5 Step Process to Set Maintenance Culture

Episode 1

Maintenance Management Podcast


About this episode

Get to know why the buy-in on your maintenance plan from your peers is vital to setting a winning maintenance culture. Know how Bill Debrae (President of MRAC) focusses on the interlinks between maintenance processes, people and systems to optimise costs and increase asset uptime. 


INTRO: Downtime, spreadsheets, technician problems, communications problems, maintenance management, maintenance budget, predictive maintenance, reactive maintenance, CMMS Software.

Matt: Hi, my name is Matt and welcome to the Comparesoft podcast. We’re a company called Comparesoft and we’re a comparison website for maintenance management software. Think-go-compare for B2B software and today we’re going to interview Bill Debrae, the managing partner at Maintenance Reliability Administration and Consulting.
And we want to interview experts like Bill to know how they manage their maintenance activities. So today, we’re going to talk about how Bill goes about maintenance in the business. So hi Bill, welcome to the show. Great to have you here with us. How’s it going? How’s business going? How’s everything?

Bill: Business is going great. We’re staying busy. We just finished up a project and we’re looking forward to two or three more we’ve got in the pipeline.

Matt: Excellent. Success is always a great thing, right? Bill: Oh yes.

Matt: So let me give our listeners a little bit of a background on you. With over 40 years of experience, Bill has distinguished himself as an expert in maintenance and reliability consulting, providing exceptional value in the energy, chemicals, mining and manufacturing industries. He works closely with all departments mentoring key personnel to drive long term behavioural change. Integrating maintenance and reliability into the organization strategy ensures sustainability and success. So Bill, why don’t you tell our listeners what you do and expand on a little bit of what I’ve just said there.

Bill: Okay. Thanks a lot, Matt. Yes, basically I started out at 18 years old going into maintenance. Went into the US Navy and worked as a machinist. When I came out of the Navy, I continued in maintenance. I put myself through school but I stayed in maintenance. And I’ve done everything from the bottom up all the way from turning wrenches as a Millwright mechanic, journeyman machinist, welder, limited electrical, licence, maintenance planner, maintenance manager, reliability engineer, reliability manager. So I’ve seen it all. It’s not just something I’ve studied. It’s something that I’ve actually lived for over 40 years. And so, I started my own company about three years ago for consulting in maintenance and reliability. Before that, I was working with management consulting companies as the maintenance and reliability part of them, but I felt as though there were some things that were being left on the table and the customers were not getting what they really wanted, especially when it came to more technical information or services. So for our company MRAC, we do basically three types of things. We do foundational services, which we’ll develop and implement maintenance management processes, and liability improvement processes. The second thing is we do supportive services, such as spares optimization, that’s the min-max levels of spares in the storeroom. Train and facilitate for maintenance strategy development, then a lot of it comes down to reliability-centred maintenance. And we also do CMMS implementation which will help in a selection process and implement CMMS. The execution services, we do planning and scheduling services on-site, off-site. We do planning for outage services and we also train and mentor planners on site.

Matt: So you’ve really — you essentially know it all. I think it’s basically safe to say that you’re a very knowledgeable person in the industry 100% definitely. And so, how would you say that you set a good maintenance culture?

Bill: Well, to set a maintenance culture, we look at it as a five-step process. We look at it as we need to buy in, we need identifying what needs to be done, develop a plan, implement and measure. For buy-in, it’s very, very important that we get from the top down in a company, all the way from the CEO all the way down to the technician or operator on the floor. Unfortunately, it’s been our experience that ops and maintenance are pretty much a lot of times adversarial. They’re not on the same page, they’re kind of working against each other, and a lot of times companies think that maintenance is a necessary evil. This is the biggest challenge. We need to get the buy-in, everybody needs to be on the same page and we all need to understand that we’re all important. So we need to get that barrier broke there. The next thing we need to do is identify what good looks like and this is in regards to systems, processes and people. Systems being like a CMMS. Processes, how do we do our business? And people, what do we expect from the people or do we have the people in the right position? So, we have to identify what does good look like? And then we identify what is the current situation so, we see there’s a gap. We develop a plan to close that gap with a timeline and all the requirements. So for the people part, we need to say well, how much — what is the percentage of time commitment we need? For the systems part, what are the software’s we need, like CMMS or production loss and accounting and things of that nature? Or the processes, work management system, reliability improvement process or even the materials management process, how do we run our storeroom? So then it’s not good enough just to have a plan, we need to implement it. Some Companies fall down at that. They get a good plan up but they never really implement it. So to do that, we’ve got to make sure that for the project and implementation, we need to have a good reporting and control structure with KPIs and meetings and things of that nature. And the final thing is we’ve got to measure, we’ve got to measure for success. And for this type of thing, when we’re talking about a culture, we’re talking about a behavioural change. So you’ve got to measure the behavioural change. Now having said all that, it’s been my experience that it’s really, really difficult if not impossible for many companies to do this on their own without a change agent. Because people are — they’re too busy in production making the product or in maintenance, fighting the fires to try to get this done without some external help. To develop this and install this is probably one of the most important challenges that they’re going to have but it’s the most rewarding too.

