A Little Secret on PM Style

It's about principles of reasoning

Not all repetitive failures will be solvable with your teams and within your limited budget. But if you pick well, these will free up some time to start more RCA projects.

This dual strategy requires some bootstrapping of the labor for the first few months and some limited additional materials. As a year goes on, maybe 20 to 30 percent of the repetitive failures can be resolved through RCA. As these problems get fixed forever, their labor is freed up. Use that time to start a PM program.

Start the program small. Be sure you install PM in a rigorous manner. Start with the most critical machines. Go over any machine destined for PM and fix everything your inspection turns up before letting it become an asset in the PM system. One by one, add assets to the PM list. That is the way to bootstrap a PM system.

What is RCA all about? I broached this subject in my previous column. Simply speaking, RCA is a structured process to solve problems. It can be applied to everything - from accidents, plant fires and explosions to small localized problems. Even small interruptions to production can be analyzed with RCA. Basic RCA techniques can be learned in two days.

RCA is best done by small teams of people (three to six) with different backgrounds. At minimum, someone from operations, an expert in the process and someone from maintenance should be present. Also "smart" people from other parts of the company are useful to ask the "dumb" questions that maintenance professionals would never think to ask.

The first step is to figure out what the problem is. This is tougher than it sounds. Some problems are concealed. Others are the result of misunderstanding, misdirection (both intentional and unintentional) or mishandling.

Once the problem is defined, spell out the consequences and, most important, choose ways to measure results. The second big step is to gather data and brainstorm causes.

You may develop a handful of potential causes. Some are primary and others are secondary. Causes themselves have causes. These causes and causes of causes form trees know as cause trees. These cause trees should be checked both practically and logically to determine actual causation. The completed set of cause trees for an event should model the event closely.

The last step is looking for an intervention to stop that chain of events that caused the failure or accident. You are trying to interrupt the cause tree.

Once you have a likely intervention you can test it to see if it indeed interrupts the problem in the real world. Then, look closely to see if there are any unintended consequences of the intervention.

As part of the last step we have to make the change stick by rewriting SOPs, changing parts procured, communicating the changes to everyone and adding the change to drawings, CMMS (computerized maintenance management systems) tasks or wherever will make it happen and keep it happening.

Now you know the "little secret" of going from reactive to proactive.

Disclosure: The author is writing a book on RCA in collaboration with RCA Rt, a leading provider of RCA training and software, and is conducting research funded by RCA Rt in the way that problem solving is central to success in equipment reliability, lean production and safety management.

Joel Levitt has trained over 6,000 maintenance leaders from over 3,000 organizations. Since 1980, he has been the president of Springfield Resources, a management consulting firm that services a variety of clients on a wide range of maintenance issues.

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