Maintenance & Reliability

Root Cause Analysis:  An Important Tool for Maintenance Organizations

When you replace a fuse on a non-functioning machine and your machine starts running again, it does not necessarily mean the root cause of the failure has been fixed. There is a reason the circuit was drawing more current than it was designed to – and this should be addressed as well. Approaching the situation with a root cause analysis, rather than a temporary fix, helps to prevent future issues.

What is a Root Cause Analysis?

A Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a way to identify the cause of a machine stoppage or production deficiency. An RCA identifies all casual factors that contributed to a reaction resulting in equipment failure and/or a downtime event. RCAs should determine what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it from happening again.

Root Cause Analysis Tools

A simple RCA can be performed by using the “5 Whys Method.” Once a problem has been identified, utilize this method by asking “why” five times to analyze the complication and discover the root cause.

More complex RCAs require a diverse team of stakeholders to identify all potential causes and solutions. Problem-solving techniques such as Pareto charts, Fault Tree Analyses, and Ishikawa Fishbone Diagrams are structured approaches that allow for visual representation of data.

Performing a Root Cause Analysis

To perform an RCA step-by-step your team must:

  • Analyze the problem and identify any symptoms to form a problem statement.
  • Collect data that could be related to the problem from all potential sources.
  • Analyze the data to determine causal factors and related timelines.
  • Question each causal factor to see how it affected the next until you determine the root cause(s).
  • Recommend a leader or team to implement solutions that are scheduled by all members of the RCA team.
  • Consider and identify other assets or processes that are similar or can be affected the same way. This allows you to proactively address issues within your system before a similar failure occurs.

Thoroughly investigating the solution does not adversely affect any related parts of your process. Resist the temptation to skip ahead. Some members of the team may insist the root causes are already understood and it is not necessary to investigate further. However, jumping to conclusions increases the likelihood of partial solutions that do not address the underlying system gaps and fail to prevent similar events in the future.

Contributing Factors

A properly executed RCA may identify several factors that should be addressed within the maintenance organization. Solutions should be developed and prioritized based on how much the factor influenced the failure, the difficulty of remediation, and how long it will take to implement.

The most common sources of contributing factors that could impact a failure are:

  1. Machinery – Is there a defect in the manufacture of the asset? Did a part break? Was a part not functioning properly?
  2. Management – Were necessary adjustments made for maintenance availability? Were production levels set in line with the machine’s design parameters?
  3. Manpower – Were your personnel trained in the machine’s capabilities? Did they perform the processes correctly?
  4. Materials – Were the materials, including raw and substituted, used as intended by the original equipment manufacturers?
  5. Method – Do the processes and policies strengthen or harm the system?
  6. Milieu (mother-nature) – Was the asset operating in an environment that it wasn’t designed for? Was it too hot or humid?

Implementing Solutions

Once the RCA is complete, your team or leader must implement solutions to facilitate the repair. Implementation should include training of personnel to properly operate equipment to ensure they are handling the asset properly.

Working with Industry Specialists

Tormod’s industry specialists have the knowledge and experience to participate in and facilitate root cause analyses at your site.

To partner with Tormod, contact us.

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Maintenance & Reliability

Maintenance Optimization: Getting the Best Return on Investment Out of Your Resources

The most common approach to analyzing maintenance costs is to view it as a cost center, a line item on the P&L that captures how much money was spent to keep the equipment running that year. Another paradigm is to view maintenance costs as investments in the reliability of your plant’s assets.

When asset owners view maintenance as an expense this often results in a run-to-failure mentality that produces a highly reactive maintenance culture. The overall cost of this type of behavior is much higher than the alternative.

Asset owners who view their maintenance operations as an investment reap the rewards of a safer plant, increased productivity, better customer satisfaction, increase profits, and lower overall cost to run the plant.


Maintenance Optimization Treats Maintenance as a Profit Center

Maintenance optimization is the process of assessing an organization’s maintenance structure to determine if they have the resources to support a specific manufacturing process. Steps usually include developing the existing team, identifying gaps in tools, systems, talent, or training, and implementing strategies to fill or minimize these gaps.

Depending on your financial resources, you may be limited in your operational decisions. Think of your budget as an investment tool to facilitate the utilization of reliability processes within your plant. The costs of maintenance-related changes are often outweighed by the increased reliability of your equipment and therefore, your production.

Here are a few ways to get the most benefits out of your resources in your pursuit of operational excellence through maintenance optimization.


Hiring the Right Maintenance Personnel

Your maintenance staff is your greatest asset in terms of improvement suggestions. They are intimately familiar with the capabilities of your machines, potential causes of failure, and possible improvements to operator behaviors.

If you are typically only concerned with finding the lowest-cost mechanic, you’re still in the mindset of reactive maintenance. In today’s manufacturing environment and with shifting trends in the workforce, it is more important than ever to work with professional industrial maintenance personnel.

