Predictive Maintenance Success Starts with Hard Work

Geoff Generalovic

When you have developed a network of people — either through conference attendance or training classrooms, or through more informal avenues like blogs and predictive maintenance forums — you have a real sounding board for developing your predictive maintenance program.

In my experience, though, the only way you are going to develop a true program for any of the disciplines (infrared, vibration, motor testing, ultrasound, etc.) is to put in some hard work yourself. You must determine what should be included and not included in the program and make some decisions on what the criteria will be to determine that.

This may or may not be a difficult task, but it is one that must be done. There is no simple way to do this. You will make some mistakes. These will not be earth-shattering ones — just performing inspections that do not need to be done or are of little value to the operation of the plant. It will be worth it in the long run.

The key is to have more instead of not having enough. You can always pare items from your program based on your experience using your infrared camera, motor testing equipment, vibration data logger or ultrasonic probe. Each item you cut from your program should be based on your testing and experience.

By doing this, you help to develop your technique and experience using the equipment. At first, you will go through a lot of pads of paper outlining what you believe should be included, and you will constantly check your operator’s manual for your equipment. In the end, you will know the equipment you will be testing/scanning.

Be sure to walk the “routes” you have developed. This helps you determine if they are viable. Based on geography, you can modify them so there is a “flow” to the walk-around. Always turn on and take your infrared camera or ultrasonic equipment with you.

Listen or look at the things you would survey. This will be very enlightening because you will be challenged to adjust the ranges of your equipment so you can get a feel for what you are looking at.

Next, you need to document your routes. I use Excel extensively for two reasons: 1) it is easy to send the routes for editing by subject matter experts or equipment specialists; and 2) it is very easy to add and delete information in your route outlines.

Once you have developed the routes that you believe cover all that should be included, take your plan with you and have some discussions with the people on the floor. They can detail the problem areas and will probably offer areas they want included.

Also, if delays are tracked, you can see if there are some chronic failures. You may be able to give people some insight with the information you can gather using your equipment. You will be amazed at the understanding gained by these people when you do this for them.

At first, there will be some reluctance to be involved, but persistence on your part will pay off, especially when you hand off some information that helps them with a nagging problem.

Each “find” will cement your good relationship with these people to the point that when they are troubleshooting a situation, they will call you in for some expert advice or another view on what is going on with their equipment.

Your reputation will grow into other areas as well. Soon you will be called by a varied group of people all through word of mouth and a good reputation as someone who is willing to help determine the root of a problem.

Any work done up front — developing the routes, updating your route lists, talking to the experts and learning to use your equipment well — will take time and effort, but it is the best possible energy you can expend on your program.

Several years down the road, you will say to yourself, “Gee, things seem to be much easier today than when I started, even though I am doing more than before. I wonder why?” You will have developed a skill set that will be invaluable from now until you retire.

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About the Author

Geoff Generalovic has been a maintenance electrician for 35 years at ArcelorMittal Dofasco. He started in the electrical department as an apprentice, moved through various shift positions, then ...