Proactive "Maintenance"

Proactive "Maintenance"

 Proactive "Maintenance"
Maintenance in many organizations is a word which is seen as providing little value to an organization when in fact it provides great value to any company when developed, managed, and discipline is applied. I think what is most misunderstood about maintenance is the true objective of the function. The objective of maintenance is to maintain the assets of a company so that the reliability needs (process and equipment) are met at an optimal cost. 
In Webster’s dictionary "Maintenance" as:

To Maintain

  • To keep in existing condition     
  • To preserve, protect     
  • To keep from failure or decline
The ultimate goal of maintenance is to provide optimal reliability which meets the business needs of the company. Many people do not truly understand the definition of reliability.  

Reliability is..
“the probability or duration of failure-free performance under stated conditions”  Now that we understand that maintenance maintains reliability let’s see how a proactive maintenance process works.

Maintenance Approaches

From a basic point of view there are two approaches to "Maintenance". One approach is reactive and the other is proactive. In practice there are many combinations of these basic approaches.The reactive approach responds to a work request or identified need, usually production identified, and depends on a rapid response measures to be effective. The goals of this approach are to reduce response time to a minimum (the computer helps) and to reduce equipment down time to an acceptable level. This is the approach used by most operations today. It may well incorporate what is termed as a preventative maintenance program and may use proactive technologies however it is still reactive.

The proactive approach responds primarily to equipment assessment using preventive and condition monitoring inspections. The overwhelming majority of corrective, preventive, and modification work is generated internally in the maintenance function as a result of inspections and predictive procedures. The goals of this method results in continuous equipment performance to established specifications, maintainability of productive capacity, and continuous improvement. The comments which follow are based upon my experience and results of pursuing this vision of proactive maintenance with companies around the world.

Maintenance Management Philosophy

The management philosophy for maintenance is just as important as the philosophy established for any business operation. For most industries, maintenance is a supervised function at best, with little real cost control however it must be a managed function employing the best methods and systems available to produce profitable results.
It is believed that many maintenance management deficiencies or failures have resulted from having poorly constructed philosophies or the reliance upon procedures, systems, or popular programs that have no real philosophical basis.

I know for a fact that if Maintenance is reactive then Production is reactive as well so one needs to be careful when blaming anyone and work together to solve this problem. This is a plant situation which must be changed. This is the reason why I posted this article and I hope it helps others.

The Function And Control System

Today there is little disagreement that the functional requirement of an effective maintenance management program must be computer based even though most use less than "20%" of its full capability.

Philosophy of Maintenance Management

Using the philosophy that maintenance management is to be considered in the same way that all other business functions is conceivable. It is difficult to justify any other approach other than complete integration of maintenance management functions with all organizational management functions, "one team is a requirement" but has different functions. The computer is the tool used to accomplish this difficult and complex task.

"Less than 10% of companies utilize the full capabilities of their maintenance software systems" (I am trying to be generous). (I worked at a large plant in 1980 which had a fully integrated Maintenance/Asset Management System in place and it was a condition of employment that all data be entered into this system accurately and complete.)

These systems, in an integrated operation, must be available for use by every member of the maintenance organization as well as all other plant employees who have a need. it is an essential part of the maintenance employee's resources for accomplishing his work. It is just as important to a mechanic or electrician as the tools in his toolbox or the analysis and measurement instruments that he uses daily.These systems must supply meaningful and useful information to the user as opposed to normal computer data. I have introduced an example below. Which are you? Reactive? Proactive?
A successful integration of data systems will tie together maintenance, warehouse, purchasing, accounting, engineering, and production in such a way that all parties are required to work together and have availability of each other's information. This is part of the answer to the question being asked almost universally, "how do you break down the barriers between departments and get them to work as part of the whole or as a team". This requirement further means that a computer system be "on line", "available", and "time responsive" along with being used by all personnel based on their function.

Let's look at a few definitions;

What Is Maintinance?

