Safety can be boring. Boring can be good.

July 31, 2012

One day I found myself riding the jump seat, up front in a client's Cessna Citation. It was my first time in the cockpit of a jet, and as we lined up for takeoff I said, "Gee, this is exciting!"
"We don't like exciting up here," came the captain's clipped response.
"Exciting happens way too fast at 500 knots," explained the copilot.
"We like boring," said the pilot.
"Same old same-old," affirmed the copilot.

One day I found myself riding the jump seat, up front in a client's Cessna Citation. It was my first time in the cockpit of a jet, and as we lined up for takeoff I said, "Gee, this is exciting!"
"We don't like exciting up here," came the captain's clipped response.
"Exciting happens way too fast at 500 knots," explained the copilot.
"We like boring," said the pilot.
"Same old same-old," affirmed the copilot.

I sensed that these two veterans had had this conversation before, probably for the entertainment of young flight attendants. Nevertheless the point is valid, and it translates well into plant (or aircraft) maintenance. Life provides enough excitement without our having to look to our equipment to provide more.

Pilots, like our own equipment operators, are usually the first ones on the scene when things get exciting. They don’t like it. They like safe, well-maintained, efficient equipment and they’re willing to tolerate the boredom that can result. Similarly, anyone who has dealt with a wayward boiler or a failing mine conveyor or, heaven forefend, a breach in a melting furnace can attest that boredom is not the worst thing that can happen in a plant.

It’s no accident (pun intended) that the science of reliability sprang up in the aircraft industry, but we need it in the factory, too. If you want to help your team understand the attitude you’re after, find an old air war movie, the kind where the cigar chomping marine line chief says to the hotshot pilot, “What the h*%# you been doing with my airplane!? I didn’t spend the night fixing it so you could go get it all shot up!”

That’s the culture you want to instill in your production, maintenance, and reliability people. It’s all there – ownership, hard work, shared responsibility, and frank communication among team members.

Take your crew to the movies and buy them some popcorn. After all, when they’re doing the job right, life at work can get a little boring. It should also get safer and more efficient. The stockholders will thank you; so will the team’s families.

One more thing, as long as we’re working on communication, do you think the airlines could stop talking about the “termination” of my flights? We don’t like “termination” back here. “Landing” is much nicer.

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