Linking Media Files in CMMS Modules

Hi all,

Many of the modern CMMS products in the Market has the facility to upload links to media files in almost all the modules within the system. Such Multimedia files will help users in quickly referring to documents, drawings, e catalogues, SOPs, viewing maps etc. I came across a document on the subject. You could read the full document through the link given below.

Well defined removal routes for critical equipment, lists of special equipment with their storage details, emergency procedures etc will add pep to the CMMS that can give access to such documents to the concerned people whenever the need arises.

Any CMMS worth its while needs to have this facility as a quality value add. Check MPulse software for this wonderful feature.


Importance of Training the work force on Electrical Safety


Electrical Power is used by all the staff members in a work force, at all levels.

To be safe, it is essential that every one understands the importance of basic electrical safety. For those who work on powered equipment, it is vital that they know more about electrical safety.

To achieve near zero electricity power related accidents in any organisation it is a must that layered, regular training and refresher sessions are conducted. Audit on how people comply to safety rules is also essential to measure the training effectiveness and attitudinal change brought about.

Here is a link to an article on the importance of training and audit on electrical safety.



Control your repairs and spares, avoid costly downtime

Hi all,

All those who maintain capital assets by way of equipment, systems, buildings and vehicles cannot deny that they had to do some sort of repair work due to break down, reduced capacity, failures etc, some time in their day-to-day operations.

How the repairs were done, who all were involved, where was it done, What was done, when was it done and why did it become necessary are a few questions that need to be answered and recorded as part of the “Equipment / System History”.

I came across a very well written article on the importance of ensuring:

  • that the “Repair work” is assigned to the trained and skilled personnel.
  • that a well organised and clean workshop is used to do the necessary repairs, if not done on site, on location.
  • that quality spare parts and other material should be available in time, to avoid delay in work schedules.

The Link to the article is given below:

Reliability: Gain control of your repairs and spares to avoid costly downtime.

Reliability goes hand-in-hand with the quality of work done. It is essential that the repair personnel in the maintenance department are trained in their core skills and periodically tested for their skill retention. These people should be encouraged to learn new skill sets so that they also can rise in the hierarchy as deemed necessary.

The HR angle to skill retention in an organisation, getting better employee loyalty, better team development etc will flow from the way we try to motivate them.



Electrical Systems: The history of electrical safety

Hi all,

Making “Safety at work” a religion will help save many lives, will reduce accidents and injuries, improve individual productivity, business reputation, employee loyalty and the overall bottom line of any business.

Every aspect of work needs to be made safe, but one of the most hazardous and common place accident prone area is people working on electrical installations.

What is visible is generally comprehended and people become aware of the danger and take care. An arc flash is a hidden danger and can strike at will from any of the closed and secure switchgear cabinets.

I found this very infomative article on the history of electrical safety and the evolution of OSHA standards regarding the same in the Plant Services online magazine. Please click on the link to read.

Electrical Systems: The history of electrical safety.

Safety is everybody’s business. The Managers have the additional responsibility of ensuring that his team is fully aware of the safety requirements and adhere to all the regulations in letter and spirit. Thisis part of the team building exercises and training.


Cleaning Glazed Areas – The challenges

Hi all,

Two small disclaimers are necessary in the beginning itself:

  • all the opinions voiced in this Post are my own and not that of any organisation that I worked with or am currently working with.
  • Some of the descriptions of buildings and problems faced therein are mentioned in this post, without actually naming them or giving out their locations. If the readers find some matching buildings in their own imagination or experience, it is their own imagination.

Glazed facades / domes / atrium roofs

Glass has been a great building material for quite some time. The technology improvement in making plate glasses have brought in a large variety of glass in various hues, colours, sizes and shapes available to the architects and building engineers. What this has brought about is large glass facades, walls, doors, etc at times measuring a few acres of surface area in a building.

The artistic domes atop buildings and atrium roofs add style and glamour to buildings.

Glass has become an integral part of every building in view of meeting the “Day light harvesting” requirements, grand facades, reducing stored heat or cold as the case may be and other architectural interests.

Maintenance challenges

When compared to painted or other types of external wall coverings, glass offers a longer time line between maintenance cleaning and other work on them. The smooth glass surface is less likely to retain debris, dust and moisture compared to rougher painted surfaces and porous natural stone coverings. The use of a combination of glass and aluminium cladding for facades has caught on like wild-fire.

