Episode 1: How-To Shift the Culture of a Maintenance Team with Peter Funk, Reliability Manager
Matching an industry-leading software company with industry leaders.
Here at UpKeep, we pride ourselves on our mobile-first CMMS. Our mission is to empower maintenance teams to revolutionize their businesses. UpKeep was recently named a front-runner by Gartner as a software. However, we want to change the future of maintenance beyond our product.
That’s why we’re turning to industry leaders to share their insights on our brand new podcast, Masterminds in Maintenance. Every week, UpKeep’s CEO, Ryan Chan, meets with a guest who has had an idea for how to shake things up in the maintenance and reliability industry. Sometimes, the idea failed, sometimes it made their businesses more successful, and other times their idea revolutionized entire industries.
Revolutionizing the future of maintenance.
Join the conversation!
00:01 Ryan: Alright, let’s do this. You ready?
00:04 Peter Funk: Sure, let’s go.
00:05 Ryan: All right. Welcome to Masterminds in Maintenance, a podcast for those with new ideas in maintenance. I’m your host, Ryan. I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. Each week I’ll be chatting with a guest who has an idea for how to shake things up in the maintenance and reliability industry. Sometimes the idea failed, sometimes it made their business more successful, and other times their idea revolutionized an entire industry. Today I have with me, Peter Funk, reliability manager at Rehrig. I’ve known Peter for over two years now and I’m super excited for you all to hear his journey. Welcome, Peter.
00:41 PF: Hi, how are you doing?
00:43 Ryan: I’m doing awesome. [chuckle] Man, I can’t believe it’s been two years since we started chatting. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your role, and how you got started in reliability?
00:57 PF: Yeah, absolutely. Like you said, I’m the reliability manager here at Rehrig Pacific’s Kansas location. We are a company who makes injection molded plastic pallets, as well as recycling and waste containers. At this particular facility, we have eight injection molding machines, and over 200 pieces of auxiliary equipment.
01:18 PF: I got started in maintenance and reliability essentially from achieving my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. My first role was in machine design, and from there I gained a great appreciation for the knowledge and insight of the maintenance folk who I worked with. They were a tremendous help in making my project successful from day one. And so, over the course of my career, my path slowly evolving, got closer to closer in supporting maintenance in various different ways.
01:49 Ryan: That’s awesome. Obviously, I know a little bit about Rehrig. When you talk about injection molding and recycling bins, you’re talking about the recycling bins that we put out on our street every Thursday morning, right?
02:03 PF: Yeah, exactly. As you drive around the neighborhood the things you see sitting on the curbside, we make most of those.
02:10 Ryan: That’s amazing. When we talk about maintenance and reliability, and really the unsung heroes in the industry, I really feel like you guys embody a lot of that because we never really look at the side of our trash bins, and recycling bins and ask, “Who made those?”
02:28 PF: Right, exactly.
02:30 Ryan: Yeah. So you came, you got a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, you went to go work in the space, how do we get more people excited about this industry? How do we get more people excited about doing the work that you guys do?
02:46 PF: That’s a great question, because at first, in working through my mechanical engineering degree, I really wanted to go into something glamorous and exciting, like designing helicopters or race cars, or something like that. And it really came about during the interviews for my first internship. As I said before, I went to Drexel University and they are very key on the internship program, and through that process I’d started to understand how dynamic and ever changing the manufacturing world is, and it really keeps every day new and exciting. How do we get that information out to more young people? I think us, as manufacturers, owe it to ourselves to offer more tours to the public to get people coming in, to reach out to youth groups, things like that, just get more people exposed to it.
03:35 Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. So your first dip into this industry was really that internship that you had. Could you tell us a little bit more about what that internship was and what really…
03:49 PF: Yeah, sure.
03:50 Ryan: Yeah, I would love to hear about that.
03:51 PF: So it was with Kimberly-Clark, making of all things, toilet paper.
03:56 PF: And as a college freshman I have, my next… I forget exactly where my next interview was, but it was someplace exciting like Boeing or some, Lockheed Martin, or something like that. So this was sort of my safety net. And being a young and immature college kid, I walked into the interview with a ho-hum type of attitude, and I think the, the person interviewing me felt that, and so he set aside all the typical questions and he said, “You know what? You wanna take a tour of the facility?” And so, we skipped the questions, and we went on a tour, and I started walking around and seeing these rolls of toilet paper fly by on conveyors so fast that it just looked like a giant snake rather than individual rolls. And all these machines, and these huge rolls coming off of the press, it was so incredible, it was breathtaking. And that really changed my opinion and changed the whole layout of my priorities, and eventually the path that I went through with my career.
