Focus On Results and Change the Culture
Along the Way
(Part 1 & Part 2)
Robert M. Williamson, Strategic
Work Systems, Inc.
The "breakthrough strategy" discussed here in June really
works. (Click here to read Breakthrough Strategy for Changing
Behaviors.) Equipment becomes more reliable, costs go down,
and behaviors change along the way. The key is focusing on
results-the kind of results that will get people's attention
on the plant floor as well as in the key decisionmakers' offices.
Select the equipment that, if it ran better and was more reliable,
would generate sizeable savings. But more importantly, choose
equipment that would generate more throughput and revenue.
Focus on that equipment and virtually pull out all the stops.
Put the applicable "best practices in place" only on
that equipment and help everyone understand why.
But beware! The biggest mistake I have seen companies make
is that they begin with a "focus on results" approach. Then
somewhere just a short distance into the mission, they default
to the same old thing-implementing a program on a broad scale-and
they lose sight of what they set out to do: improve the reliability
of a selected piece of equipment. It's fairly easy to become
enamored with setting up a new program to improve broadscale
performance. It's fairly easy to get a small group of people
rallied around a maintenance improvement project. The problem
with this "activity-based" approach is that the enthusiasm
typically runs out before the sustainable results are realized.
How many times have we heard about successfully installing
a CMMS, or a preventive maintenance program, or a training
program but then we haven't been able to show the top decisionmakers
a return on investment? Or perhaps short-term improvements
just were not sustained.
Here is the key: Stay focused on results.
If the goal is to improve performance, be specific. Focus on
the desired results, and measure the progress every step of
the way. If it doesn't improve, try something else. Engage
the people who work in, on, and around the equipment in the
improvement activities every step of the way if you hope to
change, or at least influence, the way they operate and maintain
For example, one of our clients had a lube oil problem. In
a recent three-month period, they spent more than $70,000 on
lube oils for rotating equipment (compressors, engines, pumps,
etc.). This was excessive and had to be attacked. When focusing
on improving the performance of four pieces of rather large
critical equipment, we repeatedly stressed the need to not
just stop oil leaks but seek to eliminate the causes. Two reasons
were discussed. One was easy: By stopping leaks, we will reduce
the cost of lube oils. The second reason, which was not as
obvious, was also easy: Leaking lube oil means that a component
that depends on regular lubrication is probably not getting
it. And this type of leak will result in premature equipment
After spending a day on the equipment with the operators
and maintenance mechanics discussing the woes of leaking lube
oil, the oil consumption was reduced from an average of 12
to 14 gallons per day down to four gallons. The workplace and
the equipment looked cleaner because the leaks were eliminated,
and it definitely was easier to work there without getting
dirty and oily.
The next step was to address contamination found in the lube
oil that contributes to premature failure since these four
large machines have each experienced a catastrophic failure
within the past 12 months and signs of lubrication problems
were discovered. The same work group found at least four sources
of water and sand getting into the oil:
- The bulk oil tank had a screw cap (bung) in the top, and
it was stored outside.
- The rubber oil transfer lines were draped over the handrail,
- The fittings and hoses from the bulk oil tank to the day
tank and from the day tank to the equipment were designed
for compressed air, not liquids.
- The pump used to transfer oil to the equipment was stored
on the floor with its inlet and outlet ports uncovered.
- We also found that oil sampling and analysis was done on
an intermittent basis and never on the new oil from the bulk
The good news is that they have begun hard piping the oil
lines, storing the bulk tank under cover, and have developed
a procedure for regularly sampling oil from the bulk tank and
I tell this story because it is an example of focusing on
results. Our client could have lost focus and implemented a
massive lube oil cost- cutting program by stopping leaks. In
their work culture, it is commonly believed that "Equipment
is designed to leak" and "Leak containment is what we need
to do." Results were achieved and new practices were learned
by involving the workgroup in a focus on four specific machines.
There was a clear business case to improve performance and
reduce costs. The benefits of this short session were seen
not only by the workgroup but also by the management and leadership
at many levels in the organization. The next step is to build
on this success and target other reliability and work culture
issues on the same equipment.
Part 2 (back to top)
See how one company reduced equipment downtime by more than
50% in less than one month
All too often, businesses try to improve performance by "implementing" improvement
programs. Unless these programs are focused on specific measurable
and observable results, they are short lived. Why is that?
