Case Studies

Advanced Tunnel
Boring Machine RCM/RBD

Innovative Equipment, Complex Challenges

A major mining company commissioned a project to design and develop a pair of tunnel boring machines (TBM) for the purpose of testing this technology in actual mining operations as a part of their development of safer and more efficient mining methods.  These machines are a paradigm shift in block cave mine development as they provide the ability to tunnel without the need for an invert. Additionally, the turns of the machine are much tighter than any previous TBM. The expectation is that these advancements will significantly reduce the time and cost required to develop a mine, resulting in faster extraction of the ore and less time spent on activities with no direct financial return.

circlesThese innovative machines promised significant opportunities for mine development, but presented major challenges from a maintenance and reliability perspective.  As the type and configuration are unique, it was necessary review the design and application in terms of reliability and maintainability to eliminate inherent failures prior to signing off the design and initiating construction.  Additionally, maintenance programs, operating instructions, and spares requirements would need to be built prior to delivery of the ‘turn-key’ product to the production site.

A Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) and Reliability Based Design (RBD) approach was applied to identify design shortcomings that would negatively impact uptime or impair maintenance as well as to generate maintenance and operations guidelines, procedures, and spares requirements to be used after the machine is commissioned.

To ensure continuity of data, the analyses were built in a tool emulating a hierarchy structure that would allow for feedback to the designers and a direct upload of a comprehensive package of maintenance and operating guidelines, procedures, and spares requirements into the mine site’s SAP system once initial reviews were complete.

Similar to the reliability challenges, the uniqueness of the equipment prevented a simple method to template a Functional Location / Equipment layout for upload in the customer’s ERP system (SAP).  This was developed from scratch specifically for this application.

The comprehensive package was then taken to trial and practical applications were made.  Results were recorded, assumptions corrected and processed to correct any oversights or mistakes.  The resultant new hierarchy, maintenance and operational instructions, spare parts and BOMs are provided to the final facilities after the trials. The final, repeatable,  phase of this process it to take the ‘lessons learned’ in the field and then use them to modify and improve the next generation of tunnel boring machines to create an evergreen product loop where each progressive generation has the luxury of learning from the generation before.


table1Without the utilization of some practical process and associated methodology allowing the team to define and review the machine prior to commissioning, the equipment would be traditionally delivered with nothing more than the OEM generic maintenance plans.  In other words, these inadequate plans would be provided to the end user in paper form with little or no aid to implement in their SAP infrastructure.  What are the impacts of reduced reliability or lost efficiencies due to poor master data while the machine is in service?

This analysis resulted in the following: The step change in commissioning performance as a result of this process was evident early on as described by the customer: “We have already exceeded expectations substantially. These are Functional Locations, many with notes and drawings, ready to be uploaded and populated in SAP. This will be the FIRST time ever that [we] will have a machine hit the ground with SAP PM and MM maintenance IN PLACE ever. …Note that this is a TEMPLATE only and will need to be completed over several weeks, more likely months, on site. It can be seen by utilizing the traditional classic Excel or Quantitative processes instead there would be nothing more to work with than a concept and a theory to initiate the run out. Also important to note is that this analysis is for two machines that have been worked on during this time. This means that at the end of about 3 months of time there will be:

  • A completed Hierarchy
  • Functional Locations with support documentation
  • Equipment with a large bulk of BOM
  • Failure modes identified with proposed work
  • Job Tasks for PM1 and PM2 assigned in SAP
  • Data collection points and processes in place to gather quantitative data and trending.

table2The process to deliver the machine with a template and then be adjusted as the machine went through the trial was also a clear success. After 1 year of testing and operation all the feedback from maintenance and operations was integrated into the new model and the following adjustments were made.

Additionally a SWP (Standard Work Procedure) was developed and attached to each Maintenance Task for upload into the document manager and referenced in the Maintenance task in SAP.  These SWPs were auto generated from the RCM process and can be easily edited and rebuilt as adjustments are made through the process.  This means that contextual and maintenance changes can be applied and generated with a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.

The total cost of this exercise was calculated to be ~20% of the cost of moving through a traditional route of generating a hierarchy, equipment, spares catalog, BOM and maintenance tasks.  This substantial cost saving excludes the massive savings from the RBD work that was integrated into the process.  The savings from avoiding unnecessary failures due to design errors is likely significant.  These redesign savings were recorded and calculated based on expected operation context and probability based potentiality.

