Paying for the sins of the past: Your improvement initiative is not magical

If you are implementing any improvement strategies at your site, make sure that as part of your communication plan you let people know of the success that you expect, of course, as well as the sins of the past that will still need to be worked through.
By Shon Isenhour May 8, 2016

Today is a dose of reality, a tantalizing tenet of truth, a point to ponder, if you will. The point is you have to pay for the sins of the past, whether you are talking about your health or the reliability of your facility. Said differently, you can’t smoke for 25 years and expect to have the lungs of a track star the day you quit.

Now, I know this seems obvious—but if it truly were obvious, then companies would not expect wholesale change in an organization instantaneously upon implementation of a new improvement strategy.

For example, I recently visited a facility that has made great strides by implementing things like planning and scheduling, precision maintenance, root-cause analysis, reliability-centered maintenance and predictive technologies, but yet they were being described by some as ineffective and the efforts as a waste because the assets were still failing. Let me clearly state, if your site has been installing bearings with a hammer and a punch or aligning motors with string and a straight edge for the last 25 years, then implementing precision maintenance will not fix all your problems overnight. Every defect that has been introduced to the asset base over the last 25 years will have to be detected and removed through replacement before you can comfortably say that the assets are healthy and precision is the norm.

Most of us can’t afford to replace all the components damaged by our past sins, so we look at the risk and the cost and we develop a plan that is perceived as having a reasonable chance of success. This will include some failures. Hopefully, less of them will be a surprise as we mature into a more predictive-maintenance application, but they will still appear.

If you are implementing any improvement strategies at your site, make sure that as part of your communication plan you let people know of the success that you expect, of course, as well as the sins of the past that will still need to be worked through. If we set this expectation early, then the transparency will drive the change forward. Remember, you can’t drive like a drunk in a rental car jumping ditches, and then change the oil and expect it to be a new car again. What have you done to acknowledge and mitigate the risk of your past reliability sins?

– Shon Isenhour is a founding partner of Eruditio. This article originally appeared on Eruditio’s blog. Eruditio is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Erin Dunne, production coordinator, CFE Media, edunne@cfemedia.com