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Realibility Engineering and Asset Management

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The Strategic Process

  • Workload - Seems excessive for available resources
  • KPIs - Actual against planned performance not always recorded
  • Standards/Procedures - Lubrication not being performed properly

The Work System

  • Planning - Apparent failure of entire process
  • Utilisation of Manpower - Staff seem to be overworked and/or not used properly
  • Reliability - Critical machinery is failing
  • Reporting - Too much expected on job completion
  • Work Completion - Excessive backlog of PM and defects repair

The Feedback System

  • Root Cause Analysis - Not being performed
  • Work Order feedback  - Rarely completed by fitters
  • Job Completion reports - Not being reviewed

The Continuous Improvement Process

  • New Technologies - Condition monitoring probe request rejected
  • New techniques - Training for maintenance staff not pursued
  • Innovation - No development of maintenance practices
  • Corrective action - No improvements being made to maintenance strategy

The Environmental Process

  • Production Pressure - Plant is being sweated
  • Shortage of Resources - Appears to be insufficient for current workload

The Strategic Process

  • Maintenance Strategy - Derek is busy at organising this but to the detriment of his focus on everyday items at the plant.
  • Workload - there seems to be an excessive amount in relation to the available resources. Mick states that the fitters are struggling to complete PMs and fix machine defects. Harry mentions later that the situation is worse and that they are way behind on PMs and defects. Plant patrols, which are part of the strategy, are not being performed due to time shortages. There is a possibility that the initial allocation of resources was adequate when the plant was in a healthier state but since the state of machinery has deteriorated, the maintenance staff are now overworked due to the high number of breakdowns. I believe that a collapse of the planning process is at the root of the ever increasing workload.
  • KPIs - Derek is aghast when he learns from Harry that Dougie wants to be consulted on new requirements for reporting. Derek reminds Harry and Mick that the maintenance strategy has always had a requirement for feeding back actual against planned performance. The fitters received a letter detailing job completion report requirements but instead of motivating, it seems to have riled them up.
  • Standards/Procedures - When quizzed about the cause of the compressor bearings seizure, Harry informs him that it was likely due to improper lubrication. There is either a failure of Standards or Procedures here i.e. either the lubricating standard was not correct or the lubrication procedure was not followed.

The Work System

  • Planning - There has been a complete collapse in the planning process. Charlie has been instructed to concentrate on shutdown planning with no ownership being taken of the corrective maintenance activities. The planning function also includes reviewing job completion reports with the Maintenance Manager, this has also being neglected due to the focus on shutdown planning.
  • Utilisation of Manpower - There are certainly concerns with the utilisation of resources. Mick states this in no uncertain terms to Derek. There is a significant backlog of works to be completed and Mick and Harry believe that too much time is being spent on reporting and planning thus reducing tool time.
  • Reliability - Plant reliability is suffering extreme adverse effects. A failure of a critical piece of equipment has resulted in a minimum of five days downtime for the entire manufacturing operation.
  • Reporting - Reporting on equipment condition is not consistent. A fault report was filled out by Mick for the compressor in advance of its failure. However job completion reports are not being completed by all fitters.
  • Work Completion - It is clear from the scenario, that non-completion of maintenance tasks is a serious concern. Lubrication of the compressor bearings was not performed (either at all or to the right degree). Harry states also that the team are behind with their PM routines and have a serious backlog on defects.

The Feedback System

  • Root Cause Analysis - Not only is root cause analysis not being performed at ACME, the maintenance supervisors are not even aware of the meaning of the concept. Harry and Mick are keen to learn about it, which instigates the Dictaphone recorded conversation.
  • Work Order /Job Completion reports - Only some of the fitters are filling in job completion reports despite it being part of the maintenance strategy. Derek is quite stunned when he learns this from Mick. To make matters worse one of the few fitters, Eddie Condon, that completes the reports is fed up as he feels that his efforts are being ignored.
  • Plant Patrol fault reporting - This is not being performed by the fitters. Because of the backlog in PM workload and fixing defects, Mick states they would have to do overtime to carry out what he refers to as 'detective work'.
  • Fault reporting - A report on the compressor fault was completed by Mick and submitted to the planning office. However it went unnoticed by Charlie due to prioritisation of shutdown planning.
  • Disconnect with Maintenance Strategy - From the above points it is clear that there is no action being taken with the feedback that is performed at ACME. Derek states that he is too busy organising the maintenance strategy but yet he has failed to notice the breakdown in this process.

