Developing an Asset Healthcare Program

Asset healthcare framework matches the effort and type of equipment maintenance intervention to the criticality of the system and the component.

For many years as I have given public and industry presentations I have asked, "How many of you (the audience) believe you have a good or excellent preventive maintenance program?" Without exception no hands are raised in the audience.

What makes developing a preventive maintenance (PM) program so difficult? Other difficult things are accomplished in maintenance improvement. Sometimes planning and scheduling are implemented plant wide with good results. Frequently a storeroom offers good service, while minimizing total inventory cost. So why is preventive maintenance so difficult?

The elements of PM are well known. A set of tasks is performed at a certain frequency, and these tasks are scheduled and performed thoroughly by qualified craftsmen or operators. Some of the problem, of course, is simply trying to implement prevention in a reactive environment in which work is not planned, parts are not available, or the equipment is not made available because of production schedules. That is not the problem, though, when good planning and scheduling exist. The issue comes down to identifying the right tasks and the proper frequencies.

Reliability centered maintenance (RCM) is often selected as the tool of choice for plants advanced enough to understand that prevention tasks must be aimed at correcting specific defects or failure causes. This method fails, too, because no plant, in my experience, has the resources or fortitude to perform RCM studies on every piece of equipment or aspect of the facility. Risk-based RCM comes closer to the mark as a tool, but still tends to look at specific equipment. It is not used to develop the plant-wide prevention plan.

Replacing preventive maintenance with asset healthcare
The first part of the issue is semantics or definitional: the term preventive maintenance, or even the more encompassing preventive-predictive maintenance fails as a concept. For most people, it connotes activities more than intent. For that reason we prefer the term asset healthcare.

When we examine the concept of healthcare as it applies to people, we understand it to mean maintaining function, or the condition of the body to perform certain activities. Likewise, we understand that the objective in maintenance is to assure the likelihood (probability) that equipment can perform a certain function when required. We understand, too, that reactive maintenance cannot assure that probability, but can only minimize the impact of failure. For these reasons, we encourage a new concept (not of our invention, but not commonly used) of equipment or asset healthcare. Our preference is to use the word asset because it applies to the facility as well as the production equipment. In most cases, failure of the facility degrades production capability in a similar manner to equipment problems. Thus we encourage plants to start with the concept of assuring asset healthcare.

Probability as a necessary concept
Decreasing the frequency of a failure mode increases the probability of performing the intended function. However, without understanding the molecular strength of every aspect of every component, and the forces to which it will be subjected, the timing of a given failure mode is uncertain. Thus the goal is to manage the probability of equipment performing its intended function.

Why is this distinction important? As we approach the ultimate (100 percent assured availability), costs for maintenance go up exponentially. The goal is to be able to answer the important question: What type and amount of maintenance is necessary to assure a specified level of performance for the asset?

All asset healthcare tasks (preventive maintenance) need to answer this question, or we will never know if we have succeeded in our goals.

09-00mm02pic1A five-step process for asset healthcare maintenance development and execution is presented in the accompanying flowchart "Asset Healthcare Closed-Loop Process." Steps 3 and 4, "Load and Schedule Work" and "Prepare and Execute Scheduled Maintenance," are typical processes in the planned maintenance cycle and will not get separate attention here. Steps 1 and 5, "Create Measurement Process" and "Review and Analyze Variation," are typical of any closed-loop process, but we will be identifying some new concepts here, so they will be covered, though not in great detail. The step that will get the most attention is Step 2, "Develop the Asset Care Program."

Developing asset healthcare measurement
We cannot permanently improve what we do not measure. But in the plant environment the plethora of indicators that can be measured is overwhelming. There is a compelling need to simplify the measurement process, to make this task manageable in an era of downsized workforces.

There are, of course, leading or process measures that are required. These include PM (asset healthcare taskor AHT) compliance and ratio of AHT to total work hours. We need a measure of results as well.

We will not dispute the value of measuring uptime, or overall equipment effectiveness. These are excellent measures and give an overview to any plant that employs them. Where they may have shortfalls is in identifying the cause of a problem. They dont do much to identify the specific shortfall that needs work.

We have seen only one plant that has maintained a plantwide measure of mean time between failure. This measurement requires a lot of data and continuous effort for reporting. However, it fails to guide one from a business perspective: Where do we place our efforts and emphasis?

Instead of the above measures, we would like to introduce the concept of cost of unreliability (CoUR). This term is an extension of the cost of quality concept used to measure deviations in quality theory. A list or chart of CoUR values will clearly show where to place attention.

Fundamentally, CoUR measures the production value of the downtime for a department or a unit and adds in the costs of repair, both labor and materials. We record and maintain a database for those CoUR events above a certain cost. The amount depends on the production value of the plant and administrative policies.

