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The Maintenance Management Blog

October 09, 2023

The Human Factor - II

Image: Junked Machine

Last week, I looked at reasons equipment/machine fails for a company due to the human factor. This week I present five more.

I followed a logical chain of progression. Developing a product; selling the product; training to use the product; having specific purposes for the product; and customer service.

For four of the following points, we move to the company using the product, or rather the human using the product. I'll bring in Bob, the caveman from last week, and his evolution from using a stick to a pointy stick to a bow and arrow as a simple example of how the human factor plays a part in almost every product/equipment failure. The fifth point covers all of the other nine in one form or another. Details to come.

Actually, today's first point also could cover many others, but I want to focus on the machine operator and maintenance technician. One or both can have a lack of proper mindset or lack of basic skills. I think of three major skills both individuals should have. Communication, determination, and discipline. Communication with coworkers and maintenance if an issue arises.

There's a vibration or leakage or a "jam" of sorts. Not telling someone leads to further problems.

Determination is having the mindset that there will be success. That the person wants to know all there is to know about the equipment. The drive to succeed and make it work. If the person expresses apathy and just "putting in the time" then those communications skills weaken. When the machine breaks, there are production delays.

Along with these is discipline to be responsible if something does go wrong. Taking responsibility for the human factor if it is your fault.

Bob lets his friend use the bow and arrow. The friend returns them but doesn't tell Bob the string is loose. When the next saber-toothed tiger approaches, Bob notches the pointy stick, pulls back to shoot, and the string breaks.

Bob doesn't practice with the bow and arrow and loses what skills he has or at least he doesn't improve into expertise.

Because of this, Bob isn't aware of the workings of the weapon to know when or how to repair it or even if it's failing.

Bob visits his dealer for repair but doesn't admit he sat on the bow and arrow by accident.

Last week, I mentioned the result of poor training and improper goals for the use of the equipment: misuse. An article in Maintenance World says that over 60% of problems are from misuse.

This has many subpoints.

Overusing equipment. Machines need a "rest" too.

Underuse is also bad if the machine needs to stay lubricated or run at a certain speed. Here, I'm reminded of a printer. Underuse can result in dried or clogged ink cartridges.

Trying to make the equipment do either more than it can or something different than what it was designed for. Bob uses the bow to try to pry loose a boulder embedded in the ground.

Often, what occurs with this point is that incorrect materials are introduced to the machine and it can't handle the foreign "stuff."

Trying to print on thin sheets of wood. (Yes, it's probably an unlikely occurrence, but someone probably thought about it.) Misuse, of course, also can be physical abuse. Banging on or kicking the machine hoping it'll work. Bob throws his bow against a tree because he missed the target.

An obvious human factor in asset failure or breakdown is lack of proper maintenance. A quality preventive maintenance system goes a long way in avoiding or delaying problems. Bob's neglect to grease the length of the gristle he uses for the bowstring will mean the gristle dries and snaps.

The fourth human factor could be considered part of the lack of communication – lack of follow-up/follow-through. Either or both could come from contacting (or not) customer service and expecting a solution to come soon. A maintenance worker sees how to improve a PM but either doesn't tell anyone or if he does, the supervisor fails to institute the idea. Both result in something not getting done. Perhaps the improvement should be implemented. The machine fails or at least may not run up to par.

The last point, the one that could be layered throughout this week's and last week's points is lack of preparation. Development, Sales, Training, Goals, Customer Service, Mindset, Misuse, Maintenance (PM), Follow-Up/Follow-Through. If proper preparation isn't done in one or any of these, you risk failure, and ultimately, equipment/asset breakdown. Sometimes, the preparation doesn't require too much time to be adequate. A simple example is letting the car warm up before driving on a cold day. Not only are you helping yourself, but making sure the vehicle's parts are lubricated and heated.

I should touch upon a few other reasons for failure where the human isn't a factor. These are unexpected events such as weather (lightning strikes zapping the power and a surge back into the machine) or an accident (Bob stepped on the bow and arrow). Or it could be an expected but unavoidable issue such as age depreciation. When is it time to buy new/replace rather than repair?

Next week, let's look at how a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) helps with these ten points. While the software itself won't stop breakdowns (it still requires the human factor), it will help organize maintenance. Let's look at the ten points in relation to using the CMMS (so the human factor for failures is minimized) and how it assists maintenance. Mapcon / 800-922-4336


Stephen Brayton

About the Author – Stephen Brayton


Stephen L. Brayton is a Marketing Associate at Mapcon Technologies, Inc. He graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College with a degree in Communications. His background includes radio, hospitality, martial arts, and print media. He has authored several published books (fiction), and his short stories have been included in numerous anthologies. With his joining the Mapcon team, he ventures in a new and exciting direction with his writing and marketing. He’ll bring a unique perspective in presenting the Mapcon system to prospective companies, as well as our current valued clients.


Filed under: asset management, maintenance — Stephen Brayton on October 09, 2023