For more than 50 years, we have been culturally conditioning our work force to accept timedirected overhaul and rapid response to production requests as the “right” way to do maintenance. Therefore, it is not just the change of skills in the reliability initiative that we must overcome, but the inherent culture that is ingrained in our maintenance organizations. Let’s look at the history of maintenance programs during this era.

Following World War II, industry in the US has generally approached maintenance the same way. The common belief was that all equipment ran along just fine until some defined “wearout” point. When we determined that “wear-out” point, all we needed do was to overhaul the equipment and reset the clock. We also subscribed to the common belief that operations or production was the primary customer of the maintenance organization. In an effort to “keep the customer happy”, maintenance organizations were designed and built to provide the fastest response to production’s demands, with little regard for the importance of the request or what other work the new request displaced. As technology advanced, these advances were often used to improve the maintenance organization’s ability to respond to production demands. Think about why so many maintenance organizations equip each technician with a portable radio. Is it to make sure they are working on the planned work or is to make them more efficient to respond to a production demand?

Through those years, success in maintenance was largely measured by how well the organization reacted to the production demands for service. This was not only the measure of success in the organization but of the individuals within that organization. Salary increases, bonuses and promotions were bestowed on the “best firefighter” reinforcing the notion that this was the best way to do maintenance. Individuals that were rewarded under this system moved up the organizational ladder and continued to use the same criteria for advancing others through the system.

In the 1960’s, through the seminal work by Stan Nowland and Howard Heap of United Airlines, the fallacy of the simple wear-out pattern was revealed and industry was introduced to the concept that time-directed maintenance was not always the appropriate solution. But despite this revelation, industry continued using the same approach to maintenance. Despite advances in technology that would allow detection of faults much earlier than the human senses, industry, in general, continued using the same approach to maintenance. And why shouldn’t it? It has worked for nearly 20 years, why change? This was the view from those who had grown up in and been rewarded by the reactive maintenance approach. Quite frankly, during the economic boom years from the ‘60s through the ‘90s, there was little incentive to change. Profitability was generally not an issue. Investment capital was available. If machinery wore out, it would be replaced.

As we entered a more global economy, competition within many industries grew more intense. With prices under pressure from the competitive markets, profitability was jeopardized. To maintain adequate profit margins, industry had to control production costs. We entered the era of down-sizing. Having the view that maintenance was a cost center only, many organizations attempted to slash their way to profitability by cutting maintenance staff and/or reducing maintenance spare parts. In organizations that were living in a reactive environment already, the effect of these cuts was to worsen the situation by increasing production down-time when there was insufficient staff or materials to accomplish needed repairs.

More recently, organizations have recognized that moving to a reliability based maintenance strategy is a better way to treat their assets. But this approach requires a wholesale change in how work is assigned and accomplished. These organizations have instituted Predictive Maintenance (PdM) Programs, have revised existing Preventive Maintenance (PM) Programs, developed dedicated planning functions and developed business process maps to ensure work flows smoothly through the system. Some have even installed new, high-end software as part of the solution. Most organizations recognized that these initiatives changed how the job was done and therefore, recognized the need for training. If we look at industry today and the many changes that have occurred in the last 25 years, it can boggle the mind. Digital controls have replaced the I/P control schemes. Work is initiated, planned, scheduled and closed-out in paperless systems. Operator rounds are performed with hand-held devices instead of hard copy. Most of these changes have affected the nature of the job in substantial ways. Many organizations have recognized the significance of these changes and have acted to provide the training necessary for the new knowledge and skills required to accomplish this new work. The organizations that have recognized the need for training have generally focused on training of the “hands on” personnel. In fact, the training, in general, has focused only on the new skills needed to accomplish the work. Since the focus is on skills development, little attention has been paid to training of management or engineering personnel.

Despite the level of effort in training personnel in the new skills required, many of these reliability-based initiatives have failed. Let’s explore why. First of all, the actions taken by these organizations were correct. Changing how the job gets done does require training. But training on “how” to do the job is not enough. When it comes to implementing a large scale reliability based maintenance initiative, an essential element of the training needs to be about “why” there is a change to the job. The approach to maintenance under a reliability based program requires a significant change in the culture of the organization. It represents a significant change in the work habits that have been engrained in the organization for the last 50 years or more.

Most people don’t like change! In general, people like to feel they have some measure of control in their daily lives. When an organization initiates a significant change into the business process, people at all levels of the organization react to that change. Many will feel threatened or feel that the “new way” is a criticism of their past performance. Many probably feel that there was nothing wrong with “the way we’ve always done it.” In organizations that have tried many different approaches to maintenance improvement, the reaction of the staff may be as simple as regarding the latest change as the “flavor of the month” which will quickly fade like all of the others. The staff as a whole may resist change. And this is likely to occur at every level of the organization. Surprisingly enough, it may even occur with some of the people who are responsible for instituting the change. These individuals may talk the talk, but fail to walk the walk. These actions are the most harmful of all.