Matt: Yes. What would you say is the most difficult or challenging about those elements that you’ve just mentioned there?

Bill: It’s getting everybody on the same page, the buy-in. Once you get the buy-in, and you get the respect and people are talking and understanding where everyone’s coming, from then things fall into place. But that buy-in is sometimes tough, especially if in an older company that they’ve been butting heads for 50 years. Well, it can be tough.

Matt: And so how would you go about planning maintenance activities?

Bill: Well we go back to the process, people and systems again. The process needs to be well defined. We need to have a work management system. So this is how we do our business. And the elements of that are — the key elements are the work identification, work prioritization, planning, scheduling, work execution and feedback. So within that, we’ve got planning activities. And we need to have well defined, what does the planner do? And one of the key things that they do is they’re scoping jobs. So we have to say well, what do they do when they’re scoping a job? Well, you need to answer what, where, how, who, how long and with what? If you train and mentor to where they can do those things, then you’re well ahead of the game. Some of the other activities they do are backlog control, kidding parts, getting them ready for the actual work, maintaining a failure mode library to expedite their job as far as scoping jobs and feedback review. So that’s the first thing. You need a process so they know what they need to do. The most important thing though is that you need to have a qualified person there. And this is the people part of this is that you need to have an experienced maintenance technician, or maybe even a former maintenance supervisor can work best at this. But you need someone that can really understand what needs to be done, and what is it going to take to do it. So it’s arguably the most important position in maintenance. So you provide them also with a software tool that they can use. And of course the last thing, you measure for success, and at this point, you’re measuring the age of the backlog, delay codes, when the work is happening, they had the wrong parts and wrong tools or time estimates are wrong. These are used only to improve not to beat anybody up.

Matt: Sure. And so how would you go about actually implementing your maintenance activities? What’s the process there?

Bill: Well, I think it’s all about standards. Because if you’ve got a whole list of things that you need done, you need to do the right thing at the right time. So the most important standard that I would use is that PMS or proactive maintenance strategies should always be done and be done on time. This is non-negotiable. They should be done. This is the only way to — the only time that you pull your PM crew off is when the place is burning down and they’ve got to grab a firehose. That’s how important it is. If you’ve got some other reactive work going on and takes more people, you’re going have to find people from somewhere else, you do not take your PM people off of their work. That’s how important it is. The reason is because, the proactive work is your attempt to increase the reliability of the process, and you don’t do those proactive tasks, then you hurt the reliability of that process. The next thing you need in your plan, you’ve got to do the high priority ready to schedule reactive work. In other words, you need to manage your backlog. The lower priority ready to schedule reactive work should be blended into the schedule and used as maybe opportunity work. So the whole thing is that everything is ready to schedule and you’ve got to do the right one at the right time. So then of course, you measure again — this one’s measured at schedule compliance. So you want to see how well did we do with our schedule? And you have delay codes in that, why didn’t we get it done, and you always go back and you try to improve those things.

Matt: And you were speaking earlier about software tools. Now what do you think or do you think software tools are useful for managing maintenance activities? What’s your opinion on those?

Bill: Absolutely. I think they’re essential to the success of maintenance and to any company. Right now, you’ve got global competition, just in time deliveries, you’ve got technologies are changing and business — everything is changing and maintenance needs to be just as nimble to be able to adapt to the operations. The software tool will help your planner to build his failure mode libraries, it will link to your work orders, to your spare parts, your tool cribs, your resources, you can do forecasting of resource levels, tracking costs, you update your maintenance strategies by analysing history within that software, min/max levels in a storeroom, and you can prioritize work by what your business needs are. You may want to change your strategies based on business. But software is a tool, but everyone’s heard of garbage in garbage out. You’ve got to have the discipline to put the right information in for it to be useful.

Matt: Of course. At the source. And so what’s your take also on using spreadsheets for maintenance management?

Bill: Well I look at spreadsheets kind of like a comparison between a horse and buggy and pickup truck. The horse and buggy will get you there, but it will take too long and not enough —

Matt: Yes. It’s a little bit old school, is that probably the right word for it?

