Monday, December 20, 2010

What Can We Learn From Santa’s Very Reliable Workshop? Part 3 Bubba Claus

Bubba Claus and the South Pole Crew

I am not sure if you have heard the story, but Santa Claus is the younger of two brothers. They have been polar opposites from the begaining. Whereas Santa likes to plan out his year and continuously sets goals to improve each year’s performance Bubba is more of a go with the flow kind of guy. Santa operates an environmentally friendly village that produces toys and Bubba runs a broken down factory that produces mostly smog.

global warming

Bubba is always looking for the silver bullet that will make him as popular as his brother but without all the hard work. He has yet to make a single Christmas delivery on time. Bubba is quite vocal about how he thinks things should be done. Below are his thoughts on reliability and possibly the reason you will not find him in a single children’s book.

Proper planning and scheduling

“A plan just gets in the way of getting things done…… In fact, while you school boys were planning, me and the elf tore it down and fixed this thing up again”

Precise problem solving

“I don’t care why the toys are missing their wheels. Just get it back up and running. We don’t have time to go root’n around”

Perfected Procedures

“Procedures are for people who are just too dumb to do it right”

Proactive Maintenance Techniques

“I don’t care if its vibratin’ just throw some weight on it so it doesn’t come off the mounts.”

Precision Maintenance

“You want tools for precision maintenance fine…. here’s your hammer”

Performance improvement plans

“I have been doing it this way for 300 years why should I change now”


“Metrics are for people that have time to measure… round here we got work to do”

Now as you read through them I bet you might recognize some of the Bubba Claus traits in your own workshop. If so, a good plan and a bit of education could be a good place to start well... once the mad rush to Christmas is over in your village.

Happy Holidays to you from Reliability Now and we wish you a Reliable New Year

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Can We Learn from Santa's Very Reliable Workshop? Part 2

Now even though I have traveled to many frozen tundras and worked in facilities around the Arctic Circle, I could not get invited for a plant tour of Santa’s workshop and maintenance facilities. Some might say it is because I’m on the naughty list but I am sure that is not the case. However if you read through the statistics in post one in this series I would doubt you would argue that Ole Saint Nick runs a world class organization. So let us take a look at what one would likely see in the North Pole.

First to insure up time on the sleigh, the little guys have developed a full EMP (Elf Maintenance Plan) that includes well planned and scheduled off season outages for Santa’s critical delivery vehicle. The work list for these outages is based on data collected from the online condition based maintenance system and down linked via the Allied TS-1 in real time to their North Pole CBM analysis lab (see elf at work below). This allows for the sleigh to perform at its peak and eliminates the need for preventive maintenance stops and lost time during the big night. Prior to this development, they had to carry a full preventive maintenance team onboard to service the vehicle after every seven hundred landings but with the constantly increasing delivery demands and lack of space on board that was no longer an option.

Large computer server farms were built to process the ever growing “naughty and nice” list and to increase processor utilization they also capture all of the condition reports and failure history for the sled and the toy production lines. The data is stored in the EAM (Elf’n Asset Management) System where equipment health is monitored and potential issues are flagged for further study. A little known fact about the elf population is that they absolutely love root cause analysis (RCA). In fact, they say it calms their nerves after a long day of toy making. So, all of the EAM and FRACAS information is made available for their off time enjoyment. Problems are solved and corrective actions are tracked to completion. The solutions are verified using the metrics and balanced score card that Santa put in place a few years back.

With the aging workforce, the big elf relies on the EAM to “remember” both procedures and the details needed for precision maintenance. This allows all elves to focus on the task at hand and not spend their time trying to recall torque specs for the bear stuffer’s fluff puffer.

As part of the continuous improvement process 5S and Kanban and many other tools are being implemented and all of the improvement opportunities and activities that the EIT (elf improvement team) identify are prioritized with leadership support and included in the yearly performance improvement plan. Remember the customer base is growing by a billion every twelve years so continuous improvement is not optional in the fast growing world of overnight package delivery.

Now we could spend days looking at the best practices contained in the NPOP2 (North Pole Operational Procedures 2) manual but I think you get the idea. Santa and his team of elves focus on defect prevention and elimination through:

Proper planning and scheduling

Precise problem solving

Perfected Procedures

Proactive Maintenance Techniques

Precision Maintenance

Performance improvement plans

and it is all monitored through proper use of metrics.

Tomorrow we will look at the other Claus and see how they run things down south but until then think about your site. Have you considered these areas for your 2011 performance improvement plan?

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Can We Learn From Santa’s Very Reliable Workshop? Part 1

First let’s take a look at the facts:

Santa’s workshop has never missed a shipment and delivers all its product in one night. Santa’s delivery vehicle has never had a break down and his workshop has never seen an outage that jeopardized that delivery.

Santa’s workshop has 100% quality record…

Santa’s customer base is constantly growing with the population (1 billion in 1804 and 7 billion in 2011). Assuming that 30 percent of the population is under 14 years of age and each child receives on average 3 gifts then Santa’s staff is producing approximately 6.3 million complex toys per year with simple machines and manual labor.

Santa’s workforce is aging and in some cases is quite old.

Access to new equipment is limited as it has to be built in house due to his lock-tight non-disclosure agreement

Santa’s workforce is extremely limited due to remote location and elf breeding patterns.

