Long-Term Reliability or Short Term Results: Where Should Reliability and Maintenance Managers Focus their Efforts?

As reliability and maintenance managers we struggle with our daily focus. Should we focus on long term results, or short term wins? We believe you have to do both, but with the right balance. This video provides some ideas on the long term vs short term focus for maintenance leaders.

I recently visited a plant in South America for an assessment.

They had done some really good things in the plant over the past 2-3 years, but they had not been able to achieve stable reliability performance of their production lines. They were hovering around the high 70s [%] for their Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE). 

The business consultant they had been working with had coached them on focusing on “low hanging fruit” and “quick results” in order to get quick financial impacts.

This sounds great! We all want the quick fixes with high impact, right? The mill could also show some great pockets of success.

There is nothing wrong with focusing on getting quick results in maintenance, but there is a major problem with ONLY focusing on quick results and not long term reliability.

Let me explain what I mean.

The balance between long term reliability and short-term repairs and processes in industrial maintenance
Figure: What do we focus our time on? Short-term results or the implementation of better processes?

Most problematic maintenance organizations are working on taking care of problems that happened today or yesterday.

Therefore, there is no time for planning and scheduling of jobs.  Repairs are done with poor quality since there is often no access to the right tools, materials, instructions, drawings, etc. The poor-quality repairs lead to rework down the road which in turn leads to an even more reactive organization. We call this “the circle of despair” at IDCON.

The maintenance cycle. Many reactive organizations are in the circle of despair and quick wins are easy to find. But long term reliability takes effective management of the core processes.
The maintenance cycle with core processes represented.

If an organization in this situation is told to target quick results, they often select a few critical pieces of equipment and start to repair known problems. The organization typically adds some overtime and contractors into the organization to work on the known backlog.

This approach will provide quick results! Quick results are great to instill enthusiasm and energy into reliability projects. However, if they aren’t combined with the institutionalization of basic work management practices, they will not provide long-term reliability.

Especially if we select the most critical equipment and do some basic preventive maintenance (PM) problem-solving at the same time. We use this approach quite often ourselves to show that the process works early in projects. 

However, if we don’t work on improving the basic work processes, the equipment will return to the state it was in soon enough and the mill will be back to square one.

This is exactly what was happening at the tissue mill.

They improved a little bit but kept sliding back because they didn’t have a solid work processes in place.

What they need parallel to the quick fixes is the systemization of a basic work process that includes.

  1. Prevention of failures through, for example, lubrication, operating practices, alignment, precision installation, etc.
  2. Work Management through Inspection – Planning – Scheduling – Execution.
Figure The key processes to achieve long term results are the processes above. Learn more about the Chain of Maintenance

If the mill had worked on some quick fixes at the same time as working on implementing a work process, they would have had a stable OEE, probably in the low 90s range.

Like this content? Watch more of our videos on our YouTube Channel or read more article like this one.

At IDCON, we understand the pressure you face trying to build a reliable plant.
We provide side-by-side reliability and maintenance consulting and training designed to keep your equipment running.

For over 45 years, we’ve partnered with 100s of manufacturing plants around the world to eliminate the costs and the pressure caused by unreliable equipment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

Contact us today to see how we can help you keep your plant running.

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Torbjörn Idhammar

President & CEO, IDCON Inc. Reliability and Maintenance Consultant

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