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Moving from a reactive to a proactive culture

Over half of the facilities/factories in North America still rely on reactive maintenance as a major part of their overall maintenance strategy. For multiple decades there has been evidence to show the greater benefits of performing proactive maintenance. So much so, that the PdM/CBM framework makes the old way of thinking and acting insufficient, less effective and less desirable.  This is also the definition of paradigm shift as coined by Thomas Kuhn.  So why has it not changed and what can you do about it?

Why is proactive maintenance slow to take off. I point to five main reasons.

1.     There is still a lack of true understanding of the relationship between reliability and maintenance and business/operational performance.

2.      I believe that KPI’s (key performance indicators) need to better selected, aligned and communicated. Identify the vital few (leading and lagging). Clarify what each level needs to specifically do better. Support the KPI’s and deploy those associated metrics (at those different organizational levels).  Also, identify the needed behaviors that need to be supported to enable the desired outcomes.

3.     Along with supporting the needed behaviors, much more emphasis needs to be placed on the workforce. North America still doesn’t average one annual suggestion per employee. Missed has been the fact that TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) and Lean Manufacturing are both socio-technical processes. Those who understand the people-side of implementation will be most successful.

4.     Maintenance has not done a good job of monetizing the benefits. Savings from proactive maintenance need to be relatable and believable by management.

5.     This kind of change is a long-term process, versus an event. In contrast, management mostly lives in a world incentivized for short term results. It’s about enabling employees (with enhanced skills and greater upstanding) and using that momentum to improve the process.

I tried to think of a metaphor that could describe what moving to proactive maintenance is like.  What came to mind was the many times I hiked over Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes to Lake Michigan. It starts with a 460 ft. steep climb. The sand resists each step. If you don’t keep making forward progress at a steady pace, you slide backward and lose ground.  Many give up and don’t accomplish the steep climb. Those that continue and get near the top gain in confidence.  It gets easier because the goal is in sight.  But as they crest the top reality sets in.  They are looking at 1.75 miles of up/down sand dunes to Lake Michigan.  Many are satisfied with the event and go back down.  Other’s go for the 3.5 miles round-trip.  

Similarly, change to Proactive Maintenance is never easy and many start but are not ready for the journey. The longer that your maintenance culture has gone down the wrong path (rewarding fire-fighting, false starts on new initiatives, etc.) the more difficult it will be to change those daily habits. So, what can you do? The short list is [and opinions from my experience]: 

1.      Acknowledge the need for changes. [Most companies think they are better than they really are}

2.     Recognize it’s a journey. [Plan on how to sustain the journey when leadership changes]

3.     Use a model for guidance [Select an implementation model that works for your organization. Make sure that it has an early culture component.]

4.     Assess where you are really at [Perform a brutally transparent investigation, including significant plant-floor input.]

5.     Set targets (leading and lagging KPI’s) [Select the vital few that must be done well]

6.      Identify and reward behaviors that support the KPI’s [Reward people that support and perform the needed behaviors]

7.     Perform daily Gemba Walks to mentor plant–floor employees and develop more problem solvers.

8.     Get all Departments involved 

[All departments need to understand their role and related benefits of being involved]

9.     Display progress and celebrate successes

[Provide visual controls that provide regular feedback and accurately reflect status]

10.  Nurture and sustain a robust continuous improvement process linked to the above effort.

[Remember that this is a socio-technical process with equal effort required on each half of the term to be successful.]

It’s paramount that you figure out how to reduce reactive maintenance repairs.  It is not possible to instill a best practice reliability and maintainability process without doing this.  As I often state, it is all related.  Unplanned repairs are often time consuming, backlog increases because of diverted resources, greater chance of safety incidents, stopping and starting complex equipment can cause many other issues and more.  In North America (average) it’s at least six times more expensive to run the maintenance business (comparing top to bottom quartile.  Then add on top of that all production related losses.

It’s not about deciding if you can afford to do it.  It’s about deciding if you can afford not to do it.