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Top Three Maintenance Challenges
Asked to share the top three challenges for the next three to five to 10 years, maintenance professionals indicate it's about people: the biggest variable in improving equipment maintenance, performance, and reliability.

Aligning Maintenance with Business Goals
All too often, the maintenance department is perceived as the responsible party for caring for the health and well-being of equipment and facilities. However, many (if not most) of the causes of unhealthy and poor-performing equipment and facilities go well beyond the scope of the maintenance department.

Engaging the New Workforce
The ways we employed, trained, and engaged previous generations of employees will not necessarily work with the Millennials. Now is the time to retool our approaches to employee engagement, empowerment, and involvement. Here are some insights for engaging the younger generation in the workplace.

Improving Equipment Effectiveness
TPM has devolved into not much more than operator care. However, it’s not too late to learn from TPM. Given the shortages of skilled people, the demand for significantly improved equipment performance and reliability, and dependence on new technologies, true TPM will be the answer whether labeled TPM or not.

What Michael Phelps Can Teach Us About Training and Talent Management
Achieving your personal best is about aptitude, interest, willingness, and a passion to succeed under the guidance of dedicated coaches and mentors. How can we instill our youth with a vision to succeed and a passion for a career that aligns with our business goals?

When Maintenance Best Practices Aren't Enough
Cutting costs is not a goal. It is an action taken in the hopes of achieving a short-term business goal--quite often a short-lived goal. While the executives may be preparing for another round of cost-cutting, there may be an even more powerful alternative.

Don't Overlook Spare Parts Reliability
Paying attention to spare parts makes sound business sense. Proactive storeroom management practices coupled with supply chain management can eliminate most of the causes of spare parts failures.

Life Cycle Reliability, Cost, and Asset Management
What comprises a life cycle of a physical asset from a reliability and cost perspective? Let’s look at some of the more important elements of equipment (asset) life cycle that have a direct impact on its life-cycle cost and reliability.

Is Data a Four-Letter Word?
Data can be the foundation for eliminating problems and improving organizational performance. But it’s about more than raw data, databases, or spreadsheets. It’s about using the right data.

Reliable Equipment, Reliable People, Reliable Organizations
Which Comes First? Any meaningful coordinated activity requires a closely coordinated organization—a reliable organization. This approach is dramatically different than the traditional project phase followed by a loosely connected operations-maintenance phase—an unreliable organization. Asset management requires reliable equipment and reliable people working together in a reliable organization.

A Top Management Standard: The Missing Link
The term "top management" is referenced throughout the ISO standard for asset management. In fact, top management has the overall leadership responsibility for the establishment of the asset management system as specified in the ISO requirements. However, the leadership responsibility at the very top of the organization in pursuit of best-in-class operations and maintenance is not new by any means. How the businesses’ equipment, machinery, and facilities operate has a direct impact on the balance sheet. So why is it so difficult for top management to play a key leadership role?

Maintenance, Reliability, Asset Management: Confused?
Maintenance terminology can be baffling. Maintenance does not mean the same thing as reliability. Neither maintenance nor reliability are the same as an asset management system. Operations excellence or maintenance excellence are not an asset management system. And an ISO55001 asset management system is not necessarily a software program for equipment or facilities maintenance.

Work Culture: What’s the Big Deal?
When businesses make capital investments in new facilities, equipment, or technologies, they do so to achieve a return on their investment (ROI): reduced cost, better margins, new products, or improved market response. They also plan for new business and work processes to bolster and sustain that ROI. But what about changes in habits, behaviors, skill sets, and leadership in the workplace—the work culture—to assure the capital investment actually pays off in the short and long term?

Boosting STEM and Creating New Opportunities (part 2)
High-paying jobs in installation, maintenance, and repair often go unfilled because of a lack of skills. Students who finish high school with a good STEM foundation and pursue a technical degree will almost certainly find rewarding careers. Take a look at 3M's education partnership for a leading example. (part 2 of 2)

Boosting STEM and Creating New Opportunities (part 1)
Science, technology, engineering, and math courses of study in the national education community are not new, by any means. And their resurgence is not optional. (part 1 of 2)

Lessons for Maintenance Excellence
This year's Maintenance Excellence Roundtable shed light on some outstanding maintenance best practices. Check out this month's article for an example from Syngenta's director of plant maintenance.

A Tribute to the Father of TPM
Total Productive Maintenance was developed under the leadership of Seiichi Nakajima of the Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance. Nakajima, who brought his passionate vision and methods to us, passed away last month at the age of 96. We offer this column as a tribute to our TPM sensei.

Shutdowns, Turnarounds, and Outages the Pit Crew Way
The secret—and not so secret—methods of motorsports racing and their pit crews can provide some invaluable insights for plant shutdown, turnaround, and outage maintenance.

Defining "Assets" for ISO 55001
The new ISO Asset Management Standard is triggering interesting discussions among maintenance and reliability professionals. What is meant by the term asset? What is the relationship between asset management and an asset management system? Are skilled people an asset in the context of the new standard? Is a high-performing asset management work culture a value-adding asset?

Asset Management and the Line of Sight
When well-meaning people focus on the narrow aspects of their job and fail to consider the bigger impact, the line of sight that connects their activities and performance goals to the organization’s overall objectives is often broken. At the heart of the problem, there is often a lack of an asset management system promoted by top management.

