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Maintenance Education, Leadership, and the Path to Reliability Excellence

Don Nyman, Founding Maintenance & Reliability Thought Leader

The Quest for Reliability

Possibly, the most common endeavor of industrial organizations today is the quest for reliability. However, the quest for reliability usually morphs into a chase for the “latest and greatest” technology.

The late-great Vince Lombardi initiated every spring practice with the following words, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” The point here is that championships begin with the basics as does reliability.

Evolution of Asset Reliability & Maintenance

Through the decades, management and consultants have pursued numerous approaches to maintenance and reliability improvements (work orders, labor efficiency, computer systems, preventive maintenance routines, planning and scheduling, etc.) as the following graphic illustrates:

The various steps up the staircase are the basics. In attempts to add technical advancements to the top of the staircase, many organizations forget about  omit some of the basics and their staircase looks like this:

This is not workable. Without protection of the foundation, reliability investments should not be made because you are not ready for them and projected ROIs will not be realized.

The Ultimate Goal of Maintenance

The goal is not “maintenance reliability”. The goal is:

Integrated Maintenance Excellence supportive of Operational Reliability yielding Customer Service & Loyalty which achieves Preservation of the Enterprise.

Surely, all members of the organization can mutually agree that job protection is the goal.

Managerial Leadership & The Quest for Reliability

I can convey this point most effectively by summarizing an extremely successful client engagement. This engagement was initiated by and supported throughout by the Corporate VP of Operations and his Director of Engineering. They were in concurrence that a quest for reliability throughout their 24 plants was essential and that external experience, guidance, and support was essential. Hence, they assembled a five-person team (corporate and plant engineers) to search out the best candidate to provide support. They attended several public seminars presented by various trainers and/or consultants and selected/recommended me. The VP replied, “Okay get him in here, and I will give him two hours to convince me that he is indeed the right choice!”

Soon thereafter, he retained me to present a full day version to representatives from all 24 plants. Two sessions in different geographic areas were required to include everybody.

The next question was, “How do we roll out to all 24 plants?”

I outlined two options: “one plant at-a-time”, or “division pilots” with participation of engineers from each plant of the division.

Because the kickoff presentation attendees were anxious to get started, the VP chose “division rollouts”. That meant 4 pilots followed by 20 rollouts over a period of eighteen months. For three years, together with two corporate engineers, we conducted annual assessments at all 24 plants. Thereafter, the corporate engineers took over; led by the VP of Corporate Engineering.

Reliability success requires commitment and participation throughout the organization, “top to bottom and wall to wall”. The purpose of this story is to convey that “Maintenance Excellence” supportive of “Operational Reliability” requires “sustained commitment, perseverance, support, funding, and involvement from the “top of the house” from day one and throughout the process.

Integrated Maintenance Excellence

The focus here is Integrated; Integration of the stair steps, departments and functions therein, and organizational levels. Production, Maintenance, Engineering, Storeroom, and Purchasing must function harmoniously. Staff functions (Planning, Scheduling, Reliability Engineering, and Project Engineering) must be in synch. Maintenance Management, Supervision, and Control must reach agreement as to relative importance of the work orders to be planned, scheduled, and executed. None of these functions can be focused only on their own responsibilities within a vacuum. They must coordinate their efforts toward the ultimate/mutual goal.

Cultural Change is Essential

The essential transition is from “Rapid Reactive Response to Highly Repetitive Asset Failures” to “Proactive Preventive Maintenance to Preclude Asset Failures”!

Macro-Planning (Balancing Resources with Workload)

There is one more subject I feel compelled to raise with you. If you represent one of the many organizations still operating within a reactive culture, I suspect that you are swimming in an out-of-control, deferred backlog. This common problem must be addressed before any progress toward reliability is achieved. This will thoroughly be covered in a future blog post.  

In conclusion, investing in maintenance education and leadership development is crucial for achieving reliability excellence in any organization. By cultivating a continuous improvement culture and providing employees with the necessary skills and knowledge, businesses can ensure their equipment and facilities run at peak performance, minimizing downtime, and maximizing productivity. Through ongoing training, effective communication, and a commitment to excellence, companies can create a sustainable maintenance program that sets them apart from the competition and drives long-term success. Whether you're just starting out or looking to take your maintenance program to the next level, remember that the path to reliability excellence begins with a strong foundation in education and leadership.

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