I am always amazed when I see "best practices" listed as a trend. Doesn't everyone try to run their lives, both personally and professionally, the best way possible? Hasn't the search for best practices been going on since we were children?
Apparently, our nature is to forget what is best. Even the most accomplished person can pick up non-productive habits. So, the urgency behind adopting formal best practices, especially in our workplaces, has merit.
Best practices were the subject of a panel discussion I recently attended. Composed of industry analysts and consultants, the panel discussed maintenance issues and trends. Best practices were defined as "the process of searching for, investigating and studying the best internal practices that produce superior performance."
How many companies have formal best practices programs? According to Terry Wireman, an industry analyst, more than 300,000 plants in the United States have maintenance organizations. But, only about 100 of them have best maintenance practices programs. "They just aren't out there," he said.
One reason, according to Houghton Leroy, director of consulting at ARC Advisory Group, involves the challenge of capturing, gathering and sharing of knowledge. He's so right. Think about the level of collaboration needed to desseminate information on your best practices to others in your organization, so that they can improve their performances. Or, think of how difficult it is to find someone with the expertise and experience you need to solve a problem. Communication difficulties are significant, especially given shrinking work force and experience base.
Best maintenance practices should be viewed with the goal of producing superior performance at optimal cost, cautioned Wireman. "Anything we call a best practice must make good business sense for the company." That means maintenance must become more fiscally responsible.
The moderator said best practices are most successful when the people factor remains key. "People will work for a supervisor, not an idea. You need to take it from an idea to a habit, by training the supervisors and superintendents to explain and ask for results of what is expected."
What is expected? Benchmarks and key performance indicators are two measures tied to best practices. Benchmarks are different from key performance indicators, according to Dick DeFazio, president and CEO of Performance Consulting Associates. Benchmarks are targets, he said.
Performance also should be compared to external sources, noted Leroy. A department may be meeting its internal goals, for example, but it still may be far from being an excellent or cost-effective manufacturing operation.
If doing the right thing consistently is the norm for your maintenance operation, then try to share those best practices consistently with others in the organization. There are tools that make the process easier. Ultimately, it's our responsibility to talk with our colleagues, gather the knowledge and share it with those who can help make our companies grow even stronger.
Diane Pirocanac, associate group publisher and editorial director