The ROI of Welcoming New Employees

Successful onboarding for employees includes both technical and social training. Too often experienced folks are hired to “just do what you do” and given very little company specific training. Sometimes HR will give a company history lesson, but that does little to indoctrinate folks into the social norms. Sometimes even new hires with very little job experience are thrown into the job without much social guidance. Onboarding new employees should be addressed like any other project. Determine your goal, plan your project, approve the resources, track progress, and have a conclusion to the project/onboarding process.

The goal for onboarding a new colleague should be two fold.

  • One to get the person contributing as quickly as possible
  • Two to make them a long term engaged employee. A truly engaged employee. I mean an employee who is actively engaged in their organization and dedicated to its success.

This isn’t touchy-feely stuff to give everyone a participation ribbon. This is bottom-line, good for business, smart management.

Goal 1: Contributing as quickly as possible. This is what you hired them for. The cost justification for this job was already done, so the sooner you get value from the new colleague, the sooner you validate the need for said employee.

Goal 2: Long term engaged employee. There are numerous studies on the real financial benefits of engaged employees. You can also do your own calculations on what it costs to hire a new employee. The cost of not having that employee in place, and the cost of firing an employee.

Using the benefits and costs from the goals, a business plan can be developed for creating a successful on boarding process for each new hire. Each new hire. Not just the ones fresh out of college, not just the ones in exempt positions. Every single position in your company should have an on boarding plan. The same template can be used for a lot of different positions, but do not overlook any position. When you get really good at on boarding employees, you may extend the concept to both suppliers and customers. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Your plan should contain a mix of technical training, social interactions, and actual work. There is nothing more boring than spending your first weeks on the job in a powerpoint or computer training haze. A mix of actual job performance and background training is the best way to get employees excited about the job.

Create a checklist of activities and interactions that the new colleague must accomplish in a given time period. In addition, assign a mentor to the newbie. The mentors need to be trained in how to assist their new protegee.

By assigning the checklist to the new colleague (NC) to complete, with oversite from both boss and mentor, the NC is in charge of their own on boarding process. The NC helps balance the activities of the actual job with social integration.

At the conclusion of the on-boarding process, an after action review should be conducted. All NCs should give input on what worked well during their indoctrination, and give suggestions for improvement.

Bringing all this together:

  • Create an on-boarding program office
    • Create an oversite committee to ensure that on boarding is occurring for all new colleagues
    • Create mentoring process, complete with training for mentors
  • Develop checklists each job/job class
  • Allow NC’s to manage their onboarding pace
  • Ensure on boarding oversite of NC by both boss and mentor
  • Close each on boarding process formally

The welcoming process should make new colleagues feel valued and excited about the workplace. Done properly, an onboarding process creates engaged employees and promotes productivity. Improper onboarding creates frustration and leads to high turnover.

Below is an example of an onboarding plan. The ROI for onboarding is high, if you don’t already have a program office to address employee engagement, consider starting one this quarter.

Was the Ham Green?

Communication consist of two parts, the sender and the receiver. While we may think we are being very clear in our message, the receiver’s viewpoint has as much to do with clear communication as the sender’s actual words. Take the book Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Are just the eggs green, or is the ham green too?

There are probably as many people who think the ham was green, as think it was standard ham colored. Right now, you are probably second guessing your own color choice. That’s the problem with communication, it often takes an exchange to understand each other and the context of the communication.

In business, mistakes are made when we assume our message was clear. I knew an individual who was given the task to stamp numbers on parts. His first day on the job he was given the stamps 0-9 and told to stamp the parts in sequence. When the individual got to the tenth part, he started back at the beginning, with #1. At the end of the day, he had piles of parts with the same numbers stamped on them. There was no traceability. It seems “obvious” that 10 comes after 9, but not to this individual.

The mistake could have been avoided had the instructor made clear that each part needed a unique number, numbers could not be duplicated. The amount of rework could have been lessened if someone had checked in with the individual early in his shift to quality check his work.

Giving instructions without clarifying what the expect results will be, opens to door for miscommunication and eventual mistakes. Even written instructions are open to interpretation. When a task is new or critical, it is important to check in regularly to ensure that work is progressing as expected.

It is important that when new or critical tasks are assigned that there is quick follow up after the work starts. The follow up should be a work quality check. This is a check for understanding and results. There should be measurable work product characteristics to check. This quality check should be performed no later than 10% of the overall work time. In the example above, of an 8 hour work day, the initial quality check should have been performed no later than 48 minutes into the workday.

No matter how often a job has been performed, the quality check should be performed at least once, half way though the production. The quality check needs to be documented. Often, experienced folks perform their own quality checks. But even those checks should be audited at least 50% of the time.

