Reliability Improvement – The Next Step after Condition Monitoring

July 17, 2014

Guest post by Mitch Stansloski,  P.E., PhD., Founder and President of Pioneer Engineering

I find that in today’s economy, many of our clients have added, or are attempting to implement, an effective condition based maintenance program. These clients understand the value of this type of program over and above the traditional time-based maintenance strategies. However, it is important to note that if a program stops at this step, it is unlikely that there will be significant improvement in overall reliability or a large reduction in maintenance costs.

This may sound a bit shocking, but based on my 26 years of maintenance and reliability experience, it is absolutely true. Think about it this way: Using condition monitoring to find defects early will not reduce the number of malfunctions that would have occurred if the technology had not been applied. It will give the user time to prepare for the repair, which will save some unplanned downtime, and it will likely reduce the severity of the failure resulting in less repair cost as well. However, decreasing unplanned downtime doesn’t improve reliability, it only improves availability, which is not as valuable. In addition, the costs savings that result from a more minor repair will be offset by the costs of implementing the technology (e.g. instrumentation, software, computers, maintenance fees, etc.) and the manpower to operate it.

In order to improve reliability, the program needs to add steps which focus on reliability improvement. Rather than stopping at diagnosing and replacing a defective bearing for instance, the user needs to identify a root cause for the premature failure. Then the user needs to change how the asset is managed in order to prevent recurrence. If these steps aren’t completed, the replacement part will likely see the same shortened life. Changes to asset management could include revisions to:

  • Installation and setup procedures
  • Maintenance procedures
  • Operating procedures
  • Purchasing specifications
  • Spare parts requirements

Taking these next steps can move a “parts swapping program” facilitated by high tech condition monitoring into a true reliability improvement program.

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