Predict to prevent

We all know the negative effects of economic downturns, but one healthy outcome is a renewed effort to test conventional wisdom and assess value. We see a new normal, which is that leaner companies are forced to make better use of limited resources. Our customers across all industries, at varying levels within supply chains, are seeking significant cost savings from maintenance activities.

By Jonathan Davis, The ITR Company March 1, 2010

We all know the negative effects of economic downturns, but one healthy outcome is a renewed effort to test conventional wisdom and assess value. We see a new normal, which is that leaner companies are forced to make better use of limited resources. Our customers across all industries, at varying levels within supply chains, are seeking significant cost savings from maintenance activities. Customers should use smart predictive maintenance practices as they search for any competitive advantage, particularly as markets see possible rebounds in 2010.

Companies are well served by asking themselves three key questions when considering their maintenance plans for the year ahead:

  1. Why does our company do this?
  2. How much money does this actually cost or save the company?
  3. Is there a better way?

For the foreseeable future, companies must take on the difficult task of finding the right answers.

By working closely with its customers and talking to many new, prospective customers, ITR identified seven key steps for PdM program improvement, which can be used by maintenance managers across industries:

  1. Focus on quantifiable results : Have measurable objectives for maintenance and reliability processes using key performance indicators. Make sure KPIs show bottom line results so maintenance managers can talk to top management. Most importantly and where many companies fall short, analyze the data, use the information and take action to improve.In recent years, many companies have followed the trend and implemented predictive maintenance activities but they do so without fully embracing and understanding their value. However as with any tool, success depends upon implementation and use of the tool. Monitoring overall equipment effectiveness and reliability process effectiveness are no longer enough. While important, these measures are only the first step. Companies must also quantify the results to cost savings and increases in revenue capacity. By doing so, reliability managers can quantify efforts in terms top managers understand: How much does this hardware, software, and training truly saving me?Is outsourcing or managing a program in-house a better solution?How much improvement is possible?The cement industry was hit as hard as any industry this past year. One cement company maintenance manager was asked by senior management to justify the entire proactive maintenance budget. The typical measures of equipment availability, overall equipment effectiveness and reliability process effectiveness were of less concern to top management. What they now wanted to see was discrete and tangible ROI. Consequently, the maintenance manager developed new measures more resembling a profit and loss and balance sheet than traditional reliability KPIs.
  2. Focus on assets instead of PdM technology : Use a risk-based approach, start with asset failure modes, not PdM technology. Execute a sound reliability strategy taking into account technology, frequency, competency, and variable vs. fixed cost. They all must be considered together in the context of a system.Most companies still talk in terms of implementing a technology, such as oil analysis, instead of improving reliability. Start with studying the asset to determine how it can fail and the repercussions of those failures. Though it requires more work up front, efficiencies in PdM implementation pay for the extra time quickly. Many reliability companies provide these services for minimal or no fees. In an effort to apply the latest trends, companies sometimes lose sight of why they are implementing PdM in the first place. In 2009, a major steel producer had implemented vibration analysis and ultrasonic testing as separate programs across several plants. The programs were managed by different individuals. After looking at the asset instead of the technology, they realized vibration analysis was far more effective on many electro-mechanical assets and having redundant programs was wasteful. The ultrasonic program instead refocused on electrical systems and air and gas studies, areas delivering better ROI.
  3. Redefine the customer-supplier relationship : Buy a result, not a promise. A supplier should be a true partner by offering a complete, customized solution based on your business. Avoid partners that sell hardware and software, and then let you "go it alone."Off-the-shelf solutions are designed by companies interested in selling volume. One size fits all solutions are rarely the best solution for companies. Before buying hardware or software or signing a service contract, ask whether your fees are tied to the results. If the company says no, find a supplier that is invested in your results as much as you are. A large, regional power company has invested millions of dollars in people, hardware and software over the past 10 years, particularly supporting their vibration and IR thermography programs. Despite expensive service agreements and promises, the internal programs delivered less than expected. The company, with their newly acquired knowledge, now knows that results derived directly from the tools are not as meaningful as measures about the process and system for doing their work. Consequently, the company is looking to suppliers in 2010 that offer a results-based solution instead of off-the-shelf hardware and software packages.
