Sharing is important!

There I am sharing, presenting in a Maintenance Conference in Qatar.

There I am sharing, presenting in a Maintenance Conference in Qatar.

Reading a great article from Ron Moore got me thinking about why sharing is so important in Asset Management, Maintenance and Reliability. Not only is it important, it is also a very powerful tool to improve beyond our wildest dreams. One man’s failure can be the next man’s success story.

Sharing experiences, going to different companies, viewing how various industries approach maintenance, going to conferences to learn from many presenters and also making new contacts from other companies that one day might hold the answer you are looking for: all this is the power of sharing and we could name even more.

In Iceland I was a part of a great group of people who founded the Icelandic Maintenance Association back in 2009. Since then some great achievements have been made in Iceland, the most notable being that companies are regularly visiting each other and hosting meetings where they discuss the challenges they face and the approach that they use in solving these challenges as well as what has worked and what has not.

This is obviously a big investment for these companies, however it is paying back very quickly both in knowledge and personal relationships where people are ready, able and willing to help out in times of need.

One of the many keys to success in Asset Management, Maintenance and Reliability is sharing your knowledge to enhance other people’s knowledge and your own. I have learned through my many years in this area that I get the most when I talk and teach, it sounds reverse, and it is, but true.

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I feel truly blessed and lucky that I chose a profession that I am passionate about, or as Confucius said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I would like to challenge you all to share what you know, get into contact with people in your profession and build relationships that one day might make the difference you are looking for.

Of course you are welcome to connect with me and it will be my pleasure to share my knowledge with you to improve your business.

EAM & CMMS Systems, 10 times more data in the system or 10 time less done with the data available?


The road to success in using information systems is a difficult one to navigate. When an implementation of a system is started some assumptions are made about what is needed from the system, how it will help with decision-making, how it will help with execution  of maintenance activities and many other factors. The maintenance environment is a complex environment to begin with, then on top of that it is an environment that is constantly presenting itself with new challenges and changing operational conditions. The markets change as well as many other external factors, the knowledge is leaving from the manufacturing environment because of aging workforce as well as more competition for the remaining workforce with knowledge and experience and the list could go on and on.

At the core of information systems is the gathering of data, it needs to be reliable data so that the decisions from that data are based on solid foundation. Without reliable data the decisions made can not be reliable. The way data is collected is extremely important, wherever there is manual input you are introducing an element of risk for mistakes being made. Wherever the data is collected automatically there is an element of failure or calibration error introduced in the collection process. There are also many other factors that are necessary to remain vigilant about.

To answer the question headed in the Blog, today we have the capabilities to store extreme amounts of data in our systems and databases. So too much data is probably not an issue in most cases. Navigating through that data can be challenging but the most important thing about the data should be that it needs to be reliable and accurate! If there is too little done with the data, probably in most cases it is possible to improve how the data is being used. In helping with good quality decision-making it takes time and a lot of thoughts to develop, it is an investment that can be quick to return a profit.

I hope that you have enjoyed the read and if you have any comments or questions please don’t be shy to post them below or contact me directly. Thank you for reading and hopefully sharing.

How long do I have left?

One of the biggest challenges in condition based maintenance is answering the big question of production managers when you inform them of a detection of a failure mode.

When a PdM technician tells a manager, I can see that we have a problem in this bearing, or something similar, the question that is most often asked is : “When will it fail?” or “How long do I have left”.

Answering this question usually involves the intuition of the Maintenance PdM technician, how well does he know the machine, how well is he familiar to the operational environment, are there new operators on the machine, will there be new operators on the machine, will there be a change in the maintenance procedures affecting the failure mode that was detected by the condition monitoring… and the list could go on and on… and on… and on…

The period from the P-F points on the failure curve are dependent on too many immeasurable variables to be able to say, for example : “You have one month before this bearing will break down!”.

It is often extremely tempting to express an opinion of how long the period will be from P-F on the failure curve, however there must always be a “grain of salt” with it, so that the production “side” is aware that this is not a guaranty at all.

Another point to consider is that once a failure mode is detected almost always there is an element of waste added in the process, more power is needed to do the same. There are leaks, internal or external, that are wasting energy, etc.

The point of all this here above is that as soon as a failure mode is detected steps should be taken to plan a repair of the failure. This is the foundation of precision maintenance.

When analyzing what went wrong, to prevent further failures from the same source, focus should be given to the Installation point, because before the P-F curve we have the I-P period, that is the Installation to Point of failure detection point… but more on that later.

I hope that you have enjoyed to read this post and will leave a comment.

Why… more powerful than you can imagine.

Why ask why?

Why ask why?

  Asking the right questions in Maintenance Management and Reliability Engineering is the most critical aspect of our profession. Often these questions relate to problems, in our endeavour to finding out a solution to those problems. However it is also applicable to our approach in process design, design of leadership, design of our reporting capabilities, our endless aspiration for perfection in all that we do.

More often than not “WHY” is the key question. When a barrier is in front of us we want to know why it is there, why people tell us this is a normal barrier to climb, why it is not possible to eliminate this barrier and go ahead without the delays and problems that this barrier is creating… whatever the barriers are, a way to eliminate them should always be in our core focus.

The challenges that are along the way to the right solution are often related to tunnel vision of those who are too close to the problems, they are facing them maybe every day. When faced with some barriers every day the tendency is to find ways to work around or with the problems because deadlines need to be met and time to solve the root cause of the problem is not available at the moment.

Asking why is a key element in any barrier removal, problem solving and root cause analysis effort. Even when designing work processes and any other element that needs to be improved the right questions need to be asked to find ways to tackle the barriers in the right way so they are never an issue again.

