Lack of Integrated Maintenance Processes

Maintenance operations are the backbone of every heavy industry company. Almost every major industrial disaster can be tracked back to a root cause of a clear lack of maintenance protocol or adherence to maintenance practices.

A few recent examples:

Defense Industry:

  • July 11, 2011: Evangelos Florakis Naval Base explosion in Cyprus, a munitions dump explosion. 13 people were killed; among them the captain of the base, twin brothers that were serving there as marines and four firefighters that went there to help.

Energy Industry:

  • March 23, 2005: Texas City Refinery explosion. An explosion occurred at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, the third largest refinery in the United States and one of the largest in the world, processing 433,000 barrels of crude oil per day and accounting for 3% of that nation's gasoline supply. Over 100 were injured, and 15 were confirmed dead, including employees of the Fluor Corporation as well as BP. BP has since accepted that its employees contributed to the accident.
  • February 7, 2010: Connecticut power plant explosion. A large explosion occurred at a Kleen Energy Systems 620-megawatt, Siemens combined cycle gas- and oil- fired power plant in Middletown, Connecticut. Preliminary reports attributed the cause of the explosion to a test of the plant's energy systems. The plant was still under construction and scheduled to start supplying energy in June 2010. The number of injuries was 27, with 5 people dying in the explosion.
  • April 20, 2010: Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 11 oil platform workers died in an explosion and fire that resulted in a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is considered the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

Food Industry:

  • February 7, 2008: The 2008 Georgia sugar refinery explosion in Port Wentworth, Georgia, United States. Thirteen people were killed and 42 injured when a dust explosion occurred at a sugar refinery owned by Imperial Sugar.


  • November 24, 2012: Dhaka Tasreen Fashions fire. A seven story factory fire outside of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, killed at least 112 people, 12 from jumping out of windows to escape the blaze.
  • April 24, 2013: Savar building collapse. An eight story factory building collapse on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, killed at least 1126 people. The building contained five garment factories that were manufacturing clothing for the western market.


  • November 19, 2010: Pike River Mine disaster in New Zealand. At 3:45pm, the coal mine exploded. Twenty-nine men underground died immediately, or shortly afterwards, from the blast or from the toxic atmosphere. Two men in the stone drift, some distance from the mine workings, managed to escape. (Extract from Royal Commission of Enquiry Report on Pike River.)
  • November 8, 2012: Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, 2 people died and 17 injured in an industrial processing plant belonging to Neptune Technologies & Bioressources, a manufacturer of health care products.

Tipping Points

Three tipping points may occur singularly or in any combination with the maintenance process that could lead to catastrophic disaster.

Failure of Reliability Engineering

Components fail due to the laws of thermodynamics which states that all things fall apart, break and erode over time without external intervention. Without intervention everything does and will fail. All components have failure characteristics that allow an observer to understand the process that took place prior to failure and predict future failures under the same contributing circumstances. All failures impact the business in some way. Many failures can negatively impact operational uptime, productivity and profitability.

Once a failure occurs, every failure requires resources to be consumed. These resources are then used in a reactionary method that is far less efficient and effective than being proactively used. Additionally these resources could be used in other areas of the organization and possibly provide a greater value.

Basic lack of maintenance coupled with poor maintenance data capture 

Not managing the flow of information on run time, downtime and inventory usage, impacts equipment health and the ability to analyze equipment life cycle and life cycle costs.

Poor Maintenance Work Execution.

Not completing PMs (Preventive Maintenance) as scheduled and letting scheduled work slip will lead to emergency repairs – the most costly maintenance repair. Operators must be trained to be active team members in a total productive maintenance process. As operators, they are the first line of defense when equipment begins to falter.

When top down leadership does not manage the maintenance process, it impacts bottom line results.

Key Areas of Focus when reviewing Maintenance Processes

Managing Reliability

Maintenance management must know and understand the characteristics of component failure to identify necessary proactive repairs. It’s possible to intervene (PMs/PdM) to mitigate failures and determine whether equipment should be overhauled or replacement.. No company can predict all failures.

The purpose of an Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) is to identify when repairs are needed proactively before failure, prioritize and gain a thorough understanding of the impact of failure cost of business. Understanding operational impact due to failure is the cornerstone to developing the proper intervention.

Managing asset conditions

To determine and assess asset conditions is important only to the extent it provides insight into the nature of the possible failure or the timing of the potential failure. There are many tools and analysis programs that can be used to determine asset conditions. The most valuable tool in most instances is the people involved in the day-to-day maintenance and upkeep of the equipment.

There are various CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management Systems) systems that can capture the necessary data to monitor asset conditions and to evaluate equipment life cycles.

Executing the maintenance process

Using the Preventive Maintenance (PM) schedule as developed in a timely manner at the correct frequency intervals will reduce equipment downtime. Training operators to perform routine daily PM activities will reduce defects and increase uptime. Proper maintenance work planning and scheduling will reduce equipment downtime, improve employee safety and applying the right resources in a timely manner will improve maintenance productivity.

Proactive leadership will drive maintenance efficiency and improve the bottom line. Investing in human capital within the maintenance organization will payback in operational maintenance excellence, improve reporting and managing with meaningful KPIs that will lead to improved bottom line results.