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Q&A with Industry Leader S. Kay Bourque

Q&A with Industry Leader S. Kay Bourque
workers at plant
workers outside at plant
workers in a meeting

Q&A with Industry Leader

S. Kay Bourque, CMRP
Director – Maintenance Strategy and Services - Phosphates
Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC

Uptime® magazine had the opportunity to speak with Kay Bourque, Director of Maintenance Strategy and Services – Phosphates at Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC. Kay began her career in the phosphate industry in 1980 as a maintenance engineer in Louisiana at Mosaic’s Uncle Sam Plant. During the last 37 years, she held various positions in phosphates production, maintenance and procurement. In her present role, Kay is responsible for the strategic direction of Phosphates Business Unit’s asset integrity. She leads the maintenance services team as it partners with facility management in their improvement efforts to deliver safe, cost-effective and reliable equipment performance to drive operational excellence.

Mosaic phosphate mine outside
Mosiac phosphate mine from above

Q: You are an accomplished leader in a challenging industry. What have been the biggest challenges in reaching your current position?

I started my career as an electrical engineer in 1979 when I was one of a few women in engineering. In 1980, I moved into the reliability and asset management field as a maintenance engineer with Mosaic. I quickly realized there was much to be learned that was not taught in my college classes. I have been blessed over the years to work with some really talented teams of people, all of whom helped me fill the knowledge gaps. However, the biggest challenge I had was learning that a large component of leadership is the ability to influence.

Q: Where are you now in your journey to advance reliability and asset management?

For many years, we focused on the use of predictive technology deployment and workflow process improvements. In the past five years, we have adjusted our focus to more proactive activities, including reliability in the design of assets and activities that extend the life of assets, including eliminating defects that cause early failures.

Q: How does your reliability and asset management journey support the business objectives for Mosaic?

Asset reliability improvement drives positive results in all areas of the business – production, quality, cost and safety. It is critical to our success in a global commodity business.

Q: How do you gain executive support?

The goal of an asset management program is to ensure asset availability so the goals of the organization are met. Much of this very important reliability work is foundational in nature and, if it is successful, is invisible. It is important to ensure executives have visibility to those foundational activities, sharing the successes, both immediate and forward-looking, to ensure a good understanding of what drives asset availability.

Q: Is there anything you can tell us about your team that makes it unique compared with groups you have worked with in the past?

I work with an extremely talented team of reliability professionals who are not only subject matter experts, but are also passionate about the reliability journey. It is their influence across the business that helps to capture the hearts and minds of all in the organization to continue to improve on the reliability journey.

Q: What are the three biggest challenges in reliability and asset management that you face? What are the solutions you have discovered?

  1. Becoming a process and procedure driven organization – We have made tremendous progress over the last few years, but to have a sustainable program, we will need to move away from the historic dependence on tribal knowledge and individual subject matter expertise to documented, standard processes. We are formally launching the Asset Integrity Program, which includes documented processes for reliability, maintenance workflow, mechanical integrity and turnarounds.
  2. Capturing the hearts and minds of the organization – Even though documented processes are foundational to sustainability, engagement of the entire organization is key to a truly successful program. Celebrating and sharing successes, along with empowering team members through training and certifications, will result in continued improvement.
  3. Ensuring sustainability for the future – If we are successful in becoming a process and procedure driven organization and capturing the hearts and minds of the organization, sustainability will result. Leadership is key in ensuring success.

Q: What would you recommend to organizations that want to create more diversity on the reliability and asset management team?

Organizations can provide mentoring and networking opportunities for reliability and asset management professionals. Relationships that are formed through these processes can result in confidence, acceptance, respect and an interesting, innovative environment in which to work.

Q: What would you recommend to younger women entering this field?

Be confident in the value that you bring to the organization while always remaining open to others’ ideas. Learn continuously. Jump in!