Fulfilling RCM’s 2 promises to manufacturing

Stanton McGroarty says it’s time to decide what the reliability department will contribute for 2014.

By J. Stanton McGroarty, CMRP, senior technical editor

Welcome to 2014, the first year of the rest of your career. The New Year means it’s time to start writing “2014” on checks and documents — anything else? Will this be the year that the organization and stockholders get excited about your reliability effort? Nothing could be better news for the company, for the stockholders, or for you. How about it?

Let’s start with a rude question — how exciting was reliability in 2013? If the machines that gave you fits in 2013 are the same ones that hurt performance in previous years, that’s not exciting. Maybe keeping a low profile in the first quarter 2014 is a good idea. If unplanned maintenance and uncontrolled overtime set the tone for 2013, maybe it’s time to hide in the office and plan how next year can be different. Maybe it’s time to break out reliability-centered maintenance (RCM), condition monitoring, and the other reliability power tools to fix those liabilities that are supposed to be assets.

Or did the department’s 2013 performance leave management and the stockholders buzzing? Were profits and dividends driven skyward by the men and women in reliability? If so, another year of the same kind of excitement should also be planned. It will be much more fun than mediocrity, and it will produce the kind of top-management support that will make it easy to maintain and grow the reliability effort.

Reliability should be exciting to the organization, but first the organization has to understand it and measure its impact on operations. Reliability goes far beyond the traditional maintenance identity of the guys who fix broken stuff. Reliability promises exciting results, and, to capture that excitement, reliability managers need to make the right promises and then keep them and publish the results.

RCM makes two main promises — increased equipment availability and reduced maintenance cost. Increased equipment availability makes it possible to produce more, higher quality product. Reduced equipment maintenance cost takes non-value-adding expense (waste) out of the operation, adding dollars to the bottom line. Is your reliability management making these promises to the organization? If the promises aren’t being made, nobody will see when they are being kept.

To be effective, the reliability promises must be understood. To be understood, they must be stated in the language of the organization. The first promise, improved equipment availability, may be stated directly as percentage availability for key equipment or lines. But local convention may also require that it be stated in reduced downtime or reduced production losses. Or perhaps overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is the coin of the realm. With OEE, key maintenance and reliability improvements may have a 1:1 impact on the measure, but a shortage of orders or other factors may reduce reliability’s impact. In any case, it is good to have the support of the controller in developing new measurements and promises. The controller can also help to dollarize results, providing a stronger case for your plans.

J. Stanton McGroarty, CMfgE, CMRP, is senior technical editor of Plant Services. He was formerly consulting manager for Strategic Asset Management International (SAMI), where he focused on project management and training for manufacturing, maintenance and reliability engineering. He has more than 30 years of manufacturing and maintenance experience in the automotive, defense, consumer products and process manufacturing industries. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Detroit Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in management from Central Michigan University. He can be reached at smcgroarty@putman.net or check out his .

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Reduced maintenance cost, the second promise, will almost certainly have to do with most of the cost lines in the maintenance and reliability departments’ budgets. Beginning with the question, “What will be different about the way we will run next year?” the controller can help forecast changes to the maintenance cost of the specific pieces of equipment that will show improved availability according to reliability and maintenance plans. Depending on the past patterns of expense, it may even make sense to reduce the forecast of production overtime to reflect the planned improvements.

Developing a reliability and maintenance plan for a new working environment is a major task. But it is just such a high-profile, cross-functional effort that will attract the attention needed to gather support for the effort. The stage will be set when the people of reliability, maintenance, production, and accounting have all said, “Yes, we believe that it is possible to make this improvement happen.” The organization will be ready to do the work, recognize the results and assign the credit.

Self-promotion is difficult for a lot of maintenance and reliability managers. But if they don’t set the stage, somebody else will happily take credit for any miracles they create. If equipment availability is up, there will be less overtime and probably more production. The production team will take credit for a very good year. If unplanned maintenance stops, then maintenance overtime, emergency purchases, postponed projects, and all the other waste that accompanies emergencies drop off. There will be lots of credit to go around. But, if, at the beginning of the year, the maintenance and reliability team has projected the improvements in performance, credit just might be assigned where it is really due — to the team that got the equipment running and kept it that way.

Read Stanton McGroarty's monthly column, Strategic Maintenance.