Managing for Reliability Key to Asset Performance

Feb. 12, 2014
The powerful combination of smart devices and communication networks has great potential for helping industrial plants achieve significant gains in productivity and efficiency.

The powerful combination of smart devices and communication networks has great potential for helping industrial plants achieve significant gains in productivity and efficiency. But making that happen requires companies to use the information from their production equipment to change their asset management and maintenance practices. Take the example of two plants, owned by the same company but located on opposite sides of the globe. The two sites made the same products, using identical production equipment, quality specifications and automation systems. They both spent a similar amount of time on maintenance. Yet one plant was experiencing constant failures, shutdowns and quality issues, while the other was performing to goals. The question was, why?

Proactive vs. Reactive Maintenance

An analysis by an automation supplier found the answer. The findings revealed the root cause of the disparity: The plant experiencing difficulties operated under a run-to-failure philosophy for maintenance, spending nearly 35 percent of maintenance time on unscheduled corrective procedures.

In contrast, the plant meeting its goals spent only 8 percent of maintenance time on unscheduled activities. More revealing, 34 percent of their maintenance time was spent on preventive maintenance, and another 12 percent on optimizing assets. Employees at the proactive plant also received more than three times the amount of training as those working at the reactive plant.

Unfortunately, this lack of training is not uncommon at plants with a reactive approach to asset management. Reactive managers assume it’s less costly to fix something only when it’s broken and they know what to fix. They see training as wasted dollars. But industry experts will tell you this is a mistake and results in frustrated engineers who take longer to solve a problem and are unsure of the best practices to use to make sure the problem does not come back.

Proactive-minded users, on the other hand, have seen the benefits of this service philosophy. They see training and certification as an investment to ensure not only that results don’t erode, but that production and quality performance continue to improve.

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About the Author

Jeanne Schweder | Contributing Editor, Automation World

Jeanne Schweder has been writing about automation and manufacturing for more than 25 years. As a contributor to Automation World and its sister publications since 2012, she has interviewed hundreds of manufacturers, machine builders, system integrators, and automation suppliers. Her work has appeared in nearly every industry publication. A former newspaper editor, Jeanne has also worked in public relations at major corporations and advertising agencies.

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