- Do we have the most suitable operating strategy?
- Do we have the right maintenance strategy? Is it time to change it?
- Are we solving the true root cause, or only treating symptoms?
- Are we seeing repeat failures?
- What is happening with our list of “bad actors”?
- How can we prevent failure, or predict it earlier?
- Where do we tend to play on the PF Curve? Are we reactive or proactive?
Managing loss is about ownership, accountability and visibility. You need all three.
Managing loss is about ownership, accountability and visibility. You need all three. It is important to have daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly reviews to drive the accountability of the losses so that leadership can remove barriers to progress and make better informed decisions about the appropriate reliability improvements or required investments.
3. Build robust systems that focus on people and processes
One of the biggest traps businesses often fall into is to focus on technical solutions, but neglect to underpin their tactical use with solid processes and systems that drive the right results. When processes are weak but things “still happen OK”, this is often due to key people with key tacit knowledge, or command and control sub-cultures, or sometimes down to just pure luck. In driving business excellence, we want to take the “luck factor” out. It is mission-critical for businesses to have strong, standardised processes in Planning and Scheduling, Work Execution, Continuous Improvement, Reliability Solve Problem and Reliability Prevent Problem, and that people know, understand, and follow them with operating discipline. The figure on the PDF shows an excerpt from one such example. It is based on the principle that reliability is a process, not a department or “silo”.
When examining the opportunities to improve “equipment reliability” in a business, the task is too often delegated to “the reliability department”, the static or rotating team, or the inspection team. However, truly sustainable reliability relies on equipment owners (Production, Operations, etc.) taking a leading role and driving the outcomes and taking on the responsibility for directing proactive reliability improvement efforts. This role is included as the Operations Reliability Champion in the figure on the PDF.
As businesses in the Middle East, whether in O&G downstream or upstream, or other regional sectors, look to improve efficiency and build upon good strong technical models and emerging areas to exploit such concepts as the Internet of Things, Big Data and EAM, they must also address the question of people and processes. Choosing the right roles, empowering people to think, to act and to drive matters independently, and designing robust supporting rituals and processes, is key.
4. Aim for a culture of interdependence
“Culture” is one of the most discussed areas of asset management and one of the most challenging ones to change or fix. Culture is NOT what the CEO says it is, or what the company policy states, or what the procedures outline, or what is on nice “values” posters in the HQ lobby. It’s what really goes on when no-one is looking. So, it’s important to understand the difference between best practice and the illusion of best practice.
You can determine the current culture of an organisation by examining its leading indicators, such as mindsets that drive behaviours. For example, how would you honestly answer the following questions in a maintenance and reliability context?
- Who feels that they own the equipment? How does it show?
- What is your balance between planning for equipment failure and planning for reliability? How do you know?
- What behaviours are recognised most in your organisation? Big reactive responses to fixing a crisis, or quiet backroom processes that pre-empt the crisis, and prevent it from arising in the first place? How do you determine which is your predominant approach?
- Does the CEO/Plant Manager take an active interest in the efforts of the reliability process through his presence in the process to sample the outcomes?
In the Figure 4 on the PDF, we can see one possible culture where operations drive the reliability process and the typical behaviours in this “culture”. This behaviour centres on appropriate ownership, accountability, empowerment, continuous improvement, and proactivity. Leadership dictates this culture by adjusting its own behaviour and measuring people against the desired values, beliefs and ultimately, preferred behaviours and outcomes. Only this approach will allow a culture to truly change for the better.
In an intellectually honest assessment of culture, our many years of experience have taught us that cultures generally fall into four categories:
- Reactive – where the predominant behaviours are silo-based and corrective after an event;
- Dependent – where strong supervision drives behaviours by telling people what to do and when;
- Independent – where people start to think and act for themselves in doing the right thing;
- Interdependent – where people and processes are aligned to make the sum of the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
These cultures, and the behaviours exhibited in them, determine the longer-term value creation of a business and the sustainability of its growth and acceleration away from the competition. In this regard, Interdependence is the goal.
5. A reliable plant is a safe plant is a cost-effective plant
As mentioned briefly earlier, much is being made of the emergence of new asset management system standards. This is generally a good thing. However, one of the traps that many businesses in the Middle East fall into is thinking in silos: “This is a risk, as well as a safety challenge. Next, we need to address profitability issues and the imperative to be cost-effective.” But what if they are all interconnected? The good news is that, in fact, they are.
There is a lot of established science around the connection between good reliability and safety and risk outcomes. We can state, with certainty, that a safe plant is a reliable plant – in fact they are sides of the same coin. Studies have shown that if businesses want steady sustainable improvements in safety and risk reduction, they must have good equipment reliability. This makes obvious sense because one of the highest risks to businesses occurs during “transient conditions” – situations that are outside of normal standard operations, such as maintenance activities. So, if you can improve the reliability of the equipment, you remove or reduce the transient conditions and the opportunity for an incident as depicted in the figure on the PDF.
We know from long experience with addressing new and continuously evolving operational challenges that, by sustainably solving our risk areas whilst simultaneously improving our reliability processes, we obtain a third benefit - the unnecessary cost of reactive remedies decreases, and the value realised by proactive mitigation increases. This is illustrated on the DuPont™ Bradley Curve™.
As we move to the right-hand side, the cultures move to the optimum “interdependent” phase. The risk profile is sustainably mitigated and better value is returned from the asset.
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When we help businesses to address their main risk areas and to improve the capability of their teams to recognise and mitigate risk based on our own experience as an Owner Operator, we challenge them on their maintenance and reliability tactics and the underpinning culture and processes. In our experience, the two are directly connected and proportional.
In fact, in the context of ageing equipment or changing workforce personnel, which holds a potential high impact risk, it is vital for businesses to understand the factors that play to the tactics that deliver good reliability and good safety results simultaneously. And having done so, to make the best economic decision regarding what they must do with scarce resources such as investment, capital resources and people. With our help, they can do so.