Zero Breakdown Strategies – Step 5 – Preventing Human Error

Zero Breakdown Strategies – Step 5 – Preventing Human Error

Preventing human error will exist in at least two areas. The first to be considered is operations. If a piece of equipment is observed to be mis-operated, what really is the cause of the mis-operation?

* Is it a possibility that the operator was never trained correctly to operate the equipment?

* Isn’t it possible that the equipment was not designed for operability?

When these are observed, isn’t it possible to provide some form of interlock to prevent mis-operation?

The real cure to preventing mis-operation of the equipment is to develop standardized operating procedures and insure that all operators are trained to operate the equipment identically.

ISO-9000 standards require that the operators are to be trained to such a level that when they rotate from equipment to equipment, there is not the slightest variation in the quality of the product produced. If this was really accomplished in companies today, two things would occur. First, the operators would be so skilled that product quality would never be an issue (an ISO-9000 objective). Secondly, any equipment deterioration would be quickly identified and corrected before it reached the level where it would impact product quality (another ISO-9000 objective).

Unfortunately, there are very few structured operator training programs in industry today. Most are word of mouth, on-the-job training, or learn as you do programs. Structured operator training program with testing for skills proficiency would eliminate most of the operator errors in industry today.

What if the human error lies in the maintenance department? Then again, ask what caused the mistake? Isn’t possible that there are:

1. poor working conditions

2. poor tools and equipment

3. poor support structures

4. poor troubleshooting information and procedures

So when examining maintenance errors, consider the working conditions. It is usually hot, dirty, and dark when maintenance makes most repairs. Is it easy to make a mistake in these conditions? The answer, of course is “Yes”. So can the conditions be improved to make it easier to make repairs without making mistakes? The answer again is “Yes”!

Improving tools and equipment is important also. There are new technologies, new tools and new equipment that can help maintenance make repairs more accurately and quickly than the past. Are the maintenance departments using those tools at all plants and facilities? Definitely Not! In many plants and facilities, the attitude is negative about the maintenance function and subsequently they never get the tools and equipment necessary to achieve “World Class” levels of performance.

Consider also from a design perspective, are proper support structures such as auxiliary hoists and booms put in place when the equipment is installed? If so, this will make repairs much easier and quicker. In many plants and facilities, something must be rigged up each time the repairs to be made. This impacts the amount of time it takes to do the repair and increases the related downtime.

Consider to the age of the workforce. If the experienced individuals in the workforce work to leave, how would current workforce cope with that loss? Is it possible to develop troubleshooting flowcharts, and guides to help assist inexperienced individuals in troubleshooting, thus shortening repair times?

Artificial intelligence systems are currently being developed for maintenance. This may be the way of the future to help eliminate unnecessary equipment downtime.

All of these issues must be considered before automatically considering a particular problem is a design problem. In many cases companies will blame chronic equipment problems on the design engineer or the equipment manufacturer. Upon closer examination, it is found that in most cases the root cause of the problem is a maintenance or operational issue. It is key that these issues are addressed before attempting to redesign the equipment/ asset.

Consider in your plant or facility if all of the steps to zero breakdowns were the focus of improvement initiatives, what percent of all of your equipment failures would be eliminated? And how much time and resources would you have to focus on TRUE equipment/ asset problems? And:

What would your investment in a zero breakdown strategy improvement initiative actually be?

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Zero Breakdown Strategies – Step 5 – Preventing Human Error2017-01-25T13:29:27+00:00

Zero Breakdowns Strategies Step 4 – Improving Design Weaknesses

Zero Breakdowns Strategies – Step 4 – Improving Design Weaknesses

Design weaknesses can be improved in the equipment by strengthening the various parts to extend component life. This may take the form of some type of wear resistance, where a material is changed in a high wear area to a material that has a higher wear rating than the components around it.

Corrosion resistance may require the changing of material that is more corrosion resistant than the material around it to improve the process reliability. There may be occasions where stress in the design of the components is the issue and the design must be changed to minimize the existing stress and fatigue.

It may also be necessary to change materials and shapes of items so that they increase their reliability there may also be the need to improve assembly accuracy so equipment is assembled correctly. While all of these are great ideas to improve design weaknesses, there is one major problem with assuming a design weakness. How many people really know the true design life of basic components?

For example, what is the design life of a V-belt. In some companies V-belts are changed every three to six months, and this is a waste of manpower, spare parts, and equipment capacity. The true design life of a properly rated, properly installed, and properly maintained V-belt is three years of continuous operation or 24,000 hours. Yet, many companies change V-belts much more frequently.

However, this is not a design problem; it is usually an installation and maintenance problem. For example, how many companies really follow the proper design procedure outlined by the manufacturer when installing a V-belt? Usually it is a small minority. Installers may pry the belts on, run belts on, jog units to get belts on, but they do not follow proper procedures. They seldom check alignment, they seldom the check tension properly, or they seldom check for sheave wear. All of these can be root causes of major reductions in the belt life.

