Perseverance Pays Off in the End

By R. Keith Mobley, Principal SME, Life Cycle Engineering

It has been too long since my last letter, but 2011 closed with a burst of new problems with dire consequences that mandated immediate attention. I am happy to tell you that all of these have been resolved and our clients enter 2012 with a much brighter future.

Let me start off the new year by sharing news that I received from a protégé in South America. I had the opportunity to work with John about five years ago and over a three-year period was able to share our approach to Reliability Excellence. As we applied this approach, his company – an alumina refinery – achieved a first-year reduction in operating cost of more than $11M and firmly established the foundation for continuous improvement. The refinery was well on its way to excellence. About three years ago, John was lured away from the refinery by another company in the same country. They had heard of the refinery’s success and wanted John to duplicate it for them. When he accepted the position, everyone on his new employer’s leadership team was excited and eager for change—or were they?

We were asked to spend a few weeks with the client to assess the situation and recommend the best approach to implementing a Reliability Excellence-based continuous improvement program. It was a hard, long two weeks but with John’s help we were able to gather the necessary cost and performance data needed to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of his new company. We put together a solid business case that conservatively would yield a $25M improvement in operating cost over a three-year period, but to get there the client – a government-owned enterprise – would have to make substantial changes in the way they managed the company. The company, citing too many initiatives, elected not to pursue Reliability Excellence.

John refused to give up. Instead of simply accepting the company’s decision to defer implementation, he set about resolving some of the deficiencies that we had identified through the assessment process. He focused on those that were within his and the Reliability Engineering Manager’s span of control and through persistent efforts he was able to achieve substantial results.

One of my best Christmas presents in 2011 was an email from John sharing the results of his efforts. Without any support from senior management and despite resistance from a bureaucratic organization, he was able to reduce operating cost by more than $9M and identified an additional $4.5M that would be enjoyed in the first quarter of 2012. He took some pride in reporting this to his management team and tactfully reminding them of the $25M potential that achieving Reliability Excellence would provide.

Needless to say, I am proud to have been a part of John’s introduction to and education in Reliability Excellence. His success in applying what he learned is commendable, but I am most proud of his adherence to Mobley’s 12th Law – “Never, never, never give up.”

"Never, never, never give up."

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s letter. Hopefully, it has raised a few thoughts that will help you take the next step in your journey to excellence. I welcome your feedback and am happy to respond to specific questions. You can reach me at [email protected].

Best regards,
R. Keith Mobley
Principal, Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

Keith Mobley has earned an international reputation as one of the premier consultants in the fields of plant performance optimization, reliability engineering, predictive maintenance, and effective management. He has more than 35 years of direct experience in corporate management, process design and troubleshooting. For the past 16 years, he has helped hundreds of clients worldwide achieve and sustain world-class performance. Keith can be reached at [email protected].

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