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A practical guide for implementing operator driven


reliability
by John Renick, Partner Solutions Manager, Meridium

While the advantages associated with operator driven reliability (ODR) are significant, its
successful development offers challenges. While no two ODR programs will look the same,
successful programs do share many of the same characteristics. Based on ODR best practices,
below are guidelines for developing your own successful ODR program.

Why operator driven reliability?


Reductions in operating and maintenance costs show up directly on the bottom line as profit. It
seems prudent then that we be proactive in identifying opportunities to reduce these costs; if not
because it makes good business sense, then because we know that at some point we will be
asked by management to do it. What’s the best formula for reducing operating and maintenance
costs – do more, do less or be more efficient at what we do?

Studies show that run-to-failure (RTF) typically costs twenty times more than a proactive early
repair. (Not factoring in the costs associated with the occurrence of a safety incident.) Pair this
statistic with that of a recent study (1) demonstrating that 36% of maintenance is reactive in
nature and you’ve got the start of your business case for the development of an operator driven
reliability (ODR) program.

A key tenant to a successful operator driven reliability approach is that operatorsown and know
their equipment better than anyone else. Living 24/7 within the operating environment makes
them highly valuable equipment ‘first-responders’ – able to head off problems before they occur by
performing basic maintenance activities. Operators can observe and record overall machine
health by checking for plugged lines, leaks and noises, as well as perform filter changes, oil filling
and vibration and temperature measurements and other preventive and corrective tasks
traditionally handled by maintenance. When operators begin to ‘carry the torch’ for reliability,
failures are reduced and the mean-time-between-failures is extended translating into maintenance
and capitol cost savings.

What successful operator driven reliability looks like


Eastman Chemical Tennessee Operationsintroduced Reliability Based Operations and
Maintenance (RBOM) at their Kingsport site in 2006. While investments in predictive technologies
had resulted in the reduction of machine breakdowns and maintenance costs, unacceptable
bottlenecks, higher then desired reactive maintenance and other operational concerns mandated
the development of a more comprehensive reliability solution to improve operational efficiency – a
solution which would tap into a previously underutilized reliability resource – operators. In 2008,
the company reported a 40% reduction in reactive maintenance. (2)

DuPont’s Cooper River site, including the Hytrel and Kevlar plants, utilizes a high-performance
work system (HPWS), in which all employees are capable of performing all the functions within the
facility. Operating technicians are qualified on common maintenance skills, demonstrating high
capability in autonomous maintenance through the DuPont College of Maintenance framework.
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For example, leaks, faulty instruments, filter changes, oil filling, faulty traps and plugged lines are
addressed by the process technician on the shift to quickly regain safe operation. The company
reports that this model has proven to be very effective and successful. (3)

Other organizations using ODR programs are reporting significant reductions in production and
maintenance costs, increased safety and reduced exposure to fines/litigation, improved
forecasting and increased clarity around priorities and roles.

A practical guide for implementing operator driven reliability

Make everyone a beneficiary - While ODR can act as a change agent in building a bridge between
operations and maintenance, successful management of change will be a major determinant of
program success. The benefits of adopting ODR must be clearly communicated to allmembers of
the organization, at every level. This will require understanding where potential bottlenecks of
acceptance might occur, as well as why. In many cases, history and stand-alone data
management systems have encouraged departmental isolation. A key motive for implementing
ODR is the belief that working ‘together’ will be more beneficial than working in isolation. Be able
and willing to communicate that this is in fact true for everyone involved. What changes will ODR
require of the operator, the reliability engineer, the maintenance technician and the many other
people involved and just how will the ODR benefits of improved equipment reliability and
availability extend beyond the bottom line to them? These questions should be addressed when
announcing development plans to reduce anxiety and introduce excitement. Successful
partnerships require mutual trust. Don’t automatically expect it; earn it.

Coalesce around a shared goal - In many organizations, the working relationship between
operations and maintenance (O&M) is often strained, in large part because of competing goals:
the goal of operations is to meet production expectations while the focus of maintenance is to
maintain the health of the equipment. Development of a shared goal is a good starting point for
building an ODR collaborative effort.

Goals motivate buy-in. Engage in a healthy debate to determine ODR goals. Debate can be a
cathartic process, providing everyone involved in the change an opportunity to develop a deeper
understanding of the underlying problems and opportunities and the necessity for change. A
collective understanding enables a collective execution.

For Eastman Chemical’s Reliability Based Operation and Maintenance (RBOM) program, the
collaborative process is managed by a team comprised of at a minimum three full-time employees:
a project team leader (a reliability technologist with crew leadership experience in operations and
maintenance), lead operator (an operator from the focus area that is recognized as a leader
among the operations crews) and a lead mechanic (a mechanic from the focus area that is
recognized as a leader among the maintenance crews). One of the team’s primary roles is to drive
and sustain the ODR culture using the Harvard Business School Managing Change process as a
guide. (4)

Other plants, like DuPont’s Kevlar plant, completed in May 2011, have established a collaborative
culture throughout the facility at startup. Operators are qualified on common maintenance skills,
demonstrating high capability in autonomous maintenance through the DuPont College of
Maintenance framework. Working under the HPWS system, employees are engaged and
empowered to make decisions. Hourly employees plan and conduct monthly safety meetings, give
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safety training and lead incident investigations. When there is a safety concern, they help to
resolve it.(3)

Let best practices be your guiding light - There is no one-size-fits-all ODR program; however, there
are best practices which should serve as your guide for program development. One option is to do
a careful assessment of the ODR best practices in organizations other than your own and then
adapt them to meet your own specific goals and objectives. Likewise, the shared experiences
gathered from this investigative process can help prioritize operations activities, e.g., eliminating
or combining low value-added tasks to free up time for higher value-added activities. The goal of
an ODR program is to promote working smarter, not harder.

