishop explained. “We closed the systems on the larger ones and installed Quick Connect so we could use a filter cart. We installed sample ports with dip tubes and we started doing oil sampling near where it is being used in the gears and not just in the bottom of the gearbox. We started the oil-sampling program to drive increased reliability. We weren’t necessarily having a lot of failures because of poor lubrication, but we had a lot of practices that weren’t ideal.”

The program included taking steps to do things through visual management. Now, gearboxes have a tag that indicates what is inside. It also identifies the viscosity and the manufacturer, and the same tag is on the oil container that is brought out to the field. An identical tag is on the oil-filtration skid.

It took about a year to transform into a closed system so no moisture or particles find their way into the gearboxes. “It was definitely worth the effort,” Bishop said. “We now have one of the better lubrication programs that I’ve ever seen. Nothing’s perfect, but we now have a very robust system.”

Challenges with change

0316f1-quoteBishop said he has always enjoyed change and the positive impact it can have on reliability systems. But sometimes it is difficult to convince others that change is a good thing.

“The biggest challenge is convincing people that improving systems and reducing workload will not result in reduced headcount,” Bishop said. “I point to my track record, and it speaks for itself. My goal is never to get rid of people. The people I work with know they can trust me. I wouldn’t say something and then do something else. For people who don’t know me, I am very proactive about addressing this.”

Bishop relies on tools such as a Best In Class (BIC) weekly meeting where all crew supervisors get together with a common goal to continuously improve and help each other. They use other tools such as ARMED software, which can identify KPI and reliability data such as a top-10 bad-actor list. Bishop also uses his more than 10 years of experience in the field of equipment qualification and validation—experience that has provided him with a robust understanding of documentation, quality systems, and equipment.

The greatest tool that Bishop uses is his ability to connect people with culture and change. “I always want to improve,” he said. “I always appreciate the people involved, and I know what it takes to change culture. It isn’t always easy, but it is always possible. It doesn’t have to be a huge project. It can be small, incremental things. But I’m a supporter of change. We must always strive to improve.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She has covered the industrial processing industries for nine years. If you know of a maintenance and/or reliability expert who is making a difference at their facility, please drop her an email at