Teach a Kid
Many young and not-so-young people don't know about basic tools or how to do basic maintenance tasks, from fixing a leaking faucet to replacing a headlamp in a car. They haven't had hands-on skills classes in high school, and their parents either don’t do those tasks or don’t involve their sons and daughters when they do. As experienced maintenance and reliability professionals, we have an obligation to share what we know.

Can Training Increase Maintenance Costs?
A new report says maintenance costs have gone up in the U.S. Navy as a result of computer-based training. How can manufacturing prepare our maintenance technicians with efficient, effective job-related training?

TPM for Asset Management Systems (Part 3)
This is the last in a series of articles that weave the five basic pillars of Total Productive Maintenance together in ways that can open eyes and minds for the asset management journey and achieve fast, sustainable results along the way. This article expands the asset management concepts related to the pillars of TPM and the essential but missing pillars: leadership and work culture.

TPM for Asset Management Systems (Part 2)
The new ISO 55000 standard outlines the requirements for an asset management system. But if you can't make Total Productive Maintenance work in your plant, you will struggle with ISO 55000. The first article explores the first pillar of TPM. This article expands the asset management concepts to the remaining four pillars.

Mainstream 2014 Shares Vision for Reliability
The first Mainstream North America conference, held in Texas in June, focuses on asset management. This article discusses some compelling insights from respected practitioners in the world of plant operations, maintenance, reliability, and more.

TPM for Asset Management Systems (Part 1)
The ISO 55000 standard released this year outlines the requirements for an asset management system. But if you can't make Total Productive Maintenance work in your plant, you will struggle with ISO 55000. Why? Because TPM goes beyond defining what an asset management system is to outline how to establish one. In this article, we explore the first pillar of TPM: improving equipment effectiveness by targeting the major losses.

The Quest for Maintenance and Reliability Leaders
We have an opportunity and an obligation to select and develop our future maintenance and reliability leaders. Who are they? Where do they come from? How can we get more of them— grow our own? Is it possible to predict who has the inherent and learned talents to succeed as a maintenance and reliability leader? I believe we can. (Part 1 in our Maintenance and Reliability Leaders series)

Are We Ready for a Maintenance Paradigm Shift?
The new model for industrial maintenance and repair could launch businesses into a world of high performance and lower operating costs with higher process reliability despite a shrinking workforce. Those who hang onto traditional approaches might not survive. Now is the time to fundamentally rethink the role of maintenance.

Maintenance and Reliability Technician Education 20/20
M&R technicians are in alarmingly short supply across North America. Community colleges, technical schools and even our high schools and middle schools must play a pivotal role in preparing students and adults for these essential M&R jobs and careers. Here are 10 building blocks of M&R technician education and training.

Is Your Hourly Compensation System a Demotivator?
Money motivates us. Or does it? When we receive higher pay, does it motivate us to improve? Not necessarily. When our pay is perceived as subpar, it can be a serious demotivator and affect performance and productivity.

Is Your Workforce Engaged and Inspired?
Seventy percent of U.S. workers are not reaching their full potential. Why are so many employees not engaged and others dangerously and actively disengaged? Leadership and work cultures are getting in the way.

Replacing the Maintenance Apprenticeship Training Model
Apprenticeship training programs for maintenance have been dwindling for decades in America. But there is good news: There are better and more effective approaches to training and developing maintenance technicians for today and for the future.

ISO 55000: The People Side of Asset Management (Part 2)
ISO 55001 will require a whole new level of leadership and teamwork, representing a significant departure from many of our old habits. This degree of culture change requires that top-level management not only comprehend what asset management systems are but also what culture change is and how to be effective leaders of workplace change.

Are Adult Skills Lacking in America?
The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development's report on adult skills indicates that our nation’s educational systems seem to be missing the mark when it comes not only to job and career skills, but also to the basic competencies required by our modern and information-rich society.

Red-Green, Good-Bad, 85 Percent: Beware of Simplified Metrics
Beware: Red-green indicators and percentage indicators can lead to sluggish improvements and mask the path to problem solving when we get to the fundamental question “change what?” on the plant floor.

ISO 55000: Management Systems for the Management of Assets (Part 1)
This column is first in a series discussing the ins and outs of the new ISO 55000 Asset Management Standards. Look for others intermittently over the next several months.

Problem Solving and Culture Change
"Why change? We've always done things the other way." The answer to that age-old question sets the stage for a shift in behaviors, or it entrenches us in the way we've always done things. We are creatures of habit. The key is to build a compelling case for change.

Maintenance Leadership and Teamwork
The employee empowerment (participative management) concept of self-managed teams dates back to the 1980s as a new generation of employees was being hired to mix with the middle-aged workers. It largely failed then and will likely fail in the future for the very same reasons, especially with an aging workforce in transition. Here are some factors to consider for successful maintenance teams and leadership.

Reliability is More About People Than Machines
Reliability is not a maintenance program. True reliability improvement is much more about the people than it is about the machines. And changing the behaviors of machines requires changing the behaviors of people. Top-level management, maintenance organization, and project team leadership all play a crucial behavior changing role when it comes to improving machine and process reliability. But nothing sets the stage for reliability success like top level management support.

