Reliability Hacks for the Individual

Reliability can be thought of as the resistance to failure. Or, put another way, reliability is the probability of success. We usually talk about ways to make equipment more reliable. But let’s explore some tips (hacks if you will) to make you and your work resistant to failure. To increase your probability of success. These are things that you can do mostly by yourself, but that will have a ripple effect beyond just your work. Whether the current situation has you at max capacity, or with a little extra time on your hands, the time you take to ensure your personal and professional reliability will pay off quickly, and keep paying.

First things first: Organize your ToDo list. Make sure that your ToDo list is actually a doable list and organized to help you get it done. Break tasks into milestones that can be knocked out. If the same task stays on your list for longer than a week, think about if it is realistic.

  • Should it be broken into smaller, more complete-able tasks?
  • Should it be moved into the future, to a time when you can effectively tackle it?
  • Is it a repetitive task that should be moved to calendar based reminders, rather than a perpetual ToDo?
  • Does it belong on a ‘bucket list” rather than a ToDo list?
  • What will it take to complete the task?
    • What will it take to complete the task?
    • What will it take to complete the task?
    • See what I did there? If asking 3 times doesn’t work, you may need to 5-Why your tasks. If you don’t know how to complete it, the task does not belong on the ToDo list. You first need a task to define your objective, brainstorm actions to accomplish, create a plan of action, then break that plan into action steps. That is a series of entries on a ToDo list, not just one.

Organizing your ToDo list as the precursor to your Accomplished list will focus your efforts more effectively. Every task on your list should pass the SMART test. It should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results oriented and Timebound. That is not to say that you should not have more esoteric, philosophic, or pursuit goals. But those belong on your life list, not your ToDo list. A focused ToDo list will help you accomplish your goals and lead to personal and organizational reliability.

Streamline metrics. By streamline metrics, I mean organize the data, goals, and metrics that you use to make decisions so that they provide the information you need to make decisions in a timely and organized manner. If your data comes from database(s), create an automated report that is delivered to you, automagically. If the database that you are working on, can’t do that, research add-ons to see if they can. If nothing else, set a calendar reminder to run the report. If the data does not come to you in a meaningful format set up a simple framework to dump the data into. The framework doesn’t need to be any more sophisticated than a spreadsheet. Your metrics should look at both absolute values and trends. Common metrics answer these questions:

  • Where is the reading currently?
    • What has changed since the last reading?
    • Where is the reading to goal?
  • What is the trend line of the reading?
  • Is the goal still valid?
  • Do I need to change the frequency of review?
  • Do we need to look at other goals in conjunction with this one?

From that information, a course of action can usually be plotted. From abandon the goal; to do nothing/continue monitoring; to stop the presses and let’s get all hands on deck! – Sorry for the mixed metaphors. Making your metrics review a consistent, repeatable process makes your decision making more reliability. The faster you can turn data into information, the more likely you are to continue to monitor.

Thank someone. How does thanking someone lead to reliability? When you thank someone for the help in your career, or life. You think about how that person changed your life. Reflection is the best way to achieve personal reliability. Thank someone and honor that thanks by upholding the work ethics that person has taught to you.

Smile. Think of your loved ones past, present and future. Think of kittens, flowers, and rainbows. Think of equipment running flawlessly, think of your outage going exactly as planned, think of all your lines running at designated rate, turning out perfect quality. Smile. Think of what makes you smile, and why it makes you happy. Capture that feeling. Being happy, centered, calm, leads you to make more balanced decisions, and to be more open and accepting. Take the time everyday to smile and enjoy feeling good. Then take that smile and pass it on. Give it to someone without the need for them to give it back. Just be happy and professional and you will find it easier to work with all types of people. You will be more reliable, and you might even inspire reliability in them.