Not withstanding the above facts, glazed exteriors also require periodic maintenance – this is an inescapable fact.

Architects, building engineers and building / facility owners also need to be aware of the glazed area maintenance requirement at the building design stage itself. If the maintenance related provisions are made at the design stage, the implementation of periodic maintenance becomes easier and fool-proof. I am going to cover the challenges in glazed area maintenance in a series of case studies.

Case 1.  Small factory building with glazed facade

In this building the glazed area was basically for show purpose. The architects had not provided any means to do glass cleaning. The height was not much, but more than what was reachable even with the longest telescopic glass cleaning equipment. There were no accessible perches in between, to provide access. There were no anchor points provided on the flat terrace, to allow people to access from the top. The dusty external environment made the facade dirty very frequently. As the Facilities Management agency for this building, we suggested procurement of a scissor / boom lift for the facade cleaning purpose. the same equipment could be used for other purposes such as high mast light fitting maintenance, accessing the steam / chilled water / DM water pipes running on raised structures etc. It was a worthwhile investment wisely made by them.

Safety Factors in Using a Scissor / Boom Lift

Only a trained and authorised person should be allowed to drive and operate the scissor / boom lift. The driver may not necessarily go up with the lift while the cleaning person is on task. The driver needs to be around to assist in changing the height of the boom, moving it to the sides etc. These operations / controls of the boom bucket should be with the driver alone.

The people undertaking the cleaning should wear all essential PPE such as safety helmet, nose mask and eye protection (in case of flying dirt and debris) and a full body safety harness that is anchored to the boom bucket anchoring points.

Scissor / Boom lifts should be parked in more or less level ground, before the people are lifted up. Positive additional support using hydraulic jacks should also be applied.

Case 2.  Very well-known education institution with a large academic centre with a deep atrium and tall central structure

The architects had chosen natural stone for covering the external walls. The stone colour would not show much of the dirt that settled on its rough surface. The central tower was totally air-conditioned, hence had sealed windows. There was no way to access the window panes from the outside since it was too tall to reach from the atrium. Atrium was accessible only through staircases, thus ruling out a boom lift or other types of vehicles entering there and being used for access. Yes, we could have lowered a vehicle in using a heavy-duty crane, but the vehicle would have been constrained to remain within that area and would have been underutilised.

There were no anchor points provided on the terrace. The terrace layout and structure were not amenable to lay a trolley for a davit and cradle arrangement to move around the periphery. The management was not very keen on making a big capital expenditure for the facade cleaning equipment also, since it was not budgeted for in the initial plan.

Yes, spider man technique using improvised anchor points could have been used.

I am not aware as to how they finally managed, since I left the facility for other new projects and at a later date my company stopped working in that facility too.

Case 3.  A Tech Giant with a large office space completely covered with glass all around

In this case every thing was provided for. A clean rectangular foot print for the highrise building allowed clean runways for the davit to run on the terrace and enough space to lower the cradle at all positions. Good quality, known brand of cradle mechanism was installed and operated as well.

Safety Factors in Using Cradle Mechanism

The people using the cradle mechanism are to be trained, tested and authorised for using the same. Periodic refresher training and testing are also required. “Train the trainer” route also could be taken on the long run to train a couple of internal trainers, thus reducing the recurring training cost.

All essential PPE should be issued and used by the people assigned to the cradle work.

Work permit should be issued after ascertaining the safety aspects and hazards analysis. The wind speed should be a maximum of moderate levels only – otherwise too much of swinging of the cradle could lead to accidents, banging onto the building facade, damage to the facade including glass etc.

Review of load test certificates, ropes and other load bearing members of the cradle arrangement should be done before attempting to operate. All periodic statutory tests and certification are to be current before starting operations.

The building owner and users should be briefed about the facade cleaning work plan.

Necessary barricades for risky areas, security personnel posted at tactical positions to guide other users and full supervision of the work are essential to ensure total safety.

Case 4. An automobile manufacturing plant with a network of long interconnected production bays.

The designer had provided for “Northlight” glazed areas in each bay. The roofs were slanting type, with sheer falls at the northlight area. All the glass panes were sealed to their frames to avoid ingress of water during rain. The glazed areas were not accessible from the ground due to height and other structures blocking the path for boom lifts. The only access was from the roof. Climbing on the roof itself was a hazardous exercise, due to the complex structures and the slope.

