The Power of Organizational Beliefs in Reliability and Maintenance Management

Excellent leadership maintenance management is essential for lasting results of any improvement initiative that an organization undertakes, including the improvement of Reliability and Maintenance performance.

As a leader you need to create an organization of disciples that will follow you to make your vision or future organization, a reality.

As a leader, I have found it very important to develop and communicate your beliefs to your organization. These beliefs will guide your organization on its journey towards your goals.

Here I will share my own and IDCON’s beliefs in reliability and maintenance management.

I hope they can serve as a guideline to develop your own beliefs.

Belief 1. Cost reduction does not generate improved reliability. Improved reliability results in lower costs.

Reliability performance is here measured as performance of Quality x Time x Speed or Overall Production Efficiency (OPE).

To sustainably reduce cost, you need to focus on what drives cost, not cost alone. Improved production reliability drives down costs.

Cost reduction often leads to short-term gains and long-term loss. For example, just because you cut the number of employees does not mean that the work they do will vanish, and it certainly does not mean that reliability will improve. Even if your production lines are not sold out the biggest saving potential is increased production reliability because it shortens the time from raw material to finished product.

Improved reliability also improves safety and energy consumption.

Belief 2. People cannot be more productive than the system they work in allows them to be.

Even with good skills and good will people cannot be effective if they work in a reactive, unplanned and unscheduled system.

As an example, skills training will be wasted because people are not allowed to use their skills to execute work with precision.

Belief 3. It is a leadership obligation to develop, communicate, and coach implementation of these processes.

One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to develop and document the holistic reliability and maintenance management system, the processes in that system, and the elements in the processes.

E.g. Overview of the holistic reliability and maintenance management system, the work management process within that system and the elements within the work management process e.g. of how to set the right priorities on work requests and work orders.

When this is done you will have a very well defined reliability and maintenance management strategy. You can use this documented strategy to drive implementation and to measure progress towards your vision.

Belief 4. It is more important to do the right things than to do things right.

To decide what the right things to do are is leadership. To do things right is execution of these things.

When developing your reliability and maintenance management strategy you should only focus on the right things to do and not discuss how to do them.

It is much easier to reach acceptance on the right things to do then how execute them.

As long as the right things to do are done it is less important how they are done. Organizations with different sizes, skill levels and cultures have many different ways to execute.

Belief 5. The rightpeople are an organization’s most vital asset.

I see this statement quite often, “People are our most valuable asset”. I do not agree with this statement. It should instead state, “The right people are our most valuable asset”.

That is a statement I would agree with. Many improvement initiatives fail because the right people are not accountable and responsible for the task they are assigned.

It does not mean that these people cannot be right in another position. It is a continuous process to develop the organization so that the right people have the right position.

Belief 6. Busy people are not productive unless they work on the right thing.

Measurement methods such as “Wrench time” can, therefore, not be right.

In fact, a very good maintenance organization is less busy with “Wrench time” between shutdowns. Instead, more time is spent on Root Cause Problem Elimination™ (RCPE) and preparing for the next shut down.

This can be done because there are very few breakdowns.

If work is planned and then scheduled people will work on the right things, so it is more important to measure the effectiveness of the process people work in then to measure the symptoms of the process people work in.

Belief 7. People do not mind change, but do not like to be changed.

My experience is that people do not like, and seldom buy in to, changes handed down from above without explanation of what, why and how.

But, if people are well informed and listened to, they will better understand and accept the reason for change.

Repeated information, education and training are essential elements of any improvement initiative involving people.

Belief 8. Basic maintenance processes must be in place before implementing more advanced tools.

Many organizations start new improvement initiatives before they are ready.

Some examples include:

  • Starting Reliability Centered  (RCM) Training and analyses before they are ready because they are still too reactive; they are reactive because they do not do the very basics well.
  • Train crafts people in precision maintenance training when they work in a reactive process. When most work is urgent, there is not enough time to use the good skills learned.  In turn, this leads to disappointment and loss of those skills.
  • Upgrading to an advanced Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) before the organization is ready. Good advice is to always start with designing the processes first and then implement the new system.

This is simply an Illustration of what the basic maintenance processes are. It looks so simple, but vey few organizations do them well

Belief 9. Rapid and sustainable change does not exist in maintenance because the change process is “90%” about people and behaviors.

Is rapid change possible in a maintenance organization?

If change is equivalent to sustainable improvements the answer to this question is no.


In my experience 90% of improvement of maintenance performance is about people and 10% is about technology and processes.

This does not mean that technology and design of processes are not important. It is very important to design the right processes for people to enable them to become more productive.

But that is the easy part in an improvement initiative. This part might take only five to ten percent of the effort in time and money.

What takes time is to make an often-undisciplined reactive organization to work in a disciplined process. Your organization might have many maintenance heroes who value the recognition they receive when they repair a broken down piece of equipment.