Weather is always an issue in the Arctic.

Now that you have the situation and you have compared it to your own, Next we will look at what he has done to insure success. Click here to jump to the next entry. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ranting Again About the Unintended Results of Poorly Chosen Metrics:

Do companies take the time to think about the implications both positive and negative of metrics that are put in place? I am beginning to think not. I have noticed with more and more concern the bad behavior that one particular metric is driving. Many companies now use it and in almost all cases it is limiting the overall results of the business.
The metric is head count and while at first glance it looks like a good way to measure workforce productivity the problem comes in when it is used in a vacuum.
I will give you a very common example: Many sites are eliminating Administrative Assistance and Clerks to reduce head count. Because of this reduction Supervisors, Engineers, and Managers as well as others are now handling many of their prior tasks. This leads to supervisors who are chained to the desk handling administrative task. These supervisors are very well paid individuals that should be out with their direct reports enabling the larger group’s success. If they are constantly in the office behind the desk, do you think that we are getting the maximum value from the team as a whole? An Administrative Assistant can be hired at half the cost of a supervisor or manager freeing up time so that they can be on the floor working with the team enabling an increase in productivity that pays for the Assistance’s time multiple times over.
In the end, before implementing new metrics take the time to do a simple risk review. Look at both the positive and negative implications of each metric and the likelihood that the metric will drive a bad behavior. Pair metrics together to limit the down side risk as this will provide checks and balances. Metrics are very powerful in making change in an organization, we just need to insure it is the right change.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Eliminating the Dog Fight over Reliability

I often hear clients tell stories of the culture of their plant. They use words and phrases like “constant battle”, “eternal struggle”, and even occasionally it has been described as a “dog fight.”
When I ask why they tell me that operation “does not understand reliability” or operations thinks their job is to break it and maintenance will fix it. When I talk with operations they tell me maintenance will not respond fast enough and that they never want to leave the shop. Both sides go on and on but I think you get the point.
Interestingly, when we look at the differences between best practice facilities with a high level of reliability maturity and the dog fight facilities you notice that the mature facilities function more as a cohesive team. Below are a couple of the reasons that I believe drive this difference in behavior.
The first practice I have identified is a combined shared set of goals driven from the top and cascaded down through the organization. In the more mature facilities you find that they have removed the silos that divide the organization and have a common set of goals. Operations and maintenance are accountable for metrics like Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and also metrics like Preventive Maintenance (PM) compliance and Maintenance Cost. They understand the impact of each and they manage them together based on the business. In facilities with a disconnect you find sub-optimization. Maintenance may look to lower maintenance cost at the expense of production or production may skip preventive maintenance to “increase uptime.” This just fuels the dog fight.
The second is a partnership agreement. This is a key exercise that opens eyes on both sides. Many folks don’t understand the needs of the other parts of the organization. When they work through the partnership agreements they identify the needs of each group and develop a plan to insure they are met. Operations will discuss their expectations for the equipment in the area from a reliability and throughput standpoint and maintenance will use this information to build effective maintenance strategies that can deliver under those conditions. If the operating context changes the two groups have the partnership agreement as a path of communication. As the group works through the exercise they have “discoveries” such as operations and the operators learn that maintenance needs their input and even their help so they should stay with the equipment during breakdowns. Maintenance learns the importance of certain assets to the livelihood of the plant and what expectations the process puts on them. I have seen many reoccurring problems identified and resolved just within the dialogue that occurs while creating the partnership agreement.
In the end if you want to spray the cold water on your facility’s dog fight you need to focus on shared goals and complete understanding between the groups. This will tear down silos and make coming to work a better experience for everyone.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How to Beat the RCA Out of Your Facility

Here are three ways you can insure that Root Cause Analysis (RCA) will never deliver results in your facility. I have seen these in action and they are quite effective.
1.    Use it as a stick. In other words use it to punish the people involved in the incident without looking for the latent or systemic issues that allowed them to make the poor choices. (Exceptions given for safety but only after detail analysis) Remember what Deming tells us: “Blame the system not the people”
2.    Don’t create RCA triggers. Just request an RCA when it feels right. This one causes people to forget to request RCAs or request too many at once. When you request too many the action of creating many RCA reports gets in the way of implementing the findings and insuring results. Take the time to decide what criteria should warrant an investigation and to what level the investigation should go. Once you decide what criteria then set the triggers so that you get a manageable amount of RCA investigations each month. Start off with one or two RCAs per month per team or area until they are comfortable with the process and then lower the threshold increasing the number as they become more comfortable with the process.
3.    Spend lots of time making a pretty and incredibly detailed RCA report documents that will impress everyone with their bulk. Reports don’t solve problems they only communicate them. The are not sold by the pound. They should be concise, preferably fitting on one A3 size sheet of paper.  I have a template for this if you send me an email. Spend your time implementing the findings and verifying that you got the results you expected.
Can you think of other ways that you have seen the RCA culture beat out of your facility?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Metric Waste

