Shon Isenhour

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"Somebody's Fault Tree" The Ultimate Guide to Playing the RCA Blame Game


Nine "Ps" for Profitable Plant Reliability Improvement Efforts

So if you could sum up the common areas of focus during reliability improvement efforts what would they be? 

The thought behind this blog post was if someone ask us what we are doing or what all is involved in a reliability improvement effort, how can we give them the scope in a concise, and memorable way. This could be used early on in the discovery or kick off phase to outline without overwhelming. 

I have listed nine things that I would focus on and they all start with P for ease of remembering.

Predictive Maintenance

Using technology to understand e

equipment condition in a noninvasive way before the functional failure occurs

Example: Vibration, Ultrasonic, Infrared

Preventive Maintenance

Traditional and more invasive time based inspections which should be failure mode based

Example: Visual Inspection of gears in a gear box

Precision Maintenance

Doing the maintenance craft to the best in class standards to prevent infant mortality

Example: Alignment, Balancing, Bolt Torquing 


Clear series of steps to identify, prioritize, plan, schedule, execute, and capture history with who irresponsible for each

Example: Work Identification Process, Root Cause Process. Work Completion Process

Problem Solving

The process for understanding the real causes of problems and using business case thinking to select solutions  that reduce or eliminate the chance of recurrence

Example: Root Cause Analysis, Fault Tree, Sequence of Events

Prioritizing of Work

The process of determining sequences of work as well as level of effort using tools like equipment criticality and work order type

Example: RIME index 


These are the processes required to have the right part at the right time in the right condition at the right place for the right cost

Example: Cycle counting process, proper storage procedures, kitting process 

Planned Execution

This piece is about taking the identified work and building the work instructions, work package and collecting the required parts and then scheduling the execution.

Example: Job Packages, Schedules, Gantt Charts


This is where we deal with the change management and leadership portion which is required in order to true make a change to the organization 

Example: Situational Leadership, Communication Planning, Risk Identification, Training

So here are my nine "Ps"  that you can share as early communication to get your organization on board with your reliability efforts and develop the Profit we all want. 

What would you add? 

Three reasons why I detest "wrench time" as a benchmarking tool.

Ranting about Reliability:

Wrench time and wrench time studies are two of the most misused, misunderstood, and painful to deal with elements of maintenance benchmarking for three reasons:

  • different definitions and standards
  • data that is skewed by the act of collection
  • overzealous comparisons of dissimilar metrics from different locations

We all like the implications of knowing the amount of non value added work within our maintenance schedules and we would love to be able to measure and then trend the removal of non value added time. This is a good thing, but lets look at what gets in the way and one thing to help improve our results for each challenges.

The first struggle is around the definition or standard for wrench time. What is in? What is out? Is travel time part of wrench time? How much is too much? Is prework wrench time? Is trouble shooting wrench time? You need to answer these questions and more to get something standardized for your location. A good place to start is theSMRPMetric for wrench time but my guess is that you will need to add additional clarifications to make it relevant to your site.

The data is not accurate. By virtue of focusing on the data it changes the behaviors. If you tell me you are going to watch me type out this blog and count my mistypes I will by nature slow my typing and make less errors. The same thing happens when we do wrench time studies so the numbers we get will be different than actual. I suggest the use of something known as a DILO instead of typical stop watch time studies or other tool driven methods. In a DILO or Day In The Life Of you work with the craftsman to understand what gets in his way or what irritates him as he tries to complete his daily work. You are with him or her through their day learning based on their experiences. This approach is more about helping them and less about "watching and judging" them. In the end, you identify problems like missing permits, lost parts, and wrong tools and you see first had what that is costing them in time and patience without driving a wedge between parts of the organization. If you want to talk more about DILO send me an email and I will share with you tips and tricks based on my experience. 

Some days it seems that everyone thinks they should compare their wrench time numbers to everyone else. This one is common for many metrics and KPIs but as I have suggested in the past it would be best if the sites looked at their ability to improve the metric and talked about what their delta over the last quarter was as opposed to the raw number. Then they could talk about the specific actions they have taken to get that delta. The raw metric are just too different in most cases to be compared and bad decisions can be made with bad data from bad comparisons.

