Archive | December


7:39 pm
May 5, 2009
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Part I… Building Cultures Of Reliability-In-Action

Development of effective decision-making skills and behaviors is the foundation of human reliability. This human element is crucial to your equipment and process reliability.


Process-oriented organizations drive value by improving their business processes and equipment performance. At the same time, however, a number of applications, including asset management, work process improvement, defect elimination and preventive maintenance, among others, can be powerful but incomplete applications when seeking to sustain a competitive edge.

To implement and sustain high-performing, reliable cultures, managers need to be as rigorous about diagnosing, designing and implementing changes to the human decision-making process as they are with their business and equipment processes. Equipment and process reliability ultimately rest with human reliability. Thus, cultural change at its deepest level requires examining human reasoning and its resulting decisions.

To establish a culture-of-reliability requires going beyond the traditional stew of copycat approaches and learning how to: (1) use actionable tools to implement and sustain reliability improvements and bottom-line impact by (2) collecting cultural action data and (3) learning how to use that data to uncover hidden bottlenecks to performance.

In the quest for high performance, well-intentioned managers often launch cultural change efforts using what they believe to be applied methods, like employee surveys, team building, empowerment, leadership style, systems thinking, formal performance appraisal, 360° feedback, you name it, only to be disillusioned in the end by the fact that more change efforts fail than succeed. Although they may be well-accepted, traditional change methods are not precise enough to create and sustain cultures-of-reliability and typically evolve into the next flavor of the month.

The learning exercise
For the past 16 years I have been conducting a specific learning exercise related to cultural change. The purpose is to help participants understand why implementation is so hard. There are five objectives for the session:

  1. To discover root cause of implementation barriers;
  2. To illustrate the interdependent relationship between learning and error;
  3. To determine how participants personally feel when they make mistakes;
  4. Based on their experience of error, to understand how humans design a culture-in-action to avoid errors and mistakes; and
  5. To determine the costs of error avoidance to business and human dignity.

To start, participants construct a definition of competitive learning which, at its root, is defined as the detection and correction of mistakes, errors, variance, etc., at ever-increasing rates of speed and precision—the heart of reliability. Through poignant illustrations, they learn that their organizations tend to focus on making fast decisions (“time is money”), timelines, milestones etc., but at a cost to precision, the quality of the decision.

Based on that definition, the participants are asked to reflect on a recent performance mistake they have made on the job or in life. The response from hundreds of them—male and female, Fortune 500 executives, managers, supervisors, engineers, technicians and craftsmen—are very consistent. When they make an error they feel: shame, anger, frustration, stupid, embarrassed, inadequate with an impulse to hide the error and, at the same time, a desire to fix it. The result is an emotionally charged picture of wanting to fix mistakes coupled with an overwhelming response to hide them for fear of blame.

As the exercise unfolds, participants gain insight into how learning and mistakes, trial and error shape performance and how ineffective learning patterns persist for years. For example, individuals from process industries have revealed they’ve known that less-than-effective outages and turnarounds have existed for years; that “lessons-learned” sessions don’t successfully address operations and maintenance infighting and squabbles over what quality work means and the validity of data; that stalled work management initiatives or reprisals for management decisions are a fact of life; etc. The list goes on and on. Discovering why his division had not been able to penetrate a market for over 20 years, one vice president-level participant summed up the dilemma this way: “The costs [of ineffective learning] are so high, they are un-estimateable.”

Through collective reflection in a larger group, participants come to realize that they all experience learning in very similar ways. They also come to learn that their reasoning is very similar. They typically espouse that continuous learning is important and mistakes are OK, but, in the final analysis, mistakes are categorized as critical incidents on performance appraisals or simply seen as ineffectiveness.

When performance appraisal is tied to pay, rewards and promotion, participants indicate that they would have to be foolish, if they “didn’t put the best spin” and save face at any cost. “I have a mortgage to pay” is how many respondents put it. At the same time, they acknowledge learning does occur, but at a rate that leaves much to be desired. “It’s not all bad,” is how many participants put it. Yet, this is not really a case of being bad. Rather, it is a case of sincere, hard-working people unknowingly designing a culture with a set of unintended outcomes.

At this point, participants begin to gain insight: they say one thing and do another. Moreover, they come to understand that it is easy to see defensive patterns in others, but not so easy to see defensive patterns in themselves. Not surprising, being defensive is espoused as not ok. Hence, good team players should be open to feedback. Not being open would be admitting a mistake, the very essence of pain.

In the final phase of the learning exercise, participants come to recognize that they have a strong desire to learn and they seek noble goals, but that fears of retribution for telling the truth, blame, fear of letting someone down or fear of failure, whether in substance or perception, contribute to a sense of loss of control. Unfortunately, this situation violates the first commandment of management: BE IN CONTROL.

The need for control translates into a hidden performance bottleneck, given the complexity of job interdependencies and systemic error. As one individual noted, “I can’t control what I can’t control, but I am held accountable. Accountability translates into who to blame.” Participants acknowledge that they subtly side-step difficult issues and focus on the more routine, administrative issues, thereby reducing emotional pain and conflict in the short term. They acknowledge that they bypass the potential for higher performance by not reflecting on gaps in decision-making.

Ironically, as these decision bottlenecks limit performance, expectations for better performance increase, often resulting in unrealistic timelines and more stress. Executives complain they just don’t get enough change fast enough, and middle managers and individual contributors complain of “micro-management.” Sound familiar?

The end result is that sincere attempts to improve the status quo slowly are cocreatively undermined and inadequate budgets and unrealistic timeframes are set. Good soldiers publicly salute the goals, but privately resist because their years of experience have taught them to think in terms of “what’s the use of telling the truth as I see it; this, too, will pass.” Ultimately, many see the “other guy(s)” or group as the problem and wonder why we can’t “get them” in line. This is the heart of an organizational fad—something that often is labeled as the lack of accountability.

