No maintenance organization wants to be characterized by a cliché, specifically this one: Rather than keeping equipment operating in optimal condition, maintenance technicians race around in fire-fighting mode, galloping from one completely broken-down piece of machinery to another that is operating so poorly it can't produce components to spec more than one time out of three.

For most manufacturers, that cliché is -- it is hoped -- an exaggeration. Nevertheless, it is the rare organization that isn't rife with opportunities to improve asset reliability. The challenge is how to make it happen.

Ken Maulsby has some ideas. Maulsby is a 25-year veteran in the maintenance and reliability field as well as a maintenance leader at Owens Corning's insulation manufacturing plant in Fairburn, Ga. The facility employs approximately 270 workers, more than 40 of whom are manufacturing technicians.

Ken Maulsby likes to think of maintenance as a profit center: build uptime, increase capacity, improve money-making opportunities. He can outline a wealth of techniques designed to help improve the maintenance challenge: lubrication excellence, autonomous maintenance, FMEA – all of which are effective.

However, he says the best bet to getting started on the road to maintenance excellence, and then sustaining it, is to focus on the fundamentals and do them with discipline. Maulsby shared some of Owens Corning's efforts during the annual Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals conference.

Owens Corning Reliability Work Process

The Fairburn manufacturing plant where Maulsby works, as well as Owens Corning manufacturing plants across the globe, employs a maintenance system the Toledo, Ohio-based company calls Reliability Work Process, or RWP.  It is the manufacturing company's standard for managing maintenance resources and one of the fundamental components of Owens Corning's global manufacturing strategy focused on the reliability of plant assets.

It is disciplined both in structure and in its specific steps. In terms of structure, the RWP includes several key roles, including the process champion (which is Maulsby at his location), the operations leader, the operations maintenance coordinator, planners, schedulers/supervisors, and technicians and other plant personnel.

This structure emphasizes a key relationship required to improve reliability – production and maintenance working together, not in opposition. For example, the operations manager supports the maintenance process, leading by example and demonstrating to operators that they have a role to play in reliability. Additionally, the operations maintenance coordinator is responsible for ensuring a balance between production demands and the maintenance organization's strategy to keep equipment healthy.

"The operations maintenance coordinator has a vested interest in both sides," Maulsby said.

Further emphasizing this key relationship between departments, one of the maintenance metrics tracked at the Fairburn site is its daily contract with production. The maintenance department schedules also are posted on a wall and online for quick visibility by everyone.

The four steps that comprise the Reliability Work Process sound deceptively simple – work identification, planning, scheduling and execution – but their success relies on rigor and discipline. Each of those steps is clearly defined and significant emphasis is placed on performing actions in the precise order and providing the correct documentation, beginning with maintenance requests submitted through the computerized maintenance management system (SAP in this instance, Maulsby says).

Continuous improvement also is part of the process. Maintenance technicians are required to complete work order feedback forms, which include the question: What can we do to prevent this problem in the future?

So how is the Fairburn plant performing as it pursues maintenance excellence? Maulsby shared several of the metrics tracked by division, including percentage of reactive maintenance (approximately 20%) and SAP utilization (nearly perfect).