Steps To Improvement Reactive Proactive

How to gain control over your maintenance processes: Understanding reactivity and proactivity

Nov. 30, 2022
George Williams and Joe Anderson of ReliabilityX explore the journey from reactive to proactive maintenance.

Plant Services Editor in Chief Thomas Wilk hatched a plan with George Williams and Joe Anderson to create a podcast series titled “Assets Anonymous.” The idea was for each monthly episode to address one aspect of how to gain better control over your maintenance processes and ultimately drive improved throughout and greater profitability.

All episodes are now available at, and this month’s cover story draws from each episode to deliver an extended sample of the advice shared by Joe and George. This is part one of our six-part series.

Step 1: Understanding Reactivity

What should plant teams know about what reactivity can do for them, and the ways it may work against them?

GW: Reactivity for me is a really large topic and a misunderstood topic. What's interesting is, what we see in industry today is, “we've got to not be reactive, not be reactive, not be reactive.” In reality, what we have to do is eliminate unnecessary reactivity and manage the reactivity that remains. And people are so focused on, how do I become proactive? That they're not understanding that even if you are in that state, part of proactivity is managing reactivity well.

JA: To understand proactivity and reactivity, it's like a sliding scale. It's not one or the other. You can be more proactive or more reactive, depending on the tasks that you're doing. It's kind of a sliding scale. It's not this black or white, you're either this or you're that.

The way that I look at it is people get confused with run to failure. I think the problem is that run to failure is a business decision, whether it was come to strategically through an equipment maintenance strategy, or that's the culture and it's taken over anyway. But run to failure is a domain, and then you have your preventive domain, your predictive domain, where all of those are reactive at some point, but some are more proactive than others. Distinguishing between a domain and the sliding scale of reactivity and productivity, understanding that first I think is key.

Step 2: Understanding Proactivity

What does making progress look like then when it comes to proactive maintenance? What are some of the signs that you're on the right track?

GW: Less reactive maintenance.

JA: The goal is to give yourself more time. For example, if I wasn't planning and scheduling before, and I'm now planning and scheduling, and I'm getting my work orders, I'm getting more work done, I'm restoring my equipment, eliminating more defects which leads to less breakdowns, less calls out on the floor, and I have more time to invest in things like my PdM inspections while my equipment is running so that I can spend my planned downtime doing corrective maintenance.

You also have more time when you're finding defects early on in their initiated state versus farther down the PF curve. You're giving yourself more time to order the parts, wait on the parts to come, and you start gaining control over your assets instead of your assets controlling you. You know you're in a very reactive state when the asset determines when you get to go to bed at night, versus you determining when you get to go to bed at night because you are in control over the machines. As I start to see more time, and I can start putting people out doing other tasks, that’s a gauge for me, knowing that I'm on the right track.

GW: Even just the culture, your folks will be less stressed. You'll have a better safety record. As you move in maturity in a space, the benefits are substantial, but they all boil down to profitability of the organization.

This story originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

About the Author

George Williams

George Williams, CRL, CMRP, is the founder and CEO of ReliabilityX and is a blackbelt in reliability. He has a master’s degree in reliability engineering from Monash University. Williams spent 16 years with a major pharmaceutical company, where he began as a technician and worked his way up to global asset management. In 2015, Williams’ global team won the Uptime Award for Best Maintenance and Reliability Program. In 2016, he earned recognition by SMRP as CMRP of the Year. He has earned certifications in vibration analysis, infrared thermography, ultrasound, motion amplification, and plant maintenance management. Williams is a published author and a recognized leader in reliability. He can be contacted at [email protected].

About the Author

Joe Anderson

Joe Anderson is a partner and chief operating officer for ReliabilityX. Joe helps companies reach their full potential through improvement gains and lowering costs, giving them a competitive advantage on their journey to excellence. As an active columnist in Plant Services magazine, Joe shares his over 25 years of experience in maintenance, reliability and management excellence in various industries with the world through his writing. He is a CMRP, CRL, CARO, MLT2, MLA1, LSSGB, IAM-55k, CRL Black Belt and was recognized as one of the top 50 leaders in the country by the United States Congress, being awarded the National Leadership Award. He has also brought humor to the world through his experiences, and it can be seen in the character creation of Captain Unreliability.

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