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.



A New Year and Great Opportunities

Another “New Year” just about to start, offering us fresh opportunities to put together another great maintenance management show…….Wow.

So, what did we achieve in this year, may be great, may be just about average, or even lesser………

Reminds me of the romantic lyrics of an old “Carpenters” song titled “Only Yesterday” – “Only yesterday when I was sad………….you showed me the way to leave the past……………tomorrow may be even brighter than today”

The best way to convert the new challenges to great opportunities is to meet them head on. We have tightened our belts and lived long enough in the current financial melt down, maintenance budget cuts, energy use optimisation pressures, lack of all types of resources and bleak forecasts about the future. So, what do we do?

  • Regular, detailed planning of all activities will always be fruitful in effective and efficient job execution. A few minutes spent in forward planning can save hours of chaotic and stressed operations.
  • Always have a Plan B, just in case Plan A doesn’t work out as expected.
  • Try and improve on the Plan A compliance percentage.
  • Use all possible tools to improve your planning ability.
  • Build a team that will stand by you in bad times as well as good times. (A little difficult, but definitely possible)
  • Train your team regularly to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Be an exemplary leader

Most of the suggestions given above will not cost you much in terms of money, but can reap wonderful benefits.

Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year to all viewers”

Fine Tuning Maintenance Effort

One of the biggest challenges in any maintenance environment is the optimum use of resources, particularly the manpower resources. We may have planned for certain jobs to be done during each man-shift, but find that some of them have not been attempted and a few have been left half way through. Some amount of time get wasted too on account of technicians:

  •  Heading back to the stores for parts, consumables and special tools.
  • Waiting for support equipment such as platform trucks, boom lifts etc.
  • Waiting for the equipment / system to be maintained to be handed over to them to start work. In some cases, “LOTO” may impact more than the specific equipment to be worked on and clearance may not be given for work to commence.
  • Waiting for different craftsmen to come and do their planned work.
  • Unsafe conditions prevailing in the area to be worked on that needs to be set right before commencing work.
  • Being called in to attend to other urgent unplanned work.

Such interruptions cause avoidable delays in completing planned jobs. This could have a snowball effect with large number of planned job accumulating.

So, what do we do? How do we improve the efficacy and efficiency of PM or PdM processes and improve productivity of maintenance personnel?

  •  Identify and document all planned jobs that need to be done over a period of time. Detailed planning effort is required.
  • Prioritise the work. Follow an analysis akin to VED (Vital Essential Desirable) system.
  • Assign the tasks to various technician groups as per craft requirement, shift in which the job is to be done and availability of personnel. This would reduce the ambiguity on “Who” is to do “What” and “When”.
  • Develop a work structure and culture such that availability of all resources are ascertained before the work plan is promulgated. Check for stores items availability, special tools availability and condition, qualified technicians and their shift schedule etc.
  • Ensure that support equipment such as platform trucks to move heavy stores, boom / scissor lifts to access equipment located at heights are available with authorised / licensed drivers. This may require forward planning and liaisoning with other departments.
  • Ensure that resources such as material / special tools required for a job, but not available are procured in time and kept ready for use.
  • Assess impact on the total system if work on some equipment or part of a system is planned. Liaise with production / operations group / internal clients to schedule such jobs with a consensus view to reduce the impact on production or total system availability. At times, total shut down of plant / services may also be necessary.
  • Re-assign shift duties to get the right people together.
  • Safety is of prime importance. Periodic safety audit and risk assessment for each job will help in this aspect. Proactive safety inspection before starting a job will help in avoiding hold up in this regard.
  • Structure the work group with a separate team to tackle emergency and break down repair work. This may be tough to achieve with the limited manpower resources. Such a set up would reduce the instances of planned jobs getting sidelined due to emergency work.