The Continuous Improvement Process

  • New Technologies - Mick has been asking Derek for months to purchase the hand held condition monitoring probe. He believes that its advanced technology could provide great assistance in solving the plant's equipment issues. Derek dismisses the probe as 'fancy stuff' and requests instead that the department get back to basics.
  • New techniques - Harry reminds Derek that he was promised he could attend a training course on compressors. Harry believes that, had this advanced training been attended, ACME may not have had the compressor breakdown. However Derek reneged on his promise stating that he could not lose Harry for three weeks.
  • Innovation - There seems to be an utter lack of innovation in how maintenance is practiced at ACME. Derek appears to be disconnected from his subordinates and perhaps this is why they are stuck in a rut when it comes to changing how they do things.
  • Corrective Action - Because the feedback and feed forward loops have been severed, there are no corrections to the maintenance strategy taking place. Derek appears to be asleep at the wheel and is not aware of the challenges facing his troops. In Derek's defence, Jim Gordon has insisted that ACME embark on a time consuming World Class Maintenance Program - this could be significant factor in distracting Derek from introducing the required corrective actions to the maintenance strategy.

The Environmental Process

  • Production Pressure - It is clear in the scenario that production pressure has been ratcheted up. Derek has been castigated by Jim Gordon, the managing director of ACME. The plant is not running, due to equipment failure, and will not be operating for at least five more days. Such is the managing director's anger with the situation that Derek believes that his life would be in danger if a suitable weapon were present.

When Derek, Mick and Harry are discussing the root cause of the compressor bearings failure, it comes up that operations have been 'hammering' the plant due to a big order from Korea. Derek confirms that the plant has been running fifteen percent above nameplate capacity. He also feels that it may have been a factor in the compressor breakdown. His concerns were mentioned in a management strategy meeting but he was told to find a way to work around operation requirements.

  • Shortage of Resources - Harry states to Derek that the maintenance department is probably understaffed. Mick feels that they are not using the fitters in the best way. As stated earlier, ACME either does not have enough maintenance staff or how they are using them has caused the current situation of excessive work backlog to develop. There could well be a combination of shortage of resources and not optimum utilisation of the resources they have.

The Strategic Process

Workload

  • Reason for high priority - There are mentions throughout the scenario of the mismatch between the work that requires completion and the resources available to action it.
  • Specific adverse effect - A build up in the backlog of PMs and correction of defects.
  • Responsible person - Derek Piper. As maintenance manager, he must 'own' the strategy and ensure that it is fit for purpose.

The Work System

Planning

  • Reason for high priority - I believe poor or non-existent planning is at the root of the work systems issues and it has created knock-on effects in manpower utilisation, work completion and ultimately poor machine reliability.
  • Specific adverse effect - Compressor failed because the planner was not focussed on operations and completely missed the fault report prior to its failure.
  • Responsible person - Derek Piper. Although it is Charlie's role, Derek has instructed him to shift his focus to shutdown activities.

The Feedback System

Plant Patrol Fault Reporting

  • Reason for high priority - It is imperative that potential equipment failures are reported to the planning office.
  • Specific adverse effect - Impending failures were not recorded for processing by the planner.
  • Responsible person - Harry Warner and Mick Brice. They only informed the maintenance manager that the fitters were not performing this activity after the compressor had failed.

The Continuous Improvement Process

Corrective Action

  • Reason for high priority - Corrective actions are required to align the maintenance strategy with the changing availability/reliability requirements of the plant.
  • Specific adverse effect - The maintenance strategy has stagnated and is not fit for purpose in the operating environment that ACME has moved to.
  • Responsible person - Derek Piper. He could plead some defence here based on the directive from Jim Gordon to pursue the World Class Maintenance Program which is consuming his time. But ultimately he must be held accountable as maintenance manager.

The Environmental Process

Production Pressure

  • Reason for high priority - ACME is running the plant 'twenty four seven' and fifteen per cent above nameplate capacity.
  • Specific adverse effect - Operations are not releasing the equipment for necessary maintenance.
  • Responsible person - Jim Gordon. For the managing director to not listen to the concerns of the maintenance manager regarding the sweating of the plant is inexcusable. Of particular note is Jim's instruction to Derek to simply 'stop moaning'.

The Strategic Process

Workload

  • Recommended change - The strategy needs to be reviewed by the maintenance manager in terms of dealing with current and medium term workload. An assessment on this workload will help decide the required resources to complete it. ACME may have to consider hiring temporary or sub-contracted maintenance resources to clear the backlog. There is also a minimum of five days immediately available for opportunity maintenance due to the compressor failure bringing the plant down, ACME should endeavour to capitalise on this and add a silver lining to the cloud that hangs over operations.
  • Estimated cost - High. Especially if ACME hires additional maintenance staff to clear the backlog.
  • Feasibility - Medium. There will be some difficulty in planning terms to coordinate self-delivered and outsourced resources.