  4. Better understand monitoring vs. analysis : Monitoring is just part of the process. The reliability team must communicate the differences and importance of each to top management. There should be better integration of remote monitoring and human analytics.Despite all of the improvements in reliability engineering and predictive technologies, this simple concept is still poorly understood across industries. Large capital expenditures are made to support monitoring, but far less attention is paid to the analysis of the data acquired through process monitoring. Competent individuals analyze data to convert data to information. Often, this is accomplished manually, but it may be automated by experts establishing rule sets and comparing the data to these rule sets. Process monitoring is only as effective as the related analysis. Companies must ensure the people performing analysis are competent, adequately resourced, and have the necessary controls within their processes to accomplish the established objectives. Several industries, including steel, industrial gases, oil and gas and power, have a renewed focus on continual online vibration monitoring. Unfortunately, some of the mistakes made over the past 20 years are being repeated and the systems on the market are heavy on monitoring and light on analysis. "Gadgets" are peddled with unattainable promises. For industries with complex systems experiencing variable loads and speeds, focusing on both monitoring and analysis will be necessary to avoid repeating previous mistakes.
  5. Design the PdM process for continuity : Why design production processes for reliability, but not the reliability process? Address problems before they occur, such as turnover, limited budgets and technology advances. Build a robust process independent of key individuals.Turnover and technology are the largest hurdles. Developing a competent team takes time. Learning curves are expected and planned. Over time however, the most talented individuals often move on through promotion or greater challenges, causing managers to continually search for replacement personnel. Technology is core to reliability and PdM, and what is the best today is old news tomorrow. Given the pricing structures of many hardware and software providers, companies are forced to pay exorbitant fees that do not cover the cost of new models and software packages. The challenge for reliability and maintenance managers is to design a reliability process that stands the test of time at minimal cost. Programs built around a few key individuals or a closed technology are doomed to eventual failure. More companies are turning to flexible solution providers that enable companies to develop hybrid in-house and outsourced programs. Hybrid programs enable managers to build a robust process that does not depend upon any one individual, company, or technology. Open systems allow easy data exchange and less reliance on any one particular technology.
  6. Apply a process and system-focused approach to reliability and PdM : Ensure PdM processes are aligned with a reliability-centered maintenance framework. Partner with hardware, software and service providers who can integrate solutions within an existing system.Surprisingly, reliability and maintenance departments have been slow to embrace process management and recognition of their management systems. Most reliability professionals know an RCM framework requires using risk-based methods to apply preventive, predictive and proactive maintenance, but often overlooked is the focus on process itself. Converting data to information, and information into action, is also a process requiring design, monitoring and improvement. Traditional PdM practices often take process for granted. Methods for acquiring data, analyzing data, reporting information and managing the information are rarely reconsidered as opportunities for improvement. However, the new economic environment is forcing everyone to reconsider conventional wisdom and accepted truths.
  7. Reliability is a green initiative: With possible changes to laws and regulations, reliable operations will be paramount and costs of unplanned variation in production will be greater. Give credit where credit is due: reliability is about doing more with less and should be considered a green collar profession.Doing more with less is good practice. The downturn of 2009 has made this more like a forced practice, as resources are increasingly limited. The future is always uncertain, but companies at some point can expect changes in emission regulations. No matter the final rules and system implemented, reliability of operations will become even more important because no company will be able to afford emissions when production is halted. Reliability professionals will be called upon to control process variation to the full extent possible. Additionally, it is about time that reliability and maintenance professionals receive the credit they deserve. Predictive maintenance allows us to perform condition-based maintenance instead of time-based maintenance. CBM results in less energy consumption, better use of spare parts and smaller inventories, longer asset life, and fewer catastrophic failures resulting in adverse environmental or safety impacts. Simply, reliability and maintenance professionals are part of the green collar workforce and should receive the credit they deserve. There is no question that routine and accepted practices should be challenged. Limited staffs and budgets force creativity.

Breakthroughs in PdM will be achieved by means previously never considered, and we will all be better for it. A structured maintenance plan is proven to be the most effective way to ensure productivity gains, yet many manufacturers continue to overlook maintenance as a part of their operation’s strategic plan. Author Information Jonathan Davis is CEO of Bethlehem, PA-based ITR, which serves hundreds of customers in 40 U.S. states, 16 countries and on five continents. ITR’s experience crosses most manufacturing and service industries. For more information, visit or call (610) 867-0101. Effective task planning can optimize your outageBy Tim Kister, Life Cycle Engineering We are all aware of the impact outages have on business. In many cases as much as one third to one half of the maintenance budget is consumed during this timeframe. Factor in the cost of lost production during this time and the costs are tremendous. To offset the cost of lost production and the cost of maintenance we have to maximize the amount of work accomplished in the shortest amount of time, yet at the same time be effective in what work is performed and how it is managed.Outages can only be successful when the outage work is planned effectively before the work is scheduled and/or started. There are four areas of planning that are often overlooked or ineffectively addressed: determining outage tasks, defining task scope, identifying task hazards and/or obstacles, and completing task planning completion.

