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Integrating RCM with Effective Planning and Scheduling - Part 2
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Integrating RCM with Effective Planning and Scheduling - Part 2

This paper was presented to the West Australian Optimising Maintenance Conference, Perth, Australia on 14 May 1999

Author : Sandy Dunn

Go to Part 1

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Making Operator Inspections Happen

Routine Operator tasks should be grouped in the same way as the Maintenance tasks, although this is generally an easier exercise, as most tasks assigned to operators tend to be inspections, and can generally be done while the equipment is running. However, there are some special characteristics of operator tasks which require careful consideration.

In general, operator inspections are performed frequently - weekly, daily, once per shift, or even hourly. The rapid frequency of these tasks means that their completion cannot be controlled through the CMMS. Yet there still remains a requirement that the tasks require:

  • Detailed descriptions
  • Clear performance standards
  • Description of the actions to be taken when the item fails the inspection

The traditional way of handling operator tasks is through the use of standard operating procedures and associated operator log sheets. These clearly are still required - SOP's need to be written, and the appropriate checksheets and log sheets developed or modified. But when was the last time your operators looked at the Standard Operating Procedures?

Clearly, simply modifying SOP's and checksheets is not enough - there must also be:

  • training to ensure that Operators understand the requirements of the new or revised tasks, and what they are required to do when equipment fails its inspection.
  • a method of measuring compliance with the SOPs and ensuring that routine inspections are carried out as required.
  • a cultural shift to fully embrace and accept the necessity of doing the new tasks
  • a quick and easy means for production operators to notify maintenance of the requirement for work arising from their inspections
  • an effective planning and scheduling system in place that incorporates the operator defects identified into weekly plans, and addresses these defects before the equipment fails - for example, the PF Interval used for the inspection task should provide a guide to the priority associated with the defect.

Of course, many of these points also apply to Maintenance Tradesmen and the completion of Maintenance schedules.

Looking at these points, you will note that almost none of these requirements are technical issues - they are almost all management systems and cultural issues. Effective implementation of RCM decisions is more than just having some RCM training, a few team meetings and producing some worksheets - it is a significant change programme.

The Need for Effective Project Management

In addition to the need to produce routine tasks for operators and maintenance tradesmen, (which are, in themselves, substantial undertakings) there can often be a number of other one-off activities that are required to be performed. These could include:

  • Developing any changes required to operating procedures: The RCM analysis may identify that equipment is being incorrectly operated in some way (eg, equipment being asked to do things which it is not capable of achieving) which need to be addressed through changes in standard operating procedures.
  • Retraining operators. Failures may be being caused as a result of operators failing to follow published operating procedures. This will need to be addressed.
  • Establishing disciplinary processes for continual breaches of Standard Operating Procedures may be required.
  • Developing any changes required to maintenance task procedures: The RCM analysis may identify that equipment is being incorrectly maintained in some way (eg, the way in which repairs are done may be causing failures) which need to be addressed through changes in standard maintenance task procedures.
  • Retraining tradesmen. Failures may be being caused as a result of tradesmen failing to follow published repair procedures. This will need to be addressed.
  • Identifying/developing maintenance planning system requirements to support new schedules/procedures: The organisation may or may not have the necessary systems to allow the long term on-going planning and execution of the proposed schedules. This must be satisfactorily addressed.
  • Evaluating/implementing options for equipment redesign: Project Engineers must evaluate and action the proposals for equipment redesign that came from the RCM analysis.
  • Confirming MTBF's: The RCM analysis may show up the need to determine more accurately the MTBF for a particular failure mode or component, and the necessary steps need to be taken to ensure this is done.
  • Confirming Age Exploration tasks and requirements: The RCM analysis may show up the need to carry out some age exploration tasks, and the necessary steps need to be taken to ensure this is done.
  • Confirming PF Intervals: The RCM analysis may show up the need to carry out some testing of the PF Interval to be expected from a particular task, and the necessary steps need to be taken to ensure this is done.
  • Identifying/developing logistical support elements: The new maintenance regime according to RCM may require additional logistical support elements, such as tools, test equipment, facilities, spare parts, and so on. These should be identified before implementation can proceed.
  • Procuring/setting up logistical support elements: Any addition items or systems identified in the previous step must be procured and commissioned.
  • Carrying out baseline checks: A "base line" check on the equipment is carried out on the equipment to bring its condition to known state. Any existing deficiencies or defects should be identified and appropriate corrective action taken. The base line check in fact may be no more than carrying out all the RCM derived tasks on the equipment.