Maintenance is the act of maintaining. The basis for maintaining is to keep, preserve, and protect. That is to keep an asset in an existing state and preserve from failure or decline. There is a lot of difference between the thoughts contained in this definition and the words and functions normally recalled by most people who are "knowledgeable" of the maintenance function; i.e., fix, restore, replace, recondition, etc. I do not want to mislead anyone in thinking their are not maintenance strategies based on a company's need which include "run to failure", "condition monitoring", "operator care" because there are and they must be applied correctly with discipline.


If we shift our thoughts to defining maintenance in the pure sense, we force ourselves to focus on keeping
preserving, and protecting capacity to our assets. However, do we keep, protect, or preserve? You may think that it is the machine, equipment, or plant, that we preserve or protect and that is true and be used to define the level to which the machine, equipment, or plant is to be kept. One way would be to say - "keep it like new". At face value the concept sounds good, but it is more subjective than objective. The answer to maintenance levels must be defined by a "specification".

A specification is a detailed precise presentation of that which is required. We must have a specification for the maintenance and operation of equipment and plant. 
  • The specification must be precise and sub-objective in its requirements. The maintenance system and organization must be designed to support a concept based on specifications.      
  • Detailed work plans and schedules may be constructed to provide the specification requirement at the maintenance level.      
  • In the maintaining context, the specification is not a goal. It is a requirement that must be met. The maintenance system must be designed to meet this requirement.      
  • The specification must be accepted at the "floor" or at a "minimum" acceptable maintenance level.      
  • In reference to maintenance specifications, included are individual equipment specifications, process specifications, and plant performance specifications.

The Maintenance Function

The maintenance department is responsible and accountable for maintenance. It is responsible for the way equipment runs and looks and for the costs to achieve the required level of performance. This is not to say that the operator has no responsibility for the use of equipment when in their hands - they do. The point is that responsibility and accountability must be assigned to a single function or person whether it be a mechanic or operator. To split responsibility between maintenance or any other department where overlapping responsibility occurs is to establish an operation where no one is accountable. This a fundamental principle for effective operation of maintenance. 
The maintenance function is responsible for the frequency and level of maintenance and responsible for the costs to maintain, which requires development of detailed budgets and control of costs to these budgets.  The production function is responsible for operating the equipment to specification and reporting problems or potential problems through a work control process which is streamline and easy to use. (work orders or notifications are a requirement)
Just as the quality function in an organization should report to the top manager, so does the maintenance function for the same obvious reasons. This allows maintenance problems to be dealt with in the best interest of the plant or company as a whole. Maintenance efforts and costs must not be manipulated as a means for another department to achieve its desired costs results.

Where the maintenance department or group is held responsible and accountable for maintenance the relationship with other departments takes on new meaning. The maintenance department can't afford to have adversary relationships with others. They must have credibility and trust as the basis of interdepartmental relationships. This is an essential element for the successful operation of a maintenance management system.

The Maintenance Organization 

The Maintenance Organization is accountable for the delivery of known best practices which meets the production, safety, reliability, and quality requirements of the plant.  Core Maintenance - These teams perform core maintenance for the plant. They are composed of qualified electricians, mechanics, and technicians. The teams are assigned based on a functional requirement plant wide or on the basis of a geographic area of responsibility. The focus, direction of the team, and individual team member needs are provided by a maintenance supervisor or facilitator (not a maintenance planner). 
Production Capacity Teams - Members of this team have been trained and are qualified to provide "Production Capacity, Product Quality, and Safety" and the official accountability of this team is the Plant Manager.  Job Planning Team - This team works closely with the Maintenance and Production teams to plan and schedule maintenance, overhaul, and contractor work. Where operators are performing a maintenance functions, the same rules apply.In addition, information and reports are prepared by this team for all other teams as required or requested.  Quality control of the data input is a responsibility of this team. Coordination of production requirements must also be performed.

Technical Assistance Team  - This team is a resource to the Technical teams and Facilitator team for continuous improvements, modifications, trouble shooting, and corrective action.  Maintenance Management Team - This team provides overall coordination of maintenance and material functions to meet the plant capacity requirement. Overview of budget and cost control is also provided.  User/Operator Maintenance Team  - This is a team of designated operators who perform assigned and scheduled maintenance work. They must be selected, trained and qualified prior to being assigned to this team.

