How Can Defect Elimination Be Implemented?

This is Part 2 in a series on defect elimination – helping improve reliability. Read part 1 here .


The pictures of before and after results of an RIT project.


If the Reliability Improvement Team or RIT effort is focused and supported by the management team, the equipment can be ring fenced so that all corrective maintenance work orders assigned to the equipment can be completed within 12 weeks.

This will require a team effort by maintenance, operations and procurement to ensure the parts are available and the equipment can be isolated. In addition, if time permits and the right personnel are available, modifications or counter measures can be made to the equipment if a Management of Change (MOC) is submitted and approved in advance (if required).




Tracy T. Strawn


President Oil and Gas Services, Marshall Institute, Inc.



The first step in the Reliability Improvement Team effort is to have a project kick-off meeting with a cross functional team made up of the following members:

• The operator assigned to that equipment or area

• Mechanic

• Electrician

• Instrument technician

• Maintenance supervisor

• Operations supervisor

• Engineer assigned to that area of the plant

• Maintenance planner/scheduler

• Facilitator

• Equipment vendor (optional)

• Other support personnel as needed

The purpose of the kick-off is to create a charter or terms of reference that define the objective and scope of the project. The team will meet weekly (1 to 1-1/2 hour meeting) over a 12-week period (or longer).

Once the team is chartered, a reliability engineer will be assigned to conduct a reliability review. The reliability review sets the stage for all the improvement activities to be performed on the equipment. The engineer assigned to the reliability review will analyse available data to create mean time between failure (MTBF) metrics and other trend charts to create a picture of the equipment’s performance.

Key charts created during the reliability review will be Pareto charts. Pareto charts are used to identify the causes of equipment failure and eventually for focusing an RCA effort on solving the critical few equipment failure causes. An example is shown below. The Pareto Chart and the subsequent analysis may be one of the most critical activities at this point.

According to the Pareto chart, the broken compressor blades and bearings represent the critical few. Effort should be made to resolve these equipment component problems by further drill down with additional Pareto charts. Additional Pareto charts can be created to display components by number of work orders, and number of failures, to provide a different picture of the problems. Sometimes the engineer assigned to conduct the reliability review will also perform the RCA on the critical failures identified through the reliability review.

The Onsite Event

Week 8 culminates with an onsite event. The onsite event is a facilitated 5-day workshop designed to identify and eliminate all remaining defects that have not yet been addressed through CM repairs or RCA. The onsite event follows a process called the seven steps to autonomous care popularized by TPM. The 7 steps establish Basic Equipment Care and can be described as the following:

Seven Steps:

• Cleaning

• Countermeasure development

• Standards development

• Inspection

• Improving process knowledge

• Workplace organization – 5S’s

• Sustainment and auditing

The onsite event consists of a cleaning effort that focuses on cleaning the equipment to rid it of all dirt and contamination. The cleaning effort, which also doubles as an inspection, addresses leaks, contamination, loose and defective parts, and anything associated with the equipment that can be characterized as a defect. During this time, it will be restored to optimum condition, or action created to be completed at a later date.

The result of the onsite event should be an equipment setting in which all defects have been identified and corrected and in some cases optimized. The process should bring the equipment to a near new or restored and optimized condition. Some organizations will take time to paint the equipment and add labelling of the process lines and equipment. One of the concepts introduced at this point is the creation of visual controls to aid inspections.


According to the Pareto chart, the broken compressor blades and bearings represent the critical few.

In addition, since the operator is a key team member of the RIT, he or she will learn about equipment operational concepts and basic equipment care techniques to include cleaning, inspection, and lubrication practices. The completed project can include transfer of some maintenance duties to the operator that were previously carried out by the maintenance technician.

Typically at the end of the 8 weeks and completion of the onsite event, there will be actions that need to be completed. The project team will progress and close out the actions making an attempt to complete all of them by the end of the 12-week period.

Once the project is complete, including all the outstanding actions, the team can be decommissioned. At this point it is handed off to the equipment owner or operator.

Sustaining the Gains

Once an optimized and restored piece of equipment is released back to the operator, he or she will be motivated to maintain this new state. Nevertheless, to support the operator and their leaders, an audit schedule is created for the purpose of inspecting the equipment to ensure the operator and the production team are able to hold the gains. Typically audits can be conducted by a team at defined intervals of 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years. Awards are given to the operator if they can sustain the gains. Experience has shown this can be a strong motivator for the operator to maintain equipment in this optimized and restored state.

The output of equipment improvement projects such as this is not only a restored and optimized equipment setting, but also updated and optimized preventive maintenance routines, operator care standards, operational procedures, and BOMs, as well as resolution of chronic problems with the equipment, an in-depth analysis of the equipment reliability, and new metrics established for evaluating equipment performance.

Efforts of this nature should have a budget built for the first year to accommodate the number of projects desired. Experience has shown that in some cases, after the first year, a return on investment is realized so that future projects may be financed from savings as a result of improved reliability and reduced maintenance costs. Essentially after the first year the effort can finance itself.

The author has conducted over 70 of these reliability improvement efforts around the world. Personal experience has shown that this process, if followed carefully, can result in extraordinary results. One oil and gas company with aging assets conducted over 200 of these projects at various facilities throughout the company. The impact was transformational change in the culture from reactive to proactive focused on defect elimination. Ultimately, many of the improvement efforts were conducted autonomously by the operators with minimal outside support.

Achieving equipment reliability is hard work. Using a structured, disciplined approach as described will ensure success. The prize will be improved equipment reliability and lower operating costs that can be sustained over the long term.

Asset Management | 20.11.2015

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