The No. 1 key to reliability success

John Schultz


Why don’t more reliability programs deliver successful results? It’s not for a lack of condition monitoring technologies. In fact, the technologies are often considered to be the easy part. What most people don’t realize is that reliability success boils down to culture change. The people game is the hard part.


Corporate reliability leaders tell me that if they could do it over again, they’d spend more time choosing the right people for key leadership positions. With the right leadership in the right areas pushing the right things, you have success. Without leadership, nothing happens.


It’s a manager’s job to ensure existing policies are carried out. It’s a leader’s job to take the organization in a new direction. That’s why it’s so critical to select the right leaders – people who share the vision, want to educate themselves, and have the tenacity and skills to bring the rest of the group along with them.


How people react to change

Whenever people are faced with a change initiative, they start asking: “Why are we doing this?” “What’s wrong with the way we’ve been doing it?” “What’s in it for me?” As a result, most respond in one of three ways:


1) Some people will “get it” and actively embrace the change initiative.


2) Some will be against it and actively oppose it.


3) Most will sit on the fence with a wait-and-see attitude.


The key is to encourage and reward the ones who get it, try to neutralize the opposition’s impact/influence and persuade the fence-sitters to join your side. The fence-sitters are usually the largest of the three groups, so you must have them on your side to be successful.


Keys to successful leadership

Here are tips for keeping people motivated and moving in the right direction.


Articulate the vision in plain English. Make sure everyone knows, understands and believes the benefits of condition-based maintenance.

It’s a challenge to keep everyone focused on projects lasting two to three years and avoid the program-of-the-month mindset. Successful programs begin with a set of shared beliefs: common understanding and appreciation gained through education.


Get senior leaders on board. It’s no accident that the top-performing corporate reliability initiatives have executive sponsorship. That sends a clear signal that reliability is not optional; it’s much more than just a “maintenance thing.”


How can you get their support? Senior managers speak the language of money. So, show them the financial impact between reactive and proactive maintenance strategies. Emphasize the financial gains you plan to achieve in capacity, labor and materials, stores, quality, and safety.

You need to have a clear, compelling business case with a return on investment presented in language that the big guns understand. What’s the specific financial language your company uses to define financial success: return on investment (ROI), rate of return (ROR), net present value (NPV), economic value-added (EVA), return of net assets (RONA), return of gross investment (ROGI), internal rate of return (IRR) or some other measure of financial performance?


Get an honest assessment of your current situation. Most organizations can benefit from an independent evaluation of their reliability systems, structure and processes. It’s difficult to assess your own performance because you don’t know what you don’t know. Start with a baseline relative to best practices. Then, highlight opportunities for improvement, prioritize them and show progress against the baseline to management.


Use measurements to drive performance. What gets measured gets improved. So, measurements are a great way to drive positive behavior changes. One key metric to track is the percent of your maintenance work driven by PdM. Overall, best-practice CBM programs generate 50 percent of their work from PdM inspections (and the resulting findings) to effectively plan and schedule the elimination of defects. If PdM isn’t generating at least half your work, you’ve got room for improvement. Surprisingly, most companies don’t know how much PdM work they do because they mix PM and PdM together. We’ve found most plants generate less than 10 percent

of their maintenance workflow from PdM.


Scientist and author Margaret Mead said it best: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”



John Schultz earned the Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional designation from the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals and is a partner with Allied Reliability. Schultz and Allied Reliability are recognized leaders in applying condition-based maintenance to achieve the proactive maintenance model. Read more of his articles online at www.alliedreliability.com. For more information on this topic, e-mail info@alliedreliability.com or call 918-382-9400.

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