Profiles in Leadership - Mr Robert (Bob) Latino

March 27, 2008
I met Bob Latino via the internet while participating in
I met Bob Latino via the internet while participating in Sandy Dunns' Plant Maintenance forum. (the oldest in the game I think) This was well over a decade ago and I have enjoyed stating in contact with him ever since. During our time of knowing each other he has helped me to start writing, we worked together on a project in Egypt, and I was a representative for his company and products out of Mexico for a while. Great stuff. Bob heads up the Reliability Center Incorporated (RCI) which holds the enviable domain name Reliability Center, Inc. was established in 1972 as a Research & Development arm of a major U.S. corporation. It became an independent corporation in 1985 under the direction of founder and president, the much respected, Charles J. Latino. Today it is a mainstay of the reliability industry globally. There would be few have not heard of the PROACT software and methodologies, and Bob and his team are frequent participants in reliability events globally. Like many other people I have come to know in the game Bob is one of the world's sincere gentlemen. I have always found his dedication, commitment and business ethics to be very inspiring, so he was a natural choice for me to approach for the Profiles in Leadership Series. Q1. Just checked out the website for the first time in a while. Looks great.I am also seeing a lot of organizations where PROACT has wisely been implemented as an organizational program, rather than a project to be implemented.Things seem to be really on the up for RCA and PROACT these days. What seems to have bought about this shift in the marketplace?Answer: Daryl, as you know, the term RCA has become diluted to the point of uselessness today. Since there is no universally accepted definition of RCA, everyone interprets it the way they see fit. This really results in a disservice to the RCA community that must facilitate such analyses. The problem becomes that no matter what tool or approach someone may be using to resolve their undesirable outcomes, they will call it "RCA". This means that tools such as Brainstorming, the 5-Whys, Fishbones, Cause-and-Effect Diagrams, Logic Trees and the like are all grouped together as commodities with no one tool being recognized as having more breadth and depth than the others. To RCI, true Root Cause Analysis is not simply a task to be done using a single tool for a single event. RCA is a "system" and we purposely branded our PROACT Approach to that message. You may have the greatest tool to do RCA but that does not guarantee success. You also may have the greatest analyst on earth, but that alone also does not guarantee success. The sum of the parts must work together to produce a yield far greater than the sum of the individual components. When RCI was originally an R&D group for Allied Chemical Corporation (Honeywell today), our charter was to develop the sciences of Equipment, Process and Human Reliability in manufacturing. This is where our PROACT Approach concept was originally conceived. When looking at RCA as a "system" rather than a "task" we must consider the big picture - equipment (tool), processes (approach) and humans (team). When any of these components are missing and/or inadequate, we will not be as successful as we are capable of being. The "P3" Model you see on our website incorporates all of the aspects we consider part of our PROACT RCA System. Q2. What sort of activities do companies generally carry out when they look at RCA as a system rather than a project? In the past I have seen a lot of resistance to implementing RCA in a permanent sense (along with everything else) so I am really trying to work out how you were able to get over those traditional barriers. (Lack of support, lack of continued focus etc...) I will once again reflect on when RCI was originally the Reliability Center for Allied Chemical Corporation. Allied was serious about their strive for true Reliability. To demonstrate their commitment, they issued a Corporate Reliability Policy. While this may seem like a paper gesture, what this means to the floor is that Reliability is not optional, it is the way in which this company chooses to conduct business. This provided the new Reliability departments at the plant level the clout to refer to the corporate policy when there was resistance to working with the Reliability departments. I see the same for RCA. If facilities are serious about RCA, they will choose to institutionalize the processes they have chosen to use. By institutionalizing their RCA process it will survive management changes. As we all have experienced one time or another, we have our true Champions who push our cause in an organization and then when they are promoted, the cause falls on its face for lack of leadership. Institutionalizing our causes gives it a fighting chance in the absence of the Champion. Corporations who are serious about using RCA to impact their bottom lines do not see RCA as a commodity. If people are shopping for the RCA tools and approaches based strictly on initial cost, RCI will not choose to bid in such situations. If the breadth and depth of the RCA approach does not matter to the buyer, then they are shopping based on cost so they will select the least expensive path. We do not wish to compete in this space. We want to work with people who shop based on "value" and not just "cost". People who shop on value understand that the approach they want is the one that has the capability of producing the greatest return!! Like you opened with Daryl, our success is based on our reputation in the industry. Most of our work is from repeat clients and referrals. Our case studies are from successes in the field by our users. This is what helps us convince others they can do it also. Our goal is NOT for our clients to be reliant on us to help them with continued success, but for them to let their success breed more success in their own organizations. Q3. I am pretty impressed by the work I see you doing in the field of human error. What exactly are you doing there and how well is this being received by industry?Answer: As far as we are concerned, if an organization is not using the research published on human error to add breadth and depth to their analyses, they are not doing RCA. As far as we are concerned RCA starts with Human Error and does not end with it. Human errors are decision errors (errors of omission and commission) that trigger physical consequences to occur. If