These checks are not a matter of trust, they are about ensuring good quality, consistent work product.

Was the ham green? There is no definitive answer. But the good news is understanding of the ham color is not mission critical. Sometimes imagination and creativity in work product is good. When there is a tight tolerance, follow up communication and quality checks are required.

The Case for Front End Engineering Design (FEED)

Front-end Engineering Design Reduces Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

When analyzing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a product/system, the initial or purchase price is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the life of a product/system, the majority of the ownership cost is incurred during the operation of the equipment. Fortunately or unfortunately, the factors that determine TCO are set at the product design stage.

Businesses across all industries face the challenges of maintaining a competitive edge and profitability. They are researching and implementing measures that improve productivity and reduce operational costs. The cost of operating equipment over its lifetime has become an important factor in purchasing decisions. A lower TCO is a competitive advantage.

The key to controlling TCO is a thorough analysis of a product’s design — both its operational performance and its effect on the manufacturing, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of the product/system. The analysis must take place on the front-end, very early in the design of a product or system. It is at this very front-end that small changes in scope and design can have the most impact in reducing TCO.

Front-end Engineering Design (FEED) is the application during the design stage, of a robust set of engineering best-practices that enable system designers to control TCO by designing a product or system to do its job most efficiently. FEED is applied throughout the design stage, starting with product specification and is revisited continually. This identifies even hidden costs as soon as decisions are made, cost- saving changes can be made at that time, where they have the most impact.

Understanding TCO

By definition, TCO is the cost to design, procure, operate and maintain equipment, minus the residual value. It’s a concept with which many people become most familiar ―after the fact. It is not until you own a dog, a car or a home that you are able to fully realize the TCO of that purchase. You may have compared the prices and features before making your final selection. But did you calculate the upkeep costs, both financial and time-wise, of each over its lifetime? Arriving at TCO for personal purchases requires a commitment to an in-depth analysis that most people are not able to make.

However, in the case of capital equipment, identifying the TCO can mean the difference between competitive advantage or disadvantage, profit or loss, and success or failure.

Impeding the view to TCO are the separate channels (silos) of accountability that designers/builders and users/maintainers often follow. Designers/builders are charged with and rewarded for a product built to specification, within budget and on schedule. Operators/maintainers are rewarded for keeping the equipment running and producing to achieve the expected Return On Investment (ROI). However, the price for meeting the design/build budget and schedule is too often paid by operators/maintainers who are challenged by a product or system that is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to operate and maintain. Separate accountability can lead to poor design decisions and animosity among stakeholders throughout the life of a product.

Understanding the Development Lifecycle

Figure 1 – The Development Lifecycle

The Development Lifecycle illustrates the stages a product or system will pass through during its lifetime. As shown in Figure 1, the Development Lifecycle contains five stages: design, test, manufacture and distribute, operation and routine maintenance, and overhaul maintenance. By understanding the Development Lifecycle, it is easy to see how decisions made in the early stages impact the later stages and eventually TCO.


Decisions made in the design stage have the most impact, positive or negative, on the rest of the Development Lifecycle. In this stage, system designers define the functional requirements: what the product/system must be able to do and how fast, how often should it be able to do it, and under what operating conditions. They then develop the design, select the material and components, create the interaction between product and operator, and determine energy consumption, reliability and availability. Once the design and bill of materials are defined, 85% of the lifecycle cost is set.


In the test stage, products are evaluated for how they perform in various conditions and under various circumstances. 3-D modeling and physical tests, such as prototypes, evaluate fit, operator interaction and potential interferences. Simulations determine start-up, steady state and shutdown capabilities.

Manufacture and Distribute

The manufacture and distribute stage focuses on the manufacturability of a product. Design complexity and the availability of components and materials factor into the production schedule. Packaging must protect the product and be appropriate for the distribution channel – retail, wholesale, OEM, etc. Large, bulky products or those that contain hazardous materials may require special transportation to reach their distribution outlets or end users.

Operation and Routine Maintenance

The operation and routine maintenance stage focuses on the useful life of a product, beginning with its deployment to address the need for which it was built. Because most of a product’s life is spent in the operation and maintenance stage, this stage incurs the majority of the TCOs. It is also in this stage that the effects of poor design decisions become most apparent.

The costs of operator training, consumables such as fuel and oil, preventive and routine maintenance, replacement of wear parts, etc., occur during this stage. Overly complex products or systems are more difficult to operate. Excessive, difficult to replace or specialty wear parts can severely impact the reliability and availability of the product/system. The ease of performing maintenance correlates to whether or not owners/operators adhere to the recommended maintenance schedules. Neglected equipment eventually leads to reduced performance, premature failures, dangerous conditions for operators, decreased profit, and a competitive disadvantage.