Putting All the Pieces Together in Pursuit of 100% Reliability
How close to 100 percent reliability is your most critical equipment? This equipment should perform as intended—the first time, every time. The business depends on it for competitive advantage, and customers depend on it for timely delivery of goods or services. What business would be satisfied with 45 percent reliability? Probably none. But underperforming processes are more common than many can imagine.

Getting the Most From Your Reliability Consultants
Getting the most from your reliability consultants depends on establishing very clear expectations up front, appreciating that reliability is systemic, embracing a true teaching-learning relationship, and respecting the professional advice from those who have been through these situations before.

Smart Machines: Careers with a Future
There is no alternative to skilled and knowledgeable maintenance technicians performing precision maintenance and making expert repairs. However, our productive and profitable equipment-intensive businesses will not be able to survive if the industrial maintenance skills shortages continue on the present track and the use of “smart machines” continue to grow.

Is the Skills Shortage Real?
A recent report about the skills gap in U.S. manufacturing by a major U.S. consulting group stated that "worries of a skills gap crisis are overblown.” Will America breathe a sigh of relief, thinking that the skills gap crisis is overblown and return to business as usual? This would be a critical mistake to our nation’s future.

A Visit from St. Nicholas: An Asset Managment Version
Most readers will be familiar with the poem that begins "'Twas the night before Christmas." This poem has been part of a holiday tradition for many of us over the years. But what if this most famous workshop of all had some of the same problems we see in our plants and facilities just a week before Christmas?

Equipment Criticality: Life in the Fast Lane
Now is the time to examine equipment criticality and life in the fast lane. There are not many alternatives to improving performance and reliability in this era of a shrinking skilled workforce pool and rapidly changing technologies. Let's explore the use of equipment criticality to determine the best maintenance approaches.

SMRP: Make it Personal and Prepare for the Future
The Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals just celebrated their 20th anniversary, and the annual conference in October was among the best of the best—a place where the serious maintenance and reliability professionals meet, learn, share, and develop lifelong professional friendships.

Asset Management vs. Maintenance Management
"We've been hearing more and more about asset management systems, but I still don't get it. In my mind maintenance management IS asset maintenance. What's the difference?"

How to Improve Maintenance
"I’ve been in maintenance management for a long time. The toughest part of my job is actually making improvements in the way we do maintenance. And it is a lot tougher to get support for improving maintenance now than it was ten years ago. How can we really improve maintenance?"

Maintenance Work Instructions: A Style Guide Part 2
This article explores some of the finer elements of detailed work instructions: procedure statements, their sequence and deployment. These elements are essential to assure task performance efficiency and effectiveness.

Maintenance Work Instructions: A Style Guide Part 1
The world’s best maintenance tool is a detailed work instruction. But how can you straighten out your PM program without getting mired down in a major documentation project? Let’s begin exploring a Style Guide to specify how to develop and deploy PM work instructions.

The World’s Best Maintenance Tool
Is there one tool that will make our work lives easier? If you were to select the best maintenance tool of all time -- a tool that would ensure the most efficient, effective maintenance for your most critical equipment -- what would you choose? The world’s best maintenance tool is about to be revealed here and now.

Thanks to China, Our Jobs Are Coming Home
Between two and three million jobs will be added to the U.S. economy by 2015 because of the re-shoring of goods currently being manufactured in China. Are we prepared for more manufacturing jobs soon to be re-shored?

Learning from Sinking Ships and Aircraft Mishaps
"Human error" is often cited as a contributing factor in accidents and failures with our plant equipment. But identifying ways to reduce or eliminate human error can be challenging without a structured process for identifying and quantifying the underlying human factors. Let’s look into a few historical examples for some powerful insights.

Promoting Careers in Maintenance
We are fooling ourselves into believing that the pathway to success is a college education. In the past two generations, we have rarely exposed young students to meaningful careers in business and industry that do not require a college education. This trend has created a huge and growing skills mismatch in many business and industrial sectors in America.

The Business Imperatives of a Performance-Oriented Work Culture
As maintenance and reliability professionals, we know how unreliable equipment and facilities can impact the bottom line of the business. Unfortunately, equipment reliability all too often ends up as a low priority in many American businesses. What many business executives fail to recognize is that equipment and facility reliability is as important as the health, safety, environmental and quality systems to the bottom line.

Hang Up and Drive!
Today’s cell phones allow us to do many of the tasks that previously had to be done at home or in the office. The unintended consequences associated with cell phones are increasingly dangerous. Similar distractions in today’s technology-rich, fast-paced workplace not only cause injuries but also contribute to equipment problems and failures. Equipment operation, maintenance, repairs and setups are often compromised by people who are working while distracted.

A Visit from St. Nicholas: A Capacity Assurance Version
Most readers will be familiar with the poem that begins “’Twas the night before Christmas.” This poem has been part of a holiday tradition for many of us over the years. But what if this most famous workshop of all had some of the same problems we see in our plants and facilities just a week before Christmas?

The True Cost of Preventable Failures
Some say preventive maintenance is an expensive waste of time. These people would rather run the equipment to failure and fix it fast rather than paying for PM downtime and PM labor. So, how do you show the cost of not doing preventive maintenance? Let’s start out thinking about the true cost of preventable failures with a non-industrial analogy.