Now I know I did not necessarily solve anything here but I hope I have provided a few ideas that might help as you calculated and evaluate your maintenance wrench time on your quest to reliability now.

3 Reasons Why Operations Does Not Support Maintenance and Reliability

One of the most common things maintenance folks say is that operations does not support maintenance and reliability. It sounds like this:

"If it weren't for operations we would be reliable"

"They think their job is to break it and then it is our job to fix it... and fast"

"They will not let us have the equipment for PM and they wonder why it breaks down"

Want to know what operations has to say? Here are three quotes and a set of underlining causes:

1. Operations says: "Every time I give them the equipment for PM downtime it runs worse on start up than it did at shutdown"

Reason: Maintenance overly relies on invasive PMs that induce infant mortality instead of using Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) which is performed while the equipment is running and does not induce failures. If maintenance could get fifteen percent of there labor dedicated to CBM and then fifteen percent dedicated to PM then the balance would be better and the number of maintenance induced failures would drop. One example is eliminating the PM where you open a gearboxes up for a gear inspection and transitioning them to CBM inspections which can accomplish the same task without the potential for reassembly errors or foreign contamination in the gear box.

2. Operations says: "Maintenance never sticks to the schedule. They ask for 8 hours and take 16"Maintenance creates a schedule with work that is only marginally planned and then overruns the outage timeline because the estimates are completely inaccurate. If you don't take the time to break the job down into estimable task or steps then it becomes very hard to produce and accurate schedule. The way this sounds in the field is "Oh that job, it will take about a half shift for two guys"

3. Operations says: "This equipment runs better if I can just keep it running and keep maintenance out of it."

Maintenance does not practice precision maintenance therefor as work is completed defects are induced and equipment fails prematurely. One example is the installation of a bearing on a shaft with a hammer and chisel instead of a bearing heater and impact fitting tools.

The point here is that if we as maintenance and reliability professionals start by addressing our issues it becomes much easier to ask operations to address theirs. Or to say it another way:

"If you wanna make the world a better place

take a look at yourself, and then make a change"

~Michael Jackson

Your Master Plan Meets My Needs! Let me tell you how.

Master planning our change initiatives is not always our favorite part of a new project but today I am going to show you why it is crucial to success when people are involved. You can forget this blog if your project does not affect people... which is approximately nearly never.
So the master plan or project plan is simple a list of task that need to be done to complete the project and reach the goals identified at the times required. To the left I have shown a performance change curve that I plan to use to show you how important it is to have this master plan and keep it up to date with progress and completion information. If you want to learn more about the curve click  here . The basics are as follows:
  1. Area I on the graphic is the area where people are excited about the "new" change and they typically produce a positive change in performance due to the Hawthorne Effect. Think of it as "What is important to my boss is important to me" so they get energized and do more. Those affected by this new change will need to know what the change is and how it is going to affect them. In this area the plan provides many of the answers around what this project is, what I need to do, and how it will affect me.  
  2. Area II is the region that is the least fun. It is a valley of frustration and can be characterized as overwhelming. At this point you are trying to create and do the new way while still working with and in the old system. Everyday below the curve represents lost return on investment opportunity but this phase is a necessary part of the change process. At this point the affected people need the project broken down into small bite sized steps that are less overwhelming. A good project plan provides these small task and the sequence to keep them moving forward. 
  3. Area III is where you return to the original level of performance but have not seen the real return on investment because of the time below the initial performance line.In this area the affected individual needs to be able to see concrete examples of their progress since the project is doubtfully generating large economic returns. Here we go back to our master plan and look at and celebrate all the small task that have been completed. The plan should have many completed items at this point and those become the results needed to drive the individual forward. 
  4. Area IV is the area where you meet your performance goals and the return on investment really begins to build. At this point the master plan becomes a trophy of sorts. It shows what we have accomplished and can be used to show others how to follow in your path. This meets the needs of a person in this phase of change.
  5. Area V is all about sustaining your progress and there the completed master plan highlights the areas that were big changes for the organization and need constant reinforcement through leadership and measurements. It also can be used by a person in this phase of the change to build an audit of sorts to sustain the change.
Five areas and Five ways to use the master plan to make your next project more successful. Good luck

The 10 Traits of High Maintenance Manufacturing Organizations:

Seeing the Forbes Article on  The (Unlucky) 13 Traits of High Maintenance People  it made me think. What are the traits of a high maintenance manufacturing organization or facilities? 

