Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

Episode 3: How to Develop Maintenance and Reliability Processes at Your Organization with Ricky Smith CMRP, CRL, CMRT

Ryan Chan

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.

Episode 3: Revolutionizing the future of maintenance.

This week’s guest is Ricky Smith, CMRP. Ricky joins the Masterminds in Maintenance podcast to discuss his journey of creating asset reliability and process reliability with his maintenance teams.

Ricky Smith has huge knowledge and years of experience in the maintenance and reliability industry and we were so thrilled to have him join us on our podcast. Ricky Smith started his maintenance journey in the US army, where he wanted to go to school to become a heavy equipment mechanic. He went on to work at a refinery and then Alumex as a technician and then as a maintenance engineer. He’s held a wide range of roles from maintenance supervisor, to maintenance manager, to maintenance company commander while in Iraq. Ricky Smith’s wide global experience has brought him a unique perspective that “Maintenance is maintenance, it doesn’t matter where you go.” Learn more about Ricky’s journey on our podcast.

Listen to this week’s episode online here or on Apple podcasts here!
You can also watch the episode on our YouTube channel here!

Hear more from Ricky Smith on Twitter, Linkedin, or his website.

Join the conversation!

Are you an industry leader in the fields of maintenance and reliability? We want to hear from you! If you would like to be featured as a guest on our podcast, please sign up here.

Stay tuned for more inspiring guests to come in future episodes!


00:00 Ryan: Welcome everyone to Masterminds in Maintenance, a podcast for those with new ideas in maintenance. I’m your host. I’m Ryan. I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. Each week, I’ll be meeting with a guest who’s had 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’m excited to welcome Ricky Smith, a maintenance and reliability best practices advisor to the show. I love reading Ricky’s thoughtful responses to maintenance and reliability questions on LinkedIn, and really appreciate the active role that you’ve taken on to acknowledge all of the experts in this space. Welcome, Ricky, to our show.

00:41 Ricky Smith: Great. Thank you very much for having me.

00:44 Ryan: Of course, of course. Really, really excited about having you on our show again. What I talked about is trying to build better practices within the industry and get thought leaders like yourself to really preach the word of reliability and maintenance. So first, I wanted to check in. I know that you’re over there on the East Coast. How is it going over there with the Hurricane Dorian?

01:09 RS: The hurricane where I’m at, it just took away all the moisture in the air. So it was just bright, sunny shot skies. But along the coast where my mother lives, they got hit pretty hard, but not as bad as some past hurricanes. So everything’s okay.

01:26 Ryan: Okay. Well, I’m glad to hear it.

[overlapping conversation]

01:27 RS: [01:27] ____ really is.

01:29 Ryan: All right. Well, I’m glad to hear that everything’s all right for you, your family as well. Let’s go ahead. I would love to learn more a little bit about yourself, and maybe you could kick things off by sharing a little bit about yourself and how you got started in this industry, Ricky.

01:47 RS: Okay. Well, it started in the industry, went in the US Army, and wanted to go to school to be a heavy equipment mechanic. So I went to school, learned how to rebuild about everything the US Army had. Then when I got out of the Army, I worked with civilians for a while. Then ultimately, got transferred to a unit in Germany working on tanks mainly. But what I found was maintenance was maintenance. The fundamentals is there. Once I got out of the Army, I went to work for a small company called Exxon, at a refinery. My dad worked there.

02:16 Ryan: A small company, right?

02:18 RS: Yeah, a small company. It was easy, a shoe-in to get into refinery. If you don’t know somebody, you don’t go to work there. So I got in, and I learned a lot. I learned a lot there. The closest person to me in seniority would have been there 30 years.

02:32 Ryan: Wow.

02:32 RS: It’s a very senior organization. He taught me follow-up procedures, how to do things to specifications. So, it kinda set the foundation. Now, unfortunately, I was the first person to leave Exxon in maintenance, ever. Except, unless, I guess maybe if something happened to you outside work, but I was the first person to leave. I went to work for a company called Alumax Mt. Holly and that ultimately became Alcoa Mt. Holly, the world-class maintenance model. And that’s where I learned, really, the strategies around how to plan, schedule, how to execute work with specification. And while I was there as a technician, I also worked as a… I became a maintenance engineer and technician. So I worked for the maintenance engineer we had, and that really advanced me as far as root cause analysis, and identifying failures, and how to mitigate ’em and all. But that set the foundation for my whole life. And throughout life, I’ve been a maintenance supervisor or maintenance manager. I was a company commander in Iraq for a maintenance company, not because that’s my maintenance background as the officer, it was not. But it so happened that I worked for a one-star general and he said, “Hey, I just relieved the company commander for our maintenance company going to Iraq. I understand you know that maintenance stuff.” I’m like, “Oh, my gosh.” That’s seeing 365 days. So maintenance is maintenance, it didn’t matter where you’d go. [chuckle]

03:57 Ryan: I love it. That’s such an awesome story, Ricky. So I’m also curious, what’s changed since you first got started in this industry?

04:09 RS: There hasn’t been a lot that changed except with technology. At CMMS, we had the first fully integrated CMMS in the world when I went to work at Alcoa or Alumax Mt. Holly. So people didn’t understand software and how do you have to input data. If you didn’t put data in, you didn’t get the right data out, or corrupt data in is corrupt data out. And I guess that set the foundation for a lot of things for me in making sure that the CMMS, no matter how simple it is or how advanced… And I have to tell you, in most companies, and I’d say 90% plus, they don’t fully utilize their maintenance software. But they use an SAP, or Oracle, or whatever it is, they don’t fully use the capability of it.

04:53 Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. Where do you see people not using a CMMS to its fullest capabilities most commonly?

05:02 RS: Most simple one, they don’t put all work into work history.

05:06 Ryan: All right.

05:07 RS: They don’t capture all events, all activities on work orders charged to the right asset. That’s the big problem.

05:15 Ryan: Yeah.

05:16 RS: We want a blanket work order.

05:18 Ryan: Yeah.

05:19 RS: With a blanket work order, it doesn’t tell me anything, where my failures are, which ones are recurring or tied to other equipment, and so on. So it’s crazy.

05:28 Ryan: Absolutely. So this data quality piece is so, so important for being able to drive decisions. Ricky, I’ve read your book, Rules of Thumb, and you commonly refer to Mt. Holly as kind of the world-class standard for maintenance reliability. What was that journey like of getting that facility to world-class standards? ‘Cause I imagine it was a long journey, right? It didn’t just happen overnight.

05:54 RS: No, it wasn’t a long journey. It was the new facility. The engineer and the maintenance manager came from Lycoming, which was a helicopter engine company. He was a QA engineer charged with the quality assurance of helicopters. So he took that philosophy, and what he did was brought smart people in the design, planning, scheduling, work execution, all the things that need to get the desired outcome. Like he’d say, “Thinks of a helicopter. It’s gotta go up and down in a controlled state.” He expect a billion-dollar aluminum smelter to produce what is supposed to produce at the cost it’s supposed to produce for that. And that’s what we did.

06:36 Ryan: Wow.

06