Use an effective approach to educate equipment suppliers on effective “designs for reliability”
One of the best approaches to use is the regular supplier conference, which the organization hosts on at least an annual basis. Some key suppliers may require quarterly meetings of this nature. This is especially true in the first year or so of the transition to an equipment reliability focus. During these meetings, reviews of company expectations, current trends, and best practices occur. Plus, leaders can include key suppliers on concurrent engineering design teams as a second method to educate and engage them. Finally, well-defined equipment specifications help suppliers provide the degree of equipment performance that is expected.
Keep in mind how the supplier agreement for a given job, along with the supplier management system, affects supplier knowledge and performance. Both processes play foundational roles that help ensure suppliers keep their skills relative to reliability design up-to-date. Also, these processes help suppliers incorporate these design factors into the products and services they provide to the organization. Too many organizations simply negotiate with a supplier on price. They fail to consider the often more important factors of design soundness, design for reliability, and user friendliness as part of the agreement and supplier evaluation system.
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Plan and schedule in a systematic manner to support equipment reliability improvement
To improve equipment reliability, employ plan and schedule work in a systematic manner. Without a formal process, it is difficult to ensure that leaders effectively allocate time and money resources to those areas that most need them. Instead, one or two high visibility projects receive all of the focus at the expense of other projects that actually may provide more value.
Many efforts to improve reliability fail simply because the ‘squeaky wheel’ gets the grease, instead of other areas that are actually more critical to performance improvement. Unfortunately, leaders often discount preventive maintenance activities, even when a formal reliability process is in place. This often occurs when a reactive work culture exists in an organization. For success, develop sound cost / benefit analyses for each potential improvement option. For example, evaluate how throughput improvement can lead to sales volume increases.
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Effectively communicate equipment care responsibilities to all work team members
The most common approaches to communicate job responsibilities of any nature are the job description, the compensation system, the personal development process, and the measurement system. First, the job description defines what needs to be done each day. Plus, it clarifies how much time to spend on key types of work and how to measure that work. Second, the compensation work system rewards people who do work that is consistent with expectations. An effective personal development process serves as the primary vehicle to address performance that fails to meet expectations. Finally, the measurement work system helps communicate expectations. Its mix of measures sends a strong message about relative task importance.
Also, work team leaders play a key role in communicating performance expectations, including those of a reliability nature. These people choose what to cover in formal meetings. Plus, they determine how much emotion and time to devote to each agenda item. Supervisors and managers make daily decisions about what performance issues they choose to recognize positively, provide negative feedback on, or ignore. In each case, they send messages to work team members about what is important, and what is not.
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Most organizations employ all of these approaches to some degree. The challenge is use them effectively. Accept the fact that effectiveness is tough to determine without some form of measurement for each approach. Your process measurement process helps (1) identify design gaps you can close via process refinements and (2) the relative impact of such refinements.
Build a sense of “ownership” with your craftspeople for the care of specific assets
To establish ownership, you must (1) define the expectation of process ownership and (2) empower people to take initiative to make improvements to those processes. To increase ownership levels, give your maintenance work teams key process feedback on a regular basis. Provide the time and money resources to help them succeed. It is management’s role to make the requisite work system changes to help minimize human error and equipment problems outside the control of these people. Finally, consistently recognize craftspeople, both informally and formally, when they demonstrate a sense of ownership through measurable results.
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Key Work Culture Questions to Consider
Assess your own belief systems as a management team. Do you believe that people come to work with the desire to do a good job? Do you think people will cut corners any chance they get? How often do you blame people when problems arise? Is it your tendency to search for those systemic factors that by design could encourage higher levels of human error?
Do you believe that equipment failures are simply a fact of life? Does your management team attempt to identify and remedy those systemically induced human errors that lead to a higher frequency and severity of equipment problems? People are much more reluctant to take ownership if they perceive they are left out on an island. Does management help them succeed or set them up for failure?
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Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer, Great Systems
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