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398

10:07 pm
October 5, 2000
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Infrared Inspection Methods and Data Collection Techniques

As infrared cameras get cheaper and easier to use and become more widely used, there is a risk that some people will buy an infrared camera and call themselves thermographers. Owning an infrared camera does not make a person a thermographer any more than owning a stethoscope makes one a doctor. In addition to the infrared camera and digital camera, there are three essential tools needed for the professional thermographer: training, field experience, and standard methods for conducting infrared inspection.

There are several good training companies that can do a good job of explaining why training is essential for a professional thermographer. Therefore, this article will address infrared inspection methods: what to test, when to test (scheduling), equipment prioritization, additional factors, and data collection methods. The last section will show reports and the analysis that can be derived when standard data collection methods are followed.

What to test and when?
The first question, What to test?, is answered by using or creating an equipment inventory as the cornerstone for infrared inspection accountability. The equipment inventory can be recorded on paper during the inspection and then transcribed into a spreadsheet or database. It can be printed from an existing computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), or it can be entered into an infrared database program while the inspection is being performed. Without an inventory, the thermographer cannot account for what was tested and what was not. A piece of equipment can go for years without being tested if no inspection record is kept. A company hiring a thermographer should receive an inventory report of equipment tested and not tested. It costs very little to build the inventory, and the benefits far outweigh the costs in the long run.

By recording the test status of each piece of equipment in the inventory list during the inspection, the thermographer can answer the question, What did you inspect? To provide full accountability, test status information should include the following points:

  • Current test status
  • Date the equipment was last tested
  • Results of the previous test
  • Reason equipment was not tested during the last inspection (if it was not)
  • When equipment is due to be tested again, if not tested this time.

An example notation currently used in the field for test status of equipment is as follows:

TBT: To be tested. Starting test status for all equipment.
TESTED: Tested.
NTNL: Not tested, no load. Commonly seen, because not all equipment can have a load during the inspection
NTTC: Not tested, time constraint. Scheduled to be tested but time ran out
NTNS: Not tested, not specified. Not scheduled to be inspected this time
NTUR: Not tested, under repair.

Once an inventory has been created, it is advisable to assign a criticality to the operations value of each piece of equipment. This procedure helps prioritize equipment for testing schedules and repair priority when a problem is found.

The following list can serve as a basis for developing a site-specific equipment criticality-to-operations list and the corresponding inspection frequency set for each.

  • Crucial criticality: Inspect every 3 mo
  • Essential criticality: Inspect every 6 mo
  • Nonessential criticality: Inspect once a year
  • Followup on problems or repair: Inspect every 3 mo

Once an inventory has been set up and inspection test statuses have been integrated, the infrared program has accountability. When the criticality to operation criteria have been added, a prioritized inspection schedule and repair list is ready. Bar-code labels on the equipment can be helpful in streamlining equipment inventory management. Without a basic equipment inventory, there is no accountability, no prioritized inspection scheduling, and no reliable infrared program.

What pertinent data should be recorded?
Once an inventory has been set up and the equipment to test has been determined, the next questions are, Besides recording the temperature of the problem and the reference, what other information is pertinent and should be recorded? Other than the emissivity value that the camera stores, what factors could greatly influence temperature measurements?

One factor is the equipment load; whenever possible it is important to measure and record load data. As Bernard Lyon stated in a paper presented at Thermosense XXII, “Temperature is certainly an important factor in evaluating equipment. However, if you follow the guidelines that are based solely on absolute temperature measurement, or on a temperature rise (DT), you run the risk of incorrectly diagnosing your problems. The consequences of such actions can lead to a false sense of security, equipment failure, fire, and even the possibility of personal injury.”

Another factor that should be recorded is wind speed. As shown in the wind effects experiment done by Robert Madding and Bernard Lyon and stated in their paper presented at Thermosense XXII, “The temperature rise was cut in half with just a little over 3 mph breeze.” The options available include buying a $100 anemometer to try to accurately measure wind speed or picking up grass, dropping it, and estimating wind speed. Either way, in most cases, the wind speed will have to be an estimate because even an anemometer will be some distance from the equipment being inspected. This condition is especially true regarding power lines. The important point is to account for wind speed by the best available means and record it. This information is especially crucial if baseline trending is being done on a problem.

