MRO Magazine

Completing the industrial equipment reliability maturity cycle

By L. (Tex) Leugner   

Lubrication Manufacturing equipment reliability industrial equipment maintenance organization maturity cycle personnel skills reliability

Every equipment reliability improvement program experiences a developmental learning period; from the reactionary “break and fix” mentality to a complete asset management maturity.

Photo: © Chalabala / Adobe Stock

At what stage of development is the maintenance organization in your company or plant? The following questions and guidelines will help you to determine if you are on the right path to equipment reliability maturity.

Does corporate management support and actively demonstrate a culture of continuous improvement of both equipment reliability and personnel skills?
LOGIC: An organization’s management must establish and support a vision in which a culture is developed that continually supports equipment reliability improvement and the skill and knowledge levels of personnel.

Has the organization built an organizational structure that puts operations and maintenance groups on equal cooperative levels?
LOGIC: In many organizations, the maintenance department is subservient to the operations or production groups. This structure is based on a mistaken philosophy that maintenance, or anything related to it, is a cost rather than an asset. This always creates tension and behaviour that results in situations where insufficient time is spent efficiently, carrying out effective maintenance activities. This structure results in increased maintenance costs due to repeated failures or production stoppages that could have been prevented.

Does the organization have a well-designed and defined set of roles and responsibilities between the operations and equipment maintenance groups?
LOGIC: The role is the specific function performed, while the responsibilities are the tasks or duties that the role requires. Often, there are conflicts between a specific role and a set of responsibilities, resulting in confusion and errors in decision-making.


Does organizations’ management put more emphasis on cost reduction of maintenance activities than on equipment reliability improvement?
LOGIC: Statistically, when the focus is on cost reduction, reliability gets worse, but focus on reliability improvement and costs go down. It is impossible to improve or even maintain existing reliability if machinery is allowed to deteriorate. When sound preventive maintenance activities are deferred, equipment condition monitoring is neglected or the results are ignored, breakdowns and failures are inevitable. Preventive maintenance and condition monitoring technologies, such as vibration analyses and reliability-based procedures and processes, must be continually reviewed and improved for reliability to mature.

What process has your plant established when a piece of new equipment is installed?
LOGIC: All new machinery should be evaluated for maintainability and reliability before it’s designed or purchased. Once selected, the installation of new equipment is very often hurried, putting emphasis on immediate production rather than ensuring that the new machine efficiently does what it was intended to do. New machines must be properly installed, thoroughly commissioned, and operationally tested, with all preventive maintenance requirements carried out and documented before being turned over to operations.

How does your maintenance organization reacts when a failure or stoppage occurs?
LOGIC: Depending upon the criticality of the equipment on which any failure occurs, many organizations respond immediately, make repairs. However, they make a short-sighted mistake of not taking the time to evaluate possible causes of the failure during machine disassembly. Obviously, immediate repair is necessary, but the repair should involve a carefully documented inspection with photos taken as part of the disassembly procedure, so that a root cause inspection and corresponding evaluation of the failure type may be carried out.

This disassembly inspection is invaluable and should be part of the process of preventing a recurrence. In many organizations, recurring failures of similar types are considered normal, but if a disassembly inspection with documentation is consistently carried out, the overall cost of thorough corrective maintenance becomes approximately three times lower than hurriedly reacting to failures. In fact, every failure or stoppage should be documented and investigated as part of a mature
reliability program.

Has your maintenance group developed an effective and efficient preventive maintenance program?
LOGIC: As equipment reliability programs mature, preventive maintenance tasks can be extended and often eliminated completely, particularly if these are supported with effective condition monitoring technologies, such as oil analyses, because well managed oil and vibration analyses scheduling can confirm extended oil drain intervals and bearing replacements.

Has your maintenance organization developed a condition monitoring program that supports preventive maintenance?
LOGIC: When considering the effective condition monitoring programs that should be employed, remember the conditions that affect all rotating equipment. They are always the same, very often related to each other; common of these are lubrication, vibration, temperature, corrosion, wear, and erosion to name the most common. When applying condition monitoring, technologies such as obtaining oil samples, vibration signatures, temperature readings or any other equipment condition sources, remember the rule of three: take samples at the same location, at the same operating temperature, and if the machine is running, at the same speed and load if possible.

Does your organization continually and consistently improve the maintenance documentation for all plant equipment?
LOGIC: At least annually, preventive maintenance, equipment condition monitoring and all reliability improvement task files should be reviewed and updated. The life cycle cost for every piece of critical equipment should have its history and condition evaluated and updated, while machinery that can be permitted to run to failure before replacement should have its replacement cost re-evaluated.

Does the organization use the most effective equipment reliability performance indicators?
LOGIC: Key performance indicators for equipment performance might include meantime between failure, availability, reliability, maintainability, and overall equipment effectiveness. Key performance indicators for effective and efficient maintenance activities might include mean time to repair, job performance, work order usage, and work order cycle time, planned versus unplanned (emergency) maintenance.

Some organizations use performance indicators that are misapplied, misinterpreted or misleading, which make reliability improvement results look effective. An example would be the availability of any piece of production equipment applied to a hydraulic system. While it might be operational (available), if 100 per cent of the shift it is leaking due to internal leakage or operating at lower pressures than it should, it’s actual efficiency might be in the 80 per cent range, making the availability performance indicator very misleading and totally unreliable.

To conclude, North American industry loses over $200 billion dollars every year due to ineffective maintenance, unexpected equipment failure and breakdowns. In 1988, a study concluded that over 55 per cent of maintenance was reactive in nature. A survey conducted in 1997 concluded that 69 per cent of maintenance cost was related to fully preventable maintenance activities, and a significant portion of these were early failures after installation, suggesting that the questions and comments in this quiz are relevant. Unless an industrial plant follows the recommendations provided above, one may never know. MRO
L. (Tex) Leugner, the author of Practical Handbook of Machinery Lubrication, is a 15-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers, where he served as a technical specialist. He was the founder and operations manager of Maintenance Technology International Inc. for 30 years. Tex holds an STLE lubricant specialist certification and is a millwright and heavy-duty mechanic. He can be reached at


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