Based on participants’ data generated from this learning exercise and action data recorded and collected from the field (see Part III of this series for the data collection method), a culture-inaction model, similar to that shown in Fig. 1, is created and verified with illustrations. Participants consistently agree this type of model is accurate and reflects their own current cultures-in-action.

Underlying assumptions…
The culture-in-action model is rooted in human reasoning. Given the assumptions of avoiding mistakes and being in control to win and look competent in problem resolution, the reasoning path is clear. The behaviors make perfectly good sense.

When seeking solutions, multiple perspectives will proliferate on which solution is best, some with more risk, some with less. Think of it as inference stacking. A complex web of cause and effect, solutions and reasons why something will or will not work are precariously stacked one upon the other, up to a dizzying height.

Determining whose perspective is right is problematic (“Your guess is as good as mine”). Hence, controlling the agenda to reduce frustration either by withholding information (“Don’t even go there”) or aggressively manipulating people to submit or comply with someone else’s views to get things done is a logical conclusion based on the underlying assumptions.

It is not surprising that executives seek to control their organizations and focus on objectives—and when they do this that middle managers privately feel out of control because they think they are not trusted to implement initiatives or handle day-to-day routines. This leads to the following managerial dilemma: If I voice my real issues, I will not be seen as a good team player. If I stay silent, I will have to pretend to live up to unrealistic expectations. Either way is no win (a real double bind).

To overcome this dilemma, people verify and vent their emotions one-on-one, i.e. in hallways, restrooms and offices. This way, they avoid confronting the real issue of how they are impacted by others, which is diffi- cult to discuss in a public forum (“Don’t want to make a career-threatening statement”). Instead, they seek thirdparty validation that their beliefs are the right ones to hold (“Hey, John, can you believe what just happened in that meeting? I don’t think that strategy is going to work; didn’t we try it 10 years ago?”). Even the best-performing teams demonstrate some of these performance-reducing characteristics. The culture becomes laden with attributions about others’ motivation, intent and effectiveness and it is labeled “politics.”

Routine problems often are uncovered, organizations do learn, but the deeper performance bottlenecks, hidden costs, sources of conflict and high-performance opportunities are missed because the focus is on putting the “best spin” on “opportunities for improvement” with a twist of language to avoid the “mistake” word. That’s because mistakes are bad and people don’t like to discuss them. Interestingly enough, there are even objections to using the word “error” during the process of the exercise. It is not surprising that when trying to learn and continuously improve a turnaround, business process or project, for example, people privately will conclude “Oh, boy, here we go again. Another wasted meeting debating the same old issues.” Negative attributions proliferate (“They don’t want to learn”) and underlying tension grows.

At this stage of the process, the pattern begins to repeat itself. As the project effort falls behind, expectations build. Typically, someone will be expected to “step up” and be the hero. With eyes averted, looking down, uncomfortable silence, someone “steps up” and often gets rewarded. Yet this heroic reward doesn’t address root cause (i.e. what accounted for the errors and frustration in the first place). Side-stepping or avoiding the more difficult-to-discuss issues don’t help uncover root cause, but, rather, lead to fewer errors being discovered. As a result, the business goal is pushed a little further out and economic vulnerability is increased.

If the market is robust, errors and mistakes may mean little to a business. The demand can be high if you have the right product, at the right time. As competition increases, however, or the market begins to falter, the ability to remain competitive and achieve what the organization has targeted is crucial. Competitive learning is the only weapon an organization has to maintain its edge in the marketplace.

Major culture-in-action features
In summary, the major features of a true culture-in-action are:

  • Avoidance of mistakes and errors at all cost;
  • Little active inquiry to test negative attributions;
  • Little personal reflection (i.e. “How am I a part of the problem?”);
  • Little discussion of personal performance standards by which we judge others; and
  • Little agreement on what valid data would look like.

As the exercise winds down, it’s not long before someone asks, “So how do you get out of this status quo loop?” When this question comes, because it always does, I turn it back to the group and ask how they would alter this cultural system? The reaction is always the same—silence and stares. No wonder. The answer is not intuitively obvious, even to the most seasoned of practitioners and theorists.

The short answer is rather than “get” anyone anywhere, change has to be based on individual reflection and actionable tools driven through collaborative design and invitation. These actionable tools balance the playing field, at all levels, by helping create informed choice through daily decision-making reflection. Traditional intervention methods focus on changing behavior, learning your style or type, building a vision, etc. There are any number of approaches, all very powerful but incomplete without addressing the underlying reasoning (root cause) that is informing the behavior in the first place.

Coming next month
In Part II, a culture of reliability will be defined, as well as the role of reflection in organizational performance and the actionable tools of collaborative design. MT

Brian Becker is a senior project manager with Reliability Management Group (RMG), a Minneapolis-based consulting firm. With 27 years of business experience, he has been both a consultant and a manager. Becker holds a Harvard doctorate with a management focus. For more information, e-mail:

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6:00 am
December 1, 2007
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Viewpoint: Achieving Excellence


Richard L. Dunn, Executive Director, Foundation for Industrial Maintenance Excellence

Two U.S. plants have been selected to receive the 2007 North American Maintenance Excellence (NAME) Award presented by the Foundation for Industrial Maintenance Excellence. The Alcoa Mt. Holly plant, Goose Creek, SC, and the Baldor Dodge Reliance – Dodge Marion plant, Marion, NC, were selected as award winners after evaluation of their applications and onsite audits of their operations by the NAME Award Board of Directors.

Now in its seventeenth year, the NAME Award is widely regarded as the most prestigious recognition in the maintenance function. Awards are presented to individual plants on the basis of their maintenance departments’ ability to provide “capacity assurance for operational excellence” in the areas of organization, work processes and materials management.

In many ways, the two winners represent the breadth of the possible paths to maintenance excellence. One is a large plant, the other small; one a large maintenance organization, the other not. One plant is primarily a round-the-clock continuous process operation, the other a manufacturer of discrete products. One has a long tradition of striving for and exemplifying maintenance excellence, the other has come to this level only recently.

