Thursday, October 30, 2014

Software Got You Stuck? Do Not Let RCA Applications Hold Up Your Root Cause Efforts

Let us be clear, root cause analysis is a way of thinking not a software application yet their are sites that are spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours learning software instead of solving problems. Software is not inherently bad but you don't need a sports car to learn to drive.
If you are getting started with your RCA efforts and software is part of your plan then be aware of these potential problems:
Software can limit team involvement: Facilitator is head down in the computer rather than up truly facilitating responses from the team.
Software can slow the flow of ideas especially if it is slow to create or move causes and links: time required to create or edit means other are waiting and forgetting points and causes.
Software can complicate reporting: The simplest and most effective reporting for most sites is the A3 style RCA report which will be the topic of the next blog post.
Computers create barriers between facilitators and the RCA team. If you have to collect the information directly to the software then you should consider a facilitator and a recorder or scribe.
If you can problem solve without the software or by capturing the information after the analysis then here are a few tips and benefits of a software free RCA.
Use sticky notes and a big blank wall or a white board. (3M's Super Sticky PostIt Notes work well)
This allows good group involvement by allowing them to write and share or verbally share and you capture the causes.This gives you two streams of causes in two different communication styles. If two people share the same or similar cause than you stack them and both participants know they were heard. This can be key to good facilitation.
With sticky notes you can start by understanding the sequence of events and include any time stamped data from PLCs, cameras etc. and then once you identify key event, or forcing functions as they are sometimes known, you can transition to fault and logic tree with ease. This will provide a better understanding of the systemic and latent causes of the key event.
With the very hands nature of the sticky method you can move and reorganize causal chains quickly and as you discover new causes they can be added with ease and with out huge disruptions to the flow of ideas. When you are done you simply take a quick picture of the analysis via the ubiquitous cell phone and paste this into your chosen report format.  These can then be shared with others electronically.
The point of today's post is not that software is bad. It is simply that it is not required to get started and make substantial improvements in your facility. Many of our student save hundreds of thousands of dollars for their sites using nothing more than the sticky notes and a sound root cause methodology. Once root cause becomes part of your business culture then you can capture, catalog, and share more effectively with the help of software but don't let it hold you back from the start.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Two Things Engineers Consistently Get Wrong

As I think back over the years of site assessments, reliability implementation, and coaching of facilities and engineers globally there are two concepts that consistently show up as weak areas with engineers in manufacturing environments.
The first is true in-depth "root causes" problem solving (this is different than the "engineers jumping to conclusions process" that many employ) and the second is relying on technical solutions rather than culture change to solve problems. They both go hand in hand but are only completed at a precursory level by many.
Let's first look at "root causes" problem solving. (There are more post on this topic here) I have put the quotation marks around it to say that I don't believe that all problems need to be addressed at lowest root causes levels but the problem should be understood to that level so that the engineer truly comprehends the systemic and latent roots or drivers of the problem. These base roots many time rest in the culture of the facility and must be known to truly lower risk of reoccurrence. Secondly there is never just one root cause as there are multiple things that must have existed and instantaneously happen to allow unwanted events to occur hence the "s" on causes. This is why five why and fish bones, which are great for creating a culture of problem solving, are not the tools of serious engineering problem solving. You need to be able to see all of the causal factors that came together to create the event and determine all the possible ways the problem could be addressed to insure a solution is selected that lowers the risk of re-occurrence, creates the best business case, and is sustainable in the long term. Many times engineers go after technical solutions like redesign when the best business case is in changing the culture or behaviors that led to the event.
This brings us to the cultural change piece that is so often ignored as an option. We as engineers are trained to think about technical solutions and therefor many times ignore the people or cultural solutions. Some examples of these technical solutions are replacing a lubricated bearing with a sealed bearing to prevent lubrication based failures or changing adjustable components to fixed designs to prevent operator set up issues. These may be good solutions at the micro level but when the problem is macro and you have 100s of assets and components with these issues and the cost to implement can increase significantly. In these cases educating the work force on lubrication practices and set up requirements, and the included systems and processes can be lower total cost solutions. Behavior change is hard and can take much time and focus but the quantity of defects that can be eliminated or prevented is extensive. So as an example if a bearing failed due to over lubrication and we replace it with a sealed bearing and remove the fitting, a very technical solution, we have eliminated that one failure point but if we tackle lubrication and and the cultural issue of precision maintenance as a whole we can correct lubrication issues more broadly and solve many thousands of over lubrication issues across the facility. We can still bring in technical solutions like UE Systems Grease Caddy to help ease the cultural change process but now we are focusing on causes that lie lower in the casual chain and more greatly reducing risk to the facility as a whole.
So in conclusion, if you are thinking about your personal development plan or that of your engineers you may want to consider developing a strong problem solving methodology that looks both deep into the problem and broadly into the contributing factors. It should have business case thinking weaved through out. It also needs a solid process for execution and follow up. It does not have to be complicated but you will need to provide the training required and ensure that your engineers can execute. And, they must consider the behavior or cultural change solutions with the technical solutions to the problems your facility faces. This will have substantial returns on your effort if you stay the course. Reach out to me if you want to hear the success stories others are having in this area.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Introducing our New Sustaining Skills Video Series: Having fun with education and delivering a return on your training dollar

