Asset reliability affects the bottom line of any business, and as cost pressures rise, we must focus on implementing improvement projects that add bang for the buck.
Historically, our focus for poor equipment reliability has been on “the what” and “the when” of maintaining an asset, which typically included strategy and service sheet reviews. We have learned over time that while these processes and documents are important, there is one factor missing: “the how”.
The quality of how maintenance is applied to the asset has a great effect on reliability. People and culture are difficult to improve and as such is usually ignored.
Our most successful approach to helping clients improve reliability is through our flagship Bluefield Transformation Projects. We’ve completed many of these over the years. While we acknowledge there are other components to asset maintenance, such as planning, scheduling, stores, etc, we focus our improvement program specifically on execution: “the how”.
Our Bluefield Transformation approach is based on the concept of proactive maintenance. Proactive maintenance is simple at its core – it’s about identifying, understanding, and managing failure modes so that defects are identified and corrected early, or prevented altogether.
Making proactive maintenance successful comes down to building the culture. It’s an investment in people as much as processes or technology.
In a proactive maintenance environment, your workforce, supported by effective maintenance tactics aligned to failure modes, is dedicated to maintaining standards that ensure components and fittings are tight, aligned and adjusted, properly lubricated, and clean. In such an environment, the goal is not just to find defects but to extend asset life.
When defects eventually do occur, they’re identified early and entered into the system immediately. This allows enough time to plan and schedule subsequent tasks and execute them in a controlled manner – not as an emergency breakdown.
While the process is adapted to suit individual sites, we’ve learned that five key steps are essential to a successful Transformation:
- Prepare - Clarify and confirm the focus areas (what do we want to achieve?), request and review documents, plan and organise the site visit activities.
- Evaluate – Paint a picture of how their assets are currently performing and what effect maintenance practices are having. Time usage model (TUM) data, completed service sheet reviews, and talking to maintenance technicians are some examples of what is used to paint the picture.
- Commit– Share the evaluation findings with the execution team and discuss them. This is referred to as “holding up the mirror”. The output of this stage is to develop a set of agreements that the team will live by to improve. Actions will also be developed and owned by the team to enable the agreements (it’s also essential to agree a governance process at this stage.
- Transform - The team deploys their agreed actions and works to improve their performance and build a culture of quality, proactive maintenance execution. Progress is supported, reviewed and tracked periodically through the governance process (having this done by an external party to your team is by far the most effective way to hold yourselves accountable).
- Sustain – The team embeds their proactive maintenance program to sustain their improvement and looks for opportunities to reach their next level of value delivery, with new or modified agreements and actions.
Transformations help teams identify their issues and opportunities, understand how they came to be, and how to rectify them in a sustainable manner. Successful teams have:
- People with complementary skills;
- People who are committed to common goals; and
- People who are committed to an approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.
Through the Transformation process, teams will understand that change is uncomfortable but necessary to improve. Importantly, the change is owned and driven by the client, not Bluefield, and this means the success they achieve is more likely to be sustained in the long term.