Alcoa Mt. Holly is a 1.5 million-square-foot aluminum smelter that produces about 500 million pounds of aluminum ingots annually. Its 160 maintenance employees support the 24/7 operation of the plant through a wide variety of preventive and predictive maintenance activities, major equipment overhauls and operation and maintenance of the plant’s substation. In recommending the plant for the NAME Award, evaluators noted its long history of outstanding work planning and scheduling, as well as its excellent communications and cooperation with all production areas.

Dodge Marion manufactures mounted tapered/spherical roller bearings in its 174,000- square-foot facility. Its nine-person maintenance department has developed a strong preventive and predictive maintenance program using various total productive maintenance (TPM) processes.

Both plants have demonstrated enviable records for reliability. Furthermore, both demonstrate that a foundation of sound preventive maintenance practices coupled with a plant-wide respect for the value of maintenance is essential to overall excellence.

Established in 1990 as a way to encourage best maintenance practices and a way to honor those who achieve them, the NAME Award program has presented 20 awards over the years with several awards in some years and none in others. In 2000, the volunteers who administer the award program incorporated as the not-for-profit Foundation for Industrial Maintenance Excellence (FIME) to ensure the program’s continuance and independence from commercial influence. The Board of Directors is made up of past award winners and others with a demonstrated devotion to the values the award represents.

To be eligible, a plant must submit a comprehensive application by June 30 in the year of entry. This application is reviewed by the Board of Directors to determine eligibility for an onsite audit. Following this audit, the Board of Directors again meets to decide if the applicant qualifies in all respects for the award.

The NAME Award recognizes that the Alcoa Mt. Holly and Dodge Marion plants have demonstrated their maintenance competence at a world-class level. The Foundation for Industrial Maintenance Excellence is proud to honor their achievements.

Rick Dunn participated in the establishment of the North American Maintenance Excellence Award and has been active in its activities since inception. He was appointed Executive Director when the NAME Award program was incorporated as the Foundation for Industrial Maintenance Excellence. Information on the NAME Award program is available online at

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6:00 am
December 1, 2007
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Who's Got Time To Train Anymore?


Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Maintenance & Reliability is, and has been, a woefully overlooked career. We need our nation’s best and brightest young minds in Maintenance & Reliability careers NOW! What are we doing to attract and retain them?

What are we doing to train them to maintain the highest levels of equipment performance and reliability? What are we doing to promote pride in workmanship? The situation in many plants is already dire…and getting worse. You can see, hear and sense it everywhere, especially out on the plant floor.

Who’s got time for training
“I learned this job years ago from one of the best. I was under his wing for nearly eight months learning all the aspects of the precision work on this one type of machinery. In the 35 years I have worked here, I have never seen such a lack of training of our new guys. They get a few days training at best. Why, we even have some of the new employees teaching the newer employees how to work on this equipment. Pretty scary if you ask me! Most of them have never even seen the manual that came with these machines, the one that I learned from years ago. The only copy we have now is locked up in the maintenance office. Doesn’t anyone in top management care anymore?”

The skilled mechanic quoted above was truly concerned. We had just discovered that another mechanic at one point cranked down on one of the precision adjustments so far that it badly damaged the machine. The procedure in the equipment manual was not followed. Even though it was still running and making acceptable parts, the $10,000 precision cylinder had been scored beyond repair and there was no spare in stock. After a 12-week estimated delivery time, it would take several more days to replace the damaged parts.

We’ve always done it that way
In another plant, I noticed that four finethreaded machine adjustment bolts had been beaten severely with a hammer. They were so mushroomed that a wrench would no longer fit. (“That’s why we have Channel Lock pliers.”) Logically, and mechanically, any adjustment had to be made by turning the threaded adjusters. No other movement was possible. When asked, the mechanics all responded:

“Why do we hit the adjusters with a hammer? That’s the way we were taught. I guess we’ve always done it that way.”

We couldn’t find the manual
A one-year-old machine’s programmable controller was operated with a touch screen panel. While working on a processing line that fed this final stage unit, we noticed a gaggle of people gathered around the panel poking at it. Then they just wandered away. As we attempted to start up the machine, we discovered that the program had been erased and the machine would not cycle properly. Searching for the machine’s O&M manual, we discovered it underneath a workbench…and half of it was missing! As one individual later explained:

“Somebody must have messed with the program, again. If you touch this icon, then this one, it erases the program. I figured that out the hard way since we’ve never really had training on the programming controls. The manual has some of the control panel information, but it’s still not easy to understand.”

Sure we do regular preventive maintenance
During a hands-on PM workshop on a large integrated manufacturing line, one person discovered a loose bolt (no, it was not a maintenance person). Upon further investigation, we discovered that only one of the four bolts holding this unit together and in alignment was actually in place. One was missing, another one was completely broken off and a third bolt had the head sheared off. The remaining bolt was doing the work of four and was the only link between full operation and catastrophic downtime. After two hours of disassembly and repair, the broken bolt problems were corrected. The situation, evidently, came as surprise to at least one staffer:

“I don’t understand how we could have missed that one. Our monthly PM was just completed a few days ago.”

What’s changed
We are in the midst the “de-skilling” of the American industrial workforce—not by design, but by default. It’s not a new phenomenon either. This frightening trend has been overlooked by far too many of our business, government and academic decision-makers for far too long. We are at a near-critical point-of-no-return as the critical mass of skilled and knowledgeable people leave today’s workplace. Too many of today’s maintenance, reliability and operations personnel have not been adequately trained and qualified to do the jobs they are asked to do day in and day out. Many, if not most, younger and newer employees may not have the same basic skills and knowledge as those whom they are replacing.

