How to start your journey to awesome reliability

Ask Jeff 170705Question: I have no idea where to start with changing the culture in my plant.  We have always done things the same way.  Always reactive.  How can I start with no support?  Am I fighting a losing battle? 

Dave, maintenance manager, Arkansas

Answer: Dave, thank you for sharing your questions. There are a lot of layers to that onion. Let’s start peeling them back to get you and other readers some solutions within our allotted blog space.

When struggling with poor equipment performance and a lack of reliability, our challenge is to change work behaviors. In their book "Don't Just Fix It, Improve It," authors Winston P. Ledet, Winston J. Ledet, and Sherri Abshire state that 84% of failures result from poor work habits. As the maintenance manager, you can start without having outside support. It’s harder, obviously, but it's possible. Been there, done that, personally. Probably as it is for you, for me it was uncharted ground at the time. But I have no doubt today: You have the positional power to change work behaviors. Enlist the informal leaders within your organization whom you can tap to support the change within your span of control. Share where you are trying to go. Yes, the operations group is trying to hit its production numbers. Because of unreliability, though, you can’t seem to get time to access the equipment from that partner. Putting that aside for a moment, are you satisfied with your PM/PdM program? Are you finding the potential for failure (P-F curve) or are you finding failure with your inspections? I suspect you may not be satisfied, as higher levels of reactivity are results of an ineffective program.

Regarding the PM/PdM program, look at ways to optimize it. When you have a failure, carve away time (yes, I know it’s hard with all the issues you're likely facing) to have a one-hour meeting to look at potential root causes and how you can improve that asset’s maintenance strategies (PM/PdM). Every two weeks, have that meeting to work through the optimization process one asset at a time. Answer these questions:

  1. Do the PM tasks address the identified failure modes and mechanisms?
  2. Is the PM frequency too frequent or not frequent enough? Yes, we can over-PM assets and create failures.
  3. Are the PM tasks written to a specification to identify the potential for failure as opposed to failure itself? Think fits, clearances, belt tension, torque, etc.

You need precision maintenance approaches.  If you're not there, start whittling away at the procedures to get there.

Next, focus on the aspects of effective work execution, such as planning and then scheduling and coordination. Ensure correct organizational alignment and hold people accountable for their roles and responsibilities. In addition to addressing the PM program, you need to have standardized work procedures for corrective repairs in the form of detailed job plans. Make sure you have an effective feedback loop and follow-up actions coming from your technicians. The goal is to find things in the act of failure, not failed.

A critical component for you is educating yourself about maintenance and reliability best practices. The old saying "You don’t know what you don’t know" applies. Why beat your head against the wall and waste a lot of time? You can work on getting educated by attending conferences and viewing web resources such as the Plant Services website. Take courses and consider getting a coach to mentor you if needed. I have a lot of resources I can point you to for reference.

All of the tactics listed above are within your ability to execute to help drive out reactivity. Getting your house in order builds collateral that you can use to drive increased support. Now, let’s address how to build that support.

It is hard for people to agree to start a journey when they may not understand the future-state vision. Education is key, and it's a step that is often overlooked. It is a critical component. When I do assessments and strategic plans at sites, I always include educational sessions down to the lowest levels in the organization. Many sites conduct four-hour educational sessions to help team members understand the reasons for change and continually follow up with related communications.

Most believe that people are resistant to change, but that is not true. People buy houses and decide to have families. Those are life changes. People are resistant when they disagree with the change. You need to consider the pluses and minuses of not changing along with the pluses and minuses of the change. Similarly, upper management needs to become educated so they can understand how to support you. I spend a good amount of time doing executive educational sessions at their level to help them reach the understanding of the mechanics involved in achieving asset reliability.

The biggest challenge is to start. Do something; you can correct along the way if needed. Change requires an impatience to get things rolling and keep it in the front focus. At the same time, it requires patience, as the process is not linear and the pace of change varies. Build support by finding wins and sharing them along the journey to build more. Communicate.

For other readers, what else would you recommend? What deeper questions do you have? Please post your comments.

Talk soon,
Jeff