Give back. We are each the person we are because of those that have inspired or guided us along the way. Give back to your community, including your professional community. Talk to classrooms about your job, get young folks interested in following in your career. Target those that are not traditional in your field. Make them feel like they belong and could make a big difference in the career. Reach out to training centers to see how you can help spread the word to gain interest in the field. Get active in a professional group. Write an article and share what you know. Teach the next generation, either formally or informally. Inspire someone to take up your field of work and watch how they grow an contribute. Mentor a protégé. Nothing is more fulfilling than watching a former protégé, mentor a newcomer to the field. Giving back makes you a reliable proponent of your field.

Learn something new. Minds are sort of like muscles in that they need to be exercised to keep them healthy. Mix learning something just for fun with learning to advance your professional understanding. Ideally, these are one and the same, but you know the story about Jack and no play. Learning a craft, music, balloon animals, or other skills are just as important to your curiosity as reading the latest trade journals and peer publications.

Create a job continuity book. Someday you will win the lottery, be promoted, move to a new town, or otherwise leave your current job. Creating a job book for your standardized work helps you become more reliable and will help with on boarding of the next you. Review the book annually to update it. This will only make you a more valuable employee. There is a myth that “if they know what I do they will get rid of me”. Do you really think your boss is after your job? More likely they will be impressed, not only with all that you do, but with your initiative to document the standard work, stream line the metrics, be pleasant to those around you, give back to the community, and still get a formidable ToDo list done.

Take the time to organize and make yourself more reliable. The less time you have to spend doing the routine, necessary work, the more time you have for the important, innovative work.

Emails at Work

Email is a powerful business tool.  Like any tool, it should be used with precision and skill.  Written words should avoid emotion, so remove as many adverbs and adjectives from your emails as possible.  Never send a ‘friendly’ or ‘gentle’ reminder.  That is passive-aggressive at its worst.  Reminders are good and helpful.  Passive-aggressive is not.

Make your subject line meaningful.  If room allows, add your expectations in the subject line.

  • Manhattan project specs – please review and comment by January 1, 1943
  • Agenda for Boxcar 45 08 09 – confidential – information only
  • Results from Little Boy – information only

Keep emails short.  No more than a couple of short paragraphs.  If it requires 3 scrolls on a handheld (phone) then it is probably too long.  Put supporting information in an attachment and only pull the top 1-3 points out for the email.

Don’t forget the attachments.  Do not forget attachments.  Make sure you have added any attachments.

Check your distribution list.  Add only the people who need the email.  If you haven’t put your expectations in the subject line, put them in the first or second sentence.  Are you expecting a response?  Use CC (carbon copy) only to people that you do not want a response from.  Use BCC (blind carbon copy) wisely.   For instance, if it is a large distribution list, or you truly want to hide that you have copied someone’s boss from the intended recipient.  Do not copy yourself, unless it is to a different email address.  Your sent folder keeps your copy of the email.

Do not use “receipt” unless you really need it.  The recipient can always ignore that and it requires extra steps from the recipient to get to your email.  Do you really want to make it harder to read what you wrote?

When forwarding or responding, keep the string if necessary.  It is ok to edit the string to the new subject matter.  If you do not keep the string, repeat the pertinent info, so the recipients to not have to go back and find out what your response means.  Review the recipient list and remove those that do not need to see your response.  Change the subject line as necessary.

  • Manhattan project specs – comments add
  • Agenda for Boxcar 45 08 09 – declassified – information only
  • Results from Little Boy – updated 2018 – information only

Never reply ALL.  Do not reply All.  Reply All is never the right option.

Email is a precision tool.  Use it as such.  Read what you wrote and remove unnecessary words.  If it sounds like a Fox or CNN commentary, you have way too many descriptors in your email.

CNN Version: President Donald Trump was upbeat immediately after his news conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, but by the time he returned stateside, his mood had soured considerably amid sustained fury at his extraordinary embrace of the Russian leader.

Business Email: Presidents Trump and Putin met in Helsinki, Finland.

Closing the email.  Close with the expectations, including timing of actions or follow-up.  End with a signature that includes the sender’s contact information and relevant title.

