Making Machines More Reliable and Reducing Costs

Scott Buker

Maintenance Manager at Kroger/Peyton’s Southeast

Learning Objectives

Give leaders outside of the Maintenance and Reliability function knowledge of how to improve the performance and reduce costs of that function in your own organization.

Key Takeaways:

  • How to make your equipment more reliable and lower costs

  • Understanding of the different reliability methodologies

"Train your team, train your management, track your progress."

Scott Buker

Maintenance Manager at Kroger/Peyton’s Southeast


Morning. My name is Scott Buker. I’ve got about 35 years of maintenance experience. I’ve been a Maintenance Technician in production, Production Supervisor on assembly line, an SPC Engineer, a Maintenance Manager, and an Engineering Manager. So, I’m getting closer to retirement age. I’d like to share some things that will help a lot of companies. I think, before I retire, I’m trying to pass on some of the things that I’ve learned throughout my career.

There are so many different things in different organizations that it’s hard to compare apples to apples when you’re talking about different locations that do your same thing. So I’ll share a way for you to talk to your maintenance manager, and give them a way to reduce costs while making your equipment more reliable.

Today, I’d like to talk to you about reducing costs and making machines more reliable. I think this is an important topic because if you talk to your maintenance manager, and you only tell them things like, “You need to meet your budget,” that’s not going to work out for you. Because if you’re just trying to control maintenance as a cost, you and your maintenance manager only got about heads. If you say something like this, why are you using so many spare parts? How do you know those parts are bad? Why are you actually changing all those parts? That’s not going to help you accomplish what you’re trying to do either if you’re trying to cut costs. What are your headcount? Why is your headcount higher than other locations the same size?

It says that the typical facility has hidden capacity under current equipment. That means, if your machines were more reliable, you’d get a better return on your investment. But most companies would rather spend more money on new equipment rather than find a way to make their current equipment more profitable. That’s what a lot of companies do. Their focuses on “Well, if we buy faster equipment, if we buy better equipment, we’ll get more throughput.” Actually, if you make your equipment more reliable, there’s a lot of hidden capacity in the current factory that you have.

I’m going to talk to you about condition based maintenance. Making maintenance cost improvements by doing the right thing in the right time. It’s by doing only the right thing at only the right time. We’ll talk about a few different maintenance philosophies here. The first one is run to failure. Do nothing or replace a machine when it fails. Sometimes that’s the most profitable way to do things. It’s a small equipment, or maybe you have redundant equipment, and you can switch from one to another. Sometimes that’s the best way to do, most likely not, but some cases, that’s true.

Preventive maintenance is the next one. If you’re trying to do work at a specified time levels, like I go change this air filter every every six months or change this oil filter every six months, you’re basically changing parts on a time based schedule. My experiences about 60% of that work is a waste. Predictive maintenance uses technology like infrared cameras, vibration monitoring, or things like that that can predict when the machine is going to fail. I’ll cover that in a little more detail here.

Condition based maintenance, which to me is the best maintenance methodology that I’ve used, do work only when machine conditions require it. That means don’t waste time on changing parts if they don’t need it. Don’t waste money going to check equipment if they don’t need it. Only do things when a machine tells you it’s about to fail. Before it fails, so only do the right thing at the right time.

What is condition based maintenance? Condition based maintenance measures or monitor current or conditions that indicate when a machine may fail. It’s possible to determine the precise point that’s gonna fail by using test equipment or monitoring equipment or things like that. Sometimes, you can just go monitor something small, and it’ll give you an indication that a machine’s gonna fail. I’ll cover a case like that I’ve just introduced in my current position.

Condition based maintenance sounds similar to predictive maintenance, but they’re not the same. Predictive maintenance is you go around and you make measurements on equipment, make measurements on appointment, I know all the time based schedule. Condition based maintenance does not require those precise skills of that high tech equipment, complex equipment to monitor those conditions. It can be some things that are very, very easy and you make little measurements or you measure something that tells you this machine’s gonna fail. By understanding what makes the machine fail, or how the machine can fail, and you monitor the little hints that it gives you before it will fail, if you will. They’ll make this work happens in response to machine conditions, not unplanned downtime events.

Imagine this: If you can do all of your maintenance just when it needs to be done, not when it’s convenient for you. If you don’t order spare parts until you know that you’ve got a condition coming up that the machine’s gonna fail, then you order the parts, you save a lot of money on spare parts, save a lot of money on storing spare parts, you save a lot of money on spare parts inventory, and you save a lot of labor. That’s why I think condition based maintenance is the most important.

Monitoring the indicators of potential failure. Machines give you failure hints—little hints that they’re going to fail. If you look at this, if you try to do time based maintenance, you can see that there’s really no relationship or very little relationship to failures and time. So you can use things like oil analysis, vibration, temperature, or operator checks that say, “Hey, this thing’s hot today, or this thing smells funny today,” which is really the best way to do that.