The objective of an outage should be to accomplish the identified tasks with a high level of precision, so that equipment and or processes restart with minimal problems or scrap losses, and operations will have the confidence that equipment and processes will operate at desired rate and quality until the next scheduled outage. Outage planning’s objective is to minimize the impact of delays, waiting, obstacles and bottlenecks during work execution to allow on-time completion of work and on-time equipment/process startup while managing outage planned costs within the outage budget.When a facility decides to identify major outage work far in advance, and the work is carefully planned to maximize ease of execution, the result will be lower costs. It is vitally important that the outage work list be kept as short as possible. Keeping the list short is both the means to reduce costs and the primary method of focusing on work that can only be performed during a major outage.Here is a suggested planning timeline: 3 to 10 years out – Rough work list developed18 to 24 months out – Work list reaches the budget, planning begins12 months out – Monthly outage meetings begin6 months out – Work list is locked down. Planning is 90% complete0 month – Outage occurs; all work is planned and scheduled1 month post outage occur – Post-outage critique meetingsSuccessful maintenance organizations identify their outage work list from various sources, all of which should be in alignment with the outage objectives. These sources include:Work requests generated as a result of the post-outage critique meetings Regulatory issues, Outage and equipment historyPM/PdM activities, backlog or carryover work from previous outages.The planning process can commence once the outage work list has been established and approved.

Successful outage planning and scheduling depends on important events, including identifying work tasks, occurring far in advance.Lock down the listLocking down the work list six months prior to the outage is essential to effectively managing and planning outage work. Without a lockdown there will be a never-ending flood of last-minute unplanned work items, resulting in excessive costs, reactive response and increased probability of outage schedule overrun. Part delivery issues and labor availability become a problem when work is added after the lock down date. Some individuals may find a lockdown process difficult to accept.A process to address add-on outage work must be developed and in place that requires the requestor to justify the need and identify what existing work items will be sacrificed. Management must enforce the lockdown time frame and gain agreement from all parties that it will be followed. Remember that planning work is expensive. It is extremely wasteful to cancel a job that is already planned (with parts on order or onsite), in order to do unplanned work.As outage tasks are identified, the task scope has to be defined. Without a defined scope, workers are left to determine the scope based on their knowledge, which may not be the intended scope at all. This often results in inefficiencies, delays and costly overruns. If the following questions are answered, a clear work scope will result:Does the work request adequately define what the task expects to accomplish?Does the task have a specific starting and ending point?Will this require meeting testing or acceptance criteria?Will the task impact health, safety or environmental aspects?Who will have the final say on the priority of the work?As a part of defining the scope of work, the planner will be required to conduct site visits at the location of the requested work to determine the five basic elements of work planning:The labor requirements (how many, skills, how long) for the taskThe specific location of the work (asset and physical location)When the work needs to happen (sequence in the scheduling process)The materials, tools and equipment to perform the workThe information, specifications, safety, permits required.To accomplish this level of planning it is very important that adequate personnel be dedicated full time to the planning of outage work packages.Value of site visitsSite visits are essential to effective outage planning. The identification of job hazards, safety issues and obstacles that impact job progress is often overlooked. All can be avoided or taken into account if addressed during the planning process. Some of the most common items include the complexity of the lockout/tag out, permit requirements (line breaks, confined space, excavation and building permits), air and water discharges, barricade requirements (will the barricaded work area interfere with normal traffic patterns) and whether the work site will support equipment weight and height requirements.As the planning process approaches the six month cutoff date, work packages should be fully planned and usually waiting on identified parts and materials to arrive.