Does the maintenance function provide a service or produce a product?  Definition is important in the development of this part of the philosophy. Service is defined as the of use labor that does not produce a tangible commodity. A product is something that is produced, usually tangible, but definitely measurable.  In the case of the maintenance function and the development of this philosophy, both a service and a product are considered as an output of maintenance.   The current thinking which is related to traditional maintenance (reactive maintenance) suggests that the maintenance function is for the most part a service function. But the philosophy being developed here considers the maintenance function as the provider of a product titled "Capacity".
Consider this, maintenance produces a product which is "capacity"(Production/Plant capacity). Writers on the subject of maintenance have suggested this concept in the past, but little has been made of developing the idea into an effective practice to date. To Maintain, if performed correctly, can produce sustainable capacity at the lowest cost however it does requires a different way of thinking by everyone.

Most maintenance operations today are designed to respond to the stimulus of breakdown and the work order request, except for small efforts related to effective preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance, usually account for less than 10% of labor hours worked.  This simply means that the maintenance function must be notified of a problem or service requirement by some means , usually by someone outside of the maintenance organization, then maintenance reacts. The speed of a maintenance response to a problem becomes the maintenance "score card" of maintenance. (if a proactive approach to maintenance is applied then rapid response is a rare occasion and thus a mute point) 

What I do not recommend is for everyone in maintenance to be pulled into reactivity otherwise you will never achieve and maintain any level of true "maintainability" and thus capacity suffers as a result. (time to face this fact)  Example: We have 100% PM Compliance however equipment breakdowns continue. See the problem.  It is being suggested by this proactive philosophy that the maintenance function be addressed as the producer of the product- capacity. Capacity is measured in units of production or output (could be the time producing to capacity). 
"A total proactive system must specifically be designed to produce capacity (product)".  If the maintenance function is to be classified as proactive, it cannot stand by and wait for someone to call or make a request.   In a total proactive approach, maintenance must be responsible and accountable for the capacity and capability of all equipment and facilities. The function must provide a facility and equipment that performs to specification and produces the product (capacity). Stated again, the maintenance function is a process that produces capacity which is the product. Production must follow a similar philosophy, operate equipment to specification and maintain production capacity.

Companies who have adopted this philosophy and strategy have achieved results beyond what was known within a company. One site in a corporation who were successful was a large manufacturing company. Once senior management understood and adopted John’s philosophy and based on my actual engagement with one plant resulted in: (just one of many examples I have experienced over 30 years)
  1. Increase plant capacity by $12 million dollars in the first year.     
  2. Deferred a large capital project ($30mm) because the capacity it was to provide was found as part of what is called the “hidden factory”.     
  3. The plant maintenance staff was reduced by 20% over the following three years because of attrition. (Never layoff a maintenance person otherwise your talented maintenance staff who are not included in the layoff will put there resumes on the street looking for secure employment elsewhere.
The approach to proactive maintenance is not magic however implementing the process is very difficult but the results are worth the effort. In order to develop a true proactive maintenance process a company must have commitment (not a nod) from senior management to floor level personnel and must have the discipline to follow known “best practices” which have been proven and work.

Let's talk about Reliability? 