Another notable factor is environment. Was it a hot sunny day, rainy, snowing, or clear but freezing? Environmental factors such as solar loading or a cold rain can affect temperature measurements. Again, this information is especially crucial if baseline trending is being done on a piece of equipment located outdoors. What was the weather like the last time the inspection was done? How does this information correlate to the temperatures measured?

Equipment load, wind speed, and environment are not the only factors that are important to note when a problem is documented. Other information that is less important to the thermographer but may be more important to management is the manufacturer and type of fault for each problem found. This information allows reliability to be analyzed by manufacturer or equipment type. By comparing the cost of repairing observed problems, a maintenance manager can look at the impact by manufacturer on the total operating expense of a facility. This information, in turn, can be used to improve future buying decisions.

Data collection techniques
The infrared camera is just a tool, and the thermogram is just the starting point in the data gathering process. The next step is to establish methods to ensure efficient, accurate data collection. These methods should have built-in procedures to guarantee that data quality is consistent from inspection to inspection and from thermographer to thermographer. These methods must not impair the pace of the inspection but should help in expediting the collection of data and aid the thermographer in his ability to diagnose problem conditions in the field.

For many years, the simplest and cheapest way to record data has been manually on paper. If this method is used, preparing preprinted problem write-up sheets with blank data fields will increase consistency and standardize problem write-ups. When used with an inventory list produced by a spreadsheet program or a CMMS, the write-up sheet is the starting point of a standardized infrared inspection system. This method of manual data collection works if labor costs are relatively inexpensive. Another method that has been used for many years is recording problem write-ups with a voice dictation recorder.

Although these methods are convenient, there are pitfalls to using either method. In both instances, there is the risk of losing data and introducing errors from misinterpreting field notes when typing up the reports at the office. Furthermore, the thermographer in the field does not have in his hand the analysis of past problems and other information when it would be of most value to him.

With the advancement of pen computers and database software, a third method of data collection has evolved. Instead of trying to bring field data back to the office and enter it into a database on the computer, the technician brings the computer into the field to enter the data directly into the database during the inspection. This advancement has proved to be the most reliable method of data collection available today, as well as the most cost-effective solution over time.

One efficiency of the mobile database is the instant turnaround time of report generation. Because all of the necessary information is put into the database at the time of the inspection, the reports can be printed immediately at the end of the inspection. Using a pen computer with an infrared database in the field, a thermographer can double the number of problems written up in a day (from 50 to 100) and completely eliminate report generation time.

The following comparison of paper or voice dictation method to pen computer with IR database method lists typical inspection and report generation times. Report generation includes inventory of equipment and associated test statuses, prioritized list of problems, and documentation.

Paper or voice dictation method

  • 50 problems per 8-hr day
  • Report generation takes 6 hr
  • Total: 50 problems in 14 hr

Pen computer with IR database

  • 100 problems per 8-hr day
  • Report generation automatic
  • Total: 100 problems in 8 hr

Another efficiency of a database on a mobile pen computer is its ability to yield more consistent inspection results because testing procedures can be methodically followed. Key information can be selected from drop-down menus. Past problem conditions on a chronic problem are immediately displayed and can be reviewed in the context of the new problem. Furthermore, the redundancy of data collection can be eliminated because information that was stored in the past, such as location, does not need to be re-entered into the database. Maps, work orders, inspection procedures, and other pertinent documents can be brought into the field because the database also can work as an electronic document management system.

Now that the inspection has been completed and the data have been collected, what analyses can be formed from following these methods? The software to ensure write-up consistency is extremely efficient; it eliminates typing and syntax problems while improving data accuracy. This method has many benefits over conventional methods because data are entered only once.

Management reports and analysis
The analysis outlined in “Problem Profile Report: Key Equipment Failure Ratios,” is from data collected for more than 10 years using the Thermal Trend Infrared PdM Inspection Management Database. Actual client and manufacturer names and specific products have been omitted to protect the clients and manufacturers. Data were collected from all over the world on many manufacturers’ equipment and in all kinds of plant environments. The data included in this analysis come from hundreds of thousands of problems and pieces of equipment.

