Why an industrial reliability program is like a well-maintained toilet

Why an industrial reliability program is like a well-maintained toilet

July 2, 2024
Captain Unreliability asks who can extend the time between retraining the flushes the most?

Classically, MTTR and MTBF have been utilized to demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness, respectively, of a maintenance organization. These lofty measurements are, let’s face it, fodder. They are relatively useless in our efforts as we continue to struggle with simple things like getting a work order written, let alone knowing precise timestamps, which would provide usable data for either of these measurements. For most of us, these two are simply a pipe dream.

To make them more useful, let’s revisit these two critical acronyms and redefine them to more accurately reflect the realities of reliability initiatives.

MTTR – Mean Time To Retraining / Mean Time To Replacement

This is the average time to a leadership change, which requires a reliability professional to take three steps backwards, justify their existence all over again, and retrain a new leader on why leadership should focus on and support reliability efforts. Sometimes, this plumbing nightmare includes a complete rewrite of the reliability strategy, in order to better align things with the leader’s understanding of reliability from the one article they read 10 years ago. Who doesn’t love snaking a toilet? Thank goodness for the opportunity to start over, am I right?

Other activities that clog up the drain system and reduce reliability flow include a shift to a new framework, CMMS, or asset hierarchy because it just happens to be what the new leader was used to at their last location. Things were so good there, they left. In today’s climate, it’s likely they left something steaming there as well, so why not replicate that for you?

But fear not, for you are the master plumber of leadership transitions. You know how to navigate the twists and turns of corporate political piping and keep the plumbing of your organization flowing smoothly. So, strap on your tool belt and get ready to train another unsuspecting soul on the intricacies of reliability – it's just another day in the circus of leadership.

MTBF – Mean Time Between Flushes

This is the average time between reliability programs. A reliability flushing is something we can all relate to – this is when your site is so reliable that leadership, change or no change, decides they no longer need a reliability program. They clean house like a 3.8 liter flush. People, standards, initiatives, technology: all go right down the drain.

Reliability programs stand in the bowl of an old water closet. Their goal of reliability is the handle way above the bowl. Year after year they stretch to reach the bowl and make progress. But once they reach the handle, guess what happens? Reliability is flushed down the drain. Until such time that the organization operates unreliably, you are no longer needed. 

But fear not, for you are the master plumber of program maintenance. You know that just because everything is running smoothly now doesn't mean it will stay that way forever. So, keep your plunger at the ready and your nose at the ready for any signs of trouble. After all, a reliable program is like a well-maintained toilet – you may not notice it when it's working, but the place sure stinks when it's not!

About the Author

Captain Unreliability

Captain Unreliability is a satire of the state of the manufacturing industry in ’Merica today and is written by an industry professional known for using humor to get the point across. Stay tuned for more useless advice, and if you have topics you’d like to see covered or questions you’d like The Captain to weigh in on, contact The Captain directly at [email protected] or follow on Twitter @CUnreliability. Also, consider becoming Unreliable today by getting your Captain t-shirt at https://reliabilityx.com/product-category/gear.

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