Overhaul Maintenance

Products intended for a long life will, at some point, need to undergo an overhaul to extend their useful life. More invasive than routine maintenance, overhaul maintenance, such as rebuilding a pump or replacing the system plumbing, will render the product/system unavailable. Some overhaul maintenance procedures can take place on-site; others could require components to be sent to the depot for rebuilding, testing and re-commissioning. When, how long, and how much it will cost to perform an overhaul are set by decisions made in the design stage.

The preceding overview of the Development Lifecycle stages illustrates the importance of understanding the impact design decisions have on the downstream lifecycle stages.

Under a traditional product development scenario, each stage has its own stakeholders, budget, schedule and accountability. There is little opportunity or incentive for stage stakeholders to evaluate the impact of their decisions outside of their area of responsibility.

Front-end Engineering Design Enables Better Design Decisions

Front-end Engineering Design, also referred to as Front-End Loading (FEL) and Pre- Project Planning (PPL), is robust planning and analysis during the Design stage,  when the ability to influence changes in design is relatively high and the cost to make those changes is relatively low. Figure 2 shows how FEED tools are applied during the Design and Test stages, and how regular TCO calculations should be made during the stage to ensure the most effective and cost-efficient system is designed.

Figure 2 – Application of FEED at the Design Stage includes TCO Check Milestones

Though FEED adds cost and time to the design stage, these are minor compared to making changes at later stages in the project. Identifying and implementing cost- saving modifications in the design stage are the keys to reducing TCO.

Before actual design work begins, FEED confirms and prioritizes the product/system requirements — what is critical, what would be ―nice to have,‖ and what should be categorized as beyond the scope. Refining the requirements before design work begins is critical, because the requirements drive the design which then determines the lifecycle. An overly broad scope negatively impacts other stages.

Once design work begins, FEED expands upon traditional engineering analysis, which focuses primarily on the operational function of a product/system. FEED goes beyond this by employing engineering best-practices to analyze how design considerations impact each of the development lifecycle stages. These best-practices include: mechatronics, 3-D modeling, simulations, Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), Failure Modes and Effect Analysis (FMEA), and prototypes.

  • Mechatronics is the synergistic combining of electrical, mechanical and computer engineering disciplines in the design and test stages of product development. For example, mechatronics might be applied to the design and testing of a hydraulic steering system that uses joystick controllers and an LCD panel for navigation.
  • 3-D modeling creates a visual of the design intent that enables engineers to identify potential interferences and design flaws with a component or with the equipment on which the component will be installed. It also visually conveys the design intent to stakeholders early in the project to foster a common understanding and accelerate the approval process.
  • Simulations determine start-up, steady state and shutdown capabilities; very important aspects of a fluid power system. Simulation studies enable the design team to factor in the ―bumps in the road.
  • Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) and Failure Modes and Effect Analysis (FMEA) identify system components that are critical to the operation of the product/system. These tools determine the conditions under which components might fail, how likely they are to fail, and the consequences of that failure to the product/system. In combination with 3-D modeling and simulations, RCM and FMEA during the design stage provide the analysis to select the most cost-effective solution for the job.
  • Prototypes, including rapid prototypes are not-yet-fully-functioning versions of a product/system. In conjunction with 3-D modeling and simulations, they further aid the design team in testing fit and operator interaction.

Using these tools during the design stage to evaluate the effect design decisions will have on other stages, enables system designers to uncover design flaws, potential conflicts, and cost-prohibitive features before implementing a design. System designers are then able to change the design, material or components, to remove the conflict, improve the interaction, mitigate the failure or reduce the amount of operator training. The result is the most effective and efficient product/system design for the job.

Spending on FEED Reduces TCO

Early-stage changes are the most cost-effective

FEED is able to identify and introduce changes at the design stage, where they can be made cost-effectively and have the most impact on TCO. As shown in Table 1, the cost of implementing changes at later stages increases exponentially – approximately 10 times more at each stage.

Development Lifecycle Stage Relative Cost of Change*
Design $10
Test – Theoretical $100
Test – Physical $1,000
Manufacture and Distribute $10,000
Operation and Routine Maintenance $100,000
*Source: Wohlers Associates

Table 1 – Relative Cost of Implementing Change at Each Stage

Changes are also easiest to implement during the analysis of a design, before system designers and stakeholders form an attachment to a design. Once locked into a vision, it can be challenging to see the project in any other way. This narrowed vision, along with subsequent decisions based on that vision, adds to the difficulty and expense of making changes at later stages.

