Column Condition Monitoring Condition-based Maintenance Maintenance Management Reliability

Doing The Right Work Right

EP Editorial Staff | February 20, 2019

By Drew D. Troyer, CRE, Contributing Editor

Many debate what’s more important: knowledge or skills; theory or application; and learning inputs or outcome. These pairings, though, are often considered dichotomous, i.e., mortal enemies. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I often think back to the early 2000s, when I worked extensively with Cargill Inc., Minneapolis (, to support maintenance and reliability (M&R) excellence. I’m not sure who among the corporation’s smart, dedicated M&R professionals came up with it, but their battle cry really resonated with me: “Do the right work right.” What a simple and elegant slogan. Let’s explore it as it pertains to knowledge and skills.

Doing work right is essential to precision maintenance. Consider FLAB, an acronym for fasteners, lubrication, alignment, and balance, as a case in point. As emphasized in my workshop on cutting FLAB with proactive maintenance, the execution of precision maintenance is important in targeting the causes of premature failures. “Cutting the FLAB,” however, requires people that possess the skills (and tools) that are necessary to achieve precision in the control of failure root causes.

But, what if work that’s properly executed isn’t the work that’s actually required to achieve the intended objective of improving reliability and lowering maintenance costs? As a simple example, suppose you’re experiencing excessive tire wear on your vehicle to the point of misalignment. In response, your mechanic removes the wheels and tires and perfectly executes a precision balance, and then reinstalls them on the vehicle. Will this solve your problem? It’s unlikely. The work of balancing the wheels and tires was done right, but it’s wasn’t the right work. You got a precision balance when you needed a precision alignment.

Doing the wrong work, no matter how perfectly it’s executed, won’t necessarily fix a problem, and could even exacerbate it.

This is where knowledge comes in. Executing a precision balance or a precision alignment on your wheels and tires are very important skills. But, one requires knowledge to recognize which task is required to achieve the desired result. In our field of reliability, tools such as quantitative reliability analysis; root-cause analysis (RCA); failure-reporting, -analysis and  -corrective-action system (FRACAS); and condition-monitoring-data analysis provide the knowledgeable technician, engineer, and/or manager with information needed to apply their knowledge, assuming they possess it.

During my career, I’ve observed many instances where work was being scheduled and executed correctly and with an appropriate level of precision, but it simply wasn’t the right work to solve the problem. Consider oil analysis revealing that the oil in a gearbox is dirty. An oil change is scheduled, and the next month oil analysis reveals that the oil is still dirty, even though the oil change was executed correctly. The problem is that changing the oil won’t fix the problem of dirt being ingested through a seal or a breather. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem. Translation: We need to do the right work right.

To recap: This month’s column on knowledge versus skills is a follow-up to my Jan. 2019 column on skills versus behaviors. Next month’s discussion will focus on wisdom and leadership. All of these ingredients are essential in the seeking-reliability recipe. EP

Drew Troyer is a senior manager with T.A. Cook Consultants, The Woodlands, TX. Email



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