Tracking problems and categorizing them by their temperature rise reveals trends in facilities’ health over time. Average temperature rise using all of the electrical problems documented in the database for electrical inspections as measured phase to phase is 54 deg F.

Problems in the database can be analyzed and ratios can be established for specific faults on key equipment by recording manufacturer and type of failure. This strategy leads to the ability to study the equipment thoroughly and analyze what factors play an important role in their failure, for example corrosion, overloading, or just a substandard piece of equipment. This analysis provides insight into the correct preventive maintenance measures to be taken so future problems will be minimized.

A cost breakeven report can be generated from materials and labor by recording equipment and labor costs before vs. after using an infrared inspection program. For example, 976 problems were documented at 55 industrial manufacturing sites. A cost-benefit analysis on the 976 problems shows a before vs. after failure savings on materials and labor of $408,040. The average cost saving per problem, if it is fixed before it fails works out to $418.07 for material and labor . This figure is very conservative and does not take into consideration the potential loss to revenue or to production, or the risk of financial loss from a major fire.

Analyzing cost savings reveals measurable results from implementing an infrared inspection program. On average, for every $1 spent on hiring a competent professional consultant to perform an infrared electrical inspection, there is a $4 return on investment for materials and labor to fix the problem equipment identified before it failed. This conservative 1:4 ratio clearly identifies the importance of maximizing the return on investment of implementing a comprehensive in-house or outsourced infrared inspection program. Furthermore, because of reduced losses and increased productivity, which in turn increase revenue, the return on investment ratio in some cases is closer to 1:20, depending on the industry.

Whether a thermographer uses a pad of paper or a pen computer, the data and methods followed are important to creating a standardized infrared inspection management program. Sufficient training and field experience cannot be emphasized enough as a basis to build a solid infrared program. Once components are in place, it is important to implement strong data collecting methods to get standardized results across multiple inspections and multiple thermographers. By recording appropriate supplementary information such as load, wind speed, and environment in addition to the thermographic image, a thermographer can better assess the severity of the situation.

By setting up a standardized infrared inspection program, tracking the pertinent information, and recording it consistently, a plant can manage and see the trends in the overall health of the facility. There is a wealth of information to gain by using these methods in a comprehensive infrared inspection management program. MT


Scott Cawlfield is president of Logos Computer Solutions, Inc., 3801 14th Ave. West, Seattle, WA 98119; (206) 217-0577.

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260

3:13 am
October 2, 2000
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No Excuses

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Robert C. Baldwin, CMRP, Editor

I had the opportunity last month to meet with the Maintenance Excellence Roundtable and tour the plant of this year’s host Dofasco, said to be the most profitable integrated steel maker in North America. The Maintenance Excellence Roundtable is a group of companies that meets once a year at a member plant to network and share best practices. Other members, in addition to Maintenance Technology, are Alcoa, Baxter Healthcare, Conoco, Dupont, Exxon/Mobil, Honeywell, Kodak, Novartis, Sonoco, and the U.S. Postal Service.

One of the more impressive parts of the tour of the Dofasco site in Hamilton, ON, was its electrical repair shop, a 25,000 sq ft facility where approximately 2500 motors and generators, plus 450 electrical breakers, are serviced each year. The operation, which is QS9000 certified and employs a staff of 42 people, has an annual budget of $5 million.

Realizing that equipment reliability was vital to improving product quality, production output, costs, and shareholder return, Dofasco managers initiated a strategic project in the early 1990s to research, develop, and implement the most advanced maintenance practices and information technologies to achieve maximum equipment reliability (the process is outlined in the article “Achieving Maximum Equipment Reliability” on page 28).

The motor repair shop is recognized as a core competency in the Dofasco asset management strategy. It produces an estimated repair work cost saving of $1.5 million per year and directly affects equipment reliability in the mill.

