Beyond the 'break-fix’ mentality is a smarter, safer workplace

Hesh Kagan, the 'Wizard of Wireless,’ was in our offices last month chatting about some new initiatives on sensors. The talk turned to low-cost sensors that would bring the cost of predictive maintenance down to the level where it was cheaper to measure equipment than to simply wait for it to break.

07/15/2007


Hesh Kagan, the 'Wizard of Wireless,’ was in our offices last month chatting about some new initiatives on sensors. The talk turned to low-cost sensors that would bring the cost of predictive maintenance down to the level where it was cheaper to measure equipment than to simply wait for it to break.

A 'break-fix’ mentality, Kagan said, is the maintenance standard at most process facilities %%MDASSML%% a fairly provocative position to take. Given the squeeze in capital costs, most industry experts are quick to point out that stretching the useful life of plant floor equipment is necessary to ensure profitable operations. Yet, Kagan contends the equipment is viewed in many facilities as easier to replace than it is to monitor and maintain.

If he’s right, how quickly can we outsource that kind of thinking to another country? We don’t need it here.

PLANT ENGINEERING ’s readers were asked about this issue as part of the “Changing Role of the Plant Engineer” study. The preliminary results will be released later this month at Maximo World in Orlando. They tell an interesting story. Asked what’s the most important factor affecting their business, reducing maintenance costs ranked fourth. Driving safe and secure operations, gratefully, came in first.

Still, it’s worth observing that in many facilities, maintaining people and maintaining equipment is viewed in much the same light %%MDASSML%% and it’s likely a pretty dim light at that. Machines break down and are replaced. Humans break down as well, victims of workplace injuries and unsafe work conditions, and are seen by a few plant managers and plant executives as just as interchangeable as your average gear.

In general, the U.S. workplace is safer. Every OSHA statistic shows it. Yet there are still too many facilities %%MDASSML%% especially in labor-intensive and salary-challenged jobs %%MDASSML%% where the attitude toward workers is the same as equipment %%MDASSML%% 'break-fix.’

Enlightened managers know better, of course. With our hard-fought experience in manufacturing leaking out the door through retirement %%MDASSML%% and showing little signs of being replaced %%MDASSML%% plant managers need every bright mind and every experienced hand to keep productivity high. Treating any worker as a human cog isn’t just dangerous and inhumane, it’s also stupid.

Lean manufacturing, as we discuss extensively in this issue, is a smart way to put your plant floor on the road to productivity. Quality and safety are the marriage of good equipment and good work processes. Quality and safety are measures we equate to a well-run business. You don’t need a sensor. You just need some sense.





Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
July/Aug
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
August 2018
Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me