Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Where is the "mole" that is sabotaging your reliability program?

Hello fellow practitioners! Apologise for missing in action for a while. I have been working on various asset management roles that have been rather frustrating. I suppose the usual time an organisation accepts that they need a Reliability/ Asset Management personnel is when they would have been pretty deep in the mud pit to get out themselves. Nothing is new when we admit that every Reliability/ Asset Management role is rather frustrating. Only weirdos like us who cannot live without a good challenge would roll ourselves into the mud pit for fun. Perhaps we have an insane definition for fun…

Yesterday, my colleagues and I were discussing the conflicting goals of reliability target against overtime payment to maintenance crew. The more reliable your plant is, the less overtime labour cost will be incurred.

I don’t want to start off on the wrong context that I am against overtime payment and portray that I put full support behind capitalism to pay the workers the least, and extract the most profit out of every hardworking family breadwinner here. This is purely a discussion from our team’s experience, and in my opinion should be managed. The billion dollar question is… How?

Culture at organisation A, we experience frontline maintenance crew collaborating among themselves to “create” urgent overtime work sustainably, either through poor workmanship, or intentional slowdown of work completion.

Notice that I mentioned culture of the organisation, instead of practice of the organisation? You’re right on the money! It is a culture issue, but which part of the culture? Whether we realise it or not, it is applicable to most if not all organisations out there. Culture is built over the years by the organisation’s LEADERSHIP. I capitalised the letters to put a strong emphasis on it intentionally. Imagine below:

Leadership at organisation B, leaders who lead by example, support sustainability, accept individuality, embrace continuous improvements. Leadership that believes in nurturing the next generation, and bringing out the best in you with committed support to train you to do your job well and give their best to groom your career aspirations.

Leadership at organisation C, seniors who boss you around, micro-managing, expect a person to work like a robot precision with no break, strong emphasis of cost cutting, hiring the cheapest, buying the cheapest, yet expect the team to deliver high reliability.

I’m sure by now you know which organisation you want to work for. Leadership makes or breaks an organisation. In reality, organisation B and C are at both extreme ends of the distribution curve. Organisation we work for probably sits somewhere in between with a combination of values from both end of the spectrum.

Every organisation will have their fair share of imperfections. It is an art to balance how much to give without turning employees into a spoilt demanding lot, and how much to hold back without compromising basic reasonable requests. I have experienced an organisation that refuses to send their employees for training purely because it costs money and the leadership believes as the employees skilled up, they would leave. What is the consequential cost to the organisation for not training them? Operating with unskilled labour? Does such organisation still have a chance surviving in an ever competitive market?

Back to the original question of how then do you improve plant reliability without incurring overtime costs? I would suggest you look into a comprehensive reliability program that involves both operations and maintenance. To have a reliably operating equipment requires more than maintenance crew doing a great job, it also require the operations crew to operate it within the constraint that present itself from time to time. With the availability of advance condition monitoring technology, most failure mechanisms can be detected, and replacement can be planned in advance, reducing unplanned downtime and thus overtime labour cost.

Identical plant availability, and reliability KPI should be shared among Operations & Maintenance, overtime payment is to be gradually reduced and finally eliminated further down the road. This will encourage team work and more collaboration between Operations & Maintenance that will lead to a more fulfilled work environment, and higher employee retention.

From another perspective, earnings as a result of overtime work reduction can be converted into incentive payments to all deserving employees. With such a scheme, an organisation can be labelled as stable, reliable and highly rated in terms of its operations and the quality of its employees who produce excellent deliveries with minimum overtime work. This would be attractive and who would leave such organisation for another job.

Feel free to share your alternative or successful experience with me! You can reach me at harry (at) wiwoweb (dot) net