Most maintenance professionals are intimidated by the word “reliability”. Why? Most people simply associate reliability with RCM (Reliability Centered Maintenance) and are unclear on what it actually means. The definition is simple:
  • Reliability is the ability of an item to perform a required function under a stated set of conditions for a stated period of time.
The definition of reliability is not at all intimidating, is it? Many companies focus on fixing equipment when it has already failed – not on ensuring reliability, and avoiding failure.
A common reason for this finding is that there is no time available to investigate is the true requirements to insure the reliability of equipment. Yet, there is a growing awareness among these reactive maintenance organizations of the consequences of poor equipment performance. These consequences include: 
  • Higher total operating cost     
  • Not meeting production requirements of customers     
  • Higher maintenance costs     Increasing equipment failures     
  • Asset availability problems     Safety and environmental impacts     
  • REACTIVITY IS THE NORM for everyone
Companies who operate in a reactive maintenance mode need to face the facts - there is NO ’silver bullet’ to solve the complex problem of poor equipment performance.  Upper level management has traditionally viewed Lean Manufacturing or World Class Manufacturing as the answer. Yet these strategies don’t directly address the true target of optimal asset reliability.  "Forget the “silver bullet” and focus on asset reliability. The results will follow." - This is a fact and is not fiction or a dream.
A Company Who Get It (true experience - believe it or not) 
Let’s call this company XYZ Corporation. This corporation was fighting an up hill battle to survive with foreign competition, aging workshop, and many other issues. Their CEO (Chief Executive Officer) decided reliability would be their focus because maintenance is the largest controllable cost in an organization and without sound reliability of their assets losses multiply because reliability affects cost in so many areas. This corporation established a dedicated team of over 50 key employees, and over a two year period, they researched the world’s best maintenance organizations. This team assimilated all “best practices” they found in the world and implemented them in a disciplined, structured environment. They found that focusing on reliability had the biggest return with the longest lasting results. Today this corporation is one of the top producers in their industry world wide.
Corporations like XYZ Corporation who truly understand reliability typically have the best performing plants. What are some of the common characteristics of a “reliability-focused” organization? They take a holistic approach to asset management, focusing on people and culture. Common characteristics found are:
  • Their goal is optimal asset health at an optimal cost.     
  • They focus on processes – what people are doing to achieve results.     
  • They measure the effectiveness of each step in the process, in addition to measuring results.     Preventive maintenance programs focus mainly on monitoring and managing asset health.     
  • Preventive maintenance programs are technically sound, with each task linked to a specific failure mode formal practices and tools are used to identify the work required to ensure reliability.

Moving toward proactive work

Many companies focus their entire maintenance efforts on a PM program that has little to do with meeting the actual reliability needs of the equipment. When these companies are asked why a particular PM task is done, you will typically hear: “This is the way we’ve always done it” . 

The facts

Here are some sobering facts that will make you think twice about the effectiveness of a time-based PM program: Less than 20% of asset failures are age related. So for the 20% of failures that are age related how can one identify the frequency of Preventive Maintenance activities?  Question to ask yourself - Do I have good data to determine this frequency? If your answer is yes, then this would mean most asset failures have been accurately documented and coded in the CMMS/EAM. My findings are 98% of companies do not have good failure history data.  Most reliability studies show that over 80% of equipment failures are random. So we ask ourselves: How do you prevent random failures? 

One "best practice" to reduce random failures" is to use repeatable procedures with step by step instructions and specifications so that everyone is performing specific work the same way every time. This way if unacceptable failures are occurring it is easier to change a procedure than "train" everyone over and over again. This way if a failure occurs and new information presents itself the worst that could happen is change the procedure. 

We must be honest, in many cases, it is possible to detect early signs of random failure by monitoring the right health indicators for the asset to determine where the asset is on the degradation curve. In simple terms, how much has it degraded and how long will it be before I lose the intended function of the asset? This approach allows time to take the corrective action, in a scheduled and proactive manner – before the functional failure occurs!
Let’s take this statement a step further. Predictive Maintenance should be used to identify defects or abnormalities which if left alone could result in failure (these can be mitigated through monitoring indicators such as temperature, tolerance , vibration, etc.).  In order to determine where an asset is on the degradation or PF Curve. Point “P” is the first point at which we can detect degradation. Point “F”, the new definition of failure, is the point at which the asset fails to perform at the required functional level. In the past, we defined “Failure” as the point at which the equipment broke down. You can see points P and F and the two different definitions of failure in the graphic below. 
The amount of time that elapses between the detection of a potential failure (P) and its deterioration to functional failure (F) is known as the P-F interval. A maintenance organization needs to know the PF Curve on critical equipment in order to maintain reliability at the level required to meet the needs of the plant and company. Without this knowledge how can one truly understand how to manage the reliability of the asset? (seek help from an expert or consultant)
WARNING: The PF Curve will not work if the equipment is not in a controlled/maintainable state.