Having Fun with Education!
 Boring is Not Better!
You can laugh about Reliability!

Click here to learn more about this on demand training offering on the Eruditio website and see the full demo

If you like education that is relevant, innovative, and available when you need it...

Leave behind education that does not fit your culture and get a customized solution for your sites

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What is a flipped classroom?

The flipped classroom is a what is known in education as a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home or work before the face to face class session, while in-class time is devoted to application exercises, projects work, or group discussions.
The video lecture or elearning is often seen as the key ingredient in the flipped approach.
These lectures being either created by the instructor and posted online or selected from an online repository like our Sustaining Skills Video Series.
The notion of a flipped classroom draws on such concepts as active learning, student engagement, hybrid course design, and of course podcasting. The value of a flipped class is in the repurposing of class time into a workshop where students can inquire about lecture content, test their skills in applying knowledge, and interact with one another in hands-on activities. During class sessions, instructors function as coaches or advisers, encouraging students
in individual inquiry and collaborative effort.
In our situation we have seen where it lowers student frustration associated with first time application of knowledge and improves the ability of the student to apply concepts into their "real world" and specific situation thanks to in session face to face dialogue with the coach/instructor. This tool is used in both our Applied Learning Curriculum and Inspired Blended Learning Maintenance and Reliability Core Skills offerings.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Understanding Asset Related Criticality: Managing asset by criticality (Part 3)

 Darrin Wikoff shares the final installment in his three part series on Asset Criticality.


Once we understand the meaning behind the number, the criticality analysis model becomes a tool used to develop the asset management plans.  For those assets that are within the top 20%, reliability specialists will typically proceed with a Failure Modes Effects Analysis (FMEA) to assess the risk priority associated with each type of failure, and to determine the appropriate corrective actions.  But we again must consider the critical characteristics that are common throughout the organization, across all assets, critical or not.  In doing so, asset management becomes a plant wide process.  If “Mission Impact” is commonly critical, than Engineering may need to considered equipment redundancy plans.  For those organizations that find “Spares Lead Time” particularly critical, a Materials Management improvement program should be initiated.  Those organizations that struggle to manage the cost of “Corrective Maintenance History”, Maintenance should evaluate existing preventive maintenance effectiveness or examine the methods by which work is executed.
When managing asset-related risks, we only have a few fundamental decisions we can make, control it, eliminate it, or accept the risk. Understanding how non-conformances impact your organization’s ability to meet strategic objectives is the first step towards establishing an economical asset management system. To learn more about Asset Criticality Analysis or Asset Management Planning, please contact me at or visit us at

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Understanding Asset Related Risk: Part 2 What can be learned from the number?

Darrin Wikoff shares the second post in the series on criticality.
This is the point where most asset management processes go wrong.  Many models in use today will set a criticality ranking based solely on the scoring range.  For example, an asset which scores between 75 and 100 may be considered “critical”, while an asset that scores less than 25 may be “expendable”.  This practice undermines the entire concept of criticality analysis.  The organization might as well give each asset a number from 1 to 5 and call all things equal.  This grouping of scores provides no meaningful data for establishing or revising asset management plans, nor does it delineate between “critical” assets to illustrate which assets are regulatory controlled, mission critical, or simply unreliable.
We need to recognize that all assets are not created equal.  We also need to remember that the model we are trying to implement is an “analysis”, which by definition means to scrutinize or examine the data collected to gain knowledge for the purpose of making intelligent, data-driven decisions.  The results of our analysis should not only identify those assets that are within the top 20%, but should also indicate the leading characteristic that makes each asset critical.
Using the Table 1 example, we might conclude that the “No. 12 Cooling Water Pump” is a critical asset as it falls within the top 20% guidelines, but the score of ‘80’ alone tells us nothing about how to manage this “critical” asset.  Because we categorized the risk attributes, we are able to quickly identify that by reducing the consequences associated with a single-point-failure, through Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED), ready service spares, or properly managed critical spares inventory, we can lower the criticality ranking, allowing Maintenance and Operations to focus their efforts on the truly unreliable, unpredictable assets.
The last post next week will talk about "managing assets by criticality"

