Introducing Peer Review to Improve Maintenance Productivity
Eric Dousi has been in the mining and petrochemical industries for more than 30 years with vast experience around the globe in many different areas. He started out in the Merchant Navy, moved into petrochemicals, and then went back to University. His first official foray into the mining industry was through a role in the Global Maintenance Network after completing his degree and he has since gone on to become an expert and a leader in developing programs like FLAC, fuel, lube, air, and coolant cleanliness programs and operational readiness projects on major greenfield projects around the world.
This varied background has given Eric the opportunity to look at how maintenance is done across several industries and acquire a broad experience base which has helped him succeed in his career.
We’re sure that you will take plenty of learnings from this conversation and this will give you the knowledge to employ the insights learned here in your organizations to get more from your assets.
For more resources and information, head to the Bluefield Asset Management website. To learn more about getting the most out of your assets, grab a copy of Gerard’s book Simplifying Mining Maintenance.
Some Topics That We Cover
- When Eric set up the FLAC program and what was involved
- Being in control of an asset and knowing its strengths and weaknesses
- Issues specific to a floating production facility
- Working with and fostering a motivated team
- Realising when maintenance issues are caused by behavioural issues
- Get out there under the asset, have a good look around and get to know the machine
- Holding each other accountable by introducing peer review on your maintenance work
- Avoiding a reactive workplace
- Using the Time Usage Model
- Understanding the broader aspects of the business
Read The Full Podcast Transcript Below
Voiceover: Welcome to the Bluefield 30 in 30 series where we interview mining industry professionals with more than 30 years experience and capture their key learnings in 30 minutes. We hope this experience share is valuable for those dealing with similar issues within their businesses.
Gerard Wood: Today, we’ve got Eric Dousi with us. Eric has been in mining and petrochemical industries for more than 30 years with vast experience around the globe in many different areas. Specifically, I know Eric as an expert as a leader in developing programs like FLAC, fuel, lube, air and coolant cleanliness programs, operational readiness projects on major greenfield projects around the world. Thanks for coming in. Can you just fill in the gaps to that brief intro there and tell us a bit about your experience and where you’re at today?
Eric Dousi: It has been a very varied background, and I think that varied background has given me the opportunity to look at how maintenance is done across several industries. My background initially started in the marine industry in the merchant navy where I gained my chief engineer’s qualifications and did that for 14 years. That gave me an introduction into making sure things were done right because there’s nobody else to come along and fix it after you have made an error.
From the Merchant navy, I progressed into the petrochemical industry in the floating production, storage, and offloading facilities because of the requirement to have merchant navy qualifications. Then, from there, I went back to university and did further studies in maintenance and reliability engineering, and from there, into one of the major mining companies in an asset management role. That’s really where I gained my mining experience. I worked with them for probably seven years.
Gerard: Was that the GMN?
Eric: Yes, global maintenance network. Then, from there, into a similar role with another mining company, asset management role that gave me experience in some other industries, the aluminum industry, a little bit of underground coal experience. From there, I moved into a company that had coal assets in Australia in a business improvement role. I enjoyed that role very much because it drew upon my experience that I’ve gained thus far. Then, from that business improvement role across to Bluefield.
Gerard: Bluefield. Yes.
Eric: I think I finished with that company on a Friday and here, they employed me on a Monday.
Gerard: You wanted to have a break too [laughs].
Eric: That was a short break. I think it’s been four years now since I’ve been with Bluefield.
Gerard: Tell me a bit more in that experience some of the operational readiness projects you did. You’ve done greenfield, brownfield in Australia, overseas.
Eric: I was tasked in the global maintenance network of looking after the standards for operational readiness, and that involved reviewing projects that were at a point of needing maintenance setting up. I reviewed a couple of operations along with other parts of the business. They had a project development global, so I’m reviewing how the projects were set up, and operational readiness was one part of that. In that process, I reviewed copper smelter, iron ore mine expansion, and a couple of petroleum projects that were on the go.
The last one of those required the put up or shut up attitude. It’s very easy to be critical but to make it change yourself, that’s what was required. I moved into an operational readiness role on the oil and gas project. I did that for a couple of years. That was an overseas assignment with my family. Then, migrated from there back to a coal project again in the operational readiness role and setting the project up for new business.
Gerard: Tell us also a bit more about when you set up the FLAC program? Why you did that, what you wanted to achieve out of that, those sort of things. Setting up these central programs for deployment at many assets. It’s obviously a challenging thing to do to get results.
Eric: It is a challenging aspect. I was very grateful for the leader that I had in that particular role because he was a person who didn’t put any boundaries on ideas and thinking. During the process of auditing around the business, there was a real need for assistance in various areas. One of the common themes that I’ve seen coming through was around cleanliness in the fluids and the management of lubricants and coolants, fuel as well.
In association with a couple of colleagues in the role that I was in, the global maintenance network, we developed a process of assessing how clean the fluids were being managed at the site all the way from the supply chain through to disposal. Then looked at a way of trying to make that hands-on to get some site ownership of the process because prior to having that program, the program we developed, the FLAC program, there were lots of suggestions and recommendations left with the site, but often they were very slow or very poor uptake on those suggestions and recommendations.
We wanted to work very hard in coming up with a method of getting site ownership of the improvement. I think we hit on that pretty well by letting people see for themselves. That was the process of showing them the damage that could be caused by not having clean fluids. Then, taking samples from their site, showing them how to take the samples properly, and then showing them under the microscope the level of contamination and letting them gauge the level of contamination versus a comparator chart.
Once they saw it for themselves, they were convinced. That was the kicking off point then for the site improvement, which we would help them with to lay out a plan. That was a process that I enjoyed very much. We had some good tangible savings, some saving signed off by general managers about the differences that the improvement in equipment had resulted in. In one particular case, we had repeat fires of an electrowinning furnace that had a crane carrying a crucible.
That had failed 12 times in a year and it all been to contamination. With the site, they put in place the improvements that we recommended. It went to one fire the next year, and after that, no more. The site manager signed off on a $4 million saving for not having to recover the solidified molten metal out of the crucible. For me, that was an uplifting experience to see the guys apply their knowledge to solve the problems, and then see them actually take credit for– Because it was their work and I can’t take credit for it. I can just lead them and show them, but they do the work, they got the results.
Gerard: Yes, great. That’s a really good takeaway for me over the time I was in the GMN too, that FLAC program, how you enabled the guys to see the issues, and then when they see the issues and they have the desire to fix it, they will. They have the technical capability. They can reach out for guidance and assistance and all that, but they can do it when they went to.
Eric: Yes. It’s that process of convincing people that they need to change, but how do you achieve that method? That’s the challenge that we face every day, and it works.
Gerard: Yes. Still not an exact science either but works sometimes [laughs]. Can you tell us about the first time when you were put in charge of an asset with the full responsibility for its reliability? What were your thoughts and your aspirations at that time?
Eric: I’d have to be honest and say it was tinged with panic. Part of my nervousness came about because I realized that there were certain items of equipment where we didn’t really have a good understanding of the equipment condition. Therefore, you could have unexpected fires, and without having a method of knowing what the condition of the equipment was, that was probably my biggest concern.
We probably had 80% of the equipment at a state where you could sleep peacefully at night and know that it was going to be running successfully the next day. Then, there was always the 20% of bad actors who either through how they were operated or lacking the monitoring systems or the condition monitoring to know what the condition of that equipment was, and they were the things that gave me that tinge of nervousness if you like.
The people that I had working with me, I had absolutely no qualms about that because they were a great team of people who’d over time had worked themselves into a good efficient team of people. In that regard, I was rewarded by a good team of people.
Gerard: What type of plant was it?
Eric: It was a floating production facility.
Eric: You have other aspects that, I say, share with our floating production facility that you wouldn’t see in other aspects of asset management. The requirement to be operationally-ready just staying away if there is bad weather. The other requirement of not having outside assistance, you can call on very quickly if there is a blackout, if there is a fire, if there is some other emergency, you have to deal with it.