Manage emails promptly, including filing as necessary.  If an email was sent expecting a response from you, but did not include timing.  Respond within 1 business day with when you will provide the information.  There is no need to respond to emails that are information only.

  • Manhattan project – will respond by February 30
  • Manhattan project – responses and comments in Blue

Understand the features of your email system and use them to your advantage.  Filing, flagging for follow-up, assigning responsibility, automatic signature, integrated calendar and contacts, etc.

The best business emails

Have a descriptive subject line which includes expectations for the receiver(s)
Are pithy and lack emotional extras
Have a well thought out recipient list
Have attachments as necessary
Have a signature line
Forwarding and responding is also performed with precision

Email is a tool.  Use it with precision.  The tool itself is inexpensive, but used incorrectly, it can cost thousands of dollars in inefficiencies.

ISO 55000 is Good for Business

ISO 55000-55002 is called the asset management package.  It is a roadmap for how to set and maintain an equipment reliability program.  When equipment is reliable, production is more stable and costs can be managed more accurately.  Therefore, the 55000 standard is good for business.  A reliable operation provides the stability for innovation or for profit taking.  It provides business with the option to execute their strategy.  People are in charge.  In an unreliable operation, the equipment is in charge, because all the people are reacting to the availability (or lack thereof) of the equipment.

First, what is ISO.  It is the organization for international standards for products and services.  Many people think of the one or two standards they are familiar with, but as of today:

ISO has published 22,195 International Standards and related documents, covering almost every industry, from technology, to food safety, to agriculture and healthcare. ISO International Standards impact everyone, everywhere.

In other words, ISO is big and broad reaching.  And who doesn’t love a story that anecdotally begins with a horse butt?  The story, which is at least partially true, goes that the width of modern railroads are standardized on the old Roman roads.  Since the Romans’ main mode of long distance transport was horse, the road tracks are spaced at about the width of two horses.  Therefore, one of the first standards was based upon horse width, or as the driver sees, the horses’ behinds.Horse ButtThe Asset Management package, ISO 55000 series, was published in 2014.  It arrived without much fanfare, and even today, I can tell how hardcore into reliability someone is, by their familiarity with the standard.  That should not be the case, every maintenance and reliability manager should be familiar with the package, and own at least some version of it.

The most common phrases I hear about why an organization does not have a working reliability program are

  1. We don’t know where to start.
    • The organization is in such a reactive mode that they don’t know how to prioritize forward thinking reliability work – the equipment is in charge.
    • Those charged with reliability leadership don’t have the skills to create a reliability roadmap.  They have no formal training, and their OJT training has been focused on fixing and maintaining, rather than reliability strategy.
  2. We can’t get management support for a program.
    • Those charged with reliability leadership do not understand how to ‘sell’ reliability.  They don’t have the background to put together an ROI for the reliability roadmap.
    • Management thinks maintenance, not reliability, and does not view it as a competitive advantage.
    • Organizational mind set needs to be :
      • Reliability is not a cost to be cut.
      • Reliability is a continuous improvement program to invest in.

The ISO 55000 series addresses the roadmap and can be used as leverage to help convince management of the necessity for reliability.  The standard does not address ROI or funding questions.  Engage experts to nail down the financial rewards of a reliability program.

The standards are

  • ISO 55000:2014 Asset management — Overview, principles and terminology
  • ISO 55001:2014 Asset management — Management systems — Requirements
  • ISO 55002:2014 Asset management — Management systems — Guidelines for the application of ISO 55001

They layout a roadmap for reliability.  They are well organized and written in pretty easy to understand language.   They even include handy diagrams and relationship charts.  The standard starts with asset management.  What are your assets, then how do you put together a program to manage their health and life cycle.  It includes self assessing and a process for sustainability in the reliability program.

Start small to get “wins”, but use the package to build both your overall strategy, as well as your tactical execution program.  Now you know where and how to start.  Problem 1 – Solved.

