Improve your equipment uptime by implementing well-thought-out maintenance programs, integrating and streamlining workflow, and monitoring equipment to discover and resolve root causes of failure. Although these tasks may be specific to your industry, market, or organization, there are some general principles to keep in mind.
Service Relationship Management
In many larger organizations, both internal and external individuals require and contribute data to particular assets or processes. In the past, this was an extremely inefficient process, often involving a great deal of paperwork and often, outdated information.
Although today's sophisticated technology and accessible cloud-based solutions should easily streamline that process, that's often not the case. For example, many companies have embraced the Internet of Things (IoT); however, most of the data collected is often not used, according to a report by McKinsey & Company.
In order to take full advantage of the technology and data available today, companies should embrace service relationship management (SRM) processes. SRM is all about making sure the right players, whether internal or external to a company, have all the information they need to perform their work efficiently and effectively.
For example, companies that maintain a fleet of vehicles often use technology to track the condition of those vehicles. Many sensors are available today to measure mileage, vibration, and leakage. When certain levels are exceeded, an alert can be sent back to a centralized computer system to generate a service order.
However, this may involve bringing the vehicle back to a central location to perform the work. This can cause unnecessary time and expense for a company. On the other hand, if multiple service providers are working on a company's fleet across a large geographical area, there might be limited information for the service technicians to access in regards to the vehicle's history.
An effective SRM system makes the maintenance records of a vehicle visible to any and all service providers who may have worked on the vehicle in the past, or might be engaged to work on the vehicle in the future. As a result, technicians have access to the information needed in order to perform a higher level of service and identify potential systemic problems.
SRM systems that use cloud platforms in order to provide and collect data from internal and external service parties ultimately help a company improve the uptime of its equipment and assets.
An Electromechanical Reliability Example
Increasing asset uptime will involve different tasks, depending on your industry. One example is in the electromechanical field. According to Cook Consultants, you might want to consider better management of fasteners, publication, alignments, and balance.
Within this industry, companies may want to ensure that the grade, material, and size of fasteners is appropriate for critical assets, as well as audit fasteners twice a year to replace those that are loose or damaged. Belts should be checked for correct tension, and ultrasonic analysis can find pressure leaks throughout the process. Liquid leaks, vibration issues, and electrical connections should also be inspected and corrected as needed.
Lubrication is critical to the proper functioning of a great number of assets; it's important for the correct viscosity grade to be used. Maintenance technicians must understand that additives and thickeners might be present in lubrication products and that care must be taken to avoid cross-contamination. The machines that must be checked routinely for oil levels should be installed in an area where inspection can be done quickly and easily. Limits on particle contamination and water contamination should be set and well understood, and oil quality should be tested regularly.
Alignment instructions should be clear, and laser tools should be employed where possible to ensure proper alignment. If the system includes pipes, they should be installed to minimize movement and strain, especially at joints. Vibration analysis, or other inspection processes, should be used to detect misalignment.
All equipment that requires balancing should be checked before installation, or during rebuilding activities. Vibration analysis can detect mechanical imbalances. Companies should also monitor electrical voltage and current imbalances, in order to maximize the life of the motor.
Most importantly, all aspects of this program should be adopted and actively led by management. Maintenance technicians should be adequately trained or expert third-party contractors should be used to ensure the maintenance is performed correctly.
Benefits of Precision Maintenance
According to the RAM Review, the ultimate goal of precision maintenance is to have assets that are running smoothly, quietly, and at cooler temperatures. Successfully implementing maintenance activities that address root causes mean more efficient energy usage, less friction and wear, lower noise levels, and less generation of heat. All these factors then result in an increase in uptime and a longer lifespan for a company's assets.
Consider that when a company reduces mechanical vibration by 20 percent, it can actually double the life of that piece of equipment. In addition, by reducing the amount of water that gets into lubricating oil by half, a company can lengthen the life of that asset by more than 30 percent. Eliminating half of the contamination from particles in oil by half means of further extension of the lifespan of an asset, probably at least an additional 20 percent improvement.
Unnecessary heat can increase the rate that components, such as insulation and elastomers, degrade. In fact, this rate is cut in half for every 10°C the temperature drops. And finally, a 3 percent voltage imbalance reduces the performance of a motor and increases operating temperature by 18 percent.
Use a CMMS to Streamline Workflow
One more way to improve your equipment uptime goes beyond maintenance planning and monitoring. Often, inefficiencies in your workflow may limit the number of preventive tasks your team can perform in the course of a workday, and it can prolong unplanned downtime whenever it occurs. A great way to remedy these inefficiencies is to use a CMMS with mobile capabilities.
This system allows you to track data and plan work orders, assign work orders to the right level of technician without delay, and provide remote access to equipment schematics and instructions. A CMMS also helps you streamline parts requisitions and inventory management, as well as improve your procedures.
The end result of each of these features is to streamline your maintenance processes and improve time utilization. Your team will stay more on top of scheduled tasks, you’ll do more tasks that truly work, and you’ll resolve unplanned downtimes more quickly.
Streamlining workflow also means standardization and defect elimination. Instead of relying on what’s inside the heads of experienced technicians, a company needs to establish and communicate standard operating procedures, especially for its most critical assets.
Instructions, checklists, and procedures should be communicated at a level of detail, so that anyone stepping into a particular role can understand. As a result, greater efficiency and fewer errors will result, and problems can be tackled by an experienced person.
Finally, be sure to put an appropriate level of power in the hands of technicians. In many cases, technicians and operators are the ones on the front line, who know the ins and outs of a particular asset or process. However, they may not be empowered to resolve any issues that arise.