You can’t just pick up the phone and say, “Contractor XYZ, can you come and give me a hand?” That’s not the situation. You have to deal with it straight away. In that regard, crisis management training is a very useful aspect of asset management that I’ve seen the benefits o having had some of that training myself, and then see it come to the fore in some instances.
Gerard: What were your aspirations for that role? When you were first given the role, what did you really want to achieve?
Eric: I really wanted to be able to hand over to the next swing with the equipment in good running order and not hand over a bunch of problems to the other swing. That was probably my biggest aspiration.
Gerard: Did you have that aspiration because you came up through the ranks and you knew that that’s what needed to change when you moved into that role?
Eric: No, it wasn’t so much that it needed the change. It was coming back to the unexpected fires. You could have a whole bunch of unexpected fires before you were due to leave, and then you are handing the next person a whole plate full of problems which they had to resolve.
Gerard: There was a desire to get past that.
Gerard: Can you tell us about another time when you had the best outcome from your plant or the best outcomes in terms of reliability or whatever it was? How did you measure the success and what do you believe were, say, the three key elements for achieving it?
Eric: The best outcome would probably have been in the same operational role, and that was to do with a major refit that we were going through whilst the operation was still producing. As a result, we had to work very closely with our production team members to make sure that we could affect the work, follow the project schedule. In that instance, we had a contractor coming out who had been engaged to do a particular task that was a critical task on the project timeline.
They started on the task, realized that they didn’t have the appropriate tooling, threw their hands in the air and said, “We can’t do this,” and probably left. We were faced with a situation then of trying to get the project back on track. In that case, the team that were around me together, we did the work ourselves. It took a lot of effort, but we still delivered on time for the project.
That’s probably the best outcome, that sense of teamwork and satisfaction knowing that we could deliver on time and the guys to do the job, but there was a period of uncertainty at the beginning knowing either we could do the work that was required to the standard and within the time required. It was a major task. On top of that, we still had other work to do as well. It was a matter of juggling everything to get it done. That was the best sense of satisfaction that I’ve had.
Gerard: That’s the best outcome that you had or the best experience, the most enjoyable, most satisfying? Now, can you tell us about the worst experience you’ve had as an engineer in terms of plant performance. How did the situation occur and what did you do to respond to it?
Eric: A bit of a difficult one because it goes a long way back in my career when I was more hands-on and I was in an asset management role. The situation that, now, I can refer to had to do with the fire of a critical hotel service for the asset. We couldn’t repair the damage that had occurred, so we had to come up with an alternative means of restoring the hotel service.
Gerard: When you say hotel service, what do you mean by that?
Eric: It was a sewerage system that failed.
Gerard: All right, okay [chuckles].
Eric: The sewerage system was critical to the operation. We had to come up with a means of getting that system to work quite a lot longer. There was a lot of innovation and a lot of make do and patch up. As a team, we managed to get that system operational and keep it operational for the duration. That lay out the alternative plans to be put in place and repairs and so forth to be organized. If we hadn’t been able to get that system operational, then that would have had a significant, significant impact on the operation or the asset. They would have had to do a shutdown.
Gerard: Is there any other experience in your career where it was reliability-related and it was really difficult because the plant kept breaking down like on a continual basis rather than one event, and what did you do to overcome that type of thing?
Eric: I’ve had probably more of that type of experience when I was in a business improvement role and specifically working in an underground coal mine. In that instance, the project I had been asked to look at was to do with stoppages on a long wall and the main causes of stoppages. One of the main contributors was loss of communication which was controlling communication.
The way that I approached that process was to, first of all, get an assessment of what was happening after we got the data was forthcoming, but after that, knowing what was going on was the next issue. It was a case of go look and see. In that case, I spent a fair bit of time in the asset seeing what was going on.
Gerard: Can you just expand on that, a bit more like we go look and see, seeing what is going on? You mean go down, watch the maintenance guy, watch the equipment operating–
Eric: Watch the equipment operate, yes.
Gerard: Spend a bit of time down there, have a look at what the actual fire is at, right?
Eric: Yes. I spent quite a few shifts with the guys. We didn’t have any comms failures while I was there. Then, when I wasn’t there, we had comms failures. I was able to identify where the comms failures were happening within the system because there were many points along the system where the comms failures could happen.
The nature of the comms failures were not related to water ingress or cut wires or broken wires. They were a break in the communication. What it came down to was when the guys wanted a stop, wanted a break, they just broke the communications. It was a behavioral issue.
Gerard: All right, okay. How did you get around turning that around?
Eric: Well, that wasn’t an issue for me to turn around. I simply conveyed that information of my assessment to the production manager and then left it in his quarters to solve the issue because there was an opportunity then to drill down and say, well, which shifts and who was on and whether there was a recurring theme. That was not–
Gerard: But they’re able to solve the problem.
Eric: Yes. It wasn’t so much of a reliability issue. It’s a behavioral issue.
Gerard: Fair enough. Sometimes, that occurs. We all have ties where the manager wants more for less or when the manager is not satisfied with the equipment reliability. Can you describe your most difficult time with a manager and how you went about making sure they got the results that they’re after?
Eric: I guess one of the projects that I had which was successful, that goes somewhere to answering that question, was to do with cutting at the development headings in the underground. It was an approach for the manager to say that the rate of cut was too slow. This was something that was evidenced by the measurement that we’re doing and the projection of when these development headings needed to be ready for the longwall move.
It wasn’t my role or it wasn’t me that highlighted the fact that we weren’t cutting at the speed that we were required to cut it. That was the technical services department had clearly highlighted that, but then it came to me to see if I could do something about improving the cut-rate. The role in development is a very challenging and difficult role for the people that work in there.
It’s a role where there’s lots of hazards, the atmosphere, the roof, the walls, the floor, the equipment. It’s an extremely hazardous environment to work in. It’s a method of managing those hazards as they go along. Again, it was a case of go look and see how this process was occurring and where the potential delays were.
Gerard: From an improvement perspective, again, it’s get out there, have a look for yourself, really understand it in detail.
Eric: Yes. I was really impressed with the team that were doing the work because as a greenhorn, I clearly looked out for visitors and people who weren’t underground miners like myself. They did look after me and I appreciated that I wasn’t there to find fault with individuals, it was to find fault with the process and how could we get better as a process overall.
As a result of that, through the ideas that others suggested because they were very experienced people, a mixed crew that had worked in other operations and so there was lots of suggestions, lots of ideas., when it came down to in the end was leaving the equipment ready to cut for the next shift instead of the next shift having to prepare for their work where they had to get all the consumables, they had to top up the fluids and to change the picks, cutting teeth, et cetera.
They had to do all of this work at the start of the shift and then coordinate to get into the shift.
This was causing a significant delay at the start of the shift, and then the ability to bring everyone together to start at the same time, it was disorganized, and so we turned that around by pulling up short before the end of the shift and then preparing the equipment as good as we could to leave it in the condition that the next shift would start straight away.
We put in place a little measuring process, the happy face, grumpy face if things weren’t left the way that they expected them to be left. The equipment was clean, it was serviced, fluids were topped up, all the consumables were on the machine, and they just walked in, did their pre-start, had their tool talk to say what they were expected to achieve for the day, and then they walked straight into it and off they went. As a result, we’ve got a significant cut increase, so there’s also that.
Gerard: So a little bit unintuitive, you actually shut down a little bit early to prepare the next shift and avoid all the unscheduled delays that you might have?
Eric: Yes, as much as possible. Now, it wasn’t always possible to leave the equipment in a condition ready to cut. Sometimes, when they pull up and go to do the preparation for the next shift, they would find something that was longer to repair than what they had time for. For example, hydraulic hoses were a classic where they would fail quite often or they’d be worn through or ruptured and they’d require replacement.