Human nature clashing with the world of business. Getting people
to quickly embrace change while achieving sustainable business
results can be challenging.
Well, here is a real down-to-earth success story that shows
how to focus on results and change the culture along the way.
The subject plant is a very large manufacturing facility that
operates seven days, 24 hours. It is part of a multi-national
corporation producing a common product world wide. With many
of the traditional cost-cutting, down-sizing, and ISO 9000
programs well behind them, they noticed little improvement
in their bottom line. In fact, their equipment performance
and reliability was declining at a steady pace. Something had
to be done, but the cost of doing "something" was a real issue.
They asked repeatedly, "How can we be assured that this Total
Productive Maintenance/Manufacturing (TPM/M) approach will
address the issues and give us a significant return on our
investment?" That's the right question. They had to see the
methods and results without taking a massive leap of faith.
The approach they took was focused, rather than a wide-spread
implementation. First, they sponsored a day-long session to
teach the fundamentals of TPM/M to operations, maintenance,
technical and plant management, including about 50 salary and
hourly leaders. At the end of this session, a smaller group
brainstormed possible applications and approaches, keeping
in mind something had to be done to improve the performance
and reliability of their equipment.
Within the next few weeks, they invited me back for a plant
tour and meetings with potential TPM/M starting points. They
looked for signs of equipment problems. They discussed equipment
history and performance data. They looked at the preventive
and predictive maintenance methods. The shops and spare parts
conditions were reviewed. Lastly, they discussed plant process
flow and the constraints or "bottlenecks." It was unanimous.
There were two major constraints, and the most troublesome
was about to get worse after January 2000 because of market
demands. In fact, there were four of these machine cells, each
one identical to the others. This was to be the TPM/M starting
point. The discussion also pointed to the next constraint to
address when the first one was cured.
After some preparation, the company assembled a "Pit Crew" to
learn and apply the elements of TPM/M to one of the four constraint
machine cells. The "Pit Crew" included a mechanic, an electrician,
a lead operator, the maintenance coordinator/planner, the area
supervisor, the reliability leader for the department, the
department process quality technician, and the area-manufacturing
manager. If the reliability and performance of this constraint
was to improve, this was the group that had the responsibility
and the authority to do it.
Three days of "TPM/M Pit Stop" training included a blend
of classroom theory, case studies, demonstrations, and hands-on
application. The group had full access to the equipment each
afternoon during the training. During the hands-on portions
of the training, real-time root-cause analysis was learned
and performed on all of the chronic equipment problems. With
the root causes of poor performance known, it was a matter
of using the TPM/M learnings to eliminate the causes and then
establish countermeasures to ensure they would not return.
The group then applied the proven practices and improvements
to the remaining three machine cells.
After one full month of operation, the bottleneck no longer
existed. The results to date: 89 percent reduction in downtime-causing
contamination, more than 50 percent reduction in unplanned
machine downtime, and less operator intervention to free jams.
This new machine performance and reliability led to increased
production throughput of nearly 250 percent per shift of operation.
Additionally, work requests now have correct machine and part
nomenclature and work orders have meaningful information on
the causes of problems. Operators have visual procedures and
guides to assist in performing their tasks. The Pit Crew continues
to meet weekly to address other machine issues and to complete
the remaining improvements. A return on the investment in TPM/M
Pit Stop training was conservatively estimated at 20 to one
in less than two months considering improved production throughput
and reduced maintenance calls!
The key learnings from this example?
- Focus on results and change the culture along the way.
- Build on the sub-optimized systems and methods already
- Involve those who have not only the responsibility but
the also the authority to make the necessary changes.
- Formally train the group using sound adult-learning principles:
Adults learn by doing and they learn what they can apply
to make their work easier.
- Do things that make the equipment easier to operate, easier
to maintain, and easier to inspect.
- And most importantly, focus on the constraints in the process
- the high maintenance cost, high maintenance downtime, problem-prone
equipment - equipment that if it improved
would get the attention of many people at all levels in the
Oh, one last point: Not only did they improve one of four
machine cells in their plant within a matter of a few weeks,
but there are nearly 150 similar machine cells in the company, all with
the same design and chronic problems. If the company can standardize
the minor equipment improvements alone, just imagine that return