Another example is roller chain. The design life of roller chain properly installed properly rated and properly maintained is seven years. Roller chain installed improperly and not properly lubricated has an expected life of nine days. This is a tremendous difference in life expectancies. It is not a design problem, but more likely it is going to be a maintenance and installation problem. For example, some companies will continue to install a new roller chain over worn out sprockets. A chain and sprocket should be changed at the same time (a maximum of 3 replacement chains can be achieved). While this may seem excessive, it is the recommendation. (Just ask any motorcycle owner)

However, some companies may find that they can allow one sprocket to wear out 4 or 5 chains before changing the sprocket. In reality, it must be kept in mind, that when the chain is worn out, a similar amount of hardened material is worn from the sprocket. The tooth geometries changed as the chain the wears against them. Once the chain has worn, the tooth geometries are changed enough that it will increase the wear on the second chain, a corresponding increase will occur for the third chain, and the fourth chain, accelerating the wear until the chain fails very shortly after installation. It is only by understanding proper installation and maintenance practices around these components that design weaknesses can ever truly be identified.

Bearings are another example. How many bearings in a typical plant actually achieve the L-10 rating of the bearing? In most cases the bearings never achieve the design life, simply because they are mishandled installed incorrectly, or maintained incorrectly. One study showed that less than 5% of pump bearings in the petrochemical industry ever reach the L-10 rating. The actual rating is over 15 years, yet the majority of the bearings (95%) average just over a year of actual usage. Some companies changed bearings on a weekly or monthly basis and, when in reality they should be achieving years of use from the bearing.

Another study showed that just about 2/3rds of bearing failures are caused by user induced problems. These problems would include maintenance issues, operational issues, and construction/installation issues.

Best or Worst Practices?

In examining this ZBS step, it must be asked what atrocities do most employees commit against the basic components that prevent achieving design life?

For example, do you see plant technicians installing bearings with hammers? What impact does this have on the design life of the bearing?

Have technicians ever been observed welding on the same plane with bearings allowing the electric arc to pass through the bearing? This again, dramatically shortens the life of the bearing.

In the case of roller chain, repair sections are placed in chain or special links are put in chain. This introduces different forces in the chain drive that accelerate the wear. The chain will experience tight loads and light loads as the worn and new chain simultaneously operate. This creates tremendous wear on all affected components.


All of these issues must be considered before assuming a particular problem is a design problem with all components. In many cases companies will blame chronic equipment problems on the design engineer or the equipment manufacturer. Upon closer examination, it is found that in most cases, the root cause of the problem is a

maintenance or operational issue. These issues should be addressed first, then the true design error will be clearly identified. Then the design problems can be dealt with properly.

However, as a final note, do not assume that chronic equipment problems are always design issues. Most equipment problems are related to a basic root cause already mentioned in these blogs. If these issues are examined first, the solutions can be quickly implemented. This process will then make available resources to concentrate on solving what are really design problems.

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Zero Breakdowns Strategies Step 4 – Improving Design Weaknesses2017-01-25T13:29:28+00:00

Zero Breakdown Strategies Step 3 – Deterioration Prevention

Zero Breakdown Strategies Step 3 – Deterioration Prevention

In our last blog, we discussed operating standards which focused more on issues related to the operation of the equipment.  In this blog, we will discuss deterioration prevention which focuses on the equipment related maintenance issues.  Deterioration prevention covers areas such as establishing equipment base lines, standardizing repair policies and procedures, and standardization of spare parts.

Equipment restoration

Equipment restoration implies that equipment is to be maintained at a certain baseline level.  The equipment does always have to be in an as-new condition, but the baseline must be acceptable for achieving design capacity, quality, and reliability.  If the equipment is worn out, then predictive techniques such as vibration analysis cannot be used effectively.  Vibration analysis would try to read all sources of vibration, and if the equipment is in a worn out or substandard condition, there would be too many transient vibration signals for vibration analysis tools to be effective.  The same would hold true for other predictive techniques if the equipment is not kept at an acceptable baseline.  Once the equipment is at the specified baseline, then predictive monitoring techniques can be effective in finding and trending deterioration.  With this information actions can be taken and out of tolerance conditions corrected to keep the equipment at acceptable baseline.

Predictive and reliability tools

Once the equipment is at an acceptable baseline, then MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) and MTTR (Mean Time To Repair) calculations can be used to track the equipment condition to insure that excessive breakdowns or long duration breakdowns are not occurring.  In addition, technologies such as vibration analysis, oil analysis, thermography, and ultrasound can be used to detect wear or deterioration and alert the maintenance workforce that a restoration process is required for the equipment.

Standardization of repair policies and procedures

Just as in the previous blog, operator variability will impact the reliability of the equipment, so too maintenance variability will impact equipment reliability.  Just as the operators may operate the equipment differently, two maintenance technicians may perform the same repair differently, with different results, and with perhaps mistakes being made. The solution to this problem is similar to the operations situation.  It is the proper training and development of standardized job plans for each of the major maintenance tasks.  This will insure that the equipment is rebuilt or repaired exactly the same way so that the proper reliability and utilization of the equipment can be achieved.

Standardized spare parts

In it is important that the inventory and purchasing personnel purchase OEM equivalent spare parts.  In many cases when maintenance specifies a spare part, the purchasing department, in an attempt to save money, will purchase a spare part that is not exactly as specified.  This creates problems with equipment reliability and may actually increase downtime.  If the component must be changed two or three times to save just a few dollars on the initial price of an item, this is a poor decision.  The related downtime and lost capacity will more than offset the small savings purchasing lowest cost spare parts generated.

