MRO Magazine

Raising Uptime

To ensure healthy equipment and lessen production shutdowns, it’s vital for maintenance departments to continually refine their asset management practices. According to James Reyes-Picknell, president of Barrie, ON-based Conscious Asset,...

February 1, 2013 | By By Robert Robertson

To ensure healthy equipment and lessen production shutdowns, it’s vital for maintenance departments to continually refine their asset management practices. According to James Reyes-Picknell, president of Barrie, ON-based Conscious Asset, companies first have to evaluate their uptime scorecard to improve reliability.

Reyes-Picknell also says your assets can obtain a new lease on life with an effective uptime strategy. The reward will be a more robust fiscal bottom line over the long haul.

“Uptime isn’t a standalone maintenance initiative, nor is it for organizations that dabble. Take the jump to achieve cost savings by planning and scheduling work versus doing reactive equipment repairs,” says Reyes-Picknell.

“It’s also important to figure out a business case for uptime. The financial management team and operational executives, including the CEO and COO, need to be involved. If not, then you’re not getting the most out of reliability efficiencies.


“You can’t wait for the budget cycle to come around before taking action. By identifying what’s missing in the business case, you can see where the money will show up. Uptime pays for itself many times over, but don’t treat it like a cost in a budget line or it will be a cost with no return on investment (ROI).

“And don’t assume you’re spending too much today. Processes and possibly even supporting technologies have to be altered, rather than cutting your way to savings.”

What about companies that are saddled with reactive maintenance? Reyes-Picknell says one forgotten central element involves the need to further change behaviour, but roadblocks to successful execution can often exist. They include fear-based resistance and suspicion among maintenance staff, as well as “sacred cows” that dwell in the corporate culture and must be removed to give an uptime overhaul a fighting chance.

“We love to change just as long as it’s our idea. Implementing uptime will require the development of new behaviours,” says Reyes-Picknell. “If you don’t have a history of changing them successfully, however, you’re unlikely to succeed with your first attempt. Typically, companies like this have a long history of uptime failures simply because nothing sticks.”

Avoid reactive work

Terry Wireman, CPMM/CMRP, senior vice-president, strategy, with Stamford, CT-based Vesta, says dynamic uptime strategies provide a much-needed ROI shot in the arm for assets. And to hasten a move away from reactive work and the brunt of equipment failure, Wireman says management has to adjust its approach in the boardroom right down to the shop floor.

“You have to treat maintenance as a business to optimize expenditures or arrive at the true ROI of an asset. Lots of maintenance budgets are as large as some company’s overall revenue,” says Wireman. “We can be talking millions, if not tens of millions of dollars. Maintenance professionals have to focus on running a business. The CEO might see maintenance, however, as only a cost centre or profit drain. This negative paradigm will impede uptime performance.

“You want to balance the cost of maintenance versus non-maintenance, but most organizations don’t understand the dollar impact of downtime. They can never properly right size their maintenance organizations. Up to 90% of the maintenance costs for an asset are determined in the design phase of its life cycle. So, a company has to use a team approach with cross-level support to better manage the maintenance costs of an asset.”

According to Wireman, uptime success all starts with the reliability basics. This includes the use of a preventive maintenance (PM) program and MRO inventory and purchasing procedures. “Most equipment failures can be traced to the neglect of basics, such as proper inspections, lubrication and fastening,” says Wireman. “A survey shows over 50% of all equipment failures have a root cause in one of these areas. Using a good PM program will reduce or eliminate the occurrence of these incidents.”

A new language

Florian Lenders, director of The Aladon Network with Burlington, ON-based Bentley Systems (formerly Ivara Corp.), says improved uptime requires people to understand, speak and apply a new language. He also says companies must consider the big picture, including the alignment of business goals, organizational capabilities and enabling technologies that foster a holistic approach to asset management.

“There remains a culture of reactive maintenance and a reliance on calendar-based maintenance. I would like to say this mindset has changed, but we still run into companies that are 50% to 60% reactive or even higher,” says Lenders.

“These maintenance departments are chasing ‘fires’ to keep ahead. Most people don’t understand what reliability is or the role of uptime. A culture change has to occur where proactive maintenance, not reactive, is the new normal.

“Despite the advancement in reliability thinking and technologies over the past 10 years, the change hasn’t occurred in many industries,” says Lenders. “People have tried various single-point tools, but they lack an over-riding business process. In a lot of cases, organizations focus on short-term bottom line results without a clear plan in place.

“Becoming more proactive within a business and organizational framework will help bring operations, maintenance and engineering together as asset stakeholders.”

To gain traction with uptime implementations, Lenders calls for the establishment of a common set of reliability-based corporate goals and objectives. “You also want to develop business practices that identify everyone’s roles and responsibilities,” he says.

“Don’t forget to align existing technologies and add new ones to better manage predictive systems. Stay the course with your vision through to completion, as it doesn’t happen overnight. Lastly, enable your people to manage assets with the right incentives to achieve success.”

High cost of injuries

Joel Levitt, president of Lafayette Hill, PA-based Springfield Resources, cites an explosion that destroyed a large storage tank containing a mixture of sulphuric acid and hydrocarbons at a US refinery. The explosion occurred during welding repairs to a catwalk above the sulphuric tank. Welding sparks ignited the flammable hydrocarbon vapour. One contract worked was killed and eight others were injured.

Such situations lead to the question of what role less-reactive maintenance can play to reduce injuries and save lives on the shop floor. According to Levitt, better reliability creates a safer workplace, sustains equipment and strengthens financial numbers. As a result, management has to make uptime and safety a priority across the entire organization.

“If we can fix some root causes of injuries and deaths, then more maintenance professionals will go home to their families whole and intact,” says Levitt. “Maintenance expediency can contribute to people not following procedures correctly, design flaws and workers not being careful. And when a machine breaks down, it can cause maintenance staff to possibly go into harm’s way.

“You have to look at your plant processes and procedures. To be more specific, equipment running as designed doesn’t require a maintenance person to enter a confined space, repair (and touch) exposed electrical wires, pressure test a generator, sit on top of a tank doing welding, or even be exposed to falling off a ladder. Reliability through successful uptime will remove the risk to people.”

According to Levitt, one company reported its maintenance accidents were five times more likely to happen with breakdown work versus planned and scheduled corrective jobs. He further says that either you plan and schedule your maintenance activity — or your machines will. The answer is to make uptime inroads by no longer applying unsafe reactive maintenance.

“High reliability implies uptime and an effective proactive maintenance program. This catches equipment deterioration before it leads to failure. Since the asset isn’t broken, it’s safer to complete the repair work. It also gives managers more time to effectively deal with unsafe plant hazards.” MRO

Robert Robertson is a Mississauga, ON-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Machinery & Equipment MRO Magazine.


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