Monthly Archives: November 2016

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Author: David Wilbur, CEO – Vetergy Group

To begin we must draw the distinction between error and failure. Error describes something that is not correct or a mistake; operationally this would be a wrong decision or action. Failure is the lack of success; operationally this is a measurable output where objectives were not met. Failures audit our operational performance, unfortunately quite often with catastrophic consequences; irredeemable financial impact, loss of equipment, irreversible environmental impact or loss of life. Failure occurs when an unrecognized and uninterrupted error becomes an incident that disrupts operations. bigstock-Worker-in-factor-1108477eac4c3d0b3c37f374ad197440e9c5b429

Individual-Centered Approach

The traditional approach to achieving reliable human performance centers on individuals and the elimination of error and waste. Human error is the basis of study with the belief that in order to prevent failures we must eliminate human error or the potential for it. Systems are designed to create predictability and reliability through skills training, equipment design, automation, supervision and process controls.

The fundamental assumptions are that people are erratic and unpredictable, that highly trained and experienced operators do not make mistakes and that tightly coupled complex systems with prescribed operations will keep performance within acceptable tolerances to eliminate error and create safety and viability.

This approach can only produce a limited return on investment. As a result, many organizations experience a plateau in performance and seek enhanced methods to improve and close gaps in performance.

An Alternative Philosophy

Error is embraced rather than evaded; sources of error are minimized and programs focus on recognition of error in order to disturb the pathway of error to becoming failure. 

Slight exception notwithstanding, we must understand people do not set out to cause failure, rather their desire is to succeed. People are a component of an integrated, multi-dimensional operating framework. In fact, human beings are the spring of resiliency in operations. Operators have an irreplaceable capacity to recognize and correct for error and adapt to changes in operating conditions, design variances and unanticipated circumstances.

In this approach, human error is accepted as ubiquitous and cannot be categorically eliminated through engineering, automation or process controls. Error is embraced as a system product rather than an obstacle; sources of error are minimized and programs focus on recognition of error in order to disturb its pathway to becoming failure. System complexity does not assure safety. While system safety components mitigate risk, as systems become more complex, error becomes obscure and difficult to recognize and manage.

Concentrating on individuals creates a culture of protectionism and blame, which worsens the obscurity of error. A better philosophy distributes accountability for variance and promotes a culture of transparency, problem solving and improvement. Leading this shift can only begin at the organizational level through leadership and example.

The Operational Juncture™

In contrast to the individual-centered view, a better approach to creating Operational Resilience is formed around the smallest unit of Human Factors Analysis called the Operational Juncture™. The Operational Juncture describes the concurrence of people given a task to operate tools and equipment guided by conflicting objectives within an operational setting including physical, technological, and regulatory pressures provided with information where choices are made that lead to outcomes, both desirable and undesirable.

It is within this multidimensional concurrence we can influence the reliability of human performance. Understanding this concurrence directs us away from blaming individuals and towards determining why the system responded the way it did in order to modify the structure. Starting at this juncture, we can preemptively design operational systems and reactively probe causes of failure. We view a holistic assignment of accountability fixing away from merely the actions of individuals towards all of the components that make up the Operational Juncture. This is not a wholesale change in the way safety systems function, but an enhanced viewpoint that captures deeper, more meaningful and more effective ways to generate profitable and safe operations.

A practical approach to analyzing human factors in designing and evaluating performance creates both reliability and resilience. Reliability is achieved by exposing system weaknesses and vulnerabilities that can be corrected to enhance reliability in future and adjacent operations. Resilience emerges when we expose and correct deep organizational philosophy and behaviors.

Resilience is born in the organizational culture where individuals feel supported and regarded. Teams operate with deep ownership of organizational values, recognize and respect the tension between productivity and protection, and seek to make right choices. Communication occurs with trust and transparency. Leadership respects and gives careful attention to insight and observation from all levels of the organization. In this culture, people will self-assess, teams will synergize and cooperate to develop new and creative solutions when unanticipated circumstances arise. Individuals will hold each other accountable.

Safety within Operational Resilience is something an organization does, not something that is created or attained. A successful program will deliver a top-down institutionalization of culture that produces a bottom-up emergence of resilience.

