Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Operating context is important... So keep your cookie cutters in the kitchen

As we all think about focusing on our New Year Resolutions and leave the cookies behind remember to also "keep your cookie cutters in the kitchen"

In the battle to "leverage" everything we do to the maximum and ensure full return on effort and investment many sites copy preventive maintenance task across all "like" assets. This copying process is continued with failure modes effects analysis, and root cause analysis findings too. The problem comes in when determining what the definition of "like" is.

Some folks say "a pump is a pump is a pump..." I would suggest: Not exactly. The issue centers around operating context. Let me give you a real example, let's say your plant had a new fork lift in the warehouse that was used to manage raw materials which you serviced using the manufactures suggested PM. Then let's say your business needs changed and now due to storage constraints you had to move some of the raw materials storage outside. Outside of your warehouse is a dirty world where leaked raw materials blow in the wind covering everything with a coat of fine hard particles. If you were to continue with the original preventive maintenance program on the same schedule that was developed for the relatively clean warehouse then you will suffer the effects of operating context. The air filters will clog with debris before their change interval is reached and then they will collapse in. When they collapse then the hard little particles begin to destroy the engine from the inside out. Now you find yourself changing the engine more often than the oil and your cost are through the roof.

The point is that if you change the operating context then you have to change the maintenance strategy. The strategy that works for one asset in one area will not always work in another. The strategy has to match the new failure modes from the new environment. The same thought has to go into leveraging FMEAs or PMs or RCAs across other parts of the plant. If the situation or applications is different, if it is dirtier or hotter or more caustic, then you have to consider that when applying the previously developed information. Don't get me wrong you can use leveraged information it just has to be done wisely. If you start with the cookie cutters then for the sake of the asset take the time to ensure it meets the needs dictated by the operating context and does not create more reliability problems than it solves.

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