Enable participant success - Even after people become knowledgeable about adopted best
practices and are motivated to change, they need supporting work processes, training and
technology for program success.

Isolation (physical and technical) has been a major factor in the development of cultural barriers
at many organizations. For example, some organizations are spread out over miles. This physical
isolation is exacerbated by the use of siloed information systems. This arrangement encourages
the development of multiple work processes, cultures, terminology, etc. Consequently, a
management mandate for an ODR program should be the development, documentation and
standardization of operator work processes in all areas including:

 Communications – inter-shift, shift-to-shift, shift-to-days.


 Operator performed maintenance – minor maintenance that operations can perform.

 Asset operating procedures (AOP) – every asset should have an ideal sequence of steps
(normal start-up, normal shut-down, prepare for maintenance and return from maintenance)
set to ideal industry best practices in order to assure maximum reliability. The process can
be rendered on a hand-held computer. The effect of asset misinformation can multiply
exponentially. AOPs break the chain of misinformation and give the opportunity to amass
knowledge to industry best practice standards which can then be shared.

 Housekeeping – assets must be kept clean to detect the onset of failure. Telltale signs
(drips, loose bolts, cracked base) cannot be detected if the asset is covered in dirt and
debris. For example, an 18° F decrease in temperature
through improved housekeeping improves motor life by 50 percent.(7)

 Operator rounds – provide scripted electronic equipment care and condition monitoring
checks for operations which can be downloaded) to a handheld device helping the company
transition away from paper-based inspection routes. For example, Meridium Operator
Rounds (5) are being used by the Eastman and DuPont ODR programs. At DuPont, Operator
Rounds is used to consolidate traditional stand-alone database systems into one system of
record. Operating readings, steam trap rounds, fire doors and pump checks are all
managed through the SAP-PM/Operator Round’s solution. (3) At Eastman Chemical, route
information from handhelds is managed in Operator Rounds. If maintenance work is
required, Operator Rounds transfers all asset information, problem headlines, descriptions
and author directly into SAP. PI tags that are identified in the failure mode and effective
analyses as being critical are also brought into the report with corresponding alarms. All
predictive technology data is also brought into this report. (4) The introduction of handhelds
to manage operations and maintenance functions is a documented means to quickly
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increase the productivity of maintenance and operations and reduce maintenance costs
and is one of the best practices identified by the FM BENCHMARKING Cost Survey. The
survey reports that no organization benchmarked experienced less than a 10 percent
improvement in productivity due to the implementation of handhelds with the longest
reported payback being three months.(6)

Think big, start small - A pilot project is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities
of ODR on a small area and in a controlled manner. It is an excellent risk mitigation strategy for
an organization planning on implementing an ODR program. It can inform of or resolve any
overlooked items during the planning stage. The pilot also offers an opportunity for hands-on
experience with new technology (early adopters) and the ability to create short-term wins to build
program momentum and broaden support for the program throughout the organization. Think big,
but start small.

(1)
Best Practices in Asset Management and Reliability: Findings from the Virginia Tech College of
Engineering Asset Management Survey, 2010.

(2)
Making the Case for Change at Eastman Chemical Company’s Tennessee Operations, APM
Advisor, February, 2008.

(3)
DuPont’s Cooper River site reinvents itself with the help of proven maintenance practices, Plant-
of-the-Month, www.PlantServices.com, November, 2011.

(4)
Managing Change in a Major Reliability Improvement Effort, Steve Powers and Kathy Light,
Eastman Chemical Co., MARCON 2010.

(5)
Meridium Operator Rounds, www.meridium.com.

(6)
Handhelds Increase Productivity and Reduce Maintenance Costs, FMLink, www.fmlink.com.

(7)
Essential Care/Condition Monitoring, Ken Latino, MeadWestvaco, 2011 Meridium Conference,
www.meridium.com.

About the author


John Renick is the Partner Solutions Manager for Meridium, Inc. He has over 14 years of
experience working with asset intensive industries. In his current role, John oversees Meridium's
partnerships and ensures those partnerships deliver valuable solutions. Prior to serving as Partner
Solutions Manager, John was the Product Manager overseeing Meridium's APM framework,
Production Loss Accounting Module, Mobile Framework and Meridium mobile solutions. Having
worked in both consulting and implementation roles on projects, John has a unique perspective
that allows him to understand the customer's needs and deliver a solution that maximizes ROI.
John joined Meridium in 1998. He is a graduate of Radford University with a degree in Marketing
and a minor in Economics.