The shop emphasizes comprehensive record keeping. A new system now being rolled out will use a bar coding system driven by handheld data loggers to obtain real time motor data during the repair process. The system contains nameplate data, performance data, test and repair records, and reliability information on motors that affect manufacturing equipment reliability. Such information is a prerequisite for making informed business decisions about motor management.

Yes, most plants don’t have the wherewithal to invest in motor management anywhere near the scope of the Dofasco program. But that is no excuse for not managing electric motors to provide reliable and energy efficient systems. The motor data to begin a program can be downloaded for free over the Internet. The article “Electric Motor Energy and Reliability Analysis” on page 17 provides the details.

If there is a valid excuse for not managing electric motors, I don’t know what it is. It certainly isn’t the expense of obtaining motor reliability and performance data. MT

rcb

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3346

3:11 am
October 2, 2000
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The Basic Pillars of Total Productive Maintenance

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Robert M. Williamson, Strategic Work Systems, Inc.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) can be defined in many ways to suit the unique needs of a company or industry. But most of the universally accepted definitions of TPM build on the basic five pillars of TPM from the Japan Institute for Plant Maintenance. For TPM to be successful ALL of the pillars, or key elements, must be used to eliminate equipment losses in a sustainable manner.

TPM Key Element 1: Improving equipment effectiveness by targeting the major losses. TPM activities should focus on results. One of the fundamental measures used in TPM is Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) which includes the major losses that TPM seeks to eliminate. OEE = Equipment Availability x Performance Efficiency x Rate of Quality.

TPM Key Element 2: Involving operators in daily maintenance of their equipment. Operator involvement must be defined in ways that make sense in your work culture. There are tasks that operators can do without using any tools: Clean and inspect equipment. In every company that I have studied or visited or worked for, the thing that they get the most return on investment in the early stages of TPM is operators learning how to inspect their equipment and pay attention to key things. It doesn’t take any tools or special skills; you just have to know what to look for. Maintenance people can teach the operators what to look and listen for.

TPM Key Element 3: Improving maintenance efficiency and effectiveness. This means improving all aspects of maintenance including spare parts, computerized maintenance management system, preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, maintenance tools, work order system, planned and scheduled maintenance, and equipment histories. These are all part of TPM. They can’t be separate or on the side. They must be woven in. For example, production, maintenance, purchasing, and shipping and receiving should use a computerized maintenance management system. It’s not just a maintenance management system anymore; it’s an equipment information management system.

TPM Key Element 4: Training to improve the skills of everyone involved. This means maintenance training, operations training, leadership training, training about root cause analysis of the major losses, reliability training, etc. The training should first address the very basic needs of the people and the equipment targeted for TPM. One of the most important basic training needs for TPM is designed to help the people involved understand what TPM is and why it is so important for the equipment and the business.

TPM Key Element 5: Life-cycle equipment management and maintenance prevention design. If you’re going to design and develop new equipment or a major modification, involve those who are going to operate it and maintain it for the next 5, 10, or 15 years in the process. Use their ideas to make it easier to operate and easier to maintain.

Based on the past ten years’ experience with TPM in America, a sixth key element is needed to truly recognize what is making TPM work. It is:

TPM Key Element 6: Wining with teamwork focused on common goals. Even with all of the emphasis on high-performing equipment the best equipment cannot consistently perform well without teamwork focused on common goals using common processes. In some facilities “Team” is a four-letter word that is often misunderstood. In TPM the sense of teamwork centers around the targeted equipment, then expands through all areas using TPM to improve their performance.

One of the biggest misunderstandings about the pillars of TPM deal with the first pillar–Improving Equipment Effectiveness by Targeting the Major Losses—and its relationship to the other pillars. All TPM activities, including the remaining pillars, are designed and developed to be measured by the first pillar. If a TPM activity does not result in, or contribute to, improved equipment effectiveness then we need to ask “Why are we doing it?”

TPM is a powerful but often misunderstood strategy for eliminating equipment-related losses. In Lean Manufacturing this translates into eliminating equipment-related “wastes.” Go for sustainable bottom line results with TPM and change the culture along the way by using all of the pillars of TPM the way they are intended to be used. MT
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242

2:39 pm
October 1, 2000
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Asset Reliability Coordinator

The maintenance planner might better be described as asset reliability coordinator. Here’s why.

