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1 March 2019

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in moving your company along the Maintenance Journey to “world class” performance is overcoming what we like to call the “overtime heroes.” These are those mechanics that perform fantastic feats in emergency situations in order to get broken-down pieces of equipment back up and running, often just in the nick of time to prevent huge losses on jobs due to down time and missed deadlines.

These situations can occur in all types of business where heavy equipment is employed. When this happens at a time that threatens completion of a job with a deadline, the losses can increase exponentially. These are guys that tend to be the star employee of the company… everyone knows them and respects them. They walk through the hallways of the company office like rock stars.

So how can these guys be a hurdle to improving maintenance operations? It’s very simple… they have been trained over the years to allow situations to exist that lead to emergency and unplanned failures, which requires a hero to come in and save the day. This often occurs because uninformed management has put insufficient resources and attention towards the maintenance organization, so these super heroes have had to learn how to do whatever is required, often with very limited resources.

There is an old saying that goes like this: “We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.” Sound familiar? Poor management is at fault. The heroes were just doing what they needed to do to save the day and they were intelligent and experienced enough to pull it off.

After doing this for a number of years it often starts to pay off. All those overtime hours spent making emergency repairs can result in a handsome financial payoff. After a while, the hero gets used to this additional income and, other than all the hours spent at work, life can be pretty good. The extra money and the admiration he gets on the job can become a powerful incentive to continue operating the same way and to resist any changes that may put the overtime hours and his status at risk.

So when a change in management philosophy comes about that includes a desire to avoid unplanned emergency repairs, there can be substantial pushback from overtime heroes. Because these heroes have such esteemed status within the company, their buy-in on any changes in maintenance practices is usually required. Attempts at implementing changes to established practices are often doomed to fail without their full support.

So the secret to successfully implementing change is to turn these heroes into champions of change. But why would they do this when it endangers their income and their status? After all, their resistance would be considered normal human behavior.

So how do you move your company forward? The answer is you need to make the overtime heroes leaders of that change… i.e. put them in charge of it, so that others in the company will follow their lead. They need to have some skin in the game.

With changes to your maintenance organization there will always be some uncertainty and trepidation. These heroes have a lot at risk… you will need to give them some reason to embrace that risk… something to look towards to keep their focus on making the change successful… including new rewards.

You will have to replace one reward with another. New rewards should be both financial and personal. Replace overtime pay with some kind of financial incentive for achieving success with implementing the new changes. As an example, provide a bonus for achieving certain steps in the change process… if multiple steps are involved, an incentive should be provided for each agreed-upon milestone.

Financial bonuses may work to achieve successful implementation, but you will need something else to sustain the new process and to keep it going. So replace the respect you give your heroes for performing incredible feats of mechanical magic with recognition and respect for moving the company along the Maintenance Journey.

If your company has an internal company newsletter, print their name boldly in the newsletter, devote an article to how they’ve led the company to success. Do you have a year-end party? That would be a good time to recognize them with some type of award. It’s not important what the actual award is, what is important is the recognition that the heroes receive in front of the whole company. There may be associations that can be joined, so the person can gain recognition from his peers in the industry. These types of recognition can be a powerful incentive to continue moving the company forward on the path to a world-class maintenance program.

The pride that your former overtime hero will have in all of this new recognition will be far more rewarding than the recognition he gained for working all weekend to get a machine repaired for a Monday morning start-up. He will still be the hero… just not the “overtime” hero. Your company will benefit from improved uptime, reduced emergency repairs, and all of the corresponding savings.

Castrol®has a team of experienced, field-based lubrication engineers who can help you identify opportunities to improve your maintenance practices and to reduce your operational costs. Please contact your Castrol sales representative for assistance.