The Work System

Planning

  • Recommended change - Hire a specialist temporary resource to support Charlie in the planning department. This will allow corrective and shutdown work to be planned concurrently. As part of this change, the weekly job completion reports review meetings will have to be immediately reinstated. In the longer term, a review will have to be undertaken on the level of planning detail for minor works as Harry states that it is excessive.
  • Estimated cost - Medium. If the shutdown is less than two weeks duration, recruitment costs should not exceed £10k.
  • Feasibility - Medium. The maintenance manager will need to make a case to senior management that justifies this course of action and associated cost. If this option proves to be a success, it can be built into the strategy for future shutdowns.

The Feedback System

Plant Patrol Fault Reporting

  • Recommended change - Plant patrol fault reporting must resume. ACME may have to wait until the maintenance backlog is cleared before re-implementation. One option would be to resume it at a reduced frequency e.g. if it's currently a daily activity, move it to a weekly activity in the medium term.
  • Estimated cost - Low. No additional expense should be incurred.
  • Feasibility - High.

The Continuous Improvement Process

Corrective Action

  • Recommended change - The maintenance manager has to be receptive to both feedback and feed forward information. He must use these inputs to align the strategy with the needs of the company.
  • Estimated cost - Low. It is part of the maintenance manager's job.
  • Feasibility - High.

The Environmental Process

Production Pressure

  • Recommended change - All stakeholders including the managing director, operations manager and the Chairman need to work with the maintenance manager in creating a medium to long term maintenance strategy. This will help facilitate achieving the required production targets.
  • Estimated cost - High. Equipment investment and additional maintenance staff recruitment is highly likely in order to increase and maintain the nameplate capacity of the plant.
  • Feasibility - Medium. If Jim Gordon is serious about keeping the plant running 'at all costs', then the investment funds should be made available.

The compressor failure and resultant plant downtime seems like an accident that was waiting to happen. When we analyse the circumstances surrounding the event, it's clear that the maintenance system had failed. Through all of this, Derek Piper was lost at sea and to clash metaphors had his head buried in the sand. As a consequence, the planning process collapsed, feedback was not acted on and the maintenance strategy became unfit for purpose.

He can claim that external pressure from the managing director, with the demand of increased plant output and reduced windows for PM activities, caused the system to fail. Although there may be some validity in this claim, I believe that every manager has two high level challenges: the first is to lead subordinates, the second being to manage the expectations of superiors. Times will come when a manager has to push back and stand up to unreasonable demands of company bosses. If a manager does not display this inner strength and backbone, he will likely be trampled on at some stage. It's clear at ACME that Jim Gordon had subdued Derek Piper and I believe Derek would not have had the strength to resist when the decision was made to sweat the plant and run it above nameplate capacity.

If I was to apply a percentage weighting of blame for the situation that ACME finds itself in, it would be 65/25/10 for the maintenance manager, managing director and maintenance supervisors respectively.

It's interesting that the question states 'if you were appointed maintenance manager' as I believe the only option that will rescue the situation is the replacement of Derek Piper in his role. A rebuilding process is required in the ACME maintenance department. This should start from the top down with a new manager. Derek is in the unenviable position that football mangers often find themselves in, he has lost the confidence of both senior management and the 'dressing room' - the dressing room equivalent being the shop floor fitters. He now very much remains an isolated figure at ACME. A carefully chosen new appointee to the role of maintenance manager would bring a fresh impetus. The candidate should come from outside the company as such a person would not carry any baggage from the current ACME situation. In the Recommendations section of this paper, I have deliberately avoided mentioning Derek Piper by name and referred to the role of maintenance manager instead. This is because I do not see him as part of the solution. He may be required to get the compressor repaired and the plant back running but once this is achieved, his removal and succession should be planned.

If I was appointed maintenance manager, I would look to introducing a new style of leadership to the maintenance department. My approach would be to lead from the front, engage with the fitters and regularly visit their turf to get a feel for their daily challenges.

A strong focus would have to be applied to resuming the effectiveness and efficiency of the planning function. Feedback and feed forward lines would have to be reconnected and the maintenance strategy would require improvement action when necessary.

Strength of character and assertiveness would be required to deal with Jim Gordon in order to explain to him both the limits of production equipment and the necessity for appropriate maintenance.

As maintenance manager, I would also have to ready myself for battle in securing investment for new equipment and possible recruitment of additional maintenance staff. Immediate consideration needs to be given to introducing redundancy for critical equipment. If there was a spare compressor to switch over to, the plant would have kept running. If the expense of a standby compressor is not approved, contingency needs to be made - can we 'roll in' a temporary machine and connect it in the event of a breakdown? The challenge here is to convince ACME senior management of the benefits of investment and consequences of not spending i.e. a repeat of the last major equipment failure.

I know it's very easy to state these high level objectives and will be much harder to drive them through to implementation but the job can only be tackled with the confident belief in success. ACME seems to be in a good place regarding sales orders, all that is needed now is a companywide belief in the importance of a sustainable maintenance system.


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