6 Keys to Maintenance and Lubrication Planning

6 Keys to Maintenance and Lubrication Planning

Maintenance and lubrication, when done correctly, can have a large impact on productivity. To ensure your machinery is operating at the highest quality-standard possible and avoiding costly shutdowns or delays, maintenance and lubrication planning is crucial. In this article, we’ll dissect the six principles of having a quality maintenance and lubrication plan.  

The Power in Planning Lubrication

Dwight D. Eisenhower is famously quoted as saying, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Even the best of plans can go awry. Just because it was planned out properly doesn’t mean that when an actual emergency arises, everything will go according to plan. However, there is still value to be found in the planning process. By planning, you begin to explore all the potential possibilities, making you more prepared for an incident than you would have been otherwise. The knowledge you gain from planning is vital when it comes to choosing the appropriate actions.

 

Having a maintenance and lubrication plan will not only prepare you for any incident but will ensure quality production standards that can have positive impacts on the bottom line. By having higher productivity standards, you can produce higher-quality products for the lowest cost possible. That kind of efficiency is a competitive advantage in most every industry. When used appropriately, maintenance and quality lubrication planning form the basis of any successful maintenance or lubrication program.

Maintenance Planning Basics

Maintenance planning can be defined as the end-to-end process that identifies and addresses any possible issues ahead of time. This involves identifying the lubrication activities and tools necessary for jobs and making sure they are available in their appropriate areas, having instructions clearly written out about how to complete a job, and even determining the necessary lubrication tasks and tools before the job is officially assigned. Maintenance and lubrication planning also includes tasks related to parts like:

  • Handling reserve parts
  • Ordering nonstock parts
  • Staging parts
  • Illustrating parts
  • Managing breakdowns and vendor lists
  • Quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC)

Maintenance planning should define the “what,” “why,” and “how.” This means specifying what work needs to be done with what lubrication tasks, tools, and equipment, as well as why a particular action was taken and how the work should be completed.

Maintenance Planning Principles

The purpose of a maintenance plan is to determine the correct maintenance jobs and get them ready for scheduling. By having a plan in place for different incidents that may happen in the lubrication realm, you help guarantee quick actions can be taken should the need arise. Detailed procedures and task descriptions also foster consistency in how oil samples are taken, how lubricants are topped up, or how often bearings are checked for indications of accelerated wear. Consistency in all these areas is critical to trending oil analysis data to predict and prevent lubrication-related failures.

 

To do this, a designated planner develops a work plan, sometimes called a job plan, for each work order or request. These work plans detail everything a lubrication technician must do and what lubrications are needed to accomplish the task. There are six maintenance and lubrication planning principles to guide planning in the appropriate direction.

Protect the Planner

Planners are removed from the maintenance and lubrication crews and put into separate groups to facilitate specialized planning techniques and focus on future work. By having them removed and reporting to a different supervisor, the planning function is protected. As difficult as it may be at times, planners should never be used as lubrication technicians to help complete work. This ensures they are focusing solely on planning for future work.  

Focus on Future Work

This principle states that the planning group should only focus on future work to give the lubrication and maintenance departments at least one week of backlogged work that is already planned and ready to go. Having this backlog allows for the creation of a weekly schedule. With the exception of emergencies, job supervisors and lubrication technicians – not the planner – should resolve any problems that arise during the job.

Once a job is completed, the supervisor or lead lubrication technician should provide feedback to the planning group. Feedback should include things like problems encountered and changes that were made in the work plan. In other words, if the lubrication crew encounters a problem, they should work it out themselves and finish the job. Once the job is complete, they can discuss issues with the planning group to offer helpful information about what went wrong. This will aid in planning for future lubrication work.

It’s easy to get caught up helping in other tasks, which is why the lubrication planners must be solely focused on future work. For example, say a planner comes into work on a Monday morning needing to plan for the coming weekend’s crew. She also needs to file work orders for several jobs completed last week. Another lubrication tech calls her for help finding spare parts for a draft fan. Before long, she has spent most of her morning tracking down the manufacturer and getting sidetracked.

Component Level Files

The planning group should maintain a simple, secure file system based on equipment tag numbers. In other words, planners should not file on a system level but rather on an individual component level. This helps planners use the equipment data obtained from previous jobs to prepare and improve future work plans. This especially holds true since most maintenance tasks over a period of time are repetitive in nature.

 

When a component-level file or “mini-file” is made for each piece of equipment after the first time work is performed, data can be gathered and compared over time. Once a new piece of machinery is made available or is first worked on, planners make it a mini-file by labeling it with the same component tag number attached to the equipment in the field. Planners can use the information gathered over time to improve future processes.

 

Use Planner Judgement for Time Estimates

Planners should use their experience and skills along with file information to determine time estimates for work orders. Time estimates should be reasonable with what a lubrication technician might require to complete a job without any issues. This means planners should use technical, communication, and organizational data skills to make a reasonable estimate. This principle requires planners to be chosen from the organization’s best lubrication technicians, possibly ones with the most seniority.

 

For example, someone with 15 years of lubrication technician experience who accepted a planner position might notice in a previous work order file that a pump alignment took eight hours. He knows from experience that, when done by a competent mechanic, this task should only take around five hours, so he uses the five-hour estimate when creating the job plan for this task.

Recognize the Skill of the Lubrication Technicians

Planners need to be aware of and recognize the skills of their lubrication technicians when determining job plans. Planners should determine the scope of the work request and plan the general strategy of the work, including a preliminary procedure if there isn’t one, around skill level. The lubrication technicians then complete the task and work together with the planner on repetitive jobs to improve procedures and checklists. It’s common for lubrication procedures to be very general and vague. Producing highly detailed procedure descriptions is a great way capture valuable knowledge that can be passed on to new hires or lubrication techs with minimal training. Another option is to place highly skilled lubrication technicians in your place using a contractor who understand best practices. Even if the plant does not have well-documented procedures in place, this embedded technician can help generate those procedures with specifics for your equipment.

 

How much detail should be included in a job plan? A good rule of thumb is to develop a general strategy for 100 percent of the work hours. This will be better than a detailed plan for only 20 percent of the work hours. If there is a procedure already in the file or notes from people who have previously worked on the equipment, include those in the job plans.

Measure Performance with Work Sampling

This principle states that wrench time is the primary measure of workforce efficiency and of planning and scheduling effectiveness. Wrench time is defined as the time in which lubrication technicians are available to work and are not being kept from working by delays such as waiting for an assignment or parts and tools, obtaining clearance, travel time, etc. Planned work decreases unnecessary delays during jobs, while scheduling work reduces delays in between jobs.

These six principles can help you get started making a better maintenance plan, and only become more important in the context of lubrication. But if you don’t have the staff or the training to develop detailed plans that use lubrication best-practices yourself, bringing in a lubrication service provider could help you to jumpstart your lubrication program. Instead of spending all their time firefighting or keeping up with potentially redundant calendar-based tasks, your lubrication teams can focus on driving reliability and lowering the total cost of ownership for critical assets.

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