“Metric Waste”
Do you have a ton of metric waste; an overabundance of key performance indicator (KPI)?
Many facilities today have become metrics collectors, never throwing away metric and generating reports with lots of data but no real useful information. It gets to a point in many facilities that they have full time equivalent (FTE) head count just collecting metrics data and generating reports. These metrics and reports may never be viewed or used to make business decisions or check on organizational progress.  Does this sound familiar? Let us look at a few points to consider when building a metric strategy.
Most levels of the organization can manage no more than ten metrics at one time. So, if you look at an organizational chart and assign your metrics, can you limit them to ten at each level? Some metrics will exist at multiple levels and you must keep that in mind as you complete this exercise. The best way to look at your metrics is to start at the top with the metrics that address the facility’s vision and purpose. Then your can tier or cascaded down from that goal forming a tree of metrics that measure what is important to each level. When you complete the cascading metrics you should find that each levels metrics are supported by the level below.
Secondly, a portion of the metrics should be driven by the current improvement strategies. For example, if you are trying to improve work order history, one of your maintenance level metrics could be percentage of work orders containing follow up comments or notes. This will drive organizational focus on that portion of the improvement strategy until it becomes the new norm.
The third point to remember is that metrics are not “holy metrics”. We don’t have to keep them forever. We put them in place to insure change or prevent change. When insuring change you may find that you gather and measure more often however when preventing change you can measure at a lesser frequency because they should not change as quickly. The key here is to look at the trends. If the metric value very seldom changes much this could mean that the change that the metric is driving is now ingrained in the culture and is the new way of doing business. This is the point where you can eliminate the metric or extend its frequency of observation to the metrics standard you use for preventing change. Once we eliminate a metric we can then add a new one to our dashboard that addresses a change that we are trying to make or a process we are trying to understand.
The forth point to consider is leading versus lagging indicator. If you are managing based off of only lagging metrics it is attune to diving a boat while only looking at your wake. If you practice this philosophy you could find yourself happily driving into an oncoming freighter sized problem with no real warning.
If you are going to bench mark your metrics with other facilities then the definitions and data sources become very important but if you are using them internally only then you can concentrate on the delta and look for improvement or change. If you are looking for standardization one great source is the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP). They have a great new metrics compendium that provides all the details you need on sixty plus common use metrics.
In the end, metrics are just tools and should be used when you need them. They should provide a look at the future and not just the past and there should not be thousands of them in play all at once. If you design your metrics strategy with a bit of thought you can eliminate the wasted time and resources and have a much more effective program that drives business results.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dynamics of Sustainable Change for Leaders

Change is never instantaneous. The change process happens in stages, for both groups and individuals.  The five stages, represented by Roman numerals (figure 1), stand for the following:

Stage I = Discovery: Don’t know what they don’t know.
Stage II = Discomfort: Don’t like all this change.
Stage III = Development: Don’t know if we will ever get there.
Stage IV = Demonstration: Don’t want to go back to the old way.
Stage V = Defend: Don’t want organization changes to derail the new way of doing business.

Each stage has characteristics and leadership needs that change as you progress. Many leaders miss this point and struggle when an individual’s needs change.
Let us look at Stage I Discovery, where the participants are hearing about the changes for the first time and trying to get a clear picture of what is about to occur. There is some excitement because this is something new but limited understanding of what it is. Think about the last time you were party to a new piece of software or a new tool, at first, what feelings did you have? Now as we move through the stages think about how you traveled through them with your change. Interestingly in the beginning you will typically see a bump in performance of the systems or process you are about to change based on the Hawthorne effect. The Hawthorne effect states that as we focus attention on the system, it will perform at a higher level due to that attention. As a leader in this stage you need to provide clear direction and encourage the enthusiasm that exists by providing as much information as possible.  Ensure that you tell those who will be affected by the change about what is in it for them and why the success of the change should be important.
As they move into stage II, discomfort will occur. Some even call this stage the “valley of despair.” Here the affected will begin to complain about the process and the changes. They will find reasons to miss meetings that pertain to the changes and will profess their love for the old way of doing business. This is by far the toughest stage and the most important from a leadership stand point. The leader must support the change in decree and deed. We will talk about more of the requirements of this stage in the leadership section but the key point to remember is that leaders must show focused support and unwavering direction.
As the Development Stage III progresses, and the affected individuals begin to develop confidence, the results and the return on investment will begin to materialize. This is a stage where the leader no longer has to be as directive in style and can assume a role that looks more like a coach.   Key traits of this stage include individuals no longer asking for solutions but instead asking to bounce ideas off of the change leaders. The leader will need to focus on highlighting the successes that have occurred and using them to keep building the confidence of the group.
In Stage IV Demonstration, the group or individual has reached the level where they can demonstrate the new way of doing business to others. They are gurus if you will because they no longer need anyone to tell them what to do our how to do it. They still need the change leaders to support them but now it is by giving them opportunities to shine. One key warning for leaders is to not overload these folks just because they can do it or they will burn out. This is a common problem at this stage.
In Stage V Defend, the team is defending the change against both entropy and organizational changes. All organizations have some variability in the results they receive from improvement initiatives. This occurs naturally as leadership changes or production requirements fluctuate. In figure one Stage V, We show good sustainable change as a dampened sine wave. It is shown in green. As the sine wave undulates the process adherence varies and the return on investment also changes. In a facility that has not addressed each of the 5 elements of change, the process can look more like the red or blue lines. In each of these cases, the return on investment expected and shown as the shaded green area is taken away due to the organizations ability to adhere to the new business processes that have been put into place. Leaders at this stage are less important if the change process has been well executed and ingrained into the new culture but that does not mean that they should not be involved at all. Leaders should be monitoring progress and sustainability through the use of metrics or balanced score cards while making sure new individuals in the organization get a proper on boarding into the new business processes. Continuous improvement efforts should be part of stage five to off-set any losses and keep a focus on sustainable change.
Each of the stages has its own unique issues and solutions. However, if you stay focused on your people and apply the correct leadership styles, you can help them move through the process in the most expedient manner while making the project results materialize quicker.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Getting Started with Predictive Maintenance

