Inspecting one asset is straight forward right? Let's take a look at a dump truck. You usually have a plan in place dictated by inspection procedures.
First, you’ve got to make sure you know where it is. Let's call the supervisor and ask if you don't. Ok cool, it's on the go line behind the workshop.
The next step is to make sure it's clean. If it's not, how are you going to do a proper inspection on it? This includes inside hatches and cabinets.
Oh wait, now some of these hatches are locked and we don't have the right keys. Better call the busy supervisor again. Ok, now we got the keys. We go back to open the cabinet but now you realise it's not properly isolated. Oh shoot, better call the supervisor yet again to get everything isolated. They probably answer with "What the hell do you want again?"
It's now been 3 hours since this morning's prestart and only now you've started the inspection. The high-tempered supervisor needs this machine operational in 10 hours - time is ticking.
Right, now everything is sorted, we can get onto the inspection. Let's grab our checklists and do it in this order: structure, electrical, hydraulics, fire suppression, compressed air, drivetrain and motor. Actually, maybe we should start in the cab, then go down to the engine bay then look at the drive train and finish up with the chassis.
Hmm, now I'm confused.
Did you actually have a plan in place?
Sound familiar? What if you’re reading this and saying, "Nah that's not me, I usually plan inspections better than this." Ok true, you have the machine in a workshop bay, everything is clean, unlocked and isolated. You can perform the inspection in nice workshop conditions and be close to the smoko room.
Great, if you’re talking about one truck, but what if you need to do the whole fleet?
Problems Multiplied by One Hundred
This isn’t a hypothetical scenario. At Bluefield, we’re regularly asked to perform condition assessments or asset integrity reviews on entire mobile fleets. In some projects, we inspect over one hundred assets!
Now, ask these questions again:
Do you have all the information you need? If not, do you know how to get it?
Do you know where the asset is?
How do you know if it’s properly isolated?
Who's going to be cleaning it?
Do you have the right keys?
Who's the main point of contact if we need something?
These questions don’t just apply to the logistics of completing inspections – what about all the data you have captured?
What does the register look like? What type of camera do I have? Am I going to use paper sheets or run with the new iPad system the big wigs have forced upon us?
We hear time and time again that planning makes perfect. We cannot stress how true this is. We’ve written about planning and executing inspections before (see here and here).
We are all good at doing the guts of the inspection, but sometimes we aren't so great at setting ourselves up for success.
At Bluefield, we’ve learned a lot over the years about how to go about reviewing a fleet of assets and the importance of having a clear plan in place.
We’ll break them up into themes of logistics, change management and information management, but in our experience, they’re all intertwined with each other.
We’ll start with information management, as this can be done well in advance from the comfort of a desk.
Having a great structure in place for all your inspections is key to feeling confident on what you are about to embark on. The setup of information management can and should be done as a desktop exercise before any inspections on the ground take place.
If you are green to the site, the next few items will apply to you. If you're a veteran of the site, it's still a good idea to do a quick review of the information to make sure it's correct.
Site maps - make sure you have the latest site maps on hand so you know where you're going and where the assets you need to inspect are.
Site rules - familiarise yourself with the site rules, particularly with driving light vehicles, mobile phone use, camera use and radio channels. Also ensure you have the appropriate approved safety permits and methodologies in place.
Contacts - ensure you have all the correct contact phone numbers on hand in case you need to find out something in the field or need something done. You should also have a main Point of Contact from the client who will be your responsible person on-
Data - Asset identifying numbers, a tree of Functional Locations (FLOCs), asset numbers and serial numbers. Ensure you have the latest register so you can cross check it with what's actually on the asset during the inspections.
Defect classifications - familiarise yourself with how defects are classified so when you find them, you know how to capture them clearly and efficiently.
Pre-populating inspection templates - whether you're using paper or digital checklists, prepopulate as much information as you can from the data you have. This step will save you a lot of time in the field and will also make it visible on how much work you have ahead of you.
Setting up your outputs before you conduct your first inspection will ensure you have a clear understanding of your objectives.
Setup of captured data needs to be understandable and easy to use.
Learn to take clear and concise notes while in the field. At Bluefield, we use apps that allow us to add notes to each photo that we take so we don’t waste time or risk forgetting what we the photo was about when we get back to the office.
If using an app, familiarise yourself with how to use it.
How are you ranking the defects? Does it align with the businesses risk procedure?
The outputs needs to be clear and concise. No conjecture - only facts. Place in table.
Logistics & Time Management
One of our team members reported that on one site, it used to take him up to four hours to get to his first asset for inspection.
As a visitor to site, he had to be escorted into the pit, which meant finding a supervisor or fitter to give him a lift (and then wait around to be picked up once he’d finished). Often, an overnight breakdown meant a last-minute change of plans for the crew, so he’d have to go for Plan B, which took more time to organise.
Eventually, he learned to set his day up so that he would start the day in the workshop, inspecting trucks that were already in for services. During breaks he’d talk to the supervisor and maintenance team to work out if the daily plan had changed and if so, which assets in the pit would be available to inspect in the afternoon.
As a result – he doubled the number of assets he could inspect each day.
At the end of the project, he reported four lessons:
Schedule your time like a project. Have a clear plan in place and backup plans. And make sure the plan matches the site’s down-day schedule.
Agree points of escalation with the site prior to starting so you can quickly get on top of deviations from the schedule or budget. These deviations can cascade later during the job and leave you short.
It is also important to understand the time involved with setup needed for tasks and have these pre-tasks properly time allocated and reflected in the plan. It helps no one when a component inspection requires the removal of multiple covers and guards to even gain access before the inspection can take, which has not been accounted for.
Communicate openly, honestly and frequently with your host or supervisor.
We mentioned it above, but it’s worth highlighting again. All sorts of things can happen that are out of your control, for example:
The machine needs to go back to work earlier than planned
You find a defect that cannot be ignored
Weather (always a risk when you’re in the north of Australia especially)
While you can’t always prevent these things from happening, you can be prepared.
If plans change, do you know the schedule for the day – what other assets are in the workshop or down in the pit?
Have you agreed on a process for informing your host/supervisor of critical defects that need to be fixed immediately?
Planning your work could be the difference between feeling like a headless chook or someone who can hold their head up high and know they breezed through inspections on a whole fleet of assets, rolled with the punches and provided accurate inspections.
But beyond that remember, time you don’t spend on the machines is wasted time and money for you, your team and your client. We’ve been able to slice weeks off asset inspection projects by following these lessons.