Equipment MaintenanceTo get the most out an investment in equipment, it needs to be maintained in optimal shape. Yet, according to Michael D. Holloway, principle consultant, certified reliability leader for ALS Tribology, there are companies that vastly underestimate the importance of equipment maintenance.

“Equipment breaks and components fail,” said Holloway. “It is important to understand why this happens and then figure out how to lessen the impact. That means coming up with the appropriate maintenance strategy to keep assets up and running by preventing any unplanned downtime, and that involves more than simply following maintenance recommendations.”

ALS Tribology is a company that provides comprehensive oil, fuel, coolant, metalworking and consulting services to help improve maintenance practices.

“The foundation for any maintenance strategy,” said Holloway, “is to change for the better by determining what a company can do to prevent equipment from breaking, enhance safety, drive down operating costs and improve profitability by getting the most out of its people and equipment assets.”

Five Basic Elements for Increased Equipment Reliability

“Although achieving such positive change is difficult,” Holloway – who has worked in the field of failure analysis for more than three decades – said “there are five basic elements that have to be tackled for increased equipment reliability.”

1. Purpose – Establish a purpose, a mission, a vision. All should be well understood and embraced by everyone within the organization. These can be for the overall company, a department, a floor, a team or a person.

2. Tools – Attain the resources – such as time, space, tools, instrumentation, materials, money, etc. – to drive positive change.

3. Competency Development – Determine the competency and skills needed to make changes and provide the necessary training. “Any company that doesn’t embrace developing competency on a continuing basis is bound to fail because they are not moving forward,” said Holloway. “The companies that embrace competency development flourish.”

4. Plan – With steps 1 through 3 in mind, develop an action plan on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis that lays out what an organization, department, team or individual needs to accomplish and to successfully apply its equipment maintenance strategy.

5. Reason – Determine what incentivizes a company’s people and teams to accomplish the maintenance strategy action plan.

Types of Equipment Maintenance Strategies

One notable challenge to maintaining equipment is that every piece of equipment is different, and all possess their own complexities. However, some basic types of equipment maintenance strategies should always be considered.

Reactive Maintenance: Also known as Run to Failure, this strategy is to have equipment deliberately run until it breaks down. There are certain applications where it is cheaper to let items break and then replace them. For example, small parts and equipment, redundant systems that are non-critical components of the equipment or facility and parts and equipment that are subject to random failure. These items offer low safety issues and minimal operation disruptions.  

Preventative Maintenance: Also known as Scheduled Maintenance and Planned Maintenance, this is time-based, scheduled, routine maintenance. Depending on the asset, the service could be done on an hourly or mileage basis, and can include such maintenance processes as changing engine and transmission oil, replacing filters, greasing/lubrication, brake system inspections, etc.

“A disadvantage to Preventative Maintenance is that since it is based on a schedule, there will be cases when maintenance tasks will be performed when they are not needed and good parts good replaced when not necessary,” Holloway noted. “Often, a predetermined schedule for this sort of maintenance is built into the operation and changing it may produce disruptions and even be costly for the mid-term. Companies should weigh the options.”

Proactive Maintenance: Also referred to as Reliability Centered Maintenance, this strategy is based on Predictive Maintenance and Condition Based Maintenance. Proactive Maintenance tries to manage failure through analytics with the embodiment of never allowing the same failure to reoccur. This is down through Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA) and predicting when an asset might fail so that maintenance work can be planned and performed cost effectively before it becomes a breakdown.

Predictions are based on specific information about an asset type that is a reliable predictor of imminent failure, and on real-time data gathered using various equipment condition monitoring measurements, sensors and techniques (current, voltage, temperature, vibration, lubrication, etc.)  and compared – using analytics – against known parameters of failure.

“Proactive Maintenance is like going to a doctor when you are having health issues,” explained Holloway. “The doctor will analyze your symptoms and advise a course of action based on measurements they perform and compare it to data collected over many years.”

Holloway advised looking at each asset as an individual “patient,” doing a monthly or quarterly review of all collected data and “establishing a ‘maintainability entitlement’ on how each asset is to be maintained. Some assets are more entitled because of the nature of the asset or its particular use.” 

Furthermore, he recommended constantly adjusting asset alarm limits according to what is physically going on with equipment, as it will help predict when maintenance needs to be performed on a particular asset.

“The basic philosophy of Proactive Maintenance is using analysis and adding a root-cause failure to detect and pinpoint precise problems to avoid or eliminate those problems from occurring again,” he said.

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