Using The Power Of Marginal Gains To Improve Maintenance And Reliability At Your Facility

Using the Power of Marginal Gains to improve maintenance and reliability at your facility

July 18, 2023
Adrian Messer says consider making many small improvements that will add up to big gains before you know it.

It’s July as I write this column, which means that we are slightly over the halfway point of 2023. As we enter the second half of the year, it's an opportune time to assess and enhance the maintenance and reliability practices at your facility. By implementing proactive strategies and embracing modern technologies, you can optimize asset performance, reduce downtime, and boost overall productivity.

Improvements happen gradually, and small-scale improvements start to compound on the previous day’s accomplishments. If you get better at something by just 1% per day for one year, you’ll be 37 times better by the end of the year. It’s the Power of Marginal Gains, the philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do to achieve a significant increase when you put them all together.

Comprehensive assessment. To begin, conduct a thorough assessment of your facility's current maintenance practices. Identify areas of improvement, potential bottlenecks, and equipment that requires immediate attention. Engage with maintenance personnel and gather insights from their experiences to gain a comprehensive understanding of existing challenges and opportunities for improvement.

PM program evaluation. Preventive maintenance plays a vital role in minimizing unexpected breakdowns and extending the lifespan of equipment. Consider creating a preventive maintenance (PM) schedule that outlines routine inspections, calibration, lubrication, and replacements. Each PM must be a task that can identify potential failures early, and procedures for action should be taken when things aren’t in check with the assets. Leverage data from your computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to track and schedule maintenance tasks, ensuring they are performed on time.

Leverage existing data. Now is as good a time as any to examine your existing KPIs that are directly related to the effectiveness of your maintenance & reliability program and initiatives. By scrutinizing KPIs like PM Compliance, Backlog, Mean Time to Repair, and Corrective vs. Reactive work, you may discover insights into areas where improvements can be made by just adjusting the way that work is executed without having to make large investments into the program.

Training and skills development. There’s also still time left in 2023 to enhance the training and skill development of your maintenance & reliability staff. Consider investing in training courses that will provide them with comprehensive training on new equipment, technologies, and maintenance methodologies. Encourage continuous learning and the adoption of best practices within the industry. By empowering your team with the right knowledge, you equip them to tackle challenges effectively.

Communication between teams. Change is never easy, but work to promote collaboration between maintenance personnel, operations teams, and management. Encourage open communication and information sharing regarding equipment performance, maintenance issues, and improvement ideas. In daily or weekly regularly scheduled maintenance meetings and cross-functional team meetings, have a facilitator who can encourage the exchange of communication, which can bring valuable insights to light and drive collaborative problem-solving.

Benchmark for future success. Strive for continuous improvement by benchmarking your facility's maintenance practices against industry standards and best-in-class organizations. If you want to get better, you have to know what “better” looks like. Rely on standards that are updated frequently, such as the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) Maintenance & Reliability Best Practices Guide. Online platforms like the SMRP Exchange enable you to ask any question; responses are generally from M&R experts, and these online exchanges are usually free or free to members. Take advantage of what they offer. It’s a great way to collaborate with industry peers and learn from their experiences, which can help your efforts to implement innovative solutions for improvements.

Emphasize safety. Never stop putting an emphasis on safety and compliance. Prioritize safety in all maintenance activities. Ensure that personnel have the necessary safety training and protective equipment, and follow standard operating procedures. Comply with relevant regulations and industry standards to mitigate risks and maintain a safe working environment for all. Unfortunately, there’s been some headline-making news of accidents in industrial manufacturing. Learn from these events and don’t become complacent when it comes to safety and alarms.

Improving maintenance and reliability is an ongoing process that requires a proactive and collaborative approach by everyone in the organization. Regularly assess your progress (i.e., identify and track your Marginal Gains) and make necessary adjustments to ensure long-term success in your maintenance and reliability practices. Making improvements to your maintenance & reliability program doesn’t always require making huge investments in projects and consultants. Start from within, see where you’re at, know where you want to go, have a plan to get there, make marginal gains each day, and celebrate the wins!

About the Author

Adrian Messer | CMRP, Vice President of Executive Services, Progressive Reliability

Adrian Messer has worked in the maintenance and reliability field for nearly 20 years. During that time, he has worked with manufacturing and distribution facilities across multiple industries helping to improve their plant’s asset reliability through improved condition monitoring. Adrian is Manager of US Operations at SDT Ultrasound Solutions. Previously he worked with Progressive Reliability to advise companies on reliability-focused contracting & hiring and to find M&R professionals for open jobs.

Adrian is a graduate of Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science in Management with a concentration in Human Resources. He is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP) through the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) and is actively involved with SMRP on a local and National level. He resides in Anderson, South Carolina.

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