Listening to the people who work in the front lines and ask why is a smart idea, these are the people facing the problems every day and can be valuable allies in finding the key to future success, they also demonstrate an interest in improving their job for the benefit of the company. People that ask, and therefore know, why also demonstrate leadership ability, to quote an educator Diane Ravitch : “The person who knows ‘how’ will always have a job.  The person who knows ‘why’ will always be his boss”.

Never accept an answer in the form of “We have always done it this way”. Even if people who ask why can be challenging to deal with, they are definitely worth listening to and taking notice of.

I hope you enjoyed this article and never get tired of asking why, it is more powerful than you can imagine!

Fixed and improved… better than new!

Picture of a broken piston and connecting rod ...

Why did it break down?

When faced with failures it is important to empower your maintenance and operator employees to look for opportunities for improvements. Only by constantly focusing on how one can get better one can improve and this is a focus point that can never be lost.

In manufacturing facilities it is always a core focus point to produce, so too often when a failure occurs the environment and ambiance around the failure instantly go into “get it running again as soon as possible” mode. Unfortunately, with this attitude, companies are losing a lot of improvement possibilities. When facing a failure it is wise to take a step back and understand what caused the failure (using for example the 5x why method). Once the failure has been properly documented and a clear understanding for the root cause of the failure has been established then it is possible to put in place measures to prevent it from happening again.

The measures for preventing re-occurring failures can be for example an improved PM/PdM activity, measuring something that will indicate the failure mode. It can be a revised operating procedure, improving the way to operate the process or machine. It can be a re-design of components, machine or process. This list can be extremely long… improvements can take on many forms.

The core message to take from this short Blog is that when faced with a failure and don’t take the time at that moment to improve you will always be struggling with the same failures over and over again.

Take some time now to save a lot more time later.

Condition monitoring, is it a modern day Crystal ball?

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Do you see a failure in my future? Can I plan for it? When will the failure start to affect my manufacturing performance?

The short answer is : “No”.

We do not only have one “Crystal ball” when it comes to condition monitoring, we have many, for example :

  • Vibration Monitoring & Analysis
  • Motor Current Analysis & Monitoring
  • Acoustic Emission Monitoring & Analysis
  • Thermal Imaging Monitoring & Analysis
  • Oil Monitoring & Analysis

The list could go on but I will stop for now.

I have through the years gotten to know all these and more methods of condition monitoring, I would like to say that they are all great. Some people might disagree with me when I say this and want to express that the only great condition monitoring technique is this … or that … technique. Like with many “opposing” technologies, their representatives like to point out their superiority in some way over other existing techniques. However the fact is that all condition monitoring techniques have their weak and strong points.

When implementing a condition monitoring program it is smart to use the different techniques to confirm each other or go deeper into the analysis of the problem. For example if oil analysis reveals unusual fragments of metal you could use the vibration measurements to further analyse what it is that is wearing or breaking down.

The challenge is quantifying the problem. Production wants to know, understandably, how long they can run the equipment before the failure appears in less production. Maintenance planning also wants to know how long time they have to plan the repair. Just like the people who visit the lady with the Crystal ball we all want to know when things get better in any way people want it to be better. The problem is that this is knowledge the team will get with the years of running the Condition Monitoring Program. This knowledge is very much based on the experience of each plant in their operating context of their respected processes.

Another challenge is that there is always the possibility of unusual loads, unusual operation of equipment and other aspects that can not be foreseen, even with all the great condition monitoring techniques to our disposal.

In conclusion I can say that the investment in condition monitoring is well worth it for most manufacturing plants. However it takes resilience, patience and perseverance to get the condition monitoring program to a place everyone wants it to be right out of the gates.

Measuring what did not happen.

A single stage 2 MeV linear Van de Graaff part...

The challenges facing the business of Reliability Engineering & Maintenance Management are both extremely complicated and challenging. That is why it is very important to measure what did not happen in a proactive environment.

Reliability Engineering & Maintenance Management is big business in today’s industrial environment. The temptation for management to cost cut in these areas are there and they are real. If Maintenance Management can not quantifiably show results from proactive initiatives, like condition monitoring for example, then those activities are under a big risk to be cancelled.

The reason for this factor of maintenance activities to be cut out is simple, for management looking at these activities without understanding them fully see it as a “nice to have” feature of maintenance and it is not contributing with addressing the current issues, break downs etc. so to them this is a great move to get added resources to focus on the break downs that are facing them ever more increasingly because of maybe previous cost cutting.

Cost cutting in maintenance usually also has a rather lagging response time, if management is cost cutting extensively in maintenance activities the true results of that often do not appear until even 3 years after the initial decision.

To address this issue Maintenance Management needs to focus hard on measuring what did not happen because proactive initiatives prevented the issues. Make agreements with production on equipment downtime, for example if a specific pump will brake down during production it will cost X$ per hour. If it happens unexpectedly it will take Xhours to repair, however if the failure is detected in time and repair is planned there will be no unexpected downtime.

In PAS 55-1:2008, 4.6.1 Performance and condition monitoring, this issue is addressed and hopefully will be addressed even better in ISO55000. There are also harmonized KPI’s that focus on this issue developed by SMRP and EFNMS.

Once quantities KPI’s have been set in place and maintenance has the ammunition to fight against the dangerous cost cutting initiatives of management then maintenance can also claim it’s rightful place as a profit contributor!

It is my hope that all of us join hands and start to be even more proactive in our Reliability Engineering & Maintenance Management profession so others can see what a great & profitable business it is to be in.