Formula for an Effective PM Program

This preventive maintenance program relies heavily on dedicated people and their ability to plan, document, and support a strong reliability-centered maintenance effort.

In 1986, the preventive maintenance (PM) program at Cryovac's Simpsonville, SC, plant was a good one and was considered by some to be the best in the company. The company is the world's largest supplier of plastic packaging and this plant produces blown film.

But we found ourselves asking if the program was good enough for the long haul. What worried us most was that it relied heavily on the extensive experience of craftsmen who had been with the company since the late 1950s. They had installed most of the equipment they now maintained. Many of the most experienced craftsmen were eligible for retirement and very little of their vast hands-on equipment knowledge had been documented.

It was decided that if the PM program was going to continue to meet our needs, we had to document as much of this equipment knowledge as possible while we still had the resources to do so. We felt that a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) was the best way to do that.

In 1987, we selected a CMMS to get us where we wanted to go. The next question we faced was how to get people who are distrustful of computers to share their equipment savvy with us. After much deliberation, we opted to use the direct approach and simply asked the craftsmen for their help in preserving what they had learned. It was no surprise that craftsmen did not line up in droves to share what they knew. But we were able to get enough assistance to start the ball rolling. With a great deal of help from the maintenance planners, we wrote limited scope job plans and built a three-level equipment hierarchy.

For the next 3 years, the maintenance planners were the only CMMS users. As a result, they were spending all their time converting paper work requests into electronic copies and trying to meet the increasing demand for equipment repair data reports. They were not doing a lot of planning.

It was time for the craftsmen to start inputting repair information and allow the planners to get back to planning.

The first obstacle to overcome was training. It was suggested that initially we should train a core group of craftsmen who would, in turn, help their peers overcome any fear of computers. After training several willing craftsmen, we placed three computer workstations on the shop floor with no instructions about how they were to be used. Craftsmen were able to experiment with the computers with the help of the core group, and felt no pressure while doing so.

This approach gave us the results we were hoping for: craftsmen started requesting computer training. Within 3 months, we were training groups of craftsmen in a classroom environment.

Once the craftspeople were computer literate, we were confident that we now had a foundation to start building an even stronger PM program. Craftsmen were assisting in the writing of job plans. They were inputting equipment failure information and were querying the CMMS database for repair information. The time had come to develop a new written PM plan and put it into practice. The old plan had become too confining.

Technical organization
In our organization, the engineering, predictive maintenance (PdM), maintenance, and technical support groups all report to the same technical manager. It was not always this way but we learned that by having all technical people under the same umbrella, resources and efforts could be optimized. The remarkable thing about combining these groups was that within 2 years after doing so, our goals also merged.

The basic structure of our maintenance organization is such that all maintenance personnel perform PMs although we do have small crews that specialize in preventive maintenance. The PM crews perform PMs on a schedule based on scheduled downtime. The routine maintenance crews (reactive) perform running PMs and augment the proactive crews during scheduled downtime. We feel that it is important to have PM specialists to carry the torch, otherwise the tendency is to fight fires.

Six concepts of an effective PM plan
One of the first lessons learned after formulating our PM plan and putting it into practice was the plan must not be written in stone but instead be an evergreen document capable of change and growth. After several modifications to the plan, we feel that an effective PM plan is based on six concepts:

  • Input
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Feedback
  • Documentation
  • Accountability

We did not invent these concepts, but we find them to be invaluable tools when organizing a scheduled PM

Where does the input come from?
Input is solicited from any group that has a stake in the results of a scheduled PM. It should be understood that we also use scheduled downtime to make modifications, product changes, and safety upgrades.

Examples of inputting groups are product scheduling, production personnel, reactive maintenance, engineering personnel, predictive maintenance, maintenance support, contractors, and maintenance control (planners).

The planning phase. Planning for the next PM on any piece of equipment actually starts before the current PM on that equipment is complete. Inspections, measurements, and reliability decisions are made and work requests written for the next PM. It is important that these items be documented before they are lost. This will be discussed more in the documentation portion of a PM plan.

All personnel are encouraged to write work requests between PMs and route them to the maintenance planner, regardless of how trivial they may seem. We want to know about the squeaks and squeals. They may seem unimportant, but they may be symptoms of a larger problem. Who better than the people who operate and service the equipment to let us know when it is not well?

