MRO Magazine

Document DILEMMA

By Peter Phillips   

Have you ever wondered what to do with the many documents and folders filled with reference material that belong to your equipment and maintenance activities?Until you actually take a few minutes to list all those documents, you probably...

Have you ever wondered what to do with the many documents and folders filled with reference material that belong to your equipment and maintenance activities?

Until you actually take a few minutes to list all those documents, you probably don’t realize exactly how long that list really is (it took me about 15 minutes to write down mine).

Next, I want you to think about the people who should have easy access to the information. Crafts people, process technicians, maintenance management, the engineering department and others need to be able to access these files.

My own list amounted to 20 separate documents, all with valuable and sometimes critical information that maintenance people need to be able to view or print whenever necessary.


If you’ve taken a few minutes to make a list like this, you may be surprised to find how many documents, manuals, parts lists, calibration sheets, drawings, etc., are stored in file folders and cabinet drawers, just about everywhere around your facility. You might have a file for this, a drawer for that, another home for some other papers — you see what I mean.

So let’s compare our lists. When we’re done, maybe both of our lists will have grown.

Let’s start off with the one we should always start with, which of course is safety.

We have the general safety items like wearing eye protection and steel-toe shoes, but what I’m talking about here are specific safety instructions and procedures.

For example, documents that describe the exact location of the isolation points and lockout methods required to work safely on the equipment.

Then we have areas that require confi ned space entry or welding permits. At a refinery we work with, there is a 10-page-long procedure to replace a valve. The document includes how to don the self-contained breathing apparatus that must be worn during the valve removal procedure. Next, it explains the replacement procedures and all the necessary checks that must be done before and after the change, along with the process of returning the pipeline over to the production department.

Have you thought about a procedure to remove large motors, gearboxes or conveyors? Or some equipment weighing hundreds — maybe thousands — of kilograms? If you stop and think for a minute, you can probably recall many other safety documents you have or need to create that will protect your crafts people.

Let’s move on to SOPs or Standard Operating Procedures. If you don’t already have them written down, then you probably know you should get started. Anything that must be done in a standard way, such that the safety or effectiveness of a process will not be affected, needs a SOP.

These will cover everything from procedures to stop and start-up equipment, to how to create, execute and close a work order. Also, procedures to record equipment modifications — the Change Management Document — need a SOP.

Then we have our favourite preventive maintenance documents that have the complete set of instructions to carry out in-depth inspections, where measurements must be recorded and analyzed against previous records.

Facilities having pipelines and vessels conduct integrity tests and wall thickness checks on a regular bases, often yearly or bi-yearly. These documents must be completed and filed for future reference to chart degeneration over time.

Calibration documentation and results are very important to science labs, pharmacies companies and hospitals. These documents are so important that they are assigned official registration numbers and revision numbers. Used during scheduled instrument calibrations, they create an important history on the equipment. They need to be accessible and current whenever calibrations are due to be done.

Next we have new equipment. When it’s purchased, the manufacturer will send along a host of documentation. This can include an operation and maintenance manual, detailed drawings, recommended maintenance intervals, a complete materials list, rebuild instructions, as well as a recommended spare parts list. It’s all very valuable information that definitely needs to be available for maintenance techs.

Equipment warranty and maintenance contracts are often overlooked or poorly tracked.

The maintenance crew will often fix failures due to poor design or low-grade parts that are covered by warranty. If the warranty information is unavailable, which is often typical, the manufacturer is not held accountable.

Maintenance contracts are usually the same. Crafts people are unaware of the contents of the contract and just fix the problem themselves, without contacting the contractor. Both of these issues can add extra — and unnecessary — burdens on your maintenance budget.

We also have special documents. An aluminium casting company we service produces a distinct number of casted parts before the mould is refurbished. A document called an End of Run Assessment outlines the work that needs to be done to the mould before it can resume production. The document lists the standard preventive checks, repairs and modifications that must be completed. It includes pictures of the casting that indicate and reference the specific repairs. The document is created by the production department and accessed by the toolmakers who carry out the maintenance.

I’ll stop here with my list, but you get the general idea. Unless you make a list of your own, you won’t realize the size and scope of all the maintenance documents you have.

Where to keep documents

The next question to answer is about what to do with all those documents and files.

The best solution is to create a maintenance documents folder on your company’s shared network drive. Next, link the documents to your maintenance software.

Your software will have the ability to attach documents to equipment records, PM plans, inventory records and work orders.

In turn, these documents can be viewed or printed either manually or automatically when they are needed.

Permits, calibration sheets, rebuild instructions — any document you have — can be printed precisely when your crafts people require them to carry out their tasks.

Drawings can be converted to PDF files that can be viewed before dismantling new and complex equipment. Pictures can be taken of specific problems and linked to work orders.

You’ll probably agree that your documents need to be in one location. Your CMMS/EAM software is the place they need be linked.

Imagine the time saved by not having to search all around to find the right document. Imagine how much safer your people can work with lockout isolation points and specific hazard information in their hands before starting maintenance.

Imagine the possibilities of having accurate, up-to-date information at your fingertips by solving your document dilemma.

Peter Phillips of Trailwalk Holdings, a CMMS consulting and training company based in Nova Scotia, can be reached at 902-798-3601 or by e-mail at


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