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1 September 2013

Over the past three issues, we’ve explored the concept of the Maintenance Journey including issues related to the difficulty of change, the five stages of the journey, and the main identifiers of each stage along with the drivers, rewards and behaviors.

In this final issue of this series, I’d like to review ways to move along the journey towards improved maintenance practices. Of course, there is not nearly enough space in an article such as this to cover all aspects of improving your maintenance practices, but we can discuss a few key points that will allow you to make progress on your own journey towards world-class maintenance.

The first step of the journey is just recognizing that there is a need to improve. The next step is to identify where you currently are on the journey. To do this requires an honest assessment of your maintenance operation. Consider your situation as if you were an outsider and challenge every aspect. The previous articles in this series described companies at the various stages and the typical behaviors employed.

Once you know where you are and you have a feel for what you want to achieve, the next step is to identify those things that you need to accomplish in order to get there. That’s not so easily done – if it was, everyone would do it. Often it takes someone from outside the organization to help guide the way, who has experienced getting past potential pitfalls.

Just because you want to be at the World Class stage doesn’t mean you can leapfrog the stages in between. Just making the transition from one stage to the next is a major accomplishment. Rushing from one stage to the next is not usually a very effective way to go about any journey; it often leads to trips down wrong paths and wasted steps. A slow and steady pace is usually more effective. The key is to consistently move forward while taking frequent readings of your progress and charting your next moves.

When you decide to move your company along this journey you will often encounter resistance. Change is difficult because we are creatures of habit and we get comfortable doing what we know and we often resist efforts to change.

Change must be embraced by everyone in the company, from the top down to the lowest level. A middle manager trying to move a company along this journey in isolation will meet resistance at every step – from both those above and those below him in the organization. It is absolutely critical to get buy-in from upper management on an undertaking of this sort and, once that is secured, the company’s commitment needs to be communicated throughout the entire organization.

And finally, communication is key to successfully navigating your way along this journey. Keeping everyone apprised of the goals and the resulting progress is critical. If you have a company newsletter, this is a good place to note accomplishments and to recognize others for their achievements. Another effective means of communicating progress is by using wall charts that show how the company is progressing against its goals. You will need to keep everyone up to date in order to maintain the needed support throughout the organization.

The idea of tackling this journey might be a challenging one, but I do hope that this series has inspired you to think more about this topic. The trip can be arduous and is not without risks, but the payoff can be huge. And, in a business climate where we are all facing pressure to extract more with less, it is getting to the point where we may have no choice but to embark on this journey or risk failure.

If you would like more information about making such a journey, please reach out to the Castrol Heavy Duty Field Engineering team for expert assistance.