Asset Productivity Articles
Our expert staff is well known throughout the industry for its breadth of knowledge gained through years of practical experience. The following articles, written by members of our staff, have been published in industry journals and Web sites.
Keith Mobley, CMRP, Life Cycle Engineering
Believe it or not, tracking organizational performance is not as simple as it might sound. Many of us struggle with this dilemma and few have determined an effective way to measure it. Our dilemma begins because the criteria that define performance vary depending on the level within the organization. For example, the organization level controls asset utilization—how the installed capacity will be used, and to a large degree, reliability. At the production-maintenance level, performance is measured as compliance to the business plan and its production schedule. Therefore, criteria used to measure performance must vary, but at the same time be consistent, so that measurements at the floor level can be rolled up to meet the criteria at the organizational level and conversely cascade down from organizational to floor-level measures. Once this is understood, there are two other issues to be resolved.
In a perfect manufacturing world, one would be able to dedicate production assets to one product, run that product continuously, and never, ever be forced to change to another product. If one could do so, this mode of operation would yield true world-class performance. Think of it–no constant struggle to reduce the losses that invariably occur as part of the changeover process.
In any manufacturing organization, who spends the most time and knows the equipment better than anyone else? Is it Maintenance? Engineering? Area leaders? If you ask me I would say the operators that run that particular piece of equipment. They are around the equipment 24/7, 365 days a year. Operators know how the equipment runs so they know when something isn’t quite right. They will know if there is a different noise, smell, or maybe an unusual vibration. They may not know exactly what is causing it or how to fix it, but they do know that it isn’t normal for that equipment. And if it isn’t normal for the equipment, chances are good that it is affecting one or more of the following: safety, quality, delivery, or cos
If you’re planning a continuous improvement initiative, it’s a good idea to begin by capturing an accurate picture of your current state of operations and comparing that picture to what best practices look like. You need the right information to develop a prioritized roadmap to close performance gaps and a business case that assures cost-effective implementation, sustainability and maximum benefits. And you need a process to follow to maximize the effectiveness of the assessment itself.
The ability to measure success of a continuous improvement initiative is critical to the overall success of the project. From a change management perspective, projects are more likely to be successful when executive sponsors are visible and active. For executive sponsors to take on this active role they need to understand the value the initiative is bringing to the organization. If the value is great, then precious resources will be allocated to the project at the expense of other competing initiatives. Quantitative and qualitative measures of the initiative’s value can be combined to determine a measurement of success.
Everyone loves to be identified as a top performer. In power generation, our plants strive for increased availability and reduced forced outages. We measure performance indicators (metrics), report them to the Generating Availability Data System (GADS) and benchmark ourselves against similarly designed power plants. And just when we think we are sitting pretty, we deal with new performance indicators such as Equivalent Forced Outage Rate – Demand (EFORd) which measures forced outage for power demand periods, not just a 24-hour clock.
Many organizations struggle with poorly performing personnel and physical assets. Operators not operating and maintaining the assets properly, or maintenance personnel not performing adequate maintenance, lock these organizations into a frustrating, reactive environment. This environment perpetuates performance problems that lead to higher operating costs as well. Organizations in this mode are looking for answers, but not always in the right places. Many desire to achieve Reliability Excellence, but underestimate or take the wrong approach to achieve that goal.
Since the dawn of the mechanical revolution, companies have been searching for ways to manufacture more for less. In the past 20+ years companies have shifted from the “more is better” concept to “how can we be more profitable with what we have?” How can we reduce costly downtime losses and increase the profitability of the manufactured product?
I recently visited a coal-fired base load power plant where 65% of the maintenance workforce will retire in the next two years! That’s right. According to a non-scientific poll, in only two short years all the senior technicians and lead men in both electrical and mechanical will be fishing, playing golf and enjoying grandchildren.
If your organization uses contract labor to conduct shutdown repairs, you know this is true: once the shutdown team takes over, the responsibilities of your maintenance crew members change. Jobs transform. An electrician might become a gang leader, contractor liaison, tour guide or safety officer. For this brief period the maintenance worker joins management. They help manage the thousands of shutdown details. Are you preparing maintenance workers to be effective in these roles?
When questioned about their operations, too many executives believe that maintenance is the primary, if not sole, driver behind chronic reliability problems, high capital replacement costs and the excessively high life cycle costs of their physical plant. They point to variances in maintenance budgets, excessive downtime and a myriad of other factors that on the surface appear to be the result of the ineffective maintenance. But in most cases, a closer look reveals a completely different story.
One of the many MRO best practices we look for at our client sites is the existence of a tool crib designed to effectively and efficiently store, control and maintain specialty items such as bolt cutters, shop vacs, sawzalls and other power tools, generators, fans, and pipe threaders. These are often one-of-a-kind and sometimes expensive items that aren’t required frequently, but when they are, they need to be available and ready for use.
Imagine you’re on a walk through your plant. What you see is far from a structured use of management fundamentals by your supervisor. Boards that include production requirements are incomplete or not filled out at all. Quality issues are evident. You notice considerable idle time -- employees are standing around waiting for something. The supervisor is nowhere to be found and you wait patiently. Sure enough, a few minutes later the supervisor shows up on a forklift with a pallet of parts.
We often get asked what all is included in a kit, and specifically if a kit should be created for a job that only requires one part, such as a filter or belt. The short answer is yes!
As a maintenance planner and master planner over the last 30 years I have had the opportunity to visit a number of manufacturing facilities (most of them producing chemicals) in order to share planning and scheduling ideas and techniques. Almost all the facilities I visited had something in common: they devoted large amounts of resources to planning of one particular sort – shutdown planning. While these facilities paid careful attention to detail when performing maintenance planning for outages (more often than not due to regulatory governmental requirements), for the most part they did a relatively poor job of planning routine corrective jobs, with the notable exception of preventive maintenance activities.
If your car (or your loved one’s car) wasn’t running properly you would get it checked out, right? If it wasn’t getting the expected miles per gallon, the gas gauge wasn’t working properly and the vehicle was leaving oil marks on your driveway, you would be pretty frustrated. And for safety’s sake you would do something about it right away.
Ask any industry practitioner about the duration and effort required to embed maintenance and reliability best practices into an organization and the answer will likely be consistent: it is not a short-term endeavor and the effort is substantial. So why write an article about initiatives that provide immediate results with minimal investment?
Asset management plans form the cornerstone of an effective asset management system. The recently released ISO 55000 series of standards for asset management clearly defines the importance of asset management plans: they provide the roadmap for achieving value from physical assets by optimizing cost, risk and performance across the asset lifecycle.
I’m sure most of you reading this have at some point in your career heard the term Gemba and its translation to “the real place.” I like to think of it as simply where work occurs. The Gemba walk process is just that – taking a walk through Gemba. The topic is often covered in articles and presentations, with the common theme involving leadership going to the floor and “seeing” what’s going on. This is a proven process that is time well spent by any mid-to-high level manager or leader to 1) be seen, and 2) gain an understanding of the true pulse of the factory floor. Remember that a Gemba walk doesn’t always have to involve the factory floor; your Gemba could involve an office setting.
Controlling the cost for equipment repairs requires careful management of the Maintenance, Repair and Operational (MRO) spare parts inventory. These scenarios are repeated time and time again in many maintenance operations: