Al Weber is an internationally respected authority on reliability and a certified RCM2 Practitioner. He was the founding chairman of the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP, www.smrp.org) and also has served on the board as director of best practices and director of international activities development. Presented to only one recipient per year, Weber was awarded the ASME Frederick P. Smarro Award for significant contributions to the discipline and practice of plant engineering. He also received the American Productivity and Quality Center Gold level award. For 32 years, Weber was a key participant in designing and implementing maintenance and reliability practices at Eastman Kodak. He has written many articles and provided numerous presentations and workshops to universities and professional organizations across North America. Today, Weber is senior associate at PCA Consulting (www.pcaconsulting.com)
PS: What were your job title and company when you were SMRP chair?
AW: I used to be employed by the Eastman Kodak Company. As a matter of fact, I spent 32 years there. My position at the time of first getting involved with the creation of SMRP was that of maintenance excellence manager for the company, and I was located in Rochester, New York, at the Kodak Park facility.
PS: What are the big changes you've seen in maintenance and reliability from when you were SMRP chair to now?
AW: Back in the very beginning, there was still a very strong feeling that improving maintenance and reliability was a responsibility of the maintenance folks, and it’s evolved today where more and more people are starting to appreciate the fact that maintenance can’t own it and make it happen by itself. It’s got to be a joint effort between maintenance and manufacturing, and it’s got to be a team initiative with everyone on board together, trying to achieve the goals that they set out. For one group or the other to try to do it on their own is just not realistic and almost impossible.
PS: What is the one accomplishment under your leadership that you're most proud of?
AW: We were 17 people plus myself in the very beginning that sat down to have a discussion around whether there should even be an SMRP, whether there was value. The one thing I’m proudest of was to get to know the rest of the team that kicked and helped not only to start the topic, but played a very active role in the first year-and-a-half of helping to create the organization and set the foundation that would allow it to grow to what it is today, which has been just an amazing transformation from 17 or 18 people talking in a room to the many, many hundreds who are now involved and the thousands who are members of the organization.
PS: Who in the SMRP organization had the biggest influence on you and your career? Can you elaborate?
AW: I’ve had the good fortune of meeting so many people that I’ve learned from and continue to learn from, but, as I ponder that, the one person I think is foremost in my mind is a person by the name of John Moubray. John was kind of the modern-day father of reliability-centered maintenance, and I had the good fortune to get to know John quite well, both as a member of SMRP and with his involvement in RCM. I had a chance to bring John and the RCM methodology into Kodak Park to see if we could find application for it, and ultimately I had an opportunity to go and spend three weeks with John in England, where I went to learn the finer points of what RCM is all about. As a result of that, I walked away with the feeling that, not only was John a very strong influence in my learning and developing an appreciation for what reliability was all about, but through the RCM methodology, I learned more about how I could contribute to try and improve it with different organizations I was associated with.
PS: Where is the maintenance and reliability profession headed, and where would you like to see it go?
AW: More and more people are recognizing that it’s a joint initiative, that manufacturing and maintenance have to work together. It’s not a subservient relationship, where maintenance reports to production and does what they ask, but it’s a partnership where production has the expertise to manufacture and maintenance has the expertise to understand how to care for the equipment and work together to that end. When you start to improve any sort of asset-intensive operation, you can’t do it without good maintenance and reliability and the cooperation of production to support what you’re trying to do. When you look at the improvement opportunities for the future, you have the people associated with the operation, you have the materials associated with an operation, and you have those assets and materials are fixed and the costs are fixed and you know what you’ve got to do and the equipment you need to do it. To me, the big variable is improving reliability and getting optimal output from the assets that you own. The direction’s got to be for folks to recognize that. Maintenance and operations need to think of each other as partners in the initiative, as assets and not liabilities to each other, and they need to work together to get the equipment to perform what it’s capable of and designed to perform. That’s what people are starting to understand more. Every client I sit and talk with has a clarified understanding of how that’s essential if they’re going to reach the corporate goals that have been laid out for them.