Unfortunately, today’s decision-makers often ASSUME the fundamental skills and knowledge that were “common” when they began working 30-plus years ago are the same today. While we hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, these decision-makers are sorely wrong! There has been a fundamental paradigm shift and it is hurting our capital-intensive industries’ performance and reliability.

Think about it. How many of today’s older teenagers and twenty-somethings ever have:

  • Built a birdhouse, a utility box or a shed?
  • Changed the oil and filter in a car or truck?
  • Disassembled a lawnmower, a motorcycle, a jet ski or a snowmobile engine, put it back together and have it run?
  • Assembled a radio, a computer or an electronic robot?
  • Glazed a wood frame window?
  • Rebuilt an automobile engine?
  • Made something useful on a lathe or milling machine?
  • Owned and used a set of mechanic’s or carpenter’s tools?
  • Used a volt-ohmmeter to check a circuit?
  • Welded an angle iron frame or built a metal stand?
  • Soldered copper tubing or brazed steel tubing?
  • Installed and wired a doorbell?

Not many parents spend time with their children and teenagers making things, building projects or doing repairs around the home these days. Many of the fundamental skills and knowledge we took for granted in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s are apparently no longer valued. Luckily, there still are some very good high school vocational programs out there and some very good post-secondary technical colleges too—despite thousands of schools and programs being closed over the years. But, there simply are not enough schools and programs to address the problem we have now—a problem that’s going to get worse before it gets worse.

An overlooked career
As shown in the findings of our 2007 Salary Survey beginning on page 38, Maintenance & Reliability technician jobs can pay quite well. Some industries pay in the $30 per hour range and higher. So, why do countless newly-minted high school grads take jobs that pay less than $10 per hour—and, hop from job to job for years until they find their niche? Why do they go on to a four-year college to try and figure out what career they want to pursue in life? (If you are asking me, that is really an expensive “career education” program!)

We should promote careers in Maintenance & Reliability (not just “maintenance jobs”)! Clean up the workplace and give career-day tours. Help teachers and students understand that good money can be made in a rewarding career with a one- or two-year technical degree. Begin attracting the best and the brightest. Offer high-school cooperative education experience in your plant.

Trainers and coaches
Recruit a few of your senior, highly skilled maintenance personnel to be trainers and on-job coaches. Have them dedicate time documenting proper maintenance and reliability procedures for your critical equipment. Set new expectations; insist that critical maintenance tasks follow “standard procedures” or “standard job plans.” Train everyone who needs to know—everyone who touches the critical equipment—to follow these new standards. Then, hold everyone accountable for following these procedures. Problems will begin disappearing!

Show everybody that you care about how your equipment and plant are maintained. Be proud of your workmanship. Share a positive vision for careers in this arena. Let’s make 2008 the year of “Transforming Careers in Maintenance & Reliability.”

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6:00 am
December 1, 2007
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Keeping things moving… Capture Problems Faster With High-Speed Video Technology


Jane Alexander, Editor-In-Chief

1207_solspot_1Industrial Video Solutions (IVS) supplies high-speed digital video technologies to packaging, manufacturing and paper industries around the world. These systems combine the latest in GigE technology, digital video developments, efficient lighting and an intuitive, feature-rich user interface. The goal: keep that product moving!

Quick-Eye digital video systems help manufacturing and packaging line operators improve production efficiency. Quick-Eye captures high-speed video and replays product and equipment issues in slow motion. It is portable and can be moved to problem areas with little setup time. Operators can eliminate bottlenecks and address the root causes of problems faster.

1207_solspot_2Quick-Eye offers high frame rates, high resolution, multihour video buffer, image analysis, etc. According to IVS, this affordable and simple-to-use technology provides an immediate return on investment (ROI).

WebScanPRO provides advanced monitoring and sheet break analysis for the paper industry and other web process manufacturers, such as non-woven fabrics and plastic sheet. Fast, precise and digitally simple, it, too, offers fast return on investment by continuously recording events that cause machine problems, poor quality and sheet breaks with some of the industry’s most advanced technology, including:1207_solspot_3

  • 100% noise-free digital video;
  • 90 or 200 frames per second at 659×493 resolution, assuring 100% monitoring on the fastest paper machine;
  • Up to 1/100,000 sec shutter speed;
  • Video synchronized to 1-frame and sheet break events saved without operator’s assistance. WebScanPRO offers exhaustive image analysis, including:
  • Grayscale of each frame is displayed with buffered and event video;
  • Real-time regions of interest (ROI) alert operators to changes in video. ROI can be defined for any camera;
  • Digital live video broadcast over the mill network accessible on any computer;
  • WebScanPRO is always on. It never misses a frame; simultaneous video capture, live video, viewing video in the buffer, viewing sheet breaks, ROI image analysis and grayscale analysis;
  • Paper-machine proven lights and camera enclosures.

Industrial Video Solutions, Inc.
McLean, VA

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6:00 am
December 1, 2007
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We asked the questions. Here are our findings. How do you stack up?

After a three-year absence, our annual Salary Survey is back to help you determine how your income stacks up in relation to other maintenance and reliability professionals in today’s industrial arena.

1207_salary1Please note that our 2007 Salary Survey goes well beyond anecdotal information to reflect concrete data regarding the actual state of this industry’s employment marketplace. The data we used to compile this survey was obtained from a random sample of Maintenance Technology and Lubrication Management & Technology readers who completed an anonymous on-line survey. We believe the survey findings reported here to be both accurate and representative of what’s happening in the maintenance and reliability community.

A basic profile
When Maintenance Technology conducted its first salary survey in 1998, average respondent income was $58,748, (including overtime and bonus, which all averages in our findings reflect). Nine years later, the average expected income for 2007 is $86,251—a 32% increase. This also reflects a 3% increase from the average salary of $83,678 that this year’s respondents report having received in 2006.

Furthermore, expected income for 2007 is ranging from $26,000 to $250,000, in comparison to a range of $12,000 to $160,000 in 1998 and $26,000 to $235,000 in 2006.


