Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Is The MTTR Metric Killing Your Reliability?

Metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are a force for good when they are used at the right time and with the right complementary or supporting elements. But, when they are used at the wrong point in a facilities maturity they can have unintentional consequences, or even worse they can drive the wrong behaviors.
An example that I continue to see causing more issues than it is solving, is the use of the KPI known as Mean Time To Repair (MTTR). When this metric is used alone, in immature organizations, or without an understanding of the unintentional consequences it can drive your organization in the opposite direction of world class performance. If your organization is immature from a reliability cultural standpoint and you choose MTTR as your focus then you set yourself up to become very reactive by being very quick to respond to failures. The facts are:
  • Reactive response is at least 5 times more expensive than planned and scheduled work . 
  • Operations will beat on you to get faster and faster at responding so that you lower MTTR. 
  • Rushed repairs are less reliable.
  • Reactive response requires more expensive spare parts stock.
  • Repetitive failures and repairs increase the chances of the introduction of infant mortality failures. 
  • You will find yourself with high skilled maintenance technicians just standing on the manufacturing floor doing nothing while waiting on a failure to occur. 
  • Pressure to make the repair as quickly as possible can lead to taking elevated safety risks either intentional or unintentional. 
Many of the sites that choose MTTR as a primary metric early in their reliability journey create a brigade of firefighters on the ready with crash carts and mounds of spare parts. What we really want is to prevent the failures from happening to start with or at least reduce the frequency. For that we might use other metrics like Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) early on and then deploy MTTR, after we increase the reliability of our systems. This later use of MTTR will allow us to address the issues we can't prevent and to understand any training gaps and other issues that might be affecting repair times.
Picture it this way: If MTTR is all you have then your organization will create tools like crash carts and quick response teams instead of using tools like Root Cause Analysis (RCA) to understand and eliminate the reoccurring problem. From the real world, I have seen bearing quick change carts developed to speed up re-occurring failures repairs where it they had just tensioned the belts properly the failures would have been eliminated.  Five really fast 2 hour bearing replacements is still much worse that bearings that don't need repairs at all. This site needed to understand better not respond quicker.
Are your metrics driving the wrong behaviors? Are you using them at the right time?
Tell us what metrics have not worked for you and why in the comments below. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Not Running From the Saber Tooth Tiger: Reactive to Proactive Leadership in 3 Steps.

Life pushes us to be reactive and we learn it from an early age. When we are young, we stick a fork in a power outlet or touch a hot stove and then we react. That becomes the predominant learning style as we grow. It is how we learn the concept of cause and effect. But later in life we are told that proactive is better but, this goes contrary to what has shaped us up to this point. Why would I want to be proactive? Why should I change? That is not what my past has reinforced.
So lets answer those questions first, and then talk about how we can become a more proactive leader moving forward. While reactivity allowed or ancestors to run from the saber tooth tiger, proactivity would have allowed them to not run into the saber tooth tiger in the first place or at the very least show up with spears for protection. Proactivity lessens the chances of needing reactivity which has been scientifically proven to lower the blood pressure in people like me (Cake loving non-athletes). High blood pressure is mostly bad so, we want that metric to trend down to a point. Why stir up the chemicals and hormones of stress if you can identify the risk early and address them before they attack you like a saber tooth tiger.
So how do we do it? No matter what project or task you want to manage or lead proactively you can get started with three steps.
First, decide what success would look like for the task or project. What are the goals? How do you know you have won? Knowing these elements first helps with the follow on activities.
Second, ask yourself what could go wrong that could jeopardize your goals or success with the task or project. List out each of these risk. Some will involve people. Some will involve resources. Be a real Negative Nancy and list as many as possible (get out you inner project negativity). Once you have the risk listed then prioritize them. I use a simple 1(low risk) -10 (high risk) scale with three categories multiplied together to rank the risk list. The categories are: severity, likelihood of occurrence, and ability to proactively detect. Once this is complete you can move onto step three.
Third, you create a plan to address the high risk items early before they occur. Many of the steps to address the risk will be communication action items that will need to be drafted in advance to explain that an issue is expected and that this is what we are doing about it proactively.
We could spend the rest of the day discussing the intricacies of proactive project and task leadership and management but these are the three overarching steps you should be taking to keep from being eaten by the saber tooth tiger you are trying to manage.