Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Maintenance ain’t Maintenance

I’ve been in the maintenance game a long time, I’ve seen a few things that didn't make sense, so I’ve always stood by the view that maintenance ain’t maintenance.

Let me explain this to you.

A couple of months ago, the airline industry was going through a rough patch. Not a week would go by without a scare, a close shave or the last minute grounding of a plane that was damaged, had lost a part or had something fail five seconds before take-off.

With equipment and machinery, especially complicated and involved assets such as planes, it all comes down to effective maintenance.  I am not saying the planes aren’t maintained to their legal standards, but perhaps not to the level they could be.

To give you an example; many years ago I was working at a power station, general chit-chat turned to the topic of turbine maintenance.  The engineer on site then proceeded to explain filter plates to me.  The method of maintaining these plates was to take a hose and blow out the filter.  This is compared to the old way, which was to remove the plates completely and then clean them by hand.

Both of these techniques sound like good methods to achieve an accountable result. Is one method better than the other?  The answer is yes.  These filters, as was explained to me, have a large impact on the overall efficiency of the unit - the better the clean the better the efficiency.  Blowing-out the filter is only a cursory effort, it does the job, but will not provide the best possible performance from the unit.  Proper cleaning is a better solution and will actually save you time and money in the long run.

Relating that back to airplane maintenance.  Yes, you can maintain the airplane so it meets all regulatory requirements, but is this maintenance as good as what it could be?  I am not convinced.  

Monday, 29 August 2011

Gold - in the form of Preventative Maintenance.

Dragging his feet, the engineering manager trudged across the building to the CFO’s office.  As he struggled to keep his temper in check, hewondered why this pencil pushing nerd from the ‘other side’ couldn't just leave him alone. As if things weren’t busy enough already, I have to deal with his issues as well! he thought to himself.

A battle emerged as they discussed the outcome of the latest cost updates, they both argued their points with vigour and intensity. Neither side backing-down, until in exhaustion they both pulled their miserable selves apart and returned to their quarters.

The CFO, happy to vent, but unhappy with the result, took a walk around the building, on his travels his noticed a golden glint from below a compressor. He stopped and stared at it. What is it? he thought.  He got closer, as if approaching a lion in the wild. Scared that it could leap out and attack him; bending low, he looked closely and realised that it was a leak! He wiped at it with his finger, and realised it was gold!  Actually it was gold coloured oil, dripping slowly from a gap between two steel plates.

He rubbed the fine liquid between his fingers, looked at it and felt disheartened and dejected, he realised that this was another equipment failure waiting to happen.

He paused to think. What should be done? Why is this occurring? Why hasn’t anyone else found it? It seems so obvious. The thin line of oil traced all the way down to a blackened drain, hiding behind the corner, as if to say, "don’t look here.”

Looking into the darkness he realised something had to be done. He straightened, looked back to the engineering office and then, with resolve in his heart, walked back to his office. Calling a local contractor to repair the compressor, he sat back and contemplated what would become of them if they could not reduce costs and increase production.

Within hours, the contractor came through to the CFO’s office after checking out and fixing the leak. He then told the CFO how lucky he actually was. If another few hours had passed, the compressor would have been out of action for weeks.

What did they just save?  A missed $20 fix could have cost his company $10,000 in repairs and put it out of action for days, which in turn would have cost them $100,000s.  All because of a little drip of oil coming from below the compressor.

Feeling ecstatic with himself for defeating a potential failure, he went home with the feeling of success, taking him back to the days when he played chess at school. He could remember the overwhelming joy of beating his opponents with wit and cunning. It felt good to know that he had succeeded as his mind raced off into the night. 

The new day dawned and the ‘athlete in the CFO’ came out.  He arrived at work early, his mind sharp. like the keen edge of a sword, he went in search of potential problems that he could capture and stop.

He had a vision and clarity that he had not noticed before, he started seeing glints of gold in all shapes and forms. From air and oil leaks, through to dirty edges on his machines. He chased the idea of grabbing every opportunity and acting on it - knowing that he was making money every step of the way.

Within days the CFO instructed the engineering manager to assemble a team, their role would be to fix, clean, tighten and service machines, all day, every day.

From machine to machine they moved, closely examining and testing each one, not leaving until all was well, each time claiming a little more success. With each step the plant looked cleaner and things stopped breaking down. Instead of the peace and quiet of complete shutdown, there was a continuous hum of producing. More and more occurred until the whole plant shone. They were back!

Months later, the CFO peered over a report and drifted across the courtyard to the engineering office. Slightly pushing at the door with the tips of his shoes, he saw a view he had never seen before. No operators, no chaos. The secretary’s desk was orderly and organised, the engineering manager had his feet up and was enjoying a cup of coffee while reading his book.

It looked so peaceful that the CFO decided against saying a thing. Instead he closed the door and revelled in his own joy at the success he had found.

He stared at the compressor and realised that it was really gold that he saw that day. Gold in the form of Preventative Maintenance. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

I missed my friend's 30th birthday!

I missed the 30th birthday of an acquaintance/work collegue/entertainer/teacher/study partner and, in recent times, friendship coordinator.

How could I miss such a milestone in their life?

Simple, I was playing on my iPad.

The official 30 year anniversary of the personal computer was celebrated on the 12th of August.  I, like many, didn’t realise the humble PC was quite so mature.  Aside from business purposes, or my sons gaming enthusiasm, the personal desktop computer hasn’t gained too much of my attention over the last couple of years.  I use my laptop daily, my iphone by the hour and my iPad whenever I’m not using the other two!  Well it seems that way sometimes.

This realisation put me into research mode, and due to the relevance of the iPad to my business, I figured it was time well spent.

I found, in this Forbes Magazine article, that iPad sales are now digging directly into computer sales for PC companies and even Macs!  It’s great to see the iPad is taking hold, especially after only 15 months in the market.

Seeing stats and figures like these, give me confidence in my decision to develop MEX CMMS for the iPad.  As businesses utilise the iPad more and more, acceptance, and the ‘want’ to use it in new ways, increases.

Feel free to share your first computer stories!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Keepin' CMMS green

In these times of increased environmental awareness, carbon taxes and the ‘hot’ topic of global warming, companies are crying out for green solutions for all parts of their business. 

Paper is old news, I like trees and want them to live long and happy lives.  In my business, more and more we are trying to find ways to cut back on paper usage.

Did you know that just by using one less ream of paper per day you can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2000kgs and save 25 trees per year!

With that in mind we have started putting forward our MEX CMMS iPad application as a ‘green’ alternative.  It negates the need for paper-based log books and gives our customers the opportunity to embrace a greener way of working that can hopefully carry forward into the rest of their lives!