For those paid on an hourly basis—23.68% of our survey respondents—the average pay rate is $28.30 per hour, equating to an average expected 2007 income of $69,238.

As shown in Fig. 1, the highest percentage of our respondents report an expected 2007 income in the $70,000 to $79,999 range. This also is where the median income, $78,000, is found.

Changes with age
Age of our survey respondents ranged from 26 to 71 years old, with an average of 50.2 years. Half of them are between 45 and 56 years of age. In addition, a large number of respondents are seasoned veterans, having spent an average of 22.2 years working in their fields.

1207_salary_fig2Based on age, the average income increased from $63,333.33 for respondents in their 20s to a high of $88,674 for those in their 50s. For those in their 60s and above, the average reported income dropped by slightly more than $4000. More results are shown in Fig. 2.

The learning curve
Of the survey respondents, 30.2% indicate a trade school diploma as their highest level of educational achievement; 25.9% have a two-year community college degree; 34.5% have a four-year college or university degree; and 9.6% have a masters or doctorate graduate university degree. So how do these educational levels relate to salary compensation?

1207_salary_fig31Typically, the higher the level of education respondents have achieved, the higher their average level of income is. Trade school graduates report an average 2007 income of $74,355; two-year community college graduates report $77,439; four-year college or university graduates report $97,375; those with advanced degrees report $107,301. Each level of education includes a wide range of salaries, as depicted in Fig. 3.

Outside of a formal education, 19% of respondents also hold one or more professional licenses or certifications, which include P.E., CMRP, CPMM and CPE. The average income for Professional Engineers (P.E.) is $113,316; the average income for those designated solely as Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (CMRP) is $85,340; the average income for those designated solely as AFE Certified Plant Maintenance Managers (CPMM) is $77,000. (Note: Too small a number of AFE Certified Plant Engineers (CPE) or those with combinations of certification provided their expected 2007 income to report an accurate average.)

1207_salary_fig4Income by facility size
Survey respondents were asked to indicate the number of workers at their location of employment. The results were as follows: 12% are employed at facilities of one to 49 employees; 9% at facilities of 50 to 99 employees; 20% at facilities of 100 to 249 employees; 18% at facilities of 250 to 499 employees; 13% at facilities of 500 to 999 employees; and 28% at facilities with 1000 or more employees.

Related to salary, respondents working at facilities of 50 to 99 employees report the lowest average income at $68,998. Respondents working at facilities with 1000 or more employees record the highest average salary at $96,748. Fig. 4 displays the results from the remaining facility sizes.

1207_salary_fig5Industry type
We also asked survey respondents to specify the industry sector of their company/facility. The results, combined into five general categories derived from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), include processing, manufacturing, utilities, service and nonindustrial industries.

Based on responses, 40.1% of respondents work in processing industries; 22.1% in manufacturing; 14.6% in utilities; 6.8% in services; and 16.3% in non-industrial. Those in processing report the highest average salary at $94,346. The lowest average salary based on industry, $71,673, is reported by those working in the non-industrial sector. Fig. 5 displays full results.


Who’s doing what
Our survey asked respondents to indicate their level of work involvement. Results show that 13% chose corporate or multiplant; 15% plant or facility manager; 21% reliability or maintenance manager; 6% reliability engineer; 6% reliability technician; 7% maintenance engineer; 9% maintenance technician; 13% supervisor; 10% “other.”

As might have been expected, the average expected income for 2007 was the highest for those involved with corporate or multiplant levels, at $104,746, as is seen in Fig. 6. This is the same result we have found in the seven previous years of our survey. Those involved at the level of maintenance technician indicate the lowest average income at $62,100.

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6:00 am
December 1, 2007
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Why Some Root-Cause Investigations Don't Prevent Recurrence

It doesn’t matter what type of industry you’re in, if failure isn’t an option at your plant, you’ll want to understand why these investigations sometimes fail their mission.

In the nuclear power industry, the primary mission of a root-cause investigation is to understand how and why a failure or a condition adverse to quality has occurred so that it can be prevented from recurring. This is a good practice for many reasons—and a lawful requirement mandated by 10CFR50, Appendix B, Criterion XVI.

To successfully carry out this mission, a root-cause investigation needs to be evidence-driven in accordance with a rigorous application of the bedrock of all root-cause methodologies: the Scientific Method. Consistent with the Scientific Method, underlying assumptions have to be questioned and conclusions have to be consistent with the available evidence, as well as with proven scientific facts and principles.

Sometimes root-cause investigations fail to fulfill their primary mission and the failure recurs. In that regard, diagnosing the root cause of root-cause investigation failures is, in itself, an interesting topic. Here are three common reasons why some root-cause investigations fail their mission.

Reason #1: The Tail Wagging the Dog
As a root-cause investigation proceeds and information about the failure event accumulates, some initial hypotheses can be readily falsified by the preliminary evidence and dismissed from consideration. The diminished pool of remaining hypotheses will likely have some attributes in common. More work is then usually needed to uncover additional evidence to discriminate which of the remaining hypotheses specifically apply.

At this point in the investigation, it may become apparent what the final root cause might be—especially if the remaining pool of hypotheses is small and they all share several important attributes. At the same time, it also becomes apparent what the corresponding corrective actions might be.

By anticipating which corrective actions are more palatable to the client or management, the investigator may begin to unconsciously—or perhaps even consciously—steer the remainder of the investigation to arrive at a root cause whose corresponding corrective actions are less troublesome.

Evidence that appears to support the root cause and lead to more palatable corrective actions is actively sought, while evidence that might falsify the favored root cause is not actively sought. Evidence that could falsify a favored root cause may be dismissed as being irrelevant or not needed. It may be tacitly assumed to not exist, to have disappeared or to be too hard or too expensive to find. It may even just be ignored because so much evidence already exists to support the favored root cause that the investigator presumes he already has the answer.

