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Sustainable Reliability and Maintenance Improvements

by Christer Idhammar

I am no longer surprised to see reliability and maintenance improvement initiatives abandoned before the substantial results, which are possible to achieve, are delivered and sustained for years to come. This phenomenon is recognized by many of my colleagues in the reliability and maintenance management profession. 

I recently came across the findings illustrated in the graph below from the American Society for Training and Development. It illustrates what happen if training is not followed by practice and reinforcement. The findings shows that 87% of what you learnt are lost within 30 days if training is not followed bye practice and reinforcement. Their findings To me it illustrates very well why so many reliability and maintenance improvement initiatives delivers good results, but only about 50% of the improvement potential.

Reliability and maintenance improvements are one of the last major improvements opportunities the Pulp and Paper Industry have left. Everyone with access to capital can buy the same equipment and technology, how productive your mill is will to a very large extent depend on the reliability of your process and your equipment. If your equipment runs, you make product, if it does not run your employees work harder, you pay more and you are not making product. So why does top management reinforce that even the most basic maintenance practices are executed better and better over long period of time to achieve sustainable outstanding financial results? Perhaps it is lack of patience and reinforcement? 

Another good comparison is safety. In 1994 the average overall incident rate in the paper industry was 8.7. The latest statistics I just researched is 3.8 in 2008. In 14 years the paper industry as an average reduced overall safety incident rates by about 64%. We all know that this is because of long term reinforcement and training. 

Imagine same focus on training, implementation and reinforcement of basic maintenance practices; could you have reduced preventable maintenance work and down time by 60%? The majority of maintenance work is preventable and can also be executed in half of the time so I know it is possible, because I have seen it happen and the key to these successes has been top management long term support and reinforcement. And on top of better maintenance productivity, higher production throughput you would get an even better safety record.