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The bull market had a great 11-yr. run. However, COVID-19 has produced a precipitous drop in the stock market and a global recession seems inevitable. In just a matter of weeks, plants and factories that were capacity-constrained have found themselves demand-constrained.

The question for the RAM community is how to address the need to reduce asset-management costs without compromising the reliability and integrity of the assets themselves?

Now is the time for clear and unambiguous asset-management leadership. Here are eight suggestions to help you survive the current, and unprecedented, set of circumstances.

1. Kill non-essential capital projects during your shutdown, turnaround and outage (STO). Any expansive capital project should be delayed and take a hard look at delaying sustaining capital projects. If they are not mission critical, defer them. Put them on the back-burner until the economic forecast is more favorable.

2. Re-evaluate your criteria for including work items in the STO scope. Any time we plan for an STO event, we have a threshold for deciding which job requests to include, defer or exclude. We have to raise that bar—but do so with a very serious focus on risk management. We can’t be arbitrary in making such decisions without possibly compromising the current and future reliability of the assets.

3. Get serious about PM optimization. Every plant with which I work has PMs in the system that make me scratch my head and ask “why.” First, eliminate PMs that actually increase risk such as an unrationalized time-based replace or rebuild. Next, eliminate PMs that simply add no value to the reliability of the plant. Then, evaluate PM intervals, i.e., consider if it  MIGHT be possible to extend those intervals. For inspections, as an example, harness the “rule of six,” i.e., if the inspection hasn’t created an opportunity for proactive follow-up work, consider extending the duration. You may also want to consider to whom the PM is assigned. If it’s a contractor, can it be brought in-house? Finally, scrutinize PM hours. Are the hours standardized across similar PMs? Are they appropriate to the task? Can they be done more efficiently and quickly if scheduled as routes?

4. Focus on wrenchtime. Planning and scheduling increase the productivity of your trades. It’s that simple. If your current wrench-time is 30%, and you increase it to 50%, it’s effectively the same as increasing your workforce by 80%: That’s basically “free” money. You can turn it into cash by reducing overtime payments and work that’s contracted out.

5. Make precision and proactive maintenance a priority. Nothing increases MTBF/MTTF more than controlling the forcing functions that produce wear and failure—which is done best through proactive and precision maintenance. If machines are shaky, noisy, hot, and dirty, they simply don’t last as long as those that are smooth, quiet, cool, and clean. Focus on fasteners, lubrication, alignment and balance (FLAB) optimum reference states listed in my Dec. 22, 2019, article for The RAM Review (CLICK HERE here or on link below). Moreover, make sure your tradespeople are practicing the behaviors of a precision-maintenance technician listed in my Mar. 15, 2020, article for The RAM Review (CLICK HERE or on the link below).

To Read Drew Troyer’s Article
“Optimum Reference States for Precision Maintenance”

To Read Drew Troyer’s Article
“The Top 10 Behaviors of Precision-Maintenance Technicians,”



6. Get serious about bad actors. While production levels are relatively low, take the opportunity to perform root-cause analysis (RCA) on your bad actors, and target and eliminate the root causes that lead to failure. Bad actors often fly under the radar screen. They’re failures on assets that may not singularly have a huge impact on the business, but because of their high frequency of occurrence, the collective effect on cost can be substantial. Targeting bad actors can substantially reduce current and future costs for parts and labor.

7. Operate your machines within acceptable limits. I understand the desire to push equipment beyond its limits when demand for production is high. We need to make hay when the sun shines. However, we need to do this with our eyes wide open: The stress caused by “racing” a machine compromises its future reliability. In a downturn, we need a firm command from the plant manager to observe specified production rate limits.

8. Resist the urge to arbitrarily cut maintenance. We all know, when times are tight, that maintenance is an easy target. If you cut maintenance costs now, you won’t really feel the effects for a year or two. However, in two years, when market demand is hot, you won’t have the reliability on tap to answer when the customer rings the bell. Don’t allow your operations to into that type of trap.

With clear-headed leadership, we can engineer costs out of asset management. These strategies are summarized in items one through six. It’s important, though, to avoid the knee-jerk reaction of arbitrary cuts in maintenance described in item seven. I realize it’s the easiest path in the short term, but after more than 30 years in the asset-management field, I assure you that cutting maintenance is not the best path in the long term.TRR



Drew Troyer has 30 years of experience in the RAM arena. Currently a Principal with T.A. Cook Consultants, he was a Co-founder and former CEO of Noria Corporation. A trusted advisor to a global blue chip client base, this industry veteran has authored or co-authored more than 250 books, chapters, course books, articles, and technical papers and is popular keynote and technical speaker at conferences around the world. Drew is a Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE), Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP), holds B.S. and M.B.A. degrees, and is Master’s degree candidate in Environmental Sustainability at Harvard University. Contact him directly at 512-800-6031 or dtroyer@theramreview.com.


Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, disaster preparedness, proactive maintenance, precision maintenance