What are the best performers doing differently? Part I

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What are the best performers doing differently? Part I

May 30, 2010 - 16:00

USA, May 31, 2010 (RISI) -Here a best performer is defined as an industrial plant that has achieved a high reliability and fast throughput of manufactured products and as a consequence, manufacturing costs, including maintenance costs, are low.

So what are the best performers doing differently than others? The short answer is that they do what we all know we need to do; they just do it better and better over a long period of time. Best performers know and understand that improved reliability and maintenance performance lies more with people than with technology.

Christer Idhammar

This does not mean that technology including computer systems, is not very important, but it is the easy and less time consuming part of the improvement initiative. For a very long time I have proclaimed that: "To improve reliability and maintenance performance is 90% about people and 10% about technology" The best performers I worked with have taken this to heart and acted accordingly.

Maintenance people and engineers like gadgets so tools such as instruments and computer systems easily become the focus. The real challenge, which is to change often reactive and undisciplined behaviors to become pro active and disciplined behaviors, is often forgotten.

Why does this happen? My observations include that the acquirement of tools is the easy and fun part, while changing people's behaviors takes time and it is difficult, many organizations also fail to see that maintenance performance is driven mostly by work processes and not only by technology. For example Planning and Scheduling must be a very well thought out and documented process. A good tool to support this process is your computerized maintenance management system. To develop and document this process is not difficult, nor is it time consuming, compared to the effort and time you need to devote to the implementation of this process and to institute it so your whole manufacturing organization follows the process you developed.

Another example is predictive maintenance systems. My observations are that about 40% of these systems are reactive instead of proactive. You might have bought the best tools for vibration analysis (VA), but you might still have bearings breaking down. As a rule of thumb one person can pick up data and analyze about 2,500 bearings with the necessary frequency of two to four weeks, this is if your plant is not too spread out geographically. So you have the best tools, but you might have only two people to pick up data and analyze 10,000 bearings. You might even have a very well documented process but because of shortage of people you will make the mistake extending the frequency of data pick up and analysis to six to eight weeks. The late discovery of bearing failures caused by this situation will also disrupt the planning and scheduling. This situation is not solved by the best technology; it is solved by people and processes.

I learnt long time ago that it takes time to get the breakthrough results that are achievable through maintenance improvements and that the reason for this is the time it takes to change old and ingrained habits.

R = Q x A E.
R = Results. Improved Reliability and lower costs
Q = Quality Decisions. The right things to do.
E = Execution.

The non-mathematical formula describes the key ingredients you need to focus on in any improvement effort including people. First you need to be clear on why you enter into this improvement effort. You need to improve Reliability and generate lower costs. The measurement should not be cost/unit it should be quality unit/cost if you are results oriented. Q stands for the right things to do. It is easier to get Acceptance (A) for the right things to do then how you are going to do these things. As a leader you owe it to your organization to explain your beliefs as "the right things to do" then you need your organization to help you do them right. After you reach a good level of acceptance for your plan your success or failure is entirely up to Execution (E) of the right things to do.

The only difference I have seen in the best performing organizations and others is that they execute things we all know we should do.

Christer Idhammaris a wellknown reliability and maintenance consultant. He is the founder and executive vice president with IDCON, INC in Raleigh NC, a reliability and maintenance training and consulting company to the pulp and paper industry world wide since 1972.www.idcon.com