The Counterfeit Repair Parts Tsunami
Bogus parts can be extremely dangerous. The supply chain for many of the electrical and electronic parts we use in our plants and facilities as well as our homes is tainted with knock-offs. The types of parts that are being counterfeited and the factors that have made China the world’s largest source of counterfeit parts is a rather frightening story. But even more critical is this question: What should we do about the influx of counterfeit electrical/electronic parts?

Counterfeit Parts: Should We Be Concerned?
Today’s global economy coupled with a growing recession and the hunger for money has led to an explosion of scams, counterfeit, fake, pirated, bogus and sub-standard industrial parts. Manufacturers, trade associations, governmental units and law enforcement agencies have taken steps to stem the flow of counterfeit products into the global and U.S. supply chains.

Learning from Toasters
We rely on technology in our lives—even for the simplest of things. Many technologies permeate our homes, cars, shops, businesses and factories. But what happens when these seemingly simple and “invisible” technologies go rogue? Well, it happens routinely. For example, in June 2011, 300,000 toasters were recalled by a single manufacturer because consumers reported that the toasters can remain “on” indefinitely, igniting the contents and posing a fire hazard. Be careful. We are seeing new failures in some of the simplest technologies in the workplace too!

Innovation & Standardization
For many companies, the improvement process places heavy emphasis on standardization of work practices and work execution. But at the same time, they expect that the best ideas for improvement through innovation will come from the very people they are molding into compliance with standards. Are innovation and standardization opposing forces, or can they actually work together?

PAS 55: International Equipment Management Standards on the Way
The international stage is being set for a work culture revolution that will assure that a company’s physical assets, equipment and facilities are able to perform as intended. In 2004, PAS 55 defined a logical “asset management system.” By 2008, organizations and individuals around the industrialized world had enhanced the specifications to address how to properly manage a company’s physical assets, its equipment, and facilities. In July 2010, the International Standards Organization voted to commence work on the new standard for asset management, using the updated PAS 55 (2008) as a starting point. Committees are developing the new ISO Asset Management Standard, which is expected to take shape over the next 12 to 18 months.

Do We Really Need Preventive Maintenance?
“Preventive maintenance takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money, and it doesn’t seem to make that much difference in the way our equipment runs. We’re able to keep up with customer orders.” Unfortunately, this way of thinking sets the stage for a “run-to-failure” and “emergency repair” work culture. But if plant capacity is not a problem and all customer orders are being filled, then why change? Good question. Do you suppose there is a common thread connecting workplace safety and preventive maintenance? What would happen if we could improve workplace safety and equipment reliability through preventive strategies?

Growing Your Own (Part 4)
First, we explored proven ways to begin growing your own maintenance technicians.Then, Part 2 addressed where to start, planning and preparing for training and conducting on-job training. Part 3 focused on the nuts and bolts of defining job-specific maintenance skills and knowledge. This final article focuses on multi-skill maintenance.

Growing Your Own (Part 3)
First, we explored proven ways to begin growing your own maintenance technicians.Then, Part 2 addressed where to start, planning and preparing for training and conducting on-job training. Now, Part 3 will focus on the nuts and bolts of defining job-specific maintenance skills and knowledge that will form the final stage of a results-oriented training and qualification process for your plant or facility.

Growing Your Own (Part 2)
Last month, we explored proven ways to begin growing your own maintenance technicians: define entry-level requirements, look for candidates, interview and check references and look for demonstrated ability. Now, let's take the next step: how to set up your own basic maintenance-skills training program using in-house talents. Part 2 will address where to start, planning and preparing for training and conducting on-job training.

Growing Your Own (Part 1)
"Our maintenance workforce is getting older. And the qualified applicants are getting fewer. Where do we find replacement maintenance technicians? How do we prepare them for the job?" These questions have been and will continue to be front and center. Competition for top-skilled technicians has exploded. The sources of qualified recruits have dwindled. In past articles, we have addressed several solutions, but there’s one more: grow your own maintenance technicians. In many facilities, the seeds for new technicians have already been planted. They just need to be cultivated, nurtured and harvested. Let's explore how ...

A Visit from St. Nicholas
We’ve all heard the poem that begins “’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” With this idyllic scene in the forefront of our mind, imagine—just imagine—what might have been happening in the week before the big day in the most famous workshop of all. The entire plan was coming together. The season’s production of toys and candies, of games and clothes was nearing fulfillment. And then, the unexpected happens! Just imagine…

OEE and “Balls to the Wall”
We’re in a race—a race for improving competitiveness. Our racecars, and our plant’s equipment, are sometimes running “balls to the wall” (so to speak); but we often lose sight of how well we’re doing with our maintenance and reliability programs. We can measure a lot of things but does OEE (“overall equipment effectiveness”) truly indicate how well our equipment is performing?

Hide & Seek: Find the Hidden Losses
Why is it that, in many cases, “downtime” is perceived as “maintenance downtime” or, in other words, “time for maintenance to come and fix something that should not have failed?” Is it “normal” for maintenance to get blamed for downtime while the actual causes of the downtime and other equipment-related losses remain hidden? Falsely blaming maintenance could be keeping the true causes and other losses well hidden in an equipment performance history time warp.

