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Getting What You Need From Management: Laying the Groundwork

The second one steps up and announces

"Eight ball in the left corner pocket".

He then proceeds to sink the eight ball in the left corner pocket. Who do you sponsor? Knowing nothing else, I'd pick the second one. Why? He said what he was going to do and did it. His credibility for delivering a win is higher.

Your position as a Maintenance and Reliability Professional is not very different from that of the professional pool players. You need to create credibility for delivering a win if you want more resources. For business, a win is to exceed their expectations by making them even more money than they thought you would.

So how do you go about creating this credibility? You need to make a public commitment to deliver something of value to the business. And you need to deliver on your commitment. So where do you start?

Step #1: Understand the business goals that can benefit from improved Maintenance and Reliability.

This step is critical to establishing your credibility with the business leaders...Think about it. Would you believe someone could help you if you didn't think they understood your issues? Following the first step will force you to familiarize yourself with the goals outside of the traditional Maintenance and Reliability world. Once you understand these goals, you can begin to define your potential contribution.

For many Maintenance and Reliability professionals, Step 1 is difficult. Their world is insulated from the business world. They need help in bridging to the business world. To build a bridge, you need an ally. An ally can help you identify the business hot buttons and act as your advocate in driving business profitability through Maintenance and Reliability excellence. Typically, an ally is someone closer to how your business makes its money. For many, the ideal ally is an Operations Manager or Area Manager. For others, it may be the Business Director, Market Manager or even Vice President of Manufacturing.

You will probably need to do some homework before you try to recruit an ally. In the business world, knowledge is currency and I would not recommend approaching a potential ally with empty pockets. Answering the following questions should prepare you for the first meeting.

  1. How much on-spec product was made and sold last year?
  2. How much could you have made if your facility was always capable of operating as designed (maximum production)? The difference between the potential and actual production is a key number to understand. To calculate potential capacity, use stated maximum rates for your facility. Maximum rate for batch processes is calculated by dividing the batch size by the shortest cycle time for a product. If you have a multi-product site, calculate the weighted average maximum based on product mix. The maximum rate is multiplied by operating year duration to obtain maximum production. If your facility currently runs only one-shift per week, then your operating year would be based on that single shift.
    1. Is your business currently investing capital in your site? If so, why? Is it driven by regulation, market requirements, capitalized maintenance, or a need for more capacity? Either way, you can contribute. If investment is driven by a need for more capacity, you can potentially reduce the required investment by freeing incremental capacity with a maintenance and reliability project. Also, you can help minimize the Life Cycle Cost of any capital investment. Life Cycle Cost is more than just initial installed cost. It also includes the cost of maintaining, retiring, and the profit penalty associated with loss of function. Finally, a reliability analysis of equipment scheduled for capitalized maintenance may reveal that you are able to delay the investment.
    2. Are you meeting customer commitments (On time shipping of the right amount, in the right container with acceptable quality) without using overtime or expediting orders? Frequently, customer commitment problems, expediting costs, and overtime can be eliminated by improving system availability. Maximum system availability requires excellent Maintenance and Reliability.
    3. During last year was your site ever "crunched" for capacity? Is another capacity crunch likely to happen again? Even sites with idle capacity have "busy" periods where they can sell all they can make. Frequently, the only thing separating a good year from a bad year is performance during the busy periods. Excellent Maintenance and Reliability practices are essential for maximizing production during the busy periods.
    4. How many days of inventory (raw materials, intermediates, and finished product) does your site carry? To calculate days of inventory just divide inventory level by average process flow rate. Inventory (or to be more precise, the ability to carry inventory) is operation's best friend in an unpredictable world. If downstream is shut or slowed down, upstream can continue running if they can build inventory. Likewise, if upstream is shut or slowed down, downstream can continue running if they there is inventory waiting to be processed. More reliable operations require fewer inventories.

    You may have noticed that I did not list standard maintenance metrics in my list of questions. The reasons are simple. There are typically more opportunities for exceeding expectations in increasing production capacity, cutting capital investment, or reducing inventories. Also a cost-cutting strategy is self-limiting ...After all, how many time can you cut costs?

    Article submitted by, Carol Vesier, President of RonaMax, LLC. RonaMax offers the tools, analysis, and services needed to move reliability from the shop floor to the top floor. You can also visit to obtain other articles by Carol Vesier or information on RonaMax services, tools, clients, and successes.

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