RMM Part 2: Belief-Driven Strategy


In our last issue, Christer explained “Belief 1” of his maintenance strategy in depth. This time, we’ll take an overview of the first nine in a set of 15 beliefs developed from his time spent in various reliability and maintenance positions over the span of six decades throughout 52 countries.

Belief I: Simply reducing costs does not improve reliability. Improved reliability results in cost reduction.

As noted in our Nov/Dec issue (page 37): “Reliability performance is measured here as the result of (% Quality) x (% Time) x (% Speed), or Overall Production Efficiency (OPE). To sustainably reduce cost, you need to focus on what drives cost, not just cost alone. Improved production reliability improves safety and drives down costs.”

Cost reduction often leads to short-term gains and long-term losses. Just because you cut the number of employees does not mean that their work will disappear, and it certainly does not mean that reliability will improve. Even if your production lines are not sold out, the biggest saving potential is increased production reliability, because it shortens the processing time from raw material to finished product.

Improved reliability also improves safety and energy consumption efficiency.

Belief II: People cannot be more productive than the system they work in allows them to be.

No matter how much effort is put in, not even highly skilled people can be effective if they are forced to work in a reactive, unplanned, and unscheduled system. For example, in a reactive system people won’t be able to use their skills to execute work with precision, so the resources spent on training for those skills have been wasted.

Belief III: Leaders are obligated to develop, communicate, and coach implementation of these processes.

One of the most important things you can do as a leader is develop and document the reliability and maintenance management system as a whole. This encompasses the processes in that system and the elements in the processes, e.g., an overview of the holistic reliability and maintenance management system, the work management process within that system, and the elements within the work management process (including how to set the right priorities for work requests and work orders, etc.)

When this is done you will have a very well-defined reliability and maintenance management strategy. You can use this documented strategy to drive implementation and measure progress toward your vision.

Belief IV: It is more important to do the right things than to do things right.

Deciding on “the right things to do” is leadership. “Doing things right” is the execution of those things. When developing your reliability and maintenance management strategy, you should only focus on the right things to do and avoid discussing how to do them. This is because it is easier to come to an agreement on the right things to do than how they should be done.

As long as the right things are done it is less important how they are done. There are many ways organizations of different sizes, skill levels, and cultures can successfully execute.

Belief V: The right people are an organization’s most vital asset.

A popular concept is that “people are our most valuable asset.” I do not agree with this statement. It should be: “the right people are our most valuable asset.” That is a statement I would agree with.

Many improvement initiatives fail because the right people are not accountable and responsible for the task they are assigned. It does not mean that these people cannot be right in another position. Developing the organization so that the right people are in the right position is a continuous process.

Belief VI: Busy people are not productive unless they are working on the right thing.

Therefore, measurement methods such as time studies and “wrench time” will not work. In fact, an indication of a very good maintenance organization is that people are less busy with “wrench time” between shutdowns.

Instead, more time is spent on Root Cause Problem Elimination (RCPE) and preparing for the next shutdown. This is possible because there are very few breakdowns. If work is planned and then scheduled (see illustration), people will work on the right things, so it is more important to measure the effectiveness of the process people work in then to measure the symptoms of the process people work in.

Belief VII: People do not mind change, but do not like to be changed.

My experience is that people do not like, and seldom buy into, changes handed down from above without an explanation of what, why, and how. If people are well-informed and feel heard, they will have an easier time understanding and accepting the reasons for change. Repeated information along with education and training are essential elements of any improvement initiative involving people.

Belief VIII: Basic maintenance processes must be in place before implementing more advanced tools.

Many organizations start new improvement initiatives before they are ready. Some examples include:

•  Starting Reliability Centered (RCM) Training and analysis before they are ready. They are still too reactive because they aren’t competent with the basics. 

•  Training craftspeople in precision maintenance training while they work in a reactive process. When work is urgent, they are rushed and unable to properly use the skills they were trained to do. This leads to frustration and loss of skill level.

•  Upgrading to an advanced Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) before the organization is ready. Good practice is to first design the processes, and then implement the new system.

Belief IX: Rapid and sustainable change does not exist in maintenance because the change process is 90 percent about people and behaviors.

Is rapid change possible in a maintenance organization? If change is equivalent to sustainable improvements, then the answer to this question is no.

Why? My experience has shown that 90 percent of improvement in maintenance performance is about people and 10 percent is about technology and processes. This does not mean that technology and process design are not important. It is very important to design the right processes to enable productivity from the team. However, that is the easy part in an improvement initiative. This part might take only 5-10 percent of the effort in time and money.

What takes time is to transform an undisciplined, reactive organization into one with a disciplined process. Your organization might have many “maintenance heroes” who value the recognition they receive when they repair a broken-down piece of equipment. They might also be rewarded by overtime pay following the logic that equipment is more likely (76 percent) to break down when the full maintenance crew is not in the mill.

Technology is also very important. Acquisition of vibration analysis equipment, precision alignment tools, handheld computers, etc. is easy because most maintenance people love gadgets and tools. Again, determining how to integrate these tools into a disciplined process is often a challenge.

Integration might be something basic—for instance, a system for planning and scheduling the correction of equipment failures discovered early by any of these tools. Making that process work is what takes time. It might include changing a common habit of many people requesting maintenance work—requesting a higher work priority than is necessary—through teaching them that doing so will drive the organization into a reactive mode. It might require updating the bills of materials so planners can plan more efficiently. It will require a close partnership between operations and maintenance so that work priority is determined based on what is most important for the business. These are just a few examples to demonstrate that 90 percent of the effort of improving maintenance performance is about people.

Through all my years in the reliability and maintenance management business I have both created and witnessed the formation of countless well-written plans and presentations only to see that they were never truly implemented. Most organizations know what they need to do; that is not the problem. The problem is the failure to make the system and processes that you designed—and agreed to—work. I call this phenomenon the “Know-Do Gap.”

Despite all of this, I have worked with many organizations that achieved excellence in reliability and lower costs. The common denominator of these organizations is that they close the “Know-Do Gap.” They think long-term and clearly define the best practices, they consistently communicate these practices, they provide the right tools, and they consistently execute these practices long-term. 


Now that we have explored the details of some different beliefs, I want to remind you of the reason they were created. In a leadership role, you need to create an organization of followers who will help make your vision, or future organization, a reality. As a leader myself, I have found it very important to develop and communicate my beliefs to the organization. These beliefs will guide your team on their journey toward accomplishing goals.

It’s as simple as that. Through establishing beliefs that cover essential elements, you can create the culture focused on proper planning, scheduling, and execution that all successful organizations have.   

Christer Idhammar operates by a set of beliefs developed from his time spent in various R&M positions over a 60-year career. His wide range of experience includes working on board ships in engine rooms and later mostly in process industries including food, pulp and paper, iron and steel, chemical, mining, and auto manufacturing. He discovered very early on that reliability and maintenance management is much more about good management and strong leadership than technology.