In logic, this is defined as an a priori methodology. This is where an outcome or conclusion is decided beforehand, and the subsequent investigation is conducted to find support for the foregone conclusion. In this case, the investigator has decided what corrective actions he wants based on convenience to his client or management. Subsequently, he uses the remainder of the investigation to seek evidence that points to a root-cause that corresponds to the corrective actions he desires.


What Really Happened: Failure Of A Zener Diode

This X-ray radiograph shows a 1N752A-type Zener diode that was manufactured without a die-attach at one end of the die, and with only marginal die-attach at the other end. This die-attach defi ciency caused the component to fail unexpectedly in an intermittent fashion. In turn, this led to a failure in the voltage regulator system of an emergency diesel generator system, causing it to be temporarily taken out of service.

The failure of this Zener diode occurred in a circuit board that had seen less than 40 hours of actual service time, although the circuit board itself was over 27 years old. It had been a spare board kept in inventory.

Going to this level of detail to gather evidence might seem extreme. This particular evidence, however, was fundamental to validating the hypothesis that the rootcause in this case was a random failure due to a manufacturing defect, and falsifying the hypothesis that the failure was caused by an infant mortality type failure. In the nuclear power industry, this distinction is significant.

Here is an example: A close-call accident involved overturning a large, heavy, lead-lined box mounted on a relatively tall, small-wheeled cart. The root-cause investigation team found that the box and wheeled cart combination was intrinsically unstable. The top-heavy cart easily tipped when the cart was moved and the front wheels had to swivel, or when the cart was rolled over a carpet edge or floor expansion joint.

The investigation team also found that the personnel who moved the cart in the course of doing cleaning work in the area had done so in violation of an obviously posted sign. The sign stated that prior to moving the cart a supervisor was to be contacted. The personnel, however, inadvertently moved the cart—without contacting a supervisor—in order to clean under and around it.

The easy corrective actions in this case would be to chastise the personnel for not following the posted rules and to strengthen work rule adherence through training and administrative permissions. There is ample evidence to back-fit a root cause to support these actions. Also, such a root-cause finding—and its corresponding corrective actions—are consistent with what everyone else in the industry has done to address the problem, as noted in ample operational experience reports. In the nuclear power industry, the “bandwagon” effect of doing what other plants are doing is very strong.

In short, the aforementioned corrective actions are attractive because they appeal to notions of personal accountability, are cheap to do and can quickly dispose of the problem. Consequently, the root cause of the close-call accident was that the workers failed to follow the rules.

Unfortunately, when the cart and box combination is rolled to a new location, the same problem could recur. The procedure change and additional training might not have fixed the instability problem. While the new administrative permissions and additional training could reduce the probability of recurrence, they would not necessarily eliminate it. When the cart is rolled many times to new locations, it is probable that the problem will eventually recur and perhaps cause a significant injury. This situation is similar to the hockey analogy of “shots on goal.” Even the best goalkeeper can be scored upon if there are enough shots on goal.

Reason #2: Putting Lipstick on a Corpse
In this instance, a failure event has already been successfully investigated. A root cause supported by ample evidence has been determined. Vigorous attempts to falsify the root-cause conclusion have failed. Ok…so far, so good.

On the other hand, perhaps the root-cause conclusion is related to a deficiency involving a friend of the investigator, a manager known to be vindictive and sensitive to criticism or some company entity that, because of previous problems, can’t bear criticism. The latter could include an individual that might get fired if he is found to have caused the problem, an organization that might be fined or sued for violating a regulation or law or a department that might be re-organized or eliminated for repeatedly causing problems. In other words, the root-cause investigator is aware that the actual consequences of identifying and documenting the root cause may be greater than just the corrective actions themselves.

When faced with this dilemma, some investigators attempt to “word-smith” the root-cause report in an eff ort to minimize perceived negative findings and to emphasize perceived positive findings. Instead of using plain, factually descriptive language to describe what occurred, less precise and more positive- sounding language is used. This is called “word-smithing” a report.

“Word-smithed” reports are relatively easy to spot. Instead of using plain modifiers like “deficient” or “inadequate” to describe a process, euphemistic phrases like “less than sufficient” or “less than adequate” are used. Instead of reporting that a component has failed a surveillance test, the component is reported to have “met 95% of its expected goals.” Likewise, instead of reporting that a fire occurred, it is reported that there was a “minor oxidation-reduction reaction that was temporarily unsupervised.”

In such cases, the root-cause report becomes a quasi-public relations document that sometimes has conflicting purposes. Since it is a root-cause report, its primary purpose is supposed to be a no-nonsense, fact-based document that details what went wrong and how to fix it. However, a secondary, perhaps conflicting, purpose is introduced when the same document is used to convince the reader that the failure event and its root cause are not nearly as significant or serious as the reader might otherwise think.

With respect to recurrence, there are two problems with “word-smithing” a root-cause report. Corrective actions work best when they are specific and targeted. A diluted or minimized root-cause, however, is oft en matched to a diluted or minimized corrective action. There is a strong analogy to the practice of medicine in this instance. When a person has an infection, if the degree of infection is underestimated, the medicine dose may be insufficient and the infection may come back.

The second problem is that by putting a positive “spin” on the problem, management may not properly support what needs to be done to fix the problem. Thus, the report succeeds in convincing its audience that the failure event is not a serious problem.

Reason #3: Elementary My Dear Watson
In some ways, root-cause investigations are a lot like “whodunit” novels. Some plant personnel simply can’t resist making a guess about what caused the failure in the same way that mystery buffs often try to second guess who will be revealed to be the murderer at the end of the story. It certainly is fun for a person—and perhaps even a point of pride—if his/her initial guess turns out to be right. Unfortunately, there are circumstances when such a guess can jeopardize the integrity of a root-cause investigation.

