By Nathan Eichelberger
Manufacturers, plant operators, and managers of intricate building systems orchestrate a complex choreography to repair, reconfigure, and improve their facilities keeping them safe, compliant, and up-to-date.
The foot soldiers of those efforts are those on the facilities maintenance crew. Every day, these workers hit the plant floor after reviewing work tasks from their computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). A CMMS generates work orders, whether on a slip of paper or through a mobile alert, to enable the maintenance worker to identify and take care of priority problems.
Maximize Wrench Time
The most efficient plants maximize the utilization of those maintenance workers. An industry term refers to that as “maximizing wrench time,” meaning the majority of the worker’s day is spent actually repairing, replacing, or servicing critical equipment.
Having expedient access to always-accurate technical information is a crucial part of maximizing wrench time. When the tech can easily and quickly access as-builts, schematics, operating manuals, and MSDSs it sets the stage for higher productivity. The maintenance worker does not have to spend fruitless time returning to the shop for missing parts, hunting for documentation, or attempting to corral engineers to find out why the plans they’re using don’t match what’s actually installed in the field.
As a “day in the life” example, imagine a technician who shows up for duty to their workroom in the basement or remote trailer. They fire up the CMMS to see what tickets or work orders they need to tackle, and print those on a slip of paper or download them to a mobile device. After consulting the work order, they might grab the most recent 3-ring binder of documents on the affected system. Then, with their toolkit, they trudge to the assigned unit, let’s say it’s the treatment room on the 8th floor of a large hospital. But what if they’ve taken the wrong tools or spare parts? What if the documentation binder is out of date? There’s a good chance that same tech will need to make a return trip to the workroom, and lose time and money tracking down the engineer or equipment manager to get the right version of the documentation.
Our research has found that for some calls, the tech is hunting for the correct documentation 40% to 50% of the total ticket time. That is an incredible waste of time and resources.
Why Is Accurate Documentation So Difficult?
The traditional method for facilities maintenance workers to access engineering documentation is through a combination of paper files in 3-ring binders, a CAD vault of as-builts, and numerous file shares for SOPs and HSE documents. Those are set up when equipment is purchased, a new unit is opened, or a major process is changed. That’s a logical time for the contractor or in-house engineering to package the documentation, and have a one-time data hand-off to operations. That should be a clean process, right? It’s not.
Accurate capture of that data in an accessible way rarely happens. Incoming equipment documentation is usually reliable, but handover documentation is often incomplete or inaccurate, and due to the overwhelming volume supplied, there just isn’t enough time to check for these errors. Internal projects are seldom fully documented due to lack of feedback and change management processes, along with the bigger problem that the documentation was not provisioned as part of the project and updates cannot be made. Many traditional systems are simply incapable of storing and managing the huge BIM models that are becoming standard components of project handover.
Traditionally, EPCs and engineering departments work with these large data sets on local high performance workstations and servers. Recently, more open and collaborative means of storing data have become available, such as a shared file folder, Google Drive, or Dropbox. However, even those methods fall short for organizations that need to operate at scale, maintain compliance, and provide a safe working environment for their employees. Often, these shared file capabilities have facilities maintenance and operations workers searching for the most up-to-date documents without any safeguard as to whether they are viewing the latest versions. When access to those documents is essential to a facility’s license to operate, the stakes are too high for an ad-hoc solution.
Now, however, new tools make it easy for facilities maintenance workers to access the latest project-level PDF files as well as full CAD and BIM models. By having the information well organized in the cloud, the ever-changing engineering information can be accessed simply and securely. This is done by linking a CMMS system with the software for engineering schematics, sometimes known as Engineering Information Management (EIM). In doing so, no matter how much or how often the engineering information changes, maintenance will always have access to the latest, most accurate information as part of full, transportable Hero Kits that help them do their job.
Get Accurate Documents Into Hero Kits
The most forward-thinking companies pre-package maintenance and repair kits for repairs and servicing of the systems they must deal with most often. In addition to consumables (such as oil, bulbs, and filters), the Hero Kit might include the most commonly used spare parts and tools. The most comprehensive Hero Kit also includes an automatic link to the most current engineering information, including user manuals, as-built blueprints, and process and system diagrams. The Hero Kit allows the tech to show up fully prepared, and allows them to quickly get the system or plant back online. Instant access to the latest engineering information can have a major impact on minimizing hunting time and maximizing wrench time. This translates to reduced errors, longer equipment lives, improved safety, and ultimately the improved uptime and a profitable facility.
Eichelberger is a senior vice president at Accruent, a global software company that helps organizations achieve superior performance by transforming how they manage their physical resources. He is responsible for client relationships across multiple industry sectors, including discrete and process manufacturing, distribution, and utilities. With 24 years of experience in technology leadership, Eichelberger has built his career developing collaborative relationships to achieve innovative solutions for his teams and customers. Prior to joining Accruent, he held executive roles at Gateway Computers, LANDESK Software, and Ivanti Software.