Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Warning major reliability roadblock ahead

 I want to warn you of a major issue that may plague your implementation of reliability improvement. It has to do with doing potentially the right thing for the wrong reason. Sounds harmless but it leads to cherry picking of fundamental elements while avoiding other critical pieces. It also leads to premature celebration and false confidence. Let me give you a few examples: if your maintenance supervisor or operations leader only embraces reliability topics like craft skills training, spare parts stocking, store room improvement, and the hiring of maintenance technicians then they may be doing so to improve their reactive maintenance strategy. Why is that bad? It prevents the transition to proactive maintenance and reliability where cost of maintenance can decrease, reliability can increase, and safety can excel with all of course driving higher profitability.  Let’s look at these three potentially good things a bit closer.  Why does this individual support craft skills training? Because they want quicker troubleshooting when the line fails. Why do they support more focus on the storeroom? Because they want faster parts at the window when reacting to a downtime event.  Why do they support having more maintenance people? Because they want one standing by every pieces of equipment to address any upset conditions immediately. As a bonus you may note they often ask questions like “how long to get it running?” and not “what can we do to prevent this from happening again?”

All of these are reactive, expensive, and regressive. You can never dig your way out of the hole. It’s a death spiral that leads to high production cost and general uncompetitiveness. It may even lead to the loss of your job.

In these locations you may also see that certain proactive drivers like populating the work order in the maintenance management system, or doing true root cause investigations, or really planning repairs, or completing thorough failure mechanisms based preventive maintenance strategy is not valued because it does not improve their reactive maintenance process. It becomes a world focused on Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) and not Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF). It’s a real dumpster fire. 

How do you fix it? You have to change the lenses that they use to look at the world.  It is not easy but you have to show them the proactive lens and not the reactive one. Show them a proactive universe where real job plans reduce infant morality, reduce required maintenance skill levels, and speed up repairs, in turn reducing required labor and reducing equipment downtime. Through this proactive lens they should see a place where consistently executed failure mechanisms based preventive maintenance limits unplanned breakdowns and emergency repairs reducing production risk. This is a true cultural shift and a huge step in the right direction in terms of your reliability improvement initiative.

You have to paint the picture and remind them to take off the reactive glasses and put on the proactive ones as they make decisions about how they address plant operations. You will need to do it many times until they can keep those proactive glasses on their face as their new perspective. You might even want to get real proactive and send them this blog.  Call me if you need me and good luck!