The package can be used in conjunction with the financial estimates to gain management support.  By showing that you are following a standard, and that your ideas are well rooted in solid business practices all over the world, you can convince the conservative leader.  Show them that you are not trying something new, but catching up to your competitors.  For the leaders that like to push the envelop, show them how the standard is a jumping off point.  You are one of the first in your industry to adopt and conquer this standard.  After all, have they heard ISO 55000 talk around the c-suite water cooler?  Convince them they are an innovator by backing this program.  Problem 2 – Solved.

Some who were involved in the ISO9000 quality series implementation of the 1990s may see following ISO standards as a huge money drain with little results.  If that is true, they embraced the idea of being certified, but not the ideals of the actual standard.  It is true that the certification companies were/are expensive, and that you could have a quality program, but not a quality product.  But you had to work pretty hard at cheating the system to not wind up with a good quality system.  The problem often came that overly complicated internal systems were developed rather than tweaking current processes to met the standard.   The standard set up a good system of checks and balances, as well as the roadmap for success.  The 55000 standards set up that same type of system, and expressly encourages internal validation.

Setting up a quality system, a reliability system, or any other business process to comply to ISO standards, should not mean creating new processes from scratch.  Rather they should build on your current processes and strengths to meet the standard.  You know how to run your business, use the standard to ensure that processes are actually process based, not people based.  They ensure standardization.

A properly executed and maintained ISO5000 series compliant reliability program does yield a reliability operation at the optimum cost.  Depending on the current maturity of the organization’s reliability program and the available resources, it may take a year or it may take 10 years to see these rewards.  However, since the asset management program is good for business, and its bottom line, I highly recommend spending the resources to become compliant in the 1-2 year range, rather than stretch it out over several years.  The more involved the organization’s commitment to reliability, the faster and deeper the rewards.

It is not easy to transform a business, and there are investment costs to doing so.  The ISO standards will not help you with the dedication and perseverance you need to implement reliability.  But they do provide a high level roadmap, and the assurance that you are working with a standard.  Following that standard properly will result in a reliable operation.

ISO 55000 series asset management standards are good for business.


Is Certification Necessary?

Certification is an indication more of commitment than skill.  However, it is this commitment that makes the certification valuable.  To pass any certification exam, a mix of practical and book knowledge is required.  Because exams are written, the book knowledge is more heavily gauged.  In earning and keeping the certification, one works constantly on the practical knowledge and its application.  That work makes the long ago earned, but still valid, certification more valuable the newly minted one.  A certificate on the other hand, is earned one time.  The skill may be built upon, but there is no tracking of continuing education or use.

CPMM 022

I believe that certifications are important because of the commitment that one makes when obtaining and keeping that certification.  Even when I search for a provider to care for my pet, I am more inclined to interview someone who has joined a professional organization, and gained certification.  It’s not that I think scooping litter requires a skilled and tested individual.  But if I am going to trust the health and well being of one of my family members to a relative stranger, I want to know that they are as committed to my little guy’s health and well being as I am.

2017-07-06 16.50.03

Certifications are have value for all types of employees.

Current employees

When current employees earn and maintain certification.  It indicates their commitment to the craft and their willingness to engage in continuous education.  Companies should encourage certification and get involved with the certifying organization to ensure that the content matches industry needs.  Certifications need to evolve with the craft and continuing education units (CEUs) or professional development units (PDUs) are part of this evolution.

Hiring new employees / Creating a resume

Certifications and certificates on a resume can help it rise to the top.  The interview process will probe the depth of candidates’ knowledge and skill.

When building a resume always include your certifications.  Choose which certificates to include based on the ones that you are proficient in, and that you want to continue to practice.  I have earned numerous safety certificates over the years, but I do not include those on a biography or resume because that is not where I want to focus my career.  I have earned certificates in Theory of Constraints and Lean and I do include those, because they are relevant to my work.  I have kept current on the application of those in industry, but they are not certifications, because I do not renew them through the use of CEU or PDU tracking.

Hiring a consultant

Certifications for consultants are imperative.  To hold out as a expert or leader in a field, one must be conversant in both book and application knowledge.  The certification is an indicator of this.  Interviews and discussions with the consultant will help match the right skill set with your needs.