When organizations look to truly embrace predictive maintenance they have three questions that must be answered in order to move forward. These questions are the basic decisions that you need to make to get moving in the right direction.  All of this is contingent upon your facility having processes for identified work planned, scheduled, and executed because without this, predictive maintenance will not be as effective. Simply put, you need to answer what, where and who. What technologies need to be employed, where in the plant and by whom? Once you know this you can begin to build your process, business case and justification to proceed.

Friday, May 28, 2010

How Long Does it Take to Build a Race Car?

If you ask me how long it takes to build a race car I have no idea, but I know you can put four tires on in under thirteen seconds. The point is if you are going to properly plan and schedule your work you need to break it down into smaller discrete task that you can accurately estimate and then build the job estimate based on those task estimates. Accuracy goes up exponentially when you estimate the elements and not the whole project at once.
Those of you who watch NASCAR racing see many of the best practices we seek personified in the race teams. They plan every step of their process and schedule all of their pit stops for maximum success. They practice to remove the wasted time from each step of their process and they kit all of the parts and tools they need for maximum speed. Because of all these best practices and the team work they display they can do a full four tire pit stop in just over thirteen seconds. 
If you want your team to perform like a race team then remember to create accurate plans and estimates which lead to more accurate schedules and better team work.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Does a Root Cause Exist?

Root Cause Analysis or RCA is an incredible tool for improving your operation or processes, but there are a few points that "practitioners" sometimes miss. One of which is that there is very seldom one root fact in most cases there are at least two. One is a condition that has existed for some period of time and the other is an action that allowed the condition to create an undesirable outcome. Lets look at a very simple example, if you slip on a wet floor there was a condition (the wet floor) and an action (you stepping on the wet floor). If you think about it this way, then you can decide which cause to eliminate. You can eliminate the water causing the wet floor or the action of walking through it.  Of course, you should dig deeper into each of these branches to better understand the underlying causes but this works for a simple example. The point is when you neglect one of these elements you limit your ability to mitigate or eliminate the failure at the lowest cost. Sometimes the condition or action will appear blatantly obvious but remember that even though it is obvious we list it to ensure that we consider its elimination or modification as a possible solution. I have witnessed many sites using the 5 Why methodology which typically leads to one "root cause" and in many cases the solution is more expensive and more complicated than it need be.  I like the 5Why methodology for building a root cause culture in your facility, but it should not be the back bone of your Root Cause Analysis program. So does root cause exist? Only if you consider root causes.

Friday, April 23, 2010

You Might Not Have a Program....

Below is a list of things Andy Page and I have seen and heard over the years that might make you laugh but should make us cry when it comes to having a solid reliability program.

If you think change management has something to do with the vending machines in the break room might not have a program
If you think change management means always having a roll of quarters in your might not have a program
If your alignment standard contains the words flashlight and straight might not have a program
If your scheduling meeting usually end with the phrase “I guess we’ll just see about that” might not have a program
If your job plans can all fit on 1 side of 1 piece of might not have a program
If the phrases inner race and outer race remind you call your bookie...
If the phrase ball pass frequency just makes you giggle uncontrollably...
If your IR electrical program is administered by your insurance provider...
If you can name all of the machines on your oil sampling route...
If every time the 6 Sigma guys talk about the 16 Toll Gates to improvement and you wonder why they just didn’t take the back roads...
If you think precision maintenance means having a complete set of hammers with you at all times...
If you think torque wrenches are only for the boys of NASCAR...
If your balance standard involves the use of a nickel or a small glass of water...
If you measure your lubrication quantities in tubes…
If your idea of contamination control has something to do with keeping the rats out of the break room…
If you think the planner should have his own set of tools…
If you think that every mechanic should have his own key to the storeroom…
If you think a dial indicator is a new option on your son’s cell phone...
If your idea of a shim pack includes the cardboard box the pump came in ...
If your idea of a battery tester includes the use of the tip of your tongue..
If you think eddy currents are something you have to avoid at the beach...
If your most advance machine analysis tool is a screwdriver held against your ear...
If your torque standard involves Bubba and a cheater bar...
If your X-ray equipment was ordered from the back of a comic book...
If your machine base grouting procedure includes the use of bubble gum and chap stick...
If your maintenance reference library includes only two service catalogs, one handbook and yesterdays paper...
If your Root Cause Analysis process includes a step for dumpster diving...
If your required PPE includes a bubble wrap suit...
If your folks believe that TPM stands for Totally Painted Machines...
If you repair the same equipment so often you have a special cart...
If your ultra sensitive leak detection system involves an funnel held up to Eddie's ear...
If your Root Cause Analysis findings include “fire the SOB”...
If your idea of a bearing heater is a rose bud…
If your idea of proper bearing installation involves a hammer and a chisel…
If your lubrication guy still believes that more is better…
If the closest thing to RCM you have is Rapid Corrective Maintenance...

