Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How it all began: Preventative Maintenance for DBA's

Wow, I started my first engineering assignment almost 20 years ago at Del Monte, the last San Jose, CA cannery. At that point I was a Civil Engineering undergraduate with strong CAD skills. A buddy of mine, Miguel, who was an Industrial Engineer major was raving about this innovative internship he had working for the plant manager, Howard, of a local San Jose cannery doing AM/FM. No, my first job was not in radio but about Facility Management (FM). The AM (Automated Mapping) piece was about giving you a map to visualize were your facility needed help.

Preventative Maintenance (PM) is a term commonly used in FM. The basic objective of objective is to avoid the constant fire drills in facility maintenance.

The Wikipedia provides the following definition for Preventive Maintenance:
The care and servicing by personnel for the purpose of maintaining equipment and facilities in satisfactory operating condition by providing for systematic inspection, detection, and correction of incipient failures either before they occur or before they develop into major defects.
Why was PM so important to Howard, the plant engineer? Because the price for an outage was very expensive in terms of labor and capital. How does a cannery work? It's a labor intensive 24/7 operation where if a major component\area goes down due to a maintenance issue you could have 100's of workers just standing around, your mechanics running around trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it ASAP and your capital, in our case fruit, is rotting as you wait to get back online.

Howard, was a smart guy and he new many of these outages could be prevented by doing PM. He and the mechanics knew that a motor or pump or elevator, etc ... typically worked well only for X months. And if he could keep track of all of key components and when they were last worked on. Then he might be able to come up with a plan to fix the equipment before it broke again and thus potentially preventing a problem or at least from an even larger problem.

The AM piece was about not having the mechanics run around everywhere. Don't fix one motor on one side of the cannery and then have your mechanics move all their equipment to the other side of the cannery to overhaul the next motor. Once they setup camp in a particular area what else should be done there. So, Howard wanted a map to visualize all the equipment that needed to be worked on for the next two months, so he could could plan and schedule the work. He also used the map to communicate to the mechanics what needed to be done. And later on he started using the map to look for patterns in outages. It became Howard's dashboard.

BTW, we did not call it AM/FM back then it was just known as Howard's pet project. A couple of years later as I learned about GIS ; I realized that we had built a crude AM/FM GIS out of RBase and AutoCAD.

Wouldn't it be great if DBA's could do PM to help them prevent their daily fire drills? Wouldn't it be great if DBA mangers had a dashboard to help them visulaize potential problematic areas and then be able to plan and schedule work to address these concerns, just like Howard?

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