A second area under spare parts is to look at how to insure that spare parts are purchased when needed and are not over purchased, so that the spare parts actually deteriorate while on the shelf.  Some companies will purchase MRO components in bulk and the shelf life expires before the stock can be used. In an attempt to prevent this occurring many companies develop good supplier relationships so that the parts can be delivered utilizing just in time processes.

Storage of spare parts

In many instances spare parts are stored incorrectly in maintenance storage areas.  For example, many bearings are unwrapped and left open on the shelf in storage.  Unwrapping a bearing actually begins its deterioration.  Bearings are extremely sensitive components and need to be protected while in storage.

Simply unwrapping a bearing and handling it with dry hands creates deterioration.  The PH balance in the human body is so acidic, it will actually begin to corrode a bearing if the steel is touched with dry hands during acquisition, storage or installation.  This corrosion leads to pitting, and interferes with proper shaft and housing fits and in some cases can actually deteriorate the raceway of the bearing.

Also V- belts are components that can be deteriorated quickly.  In many companies, V- belts tend to be stored at high elevations on pegs in the storage areas.  While this in itself is not incorrect, if the temperature reaches towards the higher level in the stores area, 120°F or above during the summer, this re-initializes the vulcanization process that was used to create the belts in the first place.  This temperature will over cure the compound of the V- belts rendering them white and brittle.  The belts must be stored at room temperature if they are to be protected in storage.

In some plants, major components of rotating equipment are setting motionless in storage.  While this is not bad itself, two of three ingredients required to destroy the equipment are present.  These are (1) a bearing not rotating, (2) mounted under load.  The third item that is needed to complete the destruction of the component is some form of external vibration.  If there is a punch press, overhead crane, forklift, or even sonic vibration, this will create microscopic motion in the bearing.  This rocking action in the bearing eventually will rupture the stationary fluid film barrier.  This results in metal to metal contact that destroys the bearing.  This is a condition known as a false brinnelling and is widely known about in the bearing industry.  Unfortunately, many companies do not understand this problem and henceforth some components are allowed to deteriorate and then when installed experience a very short life before failing.  The individual rebuilding the component is usually the one blamed, when actually the component was destroyed in storage.

Some companies also have “bone yards” where they store major spare parts and assemblies outside in the weather.  Then when the component is needed, they will go outside and dig it out of the field and install it and then wonder why it fails after a short time.  If components are stored outdoors, they must be protected.  This means they must be protected from condensation and moisture, heat, cold and etc.  Some companies will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in component cost and unnecessary equipment downtime due to major spare parts deteriorating and as they sit out in the “Boneyard”.

Accessibility of equipment

In some cases, it may take longer to disassemble a piece of equipment to get at a worn component, that it does to actually change the component itself.  This has an impact on the meantime to repair calculation (MTTR), or simply put, the time it takes to repair a component when it fails.  Equipment should be designed or redesigned so that it is easily accessible for inspections, services, and minor adjustments.  If this is not done, it will result in unnecessary downtime, with the resulting lost capacity and the equipment may also provide substandard performance.

In this blog, we have discussed the third step to Zero Breakdowns –  deterioration prevention.  This step has focused on the equipment related maintenance issues.  In the next blog, we will discuss design deficiencies.  Unfortunately, a lack of understanding of the basics of component design is misunderstood, which leads to excessive costs for redesign.   Our next blog will highlight this problem.

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Zero Breakdown Strategies Step 3 – Deterioration Prevention2017-01-25T13:29:28+00:00

Zero Breakdowns Step 2 – Maintaining Operating Standards

Zero Breakdowns Step 2 – Maintaining Operating Standards

In the first step to Zero Breakdowns, we discussed Maintaining Basic Conditions.  In this blog, we will discuss maintaining operating standards.  Maintaining operating standards requires determining the design capacity for a particular piece of equipment.  Once this is determined, the goal is to achieve this design capacity, not to exceed it, also not to fail to reach it.  Unfortunately, many companies today believe that exceeding design capacity is good.  However, as design capacity is exceeded, service life and reliability of the equipment is reduced.  While the speed or the instant output of the equipment may look good, the resulting downtime impacts negatively the overall capacity.

Many companies struggle to understand or find design capacity for their equipment.  However, there are many methods available.  The first would be to consult the manufacturer.  The manufacturer should be able to provide design capacity documentation for the equipment.  Another option would be to find a similar use customer who knows the design capacity of the equipment.  A third option would be to consult the history records of the equipment to see what it had been able to achieve in the past and the resulting reliability of the equipment.  Using these methods, a company should be able to determine the correct design capacity of the equipment.

Standardizing operating methods

In many organizations, maintenance employees can look at the production scheduling board and determine by the operator schedule what equipment will break down.  Quite simply, this is because different operators will operate the equipment using various procedures.  Operator variability has a definite impact equipment reliability.  The solution to this problem is proper training of the operators and the development of standardized operating procedures.  If the operators are trained and the procedures are followed, then it will not be difficult to have standardized operating methods.  This will eliminate introducing operational variability into the equipment/ process.

Operating conditions

When equipment is installed and operated, it must be operated in the environmental conditions that the equipment was designed to function.  There should not be excessive temperature, either too hot or too cold, excessive vibration, or shock loads.  The equipment should be operated as it was designed to be operated.  Any variance outside the operating parameters specified by the vendor will contribute to unreliable equipment.

