June/July 2009

Uptime

Close coordination and streamlining can reduce maintenance costs and minimize downtime

By J. Reyes-Picknell

Condition monitoring analyst Bob Cornejo of Minera Yanacocha suggesting changes to the condition-based maintenance process.


Maintenance can easily consume up to 50 per cent of operational costs in mining. That money is usually split almost 50/50 between labour and materials. Proactive maintenance approaches to managing failures can dramatically reduce these costs and savings of up to 20 per cent (10 per cent of operational costs in total) can be achieved. Such savings come with increased operational availability, improved safety performance and reduced environmental risk from spills and excessive emissions. Combined, these benefits result in reduced business risk and can portray operations in a much more favourable light with money markets, lenders and insurers. Getting it right in maintenance delivers on all these benefits like no other aspect of your business can even hope to do.

Breakdowns in operating equipment can often be prevented or predicted. How many problems are detected early through condition monitoring programs and/or online performance monitoring but go uncorrected because of poor followup? How many are actually caught in time? For example, safety policy requires the haul truck parking brake be set every time the truck is stationary for loading, dumping, etc. With online monitoring, real-time data showed that one operator only set it twice — for washroom breaks. His behaviour was addressed and potential safety problems averted. How many problems are ignored because the available data are limited?

In a Wyoming coal mine, a shovel experienced repeated lubrication alarms. Operators, with access to limited data, restarted after each fault and continued to do so until the hoist gear box failed. The proper level of monitoring by the right people could have averted $3.6 to $6 million per incident.1 These examples illustrate what can be achieved with a well-designed program. And that program must be executed well or it won’t deliver the results.

Pyramid of excellence

The book Uptime — Strategies for Excellence in Maintenance Management,2 was originally created as an overview framework for non-maintenance managers. However, it quickly became very popular among maintenance managers the world over. Uptime’s “pyramid of excellence” framework depicts 10 elements required for excellence in maintenance including: strategy, people, materials management, performance management, basic care, work management, management and support systems, process, assets and teams.

That pyramid has been copied and re-cast as concentric circles, ladders, ball bearings, other pyramid constructs and building blocks. Regardless of how the 10 elements are depicted, what remains critical to their functioning is that they are inter-dependent. They are not mere “steps” in a single process; they work together. How they work together is what varies from operation to operation.

Two of the 10 elements — work management and asset reliability — deliver direct benefits. However, because they do not work in isolation, they cannot be the sole focus of an improvement program.

Asset reliability delivers most of the operational availability benefit through improved reliability, and cannot be achieved without a high level of compliance to a welldesigned and constantly optimized failure management (reliability) program. Such programs require less work (and hence cost) to implement than traditional programs based on following manufacturers’ recommendations and running equipment hard and fast to failure. The reliability program only works if it is executed through effective work management practices and the exercise of basic care (like operating equipment within acceptable limits) by operators.

Asset reliability is all about doing the right work (effectiveness) while work management is about doing it the right way (efficiency). Work management ensures that repairs and preventive work are carried out at optimum cost. It results in enhanced operational availability through reduced repair times. However, work management cannot deliver, especially in the repair scenario, without effective materials management and — this is the part many maintenance managers miss — vice versa.

Since work and materials are often managed by separate functional departments, there is a systemic, built-in challenge to this two-way management process. The goals, specific objectives and performance measures used in these two departments are often poorly aligned. Maintenance often focuses on availability while materials look at costs. But you can’t improve in either area without some up-front spending and sustained cooperation.

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