Billy Ray Motorsports: Part Two
Last month, we heard about Billy Ray Motorsports’ rise and decline. A new organization with the potential to win was hit with declining performance and spotty reliability. Upper management responded with cost cutting, cutbacks in staff, reorganization, and the elimination of “unnecessary” work processes. But they were still losing money! Ultimately, the desperate owner of Billy Ray Motorsports had to make a series of carefully calculated decisions that could either turn the race team around or put them out of business. Let’s see what they did in their attempts to preserve their investment and grow the business.

The Aging Maintenance Workforce and the War for Talent
Well, here it is! We have just stepped into the era of the aging Baby Boom Generation. For the next two decades, this generation will signal an unprecedented growth of older workers and retirees in the United States and most of the world’s industrialized nations. As our workforce ages and reaches the traditional retirement age, tough decisions must be made – first, to accommodate and possibly retain the highly-skilled older workers, and second, to prepare for an all out assault in the “war for talent.” What can we do? What should we do? Employers and older workers must face new challenges head on and make the right decisions for there is no turning back.

Billy Ray Motorsports: A Parable in Two Parts
It’s not easy to stay on top in the highly competitive racing business. It just doesn’t happen overnight. And it’s true not only in racing. It’s not easy to stay on top in any business, especially one that relies on high-performing and reliable equipment to compete.

Employee Training Often Misses the Mark
Imagine if you gave your car keys to your teenager and said “You can figure it out. I have every confidence that you can learn to drive this car. Now go for it – and be careful: That’s a new car.” In many cases, today’s equipment and process technology are more complex than the family car and as complex as a helicopter. Equipment costing millions of dollars with little or no employee training will fail prematurely and cost significantly more than planned just to keep it running. Training is not a cost; it is an investment. Operating and maintaining equipment without employee training is an uncontrollable cost. Why not invest in training?

Made in America!
John Ratzenberger, better known as Cliff from "Cheers" and host of the TV show "Made in America", recently spoke at the MARTS Conference in Chicago. The TV show "Made in America" explored how American workers drive an often overlooked share of our nation’s economic well being. Ratzenberger explored behind the scenes in more than 240 businesses. His passion for American manufacturing and the unsung choruses of the American workforce is inspiring. In his book "We’ve Got It Made in America," Ratzenberger tells stories about his experiences in making the “Made in America” TV shows punctuated with stories from his growing up years and throughout his adult life. Our skills shortages, our job loss, our productivity, and our top economy in the world are being seriously undermined by greed, ignorance, and half-truths.

Where’s Your Reliability Policy?
Organizations must share a new paradigm of reliability. Any capital-intensive business that depends on equipment assets to generate revenue will benefit from a reliability policy. Unfortunately, most capital-intensive businesses do not have a reliability policy that serves as a guide for managing capital assets, maintaining, making decisions about and improving the performance and reliability of those assets.

Checklists: The Often Overlooked Tool
Most reliability problems are caused by people making errors or overlooking proven maintenance and reliability techniques during the machine’s life cycle. Checklists help save lives and help make racecars and aircraft safe and reliable. So why not make checklists a vital part of your M&R toolbox and lead the culture change today?

Put the People-Factor Back into Maintenance
In our profession, the profession of maintenance and reliability, we are really good at focusing on what it takes to maintain equipment. We are also really good at developing work processes that define the procedures and methods for getting maintenance and reliability work accomplished properly. The bottom line here: People must be engaged to make equipment reliable using these work processes. Sometimes, we are not so good at that. We must put the people factor back into maintenance to make our businesses competitive and financially successful.

“Made in China”
These three words—“Made in China”—do not have to foreshadow plant closings or downsizing. Rather, they must be embraced as a wake-up call to our industries, our business and our economy. We have a race to win, and our motto is “Beat China!” The sleeping giant has awakened, and we seem to be sitting back, resisting change while our industries are being threatened, ravaged and driven into extinction. Wake up, America!

A Tax on Maintenance
Tax-and-spend initiatives are not new—spending resources that don’t yet exist only to raise taxes to cover the loss. There are numerous, sound historical examples from the 18th century of the downside of these strategies. Today, what is often overlooked are the tax-and-spend strategies that catch many of our maintenance organizations off guard and undermine their best efforts. Beware of the “maintenance tax” and the unintended consequences.

Mastering the Art of Stewardship
People who are closest to the equipment and processes, closest to the facilities and machinery, are the ones who can make or break the competitive position of the business. Quite often, our challenge is to help everyone understand and appreciate that if we don’t do that, if we abuse or ignore equipment problems, then we are potentially opening the door to the competition—here or in a foreign country. Mastering the art of stewardship might not be easy, but it can be well worth the effort, especially considering the alternative. So what is it that makes it so difficult to achieve in today’s workplaces?

Old Dogs, New Tricks
We have a problem that’s been stealthily spreading all over America. On the surface, it is declining employee job-related training. At its core, in part, is the “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks” mentality. Today’s workers are our strength; they produce the goods that generate wealth for our businesses, communities and our nation. The buck starts here. These “Old Dogs” know what they’re doing and how to get things done. Yes, they can be stubborn at times, but when they put their minds to it, they can definitely get the right things done—and done well! But we can—and we must—get better at what we do.

