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What Today's Equipment Failures Tell Us About Our Own EAM Programs

What today's equipment failures tell us about our own EAM programs

Staying abreast of current events on how equipment fails and why could clue you in on how best to commission, maintain, track and repair the machinery your organization uses every day.

Few possess the humility necessary to learn from their own mistakes, which is unfortunate given how valuable and rare traits like that truly are.

In the world of enterprise asset management, failure – or rather, the potential for failure – is an excellent tool for understanding the limits of on-site operations, provided equipment operators and proactive maintenance professionals leverage data intelligently to catch things like equipment deficiencies or malfunctioning components before they actually develop into outright failure events. While failure codes might reveal information about a particular asset a business might not have known before, the production losses, injury risk and high emergency repair costs outweigh any lesson learned.

With that in mind, let's talk about an alternative way to educate yourself on asset reliability without gambling on the prosperity of your own business: learning from other people's mistakes.

Now, we're not here to revel in anyone's misfortune, but staying abreast of how equipment fails and why – even assets outside your industry – could clue you in on how best to commission, maintain, track and repair the machinery your organization uses every day.

Extraterrestrial insight on equipment management and Murphy's Law

Talk about a real "failure to launch." At the end of 2015, NASA announced a two-year suspension of the much-anticipated Mars InSight mission, which would have launched earlier this year. The culprit was a faulty seismometer, used to "measure ground movements as small as the diameter of an atom," according to a NASA press release. While certainly an intricate piece of advanced scientific equipment, could it really take two years to repair?

No, it's that it takes two years for the orbits of Earth and Mars to realign in a way conducive to efficient spaceflight. In short, NASA missed its window of opportunity because of one leaky instrument. Do you see where we're going here?

It's bad enough when capital-intensive assets become unreliable during standard operating hours, but what about during busy seasons or months where production ought to be high to make up for the months it normally isn't? Go beyond manufacturing or processing – what about facilities management? What happens when a university keycard security system for a freshman dorm goes on the fritz just before the fall semester begins? Or when a faulty HVAC system burns out on the hottest day of the year?

The point is, timing is everything. Anything that can happen, will. The best course of action the asset-intensive industry can take is to develop EAM strategies for monitoring equipment behavior closely through operational telemetry, aggregating that data into easy-to-read custom dashboards and create a system for scheduling repairs quickly and in a prioritized manner should any incidents occur. An EAM environment like this maintains a high level of availability, reducing the possibility of a breakdown at the worst possible hour.

EAM: More than a system for stopping failures

Earlier this summer, the city of Saint-Hyacinthe in southwest Quebec suffered what its mayor called an "embarrassing situation" when a planned wastewater treatment center shutdown accidentally released 8,000 metric tons of raw sewage into the nearby Yamaska River, according to CBC News.

While unforeseen equipment failure might have been an element of this event, part of the blame also falls on decision-makers behind the scheduled power interruption who didn't account for how "low water levels and the slow flow of the river" would impact downtime operations. Mayor Claude Corbeil and environmental group l'Organisme de bassin versant has already begun assessing the damage and formulating a cleanup plan, but the mistake has already killed off thousands of local fish.

"EAM solutions are only strengthened by the information fed into them."

The fact that this shutdown represents a planned downtime event doesn't escape us. EAM solutions like proactive maintenance and advanced operational data management are only strengthened by the information fed into them. Businesses or facilities with planned maintenance programs can still suffer from a great deal of waste – both figurative and, in the case of Saint-Hyacinthe, literal – if best practices are not upheld because of a lack of transparency.

For instance, without a honed asset criticality ranking comprised of all equipment listed on the most recent master asset list, maintenance teams may accidentally labor over smaller, less crucial work orders. In turn, operations continues to strain deficient equipment, increasing risk of complete and total failure.

When organizations change over to an EAM-focused asset management and maintenance paradigm, they need to sweat the details. The efficacy of these programs depends on it. However, that doesn't mean performing more work than is necessary. Rather, they must learn how best to acquire relevant data and find a CMMS platform like IBM Maximo capable of using that information to not only support the organization but the EAM initiative itself.

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