This also includes the storage condition for major spares or components for this equipment.  Major spares should be stored in suitable conditions to prolong the life of the spare part.  If sub-assemblies and spares are not stored correctly, when they are installed on the equipment they will provide less than satisfactory service, both from a reliability and a life-cycle perspective.

For example, motors, gear cases, and pumps in storage already have two of the three ingredients necessary to destroy them in storage.  A bearing, not rotating, mounted under a load.  The missing ingredient?  Vibration.  This sets up a condition called false brinelling.  This condition is documented in almost every bearing handbook that was ever written.  However, it is still quite simple to find major spares stored incorrectly in almost any company’s stores locations.  The damaged spare, once put into service, provide a very short service life, which contributes to unnecessary downtime and maintenance costs.

Construction standards

When equipment is installed, the construction standards must be as specified by the manufacturer of the equipment.  This means during the installation, there should be a proper foundation so that there is no undue stress placed on the component that is installed.  Assemblies requiring attachment to supporting structures such as a piping, should also be installed with no strain from the supporting or attached structures.  Piping strain can quickly contribute to misalignment of couplings and excessive wear on the related equipment components, such as bearings and couplings.

A brief consideration of the foundation for equipment during an installation can help highlight the problem.  The foundation is designed to support the static forces of weight and stress.  It must also dampen the dynamic forces of vibration and any shock loads.

When a foundation cracks, it allows contaminants to penetrate the foundation and degrade the concrete.  This requires a repair to be made to the foundation.  This is usually some form of grout replacement.  Yet is attention given to the storage of the grout?  Grout stored outside during the summer will have a hot cure.  This leaves the grout cure in a thermally expanded state.  When the grout cools, there are stresses that are locked in the grout.  Eventually these stresses will be relieved and excessive cracking will result.

For a foundation to provide satisfactory service, the following points need to be considered:

  1. Proper Chemistry
  2. Proper water and cement ratios
  3. Quality of the aggregate
  4. Contain a low amount of entrained air
  5. Placement must be proper for load
  6. Proper temperature ranges for curing
  7. Proper humidity maintained during curing
  8. Proper time for curing – 7 uninterrupted days for most foundations

Now, if this level of detail is required just for the foundation, what about the level of detail for the rest of the installation steps?  Do most companies pay attention to the detail, or is it just hook it up and get it running?  It is little wonder that the equipment in many plants fails to perform to design specifications.

Electrical supplies and other utilities also need to be carefully examined when the equipment is installed.  These areas tend to be a problem when equipment is moved temporarily or is moved frequently, as in some manufacturing operations.  Any time equipment is moved and is expected to be utilized in operations, it must be installed correctly to obtain design capacity and the design reliability.

Elimination of contamination

As part of maintaining operating standards, equipment should be kept clean.  However, this in itself is not sufficient.  Once equipment is cleaned then the sources of contamination, moisture, process wastes, etc. must be eliminated.  Unless this is accomplished, the equipment will not be kept properly clean and ultimately the contamination will impact the reliability of the equipment.

ZBS – Step 2 Conclusion

While many of the points mentioned in step 2 seem to be basic, most companies fail to properly execute them.  This leads to unnecessary downtime, lost production, and high maintenance costs.  Consider what percent of all of your equipment/ process downtime is related to improper execution in these areas.  What if these conditions were properly controlled in your plant/ facility?  What percent of your breakdowns would be eliminated?  Add Step one and Step 2 together and over 50% are typically eliminated.

Now what about step 3?  That will be addressed in our next blog.

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Zero Breakdowns Step 2 – Maintaining Operating Standards2017-01-25T13:29:28+00:00

Zero Breakdowns – Step 1 Maintaining Basic Conditions

Zero Breakdowns – Step 1 Maintaining Basic Conditions

In my last blog, I raised the question about zero breakdowns and if it was possible to achieve that state of equipment reliability. This blog starts the first of five steps to achieving zero breakdowns. The first step is to maintain basic conditions. The three components to this step are:

  • Equipment cleaning
  • Tightening procedures
  • Lubrication

Equipment cleaning activities in many companies today are primarily motivational activities.  And while motivation is a good reason to clean equipment, there are also technical reasons to clean equipment.  For example, consider an electrical motor.  If electrical motor is allowed to become contaminated, the contamination acts as an insulator, interfering with the thermal transfer process or heat dissipation.  This results in excessive temperature rise of the motor.  As the temperature increases, the design life of the motor decreases.  One study showed that in some motors the useful life was reduced by ½ for every 10 degree C rise in operating temperature above the designed operating temperature.  This can be a self-destructive problem, since in some annealed copper wire; a 50 degree C temperature rise causes a 20% increase in resistance in the wiring.   This leads to even more heat, more resistance, more heat, until the motor fails.

Even if this does not result in an immediate failure of the motor, it may result in getting six months of life out of a motor, when it was designed to provide 6 to 10 years of life.  This means that unnecessary maintenance will be performed.

Also, consider that gear cases have a similar problem.  If gear case exteriors are allowed to become contaminated, the internal temperature of the gear case will rise.  As the temperature rises, the manufacturer’s suggested lubricant for the gear case is incorrect.  The higher temperatures will result in thinning viscosity of the lubricant, creating metal to metal contact between components in the gear case.  This will result in rapid wear, again shortening the life of the gear case.

