Having been actively involved for the past 15 years in a wide array of industry verticals, I completely understand the importance of productivity and one’s ability to maximize uptime. I have had the pleasure of working with many talented individuals on five Continents and I can assure you that every individual, team, group, department, and level of any given organization understands the importance of increased productivity. Most organizations are even beginning to recognize each departments importance when it comes to improving production. It wasn’t that long ago when Maintenance was simply a “necessary evil”. However, that mindset has shifted and I get the feeling that today most successful organizations, plants, facilities, etc., realize that each department plays a vital role in the success they are able to achieve.
I have worked with numerous companies to implement Operational Excellence and Reliability Improvement initiatives over the past six years and each one of these initiatives required an economic analysis, or business case, to ensure sound investment decisions with respect to time value of money principles. Such analysis is vital for every dollar a company chooses to spend as it impacts the profitability and sustainability of the company. Now, capital investment decisions arise through many circumstances but are primarily seen when a company needs to sustain its market share, extend its market share, or gain a competitive advantage. Regardless of the circumstance, the basic criterion for evaluating any investment decision is that the revenues, or savings, generated by the investment must be greater than the cost incurred. As you know, the number of years over which these revenues or savings accumulate versus the comparative importance of future dollars brings us to the concept of life cycle cost analysis. The concept of life cycle cost analysis is such an important tool when you begin to discuss equipment uptime and reliability.
So, now you might be asking….what’s your point Chris. Well, my point is this. I have been active in developing such business cases or cost analyses in the past and have seen many people become excited when some of the initial savings or increased revenues begin to appear and have also seen those same companies loose focus and become satisfied with surface level savings. We see increased equipment reliability, increased energy efficiency, reduced downtime, increased productivity, and we get complacent. I believe this is exactly what Jim Collins warned about in his book “Good to Great“. Good is the enemy of Great.
The question people should be concerned with is; how do we sustain all of the great work we are achieving and keep the momentum going in the positive direction to uncover the much larger opportunities? And more importantly, not become stagnate in our goal to be the best in the world at what we do. This question can be applied to many facets of one’s life (work, relationships, health, religion, etc.).
What’s the answer? Well, I’m going to quote something from another highly respected individual, Ron Moore author of Making Common Sense Common Practice, “There are no silver bullets”. Meaning, just as you had to focus on many different areas and utilize many different tools, techniques, and the like to begin to realize the improvements, you will also need to set multiple goals and milestones where you will “wipe the slate and start anew”. This means, forget what you have accomplished to date and push beyond. If your company is able to actually implement this mindset of pushing the envelope, you will uncover what is beneath the surface and begin to see real competitive advantage.
So, since I have a blog dedicated to energy and its link to equipment reliability let me just touch on one issue related to this post. We have all fallen into the trap of utilizing a certain technology or even multiple technologies to attempt to understand or assess the condition of the equipment in our plant and then make some quick fixes and talk about savings and cost avoidance. I want to stress the point that this is like eating a piece of fruit for breakfast, having the “all you can eat buffet” for lunch, steak and potatoes for dinner….with some ice cream and pie, and then expecting to loose weight. It’s simply not going to happen. If we want to see repeatable, positive results (regardless of whether we are talking about my diet or the condition of my plant) we must be fully committed and act accordingly at all times. This means, commit to the on-going use of the technology/ies while inspecting and measuring what you expect!