Key data elements include date and time of incident, location (department, equipment center or unit) and specific number of equipment that failed, downtime and valuation of downtime, repair costs (usually the work orders that apply), failure reason code, and failure description.

Using the power of the database, all failures can be sorted by location, size, or reason code.For this plant, when the cost of a failure hits a particular threshold, a root cause failure analysis is required.

The advantage of CoUR is in the planning process. Practically, what has cost money? Are there patterns? Where should efforts be focused? It becomes a practical scorecard overall, to see if the CoUR is declining, while also directing work toward specific failure causes. It records history in a way that is impractical for a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) without the limitation of a huge data collection workload.

Asset healthcare task development and rationale
Two questions should be considered. First, in the history of this plant, when were asset healthcare tasks created? And second, by what methods were they created?

We seldom find that new plants develop prevention programs before starting operations. Usually this procedure simply is not part of the startup plan. When it is, sufficient time or money is not usually given to its development. And in isolated cases when AHTs were created for specific equipment, they were usually created according to vendor specifications, without the benefit of experience within the operating context.

The next time PM strategies are commonly developed is when there are significant failures that gain lots of attention. Sometimes these failures are one-time events, but reaction requires the plant to develop a PM routine, and it gets generated every month, forever. The plant may also put a team together to develop PM plans. These plans are followed as well as possible, with best guesses as to appropriate tasks and frequencies. These are usually the most valuable of the PM collection that gets printed out each period and distributed to the craftsmen

We want to change these methods forever. What we seek is an effective, simple, measurable system that enables us to create a proactive maintenance strategy for every piece of equipment in the plant. Currently RCM, in its many flavors, is identified as the method to accomplish this task. In most applications, however, it is too cumbersome to apply to all the equipment in the plant. We propose a hybrid method that meets the following characteristics:

  • Covers the entire equipment spectrum
  • Applies easy-to-understand rules that can be modified with experience
  • Adds value during its development, not just in the future
  • Minimizes re-entry of data
  • Can be implemented by the hourly workforce with minimal guidance beyond training.

Seven system development steps

The steps outlined in the following discussion can be used to develop a system of proactive asset healthcare. They should be used with one unit or department at a time.

1. Acquire, install, and train in AHS software. Find a good tool and use it to its maximum capability. We searched for and reviewed over 200 software tools and found a handful that met our requirements for supporting the following steps.

2. Develop the equipment hierarchy. In many instances an equipment hierarchy exists in electronic form somewhere in the plant; usually it is embedded in the CMMS. We suggest using as many as four or five levels in describing the equipment hierarchy, depending on how far down it is necessary to go to get to a maintainable component. This component may be a pump, motor, gearbox, or electrical panel. The initial identification of the equipment provides the basis to develop a proactive maintenance strategy for every component.

One of the benefits of this step is that the equipment owners, the operators and the maintainers, perform this task. In doing so, they educate themselves about the equipment, going over drawings, listings, and manuals. Another opportunity is to identify drawings that are out of date and instances where changes havent been documented.

3. Develop criticality. To determine the level of maintenance a component should receive, we need to understand its value in the operating context. To keep it simple, we ask, "How critical is the process to which this is a part? The answer may be must be running all the time, must run most of the time and on demand, or must run occasionally. CoUR can also be used as a gauge of process criticality: for instance, using the value of any hour of downtime as the range of criteria.

Once the process has been classified on criticality, the component can be classified. The result will be a table of equipment with associated criticalities, all entered into the asset healthcare system.

4. Develop equipment condition. We now take time to evaluate the condition of the highest segment of critical equipment (at a minimum, all H-1s and H-2s) for several reasons:

  • We can get an immediate impact on plant performance and safety and eliminate defects on this highly critical equipment.
  • In some cases we will identify conditions that require a longer-term solution, for example, a motor that is run beyond its limits. This knowledge provides time to plan and schedule intervention before the equipment fails.
  • Evaluation of the equipment, by the operations staff, creates the basis of ownership and develops operators inspection rounds.
  • This information is part of the annual planning process, to help determine the material and labor costs and schedule required to meet the plan for the next year.

Once again we take a simplified approach. For each class of equipment, we create a template for evaluating component condition. Using a simple yes/no evaluation for each category we can evaluate the overall condition of the equipment. Any equipment whose composite health falls below a threshold, say 70 percent, is identified for attention with a work request.

5. Develop strategies for component care. At this point we have created the equipment list for the unit down to the maintainable component, we have classified the components criticality, and we know its condition and operating requirements. We are now in a position to classify the type of care (maintenance) it should receive.