Early-stage changes have the most effect on TCO

FEED does negatively impact the cost and length of the design stage. If considered only within the context of this stage, the impact can be significant. However, in the context of entire lifecycle costs, the impact is significantly positive. Up-front spending on design analysis reduces costs in the later stages. As shown in Table 2, spending at the design stage can significantly reduce the operation and maintenance costs of a product. Over the entire lifecycle, the savings can increase the useful life of a product by 50% and reduce TCO approximately 40%.

Modify the design to reduce failures

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then the best way to mitigate the effect of failures is to prevent them from happening. Changes at the design stage can eliminate the potential for or reduce the effect of failure on a product/system.

The bathtub curve illustrates the risk of product failure over time. It depicts an initial period of relatively high failure rates that gradually decrease, followed by a longer period of low failure rates, and then a period of increasing failure rates as a product nears the end of its useful life. The bathtub curve identifies the types of failures most likely to occur at throughout the life of a product. RCM- and FMEA-style analysis at the design stage enables system engineers to determine the probability of these failures and their impact to the availability of the product/system. They can then identify and implement design changes to mitigate the failure. Reducing failures reduces TCO because repair and maintenance decrease, and reliability and availability increase.

Figure 3 – The Bathtub Curve

The bathtub curve places failures into three categories:

  • Infant Mortality: Defects in design, material, manufacturing or assembly typically appear in the early releases of a product, when it is in its ―infancy.‖ FEED best-practices can identify the potential for defects in the design stage. Changes to the design can then mitigate or eliminate these types of failures. For example, reducing the complexity of a design can simplify the manufacturing process and reduce the risk of failure due to a manufacturing defect.
  • Random: These types of failures occur during the useful life of a product. They are infrequent and seemingly without a definitive cause. However, inferior components, lack of maintenance or improper use can increase the chance of failure. FEED best practices can reduce random failures. RCM- and FMEA-style analysis enables system designers to identify critical system

components, specify robust parts and develop easy-to-implement maintenance.

  • Wear-out: Failures of this nature occur toward the end of a product’s useful life and with increasing frequency as the product/system ages. The life expectancy of components is set by decisions made at the design stage. However, by applying RCM and FMEA style analyses in the design stage, wear-out failure can be delayed. Selecting the appropriate components for the environment ensures that a cost effective selection is made. The tradeoff between initial cost of components, accessibility, expected life and time to repair is evaluated. When wear-out parts, such as filters, are designed to be easy to replace, they keep a fluid power system clean, thus increasing availability and extending useful life of the system.

Changing the Accountability Clears the View to True TCO For FEED to have the most impact on TCO, project participants must be able to migrate from ―silos‖ of accountability to a shared accountability. With shared

accountability, a system designer’s responsibility extends past the design stage to

now include partial responsibility for the success of later life stages. This provides incentive for system designers to evaluate their decisions from total lifecycle perspective. It encourages them to share data and develop two-way feedback channels with operators and maintainers, the group that bears most of the lifecycle costs. This feedback enables system designers to better determine how products and systems will perform. In return, data from modeling and simulations provides benchmarks by which operators and maintainers can monitor performance.

Benefits of Applying FEED to System Design

  • Analyze and refine the scope to ensure the design and manufacturing are only as complex as necessary to produce the product.
  • Select components that are robust and appropriate for their operating environment to reduce premature failure.
  • Where applicable, design diagnostic instead of invasive measures to check system characteristics and conditions.
  • Develop models to emulate start-up, steady state and shutdown situations to ensure the system responds appropriately and conditions are controlled.
  • Reduce the frequency of routine maintenance and ensure procedures are easy to perform.
  • Protect the equipment from external damage by protecting them in the layout and eliminating interference — between components and between the operator and the product/system.
  • Ensure interaction with the product is safe for the operator and appropriate for their skill level.
  • Increase Return on Investment (ROI)
    • by reducing TCO
      • by increasing availability
        • by reducing failures!

How tragedy inspired a PM revolution

In March 1854, a new steam boiler at the Fales & Gray Car Works in Hartford, CT exploded.  It was a horrible tragedy and nearly 20 people perished.  The fact that it was a new boiler and the industrial age was in full swing, was a wake up call to many.  Among the changes this incident inspired was the Hartford Steam Boiler company.    The establishment of company to provide equipment breakdown insurance,  led to the natural development of the methodologies necessary to avoid these breakdowns.

It’s important to remember that current state of preventive maintenance, condition monitoring, and intervention has its root is such a horrific event.  Complacency was part of the reason for the 1854 boiler explosion.  Today, complacency is just as dangerous.

Placing too much faith in “having” a PM program is not good.  It is in listening to and understanding the actual health of the equipment, that progress is made.   High PM compliance is of no value if the equipment health is not correlated with that compliance.

