What went right?

Thirty-four years ago, when Playboy magazine was in its heyday, I had the opportunity to spend a day with one of Playboy's marketing managers. We toured the impressive headquarters and had lunch at the Playboy Club in the next block. It was a heady experience for a young man not yet into the world of publishing.

03/11/2002


Thirty-four years ago, when Playboy magazine was in its heyday, I had the opportunity to spend a day with one of Playboy 's marketing managers. We toured the impressive headquarters and had lunch at the Playboy Club in the next block. It was a heady experience for a young man not yet into the world of publishing.

As we chatted, the marketing manager made a comment that has never left me. "We've been incredibly successful," he said. "The problem is nobody really knows why. We're all afraid that it could all come to an end as quickly as it grew."

Over the years, that comment has often returned to haunt me. I've seen countless examples of success — big and little — when nobody really knew why. And when the success doesn't continue or isn't repeated, nobody understands the reasons.

We have a tremendous propensity to analyze when things go wrong. And that's fine. It's important. It's part of the scientific method, so to speak. But on the flip side, we're far too eager to accept when things go right without much thought as to why.

Every time there is a failure, every time something breaks, every time a schedule is missed, every time a cost is exceeded the question is asked, "What went wrong?"

But when the project is finished before schedule and under budget, when equipment continues to run reliably year after year, do we ask, "What went right?" Not often enough.

Human nature being what it is, we tend to ride along with the good times and not ask too many questions. It's as though we're afraid we might jinx things. Then, when things start down hill, we want to know what went wrong and who's at fault without ever knowing what created the success in the first place.

Maintenance is a function based largely on what went or is going wrong. We fix, we troubleshoot, we conduct root cause analyses. Only recently has focus begun to change toward what is going right and why.

Even when we do discover what's going right, we often fail to do the things that will sustain it. We know, for example, that preventive and predictive maintenance fall into the category of doing things right. Yet, in too many plants these programs are unappreciated and underfunded.

In these days of business downturns and Enron disasters, we are quick to ask, "What went wrong?" Perhaps more importantly we should be looking at past successes and asking, "What went right?"





No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2016 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
Safety standards and electrical test instruments; Product of the Year winners; Easy and safe electrical design
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Diagnostic functions for system safety; Specifying industrial enclosures; Effective decision support for a crisis
Transformers; Electrical system design; Selecting and sizing transformers; Grounded and ungrounded system design, Paralleling generator systems
Natural gas for tomorrow's fleets; Colleges and universities moving to CHP; Power and steam and frozen foods

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me