Our employees have witnessed firsthand the monotony of paper-based asset inspection strategies. These programs, although well-intentioned, typically lack employee engagement and accountability. If employees completing the inspections are disengaged, how successful is an inspection program really going to be?
Some of the Issues with Paper Inspection Strategies
The issues of utilizing a paper-based strategy can be avoided by modernizing to an appropriate inspection software package that utilizes tablets or smartphones. One of the most common causes of employee disinterest in an inspection program is the inability of inspectors to see the value in the initiative. This isn't helped by most traditional paper-based systems failing in one form or another, including the program fizzling-out over time. Inspection programs require large amounts of effort from numerous departments to ensure the system remains effective and value-added. Thus, when moving from either no inspections at all or from being paper-based to more detailed tablet based inspections, leaders within the organization must also adapt their communication to align with the data acquisition requirements.
A common contributor to the failure of an inspection strategy is when field inspectors (i.e. Operators) do not see their identified issues being repaired in, what they determine would be, a timely fashion. In these cases, it is extremely beneficial to the program's success to establish effective communication systems, providing inspectors with the estimated repair schedules. Another opportunity for engaging industrial employees who are responsible for detailed inspections is by performing root cause failure analyses (RCFA). Reliability engineers who are using inspection data for failure analysis, should ideally communicate with the field inspectors. In this practice, the field inspectors are experiencing firsthand how their collected data is being used, building value in the initiative.
To summarize, leadership teams requires accurate and detailed data from field inspections to prevent unplanned outages and to minimize repair costs. The quality of data acquired by field inspectors is directly related to how they see the collected information is used and that it has value.
Other Challenges for Implementing Detailed Inspections
Asking frontline employees to perform detailed inspections requires special considerations in order to be successful. Standardization of inspections will be a significant challenge, requiring engagement from workplace training departments. Pre-existing training materials may require revisions to properly guide employees on performing the new inspections. This ensures all users are trained in the same fashion, now and in the future. It is also beneficial to have this training documentation available on the field devices so users can refer to it when performing the inspections. Some inspection software can attach instructions and photos within route to remind users on how to perform a specific task. Our library of equipment inspections is designed to clearly differentiate normal and failure operating conditions to avoid ambiguity. For example, a brake fluid reservoir for a pickup truck will guide inspectors to the reservoir's location and what conditions to look for.
Standardization of practices at a workplace will also ensure that all inspectors know the proper procedures for when an issue is found. If detailed inspections are new to a workplace, it is important to establish these procedures early on. Looking at our brake fluid example above, it would be prudent for an employee to properly respond to a leak found within the vehicle's system. In many cases, it is beneficial to have facilitated meetings between different departments to determine the procedures suitable for a workplace. Once agreed upon, instructions can be inserted into the field devices to serve as reminders when certain conditions are found.
A significant benefit for software-based inspections over paper is employee accountability. Most inspection software will timestamps each inspection point so program managers understand when each check was completed. Reports can be generated to show how long an inspection route took to complete and compare this number to the expected completion time. Some software offers more detail and has the ability to track the locations visited by an inspector. These functions really come into play when an unplanned failure occurs and managers review the collected data.
It is the objective of our modern asset inspection programs to empower a workplace with the ability to confidently understand the condition of their assets. Traditional paper-based programs are simply not able to capture the same level of detail nor do they allow for the quick assessment of an asset's performance history. The software also includes valuable features such as picture taking that can further identify the conditions around a failure. All information captured is valuable in determining the appropriate responses to found issues. Planning departments and maintenance supervisors can confidently take control when assets fail.
Software-based inspections provide many advantages over paper-based practices. As discussed, they will provide an increase in the level of detail gathered from asset inspections, allowing for a better understanding of equipment's conditions. Failures will be more quickly identifiable because workflows will no longer limit the access of information across departments. Ultimately, it is the employees that will ultimately determine the success of an inspection platform, so it is important to establish the right culture from the beginning.