The Uptime Blog
A recent post on the Association for Maintenance Professionals blog reports that “U.S. oil refiners are ‘compromising the mechanical integrity’ of their equipment by extending maintenance cycles on their plants, the head of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board said.”
Though the blog focuses on oil refineries, it references the Deepwater Horizon oil rig catastrophe of April 2010 by noting “During April and May there were 13 fires, 19 deaths and 25 injuries in the oil sector, according to the United Steelworkers. Explosions in April on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico operated by BP Plc and at Tesoro Corp.’s Anacortes, Washington, refinery resulted in 18 deaths.”
The reference to Deepwater might be a somewhat unfair (or at least illogical) correlation, since the rig was not a refinery; the article sort of mixes apples and oranges, so to speak. By referencing the Deepwater spill, it implies that the blowout of the rig might be caused by lack of maintenance. I am no expert on the subject but by most accounts, such as this one in the Washington Post, it remains unclear whether the Deepwater explosion occurred because managers failed to carry out scheduled or unscheduled maintenance. (I wrote previously on the costs of downtime in this blog post on the Deepwater Horizon explosion.)
Nonetheless, the AMP blog does raise a valid issue: the importance of performing routine maintenance. It seems short-sighted to skimp on scheduled maintenance, because the cost of equipment failure is typically far greater than the cost of parts and labor associated with routine maintenance execution. Therefore, the driving economic factor is probably downtime. As oil prices continue to rise, the cost of downtime for a refinery must be so high as to make the risk of equipment failure, due to delayed maintenance, worth taking. However the cost of equipment failure can be measured not only in economic terms (downtime), but also in terms of injury/safety and environmental damage.
When it comes to maintenance standards, many industries are highly regulated. In the United States, for example, the commercial aviation sector is highly regulated by the government (Federal Aviation Administration). Every commercial aircraft has scheduled maintenance checks, and every maintenance procedure that is performed gets recorded. (For more info, see one of our blog posts on aircraft maintenance and compliance.) Other industries, such as oil/gas, rail and chemical, are also asset intensive, with strict safety compliance regulations of their own.
Reducing maintenance costs is important to every industry but so is regulatory compliance. What can be done to encourage compliance, besides trying to instill different priorities (a big challenge in a corporate environment)? They can implement technology solutions that support this goal, such as providing access to relevant maintenance information, wherever and whenever it is needed.
Many companies that operate complex machines and equipment have implemented content management systems and maintenance planning systems, but few have tied these together with systems that deliver relevant, accurate service and parts information on-demand to mechanics and technicians in the field. (For more on this topic, see our white paper on “Deriving Greater Value from Enterprise Asset Management Investments.” )
Yet there is a great need; maintenance planners and service technicians grapple with the daunting complexity and diverse configurations of multiple pieces of equipment. Keeping assets operational involves enormous amounts of documentation, often in different formats spread across multiple locations: EAM, ERP and ECM systems. Automating the delivery of that critical content to the mechanic increases the efficiency and consistency of maintenance by streamlining fault isolation, part identification and selection of repair procedures. This boosts first-time fix rates (FTFR), improves mean-time-to-repair (MTTR), reduces manpower requirements and downtime costs and improves safety and compliance.
With this type of asset maintenance technology at their fingertips, more companies could reduce downtime and costs, while adhering to maintenance schedules.
An article published in the October issue of AeroSafety World raises serious concerns about safety compliance among aircraft maintenance technicians and their managers. The report is not focused on worker safety or OSHA standards; the report is about compliance with maintenance procedures to ensure aircraft safety.
The report is based on a Baines Simmons employee safety culture survey that canvassed 2,000 maintenance professionals in union and non-union aircraft maintenance shops in North and South America over a period of three years (2007-2010). The statistics about safety attitudes and behaviors are sobering. Among the findings:
- 16 % of the managers agreed with the statement, “Due to limited time or resources, there have been times when I signed off for work that was not completed”.
- More than 80% of the maintenance personnel surveyed said that it is necessary and actually acceptable to sacrifice safety and compliance to complete their jobs on time.
- 53% of AMTs disagreed with the statement, “Before I start a job I am always given the necessary information.”
These and similar results in the report indicate that it’s not uncommon for technicians and their managers to ignore procedures, to sign off on work that was not completed, and to perform maintenance without the proper information. This article stresses the importance of cultivating/instilling Safety Management Systems (SMS) into the maintenance process; the concern being that when technicians believe management values productivity over safety, they tend to become lax in their work habits, and stop raising safety and compliance concerns.
Many business consultants would agree that instilling an effective safety management culture can be a challenge. So besides providing more safety lectures what else can help AMTs improve safety and compliance? Technology. Though technology will not change the underlying culture of a workplace, it does make it easier for staff to adopt best practices and ensure compliance.
For example, the Enigma InService Job Card Generator combines data from a maintenance planning system with service and parts information to produce job cards (task cards) on-the-fly. Enigma combines resource, tool and equipment data with the latest maintenance manuals and parts catalogs giving technicians a complete and up-to-date set of service information, for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. This eliminates the time-consuming process of collecting necessary maintenance information, allowing productivity and compliance to go hand-in-hand.
With regard to safety and compliance, Enigma job cards can digitally record the details of service activity and inspections, with relevant information routed back into the maintenance planning system for compliance, audit and management purposes.
