Why Proper Documentation Will Lead to Sustainable Improvements

Imagine being able to look back and see what settings the equipment was last ran at for a particular SKU. Or being able to look back at the last three alignment inspections and see that slowly the alignment is drifting. What could you do with this type of information? You could perform Root Cause Analysis to see why the alignment is drifting, or trend the drifting to know when it will be out of acceptable tolerances.

Having the right information is critical to making informed decisions and driving systematic improvements in the performance of the equipment. This information is typically captured in a report or work order and should be linked to the asset and easily searchable. However, most organizations that I have worked with do not record the right information, which would allow them to make informed decisions. This documentation is a critical piece in precision maintenance, so what is required for documentation?

What Information Should Be Documented?

When performing precision maintenance or other maintenance activities, there is a minimum amount of information that should be recorded. While this list below is not exhaustive, it should give the reader a basis to start properly documenting maintenance activities

  • Asset Information – Includes relevant asset data such as the asset number, sub-assembly number, etc.
  • Date & Time – This will enable the organization to look for any specific trends… as funny as this may sound, I had encountered an issue that corresponded to sunlight coming through a window and interfering with a sensor before.
  • Running Condition – Is used to record whether the asset was running, what product was running, etc. These conditions can have a dramatic impact on the condition and parameters of the asset.
  • As Found – These are the readings or conditions that the asset was found in. These are recorded before any changes are made to the asset.
  • As Left – These are the readings or conditions that the asset was left in. These are recorded after the maintenance activity has been performed.
  • Who did the Work – Any individuals that participated in the job should be recorded? This will allow the organization to work through any RCA activities with the right individuals.

Depending on the type of maintenance being performed, there may be additional requirements or forms. Often the As-Found, As-Left values will be specific to the activity begin performed such as alignment.

Where to Store the Documentation?

Ideally, the documentation is saved and kept available for easy reference, trending, etc. Depending on the sophistication of the CMMS/EAM that you are using, the capabilities and where the documentation is stored will vary.

  • In the CMMS/EAM – If you are lucky enough to have a top end CMMS (and have it configured properly), you may be able to store the as-found and as-left measurements directly in the work order and have them trending. This often enables the CMMS to automatically create follow up work orders when a parameter is out of tolerance.
  • Linked to the Asset – Most CMMS will allow you to link a file to a work order and/or asset. This will work great when you are using a product which has built-in reports and templates (such as Easy-Laser’s XT660). While not as convenient for trending and follow-up work orders, this still enables quick and easy access to the information.
  • In a Folder Structure – If you don’t have a CMMS or can’t link documents to assets or work orders, then create a similar hierarchy using folders on a shared drive to store the information.

Regardless how the information is stored, there must be a way to name the documents so they are easily located and searchable. Ideally, this should follow an Engineering Document Standard or something similar that states how to name the file.

How Long Should the Documentation Be Kept?

Keeping data, documents, and information can lead to systems becoming slow, complex, or unusable. Also, there may be regulatory requirements that state how long certain types of data must be kept. There are some general rules of thumbs that can provide some guidance, but be sure to check with your records retention office or legal office to see if your organization has any specific requirements. In general;

  • Follow Your Records Retention Policy – This corporate policy will outline what data must be kept for what period of time.
  • Check with your Local Regulators – This may be the Department of Labour, Department of Energy, etc. But specific types of equipment may have legislated requirements.
  • Think about how far back you go to analyze or trend data. This may vary by asset or process, as the frequency of failure or re-tooling may vary dramatically.

Having the right documentation and information is critical to moving your reliability program forward. Do you have a method to capture, use, and dispose of your data and information? What were your biggest challenges in capturing and keeping the data? How did you overcome that?

Remember, to find success; you must first solve the problem, then achieve the implementation of the solution, and finally sustain winning results.

I’m James Kovacevic
Eruditio, LLC
Where Education Meets Application