As with the motor, the gear case and components will not fail immediately: however it may need to be replaced after two or three months of use, rather than seven or eight years of use.  This leads to excessive maintenance cost and lower availability of the equipment.

Hydraulic systems also have a problem with cleanliness and heat.  A hydraulic system is equipped with a reservoir that is designed to dissipate the heat in the hydraulic fluid as it returns to the tank.  This cooling function may be enhanced by coolers to lower the temperature of the fluid.  If the tank becomes dirty or the coolers become clogged and the temperature of fluid begins to rise.  Once it reaches about 140 degrees, the hydraulic fluid will begin rapid degradation.  Once study shows that the hydraulic fluid will oxidize twice as fast for every 20 degree F temperature rise above 130 degrees.  At 215 degrees F the oil life expectancy will drop to 3% of original design.

As the hydraulic oil reaches the end of its life, it loses its lubricating quality, allowing rapid wear of system components, such as pumps, valves and actuators.  This rapid wear produces particles and contaminants that will further damage the hydraulic system and degrade its performance.

Another problem related to overheated hydraulic fluids is inlet air leaks or cavitation.  As the air bubbles transfer from the suction side of the pump to the pressure side of the pump, the air bubbles implode, producing temperatures of up to 2100 degrees F.

Regardless of how the oil is overheated, it will take on a varnished and sticky quality.  The varnish particles travel downstream through the pump and other components such as control valves and actuators clogging lines and causing sticking valves that burnout solenoids and other components.  This results in the system failure and downtime or erratic operation and the related minor stoppages.

Tightening or torquing procedures.

When considering proper torquing procedures, one must first consider the proper tools.  In many organizations technicians are observed using crescent wrenches, channel locks, or other improper tools to tighten hex-headed fasteners.  The proper tool, of course is a torque wrench.  A torque wrench can measure the proper amount of torque applied to a fastener.  This is important, since all threaded fasteners are two inclined planes wedging against each other.  When a fastener has the proper amount of torque applied, it is distorted, locking the threads so they will not loosen.

If fasteners are not torqued sufficiently, the faster is not deformed, it will not lock, and eventually works loose, creating a vibration, wear, and ultimately failure.  Conversely, if a fastener is over tightened, it can exceed the elasticity of the fastener material, deforming the fastener so that is weakened.  Then the fastener, when re-tightened will loosen quickly or break.

Also, it is not just enough to understand the amount of torque to a size of fastener, the amount of torque is also determined by the grade of the fastener.  There are many grades of fasteners available and even in the same size; each requires a different amount of torque.

Consider how many failures at a plant or a facility have the root causes simply because a mechanical device was not fastened correctly.  The fasteners would begin to work lose, creating vibration, creating wear, which increases the vibration, which increases the wear, until a failure occurs.  This scenario is all too common in plants today.  What percent of all failures at a specific plant or facility could be eliminated by paying attention to proper fastening procedures?  One study in the petrochemical industry showed that 50% of all fastener failures occur due to improper assembly and incorrect torque.

Proper lubrication.

Proper lubrication would include the following items:

  1. the right lubricant
  2. the right quantity of lubricant
  3. the right application method
  4. the right frequency of application

The question might be asked, how often do individuals get all four of the requirements correctly performed?  Do some individuals use power grease guns to lubricate bearings and continue until the bearing is filled with grease is then forced out of the seals? Is completely full the correct level of lubricant for a pillow block bearing?  In reality, a pillow block bearing is designed to be filled only one-third full of oil or grease to allow for heat dissipation during operation.  So when the bearings are over lubricated, they over heat, and their life is shortened dramatically.

Lubrication also needs to be monitored for contamination.  Any solid contaminants in the lubricant will eventually come between the components in a drive and accelerate the wear on the components.

Water is also a contaminant, but it acts differently.  Water has no load carrying capability.  As water molecules move between the components of a drive, the fluid film barrier or is ruptured and metal to metal contact occurs.  This accelerates wear in the gear case or drive.  For example, water content does the following:

.03% water content reduces bearing life to 50% of L-10 rating

.2% water content reduces bearing life to 17% of L-10 rating

1% water content reduces bearing life to 6.3% of L-10 rating

2% water content reduces bearing life to 4% of L-10 rating

By these figures, it is quite easy to see the dramatic impact even the slightest water content has on the life of the lubricated components.

Mixing lubricants can also create problems.  Since different vendors use different additives to their lubricants, mixing incompatible lubricants will cause a chemical reaction.  This leads to the formation of acids, alkaloids, thinning viscosity, thickening viscosity, coagulation, etc.  It is important to always understand the interchange requirements and consequences of mixing lubricants.

So there it is- the first step to zero – How does it apply to your plant or facility?  If you were to perform a true root-cause analysis of all of your equipment failures, what percent of them would be related to cleanliness, fastening procedures, and lubrication?  What if your technicians suddenly started performing these tasks as described in this blog?  Would your failure rate drop?  By how much?  50%? 75%? More? Less?

The next blog will discuss step 2 on the journey to zero breakdowns.

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Zero Breakdowns – Step 1 Maintaining Basic Conditions2017-01-25T13:29:29+00:00

Zero Breakdowns – A Reality or a Dream?

Zero Breakdowns – A Reality or a Dream?

