From Our Perspective

ken bannister thumb thumb thumbGoing Forward By Understanding The Past

I confess: I am again held captive by a new obsession! With no other older living relatives, it’s my octogenarian parents or, to be more specific, my octogenarian parents’ memories. Baby boomer me is now the self-appointed family genealogist. 

As the future caretaker of our family history, I find that visits to my parents have taken on greater meaning as I attempt to tap into their wealth of  recollections. The nice thing about talking with seasoned information caretakers is that they love to share their thoughts with you—including countless enlightening and perhaps long-forgotten “back in the day” factual nuggets. 

In my quest to capture our family history, I’ve employed the services of a number of online genealogy sites to help corroborate my parents’ memories through government censuses and military records dating back hundreds of years. These sites have also helped me delve further into the past, and to capture and report on my findings using powerful and sophisticated database engines. For example, to my amazement, I recently discovered that I have family ties to reportedly wealthy early settlers in Virginia (something that I certainly want to learn more about).  

One of the genealogy sites I’ve consulted is It recommends using a contextual “three W” foundational approach of asking Who, Where and When in collecting family-history information and mining search-engine databases. Not surprisingly, this is markedly similar to how best-practice organizations develop maintenance reliability profiles for their assets.

When building a reliability profile, it’s crucial to confer with the asset-history caretaker. At this point, most people tend to direct their questions to the maintenance planner—if there is one. While that’s not a bad strategy, if the asset in question predates the planner, the most resourceful information caretaker would likely be the operator or a maintainer who has worked with and parented the machine for many years. In fact, the simple act of striking up conversations with these types of individuals about a specific asset (and being prepared to actually listen to what they tell you) can often elicit the most insightful information about the equipment’s behavior under all conditions of use and abuse.

Still, plenty can be gleaned by using the “three W” foundational approach to ask information caretakers about previous asset failures: “What” is about any incidents in the past, and in “what” context or circumstances they occurred. “When” refers to the time frames of such occurrences. “Why” seeks to determine a relevant root cause of failure. The same “three W” questions should then be used to data-mine your work-order history archives—those in your old filed-away paper documents, as well as computerized maintenance management databases.

The straightforward “three W” technique can help you tap into all available history sources at your plant and deliver the most accurate asset-reliability profile from which to learn and build a suitable, proactive maintenance strategy. In turn, this approach will help you ensure asset reliability and optimized life-cycle management. But that’s not the entire story. In the process, you’ll also have fun learning how things were maintained and managed in the past—and coming to understand how that past can help you change the present and future for the better. Good luck! LMT

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