The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is A Straight Line

EP Editorial Staff | May 16, 2011


Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, even on your continuous reliability and maintenance journey.

By Christer Idhammar, IDCON, Inc.

Any improvement initiative within reliability and maintenance is a journey toward a state of continuous improvement. You will never reach a final destination. You might state that your goal is 95% planned and scheduled maintenance and 96% reliability. While these are necessary milestones, reaching them doesn’t mean you’ve completed your journey.

Once you’ve passed your important milestones—i.e., reached your previously stated goals—you’ll find that you have time to go on to the next step. You must use this time to take actions to generate continuously better results. Failure to do so will lead to weakened organizational performance. And, to paraphrase an old, but still-true saying, “If you don’t improve, you’re not good anymore.”


Start here
If we agree on our destination being a state of continuous improvement, the next thing we need to know is where to start. Before you enter into any improvement initiative, it’s a good idea to ask yourself which of the following statements best describes your situation/your organization’s status:

1. I don’t know where I am, and I don’t know where I’m going…

  • If you don’t know where you are when you start an improvement initiative and you don’t know where you’re going, you might have a nice but excessively expensive experience: a lot of action but inadequate results.

2. I know where I am, but I don’t know where I’m going…

  • If you know where you are, but not where you’re going, it will take a very long time to reach any destination: again, a lot of action but inadequate results.

3. I don’t know where I am,  but I do know where I’m going…

  • If you don’t know where you are, but do indeed know where you’re going, you might reach your destination, although it will take a lot of unnecessary time and effort to arrive there: as before,  a lot of action but inadequate or late results.

4. I know where I am, and I know where I’m going…

  • If you know where you are and where you’re going, you can reach your destination in the shortest time and through the most cost-effective manner.

Staying out of ‘jail’
Maintenance managers frequently end up in a “Budget Jail,” thinking it’s better to stay within a budget than to invest in improved reliability. That’s because their performance isn’t measured by reliability—it’s measured on cost.

In many cases, the Budget Jail situation results from  managers not having an effective measurement on how good their organization is. They also don’t seem to have a clear picture of how good they can become. On top of all that, there’s no aggressive and quantified plan on how to close this gap.

Maintenance management is a very process-driven matter. If you document these processes and their individual elements, you can appraise how well each of them is executed. In turn, you have also created a document that describes what excellence looks like. After you’ve assessed and rated all elements, your organization will discover where your gaps are and you can develop the action plan for closing them.


Fig. 1. This data, compiled over an eight-year period from several plants where the referenced methodology was applied, clearly shows that as the best-practice score increased, the number of breakdowns fell and reliability and production throughput went up. The value of the increased reliability by 1.9% is worth about 10 times more than the savings in maintenance cost.

This methodology has been used in hundreds of organizations worldwide, where it’s shown that a better score on best practices will generate excellent results (see Fig. 1). The biggest challenge with it is in getting people who are typically reactive to work in a more disciplined way.

While you need to know where you are and where you are going, you also must have a plan for drawing a straight line on how to reach your destination. Then, it’s all about long-term reinforcement. MT

Christer Idhammar is a world-renowned, award-winning reliability and maintenance expert. He is the founder of and executive vice president with IDCON, Inc., based in Raleigh NC. IDCON has been providing reliability and maintenance training and consulting to industries around the world since 1972. Internet:





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