The parts whisperer

Dog trainer Cesar Millan seemingly understands the language of dogs and dogs apparently can understand him.

If you listen hard, you can hear your parts talking. You can be a parts whisperer provided you do a few things.

One is to realize that your parts care for you. They want to serve the good of your organization, just like you do.

You need to understand that many of your parts will die or allow themselves to be destroyed to protect your machines.

Finally, you need to grasp that your parts don’t need to be constantly patted on the back. They just require basic care.


Topics of Conversation

Just mention PM in your parts rooms and storage areas and you’ll hear a ton of whispers.

One of the conversations that parts like to have is about your useless PM efforts.

The parts without evidence of grease, for example, shout that the PM effort is lacking the basics. Returning from the field without even basic care, they talk about their dryness, looseness and dirt.

Even the bravest parts are terrified to be used since your maintenance department neglects them.


Part Abuse

If you listen for a while, you can hear more tragic conversations, especially about what kind of life bearings have had.

Some bearings will talk about a life of abuse. Others will talk about having been massively abused just a few times.

Still other bearings will complain about being overloaded (either from the normal operation or exceeding capacity because they were not used in the appropriate application) or about abuse from an operator.

Think about the tire that has been run until it is embarrassed to appear in public with its cords showing. Tires, and you, certainly know that tire wear accelerates dramatically when the tire is chronically underinflated.

The tires shudder and ask: “How could someone not keep us properly inflated?”


The Matter of Waste

Every part has a story about waste. They wonder how many parts are put away incorrectly and thus are never found when needed.

It is frustrating for them and no one seems to listen to their complaints.

Parts are also not keen on messy shelves and bad housekeeping. They say: “How would you feel if your coworkers left trash on the floors of your house?”

On some parts of the shelves there is barely room for all of the parts to fit because of too much stock.

There is giggling over that issue because, as every part knows, predicting quantities required for PM service is child’s play. Only a human, the parts say, would hold excessive stock when parts usage is driven from PM requirements.

What’s more, say the parts, it is a simple thing to protect them from damage when stored. When there are too many parts, some get damaged from falling on the floor, being stuffed into corners or being left to rust and die.


What about Competence?

The late Ron Turley, who founded the RTA Fleet Management Company, said some 70 percent of the electrical parts returned under warranty to manufacturers are actually okay.

For example, several months ago a truck wouldn’t start so the technician changed out the battery. After that, the truck started without any problem and ran fine for a while.

Then, last week, the truck wouldn’t start again.

What were the chances that the battery was bad? What does that say about troubleshooting techniques?


Sound and Sight

Some parts speak very softly. In fact, you have to listen with your eyes.

Look closely at the thickness of dust, corrosion and condition. Could that mean the part has been around too long?

Perhaps the machine that the part was purchased for was retired. That part would be much happier to be sold to a company that will use it. No part wants to go to scrap unneeded, unloved and unnecessary.

My advice: Listen to your parts as if your budget depends on it.


Joel Levitt has trained more than 6,000 maintenance leaders from more than 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 maintenanceissues.