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Understanding Asset Related Risk: a three part series

In this weeks post Darrin Wikoff shares the first of of a series on criticality.
Although most asset management processes are based on managing risk, many organizations fail to fully understand the meaning behind an “asset criticality” ranking.  Most asset management professionals will tell you that the “critical” assets have the greatest impact on the plant’s mission, be it production rate, quality of product produced, or cost per product produced.  Acting under this mindset alone, most professionals overlook the single most important characteristic that makes each asset “critical” in the first place.  Through proper construction of criticality analysis models, you will be able to illustrate what management plan enhancements must be made in order to effectively control or mitigated asset-related risks.
The first step in setting up a criticality analysis model is to define those characteristics that will be used to analyze each asset.  These characteristics should cover a wide range of business attributes, such as:
•    Customer impact – how do non-conformances impact your customer?
•    Safety and environmental impact – What’s the potential for a regulatory non-compliance?
•    Ability to isolate single-point-failures – Do you have a workaround in place in the event of failure?
•    Preventive Maintenance (PM) history – How much is your organization spending trying to control known risks today?
•    Corrective Maintenance (CM) history – How much have you spent recovering from non-conformances?
•    Mean-Time-Between-Failures (MTBF) – How often does a non-conformance occur?
•    Probability of failure – How likely is it to occur again in the future?
•    Spares lead time – When spares are needed, are they easy to obtain?
•    Asset replacement value – What will you spend to replace the asset if the risk can’t be managed?
•    Planned utilization rate – Is this asset something you really need?
Each characteristic should then be weighted to identify significance – what’s most important to the business within the Asset Management Strategy.  The greater the scale the easier it will be to accurately identify “critical” assets, however, the total score possible should not exceed 100, at a minimum.  By setting a limit of 100, you are re-enforcing the “weight” of each characteristic.
Next week we will look at "What can be learned from the Number?"

Friday, July 18, 2014

Precision Maintenance: Belts, Chains, and Sprockets

Today's post by Brandon Weil will add the element of precision to your program.

Belts, chains, and sprockets, chances are you have at least one if not all of these in your facility, and chances are you’re relying heavily on experience and judgment instead of quantitative inspection criteria. All too often the importance of proper inspection techniques and defined replacement criteria for these critical parts are overlooked. Don’t believe me? Just pull up some of your PM inspection procedure, discuss the topic at a tool box meeting, or observe someone performing the inspection, you might be surprised at the range of answers and opinions. If there isn’t a specific measurement or min/max criteria then you’re leaving the inspection up to chance. Another thing to consider is if these parts aren’t being installed properly in the first place you will undoubtedly see premature failures and reduced operational life, inspection criteria applies to installation practice requirements as well.
The good news is that you can start improving the quality of these inspections; all you need are a few basic low-cost tools Click Here and you will find a document with inspection criteria for these three parts to get you started. Improving your PM inspection procedure, putting the right tools in the right hands, and setting quantitative standards for your inspection is a very low-cost high-return activity that can start paying dividends today.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Preventive Maintenance and Exercise: Three ways they are the same and one way they are different

