I recently spoke to a reliability engineer who was rolling out our alignment and vibration equipment to fifteen plants across the U.S. He involved us early on in the process. His company didn’t just set aside budget money for the equipment purchase, but also enough to properly train their field service personnel in how to properly use and benefit from the new technologies. We addressed not only the use of the alignment tools but also proper equipment installation, lubrication, soft foot, pipe strain, thermal growth, etc.
One of the key topics of discussion was alignment tolerances. Since this customer has high-speed ammonia compressors, this was a key concern for good alignment and they, therefore, adopted the new ANSI/ASA Standards alignment tolerances as their corporate standard. Since these tolerances are built into our laser alignment system, it was not only easy for the user to determine if the measured alignment met their established corporate alignment standards, but also for management to review the work to ensure it was correctly completed. This oversight is easily accomplished via signed PDF documentation that allows storage of the “as found” and “as left” alignment results with the work order, and also allows for easy report generation in the field for review.
I was told that their vibration analysis program still identified equipment that was out of the established alignment tolerances. How could this happen? It turned out that contractors were performing work without being held to the same standards as plant personnel, including meeting the prescribed alignment tolerances or using specific alignment equipment to perform the work. In addition, the contractor was not required to provide a copy of the results for review and digital storage.
How could this happen? Unfortunately, it is not so uncommon. Many facilities or corporations do not require that maintenance activities be performed to standards or with the equipment they can trust for the results. Additionally, they do not clearly write job plans that are issued to internal maintenance employees or contractors that specify how the acceptable results are to be achieved (what steps are required, what tools are required, what standards should be met, and what documentation of results is required.) In addition, the Maintenance Planner does not review the results of the completed work to confirm that it was satisfactorily completed within acceptable specifications. Oversight failures, as well as specification failures in job plans and work orders, can easily result in continued reliability and maintenance issues and repeated or wasted efforts to keep your equipment running.
Fortunately, the answer is not too complicated. If the problem is that the contractor is not performing the job to company standards, then the job scope and specification need to be more clearly presented in the bidding process for a job. If the requirements are clearly stated and accepted by the contractor, then they must abide by those standards. Otherwise, the contractor may risk two things: having to come back on-site to fix the issue under warranty and losing you as a customer in the long run. Communication is the key here. Being open and upfront about the expectations can avoid a lot of headaches that will linger long after the contractor has completed the job. In the case of contractors that are “permanently in-house,” the answer is a bit more complicated. A good approach to solving this issue is to involve them in training efforts within the organization. This will get them better prepared for the tasks to be done at the site. If all else fails, have a third-party expert review the work to help understand why the work was not conducted or finished properly.