An example is referenced here describing the savings from the introduction of a simple mechanical guard to protect an exposed pinion gear on the main drive unit from potential entry of foreign material:

“…both analyses recommend scheduled repair however due to the reduced risk of breakdown [due to addition of protection] we can set the maintenance to 2 years as opposed to annually easing our Maintenance Recommendation… through the reduction of risk the cost of annualized failure this redesign could theoretically save over €100,000 a year due to the radically large difference in repair cost of catastrophic failure. Running a third analysis with significantly more conservative numbers where only superficial repair is required on the ring gear we can still save €50,000 per year PER PINION GEAR.” -Customer Business Manger


This process conclusively demonstrated the efficiency and superiority of a reliability engineering approach to equipment design and the developing maintenance and operational tactics. Applying the RCM methodology and associated toolsets in an integrated format early on in the commissioning process is unquestionably the fastest path from plan to execution with measureable savings.
Customer References Available Upon Request

Asset Management Setup
Greenfield Mill


Accelerated SAP Asset Management Delivery

PyramidIn 2014 a new mine in the upper peninsula of Michigan is poised to start extracting high grade Nickel ore and processing it in an existing mill that had been previously   decommissioned last century.  The project included both the retrofitting of this existing mill as well as reclaiming an adjoining lake which had been used as a tailings pond for the previous process.   Due to a commitment to environmental sustainable practices Water Treatment Plants at the Mill and at the Mine were included as part of the same project.

As is typical of Greenfield sites much of the Asset structure needed to be built from scratch from P&ID drawings and technical documentation. Expected deliverables included the Asset Structure as Functional Locations with associated Equipment within SAP. Attached to the Equipment would be Construction Types, Bill of Materials and a first pass at maintenance tactics for both predictive and preventative practices based on reliability based principles as opposed to merely relying on OEM documentation.

Some challenges presented by the compressed timeline:

  • The contract for the SAP implementation would be completed about three months into the project leaving the project without technical support
  • The participation of the customer was limited to a 3 person team with limited SAP knowledge who were also responsible for other projects in addition to the work being done with MCSPro
  • Not all the equipment had been sourced or installed from the same vendor or even the same contractor so much of the available date was in disparate and non-matching data formats
  • Little information was available regarding Spare Parts with limited standardization.
  • Much of the work to be done in conjunction with ongoing design changes. In other words, typical challenges facing any new construction project.

Value Focused Delivery

The project needed to be focused exclusively on delivering a functioning and usable SAP maintenance system without expending unnecessary time and cost in activities that did not contribute directly to the end result.

Asset Management Framework

projectinfoUsing the tools RCMTurbo and RELTac it was possible to build a model of all the data that would be loaded to SAP for a fully functional system.   Through the use of these less constrictive tools it was possible to build the entire asset hierarchy with associated equipment from existing P&ID drawings.

This hierarchy was exported into an Excel format that allowed the subject matter experts at the customer site to review and approve the layout, naming and description.  Once the customer approved the output the process could then generate the necessary SAP upload sheets (LSMW) for delivery to the customer SAP team.

These sheets were also audited both automatically as well as through expert review to ensure that quality data was being uploaded.  Then a final check could be applied as the load sheets were imported into a SAP test box before being promoted to production.

This same process was applied to Equipment, Construction Types and Assemblies. Having only one data repository where all the inputs and corrections were made plus the application of a multi-tiered review process significantly reduced the introduction of errors or duplication.

Reliable Asset Management

Once the framework for the asset management was in place RCMTurbo was used to apply an RCM guided approach where potential failure modes were extracted from templates of like equipment and context specific applications were made to determine what potential failures might be expected and what reasonable maintenance could be applied.

These tactics were then bundled into work groups based on geography and craft availability.  The same review practice that was used for the Asset Framework was applied to maintenance actions.

Once all the quality control reviews were completed the RELTac tool generated standardized Safe Work Procedures for upload to the customer document handling tool as well as the LSMW load sheets for SAP.


table1Within the allotted 9 months the following results were completed:

hoursWhen this is broken down from a man hour perspective using the Equipment count as a representative aggregate of effort it comes to 1.5 Man Hours per piece of equipment. It is imperative to keep in mind that this 1.5 Hour delivery per Equipment included all of the information included above provided my MCSPro in a SAP format ready for load.

BOM Clean Up & Optimization
Global Cement Company

The Requirements

In the transition from a legacy system to SAP the translation of the Spares Catalog was incompletely transferred and the BOM linkage to the catalog was overlooked entirely.  The customer recognized that this data, linkage and historical information was critical for practical maintenance moving forward.

The poor quality of Spares and BOM information had been an issue in the legacy system so it was decided to cleanse and optimize the spares in the scope of the same project.  Additionally the installation of new equipment with recommended OEM spares parts lists was assessed in this same process.

