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Operator-driven reliability (ODR) programs change the role of operations, making operators responsible for the reliability and mechanical integrity of the equipment they operate. Operators take on tasks to maintain and clean their equipment, ensuring machinery is in top condition to perform at its best. Operators collect observations, measurements and inspection data that can help identify impending issues so they can resolve them before they become a production impediment.

Many companies have delayed changing the role of operations by implementing ODR. This, unfortunately, has put them in a position where they now have to change in order to regain competitiveness and avoid being closed. They could have taken former General Electric CEO Jack Welch's advice, "Change before you have to."

It's best to be proactive and prepared to tackle human nature's resistance to change. It is rare for an ODR implementation not to have some level of push back, with some worse than others, including sabotage of the mobile devices.

fig 1

Figure 1: Evidence of
resistance to change
(note nail used as a stylist)

Resistance to change can manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as:

"It's not safe for me to have my hands that close to rotating equipment while it's running."

"I can't do my rounds because the PDA doesn't work."

"It's not in my job description."

"It's not in our union contract."

There are a number of ways to deal with managing change, and companies may have to use more than one strategy. A great place to start is using change agents. These are company employees at all levels, usually natural born leaders trained in change management skills. These leaders may have to implement a temporary system of rewards or recognition to reinforce expected behavior.

Rewards or incentives are important tools for reinforcing behavioral changes and are an integral part of cultural change programs. In contrast, recognition helps to reinforce the operator's new role by highlighting results of ODR programs.

Rewards or incentives are particularly useful during implementation. Many are used, but the most effective are those that personally impact employees. Examples include profit sharing, cash, trips, gift certificates, hats, T-shirts, cups, "operator of the month," or "save of the month." Ultimately, you have to eliminate the rewards to some extent as wanted behavior becomes required behavior.

Conversely, program recognition must continue forever, as it justifies the value ODR is delivering to the business. An operator certification program can be used to transition from rewards to recognition. Certifications can be used to validate operator rank or even wage structure. Recognition can be documented qualitatively and quantitatively. However, quantitative recognition measures - those with real dollars tied to them - need to be tracked closely. The important thing is to keep recognition visible to everyone by posting key performance indicators (KPIs) or using newsletters, slogans and other corporate broadcasts.

Another key to managing change is to treat ODR as a process, not a project. Projects end, while processes live on, expanding and, most importantly, improving. Regularly reviewing ODR scorecards (KPIs) and assessing your ODR program will drive continuous improvement activities. Program goals and expectations should be set higher on an annual basis.

One tactic that can be used to prevent ODR programs from fizzling out is the concept of "making it law." This concept weaves ODR principles and matrices into your daily structure. This means the program's status, round compliance, operator findings and corrections are regularly talked about as part of operational review meetings. A great example is the facility manager who asks, "What did the ODR data show?" after an upset has occurred. Nothing reinforces the importance of the program more than this action. New roles and responsibilities must be documented. ODR content must be included in job descriptions, operating procedures, training programs and work processes. ODR tasks should be integrated into your quality manuals, maintenance instructions and job plans. And always include ODR data as part of your root cause analysis process.

Remember, ODR lives long after implementation. How well a company manages change will dictate how long the program continues to grow and, ultimately, sustains itself.

authorDave Staples, Business Development Manager, SKF Reliability Systems, has over 20 years of industrial experience specializing in asset reliability technologies and asset management services. For the past six years, Dave has been focused on helping customers implement and sustain Operator Driven Reliability programs.

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