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Are You Educating with Your Reliability Reports?

There are two ways to write reliability reports. One is to write to educate. The other is to write to train. The difference between educating and training is vast. Training means showing someone how to do a task. Educating means showing people how to interpret and use what they are seeing from doing the task. Reliability reports can educate the masses which, in turn, enhances support for your reliability programs.

To illustrate, consider this real-life situation:

During a rotating equipment specialist’s performance review, a manager wrote in the Needs to Improve section that the specialist included too much information in his vibration reports. The manager stated that people only need to know that the bearing needs to be replaced because those reading these reports do not have any vibration training.

There is a clear difference between the term “training” and “educate.” 

A wise person once said, you train an animal or to a standard that does not require any thinking. You educate a person where you would like to see some amount of reasoning applied to the information given.

So, perhaps some folks reading the rotating equipment specialist’s vibration reports wanted to learn at least the basics of what the vibration data can tell them and how to identify different failure modes they find.

The reports typically included a short description of the problem and a corrective statement. For example: Developing bearing looseness, replace bearing. Then under the comment section, a more detailed description was provided of what the specialist was seeing. An example for a hammer mill would read:This is a bearing that has a spanner nut to set the bearing clearance; The non-drive end bearing shows increases in ½ time running speed harmonics, an indication of advanced stages of rotating looseness. A strobe inspection is not indicating the bearing is slipping on the shaft, so this indicates the issue is internal. Suggest inspecting the bearing for indications the bearing is slipping in the housing. Clean the grease out of the bearing and measure the internal bearing clearance. Inspect the bearing for damage. Adjust the clearance or replace the bearing as needed. If the bearing is not running hot at this time, this work can be done when the next preventive maintenance is scheduled.

Writing Reports to Educate

When writing reports, start with the idea that your contact knows what you know, but also write with enough information so the reader hopefully understands your thought process. Here are some tips:

  • If you are a consultant and most of your accounts are monthly visits or if you are not always on-site if someone has questions later, sit down with your contact to find out the level of information desired in the reports. This is particularly beneficial if this is going to be a long-term relationship. This also gives you a chance to tailor the report to the group and educate them about the technology being used if they are coming into the relationship green.
  • Provide handouts, such as a short white paper, and encourage those who will be getting your reports to read the information. Handouts serve as great early education resources.
  • Show everyone on the floor what you are doing. For example, show and explain to them what you are doing, the data collector, the spectrum and waveform being collected, and what you are looking for.

The more people who understand what you are doing, whether maintenance or operators, the more support you will get with your reliability programs. It’s all about educating the masses. The more people understand what they can and cannot do, the better you can apply what you find and they will understand why you are asking the questions you ask.

Taking this a step further, when working with maintenance techs, managers, operators, or their supervisors, show those who express interest how bearing failures and frequencies show up in vibration data. For example, show them how using the strobe during your inspections can slow things down so they can see the machine structure flexing, the belt cracks, coupling cracking, the shaft loose in a bearing and so on.

Again, educating them, not training them. Training would be showing them how to use a strobe light, while educating would be showing them how to interpret and use what they are seeing. If it is a loose bearing fit, how fast is the shaft spinning in the bearing? If it is a coupling inspection, how bad is the defect?Has the rubber element started to really separate from the shoe or is it just beginning to check or crack?Both will make a difference on how soon you need to address what was found. As they gain knowledge, they will be able to make the call as to whether they need to shut things down now, contact others to have them look at things, or if it is just something to put on the shift report for now. This is the difference between educating and training.

In one facility where a vibration specialist came in to do work, the maintenance techs came forward with questions about the machines they had worked on while the specialist was off-site. They also began bringing the specialist bearing information on the machines they work on. One of the techs understood that if he could not get the vibration specialist the bearing number when he had a machine open, there was value in getting the number of rollers in a bearing instead. By knowing the actual number of rollers in a bearing, one can at least make an educated estimate on the bearing frequencies. This is an example of educating the masses.

So, are you educating the masses with your reliability reports or are you just reporting? 

Mark Kingkade

Mark Kingkade has been in equipment, machinery and building maintenance for over 43 years. He has focused on Industrial Maintenance for the last 33 years and has been involved in over 40 vibration and reliability programs in a wide variety of industries. Mark received his Level 3 vibration certification in 2008 and UE Level 1 Certification in 2001. In addition, he has IR Level 1 trainings in both mechanical and electrical and Motion Amplification Level 1. Mark previously worked at Allied Reliability (2000-2016) where he had extensive training in PDM program development and application.

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