There is a tale from Homer (not Simpson, but the Homer from among some of Western Man's earliest writings). He tells the story of the Greek, King Odysseus - Ulysses to the Romans - and the long, homeward journey after the battle of Troy (remember the wooden Trojan Horse?) At some point during the 20 year voyage, King Odysseus observes and questions where the boat is that he first set sail in. So many timbers have been replaced during the travels that he wonders where the original vessel ends and a completely new one begins. However, since the ship is still afloat, it is a moot point, since it provides a fine example from our earlier beginnings, of how good maintenance can keep an enterprise running smoothly and on-track toward achieving goals…
It seems too obvious a statement to make, but many accidents occur as a result of poorly maintained equipment. For many of us, the only regular contact we have with a piece of heavy duty machinery is the family car. From this association alone, we should grasp an understanding of why maintenance is necessary. Brake and engine oil top-ups, tyre pressure checks and tops-ups, windscreen wiper replacement, brake adjustments, battery checks, and so on, are an accepted part of our owning and running a car. If we have a regular service centre, we will also be aware of the centre's occasional reminders that a car service is coming up, or is overdue: they have kept a record in their file of when they last worked on the car, and so on. It should come as no surprise that in our workplaces, similar maintenance needs exist. As in many of the steps toward achieving nil injuries in our workplaces, a good maintenance system is not noticed until it does not exist: it is only when something goes wrong that we say "Gosh, if only I'd had that part refilled with oil…" or "Geez, those bearings were due to be replaced 6 months ago…" With the benefit of 20/20 vision in hindsight, the wonderful old maxim "A stitch in tme saves nine…" springs to mind, and we kick ourselves and shell out for an expensive repair bill that we now know could have been avoided… Will we let that happen again?
As mentioned above, programmed maintenance is the sort of maintenance we carry out on a regular basis. We keep, and stick to, a schedule of having things checked, refilled, replaced, at specific times. Sometimes these steps are based on calendar time, other times they are based on plant usage. It is best to have a combination, again, similar to your car check: three months or 3,000 kilometres, etc.
Some things may need checking much more often, such as emergency fire detection equipment in a hospital (usually once a month); or even more regularly, such as the air hoses supplying a diver below onboard a salvage vessel (each run-out and run-in during daily operations, and certainly before each new job is about to commence).
Programmed maintenance requires a recording system for what is done and needs doing, along with a system for reminding relevant personnel.
An effective programmed maintenance schedule will include provision for ready access to parts and substances required during the maintenance, and if this includes not keeping stock in your own workshop or warehouse of the necessary maintenance items, be wary of following "Just in Time" mechanisms. For example, a programmed maintenance of batteries in emergency call stations in a nursing facility shows them to be critically low in power, but the usual supplier at that time is out of stock. Be prepared and think ahead. "Best Practice" programmed maintenance schedules will include "Plan B" options Remember, too, that a programmed shut-down to operations is usually much cheaper than an online breakdown.
Responsive maintenance is applied in order to correct faults either found during a programmed check of plant, or in reaction to an actual break-down. Just as we need to have emergency procedures to cover OHS incidents (fire, evacuation, etc.) we should have a 'trouble shooting team' of maintenance personnel whose role is to address the accidental failure of our plant and/or substances. Since this sometimes means dealing with the 'unknown', such teams ideally should comprise our better trained personnel, and contingency planning may include basic changes in hierarchies for a short time. Similar to good emergency control procedures, there should be an understanding of 'state of emergency' hierarchies, vs. regular, day-to-day hierarchies. (An example here might be the documented authority of personnel from the trouble shooting team to over-ride normal purchasing control procedures in order to obtain parts/substances urgently in order to get plant up and running again.) Again, be wary of not keeping your own parts or substances on hand: "Just in Time" dependencies on out-sourced supply mechanisms may result in parts not being immediately available.
ONE METRE MORE…
I was privileged to work in India a number of years ago, on a large conference site (planned to host upward of 60,000 at a time during special events). Due to that country's developing economic reasons, legislated occupational health and safety is not yet on par with some other countries, and much of the work involving health and safety depended very much on training personnel to at least 'be aware' of the hazards Western countries have thus far identified in their climb up the industrialised ladder. At the end of the contracted period, as I was leaving the site with a group of other Westerners, a woman from an English agency commented to me of the team of Indian chefs she had worked with and trained. They had come out in force to see her off, and she was thrilled to note how they had specifically thanked her for her input into the kitchens, and how they would now work in such a manner as to look after their area "… and one metre more…"
Think ahead. What works today, may not work tomorrow. Plan, apply, monitor, review and improve our maintenance schedules.
Functional maintenance systems achieve total and positive quality control and environmental outcomes. As noted elsewhere, we may never know the time and energy - nor even lives and limbs - we have saved along the way: but make no mistake, quality maintenance, like safety, does not just happen - someone works to make it that way… BE THAT SOMEONE!
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