Your maintenance personnel must understand the technology and possess the additional trade skills needed to support the complexities of your equipment. Look for personnel with certifications of their expertise, as well as those who attended trade schools or received a degree dedicated to industrial maintenance.

Equally important is establishing diversity of team members on each shift, including experienced members with historical knowledge of the equipment and mastery of the trades needed to maintain it.  These highly valued members of the team must be selected not only by equipment or trade knowledge, but their willingness to share and train the next generation of the maintenance team.


Training your Operators

Maintenance isn’t just about fixing machines. If you have an asset that needs cleaning and lubricating every 12 hours, waiting for maintenance-specific personnel can decrease productivity. It is ideal to rely on operators who can facilitate many daily cleaning, lubricating, and inspecting tasks involved with your production processes. Providing operators with the skills and tools for autonomous maintenance repairs will not only create productive, self-sufficient workers, but will also develop their sense of ownership for the equipment and assets they operate.

Training operators on basic maintenance procedures ensure your asset will run correctly, increasing your productivity and decreasing its downtime.


Decision-Making with CMMS Systems

Plant managers should rely on dedicated management systems to track resources and assets to ensure they are being properly managed and maintained.

A Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) captures information and minimizes the human influence on data for performance analytics. A fully populated CMMS can track the cost of maintaining your asset in terms of labor, replacement parts, and material to determine if that asset is nearing the end of its life cycle and/or identify design limitations that can create bottlenecks in production.

A CMMS provides the ability to collect and analyze data to determine if an asset can be expected to run well, if there is a potential risk of failure, and what the cost of that failure would include. It is also used to ensure spare parts and materials are available in the event of a failure, or a plan is in place to procure or obtain a suitable replacement.

The data from your CMMS, regardless of the cost or quality of the program itself, is only as good as the data you put into it. Your CMMS requires time to populate, manage, and report, which can introduce additional costs and resources.


Evaluating Assets and Processes

Evaluating your assets and processes with the use of CMMS data can eliminate losses and increase productivity. The goal is to plan for reliable production. If you can increase production in an 8-hour shift, that is an improvement through proactive maintenance.

Completing a root cause analysis of an unplanned downtime event determines the cause of the deficiency and the impact of the failure. Whether there is an environmental cause or a defect in the manufacturing, you must facilitate the repair and operate in a manner conducive to the asset. It is also important to determine if this root cause exists in other similar applications or equipment so it can be addressed prior to failure.

To streamline production, examine how much it costs to maintain a particular piece of equipment versus the investment of purchasing a new asset. How would that impact production? Can you modify the asset or is it better to replace it?

Identify losses in production and smooth the manufacturing process to eliminate quality defects from the equation. This could be simply adding a conveyor to reduce operator handling of the production process.

Determining the most critical causes impacting your production helps you direct your resources and best facilitate improvements.


Transitioning to a Condition-Based Approach

At your manufacturing plant, you have a reasonable expectation your assets will be available and in good condition to operate for their scheduled time. However, most plants operate on the premise of reactive maintenance. The asset will run until it fails and will be fixed until it breaks again. If an asset fails, and you have 20 operators on a line that goes down for a couple of hours, that is a cost of productivity.

Don’t wait until the asset breaks down. Be proactive.

Preventive maintenance is one option that provides service on a time-based schedule. For instance, changing the oil in your car every three months is a type of preventive maintenance. Automotive manufacturers have determined the recommended lubricant to be changed in your car after a certain number of miles have been driven. This recommended mileage may be adjusted slightly for driving styles, but you could be incurring unnecessary maintenance costs.

Your assets are similar. With a time-based approach, you may be scheduling maintenance every 3 months, when the asset only needed maintenance once a year. Oil sampling and analysis can determine when the lubricant is reaching the end of its useful life and allow time to plan and schedule a replacement.

By using established tools and systems in your facilities, you can not only reduce your overall maintenance cost by reducing downtime, labor, and material, but also by intervening before a problem occurs. This is an example of predictive maintenance and is based on the condition of your asset. With the use of sensors and other tools, you can identify physical evidence to tell if something is running in an abnormal condition.

Transitioning from a time-based maintenance approach to a condition-based approach allows you to determine if an asset is at the beginning of failure and gives you the time to acquire the parts, the availability of the equipment, and the ability to perform the required maintenance without interrupting the scheduled production time.


Optimizing for Operational Excellence

The benefits of maintenance optimization include increased machine availability, increased productivity, streamlining production, identifying bottlenecks, and smoothing the manufacturing process.

Maintenance optimization considers how your team, tools, systems, and infrastructures support your overall manufacturing process. By effectively managing your resources, you can take steps toward improvements in processes and efficiency of operations to increase productivity.

Let Tormod design an improvement plan that empowers your maintenance team to achieve “world-class” capabilities. Schedule a meeting with Tormod today.


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