Many companies remain proud of their vibration programs, because the resources are dedicated to taking and analyzing the readings.  However, if the results are not acted upon timely, the program is not truly providing value.

Do not let complacency into your program and allow history to repeat itself.  Ensure that the PM program is relevant to maintaining equipment health.

Some metrics to ensure that the program remains relevant:

  • Condition monitoring (CM) defects fixed within 30 days of being reported
    • This requires that there is a standard to what constitutes a defect
    • Standard could be absolute value or trend line slope
  • Work orders initiated from PM inspections
    • Inspections should generate work orders at least 30% of the time
    • Work orders from PM inspection should be closed within 30 days
  • Total asset health (the percent of total equipment that does not have a CM or PM inspection defect work order open) >90% goal

What are some of the other methods you use to ensure that your PM program (inspections, CM inspection, and time based replacements) are adding to your equipment health and overall operational value?

Image result for fales and grey car works



Visual Noise

Visual noise is anything that may distort, transform, block or add to what we see.  This is one of the factors that contributes to industrial mistakes.  Visual noise can be anything from too much posted (useless) information, to too many alarms and blinking lights.

2015-07-29 17.07.04

5S gone awry, or information campaigns that fizzled out and were never cleaned up are the most common source of the excess posted information.  Take the photo of the sink, labeled “WATER”.  I’m pretty sure this was a joke, but you can seed from the damage around the sticker that it has been there for some time.  I observed the sign there over several years.  (Note: I’m pretty proud of catching an actual drip in the photo, showing actual water.)

Information campaigns, and 5s signage comes and goes in most companies.  I am all for both, but – those signs need to remain relevant or be removed.  I recommend that as part of the monthly safety audits, a signage audit needs to be conducted.  Outdated information needs to be removed, useless 5s signage needs to be removed.  Leave only what is relevant and current.  When looking at a visually clean environment, it is easy to see what is out of place.  Leaving old information, starts the clutter, and then it continues, until it is hard to tell what is useful in the work place, and what was just left there accidentally.  The purpose of 5s is a place for everything, and everything in is place. Not to pass an audit from some corporate … individual.

Next in the visual noise is the actual clutter.  Workplace clutter is often a safety hazard.  But beyond that, it is actually a time and money waster.  If items are not stored properly, they cannot be found when needed.  This wastes time looking for the item, and incurs costs when extra materials are purchased because the ones on hand cannot be located, or have been damaged due to improper storage.  The cost of clutter is well worth the time it takes to ensure that clutter does not happen or is dealt with promptly.  Clutter can start with poor maintenance practices.  I often see leftover screws, bolts, wire bits left after a repair.  This shows sloppy workmanship and a disregard for the colleagues who work in the area.  It doesn’t take long after one worker, in a hurry, leaves a mess behind, for everyone to start leaving messes.  It is noticeable the first time leftovers and trash are left, after that it becomes a snowball effect and within months, the workplace looks and feels dirty.  Lighting and requiring clean up as part of the work order are good methods to overcome this issue.  Periodic audits of completed jobs will help everyone understand their part in keeping the workplace organized, clean, and safe.

The last source of visual noise is engineered into the work place.  Machine alarms become visual noise when they mean nothing.  Anyone ever encountered high, and high-high alarms?   When flashing lights and audible alarms mean nothing, and are ignored.  Once you start ignoring some alarms, it is easier to ignore or miss meaningful alarms.  The workplace needs to be properly designed so that alarms and trips mean something.  A reset and go on is not acceptable.  I have seen instructions like “do not reset more than 3 times in one hour”.   Who is counting that?  Are 4 resets in 2 hours acceptable?  Make alarms meaningful and have an action plan associated with them.  Operations and equipment should run within the boundaries of acceptable.


When the operation or equipment parameters go above or below the control limits, it is time to act.  Setting alarms within the control limits that do not require action, adds to visual noise.  Setting alarms that are not meaningful to the operation, or the health of the employees or equipment is pure visual noise.  Make all alarms mean something and there will be fewer mistakes.  When there are fewer mistakes, there are fewer accidents.

Over reaction to alarms and postings is just as detrimental as under reaction.

Eliminating visual noise from the work place creates a safer, more productive workplace.  Visual noise can come from posted signs and materials – including an excessive usage of color, physical clutter, and poorly designed alarms.  Conduct a review of the workplace, poll the colleagues who work there every day, and see what they notice and what they do not notice.  Question the position of every item, and every alarm.  Regular audits of the work place will remove visual noise which will make the work environment more productive.

Data – So What

Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (IA), there’s an App for that, … – we now have available an abundance of data, and even some information.  It’s what we do about it that matters.