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These days, many enterprise-level organizations are likely to have similar operations in multiple locations regionally or even worldwide. When a piece of equipment fails or a safety incident occurs at one site, the company investigates the problem and identifies solutions or corrective actions. Naturally, the team wants to capture the lessons learned and share them with other sites that have similar equipment, processes and potential incidents. investigation files.jpg

Advanced tools like the RealityCharting® software enable teams to share results of an Apollo Root Cause Analysis (RCA) across multiple layers of stakeholders. However, a large multinational enterprise might have dozens of different investigations going on at any given time. At the highest levels, decision-makers don’t necessarily want to see granular information about specific causes at any given plant. They need a top-down perspective of problems and patterns that are affecting the entire organization.

At ARMS Reliability, many of our clients have expressed a similar need. Our solution? Using classification tags to create and apply a consistent taxonomy to all root cause analyses performed for a given organization. Rolled up into a composite report, these tags reveal enterprise-wide trends and issues, allowing management to create action plans for tackling these systemic issues. For example, classification tags might uncover a large number of problems related to a lack of preventative maintenance on a certain type of pump, or a systemic non-compliance with a required safety process.

A classification taxonomy can be scalable and configured to an organization’s goals and processes. Think of these classifications like buckets that can be applied at any level of the RCA — e.g., to the root causes or solutions, to individual contributing causes, or simply to the RCA investigation in general.

Keep in mind: The Apollo Root Cause Analysis method is centered around a free-thinking approach to solving problems. That’s what makes the methodology so powerful — it doesn’t lead you down any generic predetermined pathways by asking leading questions or categorizing various causes or effects in any way. At ARMS Reliability, we advocate applying classification tags only after the root cause analysis investigation is completed, so you keep the free-thinking causal analysis and organize it later, for the purpose of rolling the findings up into a deeper systemic view.

Taxonomies can range from 5–20 categories into the hundreds. For example, here we’ve used a human factors taxonomy to tag causes as organizational influences and other people-centric issues.

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Reports can provide a summary of how many causes were classified under the various tags:

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In another example, an organization bases its taxonomy of reliability issues on the ISO 14224 – Collection and exchange of reliability and maintenance data for equipment.

 

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The taxonomy options are endless. Most organizations we work with have their own unique systems of classifications. It’s really all about codifying the types of information your organization most needs to capture.

If adding classifications to your Root Cause Analyses would be useful for your organization, contact ARMS Reliability. We’d be glad to show you more about what we’re doing with other clients and help you develop a taxonomy that works best for your needs.

Author: Dan DeGrendel

Regardless of industry or discipline, we can probably all agree that routine maintenance — sometimes referred to as preventative, predictive, or even scheduled maintenance — is a good thing. Unfortunately, through the years I’ve found that most companies don’t have the robust strategies they need.

Typical issues and the kinds of trouble they can create:

service engineer worker at industrial compressor refrigeration s1. Lack of structure and schedule

In many cases, routine tasks are just entries on a to-do list of work that needs to be performed — with nothing within the work pack to drive compliance. In particular, a list of tasks beginning with “Check” which have no guidance of an acceptable limit can have limited value. The result can be a “tick and flick” style routine maintenance program that fails to identify impending failure warning conditions.

2. Similar assets, similar duty, different strategies

Oftentimes, maintenance views each piece of equipment as a standalone object, with its own unique maintenance strategy. As a result, one organization could have dozens of maintenance strategies to manage, eating up time and resources. In extreme cases, this can lead to similar assets having completely different recorded failure mechanisms and routine tasks, worded differently, grouped differently and structured differently within the CMMS.

3. Operational focus 

Operations might be reluctant to take equipment out of service for maintenance, so they delay or even cancel the appropriate scheduled maintenance. At times this decision is driven by the thought that the repair activity is the same in a planned or reactive manner. But experience tells us that without maintenance, the risk is even longer downtime and more expensive repairs when something fails.

4. Reactive routines

Sometimes, when an organization has been burned in the past by a preventable failure, they overcompensate by performing maintenance tasks more often than necessary. The problem is, the team might be wasting time doing unnecessary work — worse still it might even increase the likelihood of future problems, simply because unnecessary intrusive maintenance can increase the risk of failure.