Hope you enjoyed those and if you can, take a minute and add a few that you have heard or seen at your site.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Seven Rules for Free MRO Vendor Provided Training

Free or almost free training” Ah the holy training grail we have been looking for. Does it work? Sure if you spend the time up front to build it into your plan and have clear expectations for what it can and can not do. I suggest it not be used as your core craftman skills training, but it works great as a refresher courses. Chances are you company’s preferred vendors will provide training on anything from belt installation to lubrication practices. We also had some experience with smaller regional vendors such as nut and bolt suppliers. They can help with proper fastener application and torque as an example. The only drawback is that you must really pay attention to the material that the vendor wants to present to avoid too much sales propaganda. I have used many different vendors for this type of training and I have only had one that turned out to be there for a sales pitch. Using the seven rules below we caught this before wasting the craft’s time in the session. The seven keys to success with the vendors training includes the following:
1.  Try to have the vendor bring in their technical people and not just the sales guy.
2.  Make it clear that the maintenance staff is not the purchasing department and a whole lot of sales hype will be futile.
3.  Ask the vendor if he has done sessions like this before.
4.  Review agenda ahead of time and suggest topics of interest to your group.
5.  Always give the vendor a tour of the plant prior to the presentation so that he can speak to the types of equipment that you have and the problems you face.
6. Make sure you talk with the presenter ahead of time to make sure he has a certain level of charisma and presentation skills or bring pillows for the sleeping technicians.
7.  If you are worried about a vendor then have them do two sessions the same day and you and a few others attend the first session before committing a larger portion of the maintenance group to the second one.
            Free training can work to satisfy many of the basic training needs especially refreshers that are required to keep us competitive as long as just like any other part of your training program you put in the work up front.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Importance of Maintenance Fundamentals

One of the most important and most often overlooked areas of maintenance and reliability improvement lies in the fundamentals. Many of the facilities that I visit are caught in a game of chase, following what ever new philosophy or acronym has become vogue ( I like to call it “chasing the shiny stuff.”). Fighting the urge and putting the “shiny stuff” on the back burner is the basis of good maintenance. You must first take a look at basic maintenance practices and see where you stack up.  Does your facility have a good partnership between maintenance and operations? Do you practice precision maintenance techniques? Are you capturing and using your maintenance history? Are your Preventive Maintenance tasks failure mode based and are they in use by your crafts? Do you truly plan your work? These and many other basic questions need to be addressed in order to build the foundation that will support true manufacturing excellence. Once these elements are shored up and strong, then the advanced tools and shiny processes will work more effectively to provide the most fundamental reason for manufacturing: Profits.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Art of the Production Floor Prank: not a best practice but certainly quite funny

The production floor prank has been refined for years and maintenance guys are notorious for the skill and work they will put in to execute these planned acts of trickery. These plant jesters have a collection of knowledge and trickery stored away in their heads. They have perfected the art. Many of them sent young apprentices after belt stretchers, buckets of steam, and various nonexistent types of lubricant. Others spent weeks working on the perfect prank. What tricks were pulled on you? What did you see pulled on others through the years? Feel free to add them below as comments. I'm sure there are more than a few chuckles to be had from this dieing art of plant trickery.

The funniest one I ever saw happened in a core plant in just outside of Lincolnton, NC where the guys worked together with the fork truck trainer to pull a prank on the brand new shipper. You see we had high speed roll-up doors between the production floor and the docks and you used a remote to open them as you approached in the truck. The guys had convinced the trainer to give up the remote and as he approached the door he would clap and the floor guys would click it to let him through. The training program for all new fork truck operators required the student to follow the trainer for a day to learn the ropes. The trainer told the new student that we had installed "the clapper" on the high speed doors so all he had to do was simply clap as he neared the door. They practiced and the door operated like clock work. So they started the training day and all day as they approached the leader would clap and the door would open. On day two the training plan called for the new driver to start transporting material on his own. The only flaw in this great plan was that on day two the plant manager was doing what all good plant managers should, he was out on the floor talking with various folks when our shipper started a fateful run. If you were watching from the balcony as many of us were you saw the fork truck arriving to the door with three claps on the way but the door did not open. The driver looked confused. He stopped at the door and clapped again. Nothing.  He lowered the forks got off and walked over to the door where he clapped a third time and stood there with a dumb look on his face. By this time his hands and face were red and we were all nearly hysterical. Then to add insult to injury as he walked away the door rolled up behind him.
Unfortunately for our resident jester the Plant Manger was on to him and to show our support we scattered like leaves in a hurricane.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hot Rods and Hand Tools: Saving the Skilled Trades in America

For the first time in the history of the United States we are seeing a long term shortage of skilled trades. These skilled trades include the industrial Mechanics, Machinists, and Electricians who have kept American facilities producing the wealth to which we have become accustom. This has been perpetuated by three compounding circumstances.

