In defining our future, we must first understand our past. When asked how he made such accurate predictions, the late management guru Peter Drucker said, “I don’t forecast; I look out the window and identify what’s visible but not yet seen.” To prepare for the future and to implement a culture change, we must understand how our needs will change. If we are going to implement a new strategy or to improve an existing one, we must understand what will change for all involved. From operations to maintenance, it has to be a total team effort.
Culture Change Case Study
Using plant failure data and completing a reliability growth model, we were able to determine that the plant in question was averaging approximately 14 days mean time between failure. This data was a little surprising and a little unnerving to few others as well. They were so numb to all the failures that they hadn’t realized the circle of despair that had become the new norm. The challenge was can we make a difference. Could we make a culture change.
After identifying that we had an opportunity, the next step was to determine where we should focus our efforts. With the work of a few great individuals, we pulled the failure data for the past three years and charted the dates on a simple wall calendar purchased from the local office products store. We color-coded the corresponding events and dates for each year. We then posted the plant’s process flow diagram on the wall and placed a colored dot to where each failure had occurred. The reason for this was to identify where the actual failures took place and the corresponding work orders that were written to make the repairs. We uncovered that where the actual failures had taken place and where the majority of plant personnel felt our biggest problem areas were did not align.
Upon review of the data, we realized that just maintenance and reliability improvements would not get the job done. We needed to focus our attention on the operations team. There needed to be a culture change. Your operators are your first line of defense when it comes to understanding the health of your assets. The daily walk-around inspections they do can be a blessing or a curse.
Upon walking down the inspection rounds with the operators, it became very clear that we had become numb to the noise of what our equipment was telling us. What I found were some very basic items that in the grand scheme of things make a big impact on how we operate. I found broken gauges, busted conduit with exposed wiring, constant level oilers with oxidized oil, steam piping with missing insulation, etc. That was just on the first walk down. Remember what Drucker said in his quote: “I don’t forecast; I look out the window and identify what’s visible but not yet seen.” We had to retrain our focus and not settle for the norm.
After that first day of walking down inspection rounds with the operators, it was very apparent that we had our work cut out for us. Looking back at the data, we knew that we had 14 days until we could expect the next failure, but what could we do? In talking with the operations group and discussing what we learned on our inspection walkdown, I said we have 14 days until we can expect the next failure. As I looked around the room, some were in agreement, some in disbelief and some just caught in the middle.
We then went to our failure data and concentrated our efforts on where the big clusters of failures were located on the process flow diagrams. After reviewing the current inspection criteria, our operator basic care inspections in those areas were refocused to address the issues we had experienced. Our new mantra and culture was how do I keep the plant from tripping offline. The focus of the group was about making a big deal out of little things, such as replacing broken gauges, ensuring steam lines had the correct insulation, and making certain that the area and equipment were inspected when maintenance work was completed. The old saying of “just good enough — let’s get up and going, and we will come back to it,” was no longer accepted. We had to focus on culture change. The mindset was that if we make a big deal out of the little things, the big things will not be so prone to happen.
Maintenance and Reliability
After an initial push with the operations team, attention shifted to the maintenance and reliability teams. Similar to our emphasis on the operations group with operator basic care, the focus with the maintenance and reliability teams was on the P-F Curve. We concentrated our initial culture change efforts on the following areas: plant lubrication, predictive maintenance, precision maintenance, and planning and scheduling.
For the plant’s lubrication program, there were four primary focus areas: improved storage and handling, lubricant selection, training, and the execution of lubrication routes. At the start of this effort, it was identified that the storage and handling of lubricants used in the plant would need to be revamped. The lubrication storage unit was not meeting the basic standards of industry best practices. For what we were wanting to achieve, the only decision that could be made was to move to a “clean room” for lubricants. This was a major culture change in the mindset of the plant’s team. In the past, the mindset was that “oil is oil and grease is grease.” The plant champion for lubrication developed a plan that was supported by the leadership team. Partnering with a local solution provider, the lubrication clean room was designed, built and installed.