Multiple certifications and certificates

Multiple certifications demonstrate intense commitment.  Multiple certs in the same field demonstrate a deep knowledge and an interest in being on the leading edge of the subject.

Multiple certs in diverse subjects show an aptitude for big picture thinking, as well as practical application of those subjects.  They also show an evolutions of career interests and skill sets.

To determine the right certification, invest time in researching the options.

  • The certification should be accepted by others in the industry as valuable
  • Certifications offered by professional organizations (.org) are often preferred
  • Make sure there is a renewal period and understand the CEU/PDU requirements
  • The certification should be directly applicable to the work that you currently perform (do not get a certification for your “next” career, your lack of practical application will hinder your credibility)
  • Earning the certification (the study materials) should interest and excite you
  • The certification should provide more contact with others in your field

So, a certification is not necessary, but highly desirable.  If you love your career, embrace it by joining (professional organizations), contributing (to the body of knowledge), and certifying in it.



Documentation is a focal point in an organization.  It is sets down the standards and records history; the history of both innovation and failures.  Good documentation helps train new comers and holds all colleagues accountable.  Without documentation, organizations are likely to repeat the same mistakes over, or have no idea how a mistake was made.

Documentation should be factual, contain enough information to be useful, yet remain concise.   There should be documentation standards and a keeper of the records to maintain those standards.  Below is a review some standard types of documentation and key factors to making those documents useful.

Document Master:  There should be a standard format for each type of document.  That format should contain author, approver(s), date and revision.  The storage location should be obvious about which documents are approved for use.  Documents under revision or obsoleted should have access limited.  This can be done through a process, or an electronic document control system (DCS).  If an electronic DCS is not used, naming convention needs to be standardized to speed finding the correct information.  Suggested naming convention  document type + area + specific topic + date in YYMMDD convention.  For example this document would be named BlogEngineerXXDocumentationYYMMDD

Using the date format of YYMMDD will sort documents easily.  The convention of MMDDYY will not sort in chronological order in a file format.

Process Flows:   Process flows are used for everything from mail delivery, to document control, through your most complex deliverable.  Ideally all of these processes would be documented.  However that is not often practical, so a priority needs to be set.

List all the process that need to be documented and order them by priority.  Develop process flows for all the critical process, and set a schedule to work through the rest of the list.  One tip for getting through the whole list is to assign new employees to create process flows as part of their on-boarding.  This helps with their indoctrination, plus gets process flow documented.

Process flows should ideally fit on one page.  Sub processes can be included on subsequent pages as a drill down process.  Process flows should have swim lanes or other information to indicate who is accountable and responsible for the activities on the process flow.

Recommended priority for process flow development

  • High impact processes (either safety or dollars)
    • Process that done correctly can save money or generate revenue
      • Example:  Assembly process of finished product
    • Process that done incorrectly has severe safety consequences
      • Example:  The lockout tagout process
    • Process that done incorrectly can cost significant money
      • Example:  A batch process that finishes at 5 minutes, but must be stopped before 10 minutes.  Removing the batch between 5 and 10 minutes is critical to success.  Early or late finishes are scrap.
  • Process that cross departmental boundaries.
    • When processes fall under different managers, it is important that processes are documented so there clear hand-offs and acceptance points.
  • Process that are performed often and by multiple individuals
    • To ensure consistent output, processes that are carried out by multiple individuals need to be standardized.  These are often then turned into standard operating procedures (SOP)

Standard Operation Procedures (SOP):  Repetitive work should be documented as standard operating procedures.  SOPs should cover management as well as frontline work.  SOPs should contain pictures and instructions on how to perform the work.  These are used to train new individuals and refresh training for all employees.  SOPs are detailed instructions that can be turned into check lists for short reminder versions that are used for daily/weekly interactions.