Each Wednesday at 1 p.m., the maintenance planner conducts a pre-PM meeting to discuss the upcoming week's PMs with everyone who will be involved in them. The meeting has an agenda and a strict time limit of 30 min. Anyone who has work to be done during a PM must come prepared to talk about what he will be doing and the logistics of the job. After everyone speaks, timelines are established. Start and completion times are set, and assets and resources are assigned by the maintenance planner. Most importantly, commitments are secured from all participants. At the end of each meeting, the PM supervisor conducts a critique of the prior week's PMs.

A lot of communication takes place within a short period of time but if organized correctly, 30 min is ample time. We normally address at least four major PMs (scheduled downtime) at each meeting and it seldom takes more than 20 min total, including the critique. When we first started using the pre-PM meetings, some people came unprepared and many of them walked out of the meeting with hurt feelings because they were cut off at the time limit. It did not take long before people started using the maintenance planner to help them plan their work and get the logistics worked out prior to the meeting, a very valuable PM tool.

PM execution. The plans have been made, the materials purchased, the clock is ticking. The PM supervisor conducts a 5-min communications meeting with the participants prior to the PM to insure that everyone knows his role.

During the actual PM, the three highest priorities are safety, safety, and safety (in that order). The PM supervisor monitors the various groups to in- sure that the plan is being followed. Any changes to the plan are brought to his attention. A decision is made then and there as to how the change will be handled.

Once the PM has been completed, the PM supervisor turns the equipment back over to production for startup.

Feedback following the PM. We do all the usual things: review completed PM work requests, monitor equipment performance, and spot check completed work. But unless that information gets back to the people who did the work, it is only paper. People like feedback; they have a natural need to know how they are performing. Everyone wants to be able to go home, sit at the dinner table with his family, and tell (even brag to) them that what he does is worth doing.

A written critique of the prior week's PMs is distributed each week with the upcoming schedule. The critique is used as a vehicle to apprise the various groups involved in the PM of where mistakes were made, and also serves to announce the successes. The critique gives everyone an opportunity to optimize the PM. When we first started using this technique, there was a tendency to shoot the messenger but that passed with time and understanding.

The most important aspect of our PM program is giving craftsmen feedback concerning the effectiveness of their actions during the PM. This is especially important in the case of PdM work requests. When issued, these work requests are normally accompanied by an infrared scan, a vibration analysis graph, or some other representation of an equipment component in the failure mode. The PM craftsman takes action to correct the problem; the PdM craftsman rechecks these items following (sometimes during) the PM. The PdM craftsman then issues a before and after picture or graph. Craftsmen like to know that what they did made a difference and timely feedback reinforces that need.

We also have a maintenance newsletter that is published quarterly, more often if needed, to inform craftsmen of equipment changes that have taken place and why. These changes are most often reliability motivated and the result of a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) group's work. Craftsmen act as a resource for the engineer-led RCA groups. It is important that people see their ideas in print and their names spelled correctly. Today's software programs make a newsletter very quick and easy to publish.

Constructive feedback given to the individual craftsman will do more to promote a successful reliability-based PM program than anything else I can think of, and it's free

PM documentation. A good CMMS is the heart of an effective PM program. It releases the planner and PM supervisor from the mundane tasks that come with scheduling and planning. An ancient Chinese proverb reminds us that the palest ink lasts far longer than the brightest memory or, in modern terms, if you didn't write it, it didn't happen. When we rely on someone to remember what we are supposed to do on a regular basis, we are going to be disappointed. The computer is another tool to make our life easier, no different than the hand tools we use every day. Why not use it? .

All craftsmen in our maintenance organization are required to input repair and PM task data into the CMMS as the work is completed or at least within the same shift. The PM supervisor reviews the completed work requests daily to assure accuracy. If equipment PM or repair data is unclear or incomplete, the work request is returned to the craftsman for additional input. This data will later be used to make reliability decisions. Reliability is the prime goal of any good PM program.

Parts and materials are requested through CMMS-generated work orders. This gives all craftsmen (and others) access to the maintenance planner without crowding him out of his office. Requiring craftsmen to document equipment conditions within computer-generated work requests insures that the parts are ordered and affords the craftsman a way to follow that process. When the parts arrive, the planner notifies the craftsman's supervisor through the CMMS. The work then can be scheduled.

Many PM tasks are not scheduled on a monthly basis but at infrequent intervals. A CMMS is ideal for making sure those tasks do not get lost in the shuffle. For example, some pressure vessels, by law, require inspection every 15 years. Special work instructions can be documented and issued for tasks that people do infrequently. A CMMS also gives the supervisor or planner the flexibility to add or delete tasks if conditions or situations change. These task modifications can be done in a matter of minutes.