·         The common Baby Boomer myth that everyone’s kids have to go to university to be successful. (In actuality the skilled trades have a better lifestyle and higher income than many college graduates)
·         The movement from working on hot rods in the garage with your father to playing video games or working on computers.
·         And most recently, the inevitable baby boomer retirement, which is waning due to the economy, but still is a concern.

Below are six elements that can become part of your solution:

1.  Create clear documented business processes that everyone can understand. This will insure a smooth transitions, continuous improvement and employee involvement (which is key to the new generation)
2. Training done correctly can be both a knowledge and a morale boost. Use computer simulations to both enhance the learning experience and verify understanding.
3. Bringing condition sensing technology (Predictive Maintenance Tools) into your realm of maintenance can bring the “cool” back to the skill trades.
4. Capturing and facilitating the use of history in your Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or Enterprise Asset Management System (EAM) will allow you to retain knowledge from the retiring generation.
5. Mentoring programs supported by the retiring generation can build new generation skills much quicker than the costly trial and error that many apply.
6. Create a Proactive Reliability Culture (many of the new generation don’t want extraordinary overtime and constant reactive firefighting in the facility and instead strive for the more predictable, less stressful world of a proactive reliability culture.)
Many of the core skills of maintenance were learned under the hood of the car but with the influx of technology our young people will also excel if we start planning now and transfer the elements they need to complement the skills they have. This is crucial if we plan to maintain profitable and competitive industry in America.  What are your doing in your facility to save the skilled trades?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quick Thoughts on Leadership

The following are just a few thoughts on leadership that I keep discovering...
Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Be Prepared: 
If we as leaders show up without preparing or with the appearance of being unprepared then we create a bad experience for the team or group from the start.

Do not let thank you be a set of words heard only once per year:
They are simple words that mean a lot so we must use them.

Do not ask for more without first using what your team has given you: 
If we ask for a new report or document to be created take the time to look at it before asking for more. If it is not important enough to devote our time to using it then maybe we should have thought about it more before we ask for it. This can be true of resources, time, or money. We must remember not to waste any of them if we can.

We must do the little things for our team:
They both remember them and enjoy them. Don't just send that boiler plate company birthday card, take the time to write a special thank you greeting for their birthday. You should remember what is important to them and see how you can feature it though out the year. If they are big music fan maybe you send them a few itunes credits or tickets to a concert. Personalization is a powerful thing. 

If we as leaders do not provide for the team's and the individual's needs then they may not be able to hear ours:
Take time to see how things are going with your team and the individuals. What do they need? What road blocks can you help with? This extends to their personal life as well because if they are focused on the outside problems then they will not be focusing on the needs of company or the team.

Pull on the introverts and push on the extroverts:
We need to take time to insure that we are collecting the great ideas from the quite part of the team and sometimes that means we may need to hold back on those "gifted in expressing themselves." 

Demonstrate what you expect:
If we like a certain trait we must make sure it is feature in our style.

You do not have to like it to learn from it:
Whether it is presentation style, content, or the message as a whole we do not have to agree with it to take a few new thoughts or perspective from it. If nothing else you have learned how others see the world and what you must work around or through to be successful.

Leaders must remain learners:
We must not stop the study of life once we "reach leadership". Sometimes we need to hear it said "shut up and learn"

Leaders Listen (Thanks for this one Dan)
True leadership requires asking questions and actively listening to the answers. New leaders should spend time talking with the team and understanding the situation before creating new policies, procedures or requirements. In short, Listen more talk less.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Elements of Sustainable Change

One of the key goals of most organization’s is the ability to sustain beneficial change. When we deconstruct sustainable change we are left with five key areas:

Leadership and Management: know what to change and when to change (your leadership style and your processes)
Communication: understand what medias to use, how to use them and at what frequency.
Change Dynamics: know what to expect when those affected by the change start the process.
Risk Identification: understand what could go wrong and what you are going to do about it proactively.
Project Management: know who is going to do which step and when, during the implementation of the change.

The battle to insure that our organization understands and apply each of these elements is the challenge we face. When these areas have been addressed with your change strategies, you’ll be well on your way to the maximum return on investment your project can attain.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Finding the Root Cause of Success

It is that time of year when students are heading back to school. Soon enough, report cards will make their way home from school again. Some will make the trip faster than others depending on their contents. A recent research study tackled the topic of student report cards and how we handle the not so stellar grades that sometimes appear. It found that if a student brought home 3 As, 1 C, and 1 F, only six percent of the parents concentrated on the As. The study went on to say that the parents who concentrated on the As as opposed to dwelling on the F saw the next report card improve by bringing up the F while maintaining the As. Conversely, the parents who concentrated on the F did see the F improve, but at the cost of the As.

This study reminded me of many maintenance organizations and the report cards or metrics we give out. Now, when we have a less than adequate reliability report card, it does not have the effect of sending us to our room, cutting our allowance, or providing a little time out, but it does have the same overall effect on both morale and financial security.

In general, we tend to punish for poor performance and only dwell on the negative metrics. Would you execute a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) on a system or machine that performs flawlessly to discover why? The question then becomes: what does it cost us in both metrics and money to ignore the things we are doing right without understanding or leveraging them for success?