The rush to reliability, fueled by rising global competition, high fixed costs, capital intensity, and the pressure for greater on-stream performance, is providing the planning and scheduling function with an opportunity to add further value to its business objectives. The maintenance planner might better be described as asset reliability coordinator.

Across the landscape of industrial plant maintenance, the asset performance picture is not all that good. Consider the following:

  • Thirty percent of newly overhauled machines fail on startup
  • An estimated one-third of the money spent on preventive maintenance is wasted
  • Sixty percent of premature bearing failures are due to improper fitting, maintenance, and handling
  • Maintenance and operation account for 70 percent of the money spent on pumps.

To rise above these shortcomings, plants have redundant systems and spared equipment to assure process availability. The average refinery runs at nearly 95 percent average availability, but studies have shown that downtime affects the bottom line by smaller profit margins, decreased yield and quality, reduced safety, additional environmental incidents, and missed delivery dates.

Additionally, plants have had to spend scarce capital to build more capacity to meet the fluctuations in their demand patterns and compensate for process unreliability.

Use of maintenance craft resources is even more alarming: average craft productivity, measured through “wrench time” studies, is typically in the 25 to 35 percent range. Productive work is held up by time spent waiting for materials, tools, instructions, and clearance and time spent traveling to the job.

Inefficiencies in craft utilization, many of which are beyond the individual craftperson’s control, contribute to additional expense for outside contractors, rush charges for materials not planned to be on hand, excessive overtime, and work that had been identified but was not performed in a timely manner.

Perhaps the greatest cost for these inefficiencies is lost production resulting from process interruptions from unreliable equipment. Some examples illustrate the magnitude of benefits that flow from improved asset reliability:

  • If an average size refinery were to increase its availability from 92 to 96 percent, with a $3/barrel margin, it would generate an additional $6 million/year.
  • For an electric utility with a 1000 MW steam system, each 1 percent availability improvement might be worth over $300,000/yr in power transaction capability.
  • Each 100 Btu/kWh improvement in efficiency might be worth over $400,000/yr.
  • A 1 percent sustainable improvement in availability for a 1000 MW system means 10 MW of future power plant that does not have to be built. When construction prices are $1200/kW, which is worth $12 million in capital expenditures.

One of the best weapons for fighting these deficiencies in maintenance performance is the competent planning and scheduling of maintenance activities.

The benefits of good planning

The benefits of good planning fall into several major categories:

  1. Productivity. Planning affects productivity most in the reduction of delays. Implementing a fundamental planning and scheduling system should help improve productivity to about 45 percent. Then, as files become developed to prevent recurrence of problems of past jobs, productivity should increase to 50 percent. Finally, a good enterprise asset management (EAM) system should boost productivity to more than 55 percent. This increase in productivity alone, from 35 percent to 55 percent, boosts a 90 person maintenance workforce to the equivalent of 141 people.
  2. Quality. Having the work scope, instructions, parts, tools, and crafts all correctly identified and ready before the job starts has a direct positive effect on quality. Quality is indirectly affected by the boost in productivity because the freed-up workforce can spend more time on difficult jobs and proactive work.
  3. Shift to proactive work. Proactive work includes root cause failure analyses on repair jobs and corrective maintenance to fix small problems before they get out of hand. It also includes project work to improve less reliable equipment and increased attention to preventive and predictive maintenance. Greater productivity creates, in effect, greater resources. In a company with much reactive work, these additional resources are used to put out fires. A company with reactive work under control can leverage the additional resources to do more proactive maintenance work, dealing efficiently with situations and preventing fires. World-class companies with preventive maintenance well in hand invest those resources in training to further increase labor skills and in projects to improve equipment or other work processes.
  4. Increased availability. When more time is spent in proactive and preventive work, process interruptions become less frequent and less severe. With more time to plan ahead and anticipate equipment needs, planners can develop a more closely integrated schedule that accommodates both production and maintenance needs. A collateral effect is the reduction in on-hand maintenance, repair, and operating (MRO) inventories and total spending on spares.
  5. Improved efficiency. Almost by definition, better-running equipment and processes provide improved quality in terms of both final product and conversion of raw materials into finished products.
  6. Deferred capital investment. When the availability of existing equipment is increased, the need for additional new capacity can be postponed. Or in situations with relatively stable demand, the number of productive assets can simply be reduced. Either situation can have a considerable financial benefit to the company and its shareholders.
  7. Reduced unit costs. When all of the potential benefits are consolidated, per-unit costs are reduced, providing a sustainable competitive advantage for the already efficient producer and a potential lifeline for the substandard producer. Thus, as process efficiencies level off, or as additional gains are no longer cost effective, asset performance and reliability become central to profitability. One of the key drivers for additional reliability is the ability to integrate production and maintenance activities into a single, comprehensive plan that maximizes output at lowest possible costs.