So let’s look at 10 of the 13 categories from the article but in the context of manufacturing and reliability.

1 -They have urgent “needs.” To a high maintenance sites, everything is urgent. All the repairs and upgrades to their assets are done without proper planning or the lead time to properly source parts economically. They don’t use predictive technology to identify equipment problems in advance.
The 5 second solution: Set criteria for work that makes it clear what is an emergency repair and what should be planned and scheduled for the future. Emergent repairs can cost as much as 5 times as much to execute. Use predictive maintenance technologies like vibration analysis, ultrasound, etc. to help identify failures before they happen and proactively plan the repair. There is a great post  here  on some of the benefits of predictive maintenance. 

2 – They have a sense of entitlement. Everyone deserves to be treated with equal respect. The high maintenance facility will expect more. They request more work in process inventory allocation, larger maintenance budgets, more staff and higher capital allotments.
The 5 second solution :  Create benchmarks metrics that accurately represent the organizations or facilities and allow them to take a journey of self-discovery. This will enable them to challenge their own levels of entitlement, especially as they try to explain their variances. 

3 – They could be self-sufficient. But they’re not. They constantly look to corporate for support and funds to improve the site and they blame their situation on the fact that they are not receiving the support they "need".
The 5 second solution: Build a plan to self-fund your improvement process. Many sites are able to start their improvements early in the fiscal year and generate the financial returns to offset the expenses prior to year end. The well thought out plan is the key to this success. 

4 – They cling to stories of facility wrongs from the past. The high maintenance sites have a difficult time moving past real or imagined corporate wrongs. These may include corporate enforced reduction in force efforts, budget cuts, or failed past corporate initiatives.  
The 5 second solution: As a leader, you do individuals locked into the “blame game” a favor by not playing into the negativity dialogue. “I’m sorry that happened. But you’re here now, things are different, and we have work to do.”

5 – They talk. Continuously. The high maintenance site thrives on attention. They have a continual need for others to hear what they have done. While discussion best practice sharing and brainstorming is necessary and healthy, these sites prefer to talk about what they have done not what they are going to do. They are not necessarily interested in improving; only showing what they have improved. 
The 5 second solution: Finish every discussion and presentation with a challenge. "What are you going to do better and different to improve within the next year?" 

6 – They are seldom satisfied. High maintenance sites will find the flaws in every situation. Even when they’ve been given extra care and attention, they will invariably find something wrong with the solution or service they’ve received. For example when they receive an opportunity to produce a new product they will only focus on how hard it will be with their existing equipment and resort to an additional capital request.
The 5 second solution: Make it clear that everyone understands nothing is perfect but that the site has the knowledge and skills to solve the problem and if and only if they can’t solve it should they return to corporate for additional support. 

7 – They are high-strung. Not all high-strung organizations are high maintenance. But the organization with excessive needs will be persistently vocal and anxious about the things they require. They are the squeaky wheel in search of grease. 
The 5 second solution: Again – it’s a dependency you shouldn’t encourage or feed.

8 – They live in a state of perpetual drama. If you are around a high maintenance site for an time at all, you will observe frequent periods chaos and turmoil. Every small inconvenience or mistake becomes a crisis. 
The 5 Second solution: Take the time to list the common items that create their drama. Help them to create proactive plans for how each of these failures or issues is going to be dealt with. 

9 – They handle money poorly. Regardless of the economy or circumstance, high maintenance sites continue to spend recklessly on inventory and parts. They use overtime like it is free. They don't think of the business cases behind the decisions they make. 
The 5 second solution: Instill business case thinking using A3 documents or some other tool and ensure that they think from a life cycle costing perspective. 