The circumstances are as follows:

  • The guess is made by a senior manager involved in the root-cause process.
  • The plant has an authoritarian, chain-of-command style organization.
  • The management culture puts a high premium on being “right,” and has a zero-defects attitude about being “wrong.” the scenario goes something like this:
  • A failure event occurs or a condition adverse to quality is discovered.
  • Some preliminary data is quickly gathered about conditions in the plant when the failure occurred.
  • From this preliminary data, a senior manager guesses that the root-cause will likely be x, because:
    • (1) he/she was once at a plant where the same thing occurred; or
    • (2) applying his/her own engineering acumen, he/she deduces the nature of the failure from the preliminary data, like a Sherlock Holmes or a Miss Marple.
  • Not being particularly eager to prove their senior manager wrong and deal with the consequences, the root-cause team looks for information that supports the manager’s hypothesis.
  • Not surprisingly, the teams find some of this supporting information; the presumption is then made that the cause has been found and field work ceases.
  • A report is prepared, submitted and approved, possibly by the same senior manager that made the Sherlockian guess.
  • The senior manager takes a bow, once again proving why he is a senior manager.

The deficiency in this scenario that can lead to recurrence is the fact that falsification of the favored hypothesis was not pursued. Once a cause was presumed to have been found, significant evidence gathering ceased. (Why waste resources when we already have the answer?) As a result, evidence that may have falsified the hypothesis, or perhaps supported an alternate hypothesis, was left in the field. Again, this is another example of an a priori methodology: where the de facto purpose of the investigation is to gather information that supports the favored hypothesis.

In this regard, there is a famous experiment about directed observation that applies. Test subjects in the experiment were told to watch a volleyball game carefully because they would be questioned about how many times the volleyballs would be tipped into to air by the participants. This they did.

In fact, the test subjects did this so well, they ignored a person dressed in a gorilla suit who sauntered through the gaggle of volleyball players as they played. When the test subjects were asked about what they had observed, they all reported dutifully the number of times the ball was tipped but no one mentioned the gorilla. When they were told about the gorilla, they were incredulous and did not believe that they had missed seeing a gorilla…until they were shown the tape a second time. At that point, they all observed the gorilla. MT

Randall Noon is currently a root-cause team leader at Cooper Nuclear Station. A licensed professional engineer in both the United States and Canada, he has been investigating failures for 30 years. Noon is the author of several articles and texts on failure analysis, including the Engineering Analysis of Fires and Explosions and Forensic Engineering Investigations. He also has contributed two chapters to the popular college text, Forensic Science, edited by James and Nordby. E-mail:

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6:00 am
December 1, 2007
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Polishing A Contracted Maintenance Strategy

Maintenance was never a core competency for this Swedish manufacturer. Now working with an outside service provider, the company truly understands the meaning of “win-win.”

Stainless steel is the fastest growing metal market in the world, not only for its popularity in kitchen appliances but industrial applications as well. The Outokumpu Stainless Hot Rolled Plate (HRP) factory in Degerfors, Sweden serves the latter.

Outokumpu Stainless is one of the world’s four largest producers of hot rolled plate with one of the widest range of products and steel grades within the stainless steel industry. Our Degerfors factory alone produces 120 thousand tons per year. The plates are extremely resistant to corrosion and wear, making them popular in challenging applications and environments including pulp & paper, oil & gas, chemicals and power generation.

1207_polishing1Because our customers depend on us to keep our production lines running, we looked outside the company for maintenance assistance. Gradually, we increased our reliance on contracted maintenance services (“outsourcing”) and raised the bar to higher standards. The strategy has led to our current full-service, performance-oriented, maintenance- management agreement.

Outsourcing evolution
When the plant opened in 1996, we had extensive knowledge of stainless steel production, but little in terms of equipment maintenance. To alleviate the burden, some maintenance tasks were managed internally and others were contracted out on an hourly basis to various service providers. At its peak, about 100 individuals were involved in plant maintenance activities.

For three years, our operational effectiveness (OE) and production availability were high, yet our maintenance costs were prohibitive. The break/fix approach was expensive, and tensions ran high between maintenance and production personnel.

1207_polishing_2By 1999, maintenance was still not a core competency for us. Thus, we resolved to forgo all maintenance responsibility and consolidate it under a single, more conducive contract. We chose to contract 100% of our corrective and preventive maintenance activities in Degerfors under a jointly developed, hourly-based ABB Full Service maintenance agreement.

The agreement established performance objectives that subjected the service provider to bonuses or penalties depending on its performance. This approach allowed the contractor to share the risks and rewards of plant maintenance, and provided the incentive to continuously improve performance. Soon, we had approximately 65 ABB Service employees working at the plant.

In 2001, the arrangement was transitioned from hourly rates to a fixed price so that we could have more predictable budgets. Performance incentives still provided rewards or penalties depending on the results achieved.

1207_polishing_3By 2006, an enhanced four-year contract was negotiated. Plant management, production and maintenance personnel were all involved in developing the new agreement, setting target performance levels and specifying when and how long the machines would be stopped should corrective maintenance be required. More services were added to the agreement and caps were established on certain service costs.

We began conducting weekly management meetings with the provider to assess equipment status, production schedules and maintenance priorities. In our plant, production is moving all the time and production priorities change every week. When corrective action is required, maintenance personnel are reassigned to the highest priority tasks based on equipment criticality and bottleneck location. Our priority classifications are as follows:

  • Level One – Accident risk: Equipment problems that pose a potential danger for the operator are of first concern. All other maintenance is stopped.
  • Level Two – Outage in the hot part of production: Equipment trouble in the hot rolling mill can destroy a lot of materials and suffer the greatest costs.
  • Level Three – Process transition: Bottlenecks in moving from one machine to another affect production throughput and must be minimized.

Operational benefits
One of the greatest advantages of our maintenance outsourcing agreement is having another company at the table. It provides a new way of thinking about maintenance and a new perspective on problems. We can be experts at producing plates, while our contracted service provider can focus on keeping our machines running. Moreover, we can put much greater pressure on an outside party than we would on our own employees.