Preventive Maintenance can be a lot like exercise but we will talk about just three of the ways they are the same and one major difference in today's post.
The three ways they are the same include the following:
Both of them can prolong the life of the asset. That asset may be a body or a machine but by doing the right activity at the right time it gives you the improved reliability that you need long term.
Both of them when done incorrectly will cause premature failure. If you go to the gym and start by lifting the wrong amount of weight or lift it in the wrong way you could pull a muscle, tear a ligament, or even worse. If you lubricate your equipment with the wrong grease or while the asset is idle you can also induce failures and unreliability. You need to understand what the machine needs in ever category from volumes, to clearances, to loads, to tolerances, to conditions. The best way to understand this is by completing a failure modes effects analysis to identify risk and then ensuring the right thing is done at the right time.
Both have to be targeted and planned. If you run off to the gym and only lift with you arms and never focus on your core and legs then you are destine to under perform if not suffer a complete breakdown. Everyone has seen the guy at the gym that does this. He stands like an ostrich with skinny legs and big arms. He looks like he could topple at any moment. The underling problem is  weakness in his core and legs which makes him prone to failure in real world situations. He needs a well balanced plan that includes all the major muscle groups. Without this plan he could possibly focus on the things he likes (the vanity muscles) and not the things he needs (the core). The same goes for the equipment in the facility. If you don't have a well defined equipment maintenance plan and the discipline to follow it you end up with equipment that is not serviced properly and unreliability makes its way into your area. Typically this will mean that only the easy task are done or only the task that are most obvious while the hard or cumbersome PM activities are either not identified or not completed at the right time.
So how are they Different?
They are different because you can skip one exercise in your routine but the one skipped PM step can send you to the bottom of the ocean. Exercises improve and preserve condition but PMs inspect and preserve condition. For example if you skip one visual inspection of a sealed connection and you miss the slight leak it could become a catastrophic blow out by the next scheduled date. So even though some days you might skip one step in your workout don't do the same to your PMs.

In the end you need to take care of your body like a well oiled machine and take care of your machines like a well trained athlete. Train hard but with a plan and follow the procedure to prevent failures. Use FMEAs to identify risk of failure and design your equipment maintenance plan to mitigate these risk. Build procedure that show what to do, how to do it, and when.  This will reduce the risk to you and the facility. Oh...and don't skip leg day in the PM world.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Adult Education on board an aircraft carrier: The Institute at Patriots Point has launched.

We are very excited to announce the following news.

The Institute at Patriots Point TAKES OFF from Charleston's Silicon Harbor with Adult Education on board an aircraft carrier

Mt Pleasant, South Carolina May 27, 2014:  
Patriots Point Development Authority and Eruditio, LLC a local provider of sophisticated leadership and business education and training have just established “The Institute at Patriots Point” onboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston harbor.  This newly formed relationship blends one of the most progressive adult education and training providers with one of the country’s most unique training venues. 
Operating exclusively onboard The USS Yorktown, The Institute at Patriots Point incorporates all the Patriot’s Point’s existing adult training facilities including The Leadership Institute and its high end training and conference capabilities and the Flight Academy with its five F-35 flight simulators. 
Eruditio, LLC (known internationally for its training in Leadership, Reliability Engineering, and Asset Management) will use The Institute at Patriots Point as its home base delivering Applied Learning Programs that are application focused educational curriculums that routinely generate a ten times return on investment for companies worldwide.  Managing Director of The Institute at Patriots Point, Shon Isenhour said “Using the Yorktown and its incredible history and facilities as part of the learning process creates an educational environment unlike any other in the world.  It changes the perspective of the student and opens their mind to accept new knowledge!”  Many of the programs offered by The Institute at Patriots Point (including their Leadership and Team Building offerings) incorporate not only the training rooms on the Yorktown, but the new flight simulators and other special Yorktown and Patriots Point attractions as well. The Institute at Patriot’s Point and its facilities are all open to the public and the local business community for any and all types of training and development with advance reservations.  Contact Shon Isenhour at 843-810-4446 for more information on education in the steps of heroes.
            About Eruditio, LLC
Eruditio, LLC is made up of a team of educators with over 40 years of experience in adult education and training in corporate America as well as globally. Our team is focused on helping you solve your organization’s issues through project-based learning with direct application. Please contact us at, on twitter @EruditioLLC or the web

Patriots Point, on the Charleston Harbor in Mount Pleasant, SC, is home of Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum and a fleet of National Historic Landmark ships, and the only Vietnam Support Base Camp in the U.S. Patriots Point is also headquarters to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the agency’s official Medal of Honor Museum. Visit for more details, or find us at @patriots_point on Twitter and Instagram, and Facebook at

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Precision Maintenance: The Torque Wrench

