As a seminar presenter on the topic of machinery lubrication, much of my time is spent instructing people on how to develop and maintain a world-class lubrication program. In addition to discussing the "rights" of good maintenance, I also spend time talking about what not to do, pointing out common mistakes and omissions that are typically made. To illustrate these mistakes and poke fun at myself at the same time, I use examples of my own maintenance and operational blunders involving my boats. I have a passion for big game fishing, and when I am not working I can usually be found on the Gulf of Mexico hunting tuna and marlin. Unfortunately, for every successful fishing story I tell, I have at least one sad story of a missed trip, missed season, or just a missed fish due to a system failure or mechanical break down.
A Personalized Program
After years of getting laughs at my stories of poor maintenance practices, and with marlin season fast approaching, it finally hit me … I should practice what I preach! I decided that by using reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) and failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA), I could design and document an appropriate maintenance and operating program to maximize my fishing enjoyment, as well as time on the water and safety, while minimizing the amount of money I spend on the boat and fishing gear.
Priorities and Criticality
Because I had little time to devote to this project, and the boat requires many operating and maintenance procedures, my list needed to be prioritized. I began by examining the most common component or system failures the boat experiences. Next, I ranked these items in terms of criticality by considering the likelihood as well as the penalty for failure. Penalties such as death of captain and crew got a high ranking, while losing a trophy fish merely got a mid-level ranking.
After identifying the methods and activities needed to achieve the desired level of reliability, each task had to be assigned an appropriate frequency, the steps documented, and modifications made for reliability and to increase the efficiency of the maintenance tasks. During this process, I created two lists of tasks separated by criticality, consisting of items such as checking the engine oil level or VHF operation being high, as well as checking the battery terminals and steering fluid level being at a moderate level.
I further separated the list by frequency, for example every trip, every three trips, once at the beginning of the season, etc. I then designed and documented the detailed procedures for each task in the form of
bullet-point checklists which are now laminated and stored on the boat with a grease pen. At the beginning of each trip the "every trip" list is performed and checked. Tasks with longer frequencies are tracked in a spreadsheet. The boat will not leave the dock until all scheduled maintenance and inspection procedures are complete. Another benefit of documenting the tasks and likely failures was that I developed an effective tools and materials list (like having enough oil to refill the hydraulic system when a hose breaks).
Always Consult the Checklists
Although it sounds like a lot of work, it took me only about two rainy days to develop and document the initial program. There is still work to do with the modifications, but progress has been made with those items, such as relocating system components, rerouting wiring and upgrading hardware. Continually, I add items to the checklists. As it turns out, no matter how familiar I am with the equipment and developed procedures, I typically forget something if I don't consult the checklists first.
Making Life Easier
After only a few outings this year, I've already begun to reap the benefits of my program with the redesign and modification of some trouble-making electronic systems. While my stress levels continue to decrease, my level of enjoyment continuously increases. I must admit I am slightly ashamed to have just realized that the maintenance and lubrication practices, of which I speak so passionately, are just as relevant and provide equivalent value to my personal machinery as they are to costly and critical industrial equipment. I am looking forward to documenting the results of this program and by the end of the year, I plan to claim success and add new fishing stories.