Management Reliability

Fourth Annual Culture Awards Winners

Gary Parr | March 1, 2023

By Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director and Dr. Klaus Blache, Univ. of Tennessee RMC

Whether it’s to attain sustainable efficiencies, instill proactive maintenance practices, or move toward greater digital transformation, the biggest challenge is changing the plant-floor thinking process. A key component to the success of any significant change effort is establishing and sustaining a collaborative culture that maximizes use of asset data and enables workers at all levels to have input that will advance plant performance. It’s that culture that’s the focus of the annual Reliability of Everything Culture Improvement Awards, sponsored by Efficient Plant magazine and the Univ. of Tennessee Reliability & Maintainability Center.

Each year the awards program selects recipients in any of the three categories: Best Culture Start-Up, Best Sustaining Culture Program, and Best Culture Innovation. This year there are two winners, both in the Best Culture Start-Up category. The companies have made significant progress toward establishing a reliability and maintainability process with people-focused initiatives. EP

Best Culture Start-Up

Domtar Corp. Rothschild, WI

The Domtar, Rothschild, WI, award-winning team (l-r): Scott Selting, Mike Hack, Dana Degner, Pat Winnie, Travis Suchon, Steve Krautkramer, and Charles Dehnel.

With corporate offices in Fort Mills, SC, and Montreal, Quebec, Domtar Corp. (, is the largest integrated manufacturer and marketer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America. Eleven pulp, paper, and packaging mills and nine manufacturing/converting sites in North America account for worldwide sales of $3.7 billion (70% paper, 30% pulp). North America accounts for 96% of paper sales and 46% of market pulp. Worldwide employment is approximately 6,000. Produced are about 2.4 million tons of freesheet and 3.4 million metric tons of softwood, fluff, and hardwood pulp.

Sustainability is a priority with 70% of plant power coming from renewable energy. The company also has an 83% beneficial use/recycling rate. In addition, Domtar achieved a 28% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions and lost-time safety incident reductions of 68% from baselines in pulp & paper mills. 

The Domtar team in Rothschild, WI, is recognized for its improvements, especially in the Lubrication Department. They are well on their way to transforming from their previous oiler culture to a Predictive Maintenance-based reliability program. This improvement has not been easy, but they were fortunate to have guidance from their Corporate Reliability team. With corporate leadership and funding, they’ve successfully integrated vibration analysis into a new Reliability Department. They also have greatly expanded the use of oil analysis to predict and prevent issues, and to find root causes. Working in conjunction with the vibration team they have significantly reduced equipment failures. 

This transformation was possible because of the people involved. It took union leaders, management, the apprenticeship program, and technicians, working together, to make these improvements a reality.  There’s still a lot of work to do (it’s a journey, not an event), but they believe the precision lubrication improvements to their culture were necessary to remain competitive. Domtar’s commitment to implementing Precision Maintenance has laid the foundation for building reliability processes of the future. Their changing culture is empowering people, who are energized to move their reliability journey forward.

Best Culture Start-Up

Owens Corning, Joplin, MO

Owens Corning Joplin award-winner team members: K.C. Christensen, Plant Leader; Craig Davis, Planner; Dionne Davidson, TPM Leader; Dave Woodward, Reliability Technician; Scott Miller-Platt, Operations Leader; Mike Durbin, Maintenance Supervisor; Nate Hamblin, Financial Leader; Aaron Sanders, Technical/Quality Leader; Alex Jurek, Safety and Environmental Leader; John Tunnell, Controls & Automation Lead; David Jenkins, Reliability Technician; Mike Manes, HR Leader; and Calvin Dennis, Maintenance & Reliability Leader. Members not shown: Mike Palomar, Maintenance Supervisor; Mike Bernard, PdM & Lubrication Champion; and Jason Bryan, Operations and Warehouse Leader and previous Interim Maintenance Leader.

In 2017, Owens Corning, Toledo, OH (, constructed and opened a new Mineral Wool Insulation production facility in Joplin, MO. Like most plant startups, challenges were encountered. The plant gained traction and investments were made to improve performance, but hourly and salary turnover remained high, while performance goals fell short of target. The pandemic made matters worse. In 2021 and 2022, transformation work continued in Joplin and the following actions were taken:

• leadership roles were filled 

• focused improvement initiatives kicked off

• assessments were conducted 

• short- and long-term plans were developed

• Leading Pink corporate program was launched.

The plant, on its Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) journey, committed resources to combat high-loss equipment through Focused Improvement initiatives. The challenge required a high level of focus and energy from everyone as machine issues were addressed. A new workforce was hired and trained to replace those who left during the pandemic. 

In February 2022, an assessment, with Reliability & Maintainability Center (RMC), Business & Enterprise Maintenance & Reliability resources, was conducted. It highlighted opportunities for improved reliability, and short- and longer-term plans were developed. As short-term plans were in process, a focused workshop of leaders and technicians was held to develop the longer-term plan. The team committed to a top-five-element plan with a common goal to achieve world-class performance. During this same period, Owens Corning launched its Leading Pink Leadership Plan, which trained its leaders on inclusion and diversity, focusing on people development and leading high-level teams.

The maintenance and reliability team collaborated with the operations, technical, TPM, and business and enterprise reliability teams to create a sustainable culture.  The team focused on:

• using root-cause analysis to eliminate breakdowns 

• implementing precision-maintenance best practices 

• optimizing and improving PM completion by 30% 

• growing and developing maintenance technicians with internal and external training 

• becoming laser focused on planning and scheduling

The maintenance leader, with full support from the plant leadership team, provided new growth and development opportunities for technicians. Several techs were promoted to leadership roles while several others attended reliability training to grow and develop their skills.

A reorganization of the maintenance supervisors’ schedules provided work-life balance while maximizing plant support. In addition, the Joplin plant used surveys to address employee needs. As a result, the plant has seen a decrease in turnover, an increase in morale, and an empowered and engaged workforce with a voice that is now heard loud and clear. By building these relationships and empowering people, the plant has achieved record operating performance, while serving customers at the highest levels.



Gary Parr

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