Zero Breakdown Strategies – Step 5 – Preventing Human Error
Preventing human error will exist in at least two areas. The first to be considered is operations. If a piece of equipment is observed to be mis-operated, what really is the cause of the mis-operation?
* Is it a possibility that the operator was never trained correctly to operate the equipment?
* Isn’t it possible that the equipment was not designed for operability?
When these are observed, isn’t it possible to provide some form of interlock to prevent mis-operation?
The real cure to preventing mis-operation of the equipment is to develop standardized operating procedures and insure that all operators are trained to operate the equipment identically.
ISO-9000 standards require that the operators are to be trained to such a level that when they rotate from equipment to equipment, there is not the slightest variation in the quality of the product produced. If this was really accomplished in companies today, two things would occur. First, the operators would be so skilled that product quality would never be an issue (an ISO-9000 objective). Secondly, any equipment deterioration would be quickly identified and corrected before it reached the level where it would impact product quality (another ISO-9000 objective).
Unfortunately, there are very few structured operator training programs in industry today. Most are word of mouth, on-the-job training, or learn as you do programs. Structured operator training program with testing for skills proficiency would eliminate most of the operator errors in industry today.
What if the human error lies in the maintenance department? Then again, ask what caused the mistake? Isn’t possible that there are:
1. poor working conditions
2. poor tools and equipment
3. poor support structures
4. poor troubleshooting information and procedures
So when examining maintenance errors, consider the working conditions. It is usually hot, dirty, and dark when maintenance makes most repairs. Is it easy to make a mistake in these conditions? The answer, of course is “Yes”. So can the conditions be improved to make it easier to make repairs without making mistakes? The answer again is “Yes”!
Improving tools and equipment is important also. There are new technologies, new tools and new equipment that can help maintenance make repairs more accurately and quickly than the past. Are the maintenance departments using those tools at all plants and facilities? Definitely Not! In many plants and facilities, the attitude is negative about the maintenance function and subsequently they never get the tools and equipment necessary to achieve “World Class” levels of performance.
Consider also from a design perspective, are proper support structures such as auxiliary hoists and booms put in place when the equipment is installed? If so, this will make repairs much easier and quicker. In many plants and facilities, something must be rigged up each time the repairs to be made. This impacts the amount of time it takes to do the repair and increases the related downtime.
Consider to the age of the workforce. If the experienced individuals in the workforce work to leave, how would current workforce cope with that loss? Is it possible to develop troubleshooting flowcharts, and guides to help assist inexperienced individuals in troubleshooting, thus shortening repair times?
Artificial intelligence systems are currently being developed for maintenance. This may be the way of the future to help eliminate unnecessary equipment downtime.
All of these issues must be considered before automatically considering a particular problem is a design problem. In many cases companies will blame chronic equipment problems on the design engineer or the equipment manufacturer. Upon closer examination, it is found that in most cases the root cause of the problem is a maintenance or operational issue. It is key that these issues are addressed before attempting to redesign the equipment/ asset.
Consider in your plant or facility if all of the steps to zero breakdowns were the focus of improvement initiatives, what percent of all of your equipment failures would be eliminated? And how much time and resources would you have to focus on TRUE equipment/ asset problems? And:
What would your investment in a zero breakdown strategy improvement initiative actually be?