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Health care of humans and maintenance of equipment, is there a correlation?

by Christer Idhammar

If we maintain equipment right, we will benefit fewer failures and break downs and a longer technical equipment life. Many case studies have proven this fact. In previous columns I have shown case studies covering the strong correlation between high reliability and low maintenance costs of equipment. In this column I will discuss another aspect of maintenance and how this might prove the same phenomenon including longer life.

In the 5 October, 2004 issue of USA Today statistics of cost for health care, number of doctors per 1000 people and life expectancy of people was published for a number of countries.

I sorted this information starting with the country with the highest maintenance cost (health care cost) as % of BNP to the left in the graph, then added the number of doctors per 1000 people and average life expectancy for men and women as this information corresponded to each country’s cost for health care.

As can be seen in the chart there is no correlation between the number of doctors per 1000 people and cost or life expectancy. To compare this with equipment maintenance, many organizations believe they are understaffed when they can not keep up with the maintenance work load, but the solution is seldom to add more people, the solution is instead to use people in a more efficient way, having less need for people because we prevent failures and break downs etc.

So what do countries with longer life and lower human maintenance costs do differently then the countries with high costs and lower life expectancy?

I have lived 20 years in USA and 40 in Europe and I travel extensively internationally. The comments below are based on my observations

Human Health Care in countries with long life expectancy. Equipment Maintenance similarity
Eat healthier food Lubricate better, better fuel.
Exercise more Better operating practices of equipment.
Frequent health self checks and checks by doctors. Frequent inspections by operators and specialists
Early corrective action. Prioritization and planning and scheduling of corrective maintenance
Finding root cause of illness Root Cause Problem elimination

To no surprise it shows that the cost of maintenance of people and life has a very clear correlation. The higher the cost the shorter is the life. If we do not do the basics well this will be the results. On the other hand if we do the basics in taking care of ourselves – operators taking care of basic equipment needs – and specialists preventing and correcting problems early, then we will benefit from longer technical equipment life and lower costs.

In USA we have seen the effects of more people loosing their health insurance coverage. This have resulted in that fewer people do their annual health checks and also wait to go to the doctor until the situation is very acute. This will have an effect on costs and length of life.

I have seen many parallels in maintenance departments.

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