The bottom line is that all maintenance tasks, scheduling, parts procurement, and labor are documented. This may sound like a lot of documentation, but when spread among dozens of people it is much easier than the supervisor or planner trying to keep up with all of it. With each piece of documentation, equipment history is preserved. If you do not have a history, how can you possibly plan a future?

One note of caution: Our mission is reliability-based maintenance; try to avoid the data stream manipulation in which people get caught up. Leave the data massaging to the bean counters. Get the data that you need to improve the process, institute a reliable fix, and move on to other things that are more deserving of your attention.

Accountability. Accountability is simply the process of closing the loop. If a reporting system is open ended, it is doomed to failure. There has to be a vehicle to assure that tasks have been completed, parts are on order, equipment is scheduled, and people are paid. The CMMS is that vehicle.

The CMMS is a very effective tool for closing that loop. The CMMS is simply a maintenance tool and should not be mistaken for anything else; it does not control anything, and should be viewed as a reservoir of information. It allows all maintenance personnel access to the information that is needed to accomplish their missions effectively. It does not take control away from the PM supervisor; it gives him expanded options.

Expectations of a well-executed program Over the past 6 years, we have seen our CMMS coupled with PdM technology and the result has been a very strong reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) program. When the entire maintenance organization with the support of its production counterparts is com mitted to putting this technology into practice, the results are most satisfying.

Over an 18-month period, unscheduled downtime has been reduced to 47 percent of its base line level.

An effective PM program must have a plan that is workable yet flexible enough to meet equipment needs. Craftsmen should understand and be trained to execute the plan. All efforts should be concentrated on tasks that add value. It is very important that everyone understands and appreciates the company's business.

Only the people who participate within its set boundaries limit a PM program. Those willing to push those boundaries will be rewarded with equipment that is more reliable and a knowledge that allows them to predict how that equipment will perform under any circumstance. Once the tools are in place, the people that use them must be committed to the process. Imagination is the only limiting factor.

I would offer a word of caution for those that cannot stand pain. Keep doing it the way you have always done it and nothing will change. But if you can tolerate the pain of change, the rewards are worth it. MT

Charlie Harrell, a PM supervisor at Cryovac, a division of Sealed Air Corp., has worked in a maintenance environment for 36 years. He can be reached at P.O. Box 338, Simpsonville, SC 29681-0338; (864) 967-1480; e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Maintenance Myths That Had To Be Overcome

I would like to dispel several maintenance myths and offer some explanation as to their invalidity.

Myth #1: If you have a good PM program, the total number of work requests is reduced.
This statement is true only if the PM has roots in an RCM program. As equipment reliability is improved, the number of work requests (tasks) will be reduced because of improved equipment reliability. RCM may require equipment redesign or the reliability fix may be as simple as changing a parts vendor. Without RCM, it is just another good PM program that cannot seem to get past that elusive next step.

Myth #2: We will reduce costs with a good PM program.
The truth is that a good PM program combined with a strong RCM effort will reduce costs but the real money comes in the form of potential earnings and a reduced need for new equipment. Improved equipment reliability translates into increased capacity of the current equipment.

Myth #3: All equipment should be PM ed on a scheduled basis.
Any capital or support equipment that is capable of stopping the process should certainly be on a schedule. However, some equipment is better left to run until failure because it does not affect safety or productivity immediately. Another case may be where product capacity is not an issue or there is backup equipment. PM resources are precious; they should be used where they will do the most good.

Myth #4: We can't do PMs because production won't give us the equipment until it breaks down.
While this phenomenon is frustrating to a maintenance organization, it is common and is becoming more so every year. Most often this practice is the result of the need for additional capacity but the need is not great enough to invest in additional equipment.
Regardless of the frustration level, there are steps that can be taken to ease everyone's pain. In this situation, it is more important than ever to have a strong PdM effort in place with a good planning strategy backing it up. Everyone has to be flexible and be ready to go on site with very little notice (often at night or on the weekend). The craftsmen have to go in knowing where the problems are and have the materials staged to fix them. When the flag goes up, the PM craftsman does not have time to make or find parts.
Instituting running PMs and scheduling tasks while the equipment is down for product change is also an option. While this is not what we generally think of as a conventional PM, it does satisfy the needs of the process and the equipment.