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Leadership in Maintenance - Inspection or just a walk in the machine park?

by Torbjörn Idhammar

            Picture yourself standing in front of a 2011 Chevy Silverado 1500, trying to decide if you’re going to buy it or not. You’ve been thinking about getting a ”new” truck for a few months now. But it’s always risky buying a used vehicle and you really want to have a ”truck” guy with you to look it over before you make a deal.

So, you call Ben, your friend who knows a lot about cars—especially Chevy trucks. When he arrives, he walks around the truck once, doesn’t open the hood or check underneath, he’s finished in 15 seconds and says, ”Well, this looks good, go for it.” How does that make you feel? Are you ready to buy this truck, or would you want a more detailed inspection?

Typically, a personal car/truck runs about 1-3 hours per day, while equipment in a plant often runs 24/7. How is it that we accept flighty inspections of our machinery week after week, but wouldn’t do the same for a car? Condition monitoring (CM) is after all the most important work process we have in our toolbox for success. CM is also the process we can control without too much coordination with the other divisions within the plant.

It’s not uncommon to see an inspector do a round by taking a walk through the machine park. It often looks like the inspector’s job is to make sure that the equipment is still there, rather than taking a closer look. I wonder a little about what inspections criteria are in place? If a machine wasn’t stolen last night and is still running, it gets a checked off the list.

How well are your inspections carried out? Leaders in the organization need to be out on the floor and work with the personnel. So it is reasonable to ask: ”Do you, as a foreman or supervisor, know what the inspections look like on the floor?” In my experience at client sites, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is only one way to find out—make rounds with a few different inspectors. Here is a simple checklist that you can use to check the quality.

I am using a round for the mechanics’ inspections as an example:


Test Guide for Condition Monitoring

 

Example of a good CM Things that make me go hmmm….

Detailed inspections list that has key words and measurements for each component. Example:

Pump white water 123-87

Engine: air intake, cleanliness, water/humidity, temperature IB bearing _____ middle of engine_____, noise, vibration, fundament, electrical

 

Clutching Dodge: Noise, visual with a stroboscope, guard, temperature, date of installation, etc.

A check next to on the list:

 Inspect white water pump 123-87

Are objective methods being used along with practical inspection tools? Does the inspector use a stroboscope, temperature gun, vibration pen, inspection mirrors, a good flashlight, (+200 lumen), or stethoscope?

Inspector goes on gut-feelings and needs no tools.

Choice of maintenance method has been done based on cost efficiency. Run to failure/break-down? Condition-based? Time based? 

Condition-based inspections have been added after breakdowns and other unfortunate experiences.

The inspector communicates with operators, foremen, lubrication technicians, etc. to get information about recent incidents.

Works on his own without speaking to anyone.

Detailed and thorough inspections, looking for problems.

Takes a stroll through the machine park.

Problems are registered and reported to foremen/planners.

Few problems are registered, perhaps because the inspector believes they won’t be repaired any way.  

Identified problems are prioritized and repaired according to the planning and scheduling process of the plant.

Inspectors are perceived as uncomfortable people who only give repairmen more work; they are more or less ignored.

There are standards and training for how condition monitoring should be carried out.

Since mechanics know everything about condition monitoring anyway, we don’t have standards, round lists or training.

Using a simple software for a handheld device to follow up what is repaired or not, measurements and work order requests.

There is no follow-up. The inspectors have full responsibility and authority.

As leaders within maintenance we have to know what is going on with the inspections on the floor. Consider the price of a car compared to the cost of the machine park in a factory or plant, condition monitoring should be of highest importance. Good luck with keeping tabs on your inspections. Feel free to contact me with questions or comments.

 

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