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M-News Edition 6
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M-News - the Maintenance Newsletter

Edition 6, March 2000

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

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 - Application of Dempster-Shafer Theory to Oil Monitoring
2000 Maintenance Salary Survey - Update
Conferences and Events - The Plant Maintenance Resource Center Calendar
Feature Article - Maintenance - A Business Centered Approach
Book Review - Uptime - Strategies for Excellence in Maintenance Management
Book Review - Visual Systems for Improving Equipment Effectiveness and Proven Tips for Equipment Troubleshooting
On the Lighter Side - Engineering Humor

Feature Article - Application of Dempster-Shafer Theory to Oil Monitoring

A slightly more academic article as one of our feature articles this month. Written by X P Yan, Y B Xie and H L Xiao, of Wuhan Transportation University and Xi'an Jiaotong University in China, this article reports the results of an experiment where various oil analysis techniques were applied to two diesel engines operating in a marine environment. The paper outlines the success of the different techniques in detecting different types of failures, as well as a possible diagnostic approach involving the fusion of data from differing data sources.

The full article can be read here.

2000 Maintenance Salary Survey

The current Maintenance Salary survey is well under way, with over 250 responses received to date. A reminder that the survey closes on March 15, 2000, so if you haven't completed the survey yet, please do so NOW. 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 here.

Conferences and Events - The Plant Maintenance Resource Center Calendar

A reminder that the Plant Maintenance Resource Center website has an extensive list of upcoming conferences, events and training seminars listed here. Some of the many events featured here include:

  • The Plant Engineering and Maintenance Trade Shows organised by Professional Trade Shows Inc. throughout the United States
  • Machinery Vibration Analysis Courses run by the Vibration Institute.
  • Maintenance Training Seminars run by the Marshall Institute
  • Maintenance Training Seminars run by New Standard Institute, and
  • Condition Monitoring Training Courses run in Australia by Maintenance Systems Consolidated
With over 150 events listed, it is a valuable guide to "what's on" in Maintenance.

If you know of any upcoming events that aren't listed here, please let me know, and I'll make sure they are added.

Maintenance - A Business Centered Approach

This is an excellent article from Chris Thomas which, in my opinion, highlights the primary dilemma facing maintenance managers when trying to raise the profile of maintenance within their organisations. Based on Chris' 20 years experience working in maintenance, he also puts forward six practical steps you can make to improving maintenance within your organisation. You can read his article here.

Book Review - Uptime - Strategies for Excellence in Maintenance Management

John Campbell is the partner in charge of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Maintenance Center of Excellence in Toronto, Canada, and has substantial experience in Maintenance Management consulting. His book - Uptime - Strategies for Excellence in Maintenance Management, is a fairly slim (185 pages) and very readable introduction to the latest thinking and practices for maintenance management from a business perspective. The author has written the book with the intention that it is more for reading by general management, or others wanting an overview of maintenance management thinking, than as a definitive technical review of plant engineering and maintenance technology. Engineers or Operations Managers who are new to maintenance, and who may not be familiar with the key concepts (such as TPM, RCM, CMMS implementation etc.) will find a lot of very useful material here. And this may be the ideal book to drop on the desk of the General Manager who doesn't seem to fully understand what the Maintenance function is trying to achieve in your organisation, or give to the Production Manager who has just assumed responsibility for Maintenance in a decentralised organisation structure.

The book is structured around Campbell's pyramid model of the nine basic building blocks for effective maintenance. At the base of the pyramid is Leadership, which is, in turn, made up of the two elements of Strategy and Management. The next level in the pyramid is Control, which contains the buidling blocks of Data Management, Measures, Tactics, and Planning and Scheduling. The thrid level in the pyramid is Continuous Improvement, which contains the building blocks of RCM and TPM. The final level is Quantum Leaps, which contains the building block of Process Reengineering. The principle behind the model is that, in putting together an effective Maintenance function - the lower levels of the pyramid must be tackled first. There is little point in tackling Maintenance Control, for example, unless the fundamental maintenance strategy, and basic management structures are in place. Similarly, embarking on a Continuous Improvement progam, without first having bedded down basic maintenance control processes, is likely to be ineffective. There is a chapter in the book for each of the building blocks, as well as an additional chapter musing about the future of maintenance management in the 21st century.

The strength of this book, as well as its frustration, is the level of detail that is contained within it. It covers a lot of ground, in a relatively short time - which is absolutely ideal if you are looking for an overview of maintenance management principles, but which can be frustrating if you are looking for answers to specific problems, or are looking for more detail in an area of interest. For example, the issue of centralisation vs decentralisation of the maintenance organisation structure is covered in three pages, with the final conclusion being that "there is no correct organization structure that can be transferred from a book to a real-life situation" (p. 30). I guess you need to hire PricewaterhouseCoopers to give you some advice on your "real-life situation" :-). But we must remember that the book is not intended to be the definitive reference book on Maintenance Management.

In the section on Maintenance Control, the important distinction between Maintenance Planning and Maintenance Scheduling is well made. This fundamental concept is remarkably poorly understood, in my experience, and results in significantly poorer maintenance performance. Basic methods for planning and scheduling maintenance work are well covered, although no attention is given to how to most effectively manage the inevitable breakdowns that occur that interrupt even the best made plans and schedules.

