Maintenance and reliability - good enough never is

Tim Goshert

About 15 years ago, I was fortunate to attend a conference where the keynote speaker’s focus was quality. This person was a successful entrepreneur and had built a top-flight company over the past two decades. The company’s success was based on making the best-quality, best-tasting cookie in the U.S. The person’s motto was “Good Enough Never Is.” The company was Mrs. Fields Cookies and the speaker was Mrs. Fields.

According to the company’s Web site, Debbi Fields was a young mother with no business experience when she opened her first cookie store in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1977. People said she was crazy. No business could survive just by selling cookies. From those humble beginnings, Mrs. Fields became a global celebrity and her company became the premier chain of cookie and baked goods stores.

More than a decade later, I still carry that simple motto, “Good Enough Never Is,” with me in my daily work to improve maintenance and reliability practices at Cargill.

In a maintenance and reliability improvement process, there are several areas where there is always a desire or undercurrent to shortcut the process. I’d like to show several areas where I’ve experienced such desires and why “Good Enough Never Is.”

Maintenance and Reliability Education

Continuing education in the maintenance and reliability field is one of the best ways for M&R professionals to advance their careers. The application of these learnings to your situation can translate into distinctively better business results. Your company’s leaders will take notice of the higher production rates, better quality and improved operating costs. I’ve witnessed several careers catapulted after applying the knowledge gained from continuing M&R education. However, many professionals fail to dedicate the time and effort.

A maintenance and reliability leader needs to have deep knowledge in many areas to successfully lead a team to success. This requires continual learning by reading books and periodicals, attending workshops and conferences, and getting detailed training in the subject areas. It requires you to become a student of:

  1. various Reliability-Centered Maintenance techniques (classical and streamlined)

  2. the 15 to 20 applicable predictive (condition-monitoring) techniques used in your business

  3. planning and scheduling techniques

  4. precision maintenance techniques (precision balance, alignment, fits and lubrication)

  5. various root cause analysis method techniques

  6. reliability engineering techniques such as Weibull Analysis

  7. leadership and change management principles

  8. business management principles.

The “Good Enough Never Is” mantra requires relentless learning and a passion to always improve and be the best.

Predictive Application

Plants and facilities, large or small, use mechanical and electrical equipment to produce a product for customers. Many facilities have little redundancy, so most of the equipment is critical to the facility due to one or more factors: safety, environmental, food safety, quality, production, customer impact and cost.

Most critical equipment has failure modes that have consequences that are unacceptable to the business. Therefore, it’s highly beneficial to prevent or detect these failure modes before they occur. This addresses safety, environmental, customer service, cost and other factors. Proactive actions to prevent or detect these failure modes are predictive technologies, preventive maintenance (PM) plans, failure finding tasks and/or redesign efforts. All are outputs of an RCM analysis.

Therefore, most facilities have large amounts of critical equipment that have failure modes in need of detection by these methods. Predictive technologies (condition monitoring techniques) are used to understand the health of a facility’s critical assets.

The rub has been that many programs fail to employ the right amount of predictive maintenance (PdM) technologies in the plant to identify and resolve the failure modes of critical equipment. Two common deficiencies are:

1) Use of only a few (two or three) PdM technologies when a selection of 15 to 20 are needed to address the failure modes of the plant’s critical equipment. For instance, a critical rotating piece of equipment powered by an electrical motor may need as many as 10 different PdM technologies to monitor and identify failure modes with undesirable results.

2) Application of a very small percentage of the asset base. Many facilities have little redundancy and, therefore, a large percentage (70 to 90 percent) of equipment may be critical in some manner. Therefore, we may need to cover 70 to 90 percent of the equipment with a PdM technology. Which technology to use depends on the failure mode and the consequence of failure to the business.

Here, “Good Enough Never Is” requires a commitment to cover a large percentage of the asset base with multiple technologies in the proper manner. Doing this correctly may mean earmarking as much as 25 percent of the annual maintenance budget for PdM programs (equipment, tools, labor, training, etc.).

Preventive Plans

Experience shows that many PM systems aren’t designed to address the failure modes of critical plant equipment. Such systems are an outcome of ad hoc attempts to address painful equipment failures of the past. Many PM systems are come-up files of tasks that tell the maintenance team to “inspect this and/or inspect that.” Few are quantitative enough to give craftspeople the proper tolerances, dimensions and measurements to check.

Here, “Good Enough Never Is” requires a commitment to possibly redesign PMs. A thorough review of the plan is needed to determine if it addresses a failure mode of critical equipment. If not, throw it out. If so, does it identify the mode in quantitative terms? If not, make it so. Does it give the craftperson the needed knowledge (safety, tools, tolerances, specifications) to do the work in a quality manner? If not, make it so.

Precicion Maintenance

The most crucial area where a “Good Enough Never Is” attitude should be employed is in the methods that dictate how plant equipment is built, installed and maintained. Some people call these “precision techniques.”

I’ve found it can be very challenging to instill a precision attitude in the workforce that builds, installs and maintains plant equipment. I’ve encountered the “Good Enough” attitude in equipment design and building, led normally on the theme of cost control.

In the past 15 years, my experience is that few OEMs truly understand what the requirements are to have a precision-built machine. They equate “precision” with “it costs a lot more.” Many expect a precision-built, precision-balanced, precision-aligned machine to take much longer to build and install. This is seldom the case. It takes attention to great detail and an educated, motivated workforce. Many times in a competitive-bid situation, this extra detail is obtained at no cost. In other words, precision is free.

When specifying equipment to be built and installed, think “Good Enough Never Is.” Insist on:

  1. precision balance specification of G1.0

  2. precision alignment standards of 0.002 or less, depending on operating speed

  3. precision fit and tolerance standards

  4. precision torque standards for mechanical and electrical equipment

  5. precision lubrication standards that include microscopic particle contamination control procedures.

Precision activities are just as vital during maintenance work. Craftspeople must be educated and motivated to “sweat the details” when repairing and maintaining plant equipment. For most craftspeople, this isn’t a tough sell. They want to do work right but normally are held back by the leadership and a work environment that rewards actions motivated by thoughts of “Good Enough.”


One of the most important actions of maintenance and reliability leadership is to expect and set the environment to allow the entire organization to practice “Good Enough Never Is” every day. Habitual actions will bring beneficial business results to your operation, much like Mrs. Fields has experienced over the years in her cookie and bakery business.

Tim Goshert is the worldwide reliability and maintenance manager for Cargill, one of the world’s largest food and agricultural processing companies (more than 1,000 facilities worldwide). He is responsible for the company’s global reliability and maintenance initiatives and is chairman of the company’s Worldwide Reliability and Maintenance Steering Committee. Tim is an active member of the Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) and serves on its board of directors. 

Subscribe to Machinery Lubrication

About the Author