Column Lean Manufacturing Management Reliability

Demonstrate Best Practices

EP Editorial Staff | December 19, 2017

Are you all talk, or do you actually demonstrate your commitment to best practices, including doing simple things such as having a rotation to keep break rooms clean?
Are you all talk, or do you actually demonstrate your commitment to best practices, including doing simple things such as having a rotation to keep break rooms clean?

By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee Reliability & Maintainability Center

You can’t get there by talking about it. Benchmark and do a gap analysis, plan thoroughly, engage the workforce, demonstrate, and implement. By “demonstrate,” I mean you can’t just talk the talk. You need to be able to walk the talk. Can you practice the same rules that you expect plant-floor personnel to follow? As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.”

Do you expect your plant-floor employees to not bring food to the production line, yet they see engineers eat at their desks? Is everyone expected to participate in standardized work processes and keep the team rooms in order? How do you demonstrate that value? Does your salaried team (including you) have a rotation to clean your break room?

I’ve said many times that more than 70% of lean manufacturing, total-productive maintenance, large technology changes, and reliability-centered maintenance efforts fail, i.e., achieve less than half of the expected benefits. Many companies align the desired practices with their organizational structure and work-management processes. Where these companies often fall short is implementing the underlying continuous-improvement processes and developing sufficient employee engagement.

This is the engine behind putting needed daily practices into place. Even more important, it’s what personalizes (grows ownership) and sustains new standardized work practices.

This was true more than 25 years ago and is still critical for success today. The excerpt below is from F. James McDonald (1922-2010), past president of General Motors, who wrote the preface in Success Factors for Implementing Change: A Manufacturing Viewpoint (Klaus M. Blache, editor, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 1988):

“There’s a saying in the automobile business that the real test comes ‘when the rubber meets the road.’ In manufacturing technology, the real test comes when a new automation tool hits the factory floor. Financial-  planning spreadsheets may forecast its success with respect to cost improvement. Computer screens may display its potential for quality assurance. But, will the new technology meet its objectives in real-life plant operations? Let me point out that technology, from conception through to implementation, is an intensely human endeavor. For the very reason that technologies are created by and for human beings, human consideration should drive implementation decisions. Does it satisfy human objectives as well as bottom-line objectives? These are valid questions for the most fundamental of reasons; ultimately, everything depends on human acceptance.”

In a nutshell, humanize and demonstrate your way to top quartile performance/best practices. EP

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at



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