Analysis of various reasons given below will also help in correcting the work plans and optimising maintenance efforts:

  •  Wrench time spent on planned versus unplanned work.
  • Reasons for work being kept on hold.
  • Reasons for recurring defects.
  • Frequently used repair methods for various defects.
  • Frequently reported deficiencies and complaints.
  • Equipments / systems that fail regularly.
  • Expenditure towards maintenance of various equipment and systems.

With legacy systems such as pen and paper log books, spread sheet records etc, the data availability for ready use is limited.

This is where a good CMMS suite comes in. A system such as MPulse CMMS / EAM has evolved to take in all the good maintenance practices from a large variety of industries and other users. The computerisation makes the data capture easier and the analysis meaningful.

Log on to to get to know more about CMMS / EAM suites.

Having a strong committed core team to build the maintenance system is essential to begin with. A “Top-down” approach in the initial setting up phase followed by a “Contributory” approach after the system matures are likely to get maximum benefits.


Worker Safety: The 10 Most Common Violations

When we talk about dangerous professions, what jobs are you reminded of? Working in a mine, oil refinery or the construction industry have its own share of risk. What about maintaining institutional, commercial and industrial facilities?

A top priority for every maintenance and engineering manager is to protect building occupants, workers and visitors. But managers too often forget the people who work behind the scenes and perform the most dangerous tasks in the said environment — the front-line maintenance personnel, more so the engineering technicians.

It is said that, annually, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues about 40,000 citations in USA. To avoid injury to maintenance personnel, as well as citations and fines, we must develop a plan for worker safety that complies with OSHA or any other local safety body and create a healthier environment for the maintenance staff.

Repeat Offenses

10 most common violations of the safety code are covered below. While we emphasise safety during training sessions and supervising the maintenance staff, departments still commit many common violations related to:

  • Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Training of personnel in use of PPE related to their individual deployment is as important as enforcing their use. It should become a part of their psyche to use all the prescribed PPE in every job they do.
  • Electrical hazards. Awareness of general conditions is a must for every individual. Detailed instructions are to be given to the personnel actually working in areas with electrical hazard.
  • Machine guarding. As a rule, all machines come with suitable safety guards; these get misplaced or damaged over the years and slowly vanish from the place. Regular audits of machine guards availability is a must and personnel in charge of equipment, machinery and systems should be held responsible for the safety aspects on the items allocated to them.
  • Hazard communication. This is a very weak link. Everyone should be trained and encouraged to report hazards that they find in the place of work or otherwise, irrespective of its severity.
  • Misuse of flexible, extension chords. Very commonly seen violations are: Usage of chords without proper plug tops, lack of earthing, non provision of ELCB, unsafe joints in the cable, overloading etc.
  • Fall protection. On many occasions we see personnel wearing the fall protection with the arresting chord wound around their torso. In other cases, the fall protection chords are not anchored properly.
  • Lock Out and Tag Out (LOTO) on energized equipment and systems. Safety of personnel working on downstream equipment and system elements is paramount. A well established LOTO will help in avoiding mishaps due to personnel unknowingly energising electrical circuits on which work is in progress or starting machinery being repaired. 
  • Inaccessible portable fire extinguishers. On many occasions, portable fire extinguishers provided with good intentions are found to be obstructed from view or even totally inaccessible. This would defeat the very purpose for which it has been provided in the first place.
  • Welding and hot work. Proper inspection of the hot work site and peripheral areas are at many times overlooked. Barricading the work area is a good idea. Issuing hot work clearance certificates involving all the affected groups, including security personnel would reduce the probability of an accident and help in emergency reactions.
  • Compressed gas cylinder stowage and handling. Compressed gas cylinders need to stowed and handled properly to avoid mishaps.
  • “Near missreporting. Many times an actual accident may not have occurred, but a “Near miss” would have. People are diffident in reporting such events for the fear of repercussions and lengthy administrative inquiry / hazard analysis. “Near miss” reports can help in avoiding recurrence through process or activity changes or making physical changes to an area as the case may be.
  • Documented training records. Though not directly affecting safety, these records would help in understanding training needs, planning training sessions and documenting training outcome. Record keeping is at times perceived as an administrative chore, hence neglected.

