The power quad: A plant manager can do four things that maximize reliability

June 4, 2007
Many plant managers aren't aware of the four ways they can help optimize asset reliability to reduce cost, maximize asset utilization and increase plant capacity. It's about time they became engaged in the reliability process.

Many plant managers aren’t aware of the four ways they can help optimize asset reliability to reduce cost, maximize asset utilization and increase plant capacity. It’s about time they became engaged in the reliability process.

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Many plant managers want optimal reliability at an optimal cost, so they trust maintenance professionals to manage plant reliability but never bother to understand their own role in the process. Many are unaware they can affect asset reliability more than anyone else in the plant. Don’t get these steps out of order and follow them all.

The first thing a plant manager should do is study reliability from the 60,000-ft. level to understand the process and basic reliability principles. Find an instructor who can take you to ground level, if needed.

Bring the production and maintenance managers for the same training. Learn about:

  • Plant-wide ownership of reliability (the culture change and why).
  • Developing a business case for reliability (calculation of financial losses).
  • Prioritizing assets based on risk and condition.
  • The maintenance process (preventive maintenance, planning, scheduling, work execution, work follow-up and performance assessment).
  • Identifying the right work at the right time using the P-F interval and how it affects losses.
  • The roles and responsibilities of specific job functions related to reliability.
  • Key performance indicators (leading, lagging and nesting).
  • Managing reliability to provide optimal reliability at optimal cost.
  • Best practices in maintenance and reliability (including benchmarks).

Skipping this step jeopardizes the success of the process. Any plant manager who thinks they have a good understanding of these subjects should take my “Asset reliability test for plant managers” to prove it. It’s a wakeup call for most.

The second thing a plant manager should do is post a plant scorecard, because everyone in the plant needs to know the score in the reliability game. The line graphs on the scoreboard should be updated daily. If you have multiple production lines, the format might require a little thought. Every week the plant manager should brief each crew about what the scoreboard is telling them and how their role affects the score. Be positive about it, and be prepared for production capacity to increase between 2% and 4% within a few weeks.

The third thing a plant manager should do is provide reliability education to plant personnel. Sit in on the training sessions but use an outside source to lead the classes. Include the plant management team, including supervisors and support staff (8 hrs.), maintenance personnel and production operators (4 hrs.), front office and other support personnel (2 hrs.).

The journey to reliability involves everyone in the plant, from the lowest level to the highest level, because everyone owns reliability. So I’d also recommend asking corporate leadership to sit in on one of the workshops. If they want more reliability education, take advantage of the situation. Attend another reliability workshop with these executives. It’s a great opportunity to gain the support a plant manager will need in the future.

The fourth thing a plant manager should do is publish the key performance indicator (KPI) dashboards and send them to every level of management. KPI dashboards help everyone understand the score in the game. Most managers and supervisors don’t know how well they’re performing until something either great or bad occurs. Each KPI dashboard should highlight measurable leading and lagging metrics that are linked to both the next level of management KPIs and to the plant’s goals. It’s a process called “nesting.”

At a later date, introduce the KPI dashboard concept to production operators and maintenance technicians so they can begin to manage at the floor level. The objective is for everyone to pull a little on the same rope, which enhances asset reliability and plant performance.

These four steps should be followed in the order given to ensure success. One thing a plant manager will learn from this exercise is that everyone has an effect on asset reliability. It’s a wonderful experience that can inspire everyone in the plant.

Your plant’s resident expert in the asset reliability process should be the maintenance manager. If this person requires additional training, provide the support and focus on results, not the cost. This training must be in an outside environment among other reliability professionals. I’ve never met a maintenance manager who didn’t need additional reliability training.

E-mail Ricky Smith, CMRP, at [email protected].

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