Types of maintenance include run-to-failure, inspection, preventive, predictive based on time or history, condition monitoring, predictive based on condition projections, continuous monitoring, and failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA).

We decide which type of maintenance to perform on the basis of a simple matrix, once again applied by the unit team.

6. Develop failure modes and effects. For equipment whose criticality is high, we catalog the ways in which it has failed in the past, according to the experience of the team, and identify the causes and effects of those failures. When criticality is high, we design maintenance activities on the basis of the failure modes and causes.

FMEA is a significant part of performing an RCM study. The methods presented here create a structure in which only those items that require the analysis get the effort. In addition, every other component in the system also has a clearly considered maintenance strategy. The asset healthcare system we are using does simplify the task of performing RCM analyses, however, and gives us an audit trail that shows how we made our decisions.

7. Develop asset healthcare maintenance activities. After the appropriate strategy for every component in the equipment system has been identified, we design the healthcare task according to the strategy. This process makes run-to-failure a legitimate proactive AHT, because it is the best identified action for the business need.

Each strategy implies a set of activities that will optimize its use within the unit. Thus we design specific care needs for each component, and if we have performed FMEA, we design specifically to mitigate the failure cause.

It would be the subject of another article to cover in sufficient detail the specific design process for asset healthcare tasks. However, the software tool, if appropriately chosen, has industry-specific equipment healthcare tasks that serve as templates in this design. In many cases the existing preventive and predictive tasks, if they have been found to be the best strategy, can be used as a starting point as well.

Completing the closed-loop process
Once the asset healthcare program has been developed, we can return to the closed loop process and complete the following steps:

  • Load and schedule work where we finalize jobs, with tasks, parts, skills, tools, etc.; load the program into the CMMS, and set and optimize schedules as identified.
  • Prepare and execute scheduled maintenance where we develop the weekly schedule, make sure that jobs have parts available, assure that labor and equipment will be available, and perform the scheduled asset care tasks and record the results (conditions found, corrective maintenance required, etc.).
  • Review and analyze variation where we prepare performance indicator reports (for example, PM compliance, downtime), review trends, review completed work orders for issues and opportunities, adjust frequencies as appropriate, and flag failure modes for investigation and identify required changes in maintenance.

Benefits we have seen
Operators and maintainers who apply this method to their production areas gain a much greater understanding of the equipment and production process, including equipment function, component criticality, proper maintenance activities and division of responsibilities, and current condition of components.

Another benefit is immediate improvements in operating procedures, equipment condition, and levels of productivity. Improved cooperation between maintenance and production leads to significant gains in many areas. Finally, increased precision of maintenance or performing the right prevention for problems results in increased efficiency and decreased downtime.

Financial results include action teams documented $1.5 million in benefits in one plant, more than enough to cover all the outside services; a single large unit is producing at an increased rate valued at $15,000,000 in annual product; and a refinery customized the process and identified a $30,000,000 opportunity that could be achieved with this process.

A new language can help us break the paradigm of predictive and preventive maintenance as suitable for all types of risks and conditions. The asset healthcare framework simplifies the effort to create a comprehensive maintenance program for equipment and matches the effort and type of intervention to the criticality of the system and the component.

Our results include proactive maintenance for all components, an ability to create an activity-based maintenance budget, gaining control of the work schedule, improved equipment health, and lower costs. MT

S. Bradley Peterson is president of Strategic Asset Management Inc., 258 Spielman Hwy., Suite 202, Burlington, CT 06013; telephone (800) 706-0702; e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text1023 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Internet

Newsletter Sign Up

Your First Name:

Your Last Name:

Your E-Mail Address:

Would you like our Newsletter?:

Enter verification image value

Congratulations to Our Recent Survey Winner

Paul Kimble, a Vibration Analyst for General Motors, was chosen at random to win a $100 gift card for completing our recent online MT Buying Cycle Survey. You could win, too! Watch your e-mail for our next survey request.

Featured Supplier: Brady

bradyBrady Worldwide Inc. is an international manufacturer and marketer of complete solutions that identify and protect premises, products and people. Our products include high-performance labels and signs, safety devices, printing systems and software, and precision die-cut materials. Along with being a global leader in industrial and safety printing systems and solutions, we have been the company you trust when performance matters most since 1914. We serve customers in electronics, telecommunications, manufacturing, electrical, construction, education, medical and a variety of other industries.

Click here for more.

Featured White Paper: Spraying Systems Co.

SSCo Logo Color w tag

Clean Tanks Faster and Lower Operating Costs

Understanding all the tank cleaning equipment options is difficult because not all tank cleaning nozzles are created equal. Let Spraying Systems Co. show you how to reduce cleaning time, minimize liquid consumption and improve cleaning effectiveness. 

Click here to download the White Paper.