How to move beyond the blame game

Dec. 16, 2019
Is operations/facilities your foe or friend? Better communication will make the difference.

In part two of this two-part article, I wrap up my day-in-the-life vision of a more-perfect work world with what was formerly my truth on the ground. Along the way, I have also recapped the tactics (Go Ahead, Number One) that enabled our facility to move away from being not so perfect and to move toward more-proactive best practices.

About the Author: Steven J. Tuttle

Steven J. Tuttle, CMRP, is a senior maintenance planner, and most recently presented at 2019 Reliable Plant. Contact him at [email protected].

Read the first part online, and then read on find out how the story ends.

Perfect world

One of the greatest challenges that I faced was doing walk-downs, interviews, and planning/scheduling/kitting (P/S/K) with operations and facilities, all while standardizing our work-order terminology. But I now had complete verbiage that everyone understood, based on the OEM blueprints and with alphanumeric tags that identified building/floor/room number/equipment tag number/building support to a 50-foot radius. The culture had changed and matured enough that any delays caused by incorrect information were brought up to the executive level and were backed up through complete written documentation. Getting the supervisors and area managers on board was the easiest part here; simply put, they were held accountable for their KPIs ,and they were empowered to kick substandard work orders back to the originator before they were sent to me.

Not-so world

I recalled the days of old where I would get a work order that read “fix leak” and that was it. No originator or number to contact, no supervisor, no area manager, no listing of building, floor, office/lab/production equipment involved – NOTHING. You walked an entire facility looking for something that may or may not exist, knowing that it was a no-win battle.

Go Ahead, Number One. I instituted the “Tag It and Bag It” approach. A concern from operations or facilities (Ops/Fac) could be wire-tied to the area needing maintenance and, because it was a two-part tag, it could also be attached to the original work order. At least I had a starting point with a name, phone number, and area. Sure, sometimes tags got lost or duplicated, but it was better than having nothing at all.

Getting cooperative leadership from Ops/Fac was more than impossible in the beginning, so this is the way things changed: You and I would walk down the area and then create a phone/email chain/meeting for documentation regarding the time, materials, and crafts required to complete the repair in a timely manner. Agreements would be made and work would be P/S/K’d to start on said day within 15.0 minutes. If you were still operating or running over due to a customer changing your circumstances, or if your operator was not showing up as agreed for testing/shutdown/startup with LOTO verification, then fine, your work would be delayed and we would come back later.

From that point on, Ops/Fac embraced the idea of calling me ahead of time and advising me whether it was on- or off-schedule, which allowed me to trim my response times and circle back to other stakeholders ASAP regarding the schedule. Sure, there were some closed-door discussions with me having a stack of email chains printed out for all to review, but in the end, over time, it all worked out for the best.

Did legal get involved on my behalf more than a few times? Most certainly. Was I faced with termination of employment more than a few times? Oh, yeah.

Did my numbers prove my methodology? CHECK and MATE.

Perfect world

At this point in my day, breaks and lunch were within 5.0 minutes max of start/stop time every day. These were good times to check in with my teams, given that “schedule breakers” were now at a minimum.

Not-so world

These were the days of “planner’s lunches” and “planner’s breaks,” which historically were taken sometime between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. They were taken while people were on the road getting parts, or on speakerphone planning the next job(s), while arranging contractor walk-downs, filling out work permits, etc.
I was not pressured to “make time” by forgoing lunches or breaks; my staff members weren’t, either. Simply put, my lost-time injuries and morale suffered too much in the name of “progress” to let that happen, so I enacted something I termed the “floater program.”

Go Ahead, Number One. Simply put, a “floater” was an extra person on rounds (usually me in the beginning) who would relieve a given tech to let them go on break/lunch. The floater would then take that 15–30 minutes of time to interview workers, update job information, or otherwise assist the job at hand and allow other assigned worker(s) the same opportunity. I captured information in the beginning and was seen as an asset on the ground making a difference.

Perfect world

My current afternoons to the end of day were spent updating job plans, P/S/K’ing work into the system, reversing and upgrading engineering work, and arranging downtime with the Ops/Fac personnel in those areas. I would update the status in the CMMS systems and send out notifications/reminders as requested.

The rest of the day was spent entering information on new equipment and setting up minifiles, spare-parts lists, and asset trees. Additional add-ons included setting up training classes and keeping records up to date.

Not-so world 

My afternoons consisted of running from job to job, reactive-planning on the way, and talking with OEM suppliers to get expedited parts on verbal POs. Getting downtime from Ops/Fac was touch and go at best, as they had their own customers to answer to, and follow-through communication was nonexistent. I got pulled into a lot of delays on the ground due to parts accessibility and lack of technical skills on my own team. I also had to be a cheerleader and peacemaker simply because of personality issues.

Worst of all was hearing the common excuse: “Steve-O ordered me the wrong parts again.” Let me see: The written data chain proved that you weren’t available for the walkdown/briefing before the job started; your 201 file shows previous/current training for this job; the OEM rep and I went over best practices with you; and we P/S/K’d the job to “factory-standard repairs.” When that one O-ring seal that never ever went bad did, the plant was 15 minutes and one phone call away from the OEM supplier, who was verified to be open on Saturday until 5 p.m. And then, this lack of resources was the excuse you gave on Monday for not getting the job done, even though you assured me that you could give 8–10 hours of productive overtime with a full schedule of PM and repair work ready to go (which you never did, as you sat in the break room all day long). Yet you never called or texted saying you needed assistance, and the supervisor on call that weekend was me as well? How is that my fault?

Well, after your file was pulled that Monday morning and reviewed for a fifth time on progressive disciplinary action by myself, the Ops/Fac manager, the maintenance manager, and the maintenance director, I had to “walk of shame” you to your car and claim your badge. That was one of the worst days I’ve ever had. 

Your Space

This article is part of our monthly Your Space column. Read more from our Your Space series.

Perfect world

The end of my day stopped at 5 p.m. +/- 7.0 minutes and my phone/pager went silent. My P/S/K folder was ready to go with a “pass-off” meeting to the second-shift crew and a rollover note for third shift written and emailed. I then began my trip home knowing that the journey was well worth it. 

Not-so world

In the past, going home meant needing to work on the type of “not-so world” practices already discussed.

The big finish

So, what did we learn? I wrote this through the eyes of a very hands-on, passionate expert with 13-plus years of service in the field, having been there and done that over my entire career from broom pusher to degreed mechanical engineer with a Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP) certification.

I hope you can take the valuable time that you spent in reading this article and present key ideas to your leadership. I hope that through time and with written documentation (MTTF/MTTR/repair and PM optimization job plans with color photography and accurate time studies that are updated on a regular basis), you can encourage change at your plant, and that others on your team will embrace it.

Remember: No one is perfect and there is no perfect world, yet. We are going to have to think out of the box, re-evaluate our viewpoints on Americans’ lack of interest in the skilled trades, and realize we may have to change our ways if we wish to survive and be the leaders in tomorrow’s business world as well.

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