Transformational Leadership Goes Beyond the Presentation
Transformational Perfomance
Solutions, LLC

Transformational Performance Solutions, LLC

Common Sense Maintenance and Reliability 

Clean, Cool, & Dry

Proactive reliability is all about keeping your equipment clean, cool, and dry. The importance of keeping things clean cannot be overemphasized. Contamination will attempt to enter your operation at every opportunity it is given. To combat this, you need to be out in front of where it can enter. Most contamination will come into your operation through the entrances and exits, but your operation itself may also be a source. After years of working to eliminate contamination, I have pulled together the following areas that will help you along this process.

A contamination control program can be employed in three steps.

  1. Start by setting target fluid cleanliness levels for all equipment.
  2. Select and install filtration equipment (or upgrade existing filter rating) and

contamination prevention techniques to achieve the cleanliness levels.

3. Monitor cleanliness at pre-determined intervals to achieve the cleanliness levels.


The start of your contamination prevention program should be your storeroom. The manner in which you receive and store your repair parts will set the stage for your plant’s reliability. This contamination control starts with your vendors. If you do not have a specification for how you will receive your spares, you are missing a key aspect of obtaining reliability. 

Your specifications must start with your cleanliness standards. The parts or materials you are receiving will drive these standards. You should visit the vendor and understand how the parts are being stored before their delivery to your plant. At no time should you allow a part to enter your facility if you do not know what conditions it has been subjected to. If you miss this opportunity to improve reliability in your operation, you are allowing your vendors to set your standards. I am always disheartened to hear maintenance and reliability leaders tell me that they cannot control what happens to the parts before they enter their facility. This cannot be further from the truth.

Once the part has entered your facility, you  need to make sure it is cared for as well as all the other parts of your operation. All too often, organizations pay no attention to their spares until they install them. This is too late. The parts in your storeroom must be treated and maintained as if they are already installed in your equipment. The storage of gearboxes, motors, belts, bearings, cylinders, etc. will dictate your ability to deliver on reliability.  Depending on your organization’s manpower and stores facilities, you may want to review and decide where and how all your spare parts are stored. It is not necessary to have one or more of everything in your storeroom.  I have used a very specific process flow diagram to determine what to store that has served me very well. The decision on what to store is one that requires a lot of discussion and should be devoid of emotion. There are significant costs associated with storage of parts. The average is 20% of the cost of inventory, so if your stores value is one million dollars, it costs you 1.2 million dollars to keep those stores. If you stock the right stores and eliminate all duplicates and spoiled stores, you save money and obtain another funding source for reliability efforts. This affects your organization’s free cash flow, and honestly, if you are not storing the parts correctly, it costs you even more money when you install them and they fail prematurely. The cost of downtime will prove that if you do not maintain your stored parts in a reliable state, you are better off letting your vendors store the parts correctly at their site and delivering them to you when needed. This may sound extreme, but if you add up all the time you spend storing parts  incorrectly and compare it to the reliability of having them stored correctly, you will see that you make more product and spend less on replacing new parts gone bad. Of course, no one would do this, but it emphasizes the need to store your spares in a reliable state.

Fluid Cleanliness


Another contamination control point is the intake and storage of your lubricants. Most people believe that new oil is clean, but this cannot be further from the truth. Most new oil is 128% more contaminated than the maximum contamination level required by your equipment. The intake and storage of your lubricants needs to be a focus of your contamination control program. As you can see, the three major contributors to unreliability all intertwine.  Improper lubrication, contamination, and improper installation are very interconnected, and our discussion will bounce between all three contributors but focus on the subtitled area. Because of this interconnection, it may be necessary to move between chapters when implementing my approaches to elimination of these causes of unreliability.

Cleaning and Inspecting


When we are discussing the cleaning stage, it can be compared to the steps in 5S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain). Both have very similar purposes. The goal is to remove all grime and dirt from the equipment, not to make the equipment pretty but to reveal the issues hidden beneath the grime. To accomplish this, you will need to take the equipment out of production, remove all guards and covers to complete a thorough inspection, and drain all fluids. The goal is to return the equipment to “base condition.” This is the best possible condition for the equipment’s age. It is not intended to return it to new condition.  It would require too much money to accomplish this and is normally not cost effective.  Understanding “base condition” makes it possible to highlight the wear and damage to the equipment and develop the necessary repairs. Kaizen (improvement) is a lean term used to identify problems and either immediately correct them or schedule them for correction.

The accomplishment of the clean and inspect phase should be done by operators and reliability crews who are personally responsible for the equipment. This will increase their understanding of the equipment, such as where problems occur and grime accumulates.