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Over the past few months, I’ve been modernizing my home office. In the course of my rigorous spring cleaning, sorting, and pitching, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the amount of “stuff” that had accumulated during my four decades of consulting and teaching in the U.S. and internationally. What struck me most were the many books I’ve collected along the way: not the easy and fun reads, but the technical ones related to types of things I enjoy doing and those related to maintenance and manufacturing methods.

As I looked over my technical library, I began thinking about the vintage of the books (1970s to 2010s) that shaped my career and teaching, and influenced my perspective on reliability as applied in hundreds of plants and facilities. I came to the realization that there is truly little “new” in the world of industrial maintenance.

What concerns me (and should concern many readers) is this: The newer generation of maintainers and maintenance leaders may have missed reading and studying these books to understand the fundamentals of our craft in favor of fancier buzz-wordy, look-it-up-online, maintenance-improvement solutions.

Sure, there are many new maintenance tools, including vibration analyzers, oil analyzers, strobe tachometers, laser alignment tools, infrared sensors/cameras, digital thermometers, gas analyzers, and the like. But what all these technologies point to—and what’s required to take advantage of them—is the performance (or establishment) of the basics of good maintenance.

Maintenance materials have continually improved too. Look at the new and more effective lubricants, longer lasting bearings and seals, chains and belts, all made possible because of new materials science. Even so, they are not maintenance free.

In the context of business, how maintenance is performed and organized and how its efficiency and effectiveness can be improved is mostly old news. Not that old news is necessarily bad. My older books outline, describe, and communicate—from many different perspectives—how best to manage and perform maintenance. Problem is, many businesses and maintenance departments have been unable (or unwilling) to deploy those best practices in a sustainable manner.

Some of these technical books were written by educators, others by practitioners. Professional associations compiled various authors’ works into single volumes. Many of the books feature case studies and examples of what worked, what was tried, and what failed along the way to success. The body of knowledge on proven maintenance practices is huge, as evidenced by all such books in my library.

Sure, new maintenance programs and approaches have emerged over time: Terotechnology, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), Lean Maintenance, Lean Equipment Management, World-Class Maintenance. But my older books include many of the same and overlapping principles—just woven together and under different (new and/or possibly improved) names.

What historically has made for good maintenance (or factored into maintenance failures) is the organizational context: how maintenance fits in the business, and how maintenance contributes to achieving organizational goals.

Oh, I’m sure some will argue that maintenance is not what it used to be in years gone by, and, to some extent  that’s correct. The way maintenance departments are staffed, organized, deployed, and respected (or cursed) has surely changed in some of our most visible businesses. Still, the fundamentals of good maintenance are basically the same.

In my opinion maintenance is just that: maintenance. It doesn’t need a fancy new name (that’s been tried for decades). It’s maintenance, based on a very simple, straightforward definition.

MAINTAIN: to keep in an existing state (as of repair, efficiency, or validity); preserve from failure or decline.
SYNONYMS FOR MAINTAIN: conserve, keep up, preserve, save

Here are some of the proven fundamentals (unchanging, underlying principles) of good maintenance:

♦  Keep shafts aligned and rotating smoothly.

♦  Keep anti-friction bearings and bearing surfaces lubricated and free of debris.

♦  Use proper lubricant(s) and lubrication equipment.

♦  Keep lubricants and fluids indoors, clean, and dry.

Don’t over-lubricate anything.

 Align piping with pump, flange, and tank connections.

♦  Anchor machinery so it does not move; keep it aligned.

♦  Rotate shafts of large motors, pumps, gearboxes, and fans while they’re in storage.

 Keep stored materials and parts in proper ambient environmental conditions, inventoried, and easy to find.

♦  Keep belts, sheaves, rollers, chains, sprockets, and idlers aligned.

♦  Replace worn, stretched, or damaged drive chains and power-transmission belts.

♦  Vent gearboxes and keep oil/crankcases clean and to the recommended level.

♦  Keep compressed air dry.

♦  Stop leaks of air, gas, water, steam, and fluids.

 Keep all electrical connections tight and free of corrosion.

♦  Keep control cabinets and electric motors cool and free of dust.

♦  Keep air hoses, hydraulic hoses, and electrical cables off the floor and tethered.

 Always use the right tool for the job.

♦  Don’t run equipment or components beyond their design parameters.

♦  Communicate what is needed, what was wrong, what was done, and the time and parts cost.

 Analyze failures in a timely manner to identify causes and countermeasures. Document all findings and actions.

♦  If you collect machinery data, analyze it and look for trends and warning signs.

 Continually seek better ways to do everything.

♦  Make it easier to spot errors and potential failures.

♦  Always be on the lookout for early warning signs of potential failures.

♦  Plan your work and work your plan.

♦  Don’t defer required preventive maintenance.

♦  Prioritize maintenance. Some equipment is more important, more critical, more at risk than others.

Let’s not overlook the fundamentals of good maintenance detailed in numerous books from the past. Many of those books, however, are no longer available—they’re out of print. And most haven’t been digitized for e-readers. Yet, as long as we have the information somewhere, let’s get back to using it in our schools, technical programs, apprenticeships, and putting recommended best practices in place in our plants, sooner than later.

Just so you know, one of these days (soon) I’ll prepare a list of the vintage and not-so-vintage maintenance- fundamentals books in my seasoned library. Stay tuned.TRR


Bob Williamson is a long-time contributor to the people-side of the world-class-maintenance and manufacturing body of knowledge across dozens of industry types. His background in maintenance, machine and tool design, and teaching has positioned his work with over 500 companies and plants, facilities, and equipment-oriented organizations. Contact him directly at 512-800-6031 or bwilliamson@theramreview.com.

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, workforce development, professional development, training and qualification