Getting the Most from Lubrication Personnel

Noria Corporation
Tags: industrial lubricants

Jus•ti•fy [v. jus•ti•fied, jus•ti•fy•ing, jus•ti•fies] verb, transitive
1. To demonstrate or prove to be just, right or valid (for example, to justify each budgetary expense as necessary)

It is with great pleasure that I write my inaugural Viewpoint column. Over the past four years, Drew Troyer has shared with us through this column his uncanny insight into various aspects of machinery lubrication and equipment reliability. Drew’s commentaries have been based on his background and experience, both as a consultant and trainer in oil analysis and machinery lubrication, and his formal education in business and statistics. With this unique perspective, Drew has provided us with some extraordinary guidance on matters that many of us perhaps have not considered or have taken for granted.

My background is somewhat different from Drew’s. Having spent the early years of my professional career as a research chemist before entering the world of machinery lubrication and oil analysis, I too have had somewhat of an unusual career. While my views and opinions will always be tainted by my background, I won’t put too many chemical equations and formulas in my columns. Rather, I’ll write as an outsider to the world of maintenance and engineering - at least from a formal educational perspective, who has spent the past 10 years learning what makes maintenance reliability folks tick. I hope to share with you my viewpoint on how to achieve the very best in lubrication.

In this column, I would like to examine what makes people successful, from the plant manager to the lubrication technicians; supervisors to operators. How do we get the most from those directly or indirectly involved in lubrication?

Managing People
As I get older and become more experienced, I am increasingly convinced that what I need to do my job better as both a consultant and manager is not more lubrication, engineering or chemistry qualifications, but rather an advanced degree in psychology. The single most important factor for a manager, and the single biggest road block to achieving lubrication excellence is motivating the people involved with the program, helping them to succeed to their fullest potential.

This is particularly true for achieving lubrication excellence. While there are a number of excellent companies which offer outstanding products and services to support precision lubrication, it is the people - and more importantly their attitudes and the pervasive culture within the plant - which will do more to help the success or failure of the lubrication program than any other single factor.

Getting Management Buy-in
In my first column, I want to talk about senior managers, such as plant managers and corporate leaders, and their roles in lubrication excellence. Mangers are typically managers because they understand what it takes to run a successful business. However most managers, unless they’ve progressed through the ranks of the maintenance side of the business, are not usually maintenance-savvy, nor do they need to be. They have entrusted, and hopefully empowered the maintenance team to ensure that equipment is properly maintained.

However, all too often I encounter maintenance managers and supervisors, frustrated by their own senior management team who either won’t listen or don’t seem to get the concepts of proactive maintenance, condition-based maintenance or lubrication excellence. According to these same embattled maintenance leaders, senior management seems to care about one thing – to keep the equipment running no matter what – but don’t spend any more money! The question is: Is it our managers who are wrong, or is there a better approach that might meet with more success? Can we start to understand how managers are trained to think (that’s where the psychology comes in) and use this to our advantage?

Managers live in the world of replacement asset value, asset utilization, quality, yield and production targets. Central to these issues is one underlying factor: money. Managers are paid to manage money and most are good at it. It is not surprising then, that if we ask for money without offering any substantive evidence of how that money will benefit the organization, there is a likely chance that they will not fund the program.

Instead, we need to help our managers understand the need for change, so that they are more likely to provide the necessary funding and resources: in essence justifying our very existence. However, trying to teach our management team how to understand ISO cleanliness codes, mean time between failure and beta ratios is not the way to go. Instead, we must learn to speak their language: the language of dollars and cents.

The reasons for this are simple. While we as maintenance professionals might intuitively understand the value that improved lubrication practices will have, we need to provide a mechanism to help managers see not only the upfront cost, but also the opportunity our proposed program can provide. I have outlined one such approach in my article in this issue of ML, “Lubrication – Maintenance Cost or Opportunity?”. This article presents a method for quantifying in financial terms the potential payback of improved lubrication practices. I encourage you not only to read this article, but also to start using this model – adapted where necessary – to help sell the value of lubrication to your management team.

Most managers are rational, logical people. They not only make decisions based on facts, but they also consider the need to make informed decisions based on educated guesswork. So if you’re eager to make a change but are faced with a resistant manager, ask yourself, “is there a smarter way for me to sell my ideas? Am I simply speaking the wrong language?”

Like my predecessor, this is my viewpoint. And as always, I’m interested to hear yours.