At this point, the asset reliability coordinator assumes a pivotal role.

Asset reliability coordinator
Traditionally, the maintenance planner has been selected for personal knowledge of the technical side of maintenance (the whos and whats of equipment care), rather than the management side (the whys and whens). There is a need for personnel who understand the value of objective data on equipment condition, reasons for failure, and the protection of the economic value created by asset reliability.

Following are summary descriptions of the responsibilities of the recast asset reliability coordinator, using new tools and techniques to focus on asset reliability and availability, by making the crews not only more productive, but “smarter” by arming them with increased knowledge:

Job planner role
Central to the coordinator’s ability to add value is his or her primary work product: highly focused work packages that contain not only a listing of which craft skills are required for what periods of time, and the likely parts to be used, but more supporting documentation, for example:

  • The location of the MRO parts that have been kitted or delivered to the jobsite
  • Digital photographs of the asset and work area
  • Safety procedures, including lockout-tagout requirements, zero-energy requirements, process safety requirements, confined entry permit forms, and environmental concerns
  • Original manufacturer and internal documentation of wiring, layouts, dimensions, and tolerances
  • A full bill of materials, with stores catalog numbers, in the event unanticipated damage is found
  • Special equipment and tools that may be required
  • A history of the most recent condition readings and work performed on the asset (repairs and replacements, preventive maintenance checks, predictive maintenance findings, instrumentation readings, operator logbook entries, etc.)
  • Results of the coordinator’s jobsite visit and comments on the work to be done
  • A feedback form to record “found, fix, and fault” information by the crew.

The level of documentation should be commensurate with the requirements of the work. Routine repetitive work should require relatively little documentation, probably nothing more than a standard job template, which exists in a library of such plans.

Work scheduler role
The second primary work product of the coordinator is the work schedule, actually a series of interlocking schedules with progressively more detail as the anticipated work time draws closer. In industries such as petrochemicals, with major turnarounds and long lead times, a long planning and scheduling horizon is critical to success.

The schedules are a joint product of operations, maintenance, and engineering and reflect all of the work to be accomplished. The coordinator generally chairs the scheduling meetings and comes prepared with a standard schedule incorporating production requirements (and windows of opportunity that normally arise), the condition of operating equipment and potential liabilities, and the manpower that will be available for the upcoming time period. Best practices call for detailed scheduling at least a week ahead, with less stringent requirements for the upcoming two weeks. Each functional group will have reviewed the work-order backlog to ensure that critical work has been identified, planned, and made ready for scheduling.

Analyst role
A longer-range and potentially more critical function of the coordinator is to develop the ability to forecast future maintenance requirements. Today’s EAM systems allow for a three-way view of asset performance: historical, looking backward to determine the most common root failure causes; real-time condition monitoring (typically through the plant’s distributed control systems); and forward, analyzing each asset’s mean time between failure and forecasting when the asset is most likely to affect the production process again. Failure information is critical to these views, and the coordinator must be zealous in gathering and recording that information.

The coordinator is also the database administrator for the records maintained in the EAM equipment history and condition files and the person in charge of the open backlog. This second function is extremely important in providing life-cycle management of all work requests and work orders. Timely and accurate knowledge of the current status of all open work orders allows maintenance and operations to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities and maximize the use of unscheduled downtime.