04:58 Ryan: That’s huge, that’s absolutely huge. And I love that story as well, because when we talk about maintenance, we talk about reliability. I don’t think people realize what that actually means until you step foot into a facility, you actually see it with your own eyes, I absolutely love it. So, I guess transitioning to this next question, when people think about maintenance, when people think about reliability, I feel like people think of 10, 20 different things. So, to you, what does reliability mean?
05:32 PF: So I believe that people think of maintenance, they think of the, “you broke it, we fix it” type of mentality. Reliability is, the first part of it is really taking that to the next level and not just fix it, but let’s understand why it broke, and let’s look for ways that we can make it better in the future. Secondly, reliability is about being prepared, it’s about having the machines and assets prepared to make money to suit the customer’s needs, and achieve the efficiencies that they are designed to do. It’s also being prepared for the worst case scenario. We do our best to prevent failures whenever possible, but failures are inevitable in this world, and so we need to make sure we’re prepared to handle them when they do occur, both in the equipment we have on hand, the spare parts we carry, and then also the training of our people.
06:22 Ryan: I’d love to hear about how Rehrig and you guys have evolved in terms of reliability over the past several years that you’ve been with the company. Where did it start, and where are you guys at right now, and what allowed you guys to get to where you guys are today?
06:38 PF: So where we were about two years ago is we had a fairly standard run-of-the-mill time-based maintenance system. The PMs were fairly basic. Grease here, lube here, checked work on this. From there, I was coming from a facility that had a very mature reliability program, doing a lot of high-level condition-based testing and protocols of that nature. So for me, the challenge was figuring out how to take this facility from where it was in its reliability journey to where that other facility was. And I had a hunch right away that we couldn’t just jump into some of those condition-based tasks and activities, that I felt like we would get lost in the weeds if we just tried to jump ahead to that. I felt strongly that we needed to develop a process and a pathway forward. So I went through various training facilities, I did a lot of reading on it and developed a road map for us to go through in a very methodical fashion to sort of check the boxes in order to build up to that level of condition-based maintenance.
07:48 Ryan: Awesome. And this is another very fascinating thing for me. When you were trying to set up this reliability program, where did you go, where did you learn, what did you read? And do you have any suggestions for our listeners and watchers of how to get deeper into this industry to learn more?
08:10 PF: Yeah, sure. I would first suggest the SMRP. I believe it breaks down as a Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals.
08:19 Ryan: Yeah.
08:20 PF: They are a fantastic help. There’s seminars that they hold I think bi-annually, are fantastic source of information. Anyone involved with that is typically a wealth of information, a good place to start. They have a knowledge base there, they have a library involved with books that they highly recommend reading, so I would start there.
08:42 Ryan: Awesome, awesome. So bringing it back to you, your team at Rehrig, what’s an initiative that you’ve taken on within the organization that you’re most proud of?
08:54 PF: Well, quite honestly, it’s the implementation of UpKeep. It’s been a game changer for us, for sure.
09:03 Ryan: Appreciate that, Peter.
09:04 PF: It’s been excellent in that it’s allowed us to evolve and grow down that path with it. It allows us to take things in steps. So rather than jumping full into a CMMS, we’re able to pick and choose which parts we use and get really good and become super acclimated at using the individual features and tasks before we start adding on to that list. The first requirement that we had was someway to organize and facilitate communication between our production teams and our maintenance team. What I found was a lot of information was getting lost between what production was seeing and what maintenance needed to work on.
09:48 Ryan: Yeah.
09:48 PF: So I wanted to find a way to organize the feedback from the production team, “Hey, this seems a little loose, or this is making a weird sound.” All of those observations, or this is flat out broken, we have it held together with baling wire and duct tape. The maintenance team wasn’t always aware of that. So, my first goal was to make sure that the maintenance team was aware of that and able to prioritize their work accordingly. So the request portal and the request features in UpKeep greatly facilitated that and allowed us to organize that information in that regard.
10:22 Ryan: That’s huge.
10:23 PF: So that was priority number one. Priority number two was to organize and prioritize the work of our maintenance techs and then report what was being done as well. Obviously, the work order features took care of that for us. From there, we got into parts organization and optimization, and now we’re looking into time management and using the timers. We’re experimenting with using the built-in meters to get away from time-based maintenance and look more at condition-based maintenance and cycle-based maintenance.
11:00 Ryan: Absolutely. And what I’m hearing, and what I absolutely love too, is that this was a progression, it sounds like an evolution over time, your maintenance program. It wasn’t just like a, “Hey, I’m gonna come in and I’m gonna blow everything up tomorrow and we’re gonna move from just time-based maintenance to a full reliability program.” This has been an evolution.
