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The Reliability Driven Maintenance Organization- Part I

by Christer Idhammar

Any plant maintenance department wants to be known as a cost effective organization. For the purposes of this article, “Cost Effective” will be defined as: "Maintenance without waste, where waste is defined as the gap between how good the organization is and how good it can become”. The waste includes poor safety, losses in quality tons produced and high costs.

In a poorly performing maintenance and operations organization, the gap between the real and the ideal world tends to increase over time because the organization reacts to problems instead of preventing them. As a result, there isn't any time to take measures that will break this reactive work cycle. Even in periods when equipment is operating well and no panic-work comes up, the maintenance organization tends to slow down and wait for the next problem. In this organization, a culture develops where maintenance personnel think it is useless to start any other work because they will be interrupted with real, or often perceived, urgent work anyway. So, even between reactive work maintenance personnel accomplish very little.

From an operations' standpoint, this situation can be quite comforting, because it means that maintenance can deal with equipment problems on short notice. In the real world, it is far easier for operations to call maintenance to fix a problem when it occurs than to write a work request to correct an anticipated problem. This type of relationship typically occurs when operations does not feel responsible for the cost of maintenance. Even if most work is requested by operations, the maintenance manager is in the hot seat if budget overruns occur.

Although the situation described above is unacceptable, it is nevertheless very common. In many plants, maintenance is very DO oriented; people are recognized for solving recurring problems and staying busy.

A high performing maintenance organization is far different from that just pictured. It is founded on anticipating what will happen in the future and planning and scheduling corrective actions in advance. A high performing maintenance organization is not only DO oriented, it is also THINK oriented. It is an organization that continuously designs out problems and improve.


Plants that want to develop a high performing maintenance organization should know that the first steps are:

  • To fully understand how good they are and where the gaps are to become better.
  • To develop and commit to an action plan to close the gaps including clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • To change work attitudes and culture.

In some plants, the typical first step toward improving maintenance performance is to purchase a new computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or instruments for predictive maintenance. Or they implement fragmented improvement initiatives with tools such as Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), 5s etc. Indeed, these are good tools but often they are implemented before an organization does the basics well and therefore these initiatives often fail.

Although there are many very good systems and tools on the market, these tools also frequently fail to pay a return because plants have not changed the work culture to support the efficient use of these tools.

It might be worth referencing what Bill Gates said:

 The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient, well defined operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient or poorly defined operation will magnify the inefficiency.

The analogy here is that if an organization that is not ready to implement e.g. RCM or lean maintenance, it will distract them and they will become even less efficient.

One proven way to implement improvements is for plants to adopt a set of beliefs and a strategy based on these beliefs. The "Results Oriented Reliability and Maintenance"™ (RORM) philosophy is used in this article as an example of a set of beliefs. Results ina plant are achieved by doing the Right Things (Leadership), and the plant organization Accepts and commit to Executing these things right.



When it comes to measuring the results of maintenance activities, plants traditionally view good maintenance in terms of low costs, which are often measured as maintenance cost per ton of product. With very few exceptions, this cost is always considered too high. This view of maintenance stems from an old attitude, which is that maintenance only costs money and does not contribute to productivity.

Plants must change the way they measure maintenance results. Analysis of production advancements over the past 35 years reveals that many process industries have more than tripled their production output. During this time, the number of operators has gone down about 30 percent, while the number of maintenance crafts people has gone down about 6%. Although this growth in productivity can be traced to increased automation and more reliable equipment, it is not necessarily a result of efficient maintenance.

    To see the results of good maintenance, plants should measure maintenance results as Prime Quality Tons (PQT) manufactured divided by $1,000 invested in maintenance, or PQT/$1,000. This is obviously the inverted formula of cost/ton, but it contributes to changing the way top management and accountants must view maintenance results. It also does a better job of highlighting something most plants focuses on, or at least talk about: that quality is more important than volume and costs. It's also one way of stopping accountants from asking, "”Why do we spend so much money on maintenance when we never have any breakdowns?"   It is a fact that higher manufacturing reliability will improve both safety and costs.

Manufacturing  maintenance and breakdowns

Read The Reliability Driven Maintenance Organization- Part II

Read The Reliability Driven Maintenance Organization- Part III