When 53% of technicians and 37% of managers believe that technicians lack critical maintenance information, can there be any question that airlines and MRO shops need to improve their safety management culture? Safety and compliance is about more than management dashboards and tracking systems, it’s about improving the underlying processes of maintenance.
Roni Pollack, Program Manager at Enigma, staffs the Enigma table at SUGAIR 57
I just returned from SUGAIR 57 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The SAP User Group for Airlines (SUGAIR) is a semi-annual conference for experts, executives and managers of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations in the aviation, aerospace and defense industries. Enigma was invited by SUGAIR members to present Enigma’s capabilities with SAP and discuss the business impact of current and future integrations. SUGAIR 57 offered an impressive array of airline expertise and the feedback received by Enigma was overwhelmingly positive.
SUGAIR 57 was hosted by Malaysia Airlines in cooperation with SAP and HCL-AXON. Each of the attending airlines, MODs and MRO shops, delivered presentations detailing their SAP implementations, current challenges and strategies moving forward. SAP and HCL-AXON provided updates on their joint solution, as well as presentations on best practices, tactics and strategies for using SAP to maximize business success.
There was a long and intense discussion, led by several airlines, regarding the strategy of Boeing and Airbus to withhold service and parts information as a way to lock-in spare parts sales and control who can provide maintenance and repair services. The way it was reported by these airlines, Boeing and Airbus plan to limit airlines’ access to the aircraft maintenance manual (AMM), illustrated parts catalog (IPC) and other critical technical information unless the airlines agree to use the tech pubs solutions sold by Boeing and Airbus. The airlines on-hand, who had investigated these products, had the following comments about the OEM-based solutions:
- immature/incomplete functionality
- inflexible/difficult to integrate with existing M&E solutions
- limit airline’s ability to customize and control technical content
- risk exposing an airline’s confidential information and intellectual property to competitors (in the case of MRO services, competitors include Boeing and Airbus themselves).
This was a very animated discussion and I was surprised by the nearly universal anger and suspicion expressed by the airlines toward Boeing and Airbus.
For the Enigma presentation, SUGAIR members expressed particular interest in the ability to extract information from the IPC, AMM and maintenance planning documents (MPD) and then update the master parts list (MPL), maintenance requirements (MR) and job cards (task cards) in SAP. Beyond the ability to accelerate maintenance and improve compliance, the airlines, MROs and MODs on-hand quickly recognized another key implication of this functionality—helping identify inventory problems like “dead” parts that no longer apply to an airline’s fleet and can be safely purged/re-sold from stock. All the attendees commented on the huge opportunity this represents for cost reduction.
If the goal of SUGAIR is to generate meaningful discussions between companies with common objectives and to highlight topics that have implications on operations and compliance, then SUGAIR 57 was a success. Although the audience was varied—airlines, MODs, MROs, SAP and ISV partners—all the conversations I heard focused on increasing maintenance efficiency, consistency and compliance.
For Enigma, it was a pleasure to participate in SUGAIR 57 and to help facilitate the knowledge-sharing that’s required to solve tomorrow’s aftermarket and MRO challenges. This was a valuable opportunity for aviation and aerospace operators from around the world to learn how to maximize their business success using SAP, HCL-AXON and Enigma.
Each year, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) hosts a “Bus Roadeo" held in conjunction with its annual meeting, where bus operators and maintenance teams vie for the titles of best transit bus operator and best skilled bus mechanic team. It’s a playful approach to an important topic: how to operate buses efficiently and fix them faster.
To the people who run public transit maintenance operations, troubleshooting and fixing equipment is priority #1; when equipment is out of service, agencies lose revenue, and sometimes can’t support peak demand. Of course, in daily operations for a public transit maintenance division, the goal is more complicated than fixing one bus in record time. To keep a fleet up and running and reduce operational costs, maintenance faces several common obstacles:
- Difficulty in identifying, finding and ordering the correct parts
- Multiple databases filled with outdated parts and service information
- Multiple documents and manuals, for multiple fleets, from multiple vendors/OEMs
- Equipment breakdowns and road service calls
- Failure to recover warranty claims on defective parts.
Earlier this week Enigma announced a new customer: Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), the public transit agency that provides light rail and bus transportation for Dallas, Texas and 12 surrounding cities. DART assets include a fleet of 750 buses, light rail, and non-revenue vehicles; 15 transit centers; over 12,000 bus stops; and 48 miles of light rail track and right-of-way. (For more information about the DART win, click here; also, see a YouTube clip of a DART Light Rail Technician.)
One of DART’s strategic goals is to improve maintenance execution, which has a direct impact on equipment availability, costs and ridership. As with any organization that maintains complex machines, whether it be commercial aircraft, oil rigs, or power plants, transit agencies are tasked with keeping their assets up and running, while reducing costs. Towards that end, DART selected Enigma InService EPC (Electronic Parts Catalog) because it offers a major advance in automation and productivity. Simply put, the ability to identify correct parts and relevant service information is critical to maximize productivity and equipment uptime.
InService EPC will provide up-to-date and accurate parts and service information for its maintenance and engineering department, including all parts and service manuals to support the maintenance of DART’s assets—light rail, buses, facilities and vehicles.
Incidentally, this year’s “Roadeo” was conducted at the Dallas Area Rapid Transit's Arapaho Station, but the “best skilled bus mechanic team” honor went to the King County Metro maintenance team, who hail from Seattle, Washington. We can’t claim that Enigma will help DART win next year’s competition but we are confident that InService EPC will help increase the efficiency and consistency of their daily maintenance operations.