Depending on the scope of a department’s activities, each of these issues can endanger maintenance personnel and operations. We must ensure these common violations do not hamper the department’s efforts to create a safe, efficient and effective work environment.

Adapted from an article by David Casavant in Plant Engineering Issue

Effective Safety

How serious are we on safety at work and other areas. We mostly provide a lot of lip service for safety, but ignore actual practice. We may place safety billboards at the main gate, bumper stickers on cars, and posters near the time clock, but never monitor effectiveness of such campaigns by measuring compliance.

Are the employees really serious about safety?
Is it fostering the most cost-effective culture? Are we doing your part?

Organisational responsibility for safety might formally be assigned to a specific department or a group of safety experts, but effective implementation involves everybody and depends heavily on engineering and maintenance. Nothing gets done in a facility that’s not installed and maintained properly. When there’s a safety problem, they need to get to it and do essential rectification.

Maintenance personnel stand more risk of accident and/or injury than other employees in view of the nature
of their job requiring specialised skills and at times work done in remote, difficult to access areas. They also are sometimes forced to work alone due to lack of access space in the work spot.

Safe Returns

If safety was free and easy, everyone would be safe. But building and maintaining a safety culture takes time, effort and money. A company might go for a long time without a loss or safety incident and may not realise the risk. The cost of an accident can ruin a small company, and so can the consequential loss of knowledge and expertise. The cost of the injury itself (worker compensation and medical expenses) might be dwarfed by cost of lost production.

An arc flash may or may not kill, but equipment could get damaged and production lines may stop. With multiple accidents, the insurance coverage cost also would increase, in view of higher risk rating by insurance firms. It is cited that, as a result of improved safety, Schneider Electric’s North American Operating Division saw its medical incident rate drop 40% in 2006 at its North American manufacturing facilities. This translated to a savings of approximately $2 million, split between workers’ compensation and indirect costs.

It’s impossible to guarantee that investing in safety will prevent all incidents, but not investing in safety will result in increased probability of incidents occurring, either on or off the job. Avoiding the cost of a single incident that would have injured or killed an employee can pay for a safety training program for a group of employees.

Safety is a Culture

The specific regulations, staffing, equipment and training that is essential to maintain a safe working environment depend on the nature of the operations. The critical element is fostering a mindset that truly gives safety more than lip service.  Like maintenance, some see it as proactive versus reactive. Like any initiative, safety must be driven from the top.

As a company’s number-one priority, it must be discussed first at every meeting, tracked with key performance indicators (KPIs), and part of every manager’s performance review.

As a complex combination of knowledge, observation, attitude and action, safety depends on day-to-day interaction of everyone in the plant. Goals, resources and systems depend on leadership and management. Workers who are most at risk have to feel that commitment from the top – that they can raise a safety issue with their supervisor.

Suggestion systems help the management see ways to improve safety. Maintenance and engineering are often
the critical links between recognising a hazardous situation and implementing a solution. Their talents are also critical on the safety committee, and as part of any incident investigation.

Behavior makes the difference

Walking through a facility can give some idea of a company’s safety competence, and employee behavior reveals the rest of the story. Every company has a safety culture, good or bad. Those companies that truly excel have a culture of safety where each person believes in safety, not just complies, and takes personal responsibility for their own safety as well as the safety of those around them.

A safety-minded company will conduct a thorough incident investigation and try to analyse the information from
any safety mishap, even a “Near miss” event, reevaluate the process and make the necessary changes or
corrections to ensure that such incidents do not recur. A less-safety-minded company may not take the time
to investigate, just because there was no injury. Just because no one got hurt in this particular incident does
not mean that the outcome will be as favourable the next time about.

