Plant Reliability Means Being Consistent

Plant reliability can be greatly improved with consistent activities designed to improve lubrication

Field ServicesA friend and I were discussing consistency the other day, and he gave me a unique insight into how inconsistent he’d been, and how it wasn’t until near full collapse of his department did he understand what being consistent meant for his team. His story…
Back in the 80’s and 90’s I remember being so busy that maintaining anything was difficult based on the daily fires being put out. It was hard to do anything well because each new item was more critical than the last it seemed. Reliability tasks were shunned for more urgent repair, replace, upgrade, and retrofit jobs. I remember thinking about how I’d ever get back to a place where I could actively maintain equipment vs. constantly doing these huge jobs during downtime. I liked the repair/replace jobs don’t get me wrong, it’s just that they were always so urgent and when they are unplanned the urgency goes through the roof.
Then the slow time came and half of our staff was either let go or cut back to part time. There was no money to do anything. We were asked to make things happen that seemed impossible. We ended up stopping all un-necessary upgrade work, which actually was a blessing in disguise because now we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The problem was constant fear…fear of something critical going down. We learned that being consistent with our predictive or pro-active maintenance tasks was keeping equipment running. Why hadn’t we been consistent all the time? How much money would we have saved if we’d been able to maintain our consistent focus in the right areas, in front of the downtime?
This was in a foundry that my friend and I worked in back in the 90’s, his role was maintainer and millwright, his story isn’t unlike many I’ve heard personally.
Times have changed, improvements in processes, improvements in products…happened. Your maintenance teams who’ve been doing the same things for 30+ years can and must change to continue to meet demands.
Fast forward to 2015 and I cannot remember a time when budgets were tighter, maintainers roles in plants have never been more critical. Margins are as tight as they’ve ever been and companies manage to be able to stay afloat because their teams learned back in the “good ole days” that proper maintenance in a plant requires consistent focus on tasks and operations that revolve around keeping the plant running smoothly vs. trying to crank every last part out at any cost. Technology has helped in terms of communications and planning, but the real gains have come from the necessary lessons about keeping things on line to begin with. In essence saving money is the new profit. Raising the bottom line for business means cutting costs.
So if you’ve not found yourself in a place where consistency is the rule, the good news is that you can change that for your team. Being consistent means keeping a cadence, an executable rhythm of tasks designed to keep the place going. It starts with oil analysis, sending your samples in consistently. Oil analysis is one of the critical steps in avoiding catastrophic failure. Oil analysis is one of the few ways you can look inside your equipment and identify what is actually happening both from the lubricant side and the equipment side. Oil analysis results should direct your maintenance activities in critical assets. Using oil analysis is one way to avoid critical unplanned failures resulting in increased equipment availability and uptime. At Trico we have thousands of customers, many who pre-pay for oil analysis and send a sample once a month for a couple months, then skip a couple, then when things go critical send samples in weekly. Having the best data about your equipment in this area means being consistent and logging or tracking the data. Getting operations involved in uptime is also a key to consistency, operations guys can check and log oil levels in gearboxes/pumps, and other rotating equipment as well as log levels. Desiccants can now also be checked by operations in the same way, logging the data through time.

Opto-Matic Closed System Oiler

Opto-Matic Closed System Oiler

When you consistently keep oil levels optimal, consistently keep contamination at bay, and you understand what’s going on in your equipment you have an advantage over those who do not. Your equipment can run longer, cleaner, more efficient. In some studies in gearbox applications I’ve seen oil change frequencies drop from quarterly to yearly and in at least one case two years. Think for a minute what that could mean for your bottom line. BONUS: When your VP of operations comes down and asks what you’ve done to maximize uptime, you have a clear and concise answer that makes sense. You can probably even relate that into dollars because you know how expensive an unplanned rebuild can be. And the VP types definitely like that.
Get consistent by investing small amounts of resources (money), in oilers, desiccants, and oil analysis. Keep consistent by using these tools. You’ll find that keeping in front of downtime is much easier and the money you’ll save the company will make your team look like the professionals that you are.

Understanding the TLM or Total Lubrication Management system that Trico provides can help you be consistent in other ways by implementing plant wide processes and systems that provide the structure for consistency. Contact one of our consultants to learn more about what the TLM is and how it can make your plant maintenance as consistent as possible.

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