The automotive industry has had a bout with torque related issues recently. This has included over and under torqued items that have lead to failures and even deaths. We see torque related issues constantly in manufacturing facility root cause analysis. Bearing with reduced clearances and life due to over tightening of the housings and loose components due to improper bolt type and complete disregard for torque specifications are just a couple of recent examples.  Part of the solution is proper use of a torque wrench. A torque wrench is a precision instrument designed to apply a specific amount of force to a fastener. Whether tightening head bolts on a small block V-8 engine, lugs for tire and wheel installation or inspecting fastener tolerances on high-performance equipment, it is extremely important that proper care is used.
Guidelines are typically provided noting acceptable torque ranges, the order in which specific fasteners are tightened and the number of times a fastener must be tightened and loosened to ensure uniform torque application. You must also be mindful of the presence of thread lubricants and the age of the bolt or fastener being used as these affect the torque required. Failure to properly torque fasteners can lead to equipment damage, personal injury or worse.To help you prevent torque problems in your facility I have collected a few tips for your use. There is also a video here for you visual learners.

It is important to follow acceptable safety, maintenance, and use practices, such as:
1. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions regarding torque direction, proper force, torque
pattern/sequence, use or non-use of lubrication on fasteners and torque “tighten/release” cycles.
2. Do not exceed the recommended working range of the torque wrench. Reliable measurements are
based on a percentage of the working range. In general, most mechanical wrenches have a useable
range from 20% to 100% of full scale. Most electronic wrenches have a useable range from 10% to
100% of full scale.
3. Do not use handle extensions or torque multipliers/cheater bars as we called them unless specifically allowed by the torque wrench
4. If you have a torque wrench calibration/ verification stand test the wrench prior to each use.
5. Always inspect the tool and check for worn or cracked sockets. Properly lubricate and replace
worn parts.
6. Avoid dropping or sliding a torque wrench. Dropping a torque wrench on a hard surface can cause
the instrument to lose reliable calibration. If you suspect that a wrench has been dropped, have the
tool inspected by the manufacturer or reputable calibration service.
7. Always store a torque wrench in a protective case and/or location when not in use.
8. Avoid exposure to temperature extremes, high humidity, fluid immersion and corrosive environments. That means do not put them in the parts washer...
9. If using a click-type torque wrench, always store it at the lowest level on the scale.
10. Avoid marking, etching or placing labels on torque wrenches.
11. Use a torque wrench to apply a specific torque value during the final assembly process. Do not use a torque wrench as the primary means of tightening or loosening fasteners.
12. As most torque wrenches are length specific, always grasp the torque wrench in the center of the
handle. If two hands need to be used, place one hand on top of the other.
13. Apply torque in a slow, methodical manner and avoid sudden, “jerking” movements.
14. When the wrench signals (by clicking, beeping or lights) that a specific torque has been reached,
stop pulling immediately.
15. After 5000 cycles or up to one year of use, whichever comes first, have your torque wrench
inspected and re-calibrated by the manufacturer or reputable calibration service.

Precision maintenance is key to eliminating your infant mortality and reoccurring failures. A systematic torque application program can get you on your way.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Press Release: Spin-off of iBL from Allied Reliability Group to Eruditio, LLC

We are excited to announce this great news: Spin-off of iBL from Allied Reliability Group to Eruditio, LLC

Charleston, South Carolina – March 27, 2014 – Allied Reliability Group (ARG) is pleased to introduce Eruditio, LLC as their newest partner company and provider of the inspired Blended Learning (iBL) offering.  Allied Reliability Group’s iBL offering has redefined active learning in the maintenance and reliability space and proven that project based experiences can have greater than a 10 to 1 return on investment.  Unfortunately, ARG’s ability to focus resources on this dynamic product has been limited.

“The iBL applied learning process and the real world examples from over one hundred students will continue to build an unrivaled educational experience fostered by a fully dedicated focus from the Eruditio Team.”  Explains Shon Isenhour, Partner at Eruditio, of the iBL development process.

As a result, ARG has resolved to spin off iBL as an independent business – outside of the Allied Reliability Group structure.   ARG leadership have worked hand-in-hand with Shon Isenhour and Darrin Wikoff (formerly of ARG) to license the iBL brand and continue to deliver iBL as part of their own company, Eruditio, LLC.

“We are extremely excited about the spin off.” Comments John Schultz, Partner at Allied Reliability Group.  “ARG was founded on an entrepreneurial spirit- now we can continue that history by allowing those most passionate and invested in iBL to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.”

The framework of this transition creates distinct advantages for ARG, Eruditio and our clients. “The partnership with Eruditio allows us to continue to offer iBL to our customers with continuing confidence that they will deliver ever increasing value which is aligned to our Mission Statement.”  Adds Schultz.

