Chicken or Egg?

Duncan Maxwell (PEME Reliability Operations Manager) has contributed to a web-site article, entitled “Chicken or Egg?” for a leading technical magazine, which argues the case that whilst Plant and equipment Condition Monitoring systems are invaluable in any maintenance engineer’s armoury, you need to get the basics and backup right first.

The full article appears on the Works Management web-site.  An extract of Duncan’s ‘words of wisdom’ is provided below:

Duncan Maxwell, Operations Manager at engineering services provider, PEME, suggests examining your current maintenance performance. That’s not just in terms of crude failure rates (unplanned events) or machinery condition, but also operator engagement, the factory or Plant culture and (just as important) management’s attitude – and, in particular, whether maintenance and engineering are seen as part of Continuous Improvement (CI). Thereafter, it’s about selecting the change management technique that feels most appropriate. 

Maxwell makes the point that, when it comes to transforming maintenance, there is no one size fits all. “It’s similar to Condition Monitoring, where Vibration Analysis isn’t the answer for everything. You have to define your requirements and that includes understanding the value of performing Preventive Maintenance (PM) tasks – are they justifiable against the desired goal. For example, you won’t want to invest in a Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) programme for a £200 pump.”

With that as the background, he suggests that Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) can be implemented fairly quickly, leading to rapid plant uptime benefits, whereas pure RCM is going to involve a longer timeframe and some intense remedial activity, underpinned by serious data collection. “RCM is more directed to the engineering function, but TPM can be rolled out more simply for everyone,” he summarises, adding that PEME itself prefers a halfway house involving “Firstline RCM principles” for task justification, but with execution simplified for operators and technicians. Either way, says Maxwell, the end results should be comparable.

As for Condition Monitoring, he believes you should reckon to spend as much money on training and education as you do on the equipment itself. “Otherwise you’re likely to get inappropriate recommendations, such as expensive pumps needing to be replaced because of their vibration frequencies, when the equipment in trouble is the shaft next door.” And he adds that, while Oil Analysis, Vibration monitoring, Thermal Imaging and the rest are valuable tools, you still need to understand the Plant failure modes to determine which techniques to use – and how frequently.

“If you establish that a failure mode may take three months from identifying a problem to breakdown, then maybe monthly visits with a portable Condition Monitoring system make sense. That would be significantly cheaper than an all-singling, all-dancing fixed system and it could cover a whole bunch of Plant assets.”