Facilitator role
A key trait for success is the coordinator’s ability to influence the actions of others. In most organizations, the planner, now coordinator, has no staff, no organizational authority, and no budget. But he or she is charged with coordinating the activities of a diverse group whose short-term goals may or may not be in alignment. Facilitation skills and a clear vision of the longer-term objectives will serve the coordinator, and his organization, well. Such skills can be learned and will improve with repeated practice.

Communicator role
Finally, the coordinator must be able to clearly communicate the desired direction he or she is recommending, in terms that are relevant to the audience, whether it is operations (more throughput), maintenance (fewer breakdowns), or management (financial impact). Again, such skills can be learned.

Technology support
None of the higher-level functional requirements of the coordinator can be achieved without enabling technologies. At a minimum, the support systems must include the following:

  • A modern EAM system capable of capturing and analyzing both static and dynamic information on equipment condition and the likely time frame to the next critical production interruption.The system must contain critical equipment information, including performance parameters, bills of material, and component-level tracking, and be fully integrated with the human resources and financial systems. Additionally, the system, or allied systems, must be able to display, manage, and distribute documents and perform higher-level analytical functions on data in the system. The coordinator must be trained to easily navigate the complexities of these systems and to interpret the details and convert them into usable information.
  • Man-machine interface software connected to the EAM that monitors equipment parameters and downloads the information directly. Using previously established set points, the EAM system may generate a predictive or corrective maintenance work order before a costly and disruptive process interruption occurs.
  • A decision-support system that integrates the information from multiple systems and promotes data-based decisions. The information model developed by the Machinery Information Management Open System Alliance (MIMOSA) provides an excellent definition of how an integrated system would function.
  • Standards-based, distributed-component architecture that facilitates the adoption of enhancements as they become available. Considerable efforts have been devoted to removing the “islands of information” situations in which plants with multiple systems find themselves.

Best business practices
No functional area exists in a vacuum. The relationships among various functions are described by business rules that specify roles and responsibilities, decision points, data flows, and evaluation criteria.

A starting point is the description of a vision of how the company’s assets will be maintained:

To ensure that the assets of the company will be reliable. This goal will be achieved by anticipating deterioration and addressing its root cause by technical means and education of company personnel. The timing at which these actions will be initiated will be set through a mature financial appreciation that takes into account the optimum time at which items can be removed from service.

The next step is to define the relationship between operations and maintenance. The elements of such a definition might include the following:

  1. Production owns downtime data and meticulously records failures, being particularly careful to log the reason for downtime.
  2. Production attempts limited inspections, in keeping with their technical expertise, but raising their awareness of the condition of the assets they use.
  3. Production moves to a greater sense of ownership of the assets, demanding more detailed information from maintenance regarding the condition of the equipment and the service provided and required by maintenance.
  4. Maintenance reviews the history of their performance, particularly focusing on breakdowns. Where could work have been anticipated?

The two groups jointly review the inspection program in the light of information raised under items 2 and 4.

Additionally, the basics of asset care must be in place and rigorously practiced every day:

  • Work is identified early and jointly approved by maintenance and operations
  • Work packages are developed reflecting the nature, scope, and complexity of the work to be performed
  • Work schedules are developed in accordance with the lowest-cost combination of maintenance, operations, and asset repair and replacement elements
  • Asset care is based on historical information of performance and current condition monitoring
  • Rigorous attention is given to understanding, capturing, and analyzing the root causes of asset failures.

The starting point for improving maintenance planning is the interface between operations and maintenance, to identify sources of uncertainty that would adversely affect planning and scheduling and the execution of maintenance tasks. In particular, the focus needs to be on the ability of the two groups to work together to reduce the total costs of operating.

The most critical skill required for improving reliability and availability is understanding the root causes of failure. This knowledge, in turn, leads to the development of an intelligent and cost-optimized plan for asset care and the prevention of production interruptions.

The asset reliability coordinator is in a pivotal role to use information available through a combined view of historical, current, and forecast asset performance. MT


Robert Wilson is director of client assessments at Performance Consulting Associates, Duluth, GA; (770) 717-2737

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