These questions can help determine if the planning process is complete:Is the scope of work concise and easily understood?Have all aspects of the task have been evaluated and addressed?Have the job hazards, safety, permit requirements and potential obstacles been identified, addressed and communicated?Does the task sequence make sense, is the methodology defined, and does it include special instructions, specifications and testing/quality checks?Have all determinable material, parts, tools and equipment requirements been addressed and actions taken to provide the necessary items with delivery within the prescribed "need by" dates?Have the specific work groups been identified and task steps been coordinated to minimize non-value effort? Have realistic labor estimates and labor resource requirements been established? Do all work packages include all supporting documentation, prints, schematics and pictures?

Outage management is an effective tool for reducing costs and increasing plant productivity. When the decision is made to identify major outage work far in advance and then carefully plan the work for maximum ease of execution, the result will be lower costs.If, at the same time, disruptions to the process (such as late add-on work) are kept under control, there will be sufficient resources available to continually refine and improve the outage model for even greater savings.Tim Kister is a Planning and Scheduling Subject Matter Expert at Life Cycle Engineering. A dedicated educator, Tim has facilitated more than 100 workshops and seminars focused on maintenance management and planning & scheduling, and has co-authored the book "Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook; Streamlining Your Organization for a Lean Environment." You can reach Tim at . Planning for an outage provides an opportunity for a complete maintenance review of your operation, but planning is the key element to success. Continuous improvement requires a deeper dive

By Joe McHenry, Profit Finders Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement, based on the Toyota Production System, is now being applied to factory processes including anodizing, metalworking fluids, cleaners, surface treatments and finish coatings.Kaizen or continuous improvement is a never-ending process  there is no finish line. It is natural when applying the principles of continuous process improvement to initially focus on people, equipment and tools since we can use our basic senses to see what is going on.However, in the spirit of truly striving for perfection kaizen can be taken to the molecular level.

We are using technology to look at things we can’t see, feel, or touch. Using specialized monitoring equipment that looks into areas of the factory that typically do not get enough attention, many markets including transportation, pipe and tube, office furniture, steel, heavy equipment and metalworking job shops can benefit from this analysis.One example is in the chemical processes a manufacturing company might use. For example, in a tube mill data can be gathered on the tons of input, tons of good production, scrap, tooling costs, mill utilization, coolant used, water used, man hours and energy consumption. Cost savings can be in any of these areas, but energy consumption, water consumption and wastewater have been hot buttons topics.Many factories get one large bill for gas and/or electricity and they don’t really track energy use by process. For example, one Midwestern manufacturing complex that has seven 5-stage tunnel washers was firing up boilers to bring chemical baths up to temperature without paying great attention what was going on daily.When analyzed the data indicated that bath temperatures were running at the high end of the control limits. Also, the data showed that when operators arrived in the morning they immediately fired up boilers and heated baths to temperature on average 30 minutes earlier than required for production.Similarly, at the end of the work day boilers were not turned off until the very end of the day when they could have been turned off approximately 30 minutes prior. As a result policies for start up and shut down were set for all boilers saving over 1 hour per day of run time per boiler. Annual energy savings exceeded $200,000.A process audit can be done over a 30-day period to pinpoint where the problem is prior to making recommendations on how to correct the processes. Here are the six steps that we have found to be successful when conducing an audit:Senior management approval: The first meeting is with a company president, vice president of operations, or lean manufacturing champion. The typical outcome of this meeting is to identify a factory in the company’s system that might qualify for an audit.

Discovery Day at the plant: A technical team visits the factory to determine if a process audit is appropriate. The objective of this day is to make sure that there is a high probability of success. During Discovery Day, the technical team will plan work that must be done to begin a Process Audit. This involves discussions with the plant management and the maintenance department.The process audit: Working through the plant maintenance department, controllers, sensors and probes are installed. A phone line or Ethernet connection is required so that data can be monitored via the Internet. Installation is completed in one day. The Process Audit does not interfere with normal factory operations.Continuous improvement proposals: Using data gathered during the process audit, several proposals for continuous improvement are suggested. These are reviewed with plant management and senior management.Implement and document: The auditor is at the factory 24/7 via technology, gathering hard data. The client’s workers must implement process changes. The auditor meets with the client every 90 days to check on progress and review data.Do it again: Continuous improvement is a never-ending process. After a Process Audit, the minimum subscription in our case is for six months. After six months the relationship continues on a month-to-month subscription and a continuous stream of process improvement projects are approved and implemented.Joe McHenry is the vice president of business development for Profit Finders , Strongsville, OH. He can be reached at . A successful Process Audit requires careful planning and attention to detail, but the end result delivers results that will improve a plant’s operation.