The Magic of Reliability-based Maintenance

Monroe Blanton, Life Cycle Engineering

When discussing the topic of equipment breakdowns, you may have heard a maintenance guy say the following: "If I had a crystal ball, I could have seen this coming." When asked about making repairs, he might even respond by saying: "I'll just wave my magic wand."

Indeed, it can seem like a lot of smoke and mirrors after everything returns to normal operation and the maintenance reports are reviewed. The root cause may remain hidden. Let's take a closer look at reliability-based maintenance to uncover the mystery of how the magic happens.

The Crystal Ball

In reliability-based maintenance planning, the crystal ball is known as condition-based maintenance (CBM). This is the methodology for monitoring a specific indicator and creating maintenance planning based on the characteristic data. Often this involves data trending or established reaction thresholds. Specialized predictive maintenance strategies used in CBM include vibration analysis, thermography, oil analysis, ultrasonic testing and motor circuit analysis. So yes, there is a crystal ball that can see into the future.

Of course, machines don't get better over time by themselves. Once a component starts to degrade, it will only continue to degrade without some form of corrective action to mitigate the approaching failure condition. A CBM program can provide insight into the future so you can schedule maintenance and repairs before a catastrophic failure.

The Magic Wand

The magic wand in reliability-based maintenance would be the tools and knowledge of maintenance personnel. There is no substitute for a well-equipped maintenance group with the proper tools, knowledge and experience. A well-trained maintenance department is a solid investment that can expedite reactive work activities, resulting in a more efficient and value-driven program.

As many ways as there are to analyze an event in a maintenance activity, there are as many ways to report it. Too often these reports are confusing with excessive use of acronyms, such as RCA, KPI, OEE, CMMS, EAM and FMEA. Reports that are cluttered with data and hard to read may be important to the overall process or trend data but may make it difficult for people in other roles to comprehend. Therefore, keep your maintenance reports simple, clear and results-based, but be ready to supply detailed data if required.

There is no mystery about a reliability-based maintenance program. Even Merlin, the great wizard, would agree that the foundation for making magic happen in your organization is a solid application of condition-based maintenance strategies executed by well-equipped and knowledgeable people with reports that are focused on results.

About the Author

Monroe Blanton is an asset maintenance specialist with Life Cycle Engineering (LCE). He has more than 35 years of experience in engineering installations, maintenance and repair. His expertise is in automated manufacturing control systems, robotics, laser welding, pneumatics, hydraulics, measurement test systems, fluid dynamics and power generation. You can contact Monroe at mblanton@LCE.com

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