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Now that we know what an emergency is, let's figure out what to do when they occur. Consider these questions and recommended actions in the aftermath of a crisis or failure:
What happened? Gather all of the details about the failure, and question all technicians and supervisors involved in the repair. Visit the site personally, remembering it is always better to touch a situation yourself instead of relying on reports from others about the details of the failure. Make sure you have a good handle on the sequence of events leading up to and following the failure. Take pictures of the failure, if possible, knowing that recreating the circumstances that led up to the failure will be difficult once the repairs have begun.
Who or what caused the failure, if known? If possible, determine if someone or something caused the failure, such as operator error, improper maintenance techniques, low-quality parts, or factors and causes completely outside your control.
What is the history of the asset or system? Review the asset, system, or equipment history since installation — a process that requires a well-managed work-order and asset-management system. Look for similar failures in situations that have occurred in the past that might have contributed to the most recent failure. The goal is to discover tangible steps that can be put in place to prevent failures in the future.
What is the work-order history? Examine the last year's worth of work orders for the asset or component, looking for signs or evidence of problems that might have led to the failure. What we are looking for are signs or symptoms we should have noticed that could have prevented the failure.
What did PM inspections reveal? Review the last year or two of PM inspections for the asset or component. In theory, these inspections and procedures catch all potential failures. That is the purpose of the PM program. Look closely at the procedures, task lists, and checklists for all failures. The key might be in the details. Look especially closely for items that were found and hopefully repaired. Did any of these discrepancies contribute to the current failure? Were they repaired properly, and were they fixed in a timely manner? Could improved or modified PM procedures have prevented the failure?
With answers from all of these questions in hand, it is time to modify your PM procedures and inspections to reduce or eliminate the possibility of future failures. Don't forget that the key to eliminating or reducing catastrophic failures is constantly striving to improve your PM program.
In lieu of buying new assets and equipment each year, improving your PM program is the only way to effectively create a leading-class maintenance culture and remove the chaos and daily failures from your facilities.
Michael Cowley, CPMM, is president of CE Maintenance Solutions. Cowley provides maintenance training, coaching and consulting services to facility and manufacturing organizations nationwide. He is a frequent speaker at national facilities management conferences.
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