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Reliability and Maintenance Management Beliefs Part 3

by Christer Idhammar

Read part 1 and Read part 2

These are our last 3 core beliefs that guide our business and philosophy when working with our clients.  What you should notice is that they support several of the other beliefs. 


Belief 12. Keep things simple.

As stated in belief 9- sustainable improvements in reliability and maintenance performance is “90%” about getting skilled people to work in a disciplined system. The technology part is important and easy to get people interested in (e.g. to buy a new handheld data collector for equipment condition monitoring can be interesting), but to use it in a disciplined system, report failures, plan correction of found failures, schedule execution of correction of failures, report what was done, and to use this information to avoid repetition of the failures, is more of a challenge.

Technology is the only thing that has changed significantly in the last 50 years. The principles on how to manage maintenance are pretty much the same. New names on well-known concepts occur frequently and this can be very confusing to people.

The picture below describes what many recognize has occurred in their companies over the years.

Figure 1: Constantly changing terms/Ideas creates confusion.

Perhaps it started many years ago when a new manager implemented “Planned maintenance”, this lead to short, but not sustained improvements. The next initiative, often with a new manager, was “Predictive maintenance”. Again short-term results were generated. When results disappeared the next action was to implement TPM (Total Productive Maintenance). Then this initiative failed to give the significant sustained results that had been expected it was time to enter into AM (Asset Management) and then RCM (Reliability Centered Maintenance), RBM (Reliability Based Maintenance), 5S, Six Sigma, Total Production Reliability (TPR), Lean etc.

Nothing is wrong with these initiatives but it is of vital importance to stick with one holistic system and clarify the difference between the system and the tools used to enhance the system performance. Almost all initiatives were instigated by changes in management. Best performing organizations have documented and implemented best practices for reliability and maintenance and over time consistently executed these practices better and better. While seeing results every year, after two to seven years they have been rewarded with break-through results.

Because of the confusion all these concepts and tools it is important to simplify as much as possible. Successful organizations have done that and focused on continuously improving the basic processes: Prevention, Inspections, Planning, Scheduling and Execution of work.

Belief 13: The holistic system with its processes and elements can be supported by other tools and supporting processes.

A holistic overview of the reliability and maintenance management system, processes, elements, tools and supporting processes can be described in the model below.  

Figure 2: The System

Describing the System

The market drives the production plan and all maintenance work requiring shut down of equipment must be coordinated with the production plan for best time to be executed.

When maintenance work is planned and then scheduled you have set the process people work in so they can execute work safer and cost effectively. To plan work efficiently you must have access to an up to date technical database including Bills Of Materials (BOM) and other information.

After work is completed it should be recorded as to what was completed, parts and material used, update information to BOM and other valid information. The recorded information shall be used to continuously improve using Root Cause Problem Elimination (RCPE).

However, most organizations do not work in the “Circle of Continuous Improvement” they work too much in the “Circle of Despair”. This means that they React to problems on a short notice and bypass the planning and scheduling of work. Repairs will, therefore, be done with low quality. Because of this, failures will be repeated and it will be necessary return to do the work again and the circle repeats itself. To get out of this “Circle of Despair” you must set up the processes for Prevention, Condition Monitoring, Prioritization, Planning of work, and Scheduling of work, Execution of Work, Recording of executed work, and how to do RCPE.

An example of a process is Planning and Scheduling, or the Work Management Process. It contains several steps and starts with Work Request then Priority of Request etc. as seen in picture below.


Figure 3: Planning and Scheduling or Work Management process

Confusing Tools with The System

Tools can be used to improve the processes in the holistic system. To avoid confusion and the “program of the month ailment”, it is very important that tools are not mixed up with the holistic system. To be successful you must have a very well established holistic system including its processes. Tools such as 5S, Six Sigma, Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) etc. are good and very useful when used in the right environment. Implementation of only a tool will only result in temporary non-sustainable improvements. The holistic system and processes must be in place to supportsustainability and continuous improvement.

Belief 14. Always explain What, Why and How

People do not mind change, but they do not like to be changed, (Belief 7). Any improvement initiative is a selling process. You must have a clear vision of what the improvement initiative entails and why it is necessary to do it. You might have a clear idea of how it is going to be done, but after explaining the what and the why it is effective to ask people involved in the improvement initiative to come up with ideas on how they think it can be done. Focus first on getting an agreement on “The right things to do” then discuss how to do it. It is easier for people to agree on the right things to do then on how to do them.

Many organizations put too much emphasis on change management and make this more complicated than necessary. We often hear “We already do this” and this might be true. Most organizations do most of the elements of best reliability and maintenance practices, but most can do these elements better. Of course there might be an element of change with some people, but as most of the improvements we talk, are common sense and nothing new, the change management element should not be neglected but not overdone.

It can also help to describe, “What good looks like” and present a picture of what the future will look like. For example

  • Production Reliability improved by 3%
  • Maintenance cost down by 15%
  • Very few maintenance people on late shift (24/7 operation)
  • Majority of basic equipment done by trained operators


Belief 15. Execution is key to success

The elements of a maintenance management system have not changed much since the 1960s. Technology such as computerized maintenance management systems, predictive maintenance tools have changed dramatically and are today much better and more affordable. Since the 1970s industries has moved away from fixed time overhauls and replacements of equipment components to more condition based maintenance.

It should be obvious that an improvement plan is executed, but many plans are never implemented to completion before a new initiative starts. I have seen so many excellent plans and Power Point presentations followed by no action.

Wasted Time

The time it takes to develop a best practices document, define roles for the team members involved to lead the project, educate the team members, and agree on a common repeatable assessment methodology and strategy documents might be 5% of the total effort. To get acceptance from those who are going to implement might be 10% of total effort, the remaining 85% is On-The-Job training and coaching. Often the time is spent more on development and almost no time is spent on supporting execution through On-The-Job training and coaching.

The only major difference I have seen between best performers and lagging organizations is that the best performers execute well-defined best practices. Most organizations know what they need to do, but they do not consistently execute the best practices better and better.

Who will execute?

A notice to managers: all improvement initiatives must be executed by the front line organization, until they do, no results will be delivered.

Figure 4: The Front LIne Organization

In an effective organization, there needs to be a function that collects and filters incoming work requests – the One Point of Contact or coordinator between Operations and Maintenance. Planning needs to be done by someone before work is scheduled for execution, this is often done by planners. Scheduling of work is often done by a front line work leader or supervisor. The work is executed by Crafts People and Operators.  

All of our beliefs support our organization and our work with our clients. If your organization has questions about the Holistic System, best practices in the processes or the elements, or how to re-energize your reliability and maintenance management, contact me at