Inspectioneering Journal

Making Bad Actor Elimination Programs Work

By Rick Hoffman, Manager - Litigation and Due Diligence Services at Becht. This article appears in the July/August 2017 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


Most plants have pieces of equipment that are chronic problems. In some operations, machinery problems can be a leading cause of outages, while in others, solids handling equipment problems, aggressive corrosion of pressure equipment, erosion of parts or power failures are the issue. Problems can often be traced back to a lack of procedures, poor employee morale, or a lack of training. These problems impact profitability due to the frequency of outages, unexpected cost of repairs, and cost of lost production.

Studies have shown the cost of unplanned and emergency work increases 3 to 9 times more than the cost of planned work (Campbell, 2001) (Strawn) (O'Brien).  A typically reasonable and conservative figure used in cost/benefit calculations is 4 times the cost. Primarily, this increase is due to pulling people off planned jobs to address emergencies, lack of a plan when equipment crashes unexpectedly, lack of spare parts, overtime or premium pay for repair shop space, and sub-optimal sequencing of work.

Process and personal safety are also major considerations in a plant with chronic equipment issues. Frequent failures can result in the release of process materials, fires, personnel exposure to hazardous chemicals, and each maintenance activity comes with certain risks. These risks increase when equipment fails unexpectedly and there is pressure to restore operations.

These problems can also negatively impact employee morale due to interruptions of planned work, pressure to improve the situation, and frustration that another evening or weekend is disrupted once again repairing the same piece of equipment. We term these equipment items “Bad Actors.”

In this article, the first in a series of articles on improving plant reliability programs through improvements in culture, programs, and equipment performance, I focus on Bad Actor Elimination.

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