Is Your Preventive Maintenance Program Right for Your Plant?

IDCON does a lot of reliability and maintenance assessments across many industries and company sizes. The assessment looks at nine key processes. The top three processes assessed are leadership and organization, planning and scheduling, and preventive maintenance. Regardless of where the opportunities for improvement exist, it is very common that we begin working on improvements in the area of planning and scheduling (P&S).

When we review a client’s P&S work, we get a detailed look at the work residing in the backlog, which is where we retrieve the work that the planners will plan and the schedulers will schedule. When we review the backlog we can quickly form an opinion about the overall performance of the preventive maintenance (PM) program.

The PM program is meant to do two things. The first, of course, is to provide for the essential care of the assets (actions to prolong life), and the second is to detect problems as early as possible. Let’s make a comparison between your car’s essential care and your plant’s assets.

One aspect of essential care for your car is to operate it in a manner so that you don’t create problems. As the driver, you don’t do “jack rabbit” starts as you accelerate from a stop; you do not slam on the brakes to come to a stop (well, most of the time); and you try to avoid potholes and running over the curb. So, we can agree that the way you operate a car will have a direct impact on how well the car runs and for how long the car will run without a problem caused by how it is driven. Other things that are part of the essential care of a car are maintaining the correct air pressure in the tires; routinely rotating the tires; and the routine of checking the oil level and then changing the oil at some preset interval. There are many other tasks that fall into this essential care category for maintaining a car.

It is no different for any asset found in a plant, in a mine, or in any industrial environment. The assets found here have essential care needs just as your car does, and they must be met to ensure that failures are prevented. But in an industrial environment, these essential care needs are much more critical because not doing the tasks that need to be done, and/or not doing them well, can have a direct impact on production. Some of these essential care tasks are as follows:
• Detailed cleaning
• Operating practices
• Lubrication
• Adjustments
• Alignment
• Balancing
• Filtration
• Installation practices
• Design/selection of equipment

With each of these tasks comes an assessment of how well each is being executed. The actual execution of these tasks determines if you are truly preventing failures or inducing failures (a much larger topic beyond the scope of this article).

Now we have addressed the first of the two things a PM program is meant to do: provide for the essential care of the assets. The second is detection of problems as early as possible. If we wait until there is heat, smoke, noise, etc. to find problems—or, said another way, if we wait until problems find us—we are too late. We call this second part of a PM program condition monitoring.

The purpose of condition monitoring is to detect problems early so we have time to P&S the work. Condition monitoring consists of two parts: subjective and objective tasks. Subjective tasks are simply using our God-given senses of sight, hearing, and smell to detect problems. The objective tasks employ some technology to detect problems. These objective tools will detect problems much earlier than our senses—provided that they can be utilized. Some examples include:
• Vibration analysis
• Infrared
• Oil analysis/ferrography
• Motor circuit analysis
• Ultrasound – noise, leaks, friction, cracks
• Pressure/flow/temperature

If a high-functioning condition monitoring program is in place, there will be a large number of problems detected early, and those problems find their way into the backlog. Backlog is simply work that needs to be done in the future. This backlog is where the planners get their work to plan…so looking at the content of work in the backlog helps us make a quick assessment of the PM program by providing us with a quick indication of how well or how poorly the PM program is functioning. If it is performing poorly, there is usually a high volume of reactive work (not P&S work) as well.

If the PM program is performing poorly, next we must ask the questions that will tell us exactly what is wrong. Here are a few things to consider:
• Do you have a documented PM program for all assets? PMs are often missing for some assets.
• If yes,
– Are you looking at the right things? (tasks are written at a component level)
– Are the tasks detailed? (not simply “Check Motor”)
– Are the inspection intervals correct? (weekly, monthly, annually)
– Are the right people executing the tasks? (operator, mechanic, electrician)
• Are people trained to do the PM tasks they are assigned to do?
• Are the right inspection tools available?
• Can you quantify the reactive maintenance labor hours and understand what is driving that work?

An even simpler way to access your own PM program is to just take a look around your facility. Here are a few things to consider when assessing your PM program:

1. Is the equipment clean? (For instance, with AC motors, a rise in temperature of 18C above the normal operating temperature will reduce the life by 50 percent.)
2. Are the lubricants stored in a clean and dry environment?
3. Are any lubricants stored in open containers?
4. Is the lubrication handling equipment clean? (e.g. funnels, oil totes, etc.)
5. Have you met with the lubrication technicians to ask what opportunities exist to improve the lubrication PM program?
6. Ask the operators what is causing them the most equipment problems—are any of the problems PM-related?
7. Do the operators have an active role in the PM program?
8. Ask the maintenance supervisor if you can inspect the Condition Monitoring tools. Are they in good condition? Are they ready for service? Are people trained on how to use them?
9. Ask the maintenance supervisor to show you some of the PM forms that have been returned. Is there any feedback on the documents? If so, does it relate to detecting problems early? How do the things reported get into the backlog? What is the overall condition of the PM program?
10. Ask the planner for a backlog report that shows both the open PM work orders and the open corrective work orders. How many estimated labor hours are for PM work vs. corrective work?
11. Are the PM work orders “route-based” (e.g. designated routes to check a series of components in a list of specific tasks) or is each PM work order for only a single PM task (e.g. “Check Motor”)? Most PMs should be route-based.