“Eruditio is looking forwad to continuing the focus on application based learning and generating  documented return on investment for our clients. Having the depth of ARG to support our clients when needed delivers a one stop solution.” said Darrin Wikoff of the partnership’s future.

About Eruditio, LLC
Eruditio, LLC is made up of a team educators with over 40 years of experience in adult education and training in corporate America as well as globally. Our team is focused on helping you solve your company’s issues through project-based learning.

About Allied Reliability Group
Allied Reliability Group offers best-in-industry maintenance, reliability, and operational consulting and services, training, staffing, and integrated software solutions servicing the industrial and manufacturing sector.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Education Without Application Is Just Entertainment: 3 things that can help create a return on education.

Having spent the better part of the last 15 years educating people from all over the world in topics like reliability, problem solving, software, and leadership, there is one thing that I have noticed. Many companies are buying a lot of expensive entertainment. Why? Ask yourself this simple question: Of the last three training sessions you attended, did you actually use what you learned to make a difference in the way your business performs? If you did not use what you learned then I can not see how that class was anything more than two... three.... or five days of entertainment.
How many Planner Schedulers have attended a class only to go back and function as a parts chaser and relief supervisor?
How many root cause analysis classes have been sold where the attendee never once performs and documents a root cause solution?
So here are three ways to help your organization create a return on your educational expenses.
Retention: To increase the amount of new knowledge your learner bring back to your facility make sure that the instructor is familiar with your process. Work to ensure the material is tailored for your processes, business situation and most importantly your audience. That off the shelf class may be part of your entertainment problem. If a person is attending software training don't send them through 5 days of training when they only need a day. This lead to a tuned out non-learner who will more than likely miss the parts that they need to know just out of sheer boredom. Take the time to map out the skills you need the person to have and the learning objectives associated with those skills. Then the training can be customized to only provide the points and topics they need to be successful. This will limit boredom and increase retention.
Application: Once a student has seen a new way to do something in the training environment they must apply the skills nearly immediately. This helps with the previous topic of retention but it also creates success and real world examples that can be used to continue the change process. We use project based learning where each student has a charter with goals and metrics that they drive by applying what they have learned and generating success and a return on our training effort. They also have a coach that works with them virtually to help with that tough transition from learner to practitioner.
Culture manipulation: As the student create success this will breed a desire to have more success. This is one way to help with cultural change.  The second is to ensure the leadership both understand the goal of the training and what process and behaviors that the training should change. This allows them to ask the right questions of the student to propel the implementation forward. "What is important to my boss is important to me." We again use the learning project charter to facilitate the discussion with the manager and the student and their project coach who is helping them along the way. With a pull from leadership and the success of quick application you can begin to manipulate the culture into the the target state.

Here are my three ideas. What other things are you doing to make your education something more than entertainment. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

How Maintenance is Like a NASCAR Spotter at Daytona

So I was up late last night watching the Daytona 500 NASCAR race and I began to notice a few things as I watched the many issues that occurred during the 500 mile event. Here are three comparisons of how the Spotter and the Driver relate to the maintenance and operations partnership. 
Spotters look out into the future. They see oil, water, debris, weather changes, and crashes on the track well in advance. This extra time allows the spotter and the driver to plan out a path of lowest risk or maximum gain. Maintenance does this with CMMS or EAM data, life cycle costing calculations, and various simulations like reliability modeling. When maintenance uses good data to build good models and communicates effectively you can make strategic changes to reach the goal whether that is winning a race or winning a championship.
Spotters give you visibility into your blind spots
This blind spot could be beside your car where your Hans safety devices will not allow you to see or on the opposite side of the track where another car is making a strategic move. Spotters see issues and they provide you with instruction to help you get around them or benefit from them. Maintenance does the same thing using the predictive tools. They identify problems early on the P-F curve and this allows for the team to plan out the repair or replacement instead of being surprised in the heat of battle. In the picture you would always prefer to be the 5 car and not the 17. When maintenance uses the correct tools with the correct training, communicates effectively AND operations listens and provides on track feed back then together they can many times drive around the crash and not always end up in it.
Spotters only work when you have a relationship with them built on total trust.
The spotter is going to come on the radio and scream "brake and go left now." There is no time to discuss why or why not this is a good idea. You can't ask him to prove to you that that is the best course of action. You have to trust him and move immediately. That takes a strong relationship. The same holds true between Operations and Maintenance. Maintenance will come to Operations and say that a failure is imminent and action is required. If the trust is not there then it will be hard to react in a timely and effective manner.  You have to build that trust by continuously working together delivering good advise and learning from the mistakes. Making calls together and providing feedback to both sides regularly.
If Maintenance works as the Operations Spotter and they become a cohesive team then you will see the benefits in higher throughput, more on-time deliveries, and most of all higher profitability.Now lets go win the race.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