the physical consequences are not stopped they will continue to trigger more and more undesirable effects until you have no choice but to address them. What we try and focus on is not WHO made a poor decision, but WHY did they think it was the right decision at the time they made it? When we drill this deep into the human mind, we find that the organizational systems that we work with are often flawed. Such systems may be our policies, procedures, practices and habits that have evolved over time. Understanding the working relationships between ourselves and our equipment and processes is the key to reducing human errors. This is the reason we focus so heavily on the "soft side" of RCA or the human side. Q4. Tell us about healthcare. Has this been a good area for you to have entered? You seem to be having a lot of success in the area.Answer: Everyone reading this column can benefit from the use of RCA in healthcare. Having gone from the industrial sector to healthcare has been an eye-opening experience for me. With regards to the communications infrastructure in healthcare, I see them as at least 15 years behind that of industry. Healthcare is a very labor intensive industry and there are more human-to-human interfaces than in industry and this poses their greatest challenges to Reliability. Quick, effective and efficient communication is a necessity in healthcare and it is very lacking. Our healthcare system in the USA can greatly benefit from the Reliability Engineering experience of industry. I am starting to see some rare hospitals hiring Reliability Engineers into their Risk Management departments, it is a start! On October 1, 2008 the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) announced they will no longer reimburse hospitals for what they call Never Events (not present at admission). These are errors that occur in hospitals that cause harm to the patient and they are deemed preventable. Examples of Never Events include Falls and Bed Sores which as very expensive to correct. In the past CMS has paid the hospitals when these events were not present at admission and caused by the hospital. This will cease to be in October and hospitals will then have the incentive to stop these events from recurring or pay for them themselves. RCA will play a major role in helping hospitals prevent recurrence of such Never Events. CMS non-payment is just the beginning, the major insurance companies will not be far behind. Q5. I have to ask about talent Bob. I know you, Mark and Ron mainly; and would work with any of you any day on any project. But how is the talent pipeline coming along? The resource crunch seems to be hitting everyone I know globally, and there are fewer and fewer good people in the pond to choose from. (Or make that, fewer good available people)Answer: We see the same Daryl and face the same issues. In our line of work it is not good enough to have "warm bodies" out in the field representing our firms. Our reputation would not be able to sustain us very long if that were not the case. I will admit in the past, we have made such errors in judgment and taken the "warm body" route and paid the consequences. Like in RCA, we learn from our mistakes as well. We are building a solid base of top notch technical instructors and facilitators. We have experts in the areas of fractology (materials engineering) and human factors engineering. These talents translate into our workshops on Mechanical Failure Scene Investigation (FSI), Electrical Failure Scene Investigation (FSI) and Human Error Reduction Techniques (HERT). We use very niche recruiting firms to help us find the specific talents we are looking for and I will be honest, it does not happen quickly. But we are willing to wait in order bring the right "fit" on board. Oftentimes some of our star clients decide to take early retirement and express a desire to work with RCI on a full-time and/or part time basis. Because they are known commodities and the learning curves are nil, this provides a win-win scenario. Q6. Always keen to see where you are going to be taking us over the next couple of years. So what does the next 12 - 24 months hold for the Reliability Center Bob? New markets, products, sectors, approaches?Answer: RCI will continue to enhance and add new technologies to our PROACT RCA software to assist our analysts in the field. We will continue our quest to provide experience templates in our software to provide analysts in the field with successful experience from their peers in their own, and other industries. RCI now offers a Lead Investigator Certification Series. This is a series of six workshops over a six month period. The workshops focus on our PROACT Methodology, Human Error Reduction Techniques, Mechanical Failure Scene Investigation, Electrical Failure Scene Investigation, PROACT Software and PROACT Facilitation. Students work on live projects producing their stunning ROI's while in the workshops. RCI will continue it integration into the health care world by establishing software partners whose products are complimentary to ours. Health care is an emerging market that will recognize the critical role of true RCA to the success of their hospitals in the years to come. This is near and dear to RCI as this is one way in which we can give back to our communities by helping reduce unnecessary harm to patients. RCI will continue our push into South America via our representatives in these countries. We current have most all of our offerings in Spanish and will move to work on Portuguese next. Our PROACT Enterprise Software is now available in Spanish and this was a major undertaking but it made it much easier for us to convert to any other language, so it was well worth it. RCI will continue our relationships with our partners in industry like Meridium. In such instances we provide technical expertise on the ground with the clients who are utilize our PROACT for Meridium version of software. This works well because Meridium's core strength is software development and ours is RCA, so this has proven to be a good marriage. Lastly but certainly not least, RCI will continue to define its success solely based on the success of its clients. As you know my father, Charles J. Latino, passed away late last year leaving RCI as his legacy to his family and his clients. We plan to achieve the vision my father always had for RCI and doing so within the value sets he instilled in each of this children. We plan to make Charles' dream a reality for generations to come! 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