What You Can Do To Foster a Reliability Culture At Your Operation

Reliability Culture is like Clockwork

© William Warby

Improving reliability is easier said than done. Often times you can develop great PM routines, improve equipment and have the right processes in place, but reliability doesn’t improve. Why is that? It all comes down to people. People are the heart of reliability, whether they run the equipment or maintain it.

Changing people’s perception of reliability can be a very difficult task. So where do we start? When trying to implement such change, you will often hear of change management and change framework. This is a great exercise, and contributes greatly to success. But what if you are a Maintenance Supervisor who needs a tangible action that you can run with?

Those tangible actions can be difficult to come up with. I struggled with changing the culture of a small maintenance department. The department was your picture perfect Maytag© repairman. Sitting around, cleaning their tools, and reading the paper until the equipment failed. They would then perform the repair, and go back to their daily routine.

Shifting their mindset, and the culture to a Reliability Culture was difficult, because I had no tangible actions. Not to mention any experience in change management. After many trials and failures, I was able to bring that shift into the world of reliability culture. Listed below are the first steps to bringing about the change in the culture.

I have organized the steps into 5 days. This will allow you to take action over the course of a week to implement the seeds of change. This activity is not for the faint of heart and will require you putting in some extra time and effort this week. The seeds we sow today, we reap tomorrow.

Monday: Depending on whether your operation is reactive or operating a steady state, we can always improve the operation. To start off the week, we need to create awareness for the need of improvement. To start creating the awareness, explain to the craft an area you see that could be improved. Emphasize this is what you see and ask them to explain where they see improvements can be made.

Be prepared to get an ear full of complaints. Acknowledge any key themes coming out from the discussion and ask the craft if these are in fact the themes. Thank the craft for their input and let them know that you will be working to address their concerns.

After the meeting, take a few minutes to find a quick and easy win that can be implemented or corrected from the issues. Ensure that what you pick to correct or improve requires the input and work of the craft team. The change must be something that can be implemented with new knowledge or tools. For example, does the site experience a large amount of loose fasteners? If so supply everyone with a torque wrench and a torque chart. Or does the site have PM that are not delivering value? If so supply the craft with a One Point Lesson on evaluating PMs for Effectiveness and give them a big red marker to make the changes.

Spend some extra time on the floor today, working to reduce the barriers the craft face. Help them find the parts, assist with troubleshooting, or just offer support.

Tuesday: Start the day by thanking the craft for their hard work yesterday. Try to point out specific events that took place. They can range from someone completing a PM correctly, to someone cleaning up their job site. A simple thank you can go a long way in making people feel appreciated.

Let the craft know that you appreciated their honesty yesterday and after some thought, you want their help in improving an issue that was raised yesterday. But don’t tell them which one yet.

Explain to the craft the end state in which you see. Detail the benefits you see for them; is it less breakdowns, improved communications, etc. Now state the issue you are going to address as a team. Make sure that they see how the benefits can be achieved with making that improvement.

Solicit their input on how to make that change. What do we need to do? Involve them in the solution and they will become owners of it. Beware, that you may have to change your plan from yesterday.

Finish by asking who wants to make a difference today and lead the solution. If anyone rises to the occasion, they are your change agents now and possibly in the future. You must foster and grow this individual as he/she is an early adopter. Spend some time with the early adopter and develop a plan for tomorrow. Create any One Point Lessons, or a custom toolbox talk for tomorrow. On Wednesday you will supply them with the knowledge and tools to implement the solution.

If no one rose to the occasion, do not worry, changing a culture takes time. You will just have to create the plan yourself. Depending on where the culture is when you are starting, this may be the case for a while until you build the trust of the craft.

Wednesday: Using the early adopters or change agents, have them explain the plan to the team. Additionally, have the early adopter explain and teach any concepts to the other craft. Once everyone has been trained on any new concepts and plans, allow the information to simmer for a few minutes. Ask if there are any questions.  Tell the craft to implement their learnings today.

Using your early adopter, have him/her connect the rest of the craft to follow up and see if there are any questions that arose after the training. Some people do not like to ask questions in a group setting. This allows those with questions to ask them on a one to one basis.

Spend time today floating around and seeing if the new knowledge is put to use. Ask questions to test the comprehension of the knowledge.

At the end of the day, thank the craft for their willingness to implement the new knowledge. You are beginning to shift the culture.

Thursday: Ask the craft what they learned yesterday. Ask questions to check the comprehension and identify trends or themes in knowledge gaps. Take the time to address any gaps. Yesterday you supplied the knowledge, but knowledge alone does not constitute ability.

Take the day to continue to coach and implement the new learnings.

Friday: Thank the craft for their willingness to try something new. Ask if they found it valuable and address any concerns that arise.

Today is all about reinforcing the use of the new knowledge. Spend lots of time finding people doing it right and thank them.

Thank the craft again for all of their hard work this week. Explain that it isn’t easy to make changes and try new things. Show genuine appreciation for their willingness to try that new thing.

Even if you only brought about a small change in one person this week, it is the small steps that lead to great results. Small steps will lead to a change in the reliability culture.

Saturday: Take a few minutes today to think about what occurred during the week. What worked, what didn’t? What were the issues? Plan how you are going to continue the journey to a High Performing Reliability culture next week.

After the conclusion of the first week, a reliability culture will not magically appear. Using the ADKAR framework you can work to create a series of mini changes in the department. The culture must be fostered, supported and grown over time, through a series of targeted actions.

When creating the culture start with the maintenance department, create ambassadors, and then move to operations. A reliability culture is not just the maintenance staff. A reliability culture includes the entire operation. Once an entire operation is engaged, only then can you achieve Eruditio, LLC.

What have you done to implement a reliability culture? Did you see any change in the culture of you maintenance department after the five days?

Remember, to find success, you must first solve the problem, then achieve the implementation of the solution, and finally sustain winning results.

I’m James Kovacevic
Eruditio, LLC
Where Education Meets Application

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