As an operations manager or maintenance manager one of the things you need to look out for is problem equipment that is causing operational problems or incurring significant maintenance costs. When you have hundreds of equipment it can be quite difficult to identify equipment that needs to be investigated. This is where equipment breakdown reports or similar reports from your CMMS/ maintenance management software can be helpful.
How to identify problem equipment
- Maintenance costs by equipment: Use reports from your CMMS software to get an idea of the total maintenance costs for unplanned as well as planned maintenance over preceding twelve months. While looking over a shorter period may be easier, costs will tend to get skewed if any equipment needs specific maintenance only during certain times of the year. Based on costs identify the most expensive equipment. Review the costs to see if anything seems out of line. Consider manufacturers cost estimates and prior years data to see if costs seem unusual.
- Equipment downtime duration: Similarly use reports from your CMMS software to look at equipment downtime over the past twelve months. Note that downtime can unusually high for some equipment because it took a long time to fix – maybe parts were not available or maintenance personnel were shifted to higher priority jobs.
- Complaints history/ work requests: Look at reported complaints and work requests over the past twelve months. Identify equipment that has an unusual number of complaints or problems.
- Equipment statistics (e.g. MTBF, MTTF): While statistics on equipment can be useful they may not be very helpful when you have a variety of different equipment and you are trying to pinpoint equipment that need investigation. However, they can be helpful if you have many similar equipment used in operationally similar ways – any equipment that has statistics way out of line needs to be investigated.
Identify causes of equipment breakdowns and fixes
Once you have a list of problem equipment you should investigate further on what are the underlying causes. Equipment that breaks down frequently could be failing due to a variety of reasons e.g.
- Close to end of life: While it may be theoretically possible to keep on using equipment with a lot of ongoing maintenance, at some point it becomes too expensive to continue doing so. Internal metal fatigue, non availability of spare parts, lack of maintenance skills or newer equipment with better productivity/ efficiency are reasons to consider removing equipment. Any equipment in your list that falls into this category probably should be replaced.
- Poor maintenance practices: This means that preventive maintenance is being skipped or your maintenance team is inadequately trained to do maintenance on this equipment or poor quality spares are being used. Check if the same spares keep being replaced or maintenance personnel are reporting issues during maintenance using some parts. Identify if preventive maintenance is being skipped. Check work orders to make sure that maintenance procedures are being properly followed. Any equipment in your list that falls into this category probably needs a better preventive maintenance plan or improved training for maintenance personnel. If poor quality spare parts are causing the problems it is time to look for vendors offering better quality.
- Poor operational practices: This means that equipment operators are not using the equipment properly or the equipment is not designed for the loads being put on it. Improper operation can be signaled by comments about operator errors in feedback from maintenance technicians. Improved operator training can help here. Equipment that is considered critical and fails frequently even if maintenance was properly done could be a sign of over loading of equipment. You may need to buy additional equipment or look at making changes in operational flow to reduce peak loads.
- Poorly designed or built: This means that the equipment has internal flaws that cause it to fail frequently (e.g. over heating because of inadequate cooling). If you have many similar equipment and they all seem to have frequent failures due to the same problem it could be sign of design/ build issues. Do some research to find if other organizations using this equipment are also reporting similar problems. You may need to get the manufacturer to fix these issues or seriously consider buying alternative equipment from another vendor.
- Incorrectly installed or setup: The equipment was not installed as per manufacturer’s recommendations or was damaged during installation/ initial startup. This may show up similarly to equipment with poor design/ build, however, it will usually be isolated to only a few equipment out of many similar ones. Also any research you do on other organizations reporting similar problems may not result in many similar complaints about the equipment. Comparing equipment statistics to manufacturers recommendations can also provide clues. Such equipment will need to be inspected and may need a complete re-install.
Unable to get equipment breakdown reports?
As explained above you will need to collect a lot of data from different reports from your maintenance management software. If you do not have CMMS software or find the reports provided by your existing solution inadequate you can download a fully functional 30-day trial of FastMaint CMMS software. You can use the import feature to import much of your equipment from comma delimited files and try out the different reports to see how to analyze equipment breakdown data.
- ReliabilityWeb offers a free chapter from "Zero Breakdown Strategies" by Terry Wireman.
- "Repair or replace? Best Strategies to Reduce Maintenance Costs" from the Management Insight section in FaciltiesNet.
- "Lean Thinking and Methods" from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which has tips on reducing & managing breakdowns using lean methods.