Let’s discuss another example of this phenomenon known as “Positive Deviance”, which occurred following the end of the war in Vietnam. In this life or death example from the book Surfing the Edge of Chaos by Pascale, Millemann, and Gioja, the children of Vietnam’s poorer regions were suffering from high levels of malnutrition. This was compounded by the lack of clean water and sanitation, as well as poor health care. The typical solution for this problem in the past was to provide aid in the way of medical clinics and food from other countries. This was a very costly way to address the problem, and when the money dried up and the aid stopped, the people could not sustain their health and returned to the original state of malnutrition. This pattern has been played out over and over in history.

Save the Children understood this situation and asked Jerry and Monique Sternin to go to Hanoi and develop a new method to end the malnutrition. The solution had to be sustainable by the people once the Sternins moved on from the area. The Sternins embraced a concept out of Tufts University called positive deviance. This concept allowed them to facilitate a process for the people of Hanoi to discover their own solution to the problem. It did not start with a preset group of assumptions or rules, and it did not impose food goods from other regions of the world that could not be sustained. Instead, the process they used included an understanding the culture and the knowledge it contained. The Sternins worked with the locals to study not only the sick children, but the healthy ones as well. They struggled with the contradiction that although the children were from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, some were healthy while others were quite ill. They analyzed the living conditions and diets of the healthy children and concluded that the difference was that parents of the healthy children were doing three things differently. They were insuring the children washed their hands, supplementing the rice-based diet with freely available freshwater shrimp and crabs and vitamin-rich sweet potato leaves, and they were feeding their children more times per day than the malnourished children. The key point here is that they were not feeding them more food, but they were feeding them the right food more often. Once this discovery was made, it was easily leveraged across the culture in that area because it was developed from within; it was Hanoi’s solution. After six months, two-thirds of the children had gained weight and the program was a sustainable success. The Sternins did not take this diet to all of Vietnam and decree that “you must eat more shrimp and sweet potato leaves more often”. Instead, they helped each region to study and develop its own solution, leading to a sustainable solution that was owned by the people. The results are still succeeding to this day.

There are three points that are important to take away from these examples: study and learn from your good actors and not just the bad; develop and leverage the solutions from within the applicable area for buy-in and sustainability; and celebrate and encourage the successes and learn from the failures through a true understanding of the issues.

Many reliability improvement efforts traditionally look at equipment that has high levels of failure indicated by high vibration, oil contaminates, or elevated temperature levels, for example. Then, when the equipment fails, a Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) is completed to understand why it failed. With this mentality, we are looking at half of the information that is available. This only shows the failures and why they happen. What about the successes? Why did the successes happen? One suggestion is to change your use of the RCFA process by moving the format to an RCA process that can be used to understand both failures and successes in the same format. Just this one small change will allow you to capture more solutions from your process. If you have 26 pumps in an area and only five have repetitive failure history, why do the others charge on? This is where the different way of thinking comes into play. You could complete an RCA on one of the good actor pumps to understand why it is so successful. You could use change analysis or any of the other applicable root cause tools to ensure you find the Root Cause of Success. What you might discover is a solid operating procedure, a good design, a best demonstrated practice, a better rebuild procedure, or any number of positive deviants that have led to a success, rather than a failure. In many cases, we may have preconceived notions as to what the solution may be before we discover it as a team. The key is to let those go and chase the data as a group until the solution is discovered corporately.

Once uncovered, these good practices are much easier to leverage because they are internal, proven, and owned, just like the dietary changes in Hanoi. There is no easier change to make than the one that was developed by the people who are making the change. They trust the information the change is based on because it is their information. They know it will work because they have seen it with their own eyes. They will force it to succeed because it has their name on it. When we develop solutions that do not involve the group that is affected, we lack the buy-in and data this process provides, making success a difficult goal to attain. This applies to your reliability metrics in two ways: one, it provides solutions that improve metrics such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF); and two, it provides a tool for you to use to address and leverage your areas that excel in certain metrics. Just remember to ask the question, “Why am I succeeding?”

As you start to learn who is causing your positive deviance, make sure you apply positive public feedback to encourage it to continue and propagate. Basically, focus the light on what people are doing right. It has been proven that you should give three or more positive comments to every corrective feedback, and the Root Cause of Success philosophy provides you with an excellent vehicle to make that happen.

