News and Publications

Download PDF of: Solutions Quarterly – June 2014

Is your reliability program .…reliable?

Reliability has the attention of senior management like never before. Management clearly sees the connection between asset performance and business results, and is investing accordingly. New asset management and maintenance initiatives are underway with specific expectations of measurable returns, better performance and optimum asset utilization. Moreover, reliability processes and tools have been around for years and are generally well understood, at least by Maintenance and Operations. Current thinking seems to be that getting results is simply a matter of implementing and using existing reliability tools. The performance gap is largely attributed to resources and budget…and now that the money is flowing, the thinking goes, results will flow too.

Maybe. Our experience suggests, however, that better than 50% of these well funded, high visibility asset management and maintenance initiatives are not meeting financial expectations. Oddly, it appears that far too many reliability initiatives are not, in

fact, reliable. So what’s the issue?

Potential Culprits

Well, its not opportunity. Increased reliability translates directly to dollars; if anything, the prospective financial benefits in the plans we see are often understated. We sometimes hear the underperformance is because asset management and maintenance returns can require longer time horizons to accrue, and management just falls out of love with them. We don’t think so. The projections are usually calibrated accurately, and reflect both near- and longer-term opportunities. These plans are thoroughly reviewed by management before implementation, and judged beneficial – this doesn’t normally change.

Could the problem be lack of planning? Poor execution? In most cases we see, the individual improvement initiatives are well planned, the processes are sound and the people charged with implementing them capable. But despite their good efforts, supported by very sizable investments in such things as preventative maintenance (PM), systems, planning and scheduling, reliability centered maintenance (RCM), metrics, training and root cause analysis (RCA), the results are often modest.

So what’s going on? Unfortunately, the inability to reliably translate dollars invested to quantifiable results places the managers and technicians responsible for the initiatives in a tough spot. There is good news, however—we have found that there are 2 common reasons for disappointing returns on reliability initiatives (assuming the initiatives were implemented properly to begin with).

Underlying Issues

The first reason has to do with sequence. There are a lot of process interrelationships between reliability and maintenance. If a program is executed, such as PM, RCM, RCA, Metrics, etc., and the foundational or supporting processes are not sufficiently evolved to support that program, the results will be suboptimal..For example, if basic work orders are not completed properly, it can skew the information used to plan, schedule, estimate and purchase parts properly. This in turn impacts the Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS), Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM). Unfortunately, most reliability initiatives concentrate on installing a specific process without considering what can actually be supported by current practices. When this occurs the results are generally poor.

Building Block Approach

The second reason has to do with scale. How do you evolve a large number of sites—sites at various stages of process maturity, with different equipment, people and cultures—to a common world class standard?

Clearly, organization-wide change requires standardization. But with maintenance and reliability, the approach has to calibrate to

the requirements of each site. Too often, these programs are implemented using the systems integration model, whereby the business processes are standardized to align with an enterprise system. On the face of it this seems right; why not have the maintenance and reliability processes align with a common standard? That is, after all, the objective. The problem is getting there.

For example, it is no secretthat Computer Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) and Enterprise Asset Management Systems (EAM) are seriously underutilized. Our experience suggests that less than 50% of these systems’ capabilities are actually used as intended. This is due in large part because the underlying policies, practices and processes are not sufficiently evolved to use the system properly. It’s a fact that maintenance and reliability have many dependencies that are hierarchical. You can’t run before you walk, regardless of how capable the system or noble the objective. It’s a building block scenario—approaching it in any other way will not work.

Getting Reliability Right

So what do you do? Here are some ideas on how to move forward.

1.Know where you stand. Get a clear understanding of where each site is, relative to their maintenance and reliability processes. This usually involves base-lining each site using a standardized assessment that encompasses the process interrelationships that have to be in place at each level to achieve a successful outcome.

Reference our Reliability Assured® Maintenance and Enterprise Asset Management frameworks below as examples. Centris has the diagnostic and assessment tools to perform these analyses very efficiently. This can be done internally with the right expertise.

When this evaluation is completed, you should have a standardized framework that defines the required path forward and illustrates the status of each site.

