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The Shortest Distance Between Two Points is a Straight Line

by Christer Idhammar

Any improvement initiative within reliability and maintenance is a journey towards a state of continuous improvement. You will never reach a final destination. You might state that your goal is 95% planned and scheduled maintenance and 96% reliability.

In my opinion these goals are necessary milestones because when you pass these milestones you should not think you are done. What you will notice is that you now have time to go the next step. You must use this time to take actions to generate continuously better results otherwise your organizations’ performance will weaken. An old but still true statement is “If you do not improve, you are not good anymore”. 

If we agree on our destination being a state of continuous improvement, the next thing we need to know is where we start. Before you enter into any improvement initiative it is a good idea to ask yourself what best describes your organization’s status:  


I don’t know where I am and don’t know where I am going.

  • If you do not know where you are when you start an improvement initiative and you do not know where you are going you might have a nice but very expensive experience. A lot of action but inadequate results.

I know where I am but I don’t know where I am going.

  • If you know where you are, but you do not know where you are going, it will take a very long time to reach any destination. Again a lot of action but inadequate results.

I don’t know where I am but I know where I am going.

  • If you don’t know where you are, but you know where you are going, you might reach your destination, but it will take a lot of unnecessary time and effort to arrive there.  Again a lot of action but inadequate or late results.

I know where I am and I know where I am going.

  • If you know where you are and you know where you are going you can reach your destination in the shortest time and the most cost effective manner.

Which statement above best describes your situation? 

I have many times said that maintenance managers are in a “Budget Jail”. It is more important for them to stay within the budget than to invest money in improved reliability, because their performance is not measured by reliability, they are measured on cost. In many cases this situation is caused because they do not have a good measurement on how good their organization is, and they do not have a good picture of how good they can become, and there is no aggressive and quantified plan on how to close this gap. 

Maintenance management is a very process-driven matter. If you document these processes and the elements of each process you can appraise how well each of these elements is executed. You have also created a document that describes what excellence looks like.

After you have assessed and rated all elements your organization will discover where your gaps are and you can develop the action plan to close these gaps. We have used this methodology in hundreds of organizations worldwide, and we have proven that a better score on best practices will generate excellent results. The biggest challenge is to get often reactive people to work in a more disciplined way. 

You need to know where you are and where you are going, and you must have a plan to draw a straight line on how to reach your destination. Then it is all about long term reinforcement.

As the best practice score increased the number of break downs went down and reliability and production throughput went up. The value of the increased reliability by 1.9 % is worth about ten times more than the savings in maintenance cost. The data is from several plants over an eight years period.

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