One quibble with the book is the terminology used to describe the routine tasks chosen to predict or prevent equipment failures. Campbell uses the term "Maintenance Tactics" to describe these tasks, where "Equipment Maintenance Strategies" is the terminology more commonly used. Using "Maintenance Tactics" implies that these decisions are short-term, taken on the run, where, to be effective, Equipment Maintenance Strategies need to fully take into account the strategic needs of the business, and are unlikely to be reviewed more frequently than on an annual basis - they are hardly "tactical" decisions. Indeed, the chapter on Maintenance Tactics explains some useful principles, but does not indicate how best to determine the most appropriate Equipment Maintenance strategies. RCM is covered in a later chapter (under Continuous Improvement), and given an excellent overview in this chapter. In my view, these two chapters should be combined (and a basic description of Weibull Analysis included).

Another oversight in the book, given its intended readership at General Manager level, is an absence of coverage of the topic of Risk Management and Maintenance. Concepts of tolerable levels of risk, and how certain maintenance activities, such as functional testing or "failure finding tasks" can help to minimise total business risk (whether financial, environmental or safety risks) are important issues that General Managers need to understand, and are, for the most part, very interested in.

Nevertheless, this job does a good job of demistifying Maintenance Management for Non-Maintenance Managers and is highly recommended for reading by General Managers, Production or Operations Managers, as well as engineers who may be coming into the maintenance function for the first time, with minimal exposure to the principals of Maintenance Management.

This book may be purchased from through the Plant Maintenance Resource Center. At time of writing,'s price for this book is $US35. For more details, or to order, click here.

Book Review - Visual Systems for Improving Equipment Effectiveness and Proven Tips for Equipment Troubleshooting

Strategic Work Systems have available a couple of small books that are designed to assist maintenance workers at shop floor level and above.

The first of these, Visual Systems for Improving Equipment Effectiveness, is clearly designed as a workbook for use during one of Strategic Work Systems training seminars, but is detailed enough to function effectively as a standalone volume. Clearly drawing on sound TPM principles, this 72 page volume outlines a mumber of simple, practical approaches that can be applied, with the basic principle being to "let the equipment tell you what it needs and how well it is doing". There are plenty of tips here to get the creative thought processes going, including using effective color coding, match marking nuts, using clear plastic panels on guarding to aid visual inspection, using temperature sensitive labels and much more.

The book also covers, in more detail, three visual systems to aid maintenance - the Operator Daily TPM checklist, the TPM problem tag, and the TPM Action board - although how these might work in parallel with more traditional CMMS-base approaches to managing and planning maintenance work is not considered in any significant detail in the book.

The second book, Proven Tips for Equipment Troubleshooting, is a pocket sized, spiral bound book, that appears to be intended for use "in the field" to assist technicians and crafts/trades people to more effectively diagnose the possible causes of equipment problems. The first concern is just how long this book would survive in use in an industrial environment, as the pages aren't laminated, could get extremely dirty very quickly, and the rather thin pages could be ripped out without careful handling. The book covers both mechanical and electrical problems on equipment including Pumps, Bearings, Valves, Chain Drives, Gearboxes, Lubricating Oil Systems, V-Belt drives, Fan Systems, Steam Traps, Electric Motors (AC & DC), Electrical Contacts, Electric Molded Case Breakers, Magnetic Circuits, and Dielectric Circuits. For each type of equipment, the book outlines typical problems encountered (for example, "Bearings running hot"), and then outlines probable causes together with a suggested "action". This is where we run into a few more more problems with the book. In a few cases, the "causes" of the problem are combined (for example, for a bearing "Unbalanced load; housing bore too large"). The corresponding "actions" are subsequently also combined - even though only one of these problems may be at the heart of the matter. Also, in some cases, the "action" is the corrective action required to fix the problem, in others, it is the action required to determine whether, in fact, the probable cause is, indeed, the cause of the problem. In many cases, how you determine the root cause of the problem (i.e. troubleshoot the problem, as the title of the book suggests) is not documented at all, only the corrective action is documented. Nevertheless, the list of probable causes to problems is lengthy, and appears to be quite comprehensive. All in all, this book is a great idea, but needs a little more work to become a truly effective shop floor tool. However, Strategic Work Systems are to be commended for their efforts to help improve maintenance at a shop floor level.

These books may be purchased direct from Strategic Work Systems, Inc. at

On the Lighter Side - Engineering Humor

(Let's hope there aren't any lawyers reading this..... )

An engineer dies and reports to the pearly gates. St. Peter checks his dossier and says, "Aha, you're an engineer ... you've come to the wrong place." So the engineer reports to the gates of hell and is let in. Pretty soon, he becomes dissatisfied with the level of comfort in hell and starts designing and building improvements. After a while, they've got air conditioning, flush toilets and escalators and the engineer is a pretty popular guy.

One day God calls Satan up on the telephone and says with a sneer, "So, how's it going down there in Hell?" Satan replies, "Hey, things are going great. We've got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and there's no telling what this engineer is going to come up with next."

God replies, "What??? You've got an engineer? That's a mistake ... he should never have been sent down there. Send him back." Satan says, "No way. I like having an engineer on the staff and I'm keeping him." God says, "Send him back up here or I'll sue."

Satan laughs uproariously and answers, "Yeah, right ... and just where are YOU going to get a lawyer?"

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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