This article is part of an ongoing series. The introduction appeared in Machinery & Equipment MRO’s February 2005 issue and the series has run in every issue since. Previous instalments are archived online at www.mromagazine.com. This month, we pick up where we left off in the November 2011 edition, as maintenance manager Bob Edwards and his maintenance team are recognized for helping the company achieve a major production milestone.
Everyone at the plant was delighted and proud that we had produced an average of 600 tonnes the previous week. When we met as a maintenance group, it was clear that they felt they had played a big part in the mill’s success.
“Thanks once again guys! To help keep up the momentum, I’d like to explain about the ‘15 Minutes of Fame’ idea I’m introducing. This will be your chance, one-on-one, to tell me what you think of our efforts so far. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the following questions:
• What are the biggest challenges you face because of the changes in how we work?
• How can I help you with the challenges?
• What am I doing that I should do more of?
• What am I doing that I should do less of?
• What three things are we going to work on (to be developed at the meeting)?
I need to understand what we need to keep doing and what we need to change so we can make those additional small gains to get us where we need to be. In the same vein, Ben, one of our millwrights, has come up with a great idea on how to capture valuable information so we can learn even more from breakdowns.”
I explained that Ben had come up with a root cause method listing questions that would lead us to identifying and solving or mitigating the causes of breakdowns.
“Ben and our reliability manager, Carol, will be doing some training over the next week and I’d like to start using this method as soon as we can. I hope we won’t have too many breakdowns that we’ll be able to learn from, but we need to be sure we get out of them what we can.”
I handed out the schedule for the ‘15 Minutes of Fame’ meetings and started the process that afternoon. It took just over two weeks to finish all the interviews, during which there were no major upsets – the mill seemed to be settling into a groove. Ben and Carol had finished the training on breakdown analysis, but luckily we had not had a chance to use the analysis, as we had set a starting point of breakdowns greater than one hour.
As I reviewed the answers to the ‘15 Minutes of Fame’ questions, it seemed that most people didn’t feel that the new way of working was a challenge – in fact it was the opposite, as quite a few had commented that they needed a new challenge.
The one comment that was made about my role was one that my wife Sandy had warned me about earlier – making decisions on the spot and not consulting others first. I had been making a conscious effort to control that tendency. I thought I had done a good job of involving people along the way, but obviously it was not good enough, although I hoped that Steve, another millwright, was right when he had said that, “With high involvement comes high expectation.”
Most of the comments from the team could be dealt with by continuing the communication that we had set up and by handing out more authority to the group. The one problem that had cropped up in many of the interviews was the need to get authorization for the purchase of low-value items. As Ben had put it, “You trust me on shift with your $500-million paper mill but you don’t trust me to buy a $50 bearing!”
This was a valid point and I decided to ask Joe, our plant manager, if we could get an authorization limit of $200 for each of the trades guys. We could issue them with their own code so we could track the purchases if there was a problem. I ran this by Carol, as she knew how the purchasing and maintenance modules were tied in on our software program, and she said there should be no issues with doing this.
When I asked Joe for permission to propose this to Corporate, he wasn’t really on board, “I think that’s going a little too far, Bob. Who knows what they’ll buy?”
When I told him what Ben had said and how I’d feel that I’d let down the group by asking them what they needed, and then just telling them they couldn’t have it, he seemed just a little more amenable. I explained about ‘15 Minutes of Fame’ program and what the comments had been, and he seemed ready to give in – but not before pointing out that the guys were right with their comments.
“Which do you mean, Joe? The challenges or the purchasing?”
“Neither. I’m talking about you making decisions on the spot without consulting people! You should have told me you were going to do this before you did it. Not to get my permission, but just in case the guys asked for something we couldn’t give them – like this purchasing amount. I’d have made sure that you told them that there were some decisions that would be out of our hands and that way, they wouldn’t be disappointed if they didn’t get everything they asked for.”
“They didn’t ask for this Joe, they just pointed out that it was a challenge to their working more efficiently – but I get your point. I do need to look around before making these decisions. It’s just that I trust the guys so much. These guys have earned my respect and ever since we converted Stan, the millwright from stock prep, way back when, there has been nothing but enthusiasm.”
“I know, Bob, and if I’m honest, the maintenance group has had a tremendous influence on the rest of the plant – so much so that if we just run at average speed tomorrow, this will be week two of producing 600 tonnes. Ok, let’s run this past Monte, the vice-president of finance.
“That reminds me, Bob. Corporate have been asking for us to send them some examples of the things we are doing so they can share them with the other mills. You should try and pull something together around the ‘soft’ things you’ve done and are doing – the meetings you have, the authority you give, the involvement and so on.”
Monte was on board straight away, but offered some words of warning “You need to keep this under control because if it goes haywire, we’ll have to stop it and if you end up doing that, you’ll be further behind than if you didn’t give it to them.”
“You’re right, Monte. I’ll make sure everyone understands that this is still a privilege – one they’ve earned – but a privilege nevertheless.”
The week ended on a high note as the average production was well over 600 tonnes per day. Joe had set up a board on the paper machine floor that showed the average in big bold print each day, so everyone was aware of how we were doing.
This set me up in a good mood for the weekend. I talked with my wife, Sandy, about the week and how I didn’t really know how to go about getting something ready for Corporate to explain the ‘soft ‘ things we were doing.
“I can tell them about the PMs we’ve changed, the predictive stuff we do, Ben’s failure analysis, and so on, but the soft skills? I just treat them as responsible people – hopefully the way they want to be treated.”
Sandy just sat for a minute and then a smile appeared on her face.
“That’s it, Bob. You just tell Corporate how you treat your people.”
“That’s my point, Sandy. I don’t know how to explain that.”
“No Bob, you just explain how you TREAT them – with capital letters. Don’t you always tell me how you try and talk with the guys and how you encourage them to come and talk with you about any issue?”
“Then you’ve got your first capital T – Tal
k. Didn’t you tell Joe about how you respect what they’ve done, and from the answers to ‘15 Minutes’, you must feel they respect what you’ve done?”
“Then you’ve got the capital R – Respect.
“I know that everyone has learned a lot more about maintenance through this process – because I have – so you could readily say that you’ve helped Educate the group – your capital E. Now you’ve just finished telling me about how you’ve got permission for the guys to purchase small items, and there have been other ways you’ve given them the Authority – the capital A. I think A for Acclaim may also fit in here, because I know you’ve made a point of praising at every opportunity.”
Sandy had a self-satisfied grin by now.
“Okay, your smugness, what do you suggest for the last letter T? I trust you’ve got something for that?”
“You said it.”
“Trust! You’ve said it so many times. You trust the guys to do this or that, and if they didn’t trust you, there is no way they would have changed as much as they have. So that’s the five points of TREAT – Talk, Respect, Educate, Authority, Trust. All you need to do is expand a little on each, maybe give them an example, and I’m sure Corporate will be delighted.”
“I don’t know, Sandy. Sometimes I think you could do my job better than me.”
Cliff Williams is the corporate maintenance manager at Erco Worldwide in Toronto, ON, and a consultant with TMS – Total Maintenance Solutions Inc., Markham, ON. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.