There is ample research that shows poor reliability leads to poor quality, safety issues, higher energy consumption, emissions problems, and obviously the loss of productivity. It is basically impossible to achieve operational excellence in a facility or business that is plagued with reliability problems.
LNS Research’s APM survey has consistently revealed the implementation of an Asset Performance Management (APM) program is driven first and foremost by the pursuit of operational improvement. At the same time, a large majority of companies report that their reliability programs are minimal or non-existent and the vast majority are still based on paper systems, spreadsheets of very narrow point solutions. My hypothesis is that the prevalence of poor reliability is a failure of leadership in our businesses.
Leadership is What Gets Things Done
Having spent time is the US Air Force in the Vietnam era, I had the opportunity to avail myself of numerous training opportunities. One of the best lessons I learned was from an inspiring Senior Master Sergeant who said “leadership is getting people to do what you want them to do because they think they want to do it.” Another important concept I learned in the military was that true leaders do so from the “front” – because lead is the key operative word in leadership. The greatest military leaders of all times were those that led their troops into battle, they were not at the rear strategizing or issuing orders. They faced the enemy, head-on, themselves. Leaders set the example. Of course, if there are leaders there must also be followers; those that are led.
What Leadership in Reliability Really Means
Reliability requires leadership, it doesn’t “just happen.” Reliability is a shift from the status quo of past maintenance approaches of “when it breaks – fix it” to an approach. That approach utilizes a scientific method to determine the optimal approach to maintenance to carefully understand and manage operational risk. Asset reliability is focused on ensuring that an asset performs, as intended, as expected and as needed at all times. This requires an investment in time, tools and techniques. At LNS Research we use the people-process-technology triad as the foundation of our operational excellence platform discussions. Reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) tools are the technology and reliability itself is the process so it is leadership that defines the people element of APM operational excellence initiatives.
Leadership in APM and reliability is multi-faceted. Just as in the military where there are platoon and squad leaders as well as the commanders and generals of the larger units, in a business leaders need to exist at all levels of the organization. From the foreman of the craft group, up to the maintenance superintendent, all the way to the CEO; there are leaders and all must focus on reliability as it relates to their position.
- A craft supervisor ensuring that reliability related activities always receive the appropriate attention and time to complete properly.
- A planner ensuring that reactive maintenance doesn’t preclude appropriate preventative and condition-based maintenance,
- A maintenance superintendent making sure that all of the tools and materials needed to facilitate RCM activities are in-place and supported.
- A production manager making sure operators and supervisors are part of the reliability program. Proper housekeeping and daily inspection are the role of operations not maintenance,
- Plant managers ensuring that reliability achievements are recognized and the entire team that is contributing to improved reliability are rewarded.
- Senior managers insisting that unplanned maintenance be managed down and that reliability be a key performance indicator.
When everyone in the management hierarchy leads by example and placing reliability at the forefront of the things they do as well, such as performing their own daily inspections and housekeeping activities, it sets the tone for the rest of the organization. One of the surest ways to stifle reliability is for leaders to take a “do as I say, not as I do” approach. In fact, that isn’t exhibiting leadership, rather it is a form of dictatorship.