Although IoT is a buzzword now, it has been in the works for years – decades even.  Dr. Jay Lee was one of the first to introduce me to the concept – if not the term.  The reality is we do have a lot of access to data, and we have machines turning some of that data into information – but – so what?!?

If we as people don’t get involved and make decisions for, about and with that data, then we have succeed at nothing.  I have seen companies working feverishly to capture the latest information on their machinery, only to ignore the actual data and let the machines run to failure.   We need to step back regularly and look at the whole operation to determine what do we really need to know and why.  Also, there needs to be a plan to act on what is learned.  Too often we do not act on what we already know, waiting to see if there is more information around the corner.  IoT will not change behavior.  The process to act on data/information must be in place to utilize IoT successfully.

Automated vehicles are in the news, specifically for the failures of people to act on the data – and even information, they were given.  Factory data rarely has fatal results if ignored, but the failure to act still has significant consequences.   What is the point of knowing your equipment health, if the planning and scheduling system is not allowed to fix equipment before it goes into catastrophic failure?  It is a common theme in after-action reviews to be able to pinpoint warnings, even multiple warnings that were ignored before the failure.  I have seen leadership teams brainstorm how they can get better warning systems, rather than figure out how to act on the warnings they do have.  It is always easier to push the responsibility down the road and wish for perfect information, than to accept the responsibility we have in utilizing the imperfect information already available.

I love data and information.  I am an analyst at heart, but I fear that the growing IoT available will lead us to more catastrophic, and possibly even fatal events.  I worry that folks in charge of making decisions will delay acting on the first sign of potential failure (P on our I-P-F curve), hoping to be ‘heroes’ by maximizing that P-F time and waiting for the really big warning from IoT to tell them time is up.

To avoid this propensity to put off making decisions on known failures, we need to reward managers who maximize the I-P portion of the curve and punish those who do not make decisions as soon as a problem is identified.  That does not mean drop everything and fix problem equipment the second the defect is identified.  But it does mean putting a mitigation strategy in place as soon as the defect is identified.  Don’t wait for further indications of the down hill slope.

How can we make heroes of those that don’t delay?  By measuring what doesn’t happen.  How about measuring days since last production record?  Promoting the equipment health score as metric for everyone to be proud of?  Measuring time from defect identified to fixed?  Bonuses for everyone in an organization that doesn’t have a catastrophic failure?   There are always ways to game any metric, but focusing on positive metrics, rather than negative ones (downtime, production lost, et’c) puts the focus on performance, rather than non-performance.

Does anyone have an organization that rewards on avoidance of failures?

I-P-F curve

Before implementing any data gathering program

  • Determine what you want know (production numbers, equipment health, quality statistics)
  • Determine why you want to know that (product cost information, maintain equipment health, meet quality standards)
  • Determine how to capture the data
  • Determine how to analyze the data
    • Formulas
    • Frequency
    • Who is accountable for the analysis – audit of the analysis
  • Determine accountability for acting on the data
    • Specific title or name – one person needs to be accountable
    • Frequency of checking data and acting
    • Parameters for acting (think of an over-damped system if the reaction is too severe)
  • Determine how metrics will be published and used to drive team members to desired behavior regarding the What/Why you wanted to know

IoT is only as good as the management team that is operating it.


Ode to Machinists Handbook

The Machinery’s Handbook is a wonderful tool.  Although it is often called the machinists handbook, it is a tool that every engineer should also own.  Beyond machinists and engineers, it is a tool that everyone should be aware of its existence.  I came across the handbook early in my career when a colleague pulled out the book and looked up something.   I was hooked at that moment.  I borrowed his book and looked through the myriad of offerings in the book.

I learned what a grade 8 bolt was.  Not only that it was not a grade A bolt – but what it strength was, and when to use them.  I learned how to look at the markings and identify grade 8;  6 dashes with the circle.

Grade 8 Bolt - 5 Radial Lines

I also learned that bolt strength designation is much like women’s clothing sizes: 2, 5, 5.2, 7, 8.   Although these numbers appear random, the handbook walks through the math to explain how these numbers are calculated, and why they are not sequential.  No such standard or logic exists for women’s clothing sizes.

Fastener types and specification, material properties, gear information – all that can be found in the handbook.  Bearing fits and tolerances are critical and specifically spelled out in the handbook.

When I tour a machine or rebuild shop, one of the things I look for is the machinery’s handbook on desks or in toolboxes.  If I don’t see one, I ask about how tolerances are calculated.  Occasionally the shop will reference posters published by the component or OEM manufacturer.  But often, the answer is ‘everyone just knows’.  Even if someone has been rebuilding the same equipment for 20 years, I still want to see the charts that they are referencing.  Even if they remember the tolerance requirements for equipment they see regularly, no one has memorized everything in that handbook.  Machinists, rebuilders, and engineers who do not regularly check to confirm their assumptions and calculations are disrespecting their craft and customers.