Representative Northlight roof structureJust to help in visualising the problem, a representative drawing of the bare structure is given here.

The cleaning from inside was comparatively easier since the cleaning crew could climb on the internal structure and reach the glazed area.

Much thought was given and ideas were discussed before reaching the ultimate decision on how to safely work on this job. A steel rope was anchored to both ends of each bay and tightened as far as possible. These ropes were further anchored to some points on the lower side of the sloping roof, so as to keep the rope as taut as possible. The work platform was hung on to the rope with a pulley arrangement to lower and hoist. People working from the platform were anchored to the rope using extension bits and the full body harnesses.

Getting the “Work permit” each day was a mammoth task since the Company management wanted a zero accident record. We managed the same without any mishaps barring minor abrasions to a couple of people.

Tail Piece

Imagine the team that does facade cleaning on the World’s tallest tower “Burj Dubai” and other such buildings!

The idea behind this blog entry is to get the regular readers thinking on the right lines from the building design stage till the regular maintenance.

Comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks in advance!


Outsourcing? A Broad outline……

We need to understand the literal meanings of “Work,” “Job,” and “Chore” before we get into outsourcing per se.

  • Work: Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labour; toil.
  • Job: A piece of work, a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price: Example – She gave him the job of mowing the lawn.
  • Chore: A small or odd job; routine task. (For example – taking out garbage)

Proprietary concerns with very low number of employees, small businesses with slightly larger number of employees and medium or large enterprises manage work, jobs and chores (all are considered essential to the day-to-day running of the business and its successful outcome) through various means. The work, job and chores require different levels of skills and involvement by the business group irrespective of its size and do take certain amount of resources such as labour, time and cost to achieve.

Now looking at the definition of “Outsourcing”  – It is the management of an entire business function or functions through external service provider or providers.

Now let us look at the nuances of outsourcing in detail.

Proprietary Concerns– Let us take the case of a small automobile garage run by an individual who is the owner and the prime worker. He may have a few people to help him out in his work. Jobs and chores are assigned to the small group and managed by the owner. In the case of a small proprietary concern, the scope for outsourcing  is minimal and the cost advantage very low.

Small Business Concern– Suppose the same automobile garage did extremely well and the number of vehicles handled increased dramatically. The owner may not be able to function in the same way as he did earlier. He is still the driving force, but may not the prime worker any more. He may still handle the vehicles of a few valued customers, but the bulk jobs get done by others. The logistics and administrative work involved in running the business also would have increased manifold. At this point the owner has the choice of either doing the job in-house through additional employees or outsourcing certain business functions, common tasks and chores to external service providers.

Medium and Large Business concerns– Going in the same lines, a very large nationally networked automobile servicing concern would have a large employee base and much vaster business functions compared to a small business concern. Such businesses also have the choice of doing all the business functions in-house or to resort to outsourcing certain business functions, common tasks and chores to external service providers.

Why Outsource

Some of the reasons why business concerns resort to outsourcing are given below:

  • Improve business focus to carry out core functions. For example, the core functions of an automobile manufacturer are design – manufacture – marketing of their brand of automobiles. Maintenance of their manufacturing plant, operations of their utilities / infrastructure, physical security of their plants, in plant logistics management, sales & service etc are essential but non-core activities.
  • Free internal resources for other purposes. Once the non-core functions are outsourced the internal resources could be used for more strategic and focused core functions. Down sizing of employee groups used in non-core activities is also possible. For example, the Plant maintenance group could be down sized and the excess people from this group could be shifted to Project groups, new plants etc.
  • Gain access to high-class capabilities through third parties for outsourced functions (as per their core competencies). For example, there could be vendors specialised in automobile paint shop system / infrastructure maintenance to whom that job could be entrusted, at a price.
  • Use other vendors for skills or capabilities that are not available internally. It is difficult to build an internal team with all the essential skill sets. It may be financially more viable to use other vendors for some of the skills.
  • Reduce and control operating costs. One of the perceived and proven aspects of outsourcing is the reduction in operating costs.
  • Reduce HR management / training costs by reducing the number of own employees. Outsourcing helps in reduction of own employee count. This in turn reduces the overheads expenses for managing the employees day-to-day affairs, training, career progression etc.