Are zero breakdowns really achievable at your plant or facility? Is it conceivable or even desirable to have zero breakdowns? If we think of the quality initiatives, the goal was zero defects. And while most companies never achieved this goal, many developed strategies or methodologies that came very close to the goal. In fact, Six Sigma Quality was the stated goal for many company’s quality programs.

If we compared maintenance to quality, quality focuses on producing a perfect product. Maintenance focuses on providing reliable equipment capable of producing the perfect product. So if zero defects was the goal for quality, could not zero breakdowns be the goal for maintenance? And in reality, most companies would never achieve zero breakdowns, would it be possible to have Six Sigma reliability? And what would Six Sigma reliability cost? When would the cost of that level of equipment or asset reliability exceed the benefits achieved? How expensive would it be to achieve zero breakdowns really?

These questions can only be answered after clearly defining breakdowns, the business objective of the equipment or asset, and the determination of the steps necessary to achieve zero breakdowns.

Asset Utilization – The Business Objective

Asset utilization, commonly referred to as Overall Equipment Effectiveness, is a complete picture of how equipment or assets perform. It involves examining equipment availability, the equipment performance rate, and the quality rate. The asset utilization may also be referenced as equipment capacity. Asset utilization is not just the responsibility of one department.

Asset utilization is the responsibility of the entire company. It has the focus of insuring that nowhere in the world does another company have the same assets and achieves greater capacity from the assets. It is the single focus of being the best at getting the most out of the assets. The measurement of asset utilization is the overall equipment effectiveness. Overall Equipment Effectiveness is a holistic calculation that measures availability, performance efficiency, and quality rate.

Availability is defined as the percentage of time the equipment is available compared to the time that it is required to be available. Of course, breakdowns, equipment malfunctions, setups and adjustments, and even material shortages, are all possible reasons the equipment may not be available.

Performance rate of the equipment compares the current operating rate of the equipment to the actual design capabilities of the equipment. Many companies use some type of targeted performance, which usually fails to optimize the utilization of the equipment.

Quality Rate is the percentage of good product or satisfactory service the equipment provided compared to what the equipment should have delivered. So defects, re-work, off spec product, or unsatisfactory service from the equipment lower the overall Quality Rate.

For equipment to be fully utilized, it is a blend of all three parameters that determine its actual performance. By examining equipment or assets in this manner, companies can avoid a one-dimensional focus on utilization of the asset. In many companies, decisions are made to increase production, which may boost performance rate but yet lower equipment availability due to a decrease in asset or equipment reliability.

On the other hand, if the maintenance department performs too much maintenance and lowers the availability, and then even if the equipment performs as designed, the overall output is lower. This still puts the company in a noncompetitive situation when it comes to asset utilization.

So it is clear that the approach cannot be one dimensional. The true value of measuring the asset utilization in this manner is that it presents a holistic view of the asset or equipment.

With this perspective in mind, what prevents a company from achieving Zero Breakdowns from their assets? There are five main areas and these will be discussed over the next several blog posts.

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Zero Breakdowns – A Reality or a Dream?2017-01-25T13:29:31+00:00

ISO 55000 – it was Launched – But is it Taking Off?

ISO 55000 – it was Launched – But is it Taking Off?

So we are now 2 1/2 years after the official launch of ISO 55000. What have been the results so far? Has the standard gain wide acceptance? What is the future for the ISO 55000 standard?

So what are the results so far? It appears that in the United States the uptake on the standard itself has been somewhat slow. Internationally, there are a larger number of companies that are investigating the standard or have adopted the standard. Is it possible that ISO 55000 will follow the pattern of ISO 9000, in that the United States will be late adopters of the standard when compared to their international counterparts?  Will this delay put US-based companies at a competitive disadvantage?

When discussing wide acceptance, or the lack thereof, it is important to note that one area where the ISO 55000 standard (and by default asset management) is quite active: this is infrastructure. Infrastructure, particularly in the United States, has been receiving a lot of negative attention in the recent years. Consider the water debacle in Detroit – bridge and road failures, the conditions of Dams and the condition of mass transit.  Is it possible that if asset management principles, and ISO 55000 in particular, were applied in these areas, that much of this negative attention would have disappeared?

In a previous blog, I mentioned that John Oliver video on infrastructure, which can be found on YouTube. This video, while quite humorous, highlights some very serious points about infrastructure. In just the last few months, there has been a considerable amount of attention paid to infrastructure. Whether this video played a part or not can be the topic of debate.

However, now there is an article about infrastructure and technology in Time Magazine.

This article highlights the problems that we see with infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges. It even begins to develop an asset management prioritization model. This article references some additional sources of information concerning infrastructure asset management. The first is from the American Public transportation Association. This link takes you to a site where they highlight the importance of keeping infrastructure in a state of good repair. There are additional published documents available on this site as well.

A second reference in the time magazine article was from the American Society of Civil Engineers. This was an update on a previous report entitled “The failure to act: the impact of infrastructure investment on America’s economic future”. This article was interesting since it breaks down the financial impact on each individual household due to infrastructure deficiencies.

But whether you live in the United States or not, every country in the world is currently struggling with their infrastructure. Whether its water problems, transportation problems, or industrial problems, each of us are impacted.  What actions can we take to make sure our infrastructure (and ultimately our competitiveness) is properly managed?  It is by educating ourselves in the proper application of International standards, such as ISO 5000.