Because RCFA conclusions, if incorrectly drawn, can stop at human error, they can easily turn into a very negative tool. The perceived error may be with the equipment vendor’s design team, start up contractor’s installer, production’s operator, maintenance’s technician, or management’s supervisor. Some organizations use the RCFA or RCA results as whipping sticks to punish people, instead of as training, system, and policy correction tools. This defeats the purpose and robs the program of the support and information on which these analyses are based. Always remember that no matter which contributing factors are found during the root cause investigation, at least one of them (if not all) are directly due to management policies and systems. It may be that the management system allowed the equipment to be run above the rated speeds, preventive maintenance to be postponed, training to be ignored, or other contributing causes. With that being said, it is hypocritical and ignorant for management to use the RCFA findings to punish the offenders because in most cases, the system is at fault, not the people, and the system is governed by management. Instead, make the findings a positive tool by supplementing your failure investigations with the Root Causes of Success process and find out who is promoting success in your facility. This will allow you to make sure your RCAs are recognized as a positive tool that leads to praise and change within the organization. After learning from both your successes and failures and implementing the discoveries, you must find a way to ensure that others want to be involved in these types of improvements. We have to spread it to the point that we are constantly developing new ideas. In order to do this, we must create energy around our RCA findings. We can do this by celebrating our successes with our stakeholders. It is important to tailor your celebrations to the team, and even the individuals in some cases, so that you get the most benefit. It may be different with each group of stakeholders, but it has to make them want to do it again.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that the positive things that are going on day-to-day are just as important to your success as the failures that we try to eliminate. Many times the solutions to our failures are right in front of us, hidden by the day-to-day fires that we fight. Look at the equipment that you forget about. Why are you able to forget about it? Why does it run so well? What are you doing or what did you do right? These are the locator questions for many of the solutions to the reoccurring problems that tear away at the reliability of our equipment, as well as our bottom line. These solutions discovered from within the organization have the buy-in and sustainability that is so often a struggling point for many outside solutions or cookie cutter approaches. Once a home grown, supported, sustainable solution has been put into place and the sweet smell of success is in the air, make sure you celebrate the accomplishment with all the stakeholders in the way that satisfies them the most. This becomes the fuel for many more examples of positive deviance that can really change your organization into a more reliable and profitable enterprise.

Whether it is your son or daughter’s school report card or your equipment reliability report, always acknowledge and celebrate the positive and discover the Root Cause of Success.

May 2005 issue of Maintenance Technology
Wikipedia entry on  Positive Deviance

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Can You Learn from the Reliability Challenge

Reliable Manufacturing is a constant challenge. Every day we have to strive to eliminate waste, produce more with less and out pace our competition.  Would it not be great if we could practice before the big game? Now we can. Check out the simulation at Once you try the Reliability Challenge read on to learn some of the key points to improving your score both online and within your plant.
We have grouped the elements into three areas: creating a reliable foundation, changing a plant’s culture, and ensuring sustainability.
Creating a reliable foundation
To win the Reliability Challenge, you must start with a structured foundation of core elements that are built in a specific order that’s not arbitrary or ad hoc. For example, a company would not implement advanced Predictive Maintenance (PdM) techniques if they did not have proper work control processes, ensuring that the identified defects could be planned, scheduled, and eliminated or mitigated. Simply put PdM without an effective work execution process is like helicopter without a propeller; it may look nice and shiny but it is not going to get you off the ground.
Changing the culture
Similar to the real world, taking short cuts in the Reliability Challenge is a recipe for failure. The plant did not morph into its current state overnight, nor will it be fixed in a 24-hour period. Take the time to create a master plan that takes into account your project, risk, and communication plans. Don’t rush the change if the resources are not available and take the time to understand the dynamics of change. You do have to be reactive to get proactive – but reactive in a smart way.
Ensuring sustainability
In order to sustain improvements, you must ensure that the facility understands the goals. Once goals have been established, use metrics to insure focus.
Once metrics have been established it is important to drive continuous improvement, as some elements naturally degrade over time. Lean, Six Sigma and RCM – all of which are represented in the Reliability Challenge - provide the processes and tools for continuous improvement. 
In conclusion…
There is not one way to solve reliability or plant issues, just like there is not one single path through the forest. However, when you have a foundation built on best practices, a clear plan backed up by good change management, and established continuous improvement; you have the winning combination to conquer the challenge.
Now don’t forget the most fundamental rule of any game: practice makes perfect! Enjoy the Reliability Challenge and practice the game of change, so you can win our Reliability Challenge and yours!

More Preventive is Not Necessarily the Answer

More is not necessarily better when it comes to preventive maintenance you have to find the right amount done right with the right tools.
Lets first talk in extremes, there are some facilities that are truly reactive in nature and only fix equipment when it breaks. This keeps them very busy and leaves little time to do preventive (PM) or predictive (PdM) maintenance. This can lead them into a death spiral of unreliability. Many of these sites believe that if they could just get a bunch of PMs, then they will escape the spiral.
On the other side there are also other facilities that over time or in response to an incident have created a large portion of their backlog that consist of PM work and again they face many breakdowns and unreliability. If PMs are good why might these facilities experience an increase in breakdowns and unreliability?
One answer is infant mortality. In other words by doing more invasive PM inspections, such as opening a gear box to inspect the teeth, they actually induce failures. These failures can come from dirt and debris that accidentally gets into the box while it is open or improper reassembly upon completion. In this example many of the PdM tools could eliminate this PM activity in most cases and in turn eliminate the infant mortality issue entirely.
So the second enemy in more PMs is the possible loss of effectiveness because of low quality procedure, or poor execution in the field due to labor overload or has a lack of training on the added task. Many facilities ramp up the number of PMs by getting suggested PMs from vendors or coping other facilities PM procedure. This leads to task that don’t address the failure modes and in many case may not even address the equipment in question. 
So if you want to increase your level of preventive maintenance and your reliability take these steps:
  1. Create a plan of what equipment and when. This could be based off of criticality.
  2. Generate solid craftsman reviewed PM task that are failure mode based and detailed to the right level. You can base them off of example if they are reviewed and verified prior to deployment.
  3. Finally use the predictive maintenance tools to eliminate the invasive preventive maintenance that plagues you by adding defects to your system.
Grow a good program a little at a time as apposed to a bad program overnight.