There are other tools that provide the same information, but there is nothing as neatly packaged as the handbook.  I urge everyone to have a copy and regularly glance through it, or reference it when needed.  The 30th edition is available and it comes in hardcopy or e-copy.  There are older versions available on line, and there is even an app to help with calculations.   The point is, this is a wonderful reference book, do not go through life “just knowing” confirm what you know, and maybe even learn something new, by using this book.

Does anyone have other must-have reference books that they looking for when auditing shops?



Factors effecting equipment lifecycle cost

Equipment or system life has 4 factors.

Design is the most important, yet often the most compromised aspect of capital equipment life cycle.  The design and purchase of equipment is often a very small portion of the lifecycle cost, but it locks in the rest of the total ownership costs (TOC).

Front-end Engineering Design (FEED), also referred to as Front-End Loading (FEL) and Pre-Project Planning (PPL), is robust planning and analysis during the Design stage,
when the ability to influence changes in design is relatively high and the cost to make
those changes is relatively low. It is important that TCO calculations should be made during this process to ensure the most effective and cost-efficient system is designed.

Though FEED adds cost and time to the design stage, these are minor compared to
making changes at later stages in the project. Identifying and implementing cost saving
modifications in the design stage are the keys to optimizing TCO.
Before actual design work begins, FEED confirms and prioritizes the product/system
requirements — what is critical, what would be ―nice to have, and what should be
categorized as beyond the scope. Refining the requirements before design work
begins is critical, because the requirements drive the design which then determines
the lifecycle. An overly broad scope negatively impacts other stages.
Once design work begins, FEED expands upon traditional engineering analysis,
which focuses primarily on the operational function of a product/system. FEED goes
beyond this by employing engineering best-practices to analyze how design
considerations impact each of the development lifecycle stages. These best-practices
include: mechatronics,  Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), Failure Modes and Effect Analysis (FMEA), 3-D modeling, and simulations.


Once design, selection, and purchase has been completed, acceptance testing and installation phase begins.  This phase needs as meticulous planning as the design phase.  Care to how operational materials and personal move and interact with the equipment must be taken.  Often equipment is designed with a “one-size fits all” operator in mind.  This can mean that controls and gauges are not able to be read properly by shorter operators.  Mapping the path of the operators around the equipment will highlight any interference issues.  The triad of material loading, controls, and product unload is as important as the sink-stove-refrigerator triad that home designers obsess about home kitchens.  Installations also need to consider both routine servicing requirements and equipment replacement.


The operational phase requires standard work instructions, trained operators, trained supervisors, and continuous improvement mindset.  This phase consumes most of the total cost of ownership.  These include raw materials, scrap, off-quality product, production labor, indirect labor, utilities, and supplies.  All of these go into the cost of goods sold.  Controlling these costs can either improve profits, or allow a reduction in sale price.  Depreciation is also part of operating cost, but that is completely set at time of purchase.


Maintenance costs are best controlled by being designed into the equipment.  Including condition monitoring into the system controls can ensure that all areas of the equipment are properly monitored.  Operator care, and ensuring that repairs are made promptly and accurately are also key components to optimizing the maintenance portion of total life cycle cost.

The final factor in a cost formula is disposal.  This may include rebuild/overhaul, sale, or decommissioning.

Total cost of ownership consists of the four phases, but design phase is most important in setting that cost.  Often in the rush to become operational, or a short sighted view of costs, the design phase is cut short and compromises are made.  Good front end engineering, project stage gate vetting, and capital budgeting are necessary to any company that values their manufacturing process as a competitive advantage.

Useful Life

Determining the expected life of equipment can be difficult.   Expected life vs actual equipment life is used when determining total cost of ownership.  I have read several root cause analyses that checked “full life wear out” for the physical cause.  But full life and equipment wear out are not necessarily the same thing.

True full life calculations require a lot of data and analysis.  ISO 281 details the calculations for rolling bearings.  This, is just for one component.  Equipment or system life is usually more relevant.  The life of these has 4 factors

  1. Design
  2. Installation
  3. Operation
  4. Maintenance

Let’s examine ways that the average maintenance and reliability group can determine life expectancy of their equipment.

First, let’s go back the point about full life, vs equipment wear out.  Let’s say my brother and I buy identical cars on the same day.  We both have similar driving requirements.  We put about 100 miles per week on the vehicles.  We each fill fuel around the time the refuel light clicks on.  That is where our similarities end.

