Ask A Plant Manager

Ask a Plant Manager: Expert advice from Joe Kuhn

April 7, 2024
Meet Joe Kuhn, CMRP, former plant manager, engineer, global reliability consultant, and cohost of the Ask a Plant Manager podcast miniseries.

Joe Kuhn, CMRP, former plant manager, engineer, and global reliability consultant, is now president of Lean Driven Reliability LLC. He is the author of the book “Zero to Hero: How to Jumpstart Your Reliability Journey Given Today’s Business Challenges,” and is the creator of the Joe Kuhn YouTube Channel, which offers content on starting your reliability journey and achieving financial independence.

Joe also stars in Ask a Plant Manager, a monthly installment within the Great Question: A Manufacturing Podcast series. Each episode, Anna Townshend, managing editor of Plant Services, introduces a commonplace scenario facing the industry, and Joe offers his expert advice, as well as actions to get you and your program back on track.

Below are a few of Joe Kuhn's most influential podcast episodes and videos.

The one meeting every plant can’t afford to miss

"No matter what waste I see in a plant, any plant that I've managed or that I've coached people in, I would start a yesterday, today, and tomorrow meeting (YTT). Some of you may call this just a morning meeting or your daily management system. But, starting one in maintenance, I think, is critical. It's a critical tool for me."

Why do good plant managers make bad reliability decisions?

“It looks like a system of tools and skills, but it's really a culture. Every tool, every practice, every skill that you have is targeting waste elimination. That's the culture you're trying to create. ”

How maintenance managers fail

"Most maintenance managers that fail get sucked into today. And so they spent 100% of their time on what they were good at, why they got promoted. They spent 100% of the time in today, trying to make it better. And then they wipe the sweat off their brow and say we'll try it again tomorrow. And so you never implement solutions that are strategic. You're always doing tactical ones."

Is your reliability program doomed to fail? Unfortunately YES.

“We need a solution that delivers month over month results. It’s just a reality of today. It’s just like World War I. Are you fighting last year’s reliability battle?”

How to make time for planned maintenance while keeping production running

"What's interesting to me, is this question around where do we start? We’re 100% reactive maintenance. Where do we start? That only gets asked by people that have not done observation. Once you do observation, so let's say, for example, you and your lead team or maybe you're an engineer, maybe you're a planner, supervisor, if you go out observe your crew, a crew of two mechanics for one full day, and then a second full day, you will have a laundry list of things you can do simply that can improve the efficiency of those two people."

Why is my plant struggling with reliability and maintenance best practices? Simple answer.

“One-hundred percent of leaders have a false vie of reality of what their R&M culture is.”

Who owns reliability at a plant?

"If you want to start a fight at a reliability conference, ask who owns reliability in your plant? There's a lot of different opinions. I have 37 years of experience, and a lot of examples of where I was able, my team and plant were able, to get dramatically improved results by doing it differently than most. Okay, so my firm conviction, and I've been in a lot of debates on this, but it's still firm conviction is that operations owns reliability. Okay. And that upsets the operations people, and it upsets the maintenance and engineering people."

Reliability and maintenance professionals – Change your culture with this free tool.

“Chalk circle observation changes everything. It changes everything. KPIs hide information by use of averages.”

Moving beyond wrench time — How to improve productivity with fewer workers

"Now, wrench time, you'll hear numbers like 50% is good, but there's so much that determines, your potential for wrench time. 30% could be good, if you're working at elevation, for example, or you have long distances to travel, or you need significant safety instruction to conduct work. So really comparing your plant to another doesn't make any sense. Comparing your plant today to your plant next month, that's the key. That's where you need to focus."

Skills to see waste in your factory

“Shift change is another location for significant waste, and this is may be one maintenance crew day shift to afternoon shift. What’s that connection look like? Does information flow freely? Do they know exactly what to do? Are they redoing work? Hours can be saved there on shift change.”

How to cut waste from your reliability and maintenance program

"I'll address it from a standpoint of: the business needs this, you got to cut 10%? What would I do? First thing I would do is I'd get the leadership together from the maintenance department, maybe your reliability engineers, if you have any engineering people in your plant, a couple thought leaders, innovators, maybe a lead planner or planner supervisor, just that group of people and say, ‘Okay, guys, 10%. Okay, let's first have a review of where our money's being spent."

A case study of dramatic change in a plant's reliability – Must see. This can change your career.

“One-hundred percent reactive maintenance is actually the most common organization that I work with and it surprised me, working or Alcoa for 32 years that so many place are 100 percent reactive, so if it breaks, they fix it.”

Should data be driving all our decision-making?

"I think it's important to realize that what's happening is a clash of cultures. You have the old school time-based maintenance, all of our history of this pump says fails every six months, or you have to go in once a quarter and do this on this gearbox. So you got that culture, colliding with the culture of, hey, let's just put all these sensors and tell us we’ve got vibration or we’ve got heat. We've got something going on that is telling us there's a problem. And those two cultures meet usually in the planning meeting, to plan what work are we going to do next week."

Are your reliability and maintenance plans doomed to fail? YES. Unless 2 things occur.

“Everyone must understand that every single reliability tools is to address waste.”

How do you fill the skills gap left by retirees when you can't hire more workers?

"I walk into plants, every single one of them. I've been in over 40 plants. Every single one of them has told me this problem. We don't have enough people to start our reliability journey. We can't; our backlog is growing. They said all those same things. After a week of Kaizen, I mean in going out and doing this observation in teams, not just one person but going out maybe with the leadership team, understanding what waste is and going out and seeing how work is being executed."

About the Author

Joe Kuhn | CMRP

Joe Kuhn, CMRP, former plant manager, engineer, and global reliability consultant, is now president of Lean Driven Reliability LLC. He is the author of the book “Zero to Hero: How to Jumpstart Your Reliability Journey Given Today’s Business Challenges” and the creator of the Joe Kuhn YouTube Channel, which offers content on creating a reliability culture as well as financial independence to help you retire early. Contact Joe Kuhn at [email protected].

About the Author

Anna Townshend | managing editor

Anna Townshend has been a journalist and editor for almost 20 years. She joined Control Design and Plant Services as managing editor in June 2020. Previously, for more than 10 years, she was the editor of Marina Dock Age and International Dredging Review. In addition to writing and editing thousands of articles in her career, she has been an active speaker on industry panels and presentations, as well as host for the Tool Belt and Control Intelligence podcasts. Email her at [email protected].

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