Checklists: Checklists are short reminders of work to be performed.  They should concentrate on activities that have direct impact on performance.  Checklists should be designed to be completed in one time period.  For instance, a checklist longer than an hour or two should be broken into multiple checklist or routes.  Few people work longer than two hours straight without taking a quick break (coffee, phone call, et’c)

Checklists should not be used as a management tool.  Checklists are to ensure that processes are followed or to check product and equipment condition, not as a substitute for management activities.  If the checklist activity does not have a direct effect on the organization’s output, it is likely not necessary.

Responsibility Accountability Consulted Informed (RACI) :  This is a matrix that assigns accountability and responsibility for activities.  It also helps colleagues understand their role in operational activities.  A RACI can help the consulted and informed understand why they are not able to significantly influence certain areas of the business.

Portion of Example RACI

Continuous Improvement (CI) and Root Cause Analysis (RCA):  CI and RCA activities need to be documented to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.  How often have you been in one of these activities and someone says “hey -didn’t we try that when …”

Properly documented and filed CI and RCA activities should be reviewed at the beginning of every new CI or RCA.  These files can save lots of frustration and wasted effort and money.

Training and Qualification Matrix:  This matrix is useful when changing roles or when help is needed in a pinch.  Understanding the skills required for a job, as well as who in the organization has those skills helps define training needs and budgets.

Lube Training Matrix example

This is just a list of some of the types of documentation required in an organization.  There are lots of forms and other types of documents required to run an organization.  The ones listed here are key to managing the organization, but are often not formally documented.  Large organizations may assume everyone “knows”.  Small organizations  may not realize the importance of this type of documentation as they outgrow the one person in a role structure.

Review and see if there are any gaps in your organization.  It takes time and discipline to create a good document system.  However, the benefits of having one are worth the effort required to build and maintain one.

Latent Root Cause

A good root cause analysis (RCA) should produce more than just the physical root cause.  It is important to discover the physical root cause to fix the immediate problem.  But delving deeper into the systemic, then all the way to the latent cause helps transform your business for the better.

The latent root cause involves practices and cultural norms that allow failures to happen.  I’ll say that again, the latent root cause is the practice that allowed the failure to happen.  Solving the latent root cause, means solving a management problem.

It’s easy to know when you have reached the latent cause, because the terminology has changed from ‘they’ to ‘we’.  It is no longer someone else who has to act, but we, as management, that have to act.

Let me take you through an RCA that I was involved in as a plant manager.  Note: after they are solved, RCA’s can be explained simply.  But the process is grueling, takes many iterations and can be extremely frustrating.  It is easy to get distracted and end an RCA after the physical root cause.  But if the problem was important enough to warrant an RCA (not just troubleshooting), then it is worth it to the organization to finish the RCA and find the systemic and latent causes.

Problem Statement:  Food Product did not meet consistency expectations, but did not present a food safety hazard.

Occurrence:  Product left plant at expectation, and arrived at most sites as expected, however product shipped over the Rocky Mountains lost consistency.

After much research into what made the product the right consistency, and a thorough inspection of the production equipment, it was found that the colloid mill was not shearing the product finely enough to produce the sustained viscosity needed.  When the product was shipped over high altitude it became runny.  Other product became runny before code date, but the high altitude shipment actually helped by alerting us to the problem within days of the production run.

Production Process :  The colloid mill blade spacing was set by adjusting the dial on the outside.  There was an SOP that indicated where to set the dial.

Physical Root Cause:  The mill was dismantled and the thickness of the blade was measured.  It was still a useable blade, but the dial setting should have been adjusted for blade wear.

Systemic Root Cause:  SOPs were created and did not take into account equipment wear.

Latent Root Cause:  No one thought about how equipment wear would effect product quality.  There was no program to adjust SOPs over time to account for blade wear.  But requiring production to follow the SOP, management did not have a provision to adjust requirements as needed over time.  The blade was known to wear, but the spacing adjustment did not account for that wear in the SOP.  Management allowed for using a worn (but still within spec) blade, but did not provide instructions on how to use that thinner blade.