This is data from the military in the 70s. There are six failure modes that machines fell by or parts fell by. The top three have a relationship to age. The top one, for example, is no relationship to failures. Then, as the machine ages, you come to a point where the machines about worn out and it’s time to replace parts or time to replace the machine. Next is the bathtub curve where you have a high infant mortality or early failures in the machines life, then random failures throughout its life and then towards the end of its life, you have a higher failure rate. The third one is slightly increasing risk of failure throughout the machine’s life.

Those top three have some relationship to age. Only 11% of failures actually happened in those three. The 89%, the other three on the bottom have no relationship to age. That’s how most of machine failures occur. They’re random. There’s no relationship to the age. Most machine fires, 72% have happened during machine started up. So you’ll find things like wires that were loose, left loose, bearings that were installed wrong, bolts that were left loose on the machine, you find assembly errors. Other than that, there’s very little things and have relationship to age or failures that have a relationship to age.

How do you apply CBM? If you’re going to ask your maintenance manager, we need to move to this condition based maintenance so we do the right thing at the right time, you get to tell them how to do that. Let’s start with a little pilot program, which I’ve done now on our sprinkler system. I’ve trained a team, I told him what we’re doing, what is conditioned base maintenance, I gave him kind of the same training over different maintenance theories that I just gave you.

Monitor your progress, make changes if you need. If what you’re doing is not working right, make some changes. For example, I made a chart to track our progress. The time interval on the chart wasn’t quite right, so I had to change my chart. Get your team involved. Show them what your results results, and ask them to find other applications, and expand on what we’ve learned and continue the process. So that’s kind of where we’re at right now.

So I’ll tell you, I applied this condition based monitoring system to our sprinkler system. We spent a lot of money last year trying to find leaks. We thought we had an underground leak,nd so we dug up parking lots, truck lots and all kinds of places which are pretty expensive to do. We never could find the leak. We had a lot of fire alarms last year where we sent people out I never could get anybody to tell me where’s the problem at. So I decided this is a great application for sprinkler system for our sprinklers for condition based maintenance on our sprinkler system.

How this works is you’ve got two small pumps and two large pumps, two small pumps are called jockey pumps. One keeps the the first pump keeps the pressure up to 165 psi. When it gets down to 150, that pump comes back on and pumps it back up. The next one is 130 to 145 psi, and so on. The more leaks that you have, the more pumps that you’re gonna run. If you have a fire and you have a sprinkler heads go off, you have more pumps to pump more water.

We were having problems with the first pump—the 150 to 265 psi running. It would run and shut off for about 30 seconds, and run again and pump up to 165 and shut the system shut off again and then come back on in about 30 seconds. But quickly noticed, “Hey, there’s an easy thing to monitor that tells us how many leaks we got in the system that tells us where we’re at what the condition of our system is.” This was normal to my team. The sprinkler system hadn’t been maintained very well, and so we had fire alarms and everything else. Instead of fixing the problem, it was a normal way of operating. So I said “Hey, look, this is not the normal way to operate.”

It’s easy to start with a small project like I did here. Train your team, train your management, track your progress. Make sure everyone understands, alerts from, and then take this activity, and moving on to something else in your organization. Feel free to email me. That’s my personal email. If you have any questions or I can help in any way, please let me know. Thank you.

So we started monitoring the off time or the time between run cycles on this first 150 to 265 psi jockey pump. What we expected to do was reduce the number of times that the building was evacuated by 75% for this year. Last year, there are eight evacuations each time that that happens, it cost about $1,650. My target was to reduce that by 75% or save about $10,000 a year. Everybody understands. I got my non maintenance, I got my boss, and upper management all included and understand this project when I start talking about money. Here’s where we’re going to save money. This is why this is going to make it successful. So I’ve got my maintenance crew on board, and I’ve got my upper management on board, and everybody understands what we’re going to do.

This is a little project tracker that I give to my boss every month. The chart on the bottom shows where we’re actually at, how many we have had zero evacuations this year compared to last year, and of course, years not over with but we’re making good progress. These are the off times or the time between runs that we monitor for that jockey pump for the 150 to 165 psi pump. It started off we’re a little bit under an hour there for the first four times and we fix some leaks. Then, we got up to over five hours between rounds. Then, we had some more leaks, and the time dropped down. Now we fixed more leaks, and we’re getting more leaks, I still have one leak fix.

You can see we’re over 10 hours now between runtimes on that pump, when originally when we started, we were 30 seconds. We go out and check the runtime on this pump once every Friday. The guy says man is going up, I needed a chart. That’s going up, I need a new chart, or went down, we got a leak. So it’s very easy indicator for everyone to understand what the condition of our system is.

I hope that’s clear. I hope that’s easy to understand. If you want to talk to your maintenance manager or your maintenance reliability manager about how to improve how to cut costs, you need to give them away, you need to give them a method, you need to give them a tool. I think that this is a good tool. It’s very easy for everyone to understand. I hope you’ll try it. I hope you’ll talk to your maintenance reliability manager about it. I’m sure that you’re going to find that there’s some benefit for you.

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