5. Over-reliance on past experience 

There’s no substitute for direct experience and expertise. But when tasks and frequencies are too solely based on opinions and “what we’ve always done” — rather than sound assumptions — maintenance teams can run into trouble through either over or under maintaining. Without documented assumptions, business decisions are based on little more than a hunch. “Doing what we’ve always done” might not be the right approach for the current equipment, with the current duty, in the current business environment (and it certainly makes future review difficult).

6. Failure to address infrequent but high consequence failures 

Naturally, routine tasks account for the most common failure modes. They should however also address failures that happen less frequently, but may have a significant impact on the business. Developing a maintenance plan which addresses both types, prevents unnecessary risk. For example, a bearing may be set up on a lubrication schedule, but if there’s no plan to detect performance degradations due to a lubrication deficiency, misalignment, material defect, etc then undetected high consequence failures can occur.

7. Inadequate task instructions

Developing maintenance guidelines and best practices takes time and effort. Yet, all too often, the maintenance organization fails to capture all that hard-won knowledge by creating clear, detailed instructions. Instead, they fall back on the maintenance person’s knowledge — only to lose it when a person leaves the team. Over time, incomplete instructions can lead to poorly executed, “bandaid-style” tasks that get worse as the months go by.

8. Assuming new equipment will operate without failure for a period of time

There’s a unique situation that often occurs when new equipment is brought online. Maintenance teams assume they have to operate the new equipment first to see how it fails before they can identify and create the appropriate maintenance tasks. It’s easy to overlook the fact that they likely have similar equipment with similar points of failure. Their data from related equipment provides a basic foundation for constructing effective routine maintenance.

9. Missing opportunity to improve

If completed tasks aren’t reviewed regularly to gather feedback on instructions, tools needed, spare parts needed, and frequency; the maintenance process never gets better. The quality or effectiveness of the tasks then degrade over time and, with it, so does the equipment.

10. Doing what we can and not what we should 

Too often, maintenance teams decide which tasks to perform based on their present skill sets — rather than equipment requirements. Technical competency gaps can be addressed with a training plan and/or new hires, as necessary, but the tasks should be driven by what the equipment needs.

Without a robust routine maintenance plan, you’re nearly always in reactive mode — conducting ad-hoc maintenance that takes more time, uses more resources, and could incur more downtime than simply taking care of things more proactively. What’s worse, it’s a vicious cycle. The more time maintenance personnel spend fighting fires, the more their morale, productivity, and budget erodes. The less effective routine work that is performed, the more equipment uptime and business profitability suffer.  At a certain point, it takes a herculean effort simply to regain stability and prevent further performance declines.

Here’s the good news: An optimized maintenance strategy, constructed with the right structure is simpler and easier to sustain. By fine-tuning your approach, you make sure your team is executing the right number and type of maintenance tasks, at the right intervals, in the right way, using an appropriate amount of resources and spare parts. And with a framework for continuous improvement, you can ultimately drive towards higher reliability, availability and more efficient use of your production equipment.

Want to learn more? Check out our next blog in this series, Plans Can Always Be Improved:  Top 5 Reasons to Optimize Your Maintenance Strategy.

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Author: Dan DeGrendel

Maintenance optimization doesn’t have to be time-consuming or difficult. Really it doesn’t. Yet many organizations simply can’t get their maintenance teams out of a reactive “firefighting mode” so they can focus on improving their overall maintenance strategy. Development And Growth

Stepping back to evaluate and optimize does take time and resources, which is why some organizations struggle to justify the project. They lack the data and/or the framework to demonstrate the real, concrete business value that can be gained.

And even when organizations do start to work on optimization, sometimes their efforts stall when priorities shift, results are not immediate and the overall objectives fade from sight.

If any of these challenges sound familiar, there are some very convincing reasons to forge ahead with maintenance optimization:

1. You can make sure every maintenance task adds value to the business

Through the optimization process, you can eliminate redundant and unnecessary maintenance activities, and make sure your team is focused on what’s really important. You’ll outline the proper maintenance tasks, schedules and personnel assignments; then incorporate everything into the overall equipment utilization schedule and departmental plans to help drive compliance. Over time, an optimized maintenance strategy will save time and resources — including reducing the hidden costs of insufficient maintenance (production downtime, scrap product, risks to personnel or equipment and expediting and warehousing of spare parts, etc.).

