Maintenance Preventive Maintenance Reliability & Maintenance Center Work Processes Workforce

Move To The Proactive Jungle

EP Editorial Staff | July 20, 2022

Moving from reactive to proactive maintenance practices is much like moving from the arid, leeward side of a mountainous tropical island to the windward side where the jungle provides resources for growth.

Choosing lifestyle over pay has always been a characteristic of millennials and the pandemic has increased this tendency in all other generations.

People are far less willing to accept dull, dirty, dark, and dangerous conditions for more pay. In fact, they often take jobs for significantly less pay to have predictable schedules, better hours, and safer conditions. The proactive maintenance model offers every plant the opportunity to be less dull, dirty, dark, and dangerous, i.e., to create the work environments people desire.

Nature has some good examples of how much better life can be a short distance away. On most mountainous tropical islands, the windward side is jungle and the leeward side is arid. It’s the same island and the same mountain but the environments on each side are radically different. If you never travel from one side of the island to the other, it would be hard to believe the difference is possible. Reactive and proactive maintenance are radically different, too. Though, if you have only ever lived with one model, you may find it hard to believe that conditions can be so much better.

You can fine-tune your lifestyle to fit desert conditions, but you will never be afforded the luxury of ample fresh water that is enjoyed in the jungle. You may optimize the way you perform reactive maintenance and fix repairs with the speed and agility of a pit crew, but you will never achieve the uptime and cost performance of proactive maintenance. The environments are just too different. 

Consultants see both sides of the mountain. Our challenge is knowing something with absolute certainty and convincing others that it’s real. When we’re successful, we lead leaders to the other side of the mountain. This is often the most difficult moment in an entire reliability transformation program because it is the turning point where the executive becomes a leader for change or opts to stay put. 

For an executive to question the potential scale of the benefits is completely rational. When you drive incremental change in a mode of operations for years, achieving minimal gains in OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), how could it be possible to improve by 5% to 10%? I have had plant managers tell me that they have been making improvements for more than a decade and there’s no way they could cut that much more downtime. Life in the desert is hard and they have gotten good at it.

Proactive maintenance follows a completely different process model that uses less energy and is safer and more profitable. These are qualities that every executive wants, so why isn’t everyone doing it? Because you can’t get there by applying continuous-improvement techniques to the reactive-maintenance model. You can’t make a jungle on the desert side of the island. You have to disrupt the current state and embrace transformation. You can’t just buy gadgets and widgets. You have to change the way people work. You need to move the whole team to the other side of the mountain.

The shift taking place in the labor force should be a wake-up call to plants that live the reactive-maintenance model. Since there aren’t more bodies to help bring failed assets back on line, management may at least begin to ask if there is a better way. It’s also important to recognize that millennials want a different way of working. They don’t want to grind it out in the desert. Why not make a move to a better environment?  EP

Will Goetz is Vice President of Corporate Development at Performance Consulting Associates Inc., Duluth, GA. For more information about transforming your maintenance operations, visit pcaconsulting.com.

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