11:23 PF: Yeah, it’s been going on and patience is absolutely the key to success what I found. If we rush any one step, we end up having to go back, backtrack and redo that again. So we’re very patient to make it so that each step gets habitual along the way so that we can’t think of… We can’t think of doing any work on a machine without having a work order. When we get to that level, then we can talk about adding features to those work orders.
11:49 Ryan: Yeah. I’m super curious, I think you hit on a really important fact that this is a culture, this is a cultural shift within the team. It’s not just about doing the work and doing it better and faster, but it’s about making sure you record the work that you do. How did you change and shift the culture of your maintenance team and the entire production team to move from what they were doing before to this new way of thinking?
12:21 PF: It’s really easy, just show value to the end user in what they’re doing. So like you said, in recording information in the work orders, what we’ve essentially done is turned our UpKeep backlog into a hive mind of knowledge for our maintenance techs. So we have some very experienced maintenance techs and we have some very new maintenance techs. So now our very new maintenance techs can glean from knowledge or insights that our more experienced maintenance techs may have had in working with a similar scenario. So, if they have a hydraulic valve failure or they’re seeing some sort of symptom, they can type that symptom into the search engine, and pull up any other work orders that have been completed in the past and see what their predecessors have done before them to solve a similar scenario. So, it gives them this incredible ever growing library of knowledge to refer back to on the fly, in their back pocket.
13:21 Ryan: That’s awesome. And was that a big culture shock to the team when you were doing this? Or did it just happen?
13:30 PF: No, it definitely was something that they had to… They had to have a little bit of faith at first because obviously that information is not in there at the onset, it has to grow. We have to build that information there ourselves. But they understood the value of recording their work in the way of proving what they had done and essentially showing off what they had done. At the onset, a lot of our techs really enjoyed taking those before and after pictures and adding them to work with…
13:56 Ryan: That must be so satisfying.
13:58 PF: “Look what I did here. Look at this great improvement that I came up with”, instead of like telling someone about or it just getting lost in the weeds, there it was, saved for perpetuity in a work order.
14:09 Ryan: Yeah, I think that must be so, so satisfying, having the before and after picture.
14:17 PF: Yeah.
14:19 Ryan: Any other like tidbits in terms of new reliability leaders coming into this space? How to shift the culture of a team to move from like reactive to proactive, and really truly embrace this idea of reliability? Any other tidbits, any tips, advice there for new reliability leaders?
14:40 PF: It all comes down to patience and just taking it a little bit at a time, and not trying to eat the elephant in one bite. It takes a lot to change culture, especially when you have an established maintenance team that may have 20 plus years in one single facility and maybe more after that or before that. So to change those hearts and minds is going to take a lot of time and effort and repetition. So just being consistent and being thorough in everything you do, and allowing things to grow on their own, planting the seeds and then taking a step back and watching them grow. Just having that patience is the key.
15:21 Ryan: That’s awesome. Yeah, I absolutely believe that as well, again, it really is this like crawl, walk, run approach. It’s an evolution, doesn’t happen overnight. And I think the point that you mentioned, which is showcasing value, is the most important piece here. All right, I got another quick question for you. If you had a magic genie, what would be your three wishes for your maintenance team? What do you want? What do you…
15:53 PF: Gosh, that’s a tricky one. So first of all, I would like to clone every single guy… Every single person on my team. So that way, I could double them…
16:06 PF: And not have to increase my budget. That would be wonderful. After that, I would have to say, I would like to invent them some more time, so that we could get them training. It’s so difficult in a fast-paced manufacturing world, with so much going on to make the time for training, but every time we do, it’s so valuable. So I would really like to afford those guys some more time to get the training they need to evolve themselves and their work here. I think that would really pay off. The third one, the third one, gosh. I don’t know. There’s so many coming to mind. But I guess, buy ’em all a bigger fishing boat.
17:00 Ryan: That’s awesome. I mean, to me, what I’m hearing from you is training is key, recognition is key for your team because oftentimes, folks in maintenance reliability don’t get that recognition that they all deserve. So let’s see if we could afford them that next fishing boat. So Peter, if you had to pick a mantra for your maintenance team, what would that be?
17:26 PF: Sure, yeah, we came up with this a couple years ago and it is always bettering our best.
17:31 Ryan: I love that.
17:33 PF: Yeah, so no matter what you’re doing, try to do it better than the last time you did it, whether you’re doing some sort of complex maintenance task or something as simple as sweeping the floor, you’ll find that you can turn those mundane tasks into something that’s engaging and entertaining if you just try to do your best at it every time.
17:51 Ryan: That’s huge. I love that. Here internally, we’ve got this… One of our cultural values is progress over perfection and the way that I personify that is, just be better than you were yesterday.
18:05 PF: Right.