5 Questions for Making Financial Decisions within a Project

Guest Post: Making Financial Decisions within a Project is an exert from Darrin Wikoff book Centered on Excellence Return on Assets (ROA) is the indicator that supports the decision making process to determine which locations will receive capital investment from the Corporation, or additional market share as a result of their demonstrated efficiency. ROA is a very dynamic metric and works like a pendulum swinging from a fixed point based on fluctuations in net income or net assets. The idea is to create a balance by increasing revenue to offset the cost of consuming fixed assets (operating and maintaining), or reducing costs to improve margins per unit produced while reducing your net asset value through depreciation. When developing your Financial Strategy you need to ask yourself a few questions:
  • At what point will capital improvements impact my ability to maintain costs at an economical level?
  • At what point do my current costs overcome my ability to depreciate assets effectively?
  • At what point is it no longer economical to maintain existing plant assets, therefore causing me to invest capital? 
  • How much additional production volume is required to offset the impact of capital investment, assuming that the cost of maintaining these assets will remain constant or certainly not increase above current cost ratios? 
  • At what point does market value impede my ability to offset costs and eliminate the possibility of capital investment as a viable solution?
 Two fundamentally bad financial models are those that focus narrowly on “cost cutting to prosperity” or “buying your way to success”. Neither of these strategies will sustain long-term benefits for your company.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Valentines Day Message About Mismatched Communication

Mismatched communication plagues a lot of organizations and affects the implementation of new initiatives and organizational changes. This video shows a demonstration of the concept.

To reduce the probability of mismatched communication here are three things to think about before you communicate.
1.Body language: if you are talking about the exciting changes but your body is slumped the audience will perceive this and it will cause confusion and a loss of organizational support at best and distrust and rebellion at worst. 
2. The self fulfilling prophesy: If you don't think it will work then it will not and the audience will see right through you. If you don't believe in it find someone who does to be your spokesman.
3. Follow the words with action that support them. For example,
don't tell everyone how important a meeting is and then show up late.

I will leave you today with one Steven Covey quote:
"You can't talk your way out of problems you behaved yourself into."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

US Manufacturing Videos By Walmart?

Interesting to see that Walmart is talking about American manufacturing again. The last time we saw this was the late 80s I believe. Great videos of the people that make it happen.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Balanced Improvement Strategy

Guest Post this week from Darrin Wikoff
Excerpts from his book Centered On Excellence:

A Balanced Improvement Strategy
Think globally and act locally.  Management must first think of the global business, then of the local company, and strike a balance within the overall business strategy.  Focusing your business strategy on the “4-C’s” will help leadership to think globally and act locally. 
• Customer-based – Growing your business means gaining new customers while retaining existing customers.  Focus on improving “value” not just the quality of your product.
• Competition-focused – Mirroring the competition is not enough, sustainability of your business requires innovation in order to produce a superior product (cost, quality, lead-time).
• Cash management – Minimize the fixed costs within a single location and share the cost of capital throughout the corporation, in affect extending the company’s overall Return On Assets (ROA).
• Community support – Longevity of your operation is contingent on gaining the support of your community through job placement, talent management, investments and innovative supplier solutions.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Talent Management is Time Management

Guest Post this week from Darrin Wikoff
Excerpts from his book Centered On Excellence:
Time is a precious commodity and managed via a balance of people and technology.  Investing unevenly will restrict your organizations ability to manage time, in affect causing time to manage you.  As you begin to guide your organization through the improvement process, efficiency will no doubt be a leading driver.  “Time is of the essence” is the infamous line sounding from line supervisors and managers in every business.  Time is the constant when trying to measure efficiency – how much can we produce within a specific period of time.  Your organization can chose to increase the number of machines in order to increase efficiency, or you can invest in people and empower them with the knowledge and skills necessary to become more efficient in how they operate the business process.  So many organizations take time for granted and fail to realize that skilled people have the greatest impact on what we do with our time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Your Master Plan Meets My Needs! Let me tell you how.