2.Link quick results with strategy. Identify the best immediate, intermediate and long-term opportunities by site, given its current condition and constraints. It is imperative that some of the immediate opportunities deliver a measurable financial return while contributing to the evolution of the overall strategy. Be careful not to implement cost-cutting measures that may achieve shortterm gains to the detriment of the overall strategy. It is essential, however, to get numbers on the board to generate momentum and organizational support. Each phase should have well defined financial deliverables, and the more they support operations improvement the better.

3. Clear a path forward. Each site should have individual roadmaps that align with the common framework and end state. There can be significant differences in the sitespecific roadmaps in terms of process maturity and the path forward. However, while the tracks may be different, they evolve toward the same goal.

4.Keep it visible. It should be clear what the end state is, where each site is relative to the goal, the appropriate next steps and performance metrics. Using a common visual framework enables the organization to understand the path forward. Maintenance and reliability is not intuitive. In the absence of clear visual illustrations, the organization may not fully grasp the program or, consequently, support it long term.

5. Be realistic. Most maintenance organizations do not have much extra capacity. Typically there are large variations in managerial and technical skills across sites. Implementing an organization-wide reliability program will likely require establishing a team of highly capable personnel who support the sites. The team can provide additional benefits such as greater cohesiveness, knowledge sharing and organizational learning, which are essential in shifting the culture.

6.Culture matters. Commitment matters more. The main apprehension most senior managers have when implementing large-scale change is culture. It’s a legitimate concern. Unless senior management is fully committed— with a shared view at the top levels of the organization that reliability matters and they are in it for the long haul—don’t waste your time. It won’t work. When management is fully committed, the change will happen and the culture will shift. Education and training are essential but the main thing is a firm commitment from management.

7.Pilot or not? Pilot projects provide many advantages for getting processes right, training, assessing results and planning resources prior to a major rollout. However, with this type of program, it is important not to lose sight of the differences between sites. The areas of focus can vary significantly. While the general structure can be consistent, disparities across sites must be accounted for in a pilot venture.

8.Getting there. Managing this process with a small number of sites can be accomplished fairly easily with existing management tools. However, when the scope involves five or more locations, it becomes a challenge. We have found that moving multiple sites with numerous reliability initiatives underway to a common end state without a robust process or system to do so often results in failure. There is just too much to keep track off. Large-scale reliability initiatives are best accomplished with a project execution application that is relatively easy to use and update, provides end-to-end visibility and delivers one version of reality. Our WorkLynx™ solution is designed specifically for these projects.

9.Internal, Contract or Consultants? Staffing the initiative depends on your resource availability, competing projects and time. If you can do it internally without significantly compromising operations, that is ideally the way to go. If not, consultants can provide the expertise and fill the resource gaps. Augmenting your internal team with external subject matter experts, where appropriate, can also provide large dividends.

Likewise, if there is a need for data collection, cleansing and configuration, it is usually best filled with contractors under the supervision of internal personnel. Some companies perform these specialized data processes internally, but in the end it often costs more and frequently results in issues with the data.

10. Above all, alignment. Far too much effort and money is spent on non-core assets. Align your asset management and maintenance strategies with the business strategy. Not only is this essential to improve current performance, it is also important to optimize future competitiveness. Sounds simple, but when strategic assets are not identified, asset management and maintenance efforts are often misaligned. Unfortunately, the people charged with managing assets and maintenance are not always in the loop, so be sure to have all your key players involved in strategic asset delineation and strategic alignment.

Reliability Roundup

To summarize, asset management and maintenance initiatives are “the art of the possible.” Implementation sequence is as important as content when implementing these initiatives. There must be a clear end state, along with a framework that illustrates the critical hierarchies and process interrelationships.

Each site must have a roadmap that defines its specific requirements and calibrates to the common end state. The best immediate, intermediate and long-term opportunities should be defined, along with the estimated financial benefits and associated metrics. Quick results are essential in generating support and momentum. The process must be visible and understandable to the overall organization, and management must be fully committed.

With large-scale projects, it is essential to have a robust project execution process that enables near real-time visibility, communication and collaboration. Resources (internal or contracted) are critical, as is a realistic assessment of what can actually be accomplished with internal personnel. Ensure the effort is properly focused: the asset management and maintenance strategies must be aligned with the business strategy. Centris has the people, processes and technology to deliver highly successful outcomes in maintenance and reliability improvement initiatives. If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact us.