13.2 Technology –
The Systems That We Use
of Technology Systems
types of technology systems support change in a reliability based work culture.
These are administrative software tools and specific functional tools.
These are software applications that
handle information about the work process. They also provide the user with the
ability to work with the information as the work process progresses. Examples
include your computerized maintenance management system, a system for
controlling supplemental workers (contractors), financial, materials management
or financial systems, and programs that provide reports for analysis and
These are software applications that work
specifically with a functional part of the business. These tools provide a
place to store the information you gather and directly help you conduct problem
analysis. They also help you convert the information into data that is
analytical and predictive in nature. Examples include vibration analysis,
thermography, stationary equipment thickness and remaining life information,
operator driven reliability software (usually part of a handheld electronic
process), and others.
Reasons for Using Technology
and functional tools are equally important if we want to change from a
repair-based work environment to one focused on reliability. However, many
people still believe that state-of-the-industry technology is not necessary.
Instead, they believe that doing things the old way, manually or with
antiquated software, is good enough. We will discuss this concern further in
the section on role models. For now, I want to explain why the old way is
simply insufficient if a company wants to survive in today’s marketplace.
older processes worked when all we wanted to do was to fix what had broken down
and return it to service as quickly as possible. They do not work in a
reliability-focused environment because they can not deliver the essential and
required information. What we require are modern systems with information that
is accurate, timely, controlled, widely accessible, consistently logical, and
integrated. Otherwise, a reliability-focused culture is difficult or even
impossible to achieve. Let’s look at the key factors required.
The information within our systems needs
to be accurate. Older systems or manual efforts do not always live up to this
requirement. Older systems are difficult to manage and information doesn’t always
get entered. Both manual systems and older computer systems that require
extensive manual intervention are subject to human error.
The information needed to make sound
decisions may be available, but older systems and manual processes have extreme
difficulty getting it to the right person in a timely fashion.
Reliability-based decisions require information to be at people’s finger tips
The information within our systems needs
to be available, but it also needs to be controlled. The majority of people who
need information really only need to see it; they should not be able to remove,
alter, or delete it. Newer databases provide this level of information
security. Older systems are much more difficult to control; manual processes
are even worse.
Widely Accessible Information
The majority of older systems are
functional in nature. As a result, they are only accessible to the function and
the members of the function that they support. Many people liked this because
it was their system and others needed to come to them for their information. If
we want the work to have a reliability focus, everyone involved must have
access to the information that will lead them to quality decisions.
Consistently Logical Information
Information has a logic to it, especially
if it is being analyzed by the system. Software provides consistently logical
results. Older software is limited. Human systems are subject to human error or
logical processes being incorrectly applied as different people perform the
Older systems and manual processes were
fit into functional silos – those in the function were the only ones who had
access to the information. Consequently people had to seek out this information
from other departments — a time consuming effort — or make decisions without
the information.. If you want people to make quality decisions, then you need
systems that allow them to gain access to all of the information required to make
those decisions. You need to establish a way to bring all of the information
together for access by those who require it. This can be a manual process, but
preferably you can work within your company to develop an electronically
integrated solution — one that links the systems and the information that these
tools that provide these basics are not easy to obtain and can be extremely
expensive. Some companies have purchased multifunctional software to try to
achieve these requirements. The expense is large and the software often fails
to deliver one tool for all needs. The problem is that our administrative and
functional needs are just too diverse and complex. Other firms simply employ
multiple technological tools. They trust that the users of these tools can
obtain what they need by knowing how to navigate more than one system or simply
by getting the information from someone who does. Each of these approaches is
time consuming and difficult. Finally, using new technology solutions, many
companies have worked to integrate their systems so that information can be
obtained from a single source without having to know the systems from where it
came – systems / information integration.
best use of the technology is obtained by the integration solution. It
certainly is less expensive, it can provide a way to link all systems (and the
information that they contain), and it delivers what is needed to run a
reliability-focused work process.
13.3 Technology –
The Information That We Create
in the form of computer systems is only half of the story. When we need to make
decisions about how we are going to repair a failed pump, we need more than
software. We also need the information that the software can deliver. This information
bill of material
what was done the last time the pump
any upgrades planned for this equipment
the repair history
safety requirements that need to be
included in the work plan
this information must be accurate if we are to perform our jobs properly. It’s
the job of the software to make this information accessible and integrated. But
that goal will fail unless we have processes in place to make certain that the
information entered into our databases is accurate and timely.
Important Rules for Information
rules apply to this type of information. If these are followed, the resulting
information that becomes available for the decision-making process is likely to
be what is required. Without these rules, the information will be suspect by
the organization, which will foster a culture that will always be checking its
accuracy with the experts. These checks are time consuming and
inefficient, and add a layer of skepticism that undermines success. Therefore,
you need to apply these rules.
1. Never have the same information in more than one
When you have various functions entering
information into functionally-specific software databases, you always run the
risk of having the same data fields in two places, often with two different
values. This conflict needs to be avoided at all costs. First, you run the risk
of someone using the incorrect information to make a critical decision. Second,
people will learn to distrust the information. The former is dangerous; the
latter breeds ineffectiveness and inefficiency. The solution is to analyze the
information in each of the databases and remove those that are redundant. There
should be only one data set. If the information is required in other databases,
create interfaces to get it there on a regular basis from the primary source.
2. Make information accessible in a read-only mode
and an easy to obtain format. (Integrate, if possible.)
People need information, but they seldom
need the ability to alter it. Therefore, make the majority of the information
available in a read-only mode. Most systems today allow this level of security
to be placed on the information.
3. Tightly control who can add, change, or delete
Engineers maintain the philosophy that
people who find inaccuracies in information should be the ones to change it.
This line of thinking believes that we are professionals who should have system
access to make changes. People probably would not make destructive changes to
the information, but it is still possible. More likely, those with good
intentions may make incorrect changes.
problem is that the people we want empowered with the ability to change
information do so infrequently. When they do, they are prone to error or to
entering the information incorrectly. In addition, the information may need to
go into one or more systems; only a data integrity expert familiar with the
databases would know the other places the information is needed. In sort, restrict
who can make additions to or change your database.
4. Have a detailed process in place for new
information, information changes, and information removal.
Along with rule #3 is the need to have
detailed processes in place for information handling. If we are going to
severely limit who can make additions or changes to the databases, we need to
provide a detailed process to enable people to get their updates to those
handling the entries. We also need to provide training for entering the
5. Make certain that the information handling process
Limiting access and having a process to
update information is worthless if the process is not followed. You need to assign
a specific person or group from your organization the responsibility and
accountability, not only to make changes, but also to make certain that the
process is followed. This can be accomplished by contacting the managers of the
projects affecting the information and auditing it on an on-going basis.
6. Evaluate new approaches to information handling
Finally you need to continually evaluate
better ways of handling and accessing the information required for
reliability-based decision making. Years ago I was involved with the
installation of a new maintenance management system. This system had the
capability of storing asset related details such as pressure settings, weights,
metallurgy, and other significant design information. In an effort to make this
a value-added tool for the user community, we spent considerable time and money
gathering and inputting this asset-related information into the system. Ten
years ago that was the best available solution.
these fields are no longer utilized for the asset-specific information. Our new
approach is to scan the data sheets into an electronic document management
system and index the system based on the asset numbering used by the plant. In
this way, users who need information can easily obtain the entire data sheet
instead of searching for a specific piece of information buried deep within the
maintenance software. The ability to update this information through the
control of the most recent version of the data sheet is also achieved so that
the user knows that the information is accurate.