Reliability, Maintenance and Safety


I am no longer surprised to see reliability and maintenance improvement initiatives abandoned before the substantial results, which are possible to achieve, are delivered and sustained for years to come. 

This phenomenon is recognized by many of my colleagues in the reliability and maintenance management profession.

I recently came across the findings illustrated in the graph below from the American Society for Training and Development. It illustrates what happens if training is not followed by immediate practice and reinforcement. The findings show that 87 percent of what you learnt is lost within 30 days if training is not followed by practice and reinforcement. Their findings illustrate very well why so many reliability and maintenance improvement initiatives delivers good results, but only about 50 percent of the improvement potential.

Reliability and maintenance improvements are one of the last major improvements opportunities the Industry have left. Everyone with access to capital can buy the same equipment and technology, how productive your plant is will to a very large extent depend on the reliability of your process and your equipment. If your equipment runs, you make product, if it does not run your employees work harder, you pay more and you are not making product. So why does top management not reinforce that even the most basic maintenance practices are executed better and better over long period of time to achieve sustainable outstanding financial results? Perhaps it is lack of patience and reinforcement?
Another good comparison is safety. In 1994, the average overall incident rate (Incidents per 200,000 working hours) in one industry group was 8.7. Today, many plants we work with have an incident rate of below 1. In 23 years this industry as an average reduced overall safety incident rates by about 87 percent. We all know that this is because of consistent long term reinforcement and training.

A study by University of Tennessee shows that organizations with a high level of reactive maintenance has an OSHA incident rate (Incidents per 200,000 working hours) of 4.36, while top performers with much less reactive maintenance have an OSHA incident rate of 0.11.

Imagine the same focus on training, implementation and reinforcement of basic maintenance practices; could you have reduced preventable maintenance work and down time by 80 percent? The majority of maintenance work is preventable and can also be executed in half of the time so I know it is possible. I have seen it happen and the key to these successes has been top management long term consistent leadership, support and reinforcement. And on top of better maintenance productivity, higher production throughput, you would get an even better safety record.




President of IDCON INC in Raleigh NC, USA,