If an organization is in reactive maintenance and management decided they need to move to proactive maintenance, one must ask themselves the question, “How hard is it to move from Reactive to Proactive Maintenance?”.  Changing from reactive to proactive maintenance requires a total different way of thinking, executing, and managing asset reliability. When designed, implemented, and managed effectively the result of proactive maintenance is optimal asset reliability at optimal cost.

Change is not simple or easy, however it is achievable. If it were easy all companies would have a proactive maintenance organization and asset reliability would be optimized. Over the years I have been ask to define Reactive Maintenance. I use these terms to best describe reactive maintenance.

“You know you are in Reactive Maintenance When”:

  1. … you are performing PM on equipment that continues to break down.
  2. … on a breakdown you hear “hurry up we need to get running”.
  3. …when the top metrics used to manage the maintenance process are: # of breakdowns, PM Compliance, and cost.
  4. …when a breakdown occurs and you hear the management state: “this breakdown must not happen again”.
  5. …maintenance is not seen as an equal partner with production.
  6. …the plant manager or production manager defines the priority of maintenance work on a “down day”.
  7. …maintenance cost continues to rise even after cost reductions strategies have been applied.
  8. …the maintenance staff is frustrated and the good maintenance techs are leaving to work for other companies.
  9. …maintenance cost as a % of Replacement of Asset Value is not known and truly not understood.

Maybe you have heard some of the above statements used in your organization or you have heard similar ones used. The fact is change is not easy however the rewards are great. This statement surprises most people; “When a maintenance organization is reactive the whole organization is reactive from top level management to the workers on the floor”. Think about it.

In a reactive organization management does not understand the difference in maintenance cost as a percentage of replacement of asset value (RAV) when one moves from a reactive to proactive state. All senior leadership wants is maintenance cost managed and reduced.

The fact is clear, a reactive organization maintenance cost, as a % of RAV, could be as high as 17.8%, a proactive organization maintenance cost as a % of RAV can be as low as 1.4%. As maintenance cost goes down production output and quality is going up. I have heard all the excuses when management first views this data and when excuses are used I know change management is a requirement not an option.

Maintenance cost RAV1

                             “You cannot improve something you cannot measure”

                                                                                           – Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

Steve Thomas, a Change Management Expert and friend, wrote the following in a chapter about Change Management in Keith Mobley and my book, “Rules of Thumb for Maintenance and Reliability Engineers”.

Steve provides insight into this challenging issue, “Change and Equipment Reliability”.

One of the major areas of focus in industry today is improving equipment reliability. Why? To insure that production is always available to meet the demand of the marketplace. One of the worst nightmares of any company and those who manage it is to have a demand for product but not be able to supply it because of equipment failure. Certainly this scenario will reduce company profitability and could ultimately put a company out of business. 

For some firms, poor reliability and its impact on production are far more serious than for others. For those that operate on a continuous basis — they run 24 hours per day seven days per week — there is no room for unplanned shutdowns of the production equipment; any loss of production is often difficult or even impossible to make up. For others that do not operate in a 24/7 mode, recovery can be easier, but nevertheless time consuming and expensive, reducing profits. 

Many programs available in the industry are designed to help businesses improve reliability. They are identified in trade literature, promoted at conferences and over the web, and quite often they are in place within the plants in your own company. Most of these programs are what Steve refers to as “hard skill” programs. They deal with the application of resources and resource skills in the performance of a specific task aimed at reliability improvement. For example, you decide that you want to improve preventive maintenance (PM). To accomplish this you train your workforce in preventive maintenance skills, purchase the necessary equipment, and roll out a PM program accompanied with corporate publicity, presentations of what you expect to accomplish, and other forms of hype in order to get buy in from those who need to execute it. Then you congratulate your team for a job well done and move on to the next project. Often at this juncture, something very significant happens. The program you delivered starts strongly, but immediately things begin to go wrong. The work crews assigned to preventive maintenance get diverted to other plant priorities; although promises are made to return them to their original PM assignments, this never seems to happen. Equipment that is scheduled to be out of service for preventive maintenance can’t be shutdown due to the requirements of the production department; although promises are made to take the equipment off-line at a later time, this never seems to happen. Finally, the various key members of management who were active advocates and supporters at the outset are the very ones who permit the program interruptions, diminish its intent, and reduce the potential value. Often these people do make attempts to get the program back on track, but  these  attempts  are  often  half-hearted.  Although  nothing  is  openly  said,  the organization  recognizes  what  is  important,  and  often  this  is  not  the  preventive maintenance program. 

Steve has simplified the demise of the preventive maintenance program in our example. Yet this is exactly as it happens, although much more subtle. In the end, the result is the same. Six months after the triumphant rollout of the program, it is gone. The operational status quo has returned and, if you look at the business process, you may not even be able to ascertain that a preventive maintenance program ever existed at all.

For those of us trying to improve reliability or implement any type of change in our business, the question we need to ask ourselves is why does this happen? The intent of the program was sound. It was developed with a great deal of detail, time, and often money; the work plan was well executed. Yet in the end there is nothing to show for all of the work and effort. 

