solutions for reliability

We all have flaws. No one is perfect. We all put our pants on one leg at a time. Life is really about understanding our strengths and weaknesses.

Anyone who has experienced their share of success and as well as failure in the business world has heard these phrases before. 

One of my weaknesses is I’m not good at sugar-coating things.  I pretty much tell it like it is so when someone asks me a question I don’t stop to think; “I wonder if he would like me to tell the truth or something less that dances around a few facts but sounds much nicer.”

A Maintenance Manager Looking For the Reliability Silver Bullet

I had one of those odd moments a few weeks back when a manager asked the following question to a team who had recently completed an RCM analysis; “How many Ah Ha moments did you have this week?”

Needless to say the RCM team members looked back with a blank stare so he rephrased the question; “Were there any moments when you said to yourself, wow, now there is something we didn’t know or never thought about?”

He got the same look for a moment or two and one of the team members spoke up and said; “Well most of us have been working with this equipment for 10 years or more so I don’t think we found any real big surprises but I think we came up with a plan on how we can better operate and maintain the equipment.”

It was now the manager who had the confused look on his face, he paused for a moment to digest what he had just heard and said; “So you all spent 3 entire days talking about this system and there wasn’t one thing where you thought wow, this is really significant, I’m glad we took the time to go through this because we would have never identified the need to do this or that?”

Learning to Recognize Successes (in the absence of the Reliability Silver Bullet)

My weakness was about to be exposed, I could no longer contain the thoughts that were rolling around my head.  I spoke up and said, “if I could speak for the team for a moment, it’s actually kind of rare to have a bunch of “Ah Ha” moments in a RCM analysis.” 

If you select the right team to work on the analysis, and I believe we did, they will have spent a number of years working on this equipment or system and are all well aware of its current problems or shortcomings.  As a result, the RCM analysis looks at:

  • what has failed in the past,
  • what is also likely to fail in the future and,
  • develops a complete maintenance plan to mitigate the failure modes.

While over the last few days we have covered the components within this system that have been the worst troublemakers I am not at all surprised to hear that they didn’t have any “Ah Ha” moments.”

The manager now looks at me and says, “This system has really been eating our lunch over the last year, I was kind of hoping that maybe we might find something that was glaringly wrong with it.”

Oh crap, here it comes….
Me: “You mean outside of the fact that we don’t have a good SOP for start-up, operations and shut-down, we don’t have clearly written job plans or PM’s, we have in the past focused too little on PM over PdM and we have spent so much time working on emergency and demand maintenance that we have compromised the reliability of the asset by constantly inducing infant mortality with invasive troubleshooting techniques?”

Yep…that’s it, open mouth insert foot!

The manager looks at me and smiles, then says; “I think I just had that Ah Ha moment I was talking about.  Things are a lot worse than I expected but you’re saying the team now has a plan in place to work through this?”

Me: “Yes.”

Maintenance Manager: “So, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, where would you put our company in terms of equipment and process reliability.”

Me: “I would say you are a solid 6, your people understand the concepts, they have the skills and knowledge necessary to do what needs to be done, and it simply needs to be given a higher priority. The system we analyzed this week is very important; when it is not working properly there are some rather significant safety and environmental implications. I wouldn’t wait too long to get started on these actions.”

Silence, boundaries of too much information overstepped once again!

If I could only find that Silver Bullet that would let me know just how much truth is enough!!!

2 Responses to Did You Find Our Silver Bullet? Conversations with a Maintenance Manager

  1. Suzanna says:

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  2. home says:


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