10 – They resent authority are often critical of other sites. It is extremely difficult for these individuals to respect corporate authority or to see the bigger picture. They focus only on their site and do not go out of their way to work to benefit the company as a whole.
The 5 second solution: Generally, in a case like this, there is direct intervention required. Remind the site that the business is like the body and one highly effective arm on body that is in a coma is useless. 

By now you may be detecting a pattern of traits. Responsibility lies with the organization to create and reinforce a positive culture. Do you have a working environment that allows bad behaviors to take hold and fester? Do you actively feed and reward the positive behaviors? Do you set a good example yourself?

68 Percent Infant Mortality: Not in my plant!


Maintenance Planners: Are they focused on the future or pulled into the present? Their boss decides!

How does organizational structure dictate focus?
This week I am working with a client that is building their future state organizational structure to support reliability improvement. The question they ask was should the planners report to the maintenance supervisors for the area they plan for? My response was a sometimes controversial one but I truly believe it based on my experience and observations.  Planners should not report to maintenance supervisors.  They really should be peers in the organizations working as a team. If you set the organization up with planners subordinate to the maintenance supervisor then you are in essence having your future focused planner reporting to your present focused supervisor. By future focused I mean the planner should be building job plans for the future work that will be scheduled at least one week out. Your supervisor is using the plans and schedules to execute the day to day work in the present. If you create this reporting structure and if you believe the old adage “What is important to my boss is important to me” then the planner will be forced to continuously focus on the day to day issues that are important to his or her boss at the expense of the future planned and scheduled work that drives reliability improvement.  They will become a "gofer" for the supervisor and go for this part or go for that tool. This is not planning this is reacting. As you build your organizational structure you have to force proactive thinking and create barriers for some parts of the organization to keep them away from the reactive day to day activities. 
What are your thoughts? Who do your planners report to? Are they focused on the proactive future or pulled into the reactive present?

Are Your Reliability Efforts Haunted by the Lack of an Effective Plan?

So many facilities struggle with timely results and expected return on investments within their reliability improvement efforts. One of the demons that continuously shows it's face is the sequencing within the improvement plan.
Sites tend to want to pursue the exciting and fun things and forget many of the foundational elements that support the shiny stuff.  For example a site will purchase technology in the form of software or predictive tools before developing work flow process. Without understanding the work management process you don't have the data needed for the software to analyze nor the ability to execute the work identified with the predictive tools. This just leads to the exciting new tools being underutilized and then eventually put on a shelf to gather dust.
When you are looking at your initiative and planning your strategy, take a look at what is required to support the pieces that you desire. Be honest about your maturity in these support elements and build your base before your tower. Towers are great to look at and show others but foundations are where a smart man spends his time.
Some of the common issues I see include:

  1. Scheduling work without planning first. How can you have an accurate schedule when you have not had a planner break down the job into small enough parts to accurately estimate time required?
  2. Predictive tools applied without work process to execute the findings prior to point F on the P-F curve.
  3. Software such as EAM and CMMS without standard work process to make them work.
  4. Software for engineering analysis without data from FRACAS or failure coding to input for analysis. 
  5. Initiatives like lean and six sigma applied before with maintenance induced variation and waste is reduced. 
  6. Reliability engineering tools applied before maintenance engineering tools. When you have a pure reliability engineer working on the future in a fully reactive facility it becomes a lot like rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. You need the maintenance engineer to introduce procedures, precision maintenance and failure mode based maintenance to stop the the sinking and then we can focus on the next cruise. 
If you want to keep the gremlins out of your improvement strategy then focus on the processes first then apply the tools, software and shiny stuff.

Confucius say: Planning and Scheduling Cause Confusion

The topic of planning and scheduling and what each one means has been a big discussion point. The Chinese appear to have only one word that means both planning and scheduling but in reality everywhere I teach from Europe to the Middle East and all across the Americas there is confusion  on the difference so today I thought I would share planning and then scheduling as the topic of the week.

Planning is the creation of the work package including:
Job plan and steps and duration
Parts required 
Special tools required 
Permits required 
Personal protective equipment required 
Crafts or personnel types required 

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