I ensure the oil and filter are changed every 5,000 miles.  The fluids and air filter are checked at the time of service.  I have the tires rotated at oil changes, and monitor tread wear.  The brakes are checked when the tires are rotated and I have the pads changed before they completely wear out.  I wash the car at least once/month. More often in the winter. I vacuum and wipe down the interior every time I wash the car.

After 10 years, the check engine light on my brother’s vehicle comes on, and he brings it in for service.  The tech says he needs an engine rebuild; which will cost more than the vehicle is worth.   The car is worn out.  My car is fine and over 90% of similar vehicles (10 years / 50,000 miles) are all perfectly road worthy, no major repairs.  In fact, the average vehicle is valued at or above 30% of its original value.  Therefore, even though one vehicle is worn out, it did not live its full life.   This is determined using the definition that full life is when 90% of equipment is still in working condition.

So, in order to determine if equipment is attaining full life, it is necessary to determine when 90% of like equipment is, or reasonable should be still operating.  Determining the equipment life of a large population is much easier than a small population.  So using the tools and information available how to determine life expectancy.

Start with the OEM or design information.  When the equipment was selected, a life expectancy was used in the capital requisition.  That number should be the starting point.

Next, mine your CMMS data.  Do not use built in MTBF calculators as they have trouble calculating from null values.  That means that CMMS built in reports only calculate MTBF for equipment that has the failure code marked against it.  Instead, create your own calculation using population data.  The population consists of all the similar assets.  This is best done by using an asset type characteristic in the CMMS database.   Run the report to determine the asset type population for the site, or organization.  Next, determine what will be considered a failure in CMMS data.  Ideally, the failure code is checked.  However numerous studies and empirical data shows that very few organizations use failure codes, and fewer still use them rigorously.  If you are in one of those less rigorous organization, determine a factor that is used regularly that can be used as a trigger of equipment health.  Consider any work orders that are not generated through the PM system, or work orders over a certain dollar amount.  Determine how many of the assets in the population hit the trigger in a 12 month period.  Divide the number of assets that triggered by the total population.  If that number is close to 10%, then the life expectancy is 12 months.  Change the timeframe to find a calculation that is close to 10%.  As the time frame increases, the same asset may be in the trigger population more than once.  This is acceptable for this calculation.

Compare your calculated equipment life to your projected life at time of capital requisition.  This is how to determine life expectancy in years.

Equipment life can also be determined in usage.  For instance, vehicle life is more commonly thought of in miles, rather than years or time.  This calculation would be more complicated.  It would be easiest to calculate this from production data or the OEE system.  Production numbers or dollar value of product produced over the time frame of the asset before replacement or overhaul.  This would be factored as $ or assets produced, similar to mileage.

Standardized data is available for some equipment, see the list below.

Equipment life cycle charts

Once your actual equipment life is determined, you can monitor it and determine how to improve it.   My next post will go over how the four factors affect equipment life (Design, Installation, Operation, and Maintenance).

Does anyone have other methods for calculating equipment life?

Industrial Pipe Hacks

• All pipes are made of a long hole, surrounded by metal or plastic.

• All pipes are to be hollow throughout the entire length, do not use holes longer than the length of pipe.

• The inside diameter of the pipe must not exceed the outside diameter of the pipe, otherwise the hole will be on the outside.

• All pipes are to be supplied with nothing in the hole, so that water, steam or any other stuff may be put in at a later date.

• All pipe should be supplied without rust, this can be added later on the job site.  Some vendors are now able to supply pre-rusted pipe, if this is available in your area it may save some time on the job site.

• All pipe over 150 meters in length should have the words “long pipe”, clearly painted on each end, so the contractor will know that it is long pipe.

• All pipes over 1 kilometer long must have the words “really long pipe”, painted in the middle, so the contractor will not have to walk the entire length to determine whether it is long or short pipe.

• All pipe over 150mm inside diameter must have the words “big pipe”, painted on it, so the contractor will not mistake it for a small pipe.

• Flanges must be used on all pipe, the holes in the flange must be separated from the big hole in the middle.

• When ordering 90, 45, or 30 degree elbows make sure you specify right or left turn; otherwise you will end up having the pipe going the wrong way.

• Be sure to specify when you order the pipe, whether you want level, uphill or downhill pipe, otherwise if you use uphill pipe for going downhill, the stuff inside will flow the wrong way.

• All coupling should have either right hand or left hand threads, but do not mix the threads, otherwise the coupling being screwed on one pipe is being un-screwed from the other.

• Acme thread is only sold by the W.E. Coyote company, so be sure to order it well in advance, as they often have work stoppages for mishaps and accidents.

I hope these ‘hacks’ give you as big a chuckle as they give me.