Reliable Asset World: Opening Workshop

May 11th, 2017

Reliable Asset World 2017 – the fourth annual gathering of reliability and maintenance engineering professionals in Clearwater Beach, Florida, hosted by UE Systems – kicked off Tuesday with an educational workshop on How to Break The Vicious Cycle of Reactive Maintenance by Joe Anderson, CMRP, Reliability Manager at Schwan Foods in Salina, KS.

While the food industry has some of its own unique wrinkles and challenges, Joe explained, many of the basic principles of dealing with a team or organization that's entrenched in a reactive maintenance mode and transitioning it to a predictive and preventive maintenance practices remain the same. He outlined some of his experiences reducing waste, improving efficiency and strengthening teams over 20 years in various industries.

Moving away from the firefighter model

One of the key concepts Joe focused in on was the need to move away from the "firefighter" model of maintenance engineering. Sure, it's nice when you're able to come in as a maintenance team and save the day when something's broken and fix it in record time. But it's even better when essential equipment doesn't break in the first place.

"We need you to do 100 percent of one job well; you can't do 500 percent."

There were about 230,000 manufacturing companies in the U.S. employing more than 100 employees in 2014, Joe pointed out – but less than 1 percent of them can be considered "world class" in terms of reliability maintenance practice. One of the problems is the gap in awareness of failure modes. "All people know about is breakdowns," said Joe. " You might have one 30-minute breakdown in an 8-hour period, but what about 10 2-minute outages every 8 hours? It turns out minor stops are the biggest loss."

When Joe gets to a new organization, he spends 4 to 6 months developing credibility, getting quick wins and cleaning up his own house – maintenance – before pushing initiatives out into the rest of the plant floor. Sometimes, you have to conversations with people who don't necessarily want to hear them. 

"I had to tell a supervisor: You're doing five people's jobs and you're doing 20 percent of each job well," said Joe. "We need you to do 100 percent of one job well; you can't do 500 percent."

Building a proactive workflow model

One of the first steps start with building an asset catalog, so that you're not wasting resources time finding parts or ordering unnecessary replacements. Once you know what you have, you need to standardize operations, so that everyone is working toward the same goals and in the same pattern. Just having the program's not enough – it needs to generate consistent results.

"If you're doing PM and it's still breaking down every two months – it's not PM," said Joe. "Take the subjectiveness out and make it scientific. Maintenance is scientific, not artistry."

Once you have the plans and assets in place, it's time to sell. Managing a reliability program – or really, any effort at all – means selling in three different directions: Up, out and down.

Managing in three directions

When managing up, you're basically selling to leadership, showing the value added and the costs avoided by new maintenance efforts.

Managing down might seem like the most straightforward, especially if you have decades of experience running a team. When you're trying to change the way the team functions, you need to sell the operational benefits, remove obstacles to implementation and most importantly, do not make excuses.

Managing out means building coalitions and allies, selling the value of process improvement to other teams and stakeholders and offering to train their people. You don't want to roll in telling people they're doing it all wrong – you need to build partnerships.

At the end of the day, Joe emphasized, "If you're in an organization that's 10 percent reactive, you can't come in and implement the same plans." Understand that the Pareto Principle applies in maintenance just as it does in the market: 20 percent of your assets are causing 80 percent of your problems. Focus on those, and you'll see uptime go up, wrench time go up and costs go down.

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