It would be a tragic loss if many international experts spent a considerable amount of time developing ISO 55000 and it was never adopted by companies who could gain the most from it.  Beyond infrastructure, it would be an even greater loss if companies across all vertical industrial markets go out of business because they did not properly manage their assets.

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ISO 55000 – it was Launched – But is it Taking Off?2017-01-25T13:29:32+00:00

Asset Management and the Value of Data

Asset Management and the Value of Data

With the increased interest in asset management, many companies are chasing an asset management certification and neglecting some the basics of their businesses. One example would be not utilizing the proper asset information system to collect the necessary data to manage their assets. One of the major concerns in this area is the lack of support for existing management information systems. For decades CMMS/ EAM systems have been underutilized in most organizations. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of a return on investment in the utilization of these systems. However, that may be changing.

In the Institute of Asset Management’s (IAM) Asset Information Subject Specific Guidelines (SSG) on page 10, the value of asset information is discussed. It is highlighted that studies have shown the impact that asset information has on the efficiency and performance of asset intensive businesses. Organizations operating efficient asset information processes have been found to indirectly spend around 20% of their total annual budget, (both OPEX and CAPEX) on asset information. Businesses with poor asset information processes are found to spend even more, typically as much as 25%.

These figures may appear high, but consider if you include the direct cost of preparing and recording asset information when performing maintenance and overhauls; then the significant hidden costs, such as management and staff time spent searching for information, collating, and processing information from various sources and formats, and perhaps repeating or duplicating the process across multiple business units. The majority of the cost is incurred in the core business processes that are dependent on asset information. If a company can improve the efficiency of how asset information management is performed in the business, it offers a potential improvement for savings which has been estimated to be in the order of 1 to 5% of the total business expenditures. Now this type of information may help raise the priority of properly utilizing an asset management information system.

An even greater benefit can be realized if asset information is used effectively to influence decision-making on business expenditures, such as capital programs to improve asset serviceability or optimum whole life cost decisions regarding maintenance and overhaul choices. Simply stated, the appropriate utilization of asset information will enable the right work to be done on the right asset at the right time. Conversely the lack of reliable asset information can result in poor or suboptimal decision-making which can expose the business to unnecessary cost or risk and adversely affect overall business performance.

In one business vertical, (Utilities) 47% of the executives feel the single most important issue that could improve business performance was the quality and availability of asset and unit cost data. This figure rises to nearly 70% if respondents were asked if they felt asset data was either the most important or second most important issue of the business needed to address. This clearly illustrates the significance of data issues.
A sample of the most basic types of asset data includes:
• Asset information.
o Including the numbers, types, size and purpose of the plant.
• Asset performance and condition data.
• Asset value, unit cost, and refurbishment and repair costs.
• Location information such as grid reference post or ZIP code or operational zone.

Asset information is held in asset registers (typically EAM Systems), while location and connectivity and the network data such as links and material types, are held in GIS systems. Both systems are needed and a degree of integration is necessary. That ensures the GIS holds conductivity, location, and operational boundaries of network/plant while the EAM systems hold the history and service record a particular plants be it unit, pumps, switchgear and transformers of whole facilities, such as pumping stations or treatment works.

Integration of data across systems and the business requires common data structures to be replicated in all major corporate systems. This can be achieved by creating asset hierarchies that define the relationship between tactical asset information and strategic data. The concept, design, and use of hierarchies and the architecture of asset data are some of the most far-reaching decisions utility company can make to increase the effectiveness of the organization.

As organizations continue to investigate the benefits of adopting an asset management strategy, they may find that the benefits are difficult to quantify. This problem could be due to the fact that they do not have the proper asset information to develop this strategy. Perhaps an increased priority of collecting and then utilizing the data typically found in a CMMS/ EAM system will help solve this problem.

Material for this blog was taken from:
IAM’s Asset Information Subject Specific Guidance (SSG)
Asset Management – Chris Lloyd Editor – ICE Publishing
Strategic Asset Management – Deadman – Troubador Publishing

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Asset Management and the Value of Data2017-01-25T13:29:33+00:00

Chronic versus Sporadic Failures – Which is Your Focus? – A Terry Wireman Blog Series

Chronic versus Sporadic Failures – Which is Your Focus? – A Terry Wireman Blog Series

In their book “Root Cause Analysis – Improving Performance for Bottom-Line Results” Robert and Kenneth Latino define sporadic and chronic failures.  (The following material is derived from pages 22-24.)

The sporadic occurrence usually indicates that a dramatic event has occurred. For example, there is usually a large business problem such as a breakdown, a fire or an explosion in a manufacturing or process plant or the company just lost a long-standing contract to a competitor. These events tend to draw a lot of organizational attention. Not just a passing note on the daily report, but urgent and immediate attention. In other words, everyone in the organization knows that something bad has happened. The key characteristic of a sporadic event is that they happen only one time with usually one failure mode. There is one failure mechanism at work that has caused this event to occur, so this is very important to remember. Sporadic failures have a very dramatic impact when they occur which is the reason many people tend to apply financial figures to them. For instance, you might hear someone say, we had a $10 million failure last year. So by their definition, the authors are tying sporadic events to what are normally referred to as equipment breakdowns.

Sporadic events are very important and they certainly are expensive however they do not happen very often. If a company had a lot of sporadic events, it would not be in business very long.

