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Healthy Maintenance Culture with Stuart Fergusson

Episode Overview

 “The first step is the embodiment of the idea that maintenance is everybody’s problem. People care about maintenance activity and they care about what’s happening. What are you celebrating? What are your wins? Instead of the ‘us versus them’ mentality.”

What is a healthy maintenance culture? Surprisingly, it doesn’t include just maintenance. In this episode of Zen and the Art of Manufacturing, Bryan Sapot sits down with Stuart Fergusson, Director of Solutions Engineering at Fiix Software to talk about measuring the right metrics, involving everyone in the plant with maintenance activities, and listening to your people.

No, not everyone is doing the maintenance, but everyone in the plant should care and understand what is going on. Stuart explains how an innovative approach to maintenance is simply, a good culture.

In examples of unhealthy cultures, the first thing to stop is finger-pointing. But, how? Where does a healthy maintenance culture start?

Part 2 of Stuart’s podcast episode dives into the maintenance metrics that you need to care about, getting operators on board with maintenance goals, daily meetings involving the entire plant, and working together as a team.

“We’re all in this together, and how are we going to get back up and running?”

Essentially, the main idea behind the 2nd half of a “Healthy Maintenance Culture” is communication. If a machine goes down, it’s affecting both production and maintenance, and as such, what can be done to get that machine back up and running?

Dive into the details of a healthy culture in the plant, going beyond just maintenance in this episode.

Key Takeaways

What’s important to measure in maintenance?

Components of a healthy maintenance culture

Warning signs of an unhealthy culture

Where do you start and how do you build a healthy maintenance culture?

Maintenance metrics

What if you don’t know you have a problem… or don’t see the data?

Daily production meetings are important and maintenance should be included

Where do you go to learn new things?

What’s important to measure in maintenance?

A list of KPIs longer than a screen is, in fact, not the best way to measure important maintenance metrics. You need to start with only a few of your most important metrics.

But, at the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing – Process Reliability (PR). This metric is similar to OEE in production. Essentially, you need to know if you’re supposed to be running, are you?

“This is key to how we found success – it’s not about PR or OEE. It is, don’t get me wrong… but that’s not how you drive change and how you impact it. Tell us how you will impact it positively, day in and day out. That’s what you should be measuring.”

In Stuart’s experience, his team looked at micro stops, breakdowns, safety, quality, changeover times, and case counts.

Components of a healthy maintenance culture

“We took the typical TPM ideas of maintenance is everybody’s problem but took it to the extreme. Maintenance is not only everybody’s problem but everybody’s responsibility. People care about maintenance activity and they care about what’s happening. What are you celebrating? What are your wins? Instead of the us versus them mentality, it’s clean startups and we’re tracking and celebrating those as a team. When we hit our production targets, the maintenance team is getting celebrated just as much as the guys running the lines. It’s a team effort.”

The idea is to get everybody on the same page, in both production and maintenance. It’s truly a team sport, according to Stuart.

“If you’re working in silos, you’re going to have a tough time communicating between those silos and that’s not where you want to be.” So, think about how to create a culture and communication that involves and engages everyone in the plant.

Warning signs of an unhealthy culture

Finger-pointing. This should be avoided at all costs and is the number one sign of an unhealthy culture where instead of production and maintenance working together, they’re blaming each other for the problems on the floor.

Another warning sign? A superhero culture. When someone is coming into save the day, that’s not driving at the root cause of what is causing the problem in the first place. You’re not driving at the right stuff.

“We need to move away from this idea of everybody wanting to be a superhero because you’re recognizing the wrong things.”

Where do you start and how do you build a healthy maintenance culture?

“For me, it’s always the plant manager. How disconnected are they? How often do they talk to the plant? Do they care? Do they talk to their people and do they care about what’s happening on the floor?

This is all empathy-driven. When the plant manager begins to enact changes and communicate often and engage more with employees, changes will start to take place.

“It starts at the top. Take action. Celebrate the right things at the right time, and that’s where you start.”

But, we understand getting started is easier said than done. The first step is simply listening. Walk around and talk to everyone in the company. In an unhealthy culture, there’s probably going to be a lot of frustration, but in order to create a healthy culture, you have to work through the frustrations.

“Listen and get the picture on the whole problem. Start to get insights to take a data-driven approach into it.” You’re essentially starting to get input on how to fix the problems.

Maintenance metrics

“This all boils down to proper reliability engineering. What’s really going on and how can you help?”

So, that’s where you begin to measure key maintenance metrics. You care about your work orders and your equipment. It doesn’t need to grow significantly beyond that. What’s a high priority and what do you need to do to accomplish that.

“It shouldn’t be any more complicated than, “What do I need to get done today and what do I need to do it?”

You need that data to know how you’re impacting those bigger numbers, the bottom line. It really boils down to how effective your maintenance activities are. This is not only going to establish measurable metrics that track the maintenance team’s performance but also creates a healthy culture where everyone is engaged and understands what’s happening in the plant.

What if you don’t know you have a problem… or don’t see the data?

Ok, so essentially what we mean by this question is, what if the maintenance team and production team work so well together that you don’t even realize there’s a problem?

“You’re not going to there without maintenance being close to the equipment, though. That means that if, yeah, you’re running without breakdowns, great. Your operators are dialed in and they know their equipment inside and out. When they see or hear something, they call their maintenance guy.”

And, in this situation, both teams are going through the diagnostic together, determining what the problem is and how to fix it.

Truthfully, this is the most ideal situation – where teams work together and have great communication. This is a profound indication of healthy company culture.

Daily production meetings are important and maintenance should be included

“First off, maintenance needs to be in that meeting. You wouldn’t believe how many times maintenance isn’t in the production meetings. That’s not good. They need representation there because that’s where you should be escalating things.”

During this meeting, talk about many defects were found. Ask for production’s input on which ones are critical. This dictates the work plan for the day and keeps everyone aligned on tasks.

During the following day’s meeting, recap the status of those critical tasks and talk about the next steps and tasks to be completed.

There are 3 pieces of this:

1. Who’s escalating it?
2. Who’s solving it?
3. Who’s checking that it actually happened?

This not only creates awareness, but it involves the production team of what is going on from a maintenance point of view. And most importantly, talk about these wins, with everyone.

Where do you go to learn new things?

There’s a lot of great resources out there online – maintenance blogs and podcasts, in particular. You learn a lot from these types of resources because you’re listening to people.

“If there’s one source of truth that is the best place to learn something – talk to some folks. Talk to someone maybe outside your industry in a similar role, and you’ll learn a ton.”

And, to be honest, you learn a lot from customers (if you’re in the manufacturing sector). These are the people working day in and day out in the plant, and they are the ones with the real-world knowledge that you can learn from.

Connect and Share

Stuart Fergusson is the Director of Solutions Engineering at Fiix Software, a Rockwell Automation company. If you would like to get in touch with Stuart, he can be contacted through his LinkedIn

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Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot is a lifelong entrepreneur, speaker, CEO, and founder of Mingo. With more than 24 years of experience in manufacturing technology, Bryan is known for his deep manufacturing industry insights. Throughout his career, he’s built products and started companies that leveraged technology to solve problems to make the lives of manufacturers easier. Follow Bryan on LinkedIn here.