Let’s Not Forget Our Roots
Some 200 years since the ripples of the Industrial Revolution started lapping at our shores. Has our progress hit a plateau? Have we run out of ideas? Have we lost our powerful work ethic and our pride? Has our progress stalled? Let’s reflect on how we built the foundations of the largest manufacturing economy in the world.

Share This with Senior Operations Management
One of the biggest challenges we have in the maintenance arena is being fully valued by our senior leadership. Many don’t know that we are routinely asked to do so much non-maintenance work, which prevents us from doing productive maintenance work. This is not a “poor pitiful me” story but rather serious observations and recommendations based on evidence from hundreds of plant visits, assessments, audits, discussions and improvement initiatives. Ever wonder why many capital-intensive businesses fail to achieve their competitive potential? Read on.

Maintenance is Not a Supplier
In today’s business lexicon, there is much discussion about promoting customer-supplier relationships internally in the work processes. The maintenance department in your facility might be treated as a supplier in the traditional sense by your customers in production, but that kind of organizational thinking is counterproductive and sometimes devastating to the business.Could it be that the traditional customer-supplier model does not work for maintenance and reliability? Read our Five Principles for a Maintenance and Reliability Partnership.

Work Orders: Who’s Got Time for Paperwork?
Sound familiar? Maintenance work orders are often seen as an extra burden to the maintainers as well as those who are requesting the work to start with. “Paperwork. Needless paperwork. That’s all it really is anyway. I just want to call the mechanic and get this work done fast!” But without a work order history, the maintenance organization is at risk and equipment problems will likely get worse.

Training Rule #1: Adults are Not Children
When training comes up in your workplace, do you think back to a horrible experience from school: a nasty teacher, a crowded classroom, boring subjects, studying, and most of all, tests and grades? Training and learning is a must for today's businesses. Both maintenance and operations employees must possess the skills and knowledge to perform meaningful tasks right the first time, every time. So overcoming the roadblocks to workplace training is essential. These roadblocks all but disappear when we understand Training Rule # 1: Adults are not children.

Too Much Information?
Small businesses and highly reactive maintenance organizations can easily fall into the trap of not knowing what action to take because of a lack of reliable information. Or the opposite: a trap of taking swift action with defective information. We are awash in information. Well, not real information, just lots of stuff coming at us faster than we can sort it out. How we access this information and search for answers to help us take the right action can be a growing challenge that must be mastered.

Maintenance Terms We Use
The world of maintenance and reliability is awash with unique words and phrases, and when we encounter the uninitiated, they might think we are speaking a foreign language. When a "raw recruit" enters our mysterious world, imagine the communications gaps, confusion, and errors that could be attributed to the words we use as second nature. And what about decision makers who listen with frustration as we baffle them with a language of our own? "What we've got here is a failure to communicate!" (Article includes crossword puzzle.)

“A Little Neglect May Breed Great Mischief”
Root-cause thinking reveals that we’re only as strong as our weakest link. (This article won the American Society of Business Publication Editors' 2009 Bronze Award.)

Pit Crews, Race Teams, & Preventive Maintenance
NASCAR racing has given us many insights into the world of competitive motorsports. It has evolved from moonshiners' souped-up cars and truly "stock" cars off the showroom floors to custom-built high-performing racecars. Race fan or not, each of us can learn much about planned/preventive maintenance execution from the modern-day race teams and their pit crews.

The “Most Competitive Nation” is on the Edge
The United States retained its number one position as the "most competitive economy" in a recently published report. Impressive, but we cannot afford to become complacent with our past and current competitiveness position. Given the faltering economic conditions, escalating global competitiveness, and the growing shortages of skilled maintenance and manufacturing people, we are a nation at risk.

Ten Key Questions
How well is your company doing in maintenance and reliability?

The Perfect Storm Intensifies
The maintenance skills shortage—once a huge sleeping giant of a perfect storm—has now awakened and is intensifying. Are you ready? (This article won the American Society of Business Publication Editors' 2009 Bronze Award.)

Lean at the Wheel: Pit Crews in Action
NASCAR race teams, one of the best examples of team-based maintenance and reliability for modern manufacturing, continue to demonstrate best practices.

Maintenance, Reliability, Profit, & Loss
Lessons to be Learned from the Florida Power Outage

Sustaining Reliability Gains
Sometimes I wonder why so many maintenance and reliability improvement initiatives stop or go dormant in such a short time. Could it be that there is no honestly compelling reason to change? Could it be that everyone who should be leading the change process has not bought into it? Could it be that some are afraid of change… afraid of the unknown or do not want to change at all? Truth is, maybe it’s all of those reasons, and more. So how do we sustain positive changes, innovations in maintenance and reliability in our organizations?

Where is the Reliability Improvement Policy?
Where is your Reliability Policy—the policy that guides improvement of the maintenance and reliability processes and methods? Unfortunately, most capital-intensive businesses do not have a Reliability Policy that serves as a guide for managing capital assets, maintaining, making decisions about and improving the performance and reliability of those assets.

