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M-News Edition 9
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M-News - the Maintenance Newsletter

Edition 9, July 2000

Welcome to the ninth edition of M-News, a free newsletter on topics of interest to Maintenance professionals, brought to you by the Plant Maintenance Resource Center.

My apologies for the delay between the last newsletter and this one, but I trust that you will find the content, as usual, interesting and informative.

We aim to bring you the latest news and views on what is happening in the world of Maintenance. If you wish to receive notification of future copies of this newsletter by email, please register here. If you have any feedback on the newsletter, or have something to contribute, please send me an e-mail.


In this edition...
Feature Article - MRO E-commerce - Where's the Value?
Feature Article - Stocks and Spares Through the Internet
Selected Web Sites related to MRO E-commerce
Survey Results - Maintenance and the Internet
Current Survey - CMMS Implementation
Book Review - Maintenance Strategy, by Anthony Kelly
On the Lighter Side - Engineering Humor

MRO E-commerce - Where's the Value?

This month's feature article is written by Sandy Dunn, Webmaster at the Plant Maintenance Resource Center, and Director of Assetivity Pty Ltd - Maintenance Consultants. There has been a lot written and spoken regarding Business to Business (B2B) e-commerce over recent months, with some extraordinary claims being made about the potential for savings from this form of business. Many B2B internet hubs have been established, and software vendors are scrambling over one another to claim that their CMMS is "e-commerce enabled". But how do you separate the truth from the hype, and where are the opportunities to use this technology to create value for your business? This article attempts to answer these questions, and can be read at

Feature Article - Stocks and Spares Through the Internet

This feature article is kindly provided by What do you do when a vital piece of equipment goes down, and takes an important production line with it? The first thing is to look in the stores for a replacement. If there isn't one in stock, then who is the next port of call? Your supplier, of course. If they can't help, then you ring a mate at the site down the road to see whether, by chance, he has a spare one. And after him you try another, and so on until you find what you need.

There's nothing new in getting spare parts from a friend. Engineers have been helping each other for a long time, regardless of the company, by responding to a cry for help and passing a vital spare through the fence. But now there is a very efficient way to do it, using the Internet. This article outlines some of the key features of the solution to sourcing critical spare parts in a hurry.

The full article can be read at

Selected Web Sites related to MRO E-commerce

This is not intended to be a definitive list of the "best" MRO e-commerce sites on the web, but does represent some of the sites that I have found, and includes a brief description of what they have to offer.

  • Ariba, Inc. ( One of the original providers of BSB solutions.
  • ( A neutral, third-party marketplace.
  • FreeMarkets ( Online auctions for industrial parts, raw materials, commodities and services
  • ( MRO.COM is a wholly owned subsidiary of PSDI. It is a full-featured e-procurement solution that is designed to work on a standalone basis.
  • ( A subscription only site, linking buyers with sellers of obsolete, or surplus to requirements spare parts and components.
  • W.W. Grainger, Inc. ( Leading business-to-business distributor of maintenance, repair, and operating (MRO) supplies and related information

Survey Results - Maintenance and the Internet

Thank you to all those who participated in this survey. The results are currently being analysed, and will be published shortly and discussed in the next M-News newsletter.

Current Survey - CMMS Implementation

The current Plant Maintenance Resource Center survey is on the subject of CMMS Implementation. Let us know what CMMS you use, and what were the keys to success (or failure) in your CMMS Implementation. The survey closes on August 15, 2000, and survey responses are entirely confidential. Please tell all your friends and colleagues - the more responses we get, the higher the quality of the results. You can register your vote, or view the results to date at

Book Review - Maintenance Strategy, by Anthony Kelly

I was looking forward to reading and reviewing this book - largely because, as a maintenance consultant, I have helped several organisations to develop Maintenance Strategies, and I was about to start a maintenance strategy consulting assignment for another client. I thought that this book, written by one of Europe's leading maintenance academics, Professor Tony Kelly (University of Manchester, Central Queensland University, Stellenbosch University and Hogskolen i Stavanger) may provide some further insights on the subject of Maintenance Strategy, and help me to incorporate some new ideas into my approach for Maintenance Strategy Development. Ultimately, however, I was greatly disappointed in this book.

My disappointment comes on a number of fronts. First, Kelly has a typically engineering (and very limited) defniition of what constitutes a Maintenance Strategy. Unlike John Campbell's view of Maintenance Strategy, which is far more holistic in nature (see the review of Campbell's book, Uptime - Strategies for Excellence in Maintenance Management at, Kelly's view of Maintenance Strategy is far more limited - primarily being based around the identification of the most appropriate Preventive/Predictive Maintenance regime required to allow Production to achieve its production targets. In fact, it is not until the end of Chapter 4 of the book that Kelly defines his view of the constituent parts of developing a Maintenance Strategy which are:

  • Formulating the best "life plan" for each equipment item
  • Formulating a Maintenance Schedule for the plant
  • Establishing the organisation to enable the scheduled, and other, maintenance work to be resourced

Of these three steps, the first two are given extensive coverage in the book, and the last is barely covered at all (instead being covered in Kelly's companion book, Maintenance Organisation and Systems). With this very limited focus, this book has more in common with Moubray's or Smith's books on Reliability Centered Maintenance than it does with a book covering a more holistic view of Maintenance Strategy. The central premise of the book is to promote Kelly's philosophy of "Business Centred Maintenance" and his approach to the development of Equipment "life plans" - or Equipment Maintenance Strategies, which he has termed TDBU - "Top Down, Bottom Up". While there are chapters covering RCM and TPM, these both appear to be included primarily so that Kelly can dismiss them as being either "nothing new" or inferior to his TDBU approach.