Now, in that case, the fitter would then commence changing those, and then they would have a handover and change those hoses and do it as quickly as possible to have it ready for the new shift. In most cases, we could achieve that goal. It also gave the guys a good sense of satisfaction because they knew they were coming down to start work straight away. They weren’t messing around.
It gave them certainty and they all appreciated it. They were open enough to accept the change to see what it would be like because at the end of the day, it affects their hip pocket if they’re not cutting the meters, but they realized after a while that, “Hey, we’re actually getting more meter this way, and therefore, more money in their pockets.
Gerard: Can you tell me about your views on work quality? How do you ensure that quality of the work is great and rework is minimized?
Eric: One of the processes that helps in that regard is aspects that can be borrowed from lean manufacturing. Some of those aspects are like the five best process about having things clean in the standard that you record, systematized, organized so that you’re not mixing up fasteners, mixing up tools, et cetera, a home for everything and everything in its place. The whole process of 5S is about eliminating errors, it’s not about housekeeping.
Housekeeping is just an outcome from it, but it’s about reducing the errors. The other component that lean also uses is peer review where you’re asking one of your colleagues to oversee what you’re actually doing. You’ve got a process to follow, a procedure, a work instruction, whatever, and once you’ve done it, you get somebody to have a look at it, particularly if it’s something a little bit more technical, a little bit more challenging rather than just a repetitive job.
You’re not going to get somebody to look at you putting in rivets in an aircraft all the time, but when you’ve finished a particular task, it might be riveting in a bulkhead in an aircraft, then, of course, it’s peer-reviewed to make sure that it’s signed off and the quality is to the standard that is required.
Gerard: That’s in a culture where it’s normal and acceptable to get someone to peer review your work?
Gerard: Do you think we’ve got that culture in mining?
Eric: No, not at all. I think some nationalities are more suited to having peer review compared to our own culture which tends to be more individualistic where people say, “I know boats. I know how to build boats. I don’t need somebody else to look at me.” It takes a degree of maturity to ask in the first place for someone else to look at it, and secondly, for the person who is looking at it to look at it in the right way where they’re not just giving their mate a pat on the back.
They’re looking for something where they can both improve and learn from it. Lots of things come out of that about having the right tools, the right parts. It may be that the job wasn’t done properly but that could be through many reasons, access, tooling, and design. There can be a whole range of things that come out of that, and that can spawn little projects to help resolve those issues so that the quality improves next time.
Gerard: I know you’ve done a lot of work in that lean space as well, Eric, and being able to translate the lean theory into a practical application in the workplace and the mine site is something you don’t want to work with.
Eric: It really does need support from the top for it to prosper and grow. There’s lots of good ideas that I’ve seen and picked up and used myself, but I’m trying to make it sustainable so that when you walk away, it doesn’t just fall into a hole or revert back to bad practice. That’s the challenge that we all face. I think if you’ve got management support, there’s less likelihood of that happening. You’ve got more chance of it being sustainable.
Gerard: What do you think we can do to make that sustainable?
Eric: I’m a big fan of the visual systems, and by that, I mean having a picture of what good looks like so that you can say if it’s a truck washed, here’s a picture of what it should look like underneath, here is a picture of what the engine bay should look like, here’s a picture of what the tray should look like, so that doesn’t come into the workshop half full of coal and covered in mud, and then you’re expecting a person to try to do a quality job when the machine is not cleaned in the first place. That makes it very difficult for our tradespeople to do a good job when we don’t give it to them in a state where they can apply their skills and knowledge.
Gerard: A bit of scenario for you. If you went into a reactive workplace tomorrow as the manager for maintenance reliability or as the senior reliability engineer, whatever it is, and you reviewed the planned performance, you checked all the assets of managing maintenance including equipment strategy, planning, execution, the people, tooling, all that sort of stuff, and you found that all of those areas needed improvement.
It’s a pretty bad place, a reactive workplace, there’s problems everywhere, but you’re only able to just change one thing, what would that one thing be? Obviously, you select that because you think it will give the most impact on the plant performance and the plant reliability. What would that one thing be and why?
