Forward Observations: What’s in a NAME?

Rick Carter | July 1, 2014


In this award-happy society, it’s nice to know that in our industry, several awards still carry some weight. Among this elite group, perhaps the weightiest is the North American Maintenance Excellence Award, known simply as the NAME Award. This is not only because it recognizes the many great (and often overlooked) things a maintenance department can bring to a manufacturing operation. It’s also because the time-consuming, soul-searching process required to win one of these—or just to get NAME-Award auditors to your site—is a revelatory learning experience about an operation’s capabilities and possibilities. When/if a win is bestowed, the lucky plant (it’s given to a single site, not a company) enters a pantheon of maintenance greats that represents what are arguably the best maintenance & reliability professionals in the world.

Those who have applied for the NAME Award (name.org) know I’m not kidding. Many applicants fall by the wayside early due to the thoroughness of the application itself. Its many open-ended questions require would-be winners to not only think about what they do and why they do it that way, but why it works—then write it out. Completed NAME-Award applications are reviewed by past winners, so it is truly a peer review. Members of this same group then pay a call on the one or two applicants that seem the most promising and audit their operations over several days to verify the accuracy of the information they submitted.

What are they looking for? “The success of an award-winning plant is based on its perseverance to put in place the good practices and sustain and improve them,” says Tom Williams, who just retired from his long-time position as Manager, Plant Engineering at 3M’s Minneapolis headquarters, and has been a NAME-Award board member since 1998. The value of the award, he says, is that “it gives winners the ability to work with colleagues in the same business and learn best practices.” And as anyone who has experienced a NAME-Award audit will tell you, the feedback itself is worth the price of admission, with or without a win. By pointing out shortcomings and overlooked maintenance details, the NAME-Award auditors typically hand over a roadmap to success that, if followed, can—and often does—lead to a win down the road.

For the 22 plants that have won the NAME Award since its inception in 1990, the recognition is pretty important. The physical cut-glass award itself usually occupies a place of honor in the plant lobby—when it can be pried from the hands of the maintenance team, of course. I have had the privilege of visiting several NAME- Award winners, including the 2013 winner, Emergent BioSolutions’ (EBS) Lansing, MI-based Biodefense division featured in this month’s cover story. Like other winning organizations, the group at this plant is extremely proud of the honor because it represents years of hard work and successful continuous-improvement efforts. Despite the highly sensitive nature of the EBS operation with regard to national security, personnel were remarkably open about the details of their accomplishment. I met with key members of the plant’s highly capable maintenance and facilities team, anxious to tell me about their operation and how they won. It was identical to the reception I’ve received at other NAME-Award plants: Everyone turns out to communicate. It’s that important.

So when you read EBS’ story, recognize that it’s not about the glory of getting an award, it’s about getting this award. May it inspire anyone who has ever wondered just how it’s done.





Rick Carter

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