Throughout industry, operators are given the task of inspecting equipment they are operating. Typically they have not received training or have been provided the tools to accomplish these tasks effectively. So are your operator rounds adding value to your organization?

Spending years in the field and working with numerous companies, we at Reliability Solutions find that in most cases operators do not understand the operating context of their equipment. They do not understand exactly what the equipment is supposed to do.

For example, if you are running a pump and the design output of that pump is 400 gpm at 60 psi do your operators understand how to determine, if in fact, the performance of that pump meets their needs and if not, how to determine if there is a problem? Typically from what we have seen, if the pump is running smoothly, not leaking or making any noise, the check sheet gets a check and no issues are noted.So now that no problem is discovered, how does that lack of flow or pressure affect the quality of your final product?

Another example during one of our site visits while working with a group of operators; we were inspecting four similar conveyor drives. All the conveyors were loaded about the same. Of the four motors inspected one of the motors stator was 50 deg. F higher than the other three. We discovered that the cooling vents or fan shroud was severely plugged and was reducing the ability of the fan to cool the motor. Understanding that for this particular motor, every 18 deg. F above 140 deg. F reduces the motor life by 50%. Finding this issue and making corrections just increased the life of this motor and increased the company’s bottom line. These same operators had passed this motor every day for weeks prior to this inspection and because they didn’t know what to look for or have the tools to inspect with, this was another operator round “check the box” exercise.

In order for operator rounds to be effective, operators must understand the equipment operating context, the difference between a functional failure and a breakdown, how the equipment fails, the difference between a random and time based failure and the tools and knowledge to inspect their equipment correctly.

Another area that we find detrimental to your planning and scheduling efforts is the quality of the work request written when a problem is found. Typically we see things like, motor is hot or pump is vibrating, or pump or gearbox is making a noise. Another favorite is “repair or replace”. With this type of information the planner now needs to go to the site of the equipment and try to determine what the problem is and in most cases will need to find the person that wrote the work request to determine exactly what he or she meant. So how much wasted time did this exercise just create? Does this sound familiar?

How much would it be worth to your organization if an operator could find a problem early in the failure development period so you have time to plan and scheduleandthe operator is capable of generating a work request similarto this? Pump # XYZ was vibrating 0.42 in./sec in the horizontal plane of the #3 bearing. The temp is 198 deg. F and has increased 15 deg. F in the last three weeks. With this information you can now determine exactly where the problem is and due to the increased temperature rise, understand that a sense of urgency is required. This adds tremendous value when you are trying to prioritize your work.

The question now is what type of operators do you have and what do you need? We find that operators to maintenance personnel are typically 5 to 1 upwards to 15 to 1 in numbers.

Maintenance personnel are busy working on the tasks that require their particular skill set and if operators are making rounds anyway, why are multiple groups checking the same equipment? If your operators have the knowledge and tools to perform good inspections on your equipment you are ahead of the most in the journey to Reliable Manufacturing®.

Reliability Solutions is the world leader in maintenance and operator training and helps clients create a sustainable, productive and continuously improving environment. They work hands-on in the field with their clientsand provide training to optimize product quality and quantity, improve asset availability, reduce overall maintenance costs, conserve energy consumption, and improve safety performance.

Contact Reliability Solutions for more information on how they can help create a sustainable, continuously improving environment at your