Can the facilities management sector change focus to a reliability and condition based approach to maintenance? by Chris Payne
Saturday, March 28th, 2015
During a recent meeting with a maintenance organisation, they were exceptionally proud to demonstrate their knowledge, systems and processes to illustrate their technical capability within their specific market area. At the centre of their business, and why they were delighted to pull back the curtains that normally obscure internal structure and systems to the outside the world, was a huge data engine focused on collecting information and metrics from all parts of their operations.
Over a period exceeding twenty years, this organisation had accumulated knowledge and data within their business and repurposed it to produce a predictive, risk based approach to maintenance. This data helped them to forecast asset life based upon attributes such as criticality, use, condition and maintenance frequency. From their comprehensive database, fondly called the sausage machine, they routinely provide various options for maintenance based upon cost and risk, prompting an informed decision on future maintenance expenditure.
Approaches like this are not uncommon, particularly in sectors that are heavily regulated such as utilities, nuclear, aviation and oil and gas industries. Reliability centered maintenance is omnipresent in these industries, utilising principles such as Weibull Analysis and Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) to assess the risks associated with equipment operation and lifecycle. In mainstream facilities management though, many of these advanced maintenance philosophies are absent or applied inconsistently through selective contracts.
Part of the reason for this low level of uptake is the time and cost associated with analysis, data collection and trend spotting. There is also a credibility issue. On the mainstream facilities maintenance (FM) contracts where reliability focused maintenance is adopted, it is applied using a fairly low level of operational data. That means that the sample data used for decision making can be inaccurate or not truly representative of the operational cycles and the lifetime of the facilities assets. This in turn produces partial or inaccurate conclusions.
The peace-of-mind offered by a structured approach to reliability and risk centered maintenance is offset by incomplete data. By the time this is recognised, it can be too late.
With a growing awareness of the Internet of Things, this may soon be set to change. A 2014 report by PWC indicates that there is an 18% increase in the amount of companies using sensors within their business. For FM, this means that more meaningful data can be collected at source and utilised in modelling various maintenance and service scenarios that provides better value for money and lower operational risk.
The challenge to FM service providers is how they collect and use that data. The fear expressed by many is that this data is collected, used in isolation and then disposed of. The sheer volume of bits and bytes collected may mean that only some of it is processed and digested while the remainder is archived and destined never to see the light of day. Incomplete interpretation would undoubtedly follow.
For the Internet of Things to have meaningful impact within FM, and for the adoption of an effective reliability approach to maintenance, each organisation must collect the right information, at the right time and then process it in the right way through their own sausage machine.
This is the challenge that the FM industry must overcome to effectively change focus to a reliability and condition based approach to maintenance.
Chris works in a consulting capacity to help facilities management providers embed more efficient ways of working within their delivery contracts. With a strong focus on innovation, he contributes to improvement activities through the development of frameworks, software systems and technology to capture and incorporate new ways of working that saves cost and enhances operations.
With over 25 years of experience working on the built environment, Chris has comprehensive insight into the construction and maintenance of facilities within a number of industry sectors, including: social housing, critical environments, defence estates, food processing and commercial office space. In recent years, through the successful delivery of consultancy projects, he has helped clients secure more profitable work by moving beyond standard delivery approaches to find new ways of adding value to facility end-users and occupants.
Based near Glasgow in Scotland, he travels extensively to support an international client base.
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