Before the process was developed the following deliverables were defined:

  • Download any existing Spares Catalog into an interim process tool
  • Review data for duplicate spares in both the Mill Catalog and the Corporate Spares Catalog
  • Review spares recommendation and OEM spare parts lists to discover missing spares
  • Compare spares naming convention against corporate standard and correct Spares to match
  • Review and correct any missing data in the spares detail (e.g. Lead Time, Cost, Size, etc…)
  • Review BOM Data and compare against OEM recommendation and SME review
  • Check for like equipment across mill and adjust review BOM for potential overlap
  • Evaluate failure and spare usage history to assist in determining appropriate stocking levels
  • Determine appropriate stocking levels
  • Upload: stock codes, BOM and recommended stocking levels for each asset to SAP


To ensure that each of these key points was covered in delivery the first step was to develop a business process that would assign a process step and approval stage for each deliverable.  The process was a necessary integration of personnel, oversight, software tools and documented processes.  The design was developed specifically for the needs of the customer and the review requirements specific to this application.

analysisThis process was defined and documented with each of the process owners having the opportunity to review and provide input to the process to ensure that each team member was working with a process that was holistic in scope.

Once the process plan was completed and accepted each of the review steps defined had protocols implemented and process control documents developed.  The first step was to develop a working document into which the existing data could be downloaded, corrected and finally uploaded.  This meant that there was a single point of data control outside of SAP to maintain control and alleviate the risk of developing any secondary data silos outside of SAP.

table3Firstly the spare parts were run through the cleaning process and checked for any duplication within the download, when compared to any current spares in the Mill SAP system and compared against any spares in the corporate SAP system.  Any duplications were merged to create singular spares and uploaded to the corporate SAP Spare Catalog correctly.

Any remaining spares not found in SAP were then assigned an SAP number and loaded into SAP.

With a completed Catalog the Equipment was then reviewed for process criticality and any spares needed for repair and maintenance were identified and attached as a BOM.  Then the spares were analyzed for lead time, price, application and maintainability to optimize the appropriate stocking levels.

After completing the analysis and having a completed BOM for each piece of equipment and adjusted stocking levels for each spare the information was presented to process owners for review and approval.

This allowed for each decision made to be documented based on qualitative and quantitative analysis.


The results of the cleaning and analysis exceeded customer expectations both in scope and time.  Within 6 months the first pass analysis on the initial selection of 8,000 stock items was completed by the joint task force. The output was calculated from the exercise:

As this was a pilot site for this tool and process an internal review was executed to determine any value generated by the exercise.  While it was without question that the general quality of the Spares Catalog as well as the correct BOM assignment and reduction of ambiguity was of benefit to the operation, it was also critical to quantify any economic value that had been created.

The team onsite recommended that the review be performed against large motors for high critical bottle neck areas of the mill.  Through the review it was discovered that several comparable spares were already on site and other options existed that removed the need to purchase all recommended spares.

These motors showed high criticality through the [process], however the plant does have experience in maintaining production when these equipment’s have failed in the past.  The plant has a standby fan that can be used in the event of a failure of any of the cooler fans.  Also, during a recent failure of the cement transport blower, the plant was able to rent a suitable replacement to use while blower being repaired. – Recommendation: Remove 473-FN3,M01 and 596-CX1, M01 from the CAPEX scope

– Internal Review Recommendations



This process has conclusively demonstrated the value of assessing Spares Parts from a reliability driven perspective. To accomplish this it is imperative that the Spares Catalog is accurate and up to date, loaded correctly in SAP and attached to the right Equipment. The clear drivers to success in this process was:

  • Commitment from executive management to the success of the project
  • Clear defined deliverables and objectives at the start of the project
  • A comprehensive project and process with universal buy in before project start
  • Tools and workflows in place before project start
  • Measured review of process and value to continue motivating the project
  • Application of results in SAP.
The Case for Measurements
Economic Reliability


The CAPEX justification dilemma.

Old Paper Machine – Process Issues. For Years they asked for better tools. CAPEX turned down all requests because of lack of justification.

The poor quality of Spares and BOM information had been an issue in the legacy system so it was decided to cleanse and optimize the spares in the scope of the same project.  Additionally the installation of new equipment with recommended OEM spares parts lists was assessed in this same process.

Value Focused Delivery

Audit of one year of failures: resource + parts + downtime costs. Audit of ‘planned’ proactive maintenance. Audit of actual proactive maintenance. Discrepancy of 21 days planned to 45 days actual. Review reasons. Analyzed potential failures with project MTBF / PF and costs. Cumulative ‘Cost’ of Failure. Rerun projected costs with optimum frequency based on cost and reliability. Rerun project costs with automated vibration system.


Savings from current to optimum was 100,000 a year and current to automated was 170,000 so even with acquisition cost and running cost there is a 18 month ROI for improved maintenance.