‘Fantasy’​ Maintenance: The Illusion of Best Practices

By Bob Latino

February 13, 2020

Reading Time: 4 minutes


The following article was published in Plant Services earlier this year with the title, “Don’t get stuck in reactive mode – The world of fantasy maintenance is calling you”. The alias of the author is Captain Unreliability, so all credit should go to the Captain :-).

To the veterans in the field, you will connect with this article in a heartbeat. You will be laughing all along the way. In the end, I will add a commentary about while this may appear comical, it sadly is reality in many places that we all work (or have worked). But I’ll leave that up to you, to be the judge.

“I begin this month with a question: How well do you know your PM program? In this column, I will teach you how to be successful without truly being successful. It is quite easy, actually.

First what is PM? PM is Pretend Maintenance. Pretend Maintenance is an approach wherein you go about managing your assets as if you have a good strategy, but you do not. Pro tip: Fake it until you make it!

1. Continue pencil-whipping PMs. This is key to successful compliance. It will help your PM and schedule-compliance numbers. With good numbers, you can brag about how well you are doing.

2. Continue your awesome lubrication practices. Here are a few ideas to keep them awesome: Remember, more is better, so if you do lubricate, make it worthwhile. If you do not feel like lubricating all of those grease fittings, the best thing to do is to take a tube of grease with you on your route. Dip a finger in the tube, as to get a huge blob on the tip of your finger. This is to maximize speed and efficiency as you complete this task. Go from grease zerk to grease zerk, dabbing that lubed finger onto each zerk, giving the appearance of a lubed bearing. The best thing to do is to just not grease at all. Elimination of this task will increase your break time.

3. Blame the operators for terrible asset performance. Forget the fact that we hired a button-pusher with no intent on training them to be successful. They never run the machines correctly anyway, right? This is the quickest way to defend yourself and your department in meetings.

4. Ask for money for a maintenance solution. Pick a very high number without providing justification for it, knowing full well the request will be denied. At least then you can blame management for your inability to run your maintenance department.

5. Blame your mechanics’ incompetency when you have extended downtime. Blame HR for hiring warm bodies- it seems like if someone can fog a spoon, they are hired.

6. Celebrate the mechanic who finally figures out the extended downtime issue that should have never occurred in the first place. Celebrating failure should be the mantra of the organization. Have a cookout or an ice-cream social to celebrate his success.

7. When something breaks and you do not have the part, make sure you order more than needed. For example, if you have a gearbox fail, and let’s say that gearboxes fail every five years, make sure that you order about 12 of them so that it doesn’t happen again. Why not have 60 years’ worth of gearboxes in inventory? 1 + 1 may equal 2, but order 3 just to be safe.

8. Have a reliability engineer position because it is cool. Everyone else has one; why shouldn’t you?

9. Have a maintenance planner who does no planning. This individual should spend time finding parts for mechanics, answering questions, and maybe even answering calls on the floor. As long as you have one planner, you can tell everyone you are planning work.

10. Buy a bunch of predictive maintenance tools and technologies but let them collect dust. They make great bookends and you can tell everyone that you have PdM tech on hand.

If you implement these 10 pro tips, you will definitely set yourself apart as next-level material. You can fake your world-class status by selling everyone on all the great things that you have on hand. The company will soon promote you to a level of incompetence, with the hope that you can do the same for the organization! Good luck on your journey!”

Did any of these scenarios hit home with you?

I’m in the Reliability and Root Cause Analysis (RCA) business. Our entire business is focused on proaction and foresight. To me, the 10 situations above, are all preventable if we just focused on why people make the decisions they do.

If we were conducting an RCA on the 10 ‘tips’ above, the true latent root causes would not be difficult to uncover, nor would they be revelations to those in the field. Oftentimes the latent (systems) root causes reveal a resistance by leadership to accept they are part of the problem!

About the Author
Robert (Bob) J. Latino is former CEO of Reliability Center, Inc. a company that helps teams and companies do RCAs with excellence.  Bob has been facilitating RCA and FMEA analyses with his clientele around the world for over 35 years and has taught over 10,000 students in the PROACT® methodology.

Bob is co-author of numerous articles and has led seminars and workshops on FMEA, Opportunity Analysis and RCA, as well as co-designer of the award winning PROACT® Investigation Management Software solution.  He has authored or co-authored six (6) books related to RCA and Reliability in both manufacturing and in healthcare and is a frequent speaker on the topic at domestic and international trade conferences.

Bob has applied the PROACT® methodology to a diverse set of problems and industries, including a published paper in the field of Counter Terrorism entitled, “The Application of PROACT® RCA to Terrorism/Counter Terrorism Related Events.”

Follow Bob on LinkedIn!


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