Striving For Continuous Improvement 6390c5f0d63a4

How to gain control over your maintenance processes: Striving for continuous improvement

Dec. 7, 2022
George Williams and Joe Anderson of ReliabilityX examine how continuous improvement can help you do the right things more efficiently.

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 six of our six-part series.

Step 7: Investing in People

This may be the next action step, but is it really necessary?

GW: You are not obligated to invest in people. There is no statute, law, or regulating body that will require you to invest in your people. Maybe OSHA. However, the keys to success all lie in this space, and I think the downfall we see in industry is not having a focused effort on this.

JA: There's two pieces to this, right? One is the chicken and the egg syndrome, and the other is the fact that we operate in silos. I'm not even sure, for example, a maintenance manager understands what budget lies out there for training through HR to use it to their advantage. That's one piece.

The chicken and the egg piece is, companies now are going, “well, to invest in people, it requires a cost” but again, if you don't invest in people, you'll never get better. So it's kind of, uh, this dilemma that they're in. And of course, when things start going south, the first thing that gets eliminated from every space is the training program, and then right behind that is their reliability program. And so you lose knowledge, skill, development, that type of thing, as well as the overall reliability of your facility.

GW: Think about what's happening right now. You have all these companies that are in dire need of people, and if they've had a longstanding history of not investing in their people, they've probably are on the worst end of that spectrum where people are leaving the organization to go elsewhere. It's not always about pay.

Step 12: Continuous Improvement

The final step is continuous improvement. Completing the first 11 steps does not guarantee that you will be efficient going forward.

JA: Effectiveness by definition is doing the right things. We've talked about all those foundational elements that you need in order to have the right things. Efficiency is just improving upon current practices and driving out more waste, making them better.

How can we make those processes more efficient? Things like planning and scheduling, things like executing work and setting up routes and using your PdM technologies, even on the operator end, focusing more on quality issues like incoming raw materials, making those processes more efficient. That's your continuous improvement phase and continuous improvement focuses on efficiency.

GW: In the earlier steps, we talked about things like operator inspections and things of that kind, so previously we weren't doing anything. We try to reduce the change over time by saying do it faster, and so what that leads to is skipped steps. In the effectiveness approach we're saying, ok, you need to inspect this part of the machine to make sure it's going to operate well, make sure the settings and gaps are right.

In the continuous improvement phase, we're trying to see how we can do the right things more efficiently. And so we create a jig for the person to do the setup and make sure that yes, they no longer have to take a measurement, they put this piece in place, slide something over, tighten it, it's going to be perfect because the jig is perfect. We've made their ability to do it faster, and created more efficiency, which can in turn reduce the changeover time, but it didn't change the effectiveness of the changeover.

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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