Eric: It would be the number of defects found in addition to the work that’s being carried out. If it’s a preventive maintenance service or if it’s a corrective maintenance repair, if it’s a breakdown of another item, taking the opportunity in all of those scenarios to look for the defects.
Gerard: Finding defects, identifying defects, making sure they’re in the system.
Eric: That’s it, because one of the things that I think is a key tool for all people to use and one that I always use as a gauge or a benchmark to see how well this is done is a decent torch, like a bright LED torch that a good tradesperson will use to look in every nook and cranny to find out what’s leaking, what’s broken, what’s missing, what’s loose, what’s rubbing, all these things to them and bring these defects to the fore.
Because if we’re in a reactive situation or if we’re in a scenario where equipment is breaking down and underperforming, it’s because we’re sending equipment back with defects. If we don’t fix the defects, we’re not going to get anywhere. That’s probably my approach.
Gerard: Excellent. For any aspiring or low-reliability professionals out there people looking to progressing their career, create great reliability of equipment, is there any other advice that you’d offer them in their career?
Eric: I guess I was fortunate enough to fill a business improvement role with a coal mining company. I initially started with them in a reliability engineering role. To be honest, there wasn’t a lot happening in the reliability engineering space, always identifying projects, things that needed to happen, but really, there wasn’t a lot of progress, a lot of action in that space, and very slow pickup of issues identified as reliability engineering issues.
Then, an opportunity became available in the business improvement space and I moved across into that space. That’s really where I had my lean manufacturing exposure, but it’s also taught me quite a few lessons in that space. One of the main points I’ve picked up out of that was I saw the sites use the Time Usage Model. That was a championed by one particular manager.
He had boarded across from previous operations. The benefit of the Time Usage Model was that there’s a waterfall of losses that are identified through the Time Usage Model. They could be caused by production losses, they could be caused by maintenance or reliability losses, can be caused by external factors. There can be many different factors contributing to the losses, but the sites only have a limited amount of resource to fix those defects, those losses.
In the reliability engineering space, we just focusing on one of those waterfall losses. Now, in the business improvement space, at the end of the week, we would review all those losses and then decide what was the project we were going to work on as a result of that. Now, if it was a major project, it would be reviewed monthly, but out of that, I ended up with probably more operational projects that were to do with how equipment was operated rather than issues around reliability, although the two are keenly intertwined.
Gerard: You think that it’s a great experience to get a broader perspective on the business and the losses that occur, not just necessarily equipment reliability but operational aspects or most of the things as well.
Eric: Yes. We were fortunate that we had our reporting systems set up well for reporting the categories in the time usage model, although they were reconciled every day to make sure that they work correctly portioned. It wasn’t an operational loss that had been dumped on the maintenance and so forth.
The Time Usage Model can be, for an aspiring reliability engineer, you could develop your own Time Usage Model for a time period, say, a week or a month, and then go back to your leaders and say, “Look, here’s your losses for the month. So much of this was operational, so much of it was minus, so much of it was external factors, et cetera.” Then, from there, suggest that the application of the skills and resource should be on the basis of the Time Usage Model.
Gerard: Operating on the Pareto principle, operating on the areas that have the biggest impact on the business, which sometimes are not necessarily maintenance or reliability-based.
Eric: We’ve seen it just recently, I don’t want to mention the site for anonymity, an example of where trucks were idling for 43% of the time, and it’s 43% of the time that they are available but not carrying product. What’s better to focus on, a 5% or a 10% loss due to maintenance practices, or 43% loss due to idling of equipment? That’s a good example for me of where the Time Usage Model is showing where the true losses are lying and where you should be focusing your attention, but that’s where I would advocate for a reliability engineer. It needs to be more of a broader business–
Gerard: Understand the broader aspects of the business.
Gerard: Look outside their sphere, I suppose.
That’s great, Eric. I really appreciate sharing your experience, vast knowledge, and that of reliability and equipment. Hopefully, the guys that are listening can use that experience to get more from their assets. Thanks a lot, mate. I appreciate it.