The result of determining the latent root cause was a plant wide review of all equipment that could wear.  There was already a program to periodically measure the mill blades to ensure they maintained safe thickness.  So, a process was added to the inspection to record the blade thickness and adjust SOPs accordingly.

Other equipment was reviewed, to determine if changes needed to be made.  Positive displacement lobe pumps are a common wear item in food plants.  Using pressure and flow settings compensate for lobe wear.  Agitators and mixers were also reviewed to set standards.  A clearance inspection program was set up for them.

By driving to the latent root, we were able to apply the physical root cause (wear) to equipment beyond the colloid mill.  This should prevent future quality issues and lead to better care and understanding of the equipment and its importance in the manufacturing process.

Finding the latent root cause prompts management to act and change the processes.  It can be more expensive and involve more areas of the business than this problem.  It is not uncommon to see capital expenditures or changes in operating philosophy.

The more RCAs that your organization drives to latent root cause, the less RCAs overall will be needed.  This is because solving these management issues, has a broader impact than solving only the physical issues.

You will be operating more proactively, and less reactively.  I encourage you to use an experienced coach to learn the process of driving to the multiple root causes.  But once you understand the process, you and your organization will continue to drive toward solving the latent issues.  You will not be satisfied to stop at the physical root cause.


The use of non OEM parts cannot automatically void a warrantee

Can using non OEM parts void a warrantee?   The answer is maybe, but probably not. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act regulates warrantees for both industrial and individual consumers.  The act specifically restricts tie-in requirements.  A manufacturer cannot require specific maintenance or parts usage, unless the company provides those services or materials during the warrantee period.

However, why would you not follow recommended servicing guidelines, or use the OEMs proprietary parts?  The reason that you purchased capital equipment from the OEM is because the product fit your requirements.  Keeping it in top condition should be a high priority.

Use OEM materials that are proprietary to keep your equipment in top shape.  If materials are commercially available materials that the OEM has rebranded, feel free to use the “generic” version of that part.  Some larger companies are requesting that OEMs provide the purchasing information for non-proprietary materials.  Even if you don’t have the buying power of the large companies, it is always a good idea to ask for a complete bill of materials.

So, using non-OEM parts will not automatically void your warrantee.  It is recommended that you have the warrantee period maintenance discussion with your sales rep at the time of purchase.  Understanding your rights and their rights under the Magnuson-Moss act should make the discussion very productive.

It is also recommended to use a warrantee tracking process, to get the most out of your warrantee.  Many CMMS’s allow for tracking warrantees.  If yours doesn’t, set up a spreadsheet or database to track warrantees and dates.   Assign someone to monitor the warrantee periods and ensure that if there are problems with equipment during the warrantee timeframe, that the OEM is notified and allowed to correct defects or provide materials as required.  The money you save by properly administering warrantee claims for equipment should offset the time of the individual monitoring the warrantee periods.

Failure is not an option … or is it?

Failure is a necessary part of continuous improvement.

How many times have you heard, or even said “Failure is not an option!”  ?

That’s a great movie line, but a dumb way to run in business. If we don’t take risks and try alternatives, there is no progress. Failure is an option, but only if we understand the parameters. Risk taking without a plan, without a mitigation strategy, and without a high probability of known outcomes is not an option.
So how do we option failure? It is simple – use the scientific method. First start with a hypothesis. If x, then y. Next comes the plan to execute x, and finally the mitigation plan if y does not occur. Even if y does occur, it is important to review the whole system and ensure that in the execution of y, other negative consequences did not materialize.
It is easier to look back and identify business failures, but not so easy to identify successes. That’s where metrics come in. Use metrics to measure your successes. Use failures to build your knowledge base. Failure is an option, but make it under controlled circumstances.

I have been involved in many incremental changes, some of them have not worked (been failures), but most of them became the new normal.  All of them provided data and information necessary to make informed decisions.  Speeding up of equipment or lines is a change that almost everyone in manufacturing has been involved in.