Master planning our change initiatives is not always our favorite part of a new project but today I am going to show you why it is crucial to success when people are involved. You can forget this blog if your project does not affect people... which is approximately nearly never.
So the master plan or project plan is simple a list of task that need to be done to complete the project and reach the goals identified at the times required. To the left I have shown a performance change curve that I plan to use to show you how important it is to have this master plan and keep it up to date with progress and completion information. If you want to learn more about the curve click here. The basics are as follows:
  1. Area I on the graphic is the area where people are excited about the "new" change and they typically produce a positive change in performance due to the Hawthorne Effect. Think of it as "What is important to my boss is important to me" so they get energized and do more. Those affected by this new change will need to know what the change is and how it is going to affect them. In this area the plan provides many of the answers around what this project is, what I need to do, and how it will affect me.  
  2. Area II is the region that is the least fun. It is a valley of frustration and can be characterized as overwhelming. At this point you are trying to create and do the new way while still working with and in the old system. Everyday below the curve represents lost return on investment opportunity but this phase is a necessary part of the change process. At this point the affected people need the project broken down into small bite sized steps that are less overwhelming. A good project plan provides these small task and the sequence to keep them moving forward. 
  3. Area III is where you return to the original level of performance but have not seen the real return on investment because of the time below the initial performance line.In this area the affected individual needs to be able to see concrete examples of their progress since the project is doubtfully generating large economic returns. Here we go back to our master plan and look at and celebrate all the small task that have been completed. The plan should have many completed items at this point and those become the results needed to drive the individual forward. 
  4. Area IV is the area where you meet your performance goals and the return on investment really begins to build. At this point the master plan becomes a trophy of sorts. It shows what we have accomplished and can be used to show others how to follow in your path. This meets the needs of a person in this phase of change.
  5. Area V is all about sustaining your progress and there the completed master plan highlights the areas that were big changes for the organization and need constant reinforcement through leadership and measurements. It also can be used by a person in this phase of the change to build an audit of sorts to sustain the change.
Five areas and Five ways to use the master plan to make your next project more successful. Good luck!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Change is Hard Period... Here Are Five Way To Make It Easier.

So as I look back on 2013 it was a year of extreme change for me. It may have been the same for you. I had more change then any other part of my life. Some was work and some was personal but it all can feel nearly the same if the situation is right. So how do we deal with all of that change? How do we help our ourselves, our peers, our employees, or our bosses deal with the change that is inevitable in 2014. Here are five things that helped me and I hope they can help you too.

  • Don't change just to change  (Need help evaluating change click here.) Have a reason, a plan, and a goal. Change is not always good but if you have put in the thought and are ready to move forward or if it has been forced on you then you must work to create a plan to deal with the change and identify where you want to be at various points moving forward in time. These may be metrics or concrete locations or even just feelings that you want to have but know what you want and by when. Document it. This plan brings structure to what can be a really unstructured time. It also meets your needs as you move through the phases of the change process. Next identify what you have to do to make those things happen. Many of the activities take time. For example affected people don't change over night. Plan for that dwell time. This will make the plan more realistic and attainable.
  • Identify for what might go wrong during the change and then prepare and plan for it. If you can communicate what might happen and that there is a proactive plan for addressing it. This can provide comfort the organization. I have a risk planning tool here that might help.
  • Find support. Friends in the business or personal world that have been through it.  What ever "it" is. They can provide advice or just listen when the change is tough. They bring good cheer and they bring a different perspective. I could not have made it through the year without these people to help me along the way.Thank you to each of you! If you are looking for others who can relate to the types of challenges we face in reliability then you might try attendee conferences like SMRP, IMC, and MARCON.
  • Consider employing an expert. If you are trail blazing and no one in your network has been through the change don't be afraid to hire or team with an expert. These people with the experience are invaluable. They can cut time off of the change adoption process or demonstrate easier ways to get the same final results.
  • Understand the psychology of change. It helps you know what to expect and when. I have put together a quick search for psychology of change in posts that you can find here. You will want to scroll down through the various blogs post that will be shown on the page and find the best one for you.
These are the first 5 things that really help me this year but I would welcome you to add to this list below via comments.
Thank you for reading and here's to an awesome 2014! Cheers