2. You’ll be able to plan better

Through the optimization process, you’ll be allocating resources to various tasks and scheduling them throughout the year. This gives you the ability to forecast resource needs, by trade, along with spare parts and outside services. It also helps you create plans for training and personnel development based on concrete needs.

3. You’ll have a solid framework for a realistic maintenance budget

The plans you establish through the optimization process give you a real-world outline of what’s needed in your maintenance department, why it’s needed, and how it will impact your organization. You can use this framework to establish a realistic budget with strong supporting rationales to help you get it approved. Any challenges to the budget can be assessed and a response prepared to indicate the impact on performance that any changes might make.

4. You’ll just keep improving

Optimization is a project that turns into an ongoing cycle of performing tasks, collecting feedback and data, reviewing performance, and tweaking maintenance strategies based on current performance and business drivers.

5. You’ll help the whole business be more productive and profitable

Better maintenance strategies keep your production equipment aligned to performance requirements, with fewer interruptions. That means people can get more done, more of the time. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Hopefully, this article has convinced you of the benefits of optimizing your maintenance strategies. Ready to get started or re-energize your maintenance optimization project? Check out our next blog article, How To Optimize Your Maintenance Strategy: A 1,000-Foot View.

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Author: Dan DeGrendel

Optimizing your maintenance strategy doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. The key is to follow core steps and best practices using a structured approach. If you’re struggling to improve your maintenance strategy — or just want to make sure you’ve checked all the boxes — here’s a 1000-foot view of the process.

1. Sync up

  • Identify key stakeholders from maintenance, engineering, production, and operations — plus the actual hands-on members of your optimization team.
  • Get everybody on board with the process and trained in the steps you’re planning to take.  A mix of short awareness sessions and detailed educations sessions to the right people are vital for success.
  • Make sure you fully understand how your optimized maintenance strategies will be loaded and executed from your Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS)

2. Organize

  • Review/revise the site’s asset hierarchy for accuracy and completeness. Standardize the structure if possible.
  • Gather all relevant information for each piece of equipment.
    • Empirical data sources: CMMS, FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) studies, industry standards, OEM recommended maintenance
    • Qualitative data sources: Team knowledge and past records

3. Prioritize

  • Assign a criticality level for each piece of equipment; align this to any existing risk management framework
  • Consider performing a Pareto analysis to identify equipment causing the most production downtime, highest maintenance costs, etc.
  • Determine the level of analysis to perform on each resulting criticality level

4. Strategize

  • Using the information you’ve gathered, define the failure modes, or apply an existing library template. Determine existing and potential modes for each piece of equipment
  • Assign tasks to mitigate the failure modes.
  • Assign resources to each task (e.g, the time, number of mechanics, tools, spare parts needed, etc.)
  • Compare various options to determine the most cost-effective strategy
  • Bundle selected activities to develop an ideal maintenance task schedule (considering shutdown opportunities). Use standard grouping rules if available.

This is your proposed new maintenance strategy.

5. Re-sync

  • Review the proposed maintenance strategy with the stakeholders you identified above, then get their buy-in and/or feedback (and adjust as needed)

6. Go!

  • Implement the approved maintenance strategy by loading all of the associated tasks into your CMMS — ideally through direct integration with your RCM simulation software, manually, or via Excel sheet loader.

7. Keep getting better

  • Continue to collect information from work orders and other empirical and qualitative data sources.
  • Periodically review maintenance tasks so you can make continual improvements.
  • Monitor equipment maintenance activity for unanticipated defects, new equipment and changing plant conditions. Update your maintenance strategy accordingly.
  • Build a library of maintenance strategies for your equipment.
  • Take what you’ve learned and the strategies and best practices you’ve developed and share them across the entire organization, wherever they are relevant.

Of course, this list provides only a very high-level view of the optimization process.

If you’re looking for support in optimizing your maintenance strategies, or want to understand how to drive ongoing optimization, ARMS Reliability is here to help.

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