18:07 Ryan: Absolutely love that. Did that stem from somewhere? Did that start from somewhere or was that just like, someone said it once and it stuck with you guys? Where did it come from?
18:17 PF: Well, I’m not really sure where it came from. It came up so long ago in one of our meetings when we were just talking about, like you said, just getting a little bit better every single day, just finding one thing that we can do better than we did yesterday. And if our entire team buckles down and does that, we’re gonna make great strides together.
18:38 Ryan: That’s huge. And how do you guys promote this mantra for your team? Does it come up in every single meeting? Is it something that you guys talk about on a weekly basis?
18:50 PF: It really comes up on a topic-based manner. It’s not something we necessarily bring up every day, but as topics come up, we can refer back to that.
19:01 Ryan: That’s huge. That’s huge. All right. So oftentimes, we all say here is maintenance and reliability often goes unnoticed. And one of the big things for us and what we wanna do in this industry is really surface the unsung heroes, this idea where if nothing happens, if there are no breakdowns in a facility, that’s actually a great thing. That’s an amazing thing.
19:24 PF: Yeah.
19:27 Ryan: Can you share a story about how your team, your reliability team has made an impact at Rehrig?
19:35 PF: Sure, absolutely. We’ve taken on several improvement projects over the years, most specifically just working with our general 5s and cleanliness of our plant. The maintenance and the engineering team here, over the last two years, have taken on a ton of extra work outside of their normal everyday job tasks or job assignments to just make this place look as good as it can, so that way, when we have customers walk through this place, when we have people from the community come through, it looks like a showcase. It looks like somewhere where you would want your kids to work. It looks like somewhere that you’d wanna buy products from.
20:16 PF: So the maintenance guys have gone above and beyond fixing those nuisance leaks that really aren’t gonna cause you any issues right now, right this second, but it makes a big difference in the appearance of the plant. So, over the past two years, yeah, like I said, the maintenance and engineering teams have gone above and beyond the call on multiple occasions to get this place just looking tremendous.
20:39 Ryan: That’s awesome. And I really love to hear that story because when I think about working in a factory floor, when I think about manufacturing trash bins, it’s like that’s a complete polar opposite than a lot of people’s perception of the space in this field. And I love hearing these stories, Peter, I absolutely love it. So kind of on that note Peter, what’s something that you wish more people knew about the maintenance and reliability space?
21:11 PF: I wish they knew what a challenging and rewarding career it can be. There’s so much focus in our school systems, in our primary education to push people towards colleges, and it’s a great path for some, but not for all. And there are some great careers involved in the technical fields that can be sought through other means of secondary educations, and it’s really an exciting, a fast-paced, a challenging career path. For someone who likes to work under pressure, for someone who likes to be detail-oriented, it really takes all different types of personality traits to round out a full maintenance team. For people who find themselves more technically-inclined, liking to work with their hands, it’s just such a fantastic career path.
22:03 Ryan: That’s awesome, that’s awesome. And for you, how many years has it been working in this industry?
22:09 PF: Let’s see, 2005. So…
22:13 Ryan: Alright, 14 years.
22:14 PF: Yep, 14 years or so.
22:16 Ryan: Going strong, huh!
22:17 PF: Fair enough. [22:19] ____ [laughter]
22:21 Ryan: Alright, so cool, Peter. On that note, for new folks wanting to dip their toes into maintenance and reliability, what resources would you recommend? Where else do you go outside of the SMRP to learn more and get some new ideas?
22:36 PF: Quite honestly, Ryan, it’s just Google.
22:39 Ryan: [laughter] I love it.
22:41 PF: Any time I have a little issue or something like that we can’t quite crack or need some backup information to support something that we’re working on, there are so many great publications out there, and within the first couple of links, we’ll find something that works for us.
23:00 Ryan: Absolutely. It’s so simple, but I feel like yeah, it’s so easy as well to just get trapped into, “Hey, I’ve gotta figure it out myself,” but there’s this thing called Google, type in any question and something will pop up and it might not be perfect but it helps guide your thinking.
23:18 PF: Yeah, we often find ourselves in the trap of thinking that we’re the only people in the world who do what we do or have the struggles or issues that we have, and once you reach out to the bigger community there, you find out that there are lots of people in your same scenario and you can find a lot of great advice out there. There’s some different forums and things like that, that I’ve been linked to through that as well that have helped out tremendously.
23:45 Ryan: Awesome. Well, I think that’s a wrap, Peter. Again, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in to today’s Masterminds in Maintenance. Again, this is Peter from Rehrig facilities. He’s a reliability leader. Super glad to have you on today’s podcast, Peter.
24:05 PF: Thanks, Ryan, it’s been just absolutely a pleasure to work with you for the past two years.
24:10 Ryan: Alright, thanks again.