Who’s Got Time to Train Anymore?
Reliability and Maintenance is—and has been—a woefully overlooked career. We need our nation’s best and brightest young minds in reliability and maintenance careers NOW! What are we doing to attract and retain them? What are we doing to train them to maintain the highest levels of equipment performance and reliability? What are we doing to promote pride in workmanship?

Determining Maintenance Staffing Levels is Tricky Business
"What is the formula for determining the optimum maintenance staffing level for our plant?"

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for choosing the number of maintenance mechanics or technicians as we wrestle with maintenance costs, reliability improvement, and an era of maintenance skills shortages. Here are the big variables that affect maintenance staffing level decisions.

Cheaper is Not Always Better
Whether it is a service or a product, cheaper is not always better. We have all experienced the difference between something that is “cheaply made” and something that is “a lot of value for the money.” So, what is motivating us, our society, our companies, and our organizations to blur the lines between “cheap” and “low cost/high value”? And what are the consequences?

Sometimes, It’s the Little Things
Many of today's businesses have become obsessed with "improvement programs." And many of these programs have come and gone over the decades. All the while, the causes of poor equipment performance and downtime are often overlooked. Many of today's equipment-related losses are preventable using common sense, time, minimal resources, and experienced coaching. Here are a few case examples of how the little things can make a big difference.

I Want America Back!
Remember when our businesses, industries, government, and educational institutions focused on the basics? The very foundation of what made America strong has eroded, and our capital-intensive businesses and industries are at more risk today than ever before. But the analytical tools and technologies available to improve reliability have blossomed. Given these tools and technologies, we should have the most productive, reliable plants and facilities in the world. So where is the gap?

A World without Craftsmen
"Craftsmanship" results when highly trained, skilled, and knowledgeable workers use tools and machinery to perform their work, or trade, with the highest levels of quality and appeal. But this "craftsmanship" and pride in workmanship is nothing new. Let's look at the historical development of a "craftsman" as a lesson for our future.

The Rise and Decline of Auto Manufacturing
U.S. workforce and leadership can do anything they put their mind to, making us the most productive nation in the world. But American automakers should learn a lesson from the history of British auto manufacturing.

Facing Our Own Giants
Maintenance and reliability problems can range from small to huge. But left unchallenged, the entire facility work culture becomes demoralized, frustrated, and berated. Problems grow, and the big ugly threatening “giant” wins. For true and lasting improvement to occur, there must be effective leadership. And without positive action, a leader’s vision for the future is only a dream.

Why Should We Care?
What do these have in common: workplace organization, 5S, housekeeping, tardiness, absenteeism, safety, labor shortages, and equipment maintenance and reliability? For starters, we have seen significant efforts to improve these areas for years. And sometimes, the results of these efforts go dormant, plateau, or stop all together. A long list of short-lived improvements shapes the attitudes on the plant floor. Attitudes sink to new lows. "Why should we care?"

American Manufacturing: We Can Do It!
The United States is the most productive nation in the world, but we are going to lose our lead big time unless we wake up to the fact that our competitive edge is slipping. We are productive for many, many reasons. We can do it, but we have to consciously choose to do things differently. The time for action is now!

The Most Productive Nation
The United States remains the most productive nation in the world, and U.S. manufacturing has remained the most productive in the world since before 1960. Regardless what might be stated in today’s media, regardless of our politicians’ interpretations, regardless of what some think—we are a model of economic stamina. But if we want to remain the most productive nation in the world, we have serious work to do… and we already know how to do it.

What Gets Measured Gets Done
Data, metric, measures, assessments, evaluations, scorecards, progress reports… Why is it that so often we get hung up on metrics and measuring things to the point that we sometimes lose track of measuring what really matters?

2006 SMRP Skills Shortage Presentation
"How to Overcome the Maintenance Skills Shortage" slide-show presentation from the 14th annual SMRP conference held in October 2006

Fundamentally Rethinking Maintenance and Reliability
M&R programs-of-the-month come and go, each being the silver bullet designed to outdate all other practices. Unfortunately, they rarely work and are rarely sustainable. We need to fundamentally re-think our M&R strategies as we approach this “perfect storm” of skills shortages. So where do we start?

World-Class Simplicity...from the 14th Century
Our manufacturing world can be unnecessarily complicated. Complex solutions are often developed to address relatively simple problems. Now is the time to seek world-class simplicity...a principle taught by a 14th century monk.

Total Productive Maintenance: What It Is and What It Is Not
TPM in its truest sense is a powerful yet simple strategy that can yield sustainable results. Unfortunately, TPM in America has been more often misunderstood than understood. Here are some insights into what TPM is, what it is not, and what it takes to tap into its power.

Equipment Reliability: Getting Fast, Focused, Sustainable Results
What is the secret of generating revenue and lowering operating costs fast? Focus, focus, focus! Focus your reliability efforts on the critical few pieces of equipment in your production process flow. Look for the constraints first. This will lead to improved throughput and revenues. If the causes are related to equipment performance and reliability, then follow this simple process.

