MRO Magazine

Getting Everyone On Board

By Cliff Williams   

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 archiv...

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 this issue, we pick up where we left off in the November 2008 edition, as maintenance manager Bob Edwards grapples with a problem of motor failures and the lack on involvement of the electrical team.

We were making quick progress on a few areas. I had asked John, our vibration consultant, if he could explain how one of his customers was dealing with its motor problems. He told me he would talk with them and get back to me.

Over the next couple of days, Carol, our reliability manager, finalized the details for our visit to the U. S. paper mill and had scheduled the company that was carrying out oil analysis to make a presentation to us.

When I called Joe, our plant manager, to find out if there was any specific information he needed from our mill visit, he asked me to come up to his office to discuss a request from the corporate office.


“What you’ve been doing has raised some interest at head office, so I think it would be a good idea if you could gather as much information on how we compare with the mill you’re visiting on as many measures as you can. There also seems to be some interest in rolling out any success across our sister mills, so I think you might as well start to prepare a plan of what you’ve done so far, what you want to do and what results you expect.”

“I’ve been thinking about that, as there’s so much happening at once,” I replied. “I guess it goes back to what I told the guys early on — you have to know where you’re going or any road will do. I’ll work with Carol on developing some form of roadmap, something that describes the steps along the way.

“As far as measures are concerned, I’ll dig out the KPIs we talked about a few months ago. We look at downtime right now but there are some around costs, parts and inventory that I can follow up on. I’m sure they will have them at the mill.”

“Okay, that should keep everyone happy. When was the visit scheduled?” Joe asked.

“It’s the day after tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to it, as is Carol, but I’m still not sure about Stan.”

“Oh, so that’s who else you’re taking along. How come? I thought he was Mr. Negativity?”

I told Joe about my conversation with Stan, a millwright, and how he committed to trying to get involved, and how Dave from plant services had recommended him for the trip.

“Well, have a good trip and bring back lots of good information.”

I decided to grab a coffee before heading back to my desk and bumped into Fred, our production manager, at the coffee machine.

Right away he started to complain — or so it seemed. “First you want us to put in work orders, and now you want us to help you prioritize and schedule them. When do we start getting your wages?”

I noticed Fred had a smile on his face, which was a little unusual when he had comments about maintenance.

“You wouldn’t notice the difference in your big salary — and anyway, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“It’s your new reliability manager. She’s called a meeting for tomorrow to discuss work orders … says we need to be part of the prioritization process.”

“You should be pleased with that. You’re always complaining you don’t get the work you want done!”

“You’re right. It will also be a good way of making our guys feel part of the process. We can tell them what’s happening to the work orders they put in — and that way, they’ll keep putting them in.”

“Is this the same Fred I’ve known and loved for the last few years?”

“It’s your fault, Bob. You started all of this involvement and team nonsense. Whatever it is you’re doing, your guys like it. I know because all I get from my guys is ‘Maintenance is doing this’ … ‘Maintenance is doing that’ … so I don’t have much choice.

“If I’m being honest,” Fred added, “I do see the benefit in this sort of management. I’m just a little scared of it as I’ve never experienced it before. Remember, I’ve spent all my working life at this mill — from the time I used to push paper around the floor until now.

“Our idea of management was ‘We’ll tell you what to do, when to do it and sometimes how to do it.’ There was never a discussion about ‘why’ or asking for opinions.”

“I understand what you mean, Fred. It does seem counter-intuitive. You work hard to become a boss then you give all of the power to the guys on the floor. But when you think about it, why not do it? They all make decisions in their home life, they have as much to lose if they get it wrong, and the biggest complaint we managers have is that we don’t have the time to do everything we need to.

“It really becomes a win-win situation. Don’t worry; we’re all going through it for the first time, so if I can help in any way, just give me a call.”

When I got back to my office I saw that Carol had invited me to a meeting, along with Dave, Ivan and Pete, millwrights from each department. What concerned me was that there was nobody from the electrical side invited, so I gave Carol a call.

“Carol, I’m just looking at your invites to the meeting tomorrow. I couldn’t help but notice that there’s nobody from the electrical group invited. Is there a reason for that?”

“It’s a simple one, Bob. There are only a few work orders in for them. I didn’t think it was worth their time to come and sit in. Their work orders are automatically top priority, though some of them have been there a long time.

“That’s interesting. The biggest contributor to maintenance downtime is electrical, yet there are not many work orders. I’ll talk with Kevin to see if he has any ideas.”

I asked Kevin, the electrical supervisor, to come to my office and bring his backlog with him so we could figure out what was going on. When he arrived he was empty-handed.

“I couldn’t find the backlog list Bob. I had it a couple of weeks ago but I don’t know what I’ve done with it. Shall I get Carol to print one for us?”

“So I can take it from your com-ment that you don’t use your backlog very much?”

“Well, there are not usually many jobs for us on there and some of them are really old. “We prefer to have the operators approach the electricians directly if they think there is a problem,” Kevin said. “You know — cut out the middle man.”

“First of all it’s the ‘middle woman’, Carol, you’re cutting out, and second, I think I’m beginning to understand why the electrical downtime is so high. If you don’t have work orders, how can you be sure you’re covering all the issues?”

“It’s the way we’ve always done it, Bob, and it’s never been a problem before.”

“That’s because we never looked at anything that closely. The paper industry has gone through some big changes in the past five years and I’m sure it’s going to go through a lot more in the next five. Only those companies who really look deeply at what they’re doing and find ways of improving will survive. It seems like I’m repeating everything I’ve said at our meetings over the past few months. Come to think of it, your attendance has been sporadic, to say the least.”

“I don’t know why, Bob, but something always seems to crop up that I need to deal with. I don’t intend to miss the meetings.”

“Okay, this next hour or so is going to be among the most important in your career, Kevin, because I’m going to give you the Reader’s Digest version of what we’ve been talking about at the previous meetings. At the end of it, you need to be on board. My feeling is that when we get back from the visit to the U. S. mill, things are going to take off even faster.”

When I had finished recounting what had changed and the steps we were taking to improve, Kevin looked a little shell-shocked.

“I knew things were going on but I was so caught up in day-to-day problems, I never had time to f
igure out how they would have an impact on me and our group.”

“Don’t worry about the past. Just make sure you’re front and centre in the future. And just so you don’t feel bad, I want you to know that you’re not the only one who realized how he’s failed to keep up.

“A lot of responsibility for you not keeping up lies with me. I’ve been so engrossed with getting things pushed down to the floor level that I’ve neglected the supervisory level. That could have been a costly mistake as you guys play a pivotal role and could make or break the process.

“Jim, our maintenance supervisor, has been on board and involved and we’ve seen a reduction in mechanical downtime. So I’m sure with your leadership, the electrical downtime also will come down. You’ll need to be at the planning meeting tomorrow so you can bring your group up to speed. You’d better schedule a meeting with them very soon. I’ll let Carol know what we’ve discussed.”

“Thanks Bob, you can be certain this is a new beginning for the electrical group. I’ll be picking Carol’s brain for any help she can provide.”

Cliff Williams is the corporate maintenance manager at Erco Worldwide in Toronto, Ont., and a consultant with TMS — Total Maintenance Solutions Inc., Markham, Ont. He can be reached


Key Points

• Develop road maps

• Involvement brings interest

• Ensure everyone is included and up to speed.


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