Chronic events on the other hand are not very dramatic when they occur. These types of events happen over and over again. They happen so often that they actually become the cost of doing business. We become so proficient in working on these events they actually become part of the status quo. We can produce are normal output in spite of these events. In the Japanese textbooks, chronic losses are often referred to as “Idling and minor stoppage losses”.

Some of the characteristics of chronic events include they are expected as part of the operational routine. Organizations accept the fact that they’re going to happen. In a typical plant, they even account for these events by developing a maintenance budget. A maintenance budget is in place to make sure that when routine events occur the money is available to fix them. These types of events demand attention but usually not the attention a big, sporadic event would. The key characteristic of a chronic event is the frequency factor. These chronic events happen repeatedly and for the same failure mode. For instance, on a given pump failure, the bearing may fail three or four times a year or, if you have a bottle filling line and the bottles continuously jam, these would be considered chronic failure events. Chronic events tend not to get the attention of sporadic events because, on their individual occurrences, they are not usually very costly. Therefore rarely would an organization ever assign a dollar figure to an individual chronic event.  It becomes an accepted cost of doing business.

What most companies fail to realize is the tremendous affect the frequency has on the cost of chronic failures. A stoppage on a bottle line due to a bottle jam may take only 5 minutes to correct when it occurs. If it happens five times a day, it adds up to 152 hours of downtime per year. If an hour of downtime costs $10,000, then it becomes an annual loss of approximately $1.52 million.

As we can see the frequency factor is very powerful. But since companies tend to see chronic events in their individual state, they sometimes overlook the accumulated cost. Just imagine if we were to go into a facility in aggregate all the chronic events over a year’s time and multiply their effects by the number of occurrences. The yearly losses would be staggering.  In the TPM textbooks from Japan, these types of losses (Chronic) always account for a higher percentage of the total losses in a plant than do the sporadic losses.

Why is this important?  Just consider which type of losses receives a higher level of attention in your plant Sporadic or chronic?  Do you spend more time on chronic or sporadic failures?  What if you could eliminate 80% (applying some Pareto principle) of all of your chronic failures?  What would that do to your overall maintenance costs?  What would it do to the capacity of your plant?  It is seen in the majority of chronic failures that workmanship (either from maintenance or operations) is responsible for the majority of these failures/ losses.

In the majority of cases, organizations are quick to reward the Hero who can quickly repair a sporadic loss.  However, they never reward the artisan technician whose skills can eliminate chronic losses.

Which behavior does your organization reward? Perhaps a read of the Root Cause Analysis textbook would help you improve your bottom line.

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Chronic versus Sporadic Failures – Which is Your Focus? – A Terry Wireman Blog Series2017-01-25T13:29:35+00:00

Will YOU Choose What is Behind Door #1 or Door #2? – A Terry Wireman Series

Will YOU Choose What is Behind Door #1 or Door #2? – A Terry Wireman Series

The choice is there – so let’s choose carefully. In my last blog, I discussed how to find the $100K per year job. This blog is going to continue that theme with some additional references and successes from individuals that are working towards the $100K job.

In Germany, they average 40 apprentices per 1,000 workers. In the United States the ratio is 3 per 1,000 workers. Youth unemployment in Germany is less than ½ of what it is in the United States. Would more apprenticeships reduce youth unemployment in the US? Which door will YOU choose?
So what is the point? Consider these questions – Does everyone need to go to college to be considered successful? Is there an alternative path to having a successful life without a college degree? If there is another path, how many high school guidance counselors steer their students toward this alternative path and career? How many parents would propose this alternative to their children?

A typical graduate from college in 2014 left campus with a debt load of $31,000.00 and started to work on a job that averaged $45K per year. Apprentice School students emerge debt free and will make on average $55K on their first job. Which door will you choose?

In many cases parents and guidance counselors think anyone can be an apprentice- and they want their children (or students) to be special. But can apprentices be considered special? The Apprentice School has 4,000 applicants for 230 openings annually. This gives the Apprenticeship School about the same admission rate as Harvard (and without the student debt). It that something to be ashamed of? I think not. The last year of school, the apprentice will make $54K. Which Door?

In the article link at the end of this blog, there is a quote from a Mr. Perez where he says “At the educational level, we need a comprehensive strategy to change the hearts and minds of parents,” Mr. Perez said “There are highly selective, four year colleges that are easier to get into than many apprenticeship programs.”

So we see that the trade-offs between college and an apprenticeship inevitably raise one of the thorniest educational and economic issues today: Who should or should not go to college?

“If you’re in the two thirds of the population that don’t have a college degree, how do you feel if someone says to be a success, you have to have it?” Mr. Petters (Quoted from the reference below) said. “It shouldn’t be a requirement for a middle class life. We have people in our organization who don’t have a college degree and are great, who’ve raised families and had great lives.”

One apprentice said that many of his high school friends who have graduated from college are back home living with their parents. By contrast at age 23 he owns his own home has no student debt and is making over $18.00 per hour. I know which door I would want my children to choose…

The references in this blog are based on the Apprentice School that serves the Navy Shipyard in VA. It is detailed in the New York Times article found here. Also consider reading “Shop Class as Soulcraft” by Matthew Crawford.

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Will YOU Choose What is Behind Door #1 or Door #2? – A Terry Wireman Series2017-01-25T13:29:35+00:00
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