How Much Of Industry's Problems Are Man-Made?

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expertbase logo Articles by Rolly A. Maintenance How Much Of Industry's Problems Are Man-Made?

How Much Of Industry's Problems Are Man-Made?

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1974 Words
10 min

5 Cases

I do not know if you agree with me but based on my experience, the bigger the population of the plant the more problems it has. And entirely all of their problems are in a way self induced or simply means man-made. I have asked a few of my sources from a percentage of 1 to 100, how much of industries problems are man made? Most of them answered 100% to which I am not surprise. In my personal humble opinion, I would say around 98 to 99% are man made problems or induced by man itself. I just leave the 1 to 2% as unfathomable. Below are some of classic cases of maintenance problems that simply stated are made by man itself.


Let me give you a classic example. Last May 2009 this year, I went to one of the plants here in my country to teach a one day course on Total Productive Maintenance. The course was supposed to be attended by supervisors and superintendents and the class was supposed to start at 8:30 am in which around 4 people arrived by that time. At 9:00 am around 4 more people joined the class and at 9:30 am some more joined and the class was finally complete. When the class was complete, I stopped the lecture for a moment and ask the class why they were late. Admittedly, almost all said that they went to their line or operations and give the operators some instructions. I asked one person how long have he been working in this industry and he said that he had work here on this plant for the past 30 years, 20 years in the supervisory position. I asked them how long have he been doing this, and the supervisor told me he had been doing it for the past 20 years. And I asked them why do you give the operator’s instructions? He told me that it was his job in the first place. I further explained my point that I am not disappointed by the class being late but I have one major concern and it is very much related to the course that we were covering. The goal of TPM is about empowering operators, it is about trusting operators that they too themselves are capable of thinking and doing something without being told. You just cannot implement TPM if you continue to do this every time, all the time. If your plant is serious in adopting TPM, then you must learn to change what you have been doing for the past 20 to 30 years.


If we take a look at our Preventive Maintenance Checklists. Every single PM Checklists has a form of lubrication activity that is being performed in a timely and scheduled fashion which indicates something like this.

What: Apply lubrication on roller bearing,
When: Frequency monthly
Who: Preventive Maintenance.

If you think that this is the right thing to do, then you are so wrong. This is actually where CHAOS and CONFUSION starts. If I ask one of the maintenance to perform lubrication, open up the cabinet and see a dozen types of grease with different brands, some mineral oil, and a couple of synthetic oil then what will he choose ? Since all of them are lubricants. As to what specific lubricant to be used is unknown. Would it be grease or oil? If we take for example that grease would be applied, what corresponding NLGI number must be used? What specific brand and type of grease would be used? What specific temperature of grease is required for this application? How many shots or pump is needed for the grease gun or when do I know when to stop pumping the grease gun? How many grams of grease is required for this application and do you have any means of measuring it?

These are just a few questions to start with your lubrication and oftentimes we blame it on the lubricant, but much of the lubricant failures we experience in our plant is caused not by the lubricant we use but by the way we perform our lubricating practices in our plant. Applying the wrong lubricant or mixing lubricants of different brands can cause incompatibility problems with the base and additives and would likewise compromise and shorten the lifespan of the part it lubricates as well as the life of the lubricant itself. If we take an audit on how many types of grease gun we have in our plant or how many types of grease that are being used over the years. I think you already know the answer and each of these grease guns have a different output or volume of grease per pump. If we study the cause of this problem, one reason is people from different departments, stations or areas simply confine their responsibilities to their departments. In short they do not talk or communicate at all.


When production is low or target output was not hit for the day, then all fingers points to the maintenance people for having such a long downtime. As to what caused the downtime to increase was that the spare was not readily available at the stockroom. Maintenance had to purchase it manually outside the plant. When everything was fix and done. Our bosses often tell us how come we did not check the inventory of the part in the first place. But when you do check the inventory of every single part you need for the equipment and have it requisitioned, likewise, you would be questioned on why you need to have this in the first place. I believe the right word is interrogated as to why you need to have every single spare part requisitioned in the first place since we are in a real tight budget right now. Or worst if you have some bosses that often told you that if you can’t do the job right, just let me know and I can find someone better. These people are always sarcastic and cynical in the way they speak and believe me when I say, they are very good at this and sometimes it makes me wonder that these kinds of people are paid to do these kinds of things to their people.