They might also be rewarded by overtime pay because of the logic that equipment is more likely (76%) to break down when the full maintenance crew is not in the mill.

Technology is also very important. To acquire the right tools for vibration analyses, precision alignment, and hand held computers etc. is easy because most maintenance people love gadgets and tools.

The challenge is to implement the use of the tools in a disciplined process. It might be basic things like taking action to plan and schedule correction of failures in equipment discovered early by any of these tools.

To make that process work is what takes time. It might include changing the mindset of requestors of maintenance work to not request a higher priority on work than necessary because it will drive the organization into a reactive mode.

It might require to update bills of materials so planners can plan more efficiently etc.

It will require a close partnership between operations and maintenance so priorities of work are done based on what is most important for the business. These are just some few examples to demonstrate that 90% of effort to improve maintenance performance is about people.

During all my years in the reliability and maintenance management business I have seen so many, and done so many, well written plans and Power Point presentations and often seen lacking true implementation of these plans.

Most organizations know what they need to do so that is not the big issue. The big issue is to make the system and processes you designed and agreed upon work.

I call this phenomenon the “Know-Do gap”.

I have also worked with many organizations that have reached excellence in reliability and lower costs.

The common denominator for these organizations is that they close the “Know-Do Gap”, they think long term and clearly define the best practices, they consistently communicate these practices, they provide the right tools and consistently execute these practices long term.

Belief 10. Operations, Engineering, Maintenance, and Stores must work in a partnership to reach excellence.

Most organizations we work with think they work in a close partnership between these departments, but not many do. This is often reflected in in the way performance indicators are used.

Operations are measured by the quality tons produced, maintenance by the cost of maintenance, engineering by on time and within budget for projects and stores by turn over and value of inventory.

These examples of performance indicators do not promote a partnership between the departments.

If you agree to Belief 1: “Cost reduction does not generate improved reliability. Improved reliability results in lower cost”.

Then you have set the foundation to a reliability driven organization and the common lagging performance indicator should be production reliability.

Production reliability is how many quality tons manufactured divided by capacity tons: or Quality performance x Time performance x Speed performance.

If production reliability is used as the common goal for operations and maintenance it will drive a different mindset.

E.g. it will be less important to record lost production by department. Instead the organization would focus on eliminating the root cause of the problem.

It will also lead to that, as a leader, you would focus more on development and documentation and implementation of the processes that drives better reliability followed by lower costs, instead of focusing only on the cost of maintenance.

The manufacturing cost per ton will override the maintenance cost per ton. This will encourage operations employees to participate in maintenance work and vice versa.

As an example: Where it is practical, operators will do a big part of basic inspections and essential care of equipment. Shutdowns can be changed but only as a joint decision between operations and maintenance etc.

Stores will not only be measured by inventory reductions in money. Instead inventory reductions will be done concurrent with measurement of service level to maintenance (right item available at the right time.)

Engineering will include reliability and maintainability considerations in specifications and design of equipment and make procurement decisions based on life cycle cost over 10 years or more.

If you agree with belief 10 you cannot only say that: “now we shall all work together as equal partners in a reliability partnership”, you need to define, document and communicate your beliefs, and then design all work processes according to these beliefs.

Picture 2 Reliable production (or manufacturing) is the common goal for operations, engineering and stores in a reliability driven organization

Belief 11. Lost production reports shall record where and what, then ask why to solve and eliminate problems.

In most organizations the operations department is viewed as an internal customer to the maintenance department, and the maintenance department view themselves as a service organization to the operations department.

This working relationship is often reflected in the lost production reports. Lost production is reported by department e.g. Operations, Mechanical, Electrical and Instrumentation etc.

This serves no purpose more to find someone to blame. It is also very often wrong because it frequently reports the symptom instead of the cause of the problem.  E.g. an electric motor failed and caused lost production.

This is often reported as down time due to electrical problem, but the cause to the motor failure can be something different. If you want to create a partnership between operations and maintenance the common goal between these two departments is reliable production. (Belief 10).

This belief shall be documented and reinforced in a mission statement. An example of a production, or manufacturing mission statement could be.

“In a partnership between operations and maintenance we shall safely deliver continuously better production reliability”.  Then all work processes, including lost production reports, must be designed according to the mission statement.

Instead of reporting lost production by department it should be reported where, when, what happened.

A trigger is set to filter what events shall go through a Root Cause Problem Elimination (RCPE) activity. In a RCPE process the first step is to clearly describe the problem in a problem statement, then ask “why?” or “how can?” the problem occur.

This process will help build a partnership. Also notice we talk about problems, not failures.

The term failure will lead thoughts to equipment and maintenance, while the perm problem is more inclusive of everybody.

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, 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 [email protected]

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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Christer Idhammar

Founder, IDCON INC Reliability and Maintenance Management Guru

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