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What Constitutes World-Class Reliability and Maintenance? (part 1)

by Christer Idhammar

I have received many calls asking, "How can you tell if an organization is a world class reliability and maintenance organization or not?"

How well the systems and practices discussed in this column are being used indicate to me how far a plant has to go to become "world-class” maintenance and reliability. I would suggest reading this column with a group of operations and maintenance employees that includes both management and craftspeople.

On a scale of zero to ten, rate your plant's use of the following systems and practices, with ten meaning that you are so good that it would probably not pay off to do more improvements in this area. A five indicates that you feel you do a good job, while a zero means that your performance is a disaster.

1. We specify, design, and buy assets based on Life Cycle Cost (LCC) instead of lowest cost to buy. This means that decisions on what to buy are based on costs to buy and costs to own an asset over its economical life, instead of buying assets solely on purchase price. A world-class organization has maintenance professionals involved very early in a project. These professionals know how to perform reliability and maintainability analyses of systems and components.
As a result, complete bills of materials, training manuals, and detailed drawings are delivered according to your documented maintenance standards. Also, guards allow easy inspections on the run, components requiring frequent maintenance are easily accessible, and so forth.

2. We, as a management team, are focusing on the same results. Operations, engineering, maintenance, and stores are working toward the same goal. Your organization is jointly focusing on reliability performance, not on cutting costs until it sees what results it gets. This means that your whole organization's most important goal is competitiveness through manufacturing reliability and cost, rather than focusing only on maintenance costs and perceived maintenance downtime.

As a result, your Overall Production Efficiency continuously increases, and, consequently, total manufacturing costs decrease. This is very important, because increasing product throughput to sales generates three to 20 times more revenue in a normal market when compared with cutting costs for work done to generate the needed reliability for increasing product throughput.

3. We have developed and documented a reliability and maintenance policy that includes a three- to five-year improvement plan. This policy is communicated to all employees. This means that you have described all essential reliability and maintenance elements, their key performance indicators, why these are important, how people are being recognized when improving toward goals, the importance of reliability for plant competitiveness, and so forth.

As a result, your employees are well informed and motivated to do their part to continuously improve toward the same goals. People know which product line to prioritize because they know what the market demands. Work priorities are not based on emotions. Instead, they are based on what is best for the plant. There is a certainty of direction and a good understanding of what the future holds.

4. Craftspeople have a high level of skills and front line supervision adjusts its management style accordingly. This means that front line supervisors, team leaders, or coordinators do not need to spend much time instructing people. Instead, they support them through good planning and scheduling of work, identifying individual training needs, organizing this training, coaching root cause failure analysis, and other empowering tasks.
As a result, you have a thinking and problem solving organization instead of a reactive one. People are enthusiastic about what they do. Their griping level is very low, and 10% to 30% of all maintenance hours, including crafts people's hours, are used on problem solving and implementation of improvements.

5. Maintenance crafts people's work is limited by their skills, not by rigid craft lines. This means that you might have only one mechanical craft that includes welders, pipe fitters, machinists, millwrights, etc., and another craft for electricians and instrumentation. However, to have this on a piece of paper is not worth anything. Your people are being trained to use all necessary skills and supervisors are assigning work in a way that reflects your multi skills or multi craft work practices. At the same time, while you have work flexibility (horizontal skills), you still have vertical skills in areas such as hydraulics and electronics and other areas requiring specialists.

As a result, you find it very easy to plan and schedule work because it involves less people to do a job that crosses over between traditional craft lines. Your craftspeople's job satisfaction is also higher after the initial frustration created by the change you might have to go through to become more flexible.

Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6

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