The second disappointment is that, in terms of explaining how to develop equipment maintenance schedules, Kelly is strong on the "Top Down" part of his methodology and weak on the "Bottom Up" part. The "Top Down" part of the approach consists of identifying critical equipment items, and also identifying operational "windows of opportunity" within which maintenance can be performed. Kelly is correct in pointing out that RCM, on its own, does not adequately cover these aspects. The "Bottom Up" part consists of identifying the specific maintenance tasks that are required to be performed on equipment. The two are then brought together to develop an overall equipment maintenance schedule. However Kelly's "Bottom Up" approach is seriously inadequate on a number of counts. First, it ignores the fact that, to be effective, maintenance tasks must be developed at the "failure mode" level - that is, at a level that effectively addresses the root cause of failure. Instead, Kelly focuses only on failures at the equipment, or component level. Second, it relies entirely on statistical analysis, using Weibull as the basis for all decision making. Unfortunately, this totally ignores the practical considerations of availability, accuracy and adequacy of data to perform even remotely accurate Weibull analysis at the failure mode level in most industrial applications. Not unsurprisingly, there is no mention made of Resnikoff's conundrum, which, simply put, states that, in order to collect failure data, there must be equipment failures. In order for there to be equipment failures, then there must be either no maintenance program in place to prevent these failures, or the program that is in place is inadequate. How many Operations Managers do you know that would accept that you are allowing equipment to fail simply so that sufficient statistical data can be collected in order to develop a preventive maintenance program at some (indeterminate) time in the future? Third, while the book does contain some guidelines for selection of the most appropriate task to address component failures, as well as the frequencies at which these tasks should be performed, these are scattered throughout the book, and not grouped into a logicalt task selection process, as is the case with RCM. The book is also weak on specifics regarding how to resolve potential conflicts between the task frequencies determined by the "bottom-up" approach, and those that may be suggested by the "top-down" approach.

The third disappointment is a more minor one, and perhaps reflects my own personal preferences in terms of writing style. Throughout the book, Kelly refers to himself in the third person as "the author", as in "it has been the author's experience that....". In addition, there is excessive use of the passive tense throughout the book in place of the more immediate, and engaging active tense (for example, "a methodology for developing a maintenance strategy is outlined in Figure 3.1", rather than "Figure 3.1 outlines a methodology for developing a maintenance strategy"). This leads to an excessively impersonal and turgid writing style that I, personally, found quite annoying and difficult to wade through.

So what are some of the strengths of this book? Despite what you may think, after having read the preceding paragraphs, there are some, once you get over the realisation that this book is not actually about Maintenance Strategy at all, but more about one small subset of an overall Maintenance Strategy.

First, the chapters which outline the basic theory behind Weibull analysis, and the reliability of Plant Systems (including coverage of Reliability Block diagrams and Fault Tree Analysis, amongst others) are a very useful introduction to these topics, and references are given for those who want to delve into more detail in this area. It should be noted that these chapters were actually contributed by one of Kelly's colleagues, John Harris.

Second, the discussion of the "Top Down" approach, and more specifically, the identification of Maintenance "windows of opportunity" is a worthwhile contribution to the field, and one which is not covered by texts which specifically focus on RCM.

Third, the book does include several examples which shed light on the application of Kelly's TDBU approach. While I found many of the examples to be somewhat superficially covered, and raised as many questions as they answered, these examples do bring increased relevance to the book.

Overall, as I stated at the outset, I was disappointed with this book. It has a much more limited scope than I would have expected from a book titled "Maintenance Strategy". Even once you get over that hurdle, I found the book, for the most part, to be excessively academic in nature, content and style. For those who are looking for a first book to read covering the development of equipment maintenance schedules, I would recommend one of the RCM books, such as Moubray For those who are familiar with RCM principles, I doubt that this book will add much to your knowledge.

If you do wish to purchase this book, you will find more details at

On the Lighter Side - Engineering Humor

I am not sure whether this is really humor, as it purports to be a true story. I found it funny anyway, even if it does have "urban mythical" characteristics.

For the engineers among us who understand that the obvious is not always the solution, and that the facts, no matter how implausible, are still the facts ...

A complaint was received by the Pontiac Division of General Motors:

"This is the second time I have written you, and I don't blame youfor not answering me, because I kind of sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of ice cream for dessert after dinner each night. But the kind of ice cream varies so, every night, after we've eaten, the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it. It's also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac and since then my trips to the store have created a problem. You see, every time I buy vanilla ice cream, when I start back from the store my car won't start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just fine. I want you to know I'm serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds: 'What is there about a Pontiac that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream, and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?'"

The Pontiac President was understandably sceptical about the letter, but sent an engineer to check it out anyway. The latter was surprised to be greeted by a successful, obviously well-educated man in a fine neighbourhood. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice cream store. It was vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came back to the car, it wouldn't start.

The engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, the man got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.

Now the engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man's car was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged, therefore, to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: he jotted down all sorts of data, time of day, type of gas used, time to drive back and forth, etc.

In a short time, he had a clue: the man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavour. Why? The answer was in the layout of the store.

Vanilla, being the most popular flavour, was in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pickup. All the other flavours were kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took considerably longer to find the flavour and get checked out.

Now the question for the engineer was why the car wouldn't start when it took less time. Once time became the problem -- not the vanilla ice cream -- the engineer quickly came up with the answer: vapour lock. It was happening every night, but the extra time taken to get the other flavours allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the vapour lock to dissipate.

Moral of the story: even insane-looking problems are sometimes real.

I hope you have enjoyed this newsletter. All feedback, comments and contributions to future editions are very welcome (as are enquiries about sponsorship of this newsletter).

Alexander (Sandy) Dunn
Plant Maintenance Resource Center

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