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Roughly 25 years ago, a respected colleague, Fred Caspari, had just retired from his reliability-management position with LUSC (Large U.S. Company). Two other colleagues and I heard him speak on “Abandoning the World-Class Maintenance Approach at a Major Multinational Petrochemical Company.”  

Caspari stated that shutdowns were planned in detail at LUSC; a CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) was implemented; craftsmen were trained to do “it” right the first time; the latest PM/PdM techniques and tools were being used; a test facility had been built; vibration charts were transmitted to LUSC affiliates electronically. Everything, it seemed, was in place for the perfect world-class maintenance organization.

The numbers, though, told another story. Maintenance cost as a percentage of original plant assets was high: over 50% higher than those of the company’s competitors, and over twice the 2.5% considered world-class at that time.

Matters improved drastically when Caspari’s employer switched from working on the maintenance process to working on the reliability process. The reliability process is a focus of resources from all areas on improving the reliability of the plant—not just mechanical, but operational reliability of the plant. The process used data-based decisions and incorporated economic evaluations. The areas selected were reliability engineering, root-cause failure analysis, cost-justified upgrading, and maintenance and operating improvements.

The existing maintenance processes continued, even as the need for them declined and the final outcome was startling. Maintenance costs that had been increasing at 11% annually were now decreasing at 7% per year. What was once considered world-class maintenance productivity, i.e., a yearly outlay of 2.5% of asset-replacement value, had become a reality in the mid-1990s. In fact, LUSC expected further improvement.

Years after Caspari made his presentation, we proposed a two-day audit to determine where LUSC stood. Audit results would be verbally transmitted and would point out where one-day technology-transfer sessions might be of provable value. Feedback led us to believe that a competent specialist should propose a half-day refresher course in root cause failure analysis. The short course would delve into solutions to problems found during the audit.

Nothing came of our proposals, but LUSC is still in business. They must be doing many things right.TRR

For sources of suggested reading on
reliability topics and best practices,

for a list of Heinz Bloch’s 22 books.

Heinz Bloch’s long professional career included assignments as Exxon Chemical’s Regional Machinery Specialist for the United States. A recognized subject-matter-expert on plant equipment and failure avoidance, he is the author of numerous books and articles, and continues to present at technical conferences around the world. Bloch holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and is an ASME Life Fellow. These days, he’s based near Houston, TX. Email him directly at heinzpbloch@gmail.com.

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, work processes