This is what I call the maintenance trap and your only choice is to select from the lesser evil. If you go to one point in the line, then you will be bitten by snakes, while if you go in the other end then you will be eaten up alive by crocodiles. The worst part is we end up cannibalizing other equipments just to make our machine running.


A facility manager once asked me, what are the best maintenance tasks to be performed on a plant’s UPS. (Note: UPS unit is used to protect the critical loads from power disturbances and used as a stand by power supply during interruption of regular power supply due to load shedding, power failure, power fluctuations it provides a reliable and stable power to the equipment’s power variations and interruptions. It functions as voltage stabilizer and at the same time isolates the equipment and systems from the power lines.) I told the facilities manager, that I cannot think of any besides having a redundancy of the UPS. The facility manager just laughed at me and a couple of years later, this plant went on fire which stopped their operations for more than a day. The fire started from the UPS. Later on that year, I learned that they bought not one, not two but three UPS as a means of redundancy.

Same as true hold for the January 28, 1986 STS—51L Challenger Disaster. It was not the O-ring that killed the 6 astronauts and 1 civilian teacher but rather it was the decision by both NASA and Morton Thiokol Management and their disregard to the engineers who warned them of the grave danger the o-rings would induce in launching Challenger at a cold temperature of 31 degree Fahrenheit. The engineers insisted for a Root Cause Analysis investigation on the O-ring erosion problem from the previous flights which never came.

As Roger Boisjoly Quote: One month, one lousy month later, we all realized that we had no power, no authority, no resources and no management support, then how the heck can you get anything done if you don’t have anything of those items I have mentioned ? You can’t. And the frustrations just absolutely going up minute by minute, day by day.

Because of the tragedy and the Rogers Commissions findings, NASA and Morton makes design changes to the space shuttle and added a 3rd o-ring and the previous o-ring redesign by including a heated layer to prevent its effects from the cold. But I always wonder if these design changes would take place if NASA did not suffer any casualty from that flight. I think we need something really hard to hit us in the head and make those changes. Am I right?

I am pretty much sure that there is much, more but we all leave it to our experiences simply because this is the way we do things here in our plant for a very long time. We only act on problems if it finally haunts us. I hope that we do not wait for the consequences to happen as a result of the decision we have made today.

Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience." Denis Waitley


I always preach that the best way to lower your maintenance and operating cost is by improving the reliability of your equipment. And improving the reliability of your equipment has much to do on how we perform maintenance in our equipment. Any good maintenance manager always knows these things, but even if he wants to do the right thing, there are external forces beyond their control. When maintenance tries to requisition parts, their procurement department or purchasing will always opt for the lowest cost without realizing what HAVOC it will cause in their equipment. The reason is simply, these people (Purchasing) do not realize what the life-cycle cost is all about since they are only interested in the initial cost of the part which the maintenance requisitioned.

Worst, there are some industries that do not even allow the maintenance people to talk these things to their vendors because it is the rule of their plant or it had been part of the system that only purchasing are allowed to discuss these matters to their vendors.

I could give you more, but I will stop at these five cases. And I think you may have experienced any one or two of these cases. My message is that it is never too late if we act on these problems. People create problems, but I also believe that people are also capable of solving their problems, but sometimes we need to make these changes ourselves. Change must always come not from other people, not from the top, not from the bottom, not from consultants but from within ourselves. That is if we have the guts to finally put our fingers down and start off by looking ourselves in the mirror. As long as I see maintenance smile, then it is always a sign of hope and I see a reason to hang on to this business and continue doing what I’m doing which is educating people regarding the value of their work as maintenance.
This Article is authored / contributed by ▸ Rolly A. who travels from Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Philippines. Rolly is available for Professional Consulting Work both Virtually and In-Person. ▸ Enquire Now.

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