Can you answer a simple question? Is your equipment basically sound? It’s not a trick question. There are some things that the more studious maintenance practitioners among us have discovered through dedicated equipment failure data logging followed by mining that data. In his article “Examining the Processes of RCM and TPM” Ross Kennedy of the Center for TPM points out that studies have been undertaken to determine the main causes of premature equipment failure,  as they relate to statistical lifetime rates. Mr. Kennedy states “Studies conducted by the Japanese Institute of Plant Maintenance and companies like DuPont and Tennessee Eastman Chemical Company have shown that three major physical conditions make up some 80% of the variation.”

In other words, 80% of the equipment tracked in these studies that didn’t achieve its projected lifetime was all affected (or perhaps we should say “afflicted”) by one or more of three physical conditions causing the accelerated failure rate:

  1. Lubrication problems
  2. Looseness problems
  3. Contamination problems

Based on these findings, TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) strives to maintain equipment in what it has termed “Basic Equipment Condition”, or Clean, Tight, and Lubed. Many companies promote their activities by giving their equipment a little TLC (Tight, Lubed, and Cleaned). However, you put it, if your equipment isn’t clean, tight, and lubed properly, expecting reliability is illogical because your equipment is not “basically sound”.

You’ll notice that the companies Mr. Kennedy cites as participants in such studies are well known for their reliability programs. Most would see them as well ahead of the pack so to speak, but they too found some low-hanging fruit through this study. Now that the studies have been done, we can all benefit from them. It doesn’t take a lot of hi-tech equipment to work on these areas, but many still overlook them because they seem too simple. Don’t get caught in the trap of looking for exotic means of reliability improvement before you’ve gotten good at the basics.
As a part of a corporate reliability group for a Fortune 500 Company (in my distant past), we added a 4th element to what should constitute “Basic” equipment condition for assets, and that element was shaft alignment.
Only when your equipment is:

  1. Precision aligned
  2. Properly lubricated
  3. Properly fastened and mounted
  4. Free from excessive foreign material contamination

Should you feel comfortable answering a “yes” to the simple question: “Is your equipment basically sound?”
It is important to always remember one additional best practice activity that is critical to equipment reliability.  Keep your equipment balanced where applicable as well.  Unbalance is another common problem resulting in costly reliability issues within a facility.

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by Mike Fitch CRL