Reliability-Centered Maintenance / Operational Excellence

CMRP Veteran Professional of the Year: George Williams

“I think the biggest challenge that we have as industry leaders and practitioners is really to make every effort to not only have a positive impact but relate that directly to the business’s goals.”

George Williams, CMRP, CRL, is director of asset management for Bethlehem, PA-based B. Braun Medical. Previously, he worked for 16 years at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. In 2016, the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) recognized his career in asset management and his commitment to giving back to the maintenance and reliability community in naming him CMRP of the Year in the Veteran Professional category. (Note: 2017 CMRP of the Year winners will be recognized in October at the 25th SMRP Annual Conference in Kansas City.)

Williams recently talked to Plant Services about how he has seen the maintenance and reliability field evolve and how institutional values can drive the success of a reliability program.

PS: What was your journey to becoming a reliability professional?

GW: I started at Bristol-Myers Squibb as an onsite maintenance contractor at one of their research and development facilities in central New Jersey. An opportunity arose for me; they were looking to get into maintenance, planning, and scheduling.

I continually beat down my manager’s door and let him know that I was going to be the planner. They finally gave in and I became a planner.

Through planning we were able to reorganize our maintenance staff based on essentially running out of work. So we had good success at that site. And then one day I was called into the office for the site director and he said to me, “What do you know about reliability?” And I said, “Not much,” and he said, “Good, you’re hired.”

So they began to send me for training and I received my certifications in vibration analysis, ultrasound, and infrared and eventually my CMRP. And then I began taking college classes and ultimately earned my master’s degree in reliability engineering management from Monash University.

When I was responsible for reliability regionally in 2007 at the site in central New Jersey, we rolled out planning and scheduling in a much bigger effort. By 2010, we had 32% efficiency gain across all sites.

PS: You got into the reliability field and you got your certifications; what energized you about this new area of focus? What appeals to you about it?

GW: I would say I always had a passion for maintenance and performing maintenance correctly. And that really came from a mentor that I had growing up.

I had the privilege of working with my father, who was a mechanic and a truck driver. I worked for him in the summers while I was in high school. He taught me how to strip down engines and hone cylinders and put carburetors together, but he always stressed to me executing the job with high quality.

(He emphasized that) there’s only a couple of things that stop a car from starting, so start there. You know, are you getting turnover? Do you have the fuel? He taught me good troubleshooting skills; he taught me that the importance of executing the job correctly. And that has always stuck with me.

PS: Do you try to impart some of the lessons you learned from your father to the students you teach at the University of Wisconsin?

GW: Absolutely. I certainly look very directly at the things that my father taught me about how to execute a job and how to ensure even the simplest things like keeping your tool cabinet clean and putting things back exactly as you had them.

As I look back, I certainly didn’t think my path was going in the direction it ended up, but all of those lessons have served me well, and I try to pass those along to the students.

PS: How have you seen this field of reliability engineering evolve?

GW: That’s a great question. The world has become an incredibly competitive place, and when you think about pharma companies and their goals and objectives, it’s a world where companies are looking to every advantage possible to ensure that they have quality on time delivery and potentially gain market share. The reliability engineering role has become a critical piece in that; it’s no longer a role that is seen as, “If we have an issue, then we’ll call them.” It’s more of a role around bridging the gap between engineering and operations and working in both of those spectrums.

I think that as that role evolves, it will continue to evolve in a way that data becomes their primary driver. Analytics and information will become the drivers that help the reliability engineering role continue to add value.

PS: With respect to data driving business decisions, can you point to any specific examples that you’ve seen where data led to justification for a specific investment or a reallocation of resources?

GW: Absolutely. In my past experience I was a Maximo user, and being able to trend and track information from that system it certainly helped us in many cases to justify engineering capital projects for either capital replacements or modifications based on information.

Additionally, we utilized the system and data to streamline planning and scheduling, resulting in a 32% efficiency gain across multiple sites. We try to empower users from an analytical standpoint (to) not just enter data, but in your role (to know and to own), where is your work visually inside the workflow and what work do you have to take care of in order to make sure that we’re operating smoothly?

PS: That ownership point is really interesting. Have you seen a change with frontline personnel taking more ownership of assets now that they have this data and stuff is being tracked?

GW: Frontline personnel ownership is really to me the key to success. We can train folks in maintenance and reliability practices; we can give them white papers; we can show them presentations; we can send them to conferences; and we can do a million other things. But unless they see how they tie into the company’s business goals, unless they can visualize how they impact those goals, and in addition to that, unless the company shows a dedicated leadership to what those goals are, then how can we expect success?

The decisions they make when the equipment needs a minor adjustment or to be fixed are dictated based on their mission and understanding of goals. It’s not dictated based on the training that they received or the information that they have.

If leaders get this, are driving a culture of reliability, and are focused on proper asset management and that line of sight exists down to the shop floor, then when the machine goes down and there is a choice between Band-Aiding it or fixing it right, the proper decision will be made.

That’s excellent.

I think the right decision is made every time but the right decision is based on leadership. And if the leadership focuses on “get it back up and running as fast as possible,” then that is the choice that will be made.

PS: What would you say are other success factors that some individuals in leadership positions need to work on?

GW: That is really the challenge. I think a fundamental understanding of where reliability comes from is our biggest challenge. I think we’ve been even trying to technically-solution it for decades, and the organizations that I’ve seen have success at this stage have success because of people, not because of technical approaches to reliability.

