Do your operations run like a tortoise, or a hare?


The hare moves fast with its big hops but tires quickly – like a sprinter, the hare gives it all, then takes a long break to recover. The tortoise is like a long-distance runner at a pace that can be sustained for the long haul. At the end of the race, the tortoise wins out. Your plant and equipment won’t run any different from the tortoise or the hare – depending on your choices.

If your operation has a lot of unexpected downtime and variability in output, you are operating like the hare. Running hard, sometimes referred to as “sweating the asset”, also runs it down. At some point, usually while it is producing at high rates, it breaks down. Stresses on the equipment are highest at higher rates of output. Any deterioration will be accelerated and weakness show up sooner.

Operation like the tortoise reduces the stresses, and weaknesses may no longer be prone to failure. With optimized machine performance, you can reduce those frequent breaks for downtime and repairs. You can take downtime when you choose, not when the machinery demands it.

Plant and equipment will always behave predictably in its operating environment. It has no conscience or knowledge of what it is doing nor how important it is to you – it’s user. If it is taken care of, it will work well and do what it is designed to do. If it is neglected or abused, it won’t, because it can’t.

You have a heavy reliance on the equipment, processing and production systems to operate steadily at high output levels. Because the systems are so complex, there is plenty that can happen to disrupt it. Off spec inputs, settings that drift out of tolerance, operator errors, breakdowns with delays in repairs, maintenance errors, scheduled maintenance outages, and more. Those can all cause harm, result in downtime, and reduce the ability to produce.

At the end of the day, you suffer with higher costs and reduced revenues. If markets for your products are a bit tough, you may be flirting with unprofitability and any one of various business threats because of poor financial performance. Your maintainers have probably struggled with equipment breakdowns, attempting to reduce downtime through faster repairs. They might have increased spare parts investment to help speed up those repairs. They probably use a lot of overtime and are likely running above their forecast budgets. When you are down for repairs, your operators are idled, but their pay continues. When repairs are completed, you ramp up as fast as you can and then run hard again to make up for the lost production. The treadmill never stops and you might be looking for the off ramp.

Along comes some slick technology: a new EAM or CMMS, IIoT, Artificial Intelligence to help make better decisions, invariably accompanied by a lot of hype. Your maintainers gladly embrace whatever technology comes along, hoping it will give them a break. Technology tends to be today’s “go to” solution for everything. But there is no “app for that” if “that” isn’t a technical problem. In our experience there’s always something deeper, more human, and a lot more difficult to deal with at the root of what is happening here.

Chances are that your own people are at their wits’ end. They don’t know what they don’t know and they are probably grasping at straws. Before falling victim to the promising hype and jumping into a technology-based solution, you really need some expert outside advice.

Just recently we helped one company with over 20 operating sites avoid millions in unnecessary technology spending. Fortunately, we got there just before it was too late – they needed a fresh set of eyes to help them see what was really going on.

They didn’t need a new system; they needed the right training and a refocus on their business process discipline.

Business process, the requisite discipline to follow them, communication within processes, handoffs between processes, unreliable equipment (from poor design, operating practices, poor maintenance or the wrong maintenance) are often at fault. And when we dig into why those are at play, we often find a lack of knowledge, lack of skill, lack of motivation and other related causes that can be dealt with once identified and understood.

Most of our work is in the realm of physical assets reliability and maintenance management. You might think we deal largely in the technical realm. In a sense we do, but more precisely, we deal with those who deal in the technical realm.

If you are operating more like a hare than a tortoise, suffering high costs and low outputs with frequent breakdowns, then you probably need some help. Let’s talk.

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