Knowing the true sources of contamination in compressed air systems and what to do about them can lead to improved operating efficiencies for the equipment and far fewer maintenance headaches for you.What is 1%, 2% or even 5% increase in uptime worth to you? Can it improve your bottom line? Of course it can. Improving the performance of the Maintenance function and equipment reliability has a direct link to plant uptime and company profitability. Past experience, however, has shown that getting "there" isn't always easy. That's because so many of the "breakthrough" techniques and technologies that companies hoped to use as "roadmaps" over the years have failed to consider the Maintenance function in its entirety. That no longer has to be the case.
In today's competitive environment, industry is constantly under pressure to reduce costs and improve performance. The challenges it faces can be categorized as either external or internal.
The external challenges include:
Every corporation and plant site also faces internal challenges. Quite often, these are even more difficult to deal with than the external type. Internal challenges include:
Analysis of past decades of American industry and Maintenance organizations reveals an interesting behavior-the "in search of a silver bullet" mode. Instead of performing an in-depth analysis of the Maintenance function, its structure, inter-relations and interactions with other plant departments, too many times, arbitrary decisions are made as to the direction of the Maintenance organization. Furthermore, these decisions are sometimes made by a single person-perhaps the Maintenance Manager or Plant Manager-who merely happens to read a paper or article or attend a technical conference. Thus, because an author or presenter is able to make a plausible case as to the benefit of a specific technique or technology, it suddenly can become a "program of the year." Examples of such "programs" or innovations include:
All of these listed "programs" can be effective-and all of them have the potential to deliver real benefits to a plant or a company when properly integrated and executed. To illustrate the point, let's look at Fig. 1. It shows the expected benefit from implementing various methodologies and programs. Sadly, in most cases, the real result is suboptimal.
Refer, now, to Fig. 2, which illustrates what frequently happens in the real world. A relatively short period of improvement is quickly followed by performance deterioration.
Why do some companies make incremental improvements that are not sustainable? There are many reasons-and no single "universal answer."
The most common mistakes
While most companies try to improve plant performance and effectiveness of their Maintenance function, the results are not always sustainable. The most common mistakes made during implementation seem to be:
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list-and it is not intended as such. Based on past experience, though, it can be said, with a high level of confidence, that these are among the most important
and most frequently experienced influencing factors
impeding long-term success.
What is the solution? Benchmark your maintenance organization against the best in the industry, set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Time Bound) to improve plant performance by improving the Maintenance function. By performing the comprehensive and structured Maintenance Business Review (Maintenance Systems Audit), you will be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your Maintenance Management Systems, processes and procedures that, in turn, will allow you to develop a detailed roadmap to success.
Maintenance audits defined
A Maintenance Systems Audit (our organization calls it a "Maintenance Business Review" to emphasize business aspects of the maintenance function) can best be described as follows: Objective examination of Systems and Procedures used by an organization in the overall control of managing its assets. It does not involve individuals and their performance, though it does assess training and personnel development needs.
The audit addresses seven Maintenance functions that are further broken down into elements addressing individual maintenance aspects. The audit structure is as follows:
As detailed in the foregoing list, every aspect of Maintenance as a business is addressed, including interdepartmental communication, personnel skills and training, health and safety, modern maintenance techniques and technologies and management practices. Each of these elements is assessed in a structured way on a scale of 1 (Innocence) to 5 (Excellence). The achieved score represents the maintenance organization maturity level on a scale one to five. During the audit, each element is described in detail showing the current state ("as-is") with an identification of opportunities for improvement. In addition, a target value ("to be") is assigned based on business conditions and required plant performance for each element assessed.
Fig. 3 depicts a spider chart with the current score superimposed on benchmark data for the industry. Benchmark data is available for the entire industry as well as a particular branch. This allows for an easy comparison with industry
leaders and laggers.
Comparison within an industry or within the customer's multi-plants is important as it allows for benchmarking- something that will provide management with the impetus for change. This benchmark may, in fact, spark employee openness to change since it leads to a clearer understanding of the current situation and the possible improvements that are available.
As with any improvement program, clear SMART goals must be established. This is done as part of the Maintenance Business Review.
The gap between the "as-is" state and future projected state is defined in terms of cost reduction and improved uptime resulting from the realistic opportunity. This gap can be bridged by implementing the most technocommercial improvement initiatives. The recommendations portion of the audit should contain a detailed road map demonstrating how to bridge the gap with a timeline and proper resource requirements, both in terms of skills and commitment.
Bridging the gap is important as it translates to plant performance improvements in terms of maintenance cost per unit and uptime improvement that will lead to bottomline savings. Fig. 4 shows the positive financial impact of bridging the gap.
Coming next month
Part II of this article will highlight two real-world case studies where this strategy has paid off.