Reliability and Maintenance Management Beliefs

"IDCON - A Reliability and Maintenance Management Consulting Firm"  

Excellent leadership is the very essential success factor for lasting results for any improvement initiative an organization undertakes, including improvements to Reliability and Maintenance performance.


As a leader I have found it very important to develop and communicate your beliefs to your organization. These beliefs will then guide your organization on its journey to your goals. 


Christer Idhammar
Founder and CEO of IDCON INC ., Raleigh NC, USA,

In this and the next issue of Maintworld –magazine I will share my own and IDCON’s beliefs related to reliability and maintenance management in the hope that they will serve as a guideline to develop your own beliefs.

Belief 1 

Cost reduction does not generate improved reliability. Improved reliability results in lower costs.

Reliability performance is measured here as performance of Quality x Time x Speed. Or Overall Production Efficiency. (OPE)

To sustainably reduce cost you need to focus on what drives cost, not cost alone. Improved production reliability drives down costs. Even if your production lines are not sold out the biggest saving potential is increased production reliability because it shortens the time from raw material to finished product.  

Remember that improved reliability also improves safety and energy consumption.

Belief 2 

People cannot be more productive than the system that they work in will allow them to be.

Even with good skills and good wills people cannot be effective if they work in a reactive, unplanned and unscheduled system. As an example training in skills can be wasted because people will not be allowed to use their skills to execute work with precision. 

Belief 3 

It is a leadership obligation to develop, communicate, and coach implementation of these processes.

One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to develop and document the holistic reliability and maintenance management system, the processes in that system and the elements in the processes. 

When this is done you will have a very well-defined reliability and maintenance management strategy. You can use this documented strategy to drive implementation and to measure progress towards your vision.


Illustration of what the basic maintenance processes are. Looks so simple, but very few organizations do them well.

Belief 4 

It is more important to do the right things than to do things right.

To decide what the right things to do are is leadership. To do things right is execution of these things. When developing your reliability and maintenance management strategy you should only focus on the right things to do and not discuss how to do them. This is because it is easier to reach acceptance on the right things to do than how execute them.

Belief 5 

The right people are an organization’s most vital asset.

Many statements declare, “People are our most valuable asset”. I do not agree with this statement. It should instead state. “The right people are our most valuable asset”. That is a statement I would agree with. Many improvement initiatives fail because the right people are not accountable and responsible for the task they are assigned to. It does not mean that these people cannot be right for another position. It is a continuous process to develop the organization so that the right people have the right position.

Belief 6 

Busy people are not productive unless they work on the right thing.

Measurement methods such as “Wrench time” can therefore not be right thing to do. In fact a very good maintenance organization is less busy with “Wrench time” between shut -downs. Instead, more time is spent on Root Cause Problem Elimination (RCPE) and preparing for the next shut down. This can be done because there are very few breakdowns. If work is planned and then scheduled, people will work on the right things, so it is more important to measure the effectiveness of the processes people work in than to measure the symptoms of the processes people work in.

Belief 7  

People do not mind change, but do not like to be changed.

My experience is that people do not like, and seldom buy in to, changes handed down to people from above without explanation of what, why and how. But if people are well informed and listened to, they will better understand and accept, the reason for change. Repeated information and education and training are essential elements of any improvement initiative involving people.

Belief 8 

Basic maintenance processes must be in place before implementing more advanced tools.

Many organizations start new improvement initiatives before they are ready. Some examples include: 

Starting Reliability Centred (RCM) Training and analyses before they are ready because they are still too reactive and they are reactive because they do not carry out the very basics well.  

Train crafts people in precision maintenance training when they work in a reactive process. When most work is urgent, it will lead to a situation where there will not be enough time to use the good skills they have learned.  In turn this will lead to disappointment and skills will be lost.

Upgrading to an advanced Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) before the organization is ready. A good piece of advice is to always start with designing the processes first and then implement the new system.

Belief 9   

Rapid and sustainable change does not exist in maintenance because the change process is “90 percent” about people and behaviours.

If change is equivalent to sustainable improvements, then the reply to this statement is no. Why? Because my experience has shown that 90 percent of improvement of maintenance performance is about people and 10 percent is about technology and processes. This does not mean that technology and design of processes are not important. It is very important to design the right processes for people to enable them to become more productive. But that is the easy part in an improvement initiative. This part might take only five to ten percent of the effort in time and money.

What takes time is to make an often-undisciplined reactive organization to work in a disciplined process. Your organization might have many maintenance heroes who value the recognition they receive when they repair a broken down piece of equipment. They might also be rewarded by overtime pay because of the logic that equipment is more likely (76 percent) to break down when the full maintenance crew is not in the mill.

Technology is also very important. To acquire the right tools for vibration analyses, precision alignment, and hand held computers and so on is easy because most maintenance people love gadgets and tools. Again, to implement these tools so that they are used in a disciplined process is often a challenge. It might be basic things like taking action to plan and schedule the correction of failures in equipment discovered early by any of these tools. To make that process work is what takes time.

It will require a close partnership between operations and maintenance so priorities of work are done based on what is most important for the business. These are just a few examples to demonstrate that 90 percent of effort to improve maintenance performance is about people.


World Class Performance can only be achieved in a Reliability Partnership Work System.

Belief 10  

Operations, Engineering, Maintenance, and Stores must work in a partnership to reach excellence.

Most organizations we work with think they work in a close partnership between these departments, but not many do. This is often reflected in the way performance indicators are used. Operations are measured by the quality tons produced, maintenance by the cost of maintenance, engineering by on time and within budget for projects, and stores by turnover and value of inventory. These examples of performance indicators do not promote a partnership between the departments. 

If you agree with belief 10 you cannot only say that: “now we shall all work together as equal partners in a reliability partnership”, you need to define, document and communicate your beliefs, and then design all work processes according to these beliefs.  

Asset Management | 14.10.2016

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