MRO Magazine

Editor’s Notebook: I know a guy, who knows a guy…

Rehana Begg   

Industry Operations continuous improvement operations reliability reliability centered maintenance

Maintenance and reliability programs are like any other continuous improvement initiative. Success depends on a structured process that requires ongoing streamlining and improvement.

The idea points to a basic principle expounded by Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s 14 Points: “Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service.” He knew that without structured decision-making tools companies are at a disadvantage and that the best use of a workforce’s resources and time positively affects the payoff.

Consider the story of PT Vale Indonesia, the largest nickel laterite operation in the world. Back in 2004, when James K. Gowans was chief operating officer and senior vice president, the nickel operation had a maintenance system of sorts.

When Gowans took a close look at the mine’s operations, it revealed that supply chain challenges were slowing things down and that employees were “breaking rules” to bring operations back online. The mine was running at around 131-million pounds of production a year – well below the targeted 150-million pounds a year.


Gowans wanted to know why. Why was the mine not reaching its potential? Why were the systems not managed properly?

To help answer these questions, he enlisted his go-to guy for reliability.

Uptime increased. After several years of missing the mark, the mine went from “131 million pounds of production to 154.7 million pounds after one year, then 169 million pounds of production in the second year, and 175 million pounds in the third,” recalls Gowans, now president and CEO of Arizona Mining Inc., a Vancouver-based mineral exploration and development company.

Success came from running the operations “more smoothly, more effectively,” says Gowans. “Once you realize that this makes a big difference, you really get on the bandwagon to push the concepts and you start looking for more efficiencies. It becomes a knee-jerk reaction to how you’re operating. After a while it becomes part of your DNA.”

As if such out-and-out endorsement of the merits of a reliability program isn’t enough, Gowans says that, with every new venture he takes on, he automatically assesses whether it is operating efficiently.

Gowans’ point person for reliability is none other than contributor James Reyes-Picknell. In the December 2017 issue of Machinery and Equipment MRO, we asked Reyes-Picknell (“10 Myths About RCM“) to draw from field experience to dispel a few myths and misconceptions about reliability centered maintenance (RCM). In drawing attention to best practices, maintenance practitioners are able to consider where their facilities’ shortcomings are and fill in the gaps.

Word to the wise – the tactics for improving equipment availability are deceptively easy to follow, as Gowans acknowledges: “To be honest, it’s brutally simple… Simple to say, hard to do.

Rehana Begg is the editor of Machinery and Equipment MRO magazine. Read the December 2017 issue of Machinery and Equipment MRO.


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