The game of Poker, and No Limit Texas Hold’em in particular, has taken the gambling world by storm. People all over the world are playing the game in casinos as well as on-line. Professional and amateur games are broadcast on several different networks in many different countries. The game of Texas Hold’em has a simple flow of play. Each player at the table is dealt two personal cards face-down. Three community cards are then laid on the table face-up. A fourth community card is dealt, and lastly a fifth. The goal is to make the best five-card hand using any combination of the two personal cards and the five community cards. After each deal of the personal and community cards, a round of betting occurs. In No Limit Texas Hold’em, a player can bet all his chips at any time.
Texas Hold’em, like machinery lubrication, looks deceptively simple but is incredibly hard to master. Both require an amount of skill, precision and the willingness to take a chance for huge gains. A company in the Texas Panhandle did just that.
For the several maintenance environments that I have worked with in the past year, “asset management”, “reliability maintenance” and “precision machinery lubrication” are terms that float around the plant, but show little evidence of being used. The obstacles involved do not, in most cases, include laziness, misunderstanding or lack of expertise. The real problem why most facilities only talk about precision maintenance and not practice it comes down to having to do more with less. That is, more maintenance with fewer mechanics, smaller budgets and little resources. I expected no less when I walked into this particular plant in west Texas.
To my surprise, this plant was the exception to the rule. Sure, they were facing the same cutbacks other plants have seen in past years. This plant had the added challenge of being located in rural Texas, providing only a small pool of skilled technicians at its disposal. But this plant was the cleanest, most organized and well-run facility I have seen. So what made this plant stand out among others?
Housekeeping usually takes a back seat to all other types of maintenance. But maintenance is easier when a well-organized and clean slate is available to work with. It is common that equipment gets lost in the plant.
A noncritical pump or mixer located in a dark corner is often forgotten and can rarely be correctly identified by plant personnel. These forgotten equipment trains are infrequently maintained and are generally maintained only when they fail and cause a noticeable sequence of events. As I walked through this plant, I noticed that it was extremely easy to identify and access equipment. Each equipment train was labeled with a large alpha-numeric CMMS ID and the CMMS ID corresponded to scaled floor plans of each building in the plant. Each train could be identified and located on the maps by way of included coordinates. This made it easy to manage the assets in the plant and avoid confusion.
Modern Change in Culture
“Culture change” is a buzz-phrase in maintenance today. We are slowly moving away from “the way it used to be done” to “the way it needs to be done” to ensure improved reliability. Inevitably, this is one of the biggest roadblocks a maintenance facility must face. It is common for all of us to resist change when the change is misunderstood. In this case, the culture had already changed. The plant was accepting modern maintenance techniques as the new business-as-usual. This plant knew that to stay competitive and reliable, it needed to continue to improve and adopt modern maintenance strategies.
High Morale and Low Turnover
The maintenance team also shares a unique morale and long history together. As mentioned earlier, this plant is located in rural Texas. This equates to small communities and a small pool of skilled labor from which to draw resources. This also means that many of the staff have worked and lived with each other in the same community for many years. Each of them has an elevated interest in how well the plant does because it directly affects the surrounding community.
The one element of the plant’s success that really stands out is that even though personnel already had an effective maintenance program, they were willing to improve their lubrication maintenance with a precision-designed proactive lubrication program. Because this plant understood the need for continuous improvement in all aspects of business, they invested time, effort and financial resources to make a change.
As in the card game, this plant in Texas went “all in” and bet all their chips to come up with huge gains. Their willingness to change and improve on what they already had will result in winning the pot and becoming a best-in-class facility.