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It is hard to falsify a fire extinguisher inspection.


The next time see a fire extinguisher in a public area, take a few seconds to scrutinize its inspection tag. The majority of you, surprised or not, will find that it is up to date. If you do not have fire extinguishers in your routine travels, look at the inspection report posted on your next ride on an elevator. Here too, you will most likely find a complaint inspection. What makes this type of asset inspection compliant is that validation requires to be physically present at the inspection tag.


Before the CMMS (computerized maintenance management system), route-based preventive maintenance was similar to a fire extinguisher or elevator inspection. The inspection was validated by a physical interaction with the asset or information collected by outputs only seen at the asset. You may remember tags located on assets that would document visual outputs from gauges, level indicators, or meters that were then transcribed onto a paper checklist. You might remember inspection sheets hung on the doors of hydraulic rooms, boiler houses, or bathrooms that would serve as a validation of who made the inspection and when. Regardless of the type, a handwritten activity validated that route-based preventive maintenance was conducted and could be validated by supervision.

According to standing operating procedures, the crew of a disabled tank reported to one of the shop foremen immediately upon arrival at the field repair shop. The shop foreman inspected the vehicle and entered the damages on a maintenance record. The crew had to report any possible defect at the time the tank was inspected so that the work of the shop personnel would not have to be duplicated. - Historical Study of German Tank Maintenance in World War II

I do not have evidence supporting a hypothesis that these types of inspections were more customary prior to the availability of CMMS. Nor, do I have evidence that the documented checklist with underscores strategically place to physically record readings has decreased as a preference. However, I have seen in my career that these hardcopy versions have been replicated within the work instructions of the CMMS. Then as we gravitate to a culture of more electronic work instructions, less paper has been printed due to the relative ease the CMMS provides. You may have evidence of this transformation in your own department when you evaluate the non-printed electronic work instructions that have underscores to "fill in the value seen on the pressure gauge." Just another example of more gigabytes and fewer Gembas.


Within the CMMS styles of assigning route-based preventive maintenance, we now must routinely trust that the assigned employees make conduct their inspections. But do you have the proof that validates the inspection was complete?


I am not saying that employees assigned routine work cheat the system by electronically completing the work without performing it. I am not saying that employees are more likely to falsify inspections compared to 30 years ago. Instead, I am making the point that there has become less verification that the route was physically conducted. To complete a route on fire extinguishers, one has to physically write their initials and date on the tag or scan the QR code. It is hard to accomplish this without being physically at the fire extinguisher. As we have adopted and become accustomed to the ease of a CMMS, we have naturally decreased the ability to validate the thoroughness of an inspection. But change is coming.


Many organizations have already embraced a solution that brings in the aspects of the inspection tag along with the analytical capabilities of a CMMS. With the introduction of mobile applications over the last ten years and the availability of using QR codes, route-based preventive maintenance, with a form of physical validation, is coming back with a vengeance.


You may have already started, or you may also be in the preparation phases of onboarding a mobile application for your work orders. You may be testing out QR codes on the assets that are directly linked to the CMMS. Remember, you could be more than 30 years removed from consistently validating each route-based inspection. Because of this, you may see increases in corrective maintenance and follow-up work from route-based preventive maintenance. You may even see more time to complete these types of inspections. Stay calm, your assets are not immediately deteriorating. Instead, your inspections are becoming more thorough.


You may desire the historical velocity, but instead, you must appreciate the value that is being created. A mobile application frontier that links route-based preventive maintenance to the CMMS is a transformation with a little bit of old-school. So be patient with these types of transformations and embrace the transformation.


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