When the Maximo system was brought in, we saw a tremendous improvement. Our previous maintenance management system was wholly inadequate, and work instructions were often written on paper. Now, all of ABB’s maintenance practices and records are tracked in the new system. Outokumpu also uses the system to manage spare parts.

Our costs have decreased as a result of streamlined operations and better maintenance planning, giving us the ability to do more with less. Maintenance costs now are on par with other departments, while OE and production availability remain high.

The four-year agreement duration also has given our service provider greater incentive to invest more in its maintenance processes, since it now can be assured of seeing the return on its investments before the contract expires.

Convincing results
Among other things, since 2001, our full service maintenance agreement has helped us:

  • Decrease our total maintenance cost by 24%
  • Reduce our maintenance cost per produced ton by 58%
  • Achieve our current customer satisfaction score of 91.2%

What’s most impressive is that, in the same timeframe, we’ve raised our production volume by 80%—to 120 thousand tons. In 2006, as part of our agreement, we added overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) as an additional metric. Much more preventive work is being done now, and the work is being completed more quickly and efficiently.

Ongoing improvement
The performance incentives in the full-service agreement benefit Outokumpu through ongoing operational improvements and the service provider through financial rewards. As such, we are always trying to do things better. Utilizing the industry’s best maintenance practices and systems will facilitate our mutual desire for continuous improvement.

Our greatest test was convincing the corporate office of our strategy’s value. Because Outokumpu’s vision is to be number one in stainless, with success based on operational effectiveness, management questioned whether maintenance outsourcing fit with our corporate goals. Once we explained the arrangement, including the benchmarking, the best practices and the bottom-line benefits, management supported our approach. By entrusting an outside service provider with all our maintenance requirements under the full-service, performance-driven agreement, Outokumpu corporate and the Degerfors plant can look forward to further cost reductions and operational improvements. MT

Mladen Perkovic is production manager for the Outokumpu Stainless Hot Rolled Plate (HRP) Plant.

About ABB Full Service

After years of downsizing and emphasizing core competencies, manufacturers can no longer rely solely on internal staff to meet the demands of designing, implementing, maintaining and optimizing their manufacturing infrastructure. Innovative partnerships that emphasize shared risk, common objectives, and business benefits tied to operating results are emerging to redefine supplier/client relationships.

An ABB Full Service® partnership is a long-term, performance-based agreement in which ABB commits to maintain and improve the production equipment. With a Full Service agreement, ABB takes over responsibility for the engineering, planning, execution and management of an entire plant’s maintenance activities.

Bringing together world-class maintenance and reliability methodologies, parts and logistics management, online tools, and domain expertise, ABB Full Service increases asset effectiveness while keeping tight control of costs.

Each contract is measured against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) developed with the client. To demonstrate its commitment to the client’s success, ABB includes risk/reward sharing in its Full Service contracts, linking ABB’s financial outcome directly to the client’s performance.


  • Improve plant performance
  • Increase reliability and life cycle of production equipment
  • Manage maintenance as a business
  • Manage change and create a service culture
  • Access to resources and knowledge of ABB’s global network

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6:00 am
December 1, 2007
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Executive Perspective: Thank You!


Arthur L. Rice, President

That’s right. I want to thank our loyal readers, contributors and partners for a great run. This issue marks the end of Maintenance Technology’s special year-long 20th Anniversary Celebration. It also marks the beginning of our next 20 successful years of publishing. Projecting our future (and also being a grandfather), I think the words of Buzz Lightyear sum it up best: “To infinity, and beyond…”

Maintenance Technology was founded 20 years ago by a dedicated team of individuals who saw a need to serve maintenance practitioners by promoting Best Practices throughout industry. For the past two decades, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing—delivering the best-read, most-preferred, monthly, independent and audited publication in the market to ever-savvier, increasingly hard-working maintenance and reliability professionals across virtually all industry sectors. Supported by practitioners, industry experts and suppliers who are willing to share their knowledge, skills, experience and technologies/methodologies with you, this powerful, high-quality editorial is now—and always will be—designed to help our readers successfully meet their capacity assurance needs.

Although many things have changed over the past 20 years, Maintenance Technology has stayed the course, never deviating from our primary mission and strategies. We serve our readers. We engage our readers. We listen to our readers. Doing so has led us to grow in some unexpected and exciting ways.

Five years ago, we developed and began presenting Maintenance & Reliability Technology Summit (MARTS) an annual professional development program that has become one of the premier learning and networking events for the maintenance and reliability community. In 2004, we began publishing another standalone magazine, now known as Lubrication Management & Technology, dedicated to improving industrial lubrication programs. More recently, we have begun producing regular quarterly supplements like Utilities Manager and The Fundamentals, focusing, respectively, on energy efficiency and a backto- basics approach to maintenance and reliability. These are just a few of the many things that have helped Maintenance Technology maintain its position as the leading publication in our market. Along with other yet-to-be-determined offerings, they will be among the things that help us grow and better serve you and future generations of maintenance and reliability professionals over the next 20 years.

Because we could not have gotten where we are today without the help of many individuals and organizations, we put a lot of stock in giving something back “to the good of the order.” For example, while building Maintenance Technology into the publication that it is today, we were one of the founding entities of the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Practitioners (SMRP). We also continue to be strongly involved in industry activities such as MER (the Maintenance Excellence Roundtable), NAME/FIME (the North American Maintenance Excellence Award), STLE, ARC, MIMOSA and FSA (the Fluid Sealing Association), among others. We view our participation in these diverse types of initiatives as something that truly helps set a reader-driven publication such as Maintenance Technology ahead of the pack—and that’s a place we always want to be!

It’s been a tremendous 20 years. All of those involved with Maintenance Technology, including past and present staff, contributors, associations, valued advertising partners and you—our loyal readers—deserve my heartfelt appreciation. Again, thank you all! MT

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