Integrating TPM with Lean, Existing Systems, and Organizations
This presentation focuses on the confusion about and barriers to Total Productive Maintenance principles, in contrast to existing legacy systems and organization structures, and the transformation to Lean Manufacturing. Robert Williamson describes many different proven success factors and common failure modes of TPM. Confusion about "lean" coupled with a "program-of-the-month" apathy and misconceptions about maintenance and TPM all put up barriers to improving overall equipment effectiveness, the original intent of TPM. Whether you call it TPM, Lean Maintenance, or Lean Equipment Management, new methods must be used to eliminate equipment-related losses (wastes) to reduce cost and improve throughput.

The Mystery of the Lean Toolbox
Many of today’s Lean Manufacturing initiatives describe a Lean Toolbox. There appears to be a whole box full of new tools to help us achieve “Lean.” But most of these tools are not new, and there are some basic tools missing.

Finding the Elephant in Maintenance
In the world of manufacturing and facilities management, we often get called upon to find ways to improve maintenance. Consider these basic steps for sustainable improvements.

Skills Shortages Contribute to Job Loss
Excellent maintenance and reliability skills and knowledge are in peak demand in today’s work environment and labor market, and the demand has been increasing at an alarming rate. The problem is this: Many people working in the maintenance field today are stuck with the same old skill sets they had years ago.

Pay-for-Applied Skills: The Time is Now
Having trouble retaining top-skilled maintenance technicians? Motivating them to master new skills a problem? Is recruiting good employees difficult? Consider a pay-for-applied-skills compensation plan.

The Fuzzy Side of Equipment Reliability
A few observations about the relationship between employee skills and equipment reliability may offer insights for plant and facility managers who are troubled with unreliable equipment and high maintenance costs.

NASCAR: a Model for Equipment Reliability and Teamwork
Explore the winning aspects of NASCAR race teams by looking at six key elements of equipment performance and reliability for manufacturing equipment and facilities maintenance.

Lean Organizations Must Have Reliable Equipment
Many of today’s business leaders interpret “lean” as “downsizing” and make the mistake of reducing headcount. That is not the intent of “lean.” Explore what lean is and what it isn't.

Surviving Changes in Management
Surviving management turnover is a tough challenge for maintenance and reliability improvement initiatives. Explore tips for helping your improvement process endure.

Facing a Famine in the Workforce
Examine steps employers and business leaders can take to stem the problems associated with shortages of skilled people willing and able to take jobs.

Keeping and Developing Skilled Employees: Your Future Depends on It
Finding skilled and knowledgeable maintenance and reliability employees is getting harder and harder. How will we maintain the high levels of equipment and process reliability that our plants and facilities demand?

The 'Perfect Storm' is Bearing Down on US Food Manufacturers
With a pending wave of departing skilled maintenance workers, the U.S. food manufacturing industry, along with many other industries, are in the eye of a "perfect storm." Many are unaware of either its magnitude or its devastating impact.

Using Overall Equipment Effectiveness: the Metric and the Measures
OEE was not designed to make comparisons from machine-to-machine, plant-to-plant, or company-to-company, but it has evolved to these common levels of misuse. What was the original intent of Overall Equipment Effectiveness as a metric and a measure?

E-mail: The Most Used, Least Effective Communication Tools
We have worked with many different types of manufacturing facilities around North America, seeking to improve communications about equipment and process reliability and have discovered why some preventive maintenance programs fail: e-mail.

Breakthrough Strategy for Changing Behaviors
When moving from a reactive maintenance work culture to one that emphasizes equipment and process reliability, we are challenging the maintenance mindsets of many people at all levels in the organization. So how do you go about changing the work culture?

Data, Data, Data …
Turning data into useful information is the key to making critical equipment reliable. NASCAR contenders have found data invaluable in improving their overall performance. How they use data to assure equipment performance and reliability provides a model for manufacturing and maintenance. Here are some insights.

Focus on Results and Change the Culture Along the Way (Part 1)
It’s fairly easy to become enamored with setting up a program to improve performance. It’s also easy to get a small group rallied around a maintenance improvement project. The problem with this “activity-based” approach is that the enthusiasm runs out. The key is to focus on results!

Focus on Results and Change the Culture Along the Way (Part 2)
Can you reduce equipment downtime by more than 50 percent in less than one month? This company did!

Don't Be Misled by O.E.E.
Overall equipment effectiveness has been used as one of the more important maintenance metrics since Total Productive Maintenance came to the U.S. in the late 1980s. But it has also been misused and has caused confusion.

The Tale of an Old Clock and Reliability
A broken clock is right exactly twice each day. But did you ever think about what "right" really means?

Focus on Results and Change the Culture Along the Way (Part 3)
"Here it comes again: another new maintenance program. I wonder how long this one will last?" Have your attempts to improve equipment maintenance and reliability been met with similar reactions? What sets ill-fated attempts apart from the breakthrough improvements that lead to sustainable results and new behaviors?

Warning: Vocational Classes Falling Out of Favor
The decline in technical education is a serious threat to U.S. manufacturing capabilities.

Skills Shortage Stirs Up the Perfect Storm
The lack of basic maintenance skills threatens equipment reliability.

"Should We Cut Maintenance or Training?"
Cuts in these areas can be a prescription for failure!

Lessons from the Busted Knuckle Garage
Would you take your car to mechanics who did not have the right skills? Or where their goal was to fix things fast and cheap? Unfortunately in many plants today, we are doing this very same thing with our most critical equipment.