Getting Better Starts with Selecting the Right Metrics

I have recently started hearing a common question regarding metrics.

“Which metrics in the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals Metrics portfolio should I be tracking at my facility?” It is widely known in the maintenance and reliability profession that SMRP has the most comprehensive list of metrics available. These metrics are defined and explained for the purpose of determining how a facility can select and utilize metrics in order to be competitive.

To simply answer the question, I usually reply with something like “What are you trying to improve?” Metrics are not to show how good or bad a facility is performing. They are selected for the sole purpose of improving or maintaining performance levels that are deemed critical. Plant leadership typically speaks the language of lagging Macro-metrics such as Cost per Unit and Overall Equipment Effectiveness. However, at the shop and floor level, a more leading approach is necessary. When a shop manager or supervisor is asked to improve OEE, typically they are left with wondering how to do that. They cannot just go get more OEE at the store room. Improving these upper level lagging metrics is much easier if there are a group of leading metrics selected that drive OEE or CPU improvements. For example, would completion of Preventive and Predictive Maintenance improve the ability to detect failures earlier? If so, then perhaps track those metrics. Does Operations tend to work overtime to make up for lost production due to maintenance issues? Perhaps tracking Reactive Maintenance Activities or Overtime Cost could be impactful. In my experience, tracking the right metrics with plant leadership support will always result in better relationships between maintenance and operations.

Metrics are an interesting and sometimes misunderstood topic. I have seen instances when plant leadership becomes very focused on metrics. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as with everything else in life, the graphs and charts are only part of the story. Caution should be taken when rewarding or punishing individuals in regard to metric performance. Whether or not a target is met or not is the result of good cooperation between many people across several departments. Metrics are not always designed to answer questions, but rather to get organizations asking the RIGHT questions.

One last tip. If you are tracking metrics that always result in targets being met, perhaps the wrong things are being tracked or the targets are not aggressive enough. I was recently in a facility that had a wonderful looking metric board, yet the plant leadership complained of massive amounts of overtime and operations turnover resulting in a very high Cost Per Unit. If they were keeping score on the right metrics, they could probably see where their opportunities for improvement were. Instead, they were afraid to change what they tracked for fear of looking bad to corporate leadership. In reality, they were not performing at a level that was necessary to meet production needs and corporate leadership was probably aware of that already. To solve this, the focus needs to shift to the poorly performing areas of the facility with manageable targets that focus on improving performance. Define the problems that are visible and perform a root cause analysis on those issues. Chose metrics that help monitor the root causes of the problem and get support from plant leadership. Focusing on anything other than the root cause of the issues will not result in sustainable improvement.

Rick Clonan

About Rick Clonan