Monday, July 2, 2012

The Hunger for Reliability

So summer is here in the US and when I think of summer I think of food from the grill, cold drinks and fun on the water around the Charleston area where I live. Just this last week I was out on the boat doing a little fishing after work. As I drifted down the river enjoying the water and the cold beverages, I begin to smell the third component of summer… grilled food. Since I had the first two I progressively begin to want the last one. Soon I was obsessed with the thought of ribs, hamburgers, steaks and BBQ. Can you relate? Have you ever had the intoxicating smell of the grill call you away from your afternoon activities?
So what does this have to do with reliability? When I think about profitable manufacturing I also think of three things I enjoy: production demand, safety, reliability. With the turning of the economy many now have increased production demand. They have spent time focusing on safety and have great performance in that area. The only area they lack is reliability. We know that if we can get all three of these working together then we can enjoy a lower stress business profitability. In fact, one should expect to spend more time away from work not worrying about the day to day issues, the breakdowns, and the missed deliveries. Instead we can enjoy our version of summertime fun.
The problem is that if you have never witnessed reliability and you have spent your whole life in the reactive world then what would drive a desire for change? You become comfortable where you are. You can't imagine reliability much less have a hunger for it. To get past this you need to get a picture of it at least in your mind.
How are you communicating what it looks like to your plant and why it is so desirable? What are you doing to fan the flames and create the hunger for reliability? Below is a list of ideas that you might use to first create awareness and then demonstrate what’s in it for your people and why they should hunger for it. 
  • Invite your informal leaders on plant visits to world class sites; Let them see what it is like in the less chaotic world of Reliability. Look locally and not just in your industry and you may be surprised how close world class can be.
  • Share best practices through pictures, stories, case studies, and single point lessons. I like to see them incorporated in the daily tool box meeting or kick off meeting. Many samples can be found on the internet via blogs and Linked-in.
  • Send individuals to conferences like the SMRP and IMC where they can talk to their peers in other organizations and bring back that excitement to the plant. Have them share what they have learned.
  • Create a newsletter celebrating your internal reliability successes.
  • Have guest speakers come to your site from world class plants and let them share their success but more importantly help your site understand how they can do the same.
  • Invite corporate leadership to share their vision for reliability, why they care about it, and don’t be afraid to pre-coach the leaders a bit if required to ensure alignment.
Two things you can expect to hear is: “Yea, but we are different” and “That will never work here” so make sure you are ready to answer why it will after each step you take. Without answering these questions and creating this desire or hunger the transition from reactive to reliable can be a long and slow process, that is good for pulled pork but not for corporate profits.
What are you doing in your site to build the hunger for reliability? Leave a few examples for others in the comments.


  1. Thanks Shon,
    It's nice to hear your thoughts on how to approach the seemingly negative air on maintenance operations.
    Only to often maintenance is looked upon as the evil step child instead of a true profit center.
    Think about it. How many companies spend 3 to 35 million plus on their maintenance organizations only to think bad when the word maintenance is mentioned???

    Your steps to awareness about maintenance and proactivity should be a constant that is shared with top management down.

    Thanks for the info. I share all of your ideas with our team.

  2. Opening he minds and exploring/understanding the possibility is great. Often, it is only knowing it's possible.

    In addition to sharing best practices, share stories about failures. make it save to celebrate what you learn when something fails. It helps to avoid ignoring or side stepping failures. They happen, learn from them.