4  FM quick reads on Maintenance

1. Shop Bulletin Board Smart Place to Plant Seeds for Management Support


The shop bulletin board is an interesting method of communicating information because nobody knows who posted the information. This method works well because it spreads the information to everyone in the organization, from the custodian and maintenance technicians to team leads and supervisors. Everyone was now asks the manager what he thought.

As human resources departments morphed, they realized for many reasons that they had to control the bulletin boards, so they covered them in locked glass displays. So move on to plan B.

In days before e-mail, interoffice mailing systems moved documents from person to person within four-six hours or at least every 24 hours. So we would make copies of these articles and send them to everyone who had an inbox. That system worked pretty well, except that your name and address were on the preceding line, so everyone knew who it came from.

This is not a good thing when you are spreading information that is critical of the current program and practices. To solve that, we would walk around to different departments and remove their empty envelopes and use them to spread the word. No one knew the controversial materials came from you.


2.  Complexity Complicates Data Center Maintenance

The issue of complexity and computers resides within much of today's computer equipment. Just open the panels and cabinets of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units and paralleling control cabinets, chiller control panels, paralleling switchgear, etc., and look inside. To most operating staff, this equipment has essentially become black boxes as well. So as the infrastructure has outpaced the staff's ability to troubleshoot and repair, the reliance on good maintenance practices becomes even more crucial.

Computers, programmable logic controllers, device-specific controllers, etc., are essentially "black boxes," which can complicate data center operations and maintenance. They typically don't give advance notice of pending failure, and when they do fail, the operating staff cannot make repairs or replacements. They have to call for vendor support and take manual control of the infrastructure involved.

The basic purpose of maintenance is to increase the availability of the equipment (and systems) being maintained. At the bottom of the pile is "corrective maintenance," or simply put, "fix it when it breaks." It takes the least effort from a management perspective, but results in the lowest availability and in most cases ends up costing the most in both total cost of ownership (TCO) and impact to operations.

The next rung up is preventive maintenance where you (hopefully) follow the manufacturer's recommendations to inspect and care for the equipment to extend its life and optimize its performance. In this case, you live with some planned unavailability (shutdowns) to afford the opportunity to care for the equipment (check belts, change filters, torque connections, etc.). The result is increased lifespan, more reliable performance, and lower failure rates.

The best practice is to supplement a preventive maintenance program with predictive maintenance using on-line condition-monitoring technologies. The most common and valuable on-line condition-monitoring technologies are thermography (infrared scanning) and vibration analysis. These monitoring techniques not only provide incredible insight regarding the health of the equipment, but actually require the equipment to be in operation, so the need for outages is reduced. By trending the results over time, a facility manager can see the health of the equipment start the inevitable decline towards predefined thresholds and "predict" when the equipment condition or performance will be adversely affected.

3.  Basic Provisions an HVAC Contract Should Include

Regardless of the type of service being rendered, a service contract should address the usual contract issues, including length, responsibilities, wage rates, dispute resolution, force majeure and other items. A simple one- or two-page document from a contractor is rarely sufficient to cover all the bases. Even a long and detailed contract may not, however, lead to the level and type of service desired unless it clearly states what work is to be done, on what schedule, and how is it to be performed, tracked and verified.

At the very least, a scope of work must cover preventive maintenance, repairs and replacements, finding and correcting operating problems, and reporting on such work. Some scope-of-work provisions also include guidance on engineering and upgrades to improve energy efficiency. To ensure those efforts are done to the satisfaction of the facility, specifications detailing items such as preferred products and methods, service hours, contractor professional qualifications and exclusions are often referenced in an addendum.

Among the specific items needed in a scope of work are:

  • Identities, by a unique number, of all pieces of equipment to be serviced along with the location of the equipment, referenced by unchanging room numbers or other means.
  • Task descriptions for each generic type of service, such as seasonal chiller servicing.
  • Procedures on how to log, track and file work orders and materials used in them.
  • Methods to pursue and track changes to equipment and programming.
  • Details on how often reports must be provided.
  • Descriptions of any training, drawings or other non-routine activities desired by the owner.

4.  Maintenance Strategy: Work-Order Management

Scheduling work orders causes significant pain and heartburn for most maintenance and engineering departments trying to escape the grasp of chaos and become world-class organizations. One third critical strategy to successful work-order scheduling is to never overschedule your maintenance team, writes Michael Cowley, CPMM, is president of CE Maintenance Solutions:

"Too many organizations believe if they overschedule technicians, they will get more done each week. The truth is completely the opposite. When you continually overschedule, customers think nothing is a high priority for the department. Nothing is more important than anything else, so workers just plod along, moving on to whatever they believe is the next most important assignment.

"The key to determining the appropriate level of scheduling is to take total available hours, subtract the normal amount of reactive work, and subtract the normal lost hours, such as personal time, vacation, and meetings. Planners then should schedule 95-100 percent of the remaining available hours.

"The difference between 95 percent and 100 percent depends on the complexity of the work. If the task is extremely complex and involves other work sources, such as contractors, perhaps schedule at 95 percent. If you are in total control of all work, then the percentage can edge toward 100 percent.

"No matter the amount of work scheduled, you should always have some work in your back pocket to fill gaps in the schedule. Fill-in work is defined as tasks technicians can stop and start easily without affecting the outcome.

"Once you succeed at regularly completing more than 95 percent of scheduled work, you can increase the total hours scheduled. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if schedule compliance drops below 85-90 percent, back off a little on the scheduled amount and identify the cause of the decrease. Once you figure it out, you can begin to increase the scheduled percentage.

"The keys to successful scheduling are setting goals, having a solid plan to begin scheduling work, and always having a method to measure your progress."


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Maintenance , operations , human resources



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