Strategic and Tactical Outsourcing

Strategic outsourcing of business functions is carried out by businesses to meet long-term goals. This would require business analysis to identify functions to be outsourced, cost benefit, operational controls, risk assessment, legal implications etc.

Tactical outsourcing of business functions is carried out by business to meet short-term requirements. For example, getting large number of data entries through a vendor than doing through in-house sources.

While outsourcing is done to get some specific work done on regular long-term basis or to cover short-term peaks, we need to know other modes of getting work done through similar modes too.

Crowdsourcing is a method used to obtain solutions to specific problems by broadcasting the problem to a large group of solvers as an open call. The crowd could typically form up into online communities. This mode explodes the problem to a large network of amateurs, volunteers, and freelance experts and allows brainstorming within the groups / sub groups. The crowd would submit solutions, sift them through online discussions and recommend the best solutions to the Crowdsourcer (or the problem owner). The winning individuals are at times compensated monetarily, or with prizes, or just with recognition. By this mode, solution to specific problems could be sought at comparatively lower cost and often quickly. The sourcing organization gets to tap a wider range of talent than its own limited resources. Some examples for Crowdsourcing are new product ideas, innovations to existing products, new or modified branding ideas, proposals / implementation methodology for Governmental initiatives affecting a large number of people etc.

Co-sourcing is a mode where certain services are performed internally with specific assistance from some external service provider. A few examples of Co-sourcing are the process of auditing accounts, risk management, fraud investigations and software development through internal resources, assisted by external specialized service providers.

Business Risk in Outsourcing

Increased business risk due to perceived loss of control is a key inhibitor to outsourcing. The reality is that, outsourcing can reduce business risk in four major categories namely strategic risk, operational risk, financial risk and compliance risk, if the outsourcing process has been done with due diligence.

#•••••••••Operational Risks: This covers the financial and legal risks that arise when transitioning into an outsourcing relationship.
#•••••••••Commercial Risks: Companies resort to outsourcing to reduce operating cost. The service contract would lock them to a price with escalation over a period of time.  Market levels are dynamic and the customer company may end up paying too much for the services they receive.
#•••••••••Business/Strategic Risks: Businesses need to adjust to their operating environment and identify new strategic initiatives. If the service provider is not able to accommodate new goals, the customer company might want to exit the contract prematurely.
#•••••••••Legal / Compliance Risks: These cover privacy issues, regulatory factors, statutory obligations, outsourcing laws and legal liability that are also dynamic in nature.

Steps to reduce or mitigate outsourcing risks are as follows:

#•••••••••Be realistic: The business should get a service that works optimally at an affordable price. Setting unrealistic expectations and transferring too much risk and liability to a supplier could lead to the supplier falling short in their performance and adds to the cost by way of contingency / risk premiums. Mutually agreed Service Level Agreements (SLA) would help in this aspect.
#•••••••••Do your due diligence: Companies should assess the capabilities of the service providers being considered and the internal structure of the company to ensure smooth functioning.
#•••••••••Have the right governance structure: The success of outsourcing would depend on the internal governance structure and a well drawn up contract.  It needs to be win-win situation for the parent company and the service provider.
#•••••••••Try to anticipate change: Change is most certain in outsourcing relationships. To reduce the risk of potential conflicts between the parties in this regard, the contract should set down clear procedures for dealing with change. Mutually agreed Performance metrics, Change order process, Default penalties, High performance incentives and bonuses etc would reduce the need for frequent and further negotiations in this regard.
# •••••••••Trust is transient: A well-drawn and understood contract would mitigate the people centric conflicts of interest.

To Outsource or Not is a decision that needs much thought and analysis. The willingness of the top management team to outsource certain business functions will need necessary change management deep down within the organisation. Opposition to any change is natural and if a buy-off in this regard is made in the beginning, implementation of the outsourcing decision becomes that much easier. Communication on the impact of the changes in the organisation structure and functions would help the existing employees to understand the reasons and benefits of outsourcing.

As indicated earlier, any outsourcing has to bring in a win-win situation to the parent business and the vendor, if the venture is to succeed and flourish.

The views given above are purely personal and may not be applicable to all types of outsourcing decisions.


Safety Related to Confined Spaces Entry – OSHA Link

Hi all,

You all must have gone through my earlier posts on the subject of confined spaces entry,

Here is a link to an OSHA online document, “Permit-required Confined Spaces” iven below:

This will help to amplify whatever was discussed in the earlier three posts.