Of course, not all of these tasks may be required in any RCM implementation, but nevertheless, there is generally a fairly lengthy list of things that need to be done before the new Schedules can be implemented.

Most organisations generally grossly underestimate the amount of effort required to project manage all of these tasks to completion.

In addition, the capability of the maintenance department to effectively project manage these longer-term activities while simultaneously dealing with the immediacy and urgency of keeping the plant running on a day to day basis must be questioned. It is difficult to be an effective project manager for a longer term project when you are running around with alligators chomping at your backside.

Many RCM implementations that we have been involved with have failed simply because of the lack of effective project management at this stage of the project. We cannot emphasise enough, the importance of effective project management, and the dedication of sufficient resources to the project to ensure that all of the necessary project steps are taken.

The Impact of a Shift to Condition-Based Maintenance

One other important result of RCM implementation, as it impacts on Planning and Scheduling, is the shift that it brings away from Fixed-Interval overhauls in favour of a higher level of Condition-based maintenance.

Take, for example, the situation at an Alumina refinery where there are six alumina calciners. In order to meet production requirements, five calciners are required to be on-line at all times, although, for short periods of time, full production can be sustained with four calciners on-line. The traditional way of maintaining these calciners is to shut each of them down periodically (say every two years) for 6 weeks in order to perform refractory repairs. In this situation, there is a high level of over-maintenance - refractory is replaced at the two-yearly outage if there is any chance of it failing within the next two years - downtime due to refractory failure is costly, and the culture is that it should be avoided at all costs.

However, through the use of infrared thermography, the condition of the refractory can be monitored, and, potentially, most types of refractory failure can be predicted. As the majority of refractory failure is due to thermal shock during startup and shutdown (an essentially random event), refractory failure also has a significant random (but predictable) component. So, should the primary maintenance regime for the calciner move away from a fixed interval (2 yearly) overhaul, and towards shutdowns that are determined by the condition-monitoring program?

The biggest weakness of a condition-based maintenance regime is its unpredictability. In comparison with a fixed interval overhaul (where we know 2 years in advance when we will be performing the next calciner overhaul), we only get a few weeks notice of the requirement for a calciner shutdown under a condition-based regime. As there is a random component in the failure pattern, the situation may also arise when we need to shut down two (or more) calciners simultaneously for refractory repairs - this will clearly have a significant impact on production output. If there are long lead times for obtaining specialist refractory labour, or specialist refractory supplies, we may incur additional costs associated with guaranteeing the supply of labour and parts for this work.

All of this, of course, can be modelled, using a combination of financial, and plant models, and the appropriate decisions arrived at. But I am not sure that anyone is actually doing this modelling. Instead, most people opt for the "easy" option - the status quo, and miss out on many of the benefits that can be obtained from RCM.

The People Issues in RCM

The final point that I would like to make is to re-emphasise the comments made earlier in the paper - that the biggest barriers to the effective integration of RCM decisions into Maintenance Plans and Schedules are not the technical ones. There are certainly some technical principles involved, and this paper has outlined some of those, but the bigger hurdles to be overcome are the people and management issues. I would urge you to ask yourself these questions:

  • How well are your current operator inspections performed?
  • Do you get good feedback from production operators regarding the results of their inspections?
  • How good are your maintenance departments at responding with the appropriate level of urgency (or lack of urgency, as the situation requires) to the defects detected by operators?
  • How well are your current maintenance schedules performed?
  • How many of your maintenance checklists are completed fully and accurately, and how many are simply "ticked and flicked"?
  • How many of your maintenance schedules are completed on-time, with both maintenance labour and the equipment made available for the schedules to be performed?
  • How good are you at getting significant maintenance improvement projects completed within time, and on budget?
  • Has your organisation fully embraced the significant paradigm shift away from a fixed-interval overhaul mentality to a RCM-based, predictive maintenance regime?

Addressing the technical issues in isolation will not resolve any of these problems - yet without addressing these problem areas, any RCM implementation will be less than fully effective.

If you want to effectively integrate RCM with effective Planning and Scheduling, then you must recognise the implications of RCM to your organisation - it is not just a technical engineering exercise, but a comprehensive change program for maintenance within your organisation. Only once this has been recognised will you be able to exchange the sigh of relief for a sigh of contentment that goes with a job well done.

Go to Part 1

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