How to get safer

The two most often repeated keys: The drive to safety must come from the top, and it must become everyone’s
core value. Du Pont Inc follows a concept of “Felt Leadership” that indicates the visible management commitment and passion for safety. Some of the attributes are listed below:

Felt Leadership:

· Is easily observable
· Clearly demonstrates belief in safety
· Makes a positive impression on employees
· Demonstrates a personal commitment
· Pervades the whole organisation
· Affects all employees positively
· Involves all employees

The principles of Felt Leadership include:

· Be visible to the organisation
· Recognise one’s role as teacher/trainer
· Develop own safety functioning skills and pass them along to the organisation
· Behave and lead as you desire others to do
· Confirm and re-confirm safety as the number-one value
· Place continuous emphasis and clarity around safety expectations
· Show a passion for zero injuries, illnesses and incidents
· Celebrate and recognise “zero” successes

Every employee has critical responsibilities to a safety culture:

Finance: Understand and publicise the business value of good safety performance.
HR: Develop guidelines that embody good safety performance and leadership as performance indicators used in promotion and pay increase considerations each year.
Supervision: Uphold full responsibility for the safety of every individual working in their crew and ensure that each and every employee receives the necessary training to perform their jobs safely.
Technicians and operators: Maintain individual responsibilities to respect safety procedures and make sure their fellow workers also are adhering.

Safety is worth the trouble. It’s not just about the company and the bottom line. When each person goes home to their family alive and intact, it keeps families together. Think about that.

The Monkeys Story


Many of us have served in some organisation or the other. We may have had varying emotions towards the work culture, organisation’s responses to our needs, peer pressure, communications effectiveness etc. When we look at an organisation, it is a monolith made up of groups (small or large)  of individuals. The constituents generally follow a few sets of rules and protocols or fall out of the organisation.

I saw a wonderful presentation on the topic some time back. I adapted the story when I spoke with my team on taking over as Facilities manager at a car manufacturing plant. I have recycled the same story and attached it as a pdf document to this post. Click on the link to read and enjoy.

The Monkeys Story

Please do take some time to key in your comments on the posts too. Thanks in advance.


Leadership – A few Thoughts

Managers and / or Leaders? The differentiation is so subtle that both mostly roll into one. Most of us start somewhere down the line and move up the corporate ladders. Leadership and managerial skills become essential as we start leading groups of people as part of our day-to-day job. There are a few well-known quotes and a few random thoughts about leadership given below.

Establish solid trust before offering advice. Trust men, and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Keep promises… even small ones. Character is much easier kept than recovered. –Thomas Paine

Be enthusiastic about the success of others. Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders. – Tom Peters

Recognize the potential in others and help them achieve it. Treat people as if they were what they should be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming. –Johann von Goethe

Catch people doing things right. People ask for criticism, but they only want praise. –W. Somerset Maugham

Praise the baby steps. Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit: we cannot flower and grow without it. – Jess Lair

Go out of your way for people. To lead the people, walk behind them. –Lao-Tzu

Always give something extra. Under-promise; over-deliver. –Tom Peters.

Keep focused on the primary goal for your company. Never let yourself be distracted from that.

1. Surround yourself not with those who only agree with you, but with the right people for the job you need done. Train them and provide them the tools to do the job.

2. Recognize the benefits of having different personalities around you. Not only do separate skill sets come with different personalities, but different approaches that are essential to your company’s success.

3. Having hired the right people, get out of their way. If you must micromanage them, you don’t need them. This is not a big problem, however, since they won’t stay anyway, if you treat them with so little respect.

4. Remember always to consult your feedback loop in all your processes, to make sure things are working as you expect, and that you can make appropriate changes timely. Failure to do this will hasten the failure of your organization in total. Recall that your feedback loop is only as valuable as the people from whom you get feedback. Listen to them.

5. Know when you have exceeded your limitations; acknowledge it. Then get help to overcome it.

6. Each of us has the capability to be a leader. We will only become one when we lose our fear of making mistakes.

Enjoy your leadership role.