5 Essential Pieces to a Solid Pump Reliability Strategy

Author: Sara Peters | March 12, 2019 | Category: Equipment Maintenance, Pumps

Unplanned maintenance accounts for approximately 60% of maintenance department budgets. It's no wonder maintenance managers are searching for ways to increase pump reliability. Maintenance managers face two challenges when devising a reliability strategy: the time to sit down and write the plan, and the opposition when requesting funds to execute it. Thus, maintenance teams are trapped in the reactive maintenance cycle. It's a tough one to break, but it can be done.

Over Crane’s 80 years in business, we’ve serviced thousands of pumps at hundreds of companies across Wisconsin. We’ve seen reliability programs that work, and we’ve helped those whose programs failed. We’ve cracked the pump reliability code, and we’ve broken it down into 5 steps.

1. Assess Current Situation

To get to the destination, we need to understand where we’ve been, and where we are today. Establishing baseline metrics helps determine where to make improvements. When selecting metrics to measure, stay focused on those that will impact reliability.

Once you have a list of options, check them against this list to weed out metrics that don't fit your strategy. Select a group of metrics that:

  • Are important
  • Hold potential for improvement
  • YOU or YOUR TEAM have the ability and authority to affect the result

Here are some examples:

  • Machine availability
  • Unplanned incidents
  • Total hours spent on unplanned incidents
2. Determine Goals

goalsMetrics are no good without goals to measure them against. Set a goal for this year, but also set a goal for 5 years out. Share this plan with the team! Metrics and goals should not live in a notebook or spreadsheet on a computer. Share them with those who matter most, the team. When the vision for improvement is shared, they will do what’s necessary to achieve goals in front of them. They may even bring ideas to improve the strategy. Post the goals in a space where the entire team can see them, make them part of weekly meetings.

The best goals follow SMART rules. Make sure they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound.

3. Perform a Pump Audit

Does documentation for the entire pump population exist? Have serial numbers, accurate maintenance records and O&M manuals? If not, take some time to walk around with a team member (or delegate!) to get this information on every pump.

You can download a copy of Crane's Pump Audit Template here.

Our template includes a column for criticality. Not every pump is as important as others, so not every pump will receive the same reliability plan. It wouldn’t make sense to spend time and money on vibration analysis for a pump in a nonessential application. Categorize your pumps into one of these 4 categories:

  • Critical - If this pump goes down:
    • It is CATASTROPHIC for your facility or process.
    • The effects could be dangerous, or even deadly.
    • A violation of governmental regulations could result
    • There is no backup.
  • Essential: If this pump goes down:
    • Production may cease on this line
    • Parts for this pump may be unavailable or have a long lead time
  • Non-Essential
    • A back-up pump exists
    • The pump is operating in a non-essential application
  • Other
4. Devise a Plan For Each Category

laser-alignmentA solid reliability plan will include varying degrees of the following tactics.

  • Regular PMs
  • Laser alignments
  • Precision rebuilds
  • Proper installation and start-up guidelines
  • Vibration monitoring
  • Training for not only maintenance technicians, but also operators
  • Outside help - hire when it makes sense
5. Share Results With Leadership

Want to get more funding to keep making improvements? Report results to the leadership team. Translate the findings to dollars and show how driving down unplanned maintenance helped increase production time. Team up with a production supervisor to see how up-time has affected their outputs. Presenting metrics together gives leadership a complete picture of the program’s affect on the company.

Showing how an investment in the maintenance department can produce bottom line results may encourage leadership to increase funding to continue improving the program.


You CAN reduce costs and stress on the maintenance team by getting pump reliability under control. Evaluate the current situation to see where to make improvements, set goals to share with your team and the organization and devise a plan for each piece of equipment to reach those goals.

Raise awareness (EVANGELIZE RELIABILITY!) within the organization about the importance of your program, and don’t be afraid to reach out to vendors who are experts in the industry for extra help. Leaning on them when time is short will keep you on the path towards your goal.

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Sara Peters

Sara Peters

Sara leads Crane Engineering's blogging team, coming up with fresh stories and insights for our readers to apply to their every day work.

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