  • On single line equipment it is as simple as increasing the speed and holding it for long enough to evaluate the product quality and necessary support actions (refilling packaging, product, or other supplies).  At a certain point, it becomes obvious that the speed gains are off-set by the limit of quality or refilling supplies.
  • On a multiple equipment line, the complexity of finding the optimum running speed can take days, maybe even month.  Often, when by the time the reliability engineer is called in the line is so out of whack (technical term) that it takes significant research to determine what the speeds were, the last time the line ran reliably.  Slowing down a line in these instances is usually the answer to increasing overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

Steps for implementing continuous improvement (CI):

  1. Start with a stable system.  Results must be repeatable and sustainable to create a baseline.
  2. Determine metrics of the system.  These include not only a metric of the change you want to implement, but whole system metrics to ensure that the change did not cause negative side effects.  This includes how data is captures, the formula for the metrics, and how often the analysis will be performed.
  3. Possible metrics
    • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
    • Cost per unit
    • Waste/scrap value
    • Cost of energy
    • Labor usage
  4. Determine the cost / benefit analysis for the change.  This includes the disposition of the product during the experiment.  Is it saleable product, can it be used in rework, are there special disposal costs?
  5. Create a written CI experiment plan.  Try to have as few variables as possible.
    • What is the cost of the experiment
    • What is the expected gain from the experiment
    • How long before the return on investment (ROI) will be realized – assuming the CI project is successful
    • How will the decision for final implementation (new normal or return to base state) be made; including the timing for the decision
      • Is there a plan for early termination should the negative results be clearly evident
      • Clearly define who is responsible for decision making
      • Specify date results will be implemented
    • Clearly state product disposition
  6. Get the CI plan approved by leadership, including funding
  7. Create a written process deviation plan
    1. Post at machinery if possible
    2. Have face to face interaction with each machinery operator to inform them of the plan and their specific duties to the plan
      1. Data collection
        1. What
        2. How often (frequency)
        3. Where (make it easy for the operators to collect/report data)
      2. Tagging of materials
      3. Escalation process (with specific names and contact information) if they need to inform regarding problems/questions encountered
    3. Create clear tagging process (tags, material storage areas) for all material that needs to be quarantined
    4. Start/stop time of deviation
  8. Analyze results quickly and get approval from sponsor for decision
    1. Create an executive summary of the project
    2. Create an implementation plan if new process is to be implemented
  9. Post results to all stakeholders (operators, management, support functions)
    • If CI is the new operating process
      1. Update process documentation, including date process is to become effective
      2. Train all operators on the new process
    • If new process will not be implemented, clearly communicate that to all stakeholders
  10. File all relevant documentation including executive summary
    1. In product folders
    2. In equipment folders
  11. Thank operators for their help
  12. Keep monitoring data, and devising new CI projects

The key to any successful continuous improvement activity is

  • Baseline the current state
  • Determine the changes to be made
  • Allow time for the changes to become the new normal, and then evaluate the data (OEE, or other measure) to decide if you are going to institute the change, or go back to baseline.
  • Make a decision
  • Implement decision
  • Document, document, document
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

What has been your experience in risk taking?  Did you implement the change, or pull back to original state?  Why?

Manufacturing Excellence

Definition of Excellence; Working to a Common Goal

The goal of the manufacturing excellence program is to build standardization as the foundation for continuous improvement.

The priorities for manufacturing excellence program
1) Build a common operating practice for like machinery and processes. This manufacturing practice must be specific enough to ensure repeatable results in all locations, yet flexible enough to respect differing labor models in each site.
2) Build a continuous improvement model based on data. This must leverage the ERP. Data gathering should truly capture overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). This data can then be used to find the best place to apply resources to improve the manufacturing processes.
3) Drive a model for sharing best practices across the organization. This should include activity based best practice (BP) groups,  business based BP groups, and electronic communication models such as written standards and operating procedures.

What is your definition of Manufacturing Excellence?

How can silos be minimized and everyone work toward the same goal(s)?