Regardless if your organization manufacturers a product or provides a service to your customer base, you probably have equipment which is depended on for achieving your business objectives. Typically, these assets become vital to the organization and cause high levels of stress and anxiety when they are not in operation or simply fail when needed on the most. The level of dependency on any particular asset as well as the level of output, or strain placed on the asset relative to its maximum operating capacity, should drive the level of care and inspection a particular asset gets and the level of frequency. If left alone, the asset is basically allowed to run to failure causing higher costs to operations, reduction of profit margins, and an inefficient working environment. Establishing a routine maintenance schedule for your assets if vital to the organization but can be a daunting task to tackle. It is not practical to simply start on one end of the organization and progress to the other. Formulating a game plan will greatly improve the effectiveness and guide the organization to the right assets at the right times and in the right order.
The first step is to determine the level of importance to your assets. It isn’t a matter of “IF” you can live without it, but more so the overall impact of it being out of service relative to all other assets. If you can do without an asset for any period of time, running to failure might be just fine. Of those assets you cannot run without, you now have to determine which ones are more important than others. Basically you are moving the bar up one notch and over the point of every asset is required to run product or provide service. The task of determining this is called a Criticality Assessment where by you establish a level of importance relative to all other assets in the production line or service stream. Many factors need to be considered such as choke points, overall repair costs, failure rates, ease of repair, etc. Once this is completed, then the assets deemed most critical should get direct focused attention on current maintenance practices both from preventive to failures. Over the course of time, these criticality statuses might change and should be reviewed periodically to ensure they are still accurate given the current situation and productivity standards. Often times this is best done with outside guidance and assistance for a first line or asset grouping. The remainder of the groupings or lines can then be done with easier effort using the same logic and rule set established for the first.
Once the criticality is determined for the assets, the level of focus for preventive type maintenance can be determined. Not that critical equipment will always have more maintenance performed but they should be given a higher priority in making certain the right level of service is being performed, with the right replacement components, and at the right intervals. Shortcuts in any one of these areas will greatly undermine your efforts of making that particular assets’ level of importance over others. It doesn’t have to cost more, take more time, or be harder to maintain, but it does have to be buttoned up regarding preventive maintenance to ensure you have done everything reasonably possible to remove the particular asset from the risk level of failure equation. There may come a point in your assessment of what to do where you determine it is best done by outside resources…sub-contracted. All other assets can then be addressed as to the level of focused maintenance to ensure optimum performance. The key is to stay consistent in frequency based on updated information and document everything in a manner which can be historically reported, reviewed, and analyzed. This is the only way improvements can be made to lower operating costs regarding asset maintenance.
The focus of maintaining production or service related assets is to ensure everything runs at optimum performance levels when you need them to. There can come a time where maintaining them costs more than the asset is worth both in value and production output. This determination is hard to achieve if you don’t have the historical data to review. Often times, if no formal assessment has ever been performed, it is best to seek outside guidance from an industry specialist who has experience. Once the first asset grouping is complete, the template should be developed to perform the steps on the remaining assets within the organization. It is also important to be mindful of the potential for the current maintenance program to change based on changes in either the asset performance or the required output levels. First and foremost however, if you don’t have reportable and reviewable historical data, you will not have a good idea of the portion of your maintenance program which is working and what is not. High levels of asset downtime are considered “Firefighting Mode” and will greatly increase your overall productivity costs. Investing money to prevent breakdowns on your assets will greatly decrease your overall costs of productivity.
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