The Biology of Maintenance

EP Editorial Staff | March 1, 2003


Robert C. Baldwin, CMRP, Editor

Sharon Begley’s recent Wall Street Journal Science Journal columns associated with the 50 year anniversary of the discovery of the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule called to my mind the reasonably good analogy between human health and physical asset management.

Mostly, the analogy focuses on the similarity of checking your heart rhythm, blood pressure, and body temperature to checking a machine’s vibration level, operating pressure, and operating temperature.

The analogy expands nicely to cover procedures such as electrocardiogram, magnetic resonance imaging, and blood workups in the human and vibration analysis, infrared thermography, and oil analysis for the machine.

Exploratory surgery is not to be prescribed casually, neither are machine overhauls (because of the risk of maintenance-induced failure).

The analogy also works for the overall approach to health-wellness center vs. emergency room, doctor-prescribed medication vs. grandma’s home remedy, and proactive maintenance vs. reactive maintenance.

One of Begley’s columns noted “a nascent revolution in which ‘systems biology’ is overthrowing the reductionist, molecular-biology paradigm that has reigned for half a century (since the double-helix discovery).” Molecular biology was quite successful, she writes, reaching its pinnacle with the sequencing of the human genome. Once the parts list has been assembled, one must next look to the function of each and how they work together systems biology. Root cause analysis and reliability centered maintenance (RCM) come to mind.

In another column, she brings up penetrance, the likelihood that a gene will lead to a trait or disease, noting that “you can say that Gene X causes diabetes in an extended family, but what you are really saying is that Gene X causes diabetes when it interacts with precisely the genes those people share.” This reminds me of the importance of a machine’s operating context to its maintenance requirements.

And what about holistic medicine, defined by the Canadian Holistic Medical Association as “a system of health care which fosters a cooperative relationship among all those involved, leading towards optimal attainment of the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of health”? That sounds a lot like TPM and physical asset management to me.

Who’s on your equipment health team: physicians, pharmacists, and physical trainers, or quacks, medicine showmen, and fry cooks? Regardless of who they are, we believe they all can profit from some of the remedies we serve up in our Professional Development Quarterly. MT





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