Not all maintenance metrics carry the same degree of importance or value. If you focus on something such as total availability or average response time (across all equipment), you will be doing the wrong things at the expense of doing the right things, which means you won’t optimize for the metrics that matter to the people who decide how many people get laid off or whether your plant stays open. Follow these five steps to make those people happy:
- Identify the main source of revenue in your plant. It’s not as simple as deciding which 20% of equipment is the most important and devoting 80% of your resources to it. Pose the question to the operations managers. They will know the answer because they are graded on how much revenue (in the form of product value) flows out the door from that equipment. Once you know which equipment that is, ask how much unplanned downtime in a given week is acceptable.
- For that equipment, identify the likely and somewhat likely failure modes. Develop a strategy for prevention (e.g., maintenance procedures), early detection (e.g., automated testing and monitoring), rapid response (e.g., a designated crew leader to send someone immediately), and rapid repair (e.g., premade repair kits stored near this equipment) of those particular failures.
- For that equipment, look into design changes that could improve reliability. For example, replacing the old-type gearbox oil with synthetic gearbox oil will allow the drive motor to run a little cooler (and the gearbox itself a lot cooler). Consult with the manufacturer for any suggested upgrades, monitoring devices, maintenance training, or operator training that would reduce breakdown.
- For that equipment, analyze its environment. Is there sufficient cooling air to the motors? Are air filters changed regularly and easy to change? Is anything exposed to mechanical damage, for example the supply transformer is sitting such that it could be hit by the counterweight of a lift truck (in that case, take a protective measure such as installing bollards)?
- Rather than spread maintenance resources across all equipment to increase total availability, allocate enough maintenance resources to the critical equipment to ensure it has the resources needed to keep it running as much as the production managers say it needs to run. Use whatever resources are left over to take care of the less critical equipment, but also let the production people know about the allocation and what it means.
Your total availability will likely drop, but the plant’s total revenue will rise. If, at this point, the less important equipment experiences unacceptable failure rates the answer isn’t to divert resources from the critical equipment. Find ways to leverage the resources you have, outsource some tasks, and automate what you can. While that’s going on, ask for more resources but be specific about what you want and tie it specifically to exactly what is failing. The decision-makers can then decide whether to invest in the less critical equipment or not. Don’t make the choice of not investing in the critical equipment just to boost overall numbers.