Bill: Yes. Like I said, we need to be efficient, effective and nimble and software, that’s what it will do. when I have my maintenance manager head-on, the last thing I want to see is any of my personnel be it a planner, a scheduler, mechanic or reliability engineer, spending too much time in front of the computer to accomplish the task. The task may be important, but the value-added also takes into consideration time and quality. Spreadsheets won’t get you there.

Matt: No. Very clunky, probably is a good description, right? Bill: Yes.
Matt: And so also, how do you use maintenance as a competitive advantage in the business?

Bill: Well, this is a point that no matter where I go and no matter what — either I’m giving training or in any project, I try to impress upon companies and a lot of companies are missing out on this. They put maintenance as a cost centre. And they’re always cutting the budget every year. So you’ve got to do the same stuff for less. And operations is also a cost center. However, maintenance or operations, they get to wipe the slate clean and start over again every year. However, maintenance can never start with a clean slate because there’s a strong chance that we have to live with the errors for years to come. The consequences of not doing maintenance or not doing the correct maintenance does not stop at the end of the fiscal year. So maintenance should be a profit center and measured as a per cent of overall costs to produce. And so this is the paradigm shift that many companies are missing out on. So this is the missing link that companies have as in using maintenances in the competitive advantage.

Matt: Yes. And what are your top three tips on maintenance for our listeners?

Bill: Well, first thing is, planning can make or break a maintenance department. Put the right person in that position, give them the training, support and tools they need to be successful and you’ve got a good plan. Without it, you have no hope of good execution. You’ve got to have a good plan. Second, continuous improvement should be in the DNA of all maintenance personnel. We need to review the history, re-analyse adjust strategies to improve the reliability of the process. We’ve got to get to the root cause of why things fail and then mitigate it and document those things. Third, spares in the storeroom management should be optimized. If the correct patcher is not there when you need them, it doesn’t matter how good you are at planning or execution of work, everything stops, downtime increases, and costs are elevated.

Matt: What’s your favourite saying or quote on maintenance for our listeners?

Bill: Well, whenever I start a project or beginning of any training, I always ask a series of questions. The first one is, why are we here? Well, there’s a lot of people well, we’re here to make paper. No. Well, we’re here to make lumber. No. And finally, somebody comes around and they finally say, we’re here to make money and I say, that’s exactly right. If we don’t make money, we’re not going to be in business. And then I ask them, well, how do we do that? And then — by producing and selling a product at the right time, right price and right quality. How is that accomplished? Through the reliability of the process? How does that happen? By doing the right maintenance at the right time for the right reasons.

Matt: There you have it guys some excellent advice and some fantastic knowledge that you’ve put forward there Bill. Thanks very much for that. So just talking a little bit about the business again, your business again, MRAC has a total combined maintenance and reliability knowledge base of over 100 years. A collection of specialist consultants who have years of experience proven implementations, real-world trials and problem-solving actions behind them with a solid foundation of World Class processes. MRAC is able to help clients in all industries by developing fit for purpose processes, facilitate the implementation, enable the behaviour change and ensure the sustainability. Reliability of the process is always the end goal. Is there anything that you want to say to our listeners little bit more about the business then expand on anything that I’ve said?

Bill: We work globally. I personally speak three languages. I’ve got other individuals with lots of experience that they speak different languages. So we’re familiar with not only languages but cultures. And so one thing that is interesting is maintenance, and it doesn’t make any difference where you go, maintenance should always be managed the same way, maintenance and reliability. But we are very good at being sensitive to different cultures. We’re not in a rut where we think this is the best way. We can adapt. Like I said, we’re as nimble as what maintenance should be.

Matt: Sure. Which is super important, right, because in every country or culture things really are done differently. There’s different beliefs, it really is very different.

Bill: Absolutely. It’s interesting. At times it’s a challenge, but it’s always a pleasure too.

Matt: Yes. I think well that’s actually a great point because I think that’s probably one of the hardest things to actually adapt to is adapting to a culture in the way that people do things. It can be incredibly different, can’t it?

Bill: Yes.

Matt: Yes so that’s a fantastic point. Okay. Well, thanks very much for coming on the show, Bill. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on and dropping some real knowledge there for our listeners with the experience that you have. As you say, you’ve done it all in all the different areas of the business. So that’s really great for our listeners to be able to take those points on board from you. So thank you very much for that.

Bill: Thank you.

Matt: I’ve been Matt Cook. Thanks for listening guys once again and well can’t wait to see you all at the next podcast. See you soon.

OUTRO: This podcast is presented by Comparesoft. We recommend CMMS and asset management software. 1500 maintenance experts from GE, Siemens, Transport for London and numerous small and medium Businesses have used Comparesoft to shortlist and compare CMMS and asset management software. Visit comparasoft.com to shortlist the best CMMS software for your needs.