Make a stand for reliability in 2014 and eliminate the bad actors from your floor

Mike Bacidore says don't rely on the unreliable.

By Mike Bacidore, editor in chief

We all know how important reliability is. We plan everything around it. Because we can. Because we depend on it. That’s actually the definition of it.

When equipment stops unexpectedly, then production stops unexpectedly. And that’s not good. It’s disruptive and can be very expensive. Even though we talk about reliability and read about it and attend presentation after presentation about it, how many of your organizations are effectively running a reliability-centered maintenance program?

You might have read about Alcoa’s success or heard an Alcoa presentation at a conference, and that’s a great example for taking a step in the right direction and making the business case for it.

But I recently spoke with Alan Knight and Mike Aroney, two U.S. veterans who have transitioned into reliability-based work after years of service. Nothing says, “reliability,” quite like the military. And these individuals bring skills that are a perfect fit for highly qualified maintenance and reliability work.

“Most military people are highly malleable,” says Alan Knight, a five-year Army veteran who now works for GPAllied. “They can learn anything. They learn things on the fly. They operate well in stressful situations. The training they receive in the military is on multimillion-dollar equipment, which is the highest of the high-tech, most of which the civilian world hasn’t even seen yet. You take the skills they learn and combine that with the dedication to high-quality work, the dedication to teamwork, and the ability to train them to do just about anything, and add the high amount of pride and satisfaction they take in doing a good job, and that is the perfect recipe for building the perfect employee.”

Mike Aroney, also with GPAllied, served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years. “The things employers like are the adaptability, the fact that they’re team players, you know what to expect, the work ethic, and the certain set of skills and abilities,” he says. “The mechanical system on a ship is called the plant. And they keep the plant running for mission capability. The only difference between there and a plant that manufactures goods is that one is for profit and one is for mission accomplishment. They run basically the same way. Right away, they can move into that environment. When we do the plant tours it’s just like being in the engine room or mechanical spaces of an aircraft carrier.”

lead-Mike-Bacidore.jpgMike Bacidore is chief editor of Plant Services and has been an integral part of the Putman Media editorial team since 2007, when he was managing editor of Control Design magazine. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning a Gold Regional Award and a Silver National Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at 630-467-1300 ext. 444 or or check out his .

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In the military, you’re part of the collective which has one goal, explains Knight. “That’s the very definition of being part of a team,” he explains. “When I got out of the military, there was a certain mechanic who refused to teach me stuff because he felt like I was a threat to him. There was not urgency to get the trucks done. It was, ‘I’m going to do these trucks because they pay more commissioning.’ It was that kind of thing. In the manufacturing world, if you’re not pushing rolls of steel out the other end of the mill, everybody’s angry, so it has to be a team effort.”

If you go to a manufacturing facility where reliability is a core value on the mission statement, you see it, says Knight. “But if you see plants that are not that focused on the reliability aspect of it and being world-class and being a low-cost producer, then there’s still a whole lot of superhero-ism going on,” he explains. “In the past 15 years, I’ve seen this start to shift more toward a team environment, but it’s still not there yet.”

One of the frustrations military veterans face is dealing with the different culture, explains Aroney. “We’re used to our battle buddies,” he says. “If somebody asks for something, you immediately respond to get them what they need because in a battle situation that piece of information or that response could be the difference between life and death. A lot of the feedback I get is they get frustrated with what is being billed as a work ethic. It’s a major transitioning issue for some of our military folks.”

Having worked in the reliability area for the past 18 years since retiring from the Navy, Aroney has seen a shift. “We talk about the hidden factory and lost capacity as a result of unreliable assets,” he says. “The companies now are starting to focus more on that — shifting toward knowledge capture and doing the right things. As they start to focus on that, from a global perspective, we’re starting to see a reverse migration with manufacturing beginning to come back to North America because the exodus was for cheaper labor, and that’s no longer an offset because plants are starting to run into the reliability issue. The ones that capture the costs through reliability now have a structure; with the cost of transportation there’s really no benefit now to going overseas, except for textiles — you’ll never see textiles reverse-migrate because that truly is low-labor-cost type of commodity.”

Read Mike Bacidore's monthly column, From the Editor.