Make the Invisible Visible – Data Matters (original post date: 3/25/15)

rusted gauge“I’ll know it when I see it!”

Countless conversations where at least one person heroically proclaims…“I can tell the state of maintenance and reliability practices just by walking through the operations!” As fists pound the table—where grunts and smirks suggest that either side of truth may be in play.  Such insight!  Surely one must claim this remarkable gift or surrender their “all-knowing” chest-thumping status.

We all sense the obvious signs of poor maintenance—leaks, corrosion, contamination, squeaks and squeals, smells of burning, rot and decay, dents and dings, cracks and holes, bent frames, unhinged or unbolted access panels…  All things that suggest that assets have deteriorated through use, neglect, multiple repairs, or were subjected to an angry assault driven by unrestrained frustration.   Or to the contrary… the obvious signs of good maintenance.  Where all things appear clean, well-kept, organized, with well written maintenance checklists, marked up and signed hanging on or near the equipment.

“It’s not what you’re looking at that matters most is what you’re looking for.”

I recall the first time I participated in a group tour of the Toyota plant in Georgetown Kentucky—a clean well organized smooth flowing production operation.  All the equipment appeared well-maintained and humming right along. The purpose of the tour was to experience the Toyota production system at work, in real life, with American workers right here in Kentucky.

Perhaps the most challenging part of the tour was the feedback session at the end. We were asked, “What did you see?”  The group gushed glowing compliments of the plant’s organization and efficiency.  Our tour guide appeared quite dismayed with the shallowness of the comments. He knew the group lacked insight on the inner workings and hidden mechanisms that truly propelled production and maintenance operations.  He quickly earned the right to lead our group by steering the conversation from what we were looking “At” to what we should be looking “For.”  Have you earned this right?

Time to Kick the Box!  

“I see said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw!”

I have just taken away your ability to see, smell, hear, and touch the plant operations.  The operations has provided you a stack of data… nothing else. How would you discover the inner workings and hidden mechanisms of maintenance and reliability practices?  How would you evaluate their completeness and soundness?  How would you know if the operation is advancing towards a portfolio of future perfect assets; where assets never fail over their useful life?

Would enjoy any insights you can share… as we begin the Make the Invisible Visible – Data Matters series.   It’s my objective to post at least one blog per week on this subject until I have exhausted my insight or your patience to participate in the discussion.  Here are but a few thought starters.  What does the data tell me about the configuration of the operations, specific equipment, components, parts, and so on.    What does the data tell me about the performance, safety, maintainability and reliability of the same?  What does the data tell me about the confidence that the organization has its maintenance and reliability resources? What does the data tell me about the ability of the organization to improve its practices?

Join me in “making the invisible visible – data matters.”  Rich