The Barriers

Let’s first look at a few barriers first which prevent a plant from obtaining a higher level of reliability of their assets.
  1. Most maintenance departments and production only understand that a failure means the equipment is broken. A true failure of an asset is when it is no one longer meets the function required of it at some known specification, ie. rate, capacity, quality, etc., standard. An example: Conveyor is supposed to operate at 200 meters per minute so when the conveyor’s speed is no longer meeting this requirement it has functionally failed thus causing an immediate loss of revenue for the company.     
  2. Maintenance does not get involved when quality or production rate issues arise in the plant. In many cases when an asset has functionally failed in a plant no one in maintenance seems to understand the equipment has failed. If the conveyor is running less than rate then it is failing to meet the functional requirements of the end user.     
  3. Most maintenance departments do not know the performance targets of the plant equipment and do not understand why it is important that they understand them. This not a failure of the maintenance department but a breakdown of how a total is not aligned to meet the goals of it.
Overcoming all three of these barriers is essential to achieving a breakthrough in performance. If an understanding and focus on functional failure is applied by all plant personnel rapid results will follow resulting in higher asset reliability. The focus must be on the alignment of the total plant on meeting performance targets of each asset. These performance targets and current performance rates need to be posted so everyone is aware if a gap occurs in asset performance. 
Production and maintenance know that when an asset has functionally failed (no longer meeting the performance target) and is probably resulting in lost revenue. We must understand this is a production and management problem and both organizations must accept responsibilities for actions to mitigate the performance losses.   One requirement a company must meet in order to have a rapid breakthrough in performance and must define what is a "failure": 
Old definition of failure (typically used in reactive companies):
The equipment is broke or stopped. A good example is the conveyor stopped because of mechanical problem  New definition of failure (typically used in proactive companies): The equipment is no longer performing the function required of its user. Examples would be:Partial Functional Failure Example: A conveyor is supposed to operate at 200 meters per minute however because of a problem it can only run 160 meters per minute.Total Functional Failure Example: A conveyor has stopped based on a mechanical problem.
The function of the example conveyor is:
1. To transfer a product from point A to point B  
2. To transport product at a speed of 200 meters per minute from point A to Point B

Example of a new way to view failure

After all we have reviewed thus far my question to you is, “In your plant is there any equipment operating below defined performance targets and when it does is maintenance engaged immediately with production?” You could have what is called “the hidden plant” and thus by focusing on the equipment performance targets reliability could be increased rapidly of your assets.

Have you ever heard the saying “it is what you don’t know that kills you”? This statement is true in reliability. Follow my advice and see rapid breakthrough in plant performance and you must know this is just the beginning of a long journey. Do sit back and be satisfied as the reliability results you gained by following my advice. A plant must now apply RCM (Reliability Centered Maintenance) methodology to meet the goal of “optimal reliability at optimal cost”. I did not say use RCM. I stated RCM Methodology which could be RCM II, Streamlined RCM, FMEA or MTA. Be careful which methodology you use if you want rapid performance.

The Bottom Line 

A company must take a step back and review the way it manages equipment performance. If equipment continues to fail after performing preventive maintenance or overhauls, then clearly a change is needed. The focus must be on ensuring the reliability of plant assets. As a starting point, everyone in a plant should understand the definition of reliability and what it means to the success of the company. Make “Reliability” your plant’s collective buzzword.
There are no quick fixes or silver bullets so the only way to a proactive approach to maintenance is what I stated above. My recommendation, hire a consulting/training company to help you and one that can provide an effective master plan using the crawl, walk, method (I also like quick wins when implementing a long term strategy).

Finally, any organization can make these changes and achieve great results beyond what anyone think is possible however it requires top level commitment, education and training for everyone from top level to floor level in order to align the organization and thus achieve results beyond one imagination. There are many training companies who provide this type of training and professional certifications. 

One program I recommend a plant uses to educate the "total plant" is the Certified Reliability Leader (CRL) Uptime Elements Passport Education Series. Engage your training department for assistance in educating the total plant.

A book I highly recommend (I was the co-author) to include Rules of Thumb for Maintenance and Reliability Engineers.
One thing you will find is that Education and training will result in rewards no one could image if all of this is accomplished according to known "Best Practices".

To all my friends, The Maintenance Community on Slack is an incredible free space where over 1,500 maintenance and reliability professionals like myself share real life experiences with each other.   
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