So how do we overcome this resistance? Most resistance to change can be overcome by not only explaining “how” we are going to do things differently, but “why” we are going to do things differently. Therefore, the training we provide for our new approach, changing to a reliability based maintenance strategy must include training on the “how” and the “why” of our new approach.

But how do we explain the “why”? Do we talk about how much more profitable it will make the company? Do we explain the competitive advantage it will provide? Or do we simply say, “because I said so”. None of these are the right answer. Remember that most people want to feel they have control of their daily lives. So a message that centers only on the benefits to the company is likely to fall on deaf ears. The message certainly can contain information about the benefits to the company, but must also contain information about the benefits to each employee.

Begin by creating a vision of what it will be like to work under the new reliability based process. The vision should be created through a focus group comprised of a cross section of the organization. Address every level of the organization and show how each workday will be better for the company and the employee under the new system. This vision must be presented early in the change to a reliability based maintenance approach. Otherwise you will run the risk of having to overcome misconceptions and even some resentment after the new systems and processes are in place. It would be a mistake to focus only on the monetary or material changes. For many people, money is not as big a motivator as you may think. Include in your vision discussions how the working environment is likely to change. Explain how the workday will be less stressful when work is better planned and scheduled, and when the right parts are on hand to do needed repairs. You can also discuss how the new order will improve their home life. When the work goes smoothly, it is less likely that employees will miss their sons and daughters sports events, concerts, etc. As part of the overall cultural change training, consider the use of simulations, games or workshops that let employees experience a slice of life under a reliability based approach to maintenance.

It is important that you be realistic in your expectations of the change to reliability based maintenance. These programs often take many years to reach maturity. Changing a culture also takes time. After all, it has taken 50 or 60 years to develop our existing culture. We can’t expect to change it in weeks or months. Once a program is set in motion, the cultural change portion of the reliability based maintenance initiative should be monitored as closely as any other aspect of the project. The cultural change training should be a common and continuous thread that runs through the entire project. The cultural change training should be fully integrated into the overall training and communication plan for the implementation project.If performance of individuals or groups does not meet the management’s expectation, then provide re-training or new training as necessary. Changing the culture of an organization is very much like trying to change the course of a large ship with a row boat. While the laws of physics indicate that it is technically feasible, it takes a great deal of effort pulling on the oars. And once It is important that you be realistic in your expectations of the change to reliability based maintenance. These programs often take many years to reach maturity. Changing a culture also takes time. After all, it has taken 50 or 60 years to develop our existing culture. We can’t expect to change it in weeks or months. Once a program is set in motion, the cultural change portion of the reliability based maintenance initiative should be monitored as closely as any other aspect of the project. The cultural change training should be a common and continuous thread that runs through the entire project. The cultural change training should be fully integrated into the overall training and communication plan for the implementation project.If performance of individuals or groups does not meet the management’s expectation, then provide re-training or new training as necessary. Changing the culture of an organization is very much like trying to change the course of a large ship with a row boat. While the laws of physics indicate that it is technically feasible, it takes a great deal of effort pulling on the oars. And once It is important that you be realistic in your expectations of the change to reliability based maintenance. These programs often take many years to reach maturity. Changing a culture also takes time. After all, it has taken 50 or 60 years to develop our existing culture. We can’t expect to change it in weeks or months. Once a program is set in motion, the cultural change portion of the reliability based maintenance initiative should be monitored as closely as any other aspect of the project. The cultural change training should be a common and continuous thread that runs through the entire project. The cultural change training should be fully integrated into the overall training and communication plan for the implementation project.If performance of individuals or groups does not meet the management’s expectation, then provide re-training or new training as necessary. Changing the culture of an organization is very much like trying to change the course of a large ship with a row boat. While the laws of physics indicate that it is technically feasible, it takes a great deal of effort pulling on the oars. And once you let up for even a minute, the ship returns to its original course. It takes this same constant effort to change culture.

The cultural change training portion is every bit as important as the skills based training to insure the success of your shift to reliability based maintenance. In fact, it may be more important. Without the cultural change training, the probability of success of the rest of the program may be jeopardized. Therefore, this effort must be given the same (if not more) importance as all other aspects of your project planning for reliability based maintenance. It is easy to think that this “soft stuff” will take care of itself. For those of you who have spent their careers focusing on the technical aspects of your job, dealing with the people side of the equation is often thought of as unimportant, time consuming and sometimes just plain scary. While it may be time consuming and, at times, scary, it is one of the most important parts of a successful reliability based maintenance initiative. Time spent in managing the softer, people side of the equation has been shown to have long-term benefits to the success of almost any project. People who understand the “why” of the task they have been given tend to be more open to the change and are more likely to become supporters of the new method rather than resistors. Usually, these new supporters become stakeholders in the new process and actively drive change. Ultimately, time spent managing the people side and addressing the “why” of change is time well spent and is imperative to the success of the reliability initiative.

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