Part of the answer is that change is a difficult process. Note that he didn’t say program, because a program is something with a beginning and an end. A process has a starting point — when you initially conceived the idea — but it has no specific ending and can go on forever. 

Yet the difficulty of implementing change isn’t the root cause of the problem. You can force change. If you monitor and take proper corrective action, you may even be able over the short term to force the process to appear successful. Here, the operative word is you. What if you implement the previously-mentioned preventive maintenance program and  then,  in  order  to  assure  compliance,  continually  monitor  the  progress.  Further suppose that you are a senior manager and have the ability to rapidly remove from the process change any roadblocks it encounters as it progresses. What then? Most likely the change will stick as long as you are providing care and feeding. But what do you think will happen if after one month into the program you are removed from the equation. If there are no other supporters to continue the oversight and corrective action efforts, the program will most likely lose energy. Over a relatively short time, everything will likely return to the status quo.

 The question we need to answer is why does this happen to well-intentioned reliability- driven change process throughout industry? The answer is that the process of change is a victim of the organization’s culture and failure to address the “soft skills” of the change process. 

The culture is the hidden force, which defines how an organization behaves, works behind the scenes to restore the status quo unless specific actions are taken to establish a new status quo for the organization. Without proper attention to organizational culture, long-term successful change is not possible. 

Think of an organization’s culture as a rubber band. The more you try to stretch it, the harder it tries to return to its previously un-stretched state – the status quo. However if you stretch it in a way that it can’t return and leave it stretched for a long time, once released it will sustain the current stretch you gave it and not return to its original dimensions. That is going to be our goal – to figure out how to stretch the organization but in a way that when the driver of the process is out of the equation, the organizational rubber band won’t snap back. 

Changing the organization’s culture in order to promote long-lasting change benefits everyone from the top of the organization to the bottom. It benefits the top by providing a solid foundation on which to build new concepts, behaviors, and ways of thinking about work. To accomplish radical changes in how we think about or execute our work requires that those who are part of the culture support it. Senior management can only take this so far. They can set and communicate the vision and they can visibly support the effort, but the most important thing they can do is empower those in the middle to make it happen. As middle managers, we all know that we have many more initiatives on which to work than there is time in the day (or night). This spreads our focus. If we don’t collectively embrace the new change, then no threat, benefit or any other motivational technique will make the change successful over the long term. Although this book can help educate senior management so that they can empower the rest of us, its real benefit is for middle managers. It will help them understand this very complex concept in a way that will enable them to deliver successful change initiatives.

 There is also benefit for those at the bottom tier of the management hierarchy. The term bottom is not meant to demean this roll because this is where the “rubber meets the road.” All cultural change and their related initiatives end here. This is where all of the plans, training, and actual work to implement end. If it doesn’t work here — failure is the outcome.

As with any effort, getting started is often difficult. However, the value in a successful effort is well worth the time, energy, and commitment required. The reason behind this is that you are not just changing the way a process is executed, or a procedure is followed. By changing the organization’s culture, you are in essence changing the very nature of the company. This book addresses this change of culture in a general sense that can be applied across many disciplines. But more specifically, it is targeted towards changing the culture as it pertains to reliability. If we are successful in this arena, the result will be a  major  shift  in  how  work  is  performed.  In  addition,  a  culture  that  is  focused  on equipment reliability reaps other closely-associated benefits. These include improved safety and environmental compliance. Both of these are tied closely to reliability in that reliable equipment doesn’t fail or expose a plant to potential safety and environmental issues. 

Changing a culture to one focused on reliability also has spin-off benefits in many other areas. Reliability or the concept of things not breaking can easily be applied to other processes that are not related to equipment efficiency and effectiveness.   However, reliability or any other type of change is very difficult. After all you are trying to alter basic beliefs and values of an organization. These are the behaviors that have been rewarded  and  praised  in  the  past  and  may  even  be  the  reason  that  many  in  the organization were promoted to their current positions. Change may also seriously affect people’s jobs because things they did in the past may no longer be relevant in the future. 

“Improving Maintenance and Reliability Through Cultural Change” will prove to be very beneficial book, not just as a place to start or as a test to provide the initial information for your effort, but also as a book which will help you through all the phases of the process and into the future.   The following quotation from Niccole Machiavelli written over five hundred years ago clearly describes the issues and hurdles that surround any change initiative which you are undertaking. 

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies, all of those who have done well under the old conditions, and luke-warm defenders in those who will do well under the new.”

– Niccole Machiavelli

 Implementing “hard skill” change in an organization in areas such as planning and scheduling, work execution and preventive or predictive maintenance also needs to address “soft skill” change.  Making “hard skill” changes without considering the supporting elements of change may not cause your initiative to fail in the short term, but over the long term failure can practically be guaranteed. 

The “soft skills” which include; leadership, work process, structure, group learning, technology, communication, interrelationships and rewards While each of these is individually important, when collectively addressed they provide a solid base upon which “hard skill” change can successfully be built.

Questions? send them to rsmith@gpallied.com

What are your thoughts?

One Response to Does moving from Reactive to Proactive Maintenance require a Change Management Process

  1. naser says:

    I have studied PhD about improving Turnaround maintenance in oil co.
    do you have any link or model to apply in improving T/A.

    thanks a lot

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