During the design phase of the lubrication clean room, an audit/assessment of the current lubricants in use was conducted to identify where opportunities existed to make the necessary changes in the lubrication program. Instances were identified where we were using the incorrect lubricant for the application based on operational and environmental conditions. We were also able to recognize opportunities where we could consolidate lubricants and not compromise the reliability of the equipment.
While the clean room was being built, the focus turned to lubrication training. Plant personnel participated in machinery lubrication training, and upon completion and certification, used the information provided in the audit/assessment to develop lubrication routes. With effective route execution by trained personnel, all plant equipment identified and performance metrics in place, significant improvements were seen immediately.
The predictive maintenance (PdM) focus was on two primary technologies: vibration analysis and oil analysis. The plant was already executing both, but based on failure data, it appeared that something was missing. The vibration program underwent an external audit/assessment from a third-party expert, and many items were discovered, from missing data and inspection points to routes that were not being executed at the correct frequency. The vibration program was overhauled to ensure everything is executed and that the performance metrics are in place to maintain the program’s validity.
For the oil analysis program, the emphasis was on identifying and qualifying the equipment for acceptance into the program. The two primary goals of this program were to understand the condition of the oil and the condition of the equipment. Once identified, the equipment was assessed for proper sampling point locations and sampling hardware. The correct frequency, test slates and performance standards were also established. A complete tracking system and performance metrics were set up, tracked and reported monthly.
The next steps for the predictive maintenance program are to develop and incorporate thermography and ultrasonic leak detection routes. The current vibration and oil analysis programs are working and thriving through the continuous improvement cycle. Additional plans involve moving into wireless sensor technology linking databases to a single platform.
Along with lubrication and predictive maintenance, we knew there were gaps in maintenance repairs. An overhaul of our maintenance practices would be necessary if we were to be successful. We realized there were training deficiencies so we quickly developed a plan to train our workforce on precision maintenance standards. Now training alone will not make the necessary changes in an organization. For effective execution of precision maintenance, it has to be ingrained into everything you do, including work orders, proper tools, training, expectations and follow-through. We are continuing to make improvements in the program and have developed a long-range training program and partnership with the help of a third-party industry expert. We have great expectations for the future value this program will bring to our organization.
Planning and Scheduling
The final focus was on effective planning and scheduling. Dr. Deming’s quotes of “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you are achieving,” and “People cannot be more productive than the system they are working in allows them to be,” were never more true than when we started to pull back the layers of this onion. A complete overhaul of the planning and scheduling function was conducted. We brought in an industry expert to conduct an assessment and coach and mentor our team on effective planning and scheduling. Aligning this effort to our current work process has allowed us to make great improvements in this area. The fact that we write work orders immediately after a defect is identified from our operator basic care, lubrication or predictive maintenance programs has allowed the planning and scheduling process to work. We have begun the transition from a completely reactive organization to a more stable predictive one.
Case Study Results
From these efforts, we have seen an improvement of 14 days in mean time between failure to our next run of more than 63 days. Ultimately, we had a continuous run of more than 150 days without shutting down. We are continuing to focus our efforts in each discipline to get better and achieve greater results.
Our lubrication program has seen a drastic decline in lubrication-related failures since the culture change initiatives. Another benefit has been a reduction of more than 95 percent of oil samples being in an alarm state. This is a direct reflection of the execution of lubrication best practices focusing on contamination control and improved filtration.
We have also experienced early identification of rotating equipment issues through our vibration program, which has allowed us to effectively plan and schedule repairs so that we are in control of the process and not in a reactive mode.
The implementation of precision maintenance has not only reduced the number of repeat failures and rework but also instilled confidence in our team and a sense of fulfillment in the work executed and the value created. Our future is present, as the actions we are taking today will define what the future holds.
Remember, in order to define your future, you have to understand where you came from. Being in a constant “fire-fighting” state of operation is not healthy for any organization. The efforts discussed here have laid the foundation for changing the culture for the better.
This article was previously published in the Reliable Plant 2017 Conference Proceedings.
By Paul Dufresne, CLS, CMRP, CMRT, CRL