Consider establishing small action teams that can immediately fix and report problems, as well as suggest long-term solutions. Not only will this put solutions in the hands of the people working on your critical assets, but also it will increase acceptance of a culture that’s about reducing downtime.
Move from Reactive Maintenance to Preventive Maintenance
If your technicians are still focusing on mostly emergency maintenance or reactive maintenance tasks to keep your shop running, it’s time to start down the path of preventive maintenance for selected assets.
Obviously, there are some assets that do not warrant preventive maintenance. The most common example is the lightbulb. Since a burned-out lightbulb usually does not have any safety, environmental, or production consequences, it makes sense to change it only when it is needed. Replacing it on a schedule or inspecting lightbulbs only wastes time and resources.
However, there are critical assets that can benefit from simple preventive maintenance tasks. For example, HVAC filters can be changed routinely every three or six months. This task can simply be scheduled out automatically and a computer system can help ensure filters are purchased and the task is completed on time. Performing this task may increase the uptime of an HVAC system, increase its energy efficiency, and lengthen its lifespan.
Improve Preventive Maintenance Through Condition-Based Monitoring
If you already have a preventive maintenance program in place, look for ways to improve it to boost asset uptime. According to Reliable Plant, roughly 30 percent of all preventive maintenance tasks do not accomplish much. Several other studies found that schedule-based preventive maintenance programs are only successful at reducing about 10 to 30 percent of all failures. That being said, there are many opportunities to improve preventive maintenance programs.
By moving past simply performing maintenance tasks on a schedule to looking at the behavior of critical assets and triggers for failures leads us to a predictive maintenance program.
Predictive maintenance programs use sensors and other tools to monitor equipment and determine when maintenance is needed, based on asset condition. This way, you only perform maintenance tasks based on need, rather than on a schedule. Predictive maintenance strategies help companies target their resources to address the tasks that can limit or prevent failure of critical assets, increasing equipment uptime.
Integrate Data into CMMS
One significant challenge of increasing uptime for assets is using a wide variety of technology, monitoring devices, and introducing computer systems in an integrated fashion.
Consider the fact that computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) were developed shortly after the personal computer and before many condition monitoring tools and sensor technology really existed. As these other tools have evolved over recent years, they have the capability to provide amazing data; however, if this data cannot be accessed in a helpful or usable way, it fails to impact uptime or, ultimately, a company's bottom line.
As schedule-based preventive maintenance tasks gave way to reliability-centered maintenance initiatives, companies began to find ways to address the potential failures that were still left untouched. Today, a wide range of methods and tools are available for condition monitoring. Some of these include infrared technology, oil analysis, and vibration sensors. Some assets even have analog or digital centers incorporated into the machine itself.
Sensors are increasing in capability and are dropping in price. They can successfully measure things like vibration, gas leaks, temperature, humidity, air leaks, and many other signs of potential equipment failure. If you choose to invest in predictive maintenance technology, you should make sure to integrate the data generated by sensors into your centralized computer system.
For example, you can set an acceptable temperature range for a refrigeration unit, and when a sensor detects an out-of-range reading, an alert can be immediately sent to your CMMS. At this point, your centralized computer system should automatically generate a work order with associated instructions, parts, and tools required. This allows the maintenance manager to determine its priority and assign the job to an appropriately trained technician or service provider.
Technology will continue to develop with tools, such as artificial intelligence and robotics in the future. These tools will lead to even greater precision diagnostics; however, they will only be useful if the data can be integrated into a system that can drive action.
Develop Solid Checklists
Let's face it. Some people are "checklist people" while others are not. However, when it comes to maintenance, there are situations when checklists should be mandatory. If you're using a CMMS mobile solution, it can be simple to incorporate checklists within work orders. Even if a maintenance technician has been performing the same job for years, it's human to forget occasionally. The checklists that are integrated into a handheld solution serve as an easy visual reminder to ensure that all important tasks have been completed. This simple step can mean greater uptime for your assets.
It's important to remember that checklists are not the first step in developing a reliability or maintenance program, and they cannot replace formal training. However, checklists can be excellent visual cues and reminders for everyday operations.
Start by creating checklists for assets that have significant consequences for failures. For example, if human error results in safety issues, or significant production losses, then checklists should be a priority for your maintenance team.
Some examples of excellent checklists include having a list of parts and tools needed for a particular job and work order, as well as a list of activities that need to be performed in a particular sequence. In addition, if multiple maintenance technicians are working on the same piece of equipment, then a checklist that would require initials of the assigned technicians could be useful for follow-up questions and concerns. Finally, checklists serve as excellent records of tasks that have been completed or items that may need to be addressed in the future.
Keeping all this information in centralized computer system can help a company have the data they need to make smart business decisions in the future.
Implement Problem-Failure-Action Codes
Even if you have implemented a preventive or predictive maintenance program, there will always be some cases where you'll face emergency or reactive maintenance requirements. By implementing problem-failure-action codes, you can take full advantage of these opportunities.
Although most organizations understand that emergency maintenance tasks are often expensive, they can be extremely educational in helping businesses develop better proactive programs in the long run. Training maintenance technicians to read and understand failure codes, as well as correctly enter action codes, will help your company make smarter business decisions.
Problem codes are typically descriptions of the issues your equipment is facing, such as leaking or overheating. Failure codes, on the other hand, show what is failing, such as a leaking gasket or a worn-out valve. Finally, action codes communicate what work was done and when it was completed.
When these codes are defined well and used consistently, they provide critical data into a company's asset failures. Over time, management can view the failure and maintenance history for a particular asset. These reports, typically generated by a centralized computer system, such as a CMMS, can reveal opportunities for future preventive and predictive maintenance.