17 Commandments for reliability pros

July 23, 2009
Joel Leonard, contributing editor, compiles commandments for today's reliability pros.

With the recent rash of disasters traced back to maintenance and operations functions, don’t we need to elevate our reliability performance standards? From rail track sensors sending faulty signals in D.C. that caused two trains to collide, killing and injuring several passengers; to an explosion at a meat processing plant traced to contractors venting natural gas, killing three and injuring dozens; and even an ammonia leak burning a worker’s lungs at a chicken processing plant, shouldn’t we respond?

As companies cut corners to save money in the short term, as we integrate new workers while the baby-boomer generation retires, and as we implement more sophisticated equipment, our challenges are steep and perhaps are at biblical proportions.


So I went to the bible for inspiration and read that, to develop a more civilized culture, Moses scaled Mount Sinai, got divine inspiration from a burning bush and brought back the Ten Commandments designed to upgrade standards of personal conduct. Well, I’m certainly no Moses, but I did feel compelled to do something. Instead of climbing a mountain or consulting a burning bush, I used the most god-like tool available, the Internet. I put out calls via blogs, e-newsletters, Twitter, Facebook, myfaciltiesnet.com and mass e-mails to seek the collective wisdom of our best maintenance professionals worldwide.

The responses were so good that I couldn’t reduce them to 10. And because I don’t have to lug carved stone tablets down a mountain, why not have more? So here are 17 commandments to guide current and future reliability pros:

  1. Thou shall make maintenance and reliability a profit contributor for the collective good of the entire company.
  2. Thou shall know the critical equipment whose products delight customers while keeping the land, air and water clean and pure.
  3. Thou shall schedule moments of rest and repair for the critical equipment.
  4. Thou shall maintain the critical equipment to appease the spirits of quality and operations.
  5. Thou shall not falsely worship reactive maintenance or adopt a fix-it-when-it-breaks mentality.
  6. Thou shall not covet maintenance that serves no useful purpose.
  7. Thou shall not steal uptime from production during times of upheaval and crisis.
  8. Thou shall not take the life of equipment by means of poor practices.
  9. Thou shall not place false equipment history in the asset bible (CMMS).
  10. Thou shall convince top execs that reliability and maintenance are to be supported, not just managed.
  11. Thou shall not wait until tomorrow to document your work, for it shall never get done.
  12. Thou shall assume nothing when investigating a failure, lest you overlook an important detail.
  13. Thou shall not allow emotions instead of criticality determine the focus of your work.
  14. Thou shall not allow anyone to misuse the good name of maintenance in vain or blame it for the shortcomings of the organization as a whole.
  15. Thou shall respect the stores, for they are a holy entity that is to be respected and kept full.
  16. Thou shall respect thy skilled tradesmen, train well the young and develop the old in modern techniques.
  17. Thou shall take time to review and benchmark another’s processes, then adopt the best bits.

Your success is largely dependent on your ability to devise solutions, manage performance and develop miracles that achieve profits in a down economy, all while keeping your plant environment safe. Because you have god-like responsibilities, you can choose which commandments to follow. Now it’s your turn to add, change or delete any that advance your organization.

And please tell us, what commandments did we forget?

E-mail Contributing Editor Joel Leonard at [email protected].