Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Losing the War on Downtime While Winning the Battles

I recently had the opportunity to write an article for UPTIME Magazine where the focus was on distinguishing between short term wins and long term sustainability when it comes to saving and making money with your maintenance team.  In the article, I share in jest four short term solutions that while they might generate short term cash it is at the cost of long term sustainability and future reliability efforts.  I then share some thoughts on longer term solutions that provide for greater reliability and more importantly, are sustainable. 
One of the short term battles that I see many sites "winning" is the kaizen events, TPM events, continuous improvement events or whatever they may be called at the site. They can be characterized as one or two week events where we clean up an area and "solve" a few problems in a very reactive manner and then decree that this area is now reliable. Battle won!
The issue is three fold:
In many of these events the symptoms are addressed not the root causes because the team in their haste does not use detailed enough RCA tools and processes.
Secondly everything about the event is done in a reactive manner. Maintenance craftsmen are kept at the ready to address every issue the team finds as quickly as possible. This demonstrates little planning, reactive scheduling and rewards your quick fix firefighters with the work that they love. Third the team moves on and the sustainability is left to the area. Some of the people who are expected to maintain this new "reliable" state have no idea why the changes were made and what is in it for them.
So what happens in the end, well when you return to the kaizen area just a few short months later it is in its previous condition or even worse than it was before. War lost because even though the kaizen battles have been won and celebrated the equipment condition and reliability is the same or worse.
Short term focused events can work within your long term war on downtime but they must be constructed to demonstrate the best practices not reinforce the worst. They must use effective problem solving tools, and generate work that can be planned and scheduled and then executed with precision and at the lowest cost. Lastly their needs to be communication stratigies to share the intent, goals and sustainability needs and metrics to reinforce the new behaviors. If you strive to demonstrate the best practices in all you do then you can win the battle and the war on unreliability and downtime.

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