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Condition Monitoring- A Case Study-Part I

Being currently involved in a research project on Asset Management practice in Construction industries. I have been interacting with folks within the industry to understand the peculiarities involved in their Asset Management practices. One such interaction I think is worth mentioning here and this relates to a sparingly or incompletely used maintenance practice- Predictive maintenance in the construction industry.  The projects awarded to the construction companies depends largely upon the ability of the companies to deliver quality projects in a time effective manner requiring  them to rely heavily on the Maintenance functions which drives the reliability parameters and hence governing the upkeep of the equipment. While the industry does reasonably well with the traditional kind of maintenance like preventive and corrective maintenance, the proactive maintenance still lacks the charm.  What do we need for a successful condition monitoring, heaps of operational data? A high profile instrumentation infrastructure? Knowhow of slice and dice data analysis, possibly true but in my opinion these are not comprehensive enough. I think while these are some good enablers, the most important factor for a successful Condition Monitoring exercise is a complete knowledge about the equipment and its dependent components and more importantly the understanding of reasons behind the actions which are being performed. You can witness several such programs failing because of the limited understanding of holistic program goals. Here's presenting the case study of how a seemingly workable condition monitoring exercise can possibly go wrong.
 The case company had procured a fleet of excavators and pipe layer equipment for their interstate gas pipeline project. Being critical equipment, it was a mandate to practice detailed documentation of operational and condition monitoring data for these equipment's. These information were being relayed directly to the company's headquarter on a regular basis. The maintenance team did that religiously, capturing the hours run, the Sequential Oil Sampling (SOS) results etc.
Why? - Because "someone" is asking for it
Does that "someone" know what the destiny of these information going to be? - May or may not be!
How is the information which we are sending being user? - Who cares, we have better work to do than worrying about other's Job!
Now taking you to the real problem. The excavators which were deployed to rip through the right of way (RoW) for seating the gas pipeline had a target of clearing about a minimum stretch of 1 KM) per day. They were the heroes braving the tough terrains and also were the favorites among the operations team for this reason. Any breakdown would mean an overall impact to the project timeline. You know how the constructions company contract and their penalty clauses are, it's tough to miss even a single milestone. Everyone were on their toes and watching the equipment uptime closely. While all equipment followed a comprehensive preventive maintenance schedule and one of them received a special attention, the reason was a perennial hydraulic leakage being reported. The field engineers while engaging the vendors with whom the responsibility of the equipment under warranty resided, also ensured that they double up the PM schedules to ensure that they make up for the dropping oil levels. As a maintenance engineer, it was natural to equate an oil leakage to an O-Ring or a hydraulic seal issue and the maintenance team exactly did this. A day or two down, the leakage would resume and the frustration cycle continued. As the situation worsened, the team decided to look deeper into the problems. It was definitely not an inferior quality of seals, the team could have easily concluded this because they were sourcing the original spares from the OEM.

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