Goal: Zero breakdowns

A conversation with 2014 CMRP of the Year award winner Mary Jo Cherney on the importance of balancing investments in workforce development, company culture, and new technologies to achieve reliability goals.

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Mary Jo Cherney, manager for maintenance at Nissan Motor Co. in Smyrna, TN, was named SMRP’s CMRP of the Year last year in the Rising Leader category. A past winner of the GE Ecomagination Award, Cherney earned her CMRP certification in 2013. Cherney spoke with Plant Services in June about Nissan’s approach to reliability and her work toward achieving zero breakdowns.

PS: What is your current job title and job responsibilities?

MJC: I am the manager of Total Productive Maintenance and Global Maintenance Reliability.  We are responsible for making sure our equipment in the plant is reliable by using predictive technologies and lubrication management.

PS: How did your education and background prepare you for a career in maintenance and reliability? 

MJC: I received my MBA which shifted my focus to organizational continuous improvement. When I received my Lean Six Sigma Black belt, I shifted to more of the process improvement disciplines. I then joined a company where TPM was the main operating system, and I saw the benefits of TPM.  I have been a believer since then.

PS: Which aspects of your job have surprised you – are there any parts of the profession that your studies hadn’t mentioned or couldn’t have possibly prepared you for?

MJC: Contrary to popular belief, the “people” skills are the most important for continuous improvement. The people are used to the “old way” of doing things and it is difficult to change. You need to win them over with a contagious positive attitude.  College can’t prepare you for the day-to-day human interactions.

PS: What are some examples of the leadership and accomplishments you’ve exhibited that were instrumental in your being selected by SMRP as a 2014 Rising Leader?

MJC: I expanded our predictive maintenance program at the plant. My technologists have been given the opportunity to achieve various levels of certification which has made all the difference. I also have held my departments accountable for cost savings and avoidance. In a little over two years, the departments have saved the company over $16M. I have also started a new program in Autonomous Maintenance where we train production technicians in the predictive technologies and lower level maintenance activities. The production techs have taken ownership of their equipment and maintenance can work on higher level maintenance tasks.  

PS: Can you talk about one or two people who’ve been important in mentoring you and helping you to become more knowledgeable in your career?

MJC: Two instrumental people in my life of reliability have been Robert Dapere and Lyle Bufogle, both of ArcelorMittal Steel. Robert was the global leader in World Class Manufacturing (WCM) and has been my mentor for Total Productive Maintenance. He continues today to push me to new areas in reliability that I never imagined.  Lyle was a peer of mine and we implemented WCM in his department in Cleveland. He never faltered about his commitment to the program. His steadfastness lead the department to a bronze award last year. He gave me much leeway to implement the program and was a support to my people and his people during this change.

PS: Where should a young professional turn to find a mentor or guidance? Also, any tips specifically for young women who are interested in a career in this field?

MJC: Younger professionals need to seek out mentorship and guidance. It can come from many venues including outside of the organization. I am involved with SMRP, AMP, and benchmark with various organizations outside of my current company. Benchmarking is critical for growth of any reliability program. I say “yes” to every opportunity I get to learn something new through my company or peers, vendors, etc. 

For the young women who are interested in a career in reliability, you have to be strong.  It is a male dominated industry.  You must become an expert through education, certifications so you have credibility in your role.  Seek out the women in your organization who have years of experience and become their mentee.  It is very rewarding, but also, a very demanding job.  You must be ready for the ups and downs, the wins and losses.  If you fall down, pick yourself up and dust off—keep forging ahead.

PS: Where is the maintenance and reliability profession headed, and how will you, as a Rising Leader, help to influence the direction it takes?

MJC: With the global competition, the maintenance and reliability profession will be even more critical than it is today. Our products are getting more and more complex due to customer requirements. That means that our equipment is more complex, too. We must seek out and implement the newest technologies to reach our goals of zero breakdowns. 

I just had this conversation with my director. I need to continually be looking for the latest technology to improve the equipment reliability for our plant. I also need to be a conduit for my employees to learn, grow to become the very best reliability technologists that they can be.

PS: What specific predictive maintenance strategies and technologies do you employ at Nissan?

MJC: We use the following technologies: thermography, vibration, ultrasound, and motor circuit analysis. We also have our own lubrication analyst. We do all of our own testing of lubrication. And currently, plantwide, I have 45 MLP-1 certifications and then I have 2 MLP-2s. I have four Level 1 ultrasound certifications, and three of them are production technicians on the floor. So we've trained them to go ahead and take over their equipment and do ultrasound on their equipment, and then we analyze it. We have two Level 2 ultrasound techs. In vibration, we have a Level 2 analyst, and actually in two weeks he's sitting for his Level 3. Thermography, I have four Level 1s. Plantwide, we have three certified reliability leaders. That (the reliability leader exam) is the hardest exam I've ever taken. We have in my department two CMRPs, but Nissan North America total has 29 CMRPs. We have the most of any automotive company in the United States. I have one employee who's going to sit for the CMRT. My view is if you invest in your employees and give them training and knowledge and growth, they're going to be loyal to you, and they're going to stick with you. That's just always been my philosophy, and so that's why I invest a lot of money in training and education for my people.

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