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8 Quick Ways to Improve Your Plant Maintenance & Reliability


other-manufacturing.jpgWe are all looking for ways to improve our maintenance practices and increase reliability in our industrial plants and facilities. We see articles and information all the time that talk about "cadillac" programs that people have put together and do a great job for them. Its true, some people take reliability to extreme measures and it pays off for them. However, it seems many people have limited budgets, limited staff, and a management team that is reluctant to try new things.

We cannot solve all of those issues, but what i can recommend are 8 ideas in which you can use to help improve your plant reliability. These can be very sophisticated, or very simple, dependent on how far you would like to go.

1. Vibration Route/Analysis

The "King" of predictive maintenance technologies. Analyzing vibration data is a common, proven technology that can help prevent failures on even the first survey. There are an abundance of companies and consultants that can come in and do this for you in the next few weeks, all you have to do is look for them. These routes can be as simple and as infrequent as your budget allows. Typically it is recommended to perform somewhere between monthly or quarterly but many people use it once or twice a year, before an outage. Although, that may not be considered "predictive" maintenance, there is still value you can get out of that. Also, don't assume you need to do it on all equipment in your plant, maybe start with just critical equipment? There are a lot of options here but it is fairly quick to setup and perform if you hired an already trained vendor to perform it for you.

2. Spares Management

Knowing where your spare equipment is and it's condition can be a very quick way to improve reliability. Maintaining your spare equipment so it is ready to go should also be considered here. If you have a spare, know it is in a ready-to-go state, and exactly where it is, you can change it out quickly to avoid long unplanned outages. It is not uncommon for maintenance departments to go searching through multiple warehouses to find a spare and if  they find one, it fails quicker than the original unit did because it wasnt maintained or stored properly. You can sub-contract this storage out to a vendor or keep it in-house, we have seen both ways work wonders for companies.

3. Repair Specifications

Items will eventually fail. Even with predictive maintenance practices in place, failures will still happen. When these do happen and they need to go out for repair, you should understand what level of quality and practices that you approve and expect your vendor to perform. Putting a repaired equipment back into service should be simple and you should have faith in that equipment as it was repaired to your specifications. If you do not have a specification and send equipment out to multiple vendors, not one item you get back will be done the same way. Every vendors has their own practices, procedures, and efficiencies that they use. Is that what you want to use? Once again, this can be a simple one page document or as complicated as a 20 page specification, its only as complicated as you make it.

4. New Motor Purchasing Specifications

As stated in the last section, equipment will fail even when you do everything you can to stop it. Not everything makes sense to repair. When you purchase a new piece of equipment, are you purchasing whatever the vendor wants to sell you, only a direct model number replacement, or are you specifying exactly what you want. Are you buying equipment that will last as long as possible or just the quickest product or lowest price? An easy way to increase reliability quickly, is to purchase based off of specification put together for your plant or industry's uniqueness.

5. Tracking Software

Tracking what you are doing/spending, etc. is an easy way to identify problem areas. This may be asset tracking software, it may be a CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management Software, or a section of your ERP software. Tracking what your failures are, work orders to fix items, where your equipment is, etc. are all ways to begin to identify trends and issues that effect your plant. Its amazing what you can see when you put everything together - many times it can point to a solution that couldnt be found on an individual case-by-case basis.

6. Lubrication Program

Greasing bearings, changing oil, testing oil, etc. are all quick ways to begin increasing reliability at your plant.  Once again, like many items on this list, it can even be contracted out so that you dont need to keep the expertise on-staff. There are many factors to consider if you are going to do this yourself such as incompatible greases, putting the wrong oil into a sump, etc. that you really should understand prior to taking this on internally. Here is an article we wrote on greasing electric motor ball bearings you may be interested in, if this section sparked your interest.

7. Managing Vendors

Managing vendors is a very interesting topic. Controlling and working with your vendors is a very important aspect to reliability as so much of your success is dependent on others. Our companies are a network of suppliers, employees, vendors and customers all dependent on each others successes. A vendor issue can cause downtime, additional expenditures, etc. So a simple question here is, do you know why  you do business with each vendor that you use? If you cannot answer that then you may want to consider evaluating your vendors and their fit within your organization. Do they fit your maintenance and reliability philosophy? Do they go the extra mile for you? How do you keep them honest? Do you ever visit them or make sure they can do what they say they can? Knowing your vendors and managing them as a vital part of your plant equipment reliability is an important factor to consider.

8. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

This is a curveball for you. If you dont know what the Industrial Internet of Things is, you are not alone. This is a new revolution that is taking place right now in industrial plants. Everything is becoming connected. There are a variety of ways to utilize the IIoT. From vibration sensors to temperature sensors to connected controls, there are so many options and solutions coming out every day to connect you to data about your plant so you can make informed decisions. Many of these solutions are simple to use and install and can provide a quick payback by improving reliability. Check out this guide on the IIoT:


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So there you have it! 8 different way that you can potentially improve your maintenance practices and overall plant reliability quickly! There are many other ways to imporve plant reliability in addition to these listed. These are simply just a snapshot of items that we have seen success with!


Justin T. Hatfield

HECO - All Systems Go



About the author:

Justin T. Hatfield  is Vice President of Operations at HECO. He is responsible for Electric Motor & Drive Sales, Electric Motor & Generator Repairs, Spare Solutions, and Predictive Services. Justin was instrumental in developing HECO MAPPS (Motor and Powertrain Performance Systems)  which focuses on “why” you have a motor problem instead of simply “What” product or service should be recommended. HECO is an EASA Accredited Service Center for Electric Motors as well as a provider of predictive maintenance services and products throughout the United States.

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