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Implementing Cultural Change That Will Last

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Whether attempting to bring a specific department or an entire organization to a new level of expertise, certain checks and balances must be in place. Better maintenance practices usually do not evolve into something better on their own, unfortunately.

Call it an upgrade to best practice, world class, or precision maintenance. But getting from here to there in a maintenance department requires specific steps. These steps are critical for all and need to be repeated for allfor as long as it takes. The end goal here is excellence, if not perfection.

As long as it takes may be a few days or a few years. Gettingto the end goal is dependent on commitment and how detail oriented a company wants its maintenance department to be. After all, attention to detail is exactly what is behind the driving force for excellence.

Culture is a basic understanding of how and why a maintenance department does its business. For example, the culture of your workplace has been developed over a long time. During this period of time, perhaps an attitude of “that's good enough” may have developed. Changing a workplace culture or the way we do things that involves any kind of change is often difficult. It is often a natural response to resist change, or resist something new or different, even when we know the end result would be best for us.

Making the decision for a culture change is, of course, the first step management needs to make. This can also be the most difficult. Employees need initial training and the cost involved is usually high. It also requires major commitments and a total buy-in from management. Everyone needs to be on board for this one.

Let’s assume training, upgrading, or refresher courses have been approved and implemented. Everyone in the maintenance department, as well as management, has taken this course. Can we then believe a total commitment for excellence has been achieved? It would be nice if that were true and just that simple.

After understanding the need for change has been realized, after the decision for training has taken place and after the real training has taken place, TIME remains as the last hurdle.

Time is what is needed for a complete change. Time is what is needed so that important culture change can happen. As stated earlier, this time can be a long time, simply because old habits are familiar to us. Familiarity is much easier to deal with than change. This is the reason why change can sometimes take much longer than expected.

We can, however, reduce the time for a culture change to take place by maintaining what is referred to as “keeping a finger on the pulse.” This is about making sure bad habits familiar to us stay away long enough to allow details of excellence to take hold and become familiar.

This is certainly not about discipline. It is about helping to promote excellence byproviding support in every form possible. It is about everyone being committed in a joint venture to see this through until the end.

A summary of steps to followwhen on the jobsite would be of extreme benefit. A reference sheet could include such things as:

  1. Thorough cleaning of all matting surfaces.
  2. When to look for soft foot.
  3. How many shims are acceptable.
  4. Tolerance for alignment acceptable to match the speed and application of equipment.
  5. Tips used in promoting optimum balance.
  6. How to check for pipe strain on equipment, such as pumps.
  7. Torque values for all hold-down bolts.
  8. Knowing the exact belt tension needed for the size and number of belts is critical to bearing life.
  9. Attention to lubrication needs before start-up.
  10. Other steps pertinent for the tradesperson to reference are very important.

With every opportunity, always provide a summary of steps to follow or a short list that begins with safety and ends with cleanup. In addition, provide steps that can be applied for general application of new installations or replacement of equipment that has come to the end of its lifecycle.

These steps should be included as handouts that can be kept in a toolbox for reference, along with bolt torque specification cards.

Planners can help by inserting step summaries to accompany all work orders given to the tradespeople. Step summaries can be specific for direct drives or belt drives, for example, or as the case may be.

Tool cribs having the latest and most up-to-date alignment tools is a must. Having access to the best tools is a definite encouragement for tradespeople.

Various sized torque wrenches in good condition are also vital. Nothing is more discouraging than having to go back and redo a job after only two weeks due to looseness. This involves rechecking everything from scratch. It is a time-consuming redo that very often requires additional downtime. Tradespeople and managers also understand how this affects the bottom line.

Helping the tradesperson remain organized during this culture change is very important. Something as big as a culture change can easily cause confusion, misunderstanding and general feelings of being unsure of oneself. All this can lead to unorganized mayhem, and unorganized means wasted or extra time.

Extra time needed to complete these steps of excellence should be expected and understood by management. However, this extra time is usually a temporary measure. As precision and best practice become second nature, the time needed will become shorter. Familiarity with excellence will become easier and easier to accomplish as time and frequency of tasks are experienced.

Again, this culture change is vital for the future and well-being of an organization going forward. Its progression needs to be known at all times. When supervisors, planners, tradespeople and operations work together and support each other, culture change can develop faster than we think.And let's face it, a simple pat on the back from management can often go a long way in showing support during this process.

Keeping a finger on the pulse of culture change will ensure excellence learned will stay alive. Staying alive, that is, until culture change is able to live and breathe on its own.

Garry Sands

Garry L. Sands, MLT I & II and CMVA Level 2, holds a Six Sigma Green Belt. Although he is retired, he enjoys sharing his expertise in machinery lubrication and vibration with current and up-and-coming technicians.

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