The hand off to and from operations.
Transitioning an asset between operations and maintenance
is an often-overlooked risk. This has been
a point of failure in most industries I have been involved
with regardless of mobile or stationary equipment.
This concept is not as simple as who has the keys. When
you have care custody and control of an asset you are fully
responsible for it, if there is no line that defines this then everyone
is responsible, if everyone is responsible, no one is.
What are the risks we encounter when we lack procedures
for this transition?
Safety: We put assets and people at risk when we haphazardly
Time: With industrial assets time is money, unless there is
redundancy we need to optimize the MTTR (Mean time
Credibility: If assets are received 90 per cent complete, and do
not function post repair credibility is lost.
Validation information: We lose feedback loops that validate
that the loss of function is adequately addressed.
Integrity: The lack of integrity between operations and
maintenance ensures conflict and trust issues. This impacts
the team environment required and found in all
Having been involved in many reliability transitions I understand
that reliability is not a maintenance issue. To be a
reliable organization many things have to work seamlessly all
of the time. Things also have to work cross functionally all the
time. Now in many cases, operations and maintenance have
good rapport and communications. The operations group lets
maintenance know when they can have an asset, and maintenance
promptly returns it when the tasks are completed.
Though this may work fine in the short term it is people dependant.
To ensure sustainability we need to be process dependant.
If there is a process that outlines the transition of
care custody and control of assets, if there is an issue one
should be able to point a missed process step or the process
To further entrench this concept let’s explore things that
happen throughout the transition of custody. First the asset requires an intervention (planned or not), operations has control
of the asset, they run it out, shut it down, drain it, turn it
off, flush it, etc. Basically, they conduct whatever operational
steps that put it into a maintainable state or location. Now,
one part of the custody chain that most organizations do very
well happens, the lockout. We are mandated, and morally obligated
to have good lockout procedures and policies. Alhough
the lockout is done well, I have encountered many times when
it was not done and maintenance waited or assets were locked
out only to be unlocked later as maintenance failed to fulfill
The asset is then worked on and returned to an operational
state. Operations may or may not be informed of the status of
the asset. The asset may or may not have been functionally
tested. If the asset hasn’t been functionally tested by default
the operations group become the testers of the asset at which
point required rework might not be observed, like leaks or
What can be done to improve the transition of Care Custody
or Control of assets in both the release and return phases
of work execution? The simple answer is communication, but
that will only solve some of the problem, some of the time.
Let’s list some of the steps that ensure efficiency and effectiveness
to resolve the custody battle.
Involvement: If operations is not involved in work planning
and scheduling the production plans cannot be aligned with
the maintenance program. We did not open the plant, mine, to
maintain it. We constructed it to make stakeholder value. Simply
put the operations have expectations and maintenance
has requirements they must be aligned to meet the business
goals. This involvement in planning and scheduling is the first
step in communication.
Business Processes: Ensure that communication steps can
be found in your business processes. The scheduling process
should have checks and balances built in to ensure the maintenance
requirements are communicated well in advance. There
should be process block that identifies who the requirements
are communicated to, with an associated RACI (responsible,
accountable, consulted, and informed) document.
Work Preparation: Most work orders start with the task to
be executed. This leaves substantial efficiency gains out of the
documentation. Complex jobs require a work order that details
the pre-work that can be conducted prior to attaining the
asset. This could be the staging of parts tools and equipment,
cleaning, creating a lay down area or whatever reduces the
mean time to repair. There should also be a communication
step within the work order, for example “contact control room
to notify of work commencement.” The shorter the mean time
to repair, the more operations can utilize the asset.
Work Closure: Upon completion of the task there may be a
requirement for static or dynamic testing, this should be Identified
in the work package and communicated to operations.
Operations involvement may be required for the dynamic
testing. There is currently far too much rework in the industry
as we ‘assume’ it’s fixed and will not leak. All job closure activities
should also be identified in the work order, for example:
return serviceable cores; clean up area and Inform operations.
Manage Found Work: When an asset is being maintained
the tendency is to fix everything. This habit tends to impact
our scheduling as the emergent work takes more time. Maintenance
communicates to operations that they need the asset
for four hours, operations plans around that and maintenance
keeps the asset for two days. This destroys trust;
communication without integrity will not work. Now some
emergent work does require immediate attention. If this is
the case, then operations should
immediately be notified so they
can develop a contingency plan. If the work does not require immediate
attention than it should
follow the regular planning and
Communication: Operations has
an operating campaign they are
trying to execute that ties into the
overall business goals. If maintenance
and operations work together
there will be logical windows of
opportunity that can be aligned
to meet both objectives. Two way
communication regarding productions
runs, on spec, on grade,
shipping requirements, customer
orders, will increase the trust, efficiency
and effectiveness of any
operation. If both operations and
maintenance work with integrity
the trust and communication will
One example of effective transitions
for care custody and control
improvements comes from a mining
company. There were severe
trust issues between operations
and maintenance regarding mining
shovel PMs. The shovel would
be scheduled for an eight hour PM
and maintenance would take the
shovel and PM and inspect it, they
would always find minor cracking
and issues that they would
then setup to fix. In most cases
they would have the unit for two
to three days. Operations would
then retaliate as they couldn’t plan
around it and would not meet
their objectives. Their response
was to refuse to release the shovel
to maintenance, which simply
compounded the issue.
The site reliability engineer reworked
the approach. His solution
was to limit the PM to the required
filter changes and inspection. Unless there were extremely
urgent things found the emergent work was then planned
and scheduled for two weeks later. This improved the efficacy
and effectiveness of the repair work. Instead of two to three
days down time it became eight hours down for the PM and
a scheduled intervention. This aligned the expectations with
the requirements, and established credibility in the transfer of
care custody and control of an asset.
Jeff Smith is a reliability subject matter expert and the owner of 4TG
Industrial. His work spans a cross-section of industries, including oil
sands, mining, pulp and paper, packaging, petrochemical, marine,
brewing, transportation, synfuels and others. Reach him at smith@4tgind.
ca or visit www.4tg-industrial.com.