Reliability Culture Transformation Drives OEE and Production Up


For many decades, a renowned manufacturing company was operating its critical machinery across multiple nationwide locations without paying attention to maintenance—until it was too late to repair. However, they consistently enjoyed high profits based on steady supply and demand. Then suddenly, the everyday need for food storage/packaging products skyrocketed due to lifestyle changes, i.e. more people eating at home.

The status quo was now in question. Could the internal capacity of their assets handle the higher production rate? Were they doomed to drive up costs by running machinery to failure? These are some of the issues Allied Reliability encountered upon arrival at the client site. Our holistic approach offered the right solution at the right time as this company was ripe for a culture transformation. Working with us enabled all levels of the organization to shift their mindset from ‘deferring’ to ‘planning’ maintenance...what we call proactive reliability.

The Story of a Major U.S. Food Packaging Company

This was an old, established business that was heavily siloed and entrenched in a pattern of reactive maintenance. Ineffective communication was one of many obstacles standing in the way of change. But having recently gone public, they had no choice. It was time to shed light on existing methods and work towards modernization and unification to meet Wall Street expectations.

Disparate spreadsheets and manually generated reports could no longer support the projected growth trajectory, with market indicators showing continued high demand for its household products—especially from millennials, who still favor eating in over dining out. Nor could they sustain the new normal with a band-aid maintenance mentality of waiting for problems to arise, characterized by, “We plan emergency work.”

It was in this moment of transition that Allied’s expertise in reliability was sought, leading to an increase in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) from 19% to 39% over three months. It is noteworthy that each percentage point equates to significant improvement in unplanned downtime and the first time in three years the site made its planned production target.

The Challenge/Opportunity the Customer Faced

Like many successful plants operating 24/7/365 at full capacity, this company tended to delay routine maintenance shutdowns to repair/replace equipment as long as possible. Add to this the pressure to out-perform for stockholder value and scheduled maintenance for upgrades or other preventive measures was further overlooked, or not even scheduled in the first place. At the risk of incurring catastrophic equipment failure, they treated the symptoms of bad actors rather than identifying the root cause. While this practice may be workable in the short term, it does not work well in the long run.

Specific challenges included:

  • Sold out capacity at six plants to meet rising demand
  • Lack of roles and responsibilities – no maintenance engineer or reliability engineers
  • Reactive maintenance style – no criticality analysis or work priority standard
  • Inadequate maintenance inspection strategy
  • Disconnected islands of automation, and persistence of manual tasks

Why Allied Reliability?

Allied Reliability was brought in to help drive success by optimizing the way of doing business—from an operational and maintenance perspective—as well as building a unified workforce governed by a single set of processes mapped to relevant roles and responsibilities. The client had confidence in our capabilities based on the results we had delivered to a peer organization. Customer satisfaction spoke for itself, and there was no need to look any further.

So we proceeded to conduct an in-depth evaluation to understand the current state and establish a health baseline, measuring data like system maturity in terms of asset maintenance and reliability. Our assessment tools revealed the need to stabilize and standardize work practices to achieve sustainability, while also getting people to behave differently. The next three months were spent setting the future state in motion, starting from a system maturity level of just 1.5 (shown below).

Allied Reliability’s assessment pyramid of best practices, indicating an initial system maturity of 1.5.

How the Customer Responded

In the face of Wall Street's demands, e.g. to drive out production waste, upper management was open to change and thus receptive to our findings. Recommended improvements were initiated, such as the creation of a Work Execution Management process, Preventive Maintenance Inspection tasks, Criticality Analysis, Root Cause Analysis, etc.

Governance structures were also put in place to support the new environment by filling in gaps, such as previously missing roles and responsibilities, as well as support for the transformation project itself, ensuring its adoption across the enterprise, including feedback and reinforcing loops to actively engage everyone.

The Results

This process-/people-based project successfully uncovered and remediated the client’s imbalances, moving the OEE needle by 20 percentage points and increasing output during our six-month engagement. The reliability gains can be attributed in large part to modifying the thinking of maintenance staff led by management buy-in at the top, followed by standardized processes and defined roles and responsibilities.

Our holistic approach delivered sustainable solutions that articulated how to perform maintenance tasks in rank order. As the project progressed, the corporate culture began to transform from reactive to proactive, doing maintenance regularly before small problems turned into bigger ones. This is evidenced by the site leadership beginning to adhere to the maintenance schedule rather than defer it to continue producing—"at all cost.”

As Tim Weilbaker, VP of Engineering at Allied Reliability, says, “If you just put out the fire, it will flare up in other areas. Foundational elements like reliability and work execution processes may take time, but the benefit comes down the road; as this client is starting to see on its steady path towards achieving an overall system maturity of 4.0 and an additional 10% increase in daily production over the next two to three years (shown below).

Allied Reliability’s assessment pyramid of best practices, targeting a system maturity of 4.0.

Next Steps

Do you spend all your time putting out fires? Allied Reliability can help you design a more effective preventative maintenance plan, wherever you are on the system maturity spectrum.

Request a Reliability Systems Assessment today.