They have success because the people around them identify, own, and solution the problems that are directly in front of them. They are empowered to make the choices that improve asset value proposition long-term. Most of our issues are small defects versus large, one-off breakdowns and operational stops.

In the past, we’ve focused on those large breakdowns and tried to technically-solution those while we’re getting our lunch eaten by the small minor issues that cause stoppage. I think the biggest challenge that we have as industry leaders and practitioners is really to make every effort to not only have a positive impact but relate that directly to the business’s goals.

Most companies have similar goals around profit and quality, and the commitment to society, safety and environment, and making sure that we tie our efforts back to those goals I think is also a very important challenge for us. These links ensure our demonstration of value, assist us in gaining support, and ensure our longevity.

PS: The Veteran Professional category in SMRP’s CMRP of the Year award program recognizes an individual who has more than 10 years of experience working in maintenance, reliability, and physical asset management. What would you say are some of the biggest wins so far in your career?

GW: Winning the CMRP of the Year award was certainly an incredible honor for me, but that being said, it was an individual award that was given to me in large part because of the work of so many other people.

At Bristol-Myers Squibb ... I was lucky to have been afforded an opportunity to witness that organization come together as a competitive force of nature driving toward reliability excellence. To have played a small part in the transformation from individuals and sites to truly a global family was not only memorable but really an honor, and I look forward to having the pleasure of seeing that again here at B. Braun.

PS: What are some of the initiatives that you’re undertaking at B. Braun to help drive the company toward its goals? What are your priorities in your role?

GW: I think the first couple months for me was observation. It’s really important to listen and observe and try to gauge what types of folks we have and where are our initial improvements in terms of people, processes, and procedures? We have  an opportunity ahead of us to really expand our market share but in a very short amount of time.

For me we have to put a rocket on a turtle; we have to balance putting in the foundational pieces of reliability that don’t have an immediate return, such as good CMMS implementation, asset hierarchy, and equipment criticality – all of the things that ultimately will result in reliability sustainability but that, at the same time, don’t have an immediate impact.

We have to balance that with things that do have an immediate impact, and so we are focusing on defect elimination. Our plant in Allentown was already taking initial steps through a process they developed, and there’s no reason to touch something that’s absolutely fantastic.

They called it a crime-scene investigation. Anytime there’s an event, they fill out a form where they’re capturing very specific information. You know, who is the operator; did you talk to the operator; was the equipment doing what was it supposed to be doing? They ask all the questions that a good troubleshooter would ask.

It’s an absolutely fantastic approach to making sure that any event we do have to do a formal root-cause analysis on, we’ve already got many of the answers right in front of us and it’s documented and it’s well thought-out. Additionally, we are working with The Manufacturing Game to instill a formal defect elimination process.

The other thing we’re focusing on is making sure we provide back to the business and to senior leadership what those impacts have been. That’s where we have some opportunity.

PS: How did you help drive a 50% reduction in maintenance-related quality investigations?

GW: I didn’t drive anything. I can’t fix reliability in any way, shape, or form. My role at Bristol-Myers Squibb and at B. Braun today was to enable other people to do that. I cannot impact the reliability goals at a site level. All I can do help to guide people and provide them an opportunity to do what they do best through sound process and systems.

PS: You’re a teacher in the University of Wisconsin’s maintenance management certificate program. How long have you been teaching at UW?

GW: For eight years.

PS: Have students changed at all in that time?

GW: I wish I could say that the story has changed. Amazingly enough, the challenges in assets and management are the same. That saddens me a little. Now, I’ve had many students come back and take a second class later and have great success stories. And I have a lot of students that ping me outside of work and say, “Hey I’m looking down this path; can you give me some advice; can we talk?” and they’re having huge success.

But the new students coming in are still having the same challenges: “I can’t get a hold of the asset, I can’t do proper PMs.” They’re still having those challenges, and I think that’s one of the drivers for me in continuing to partner with the University of Wisconsin and teach. B. Braun’s motto is “sharing expertise,” and I think that’s a phenomenal thing.

I think it’s important for folks who have had some success to be able to do exactly that. There’s a big difference between somebody who has read a book and come to teach a class and folks that have practiced this every day.

The University of Wisconsin goes out of their way to make sure that the folks who are teaching there are practitioners. As a matter of fact, UW has three CMRP of the Year award winners teaching courses. They do that because the things you talk about and the stories you tell in between the content that’s on the slides, that’s really where the value is, and sharing that value is really important.

I think the students change a little bit because they’re starting to talk different languages; they come in now and talk about root cause; they talk about ISO 55000; they’ve heard of those things, and they didn’t quite hear of those things in the past, but their problems are still the same and that’s at a much, much higher level.

PS: When it comes to reliability, is there anything that keeps you up at night?

GW: I sleep like a baby. We can’t stress over “what ifs” or current fires that are happening today.

I’m coming into an organization that for me from an asset management perspective is fresh and new and really hasn’t gone down this journey for very long. And as long as B. Braun makes today better than yesterday, there will be success. But we are on a long journey here, and we’re trying to balance immediate impact with long-term reliability and sustainability.

We’re not going to be successful by firefighting, but we’re certainly not going be successful by worrying about where the next fire is going to start and when. We have a lot of people that have been putting the fires out for decades, and they keep doing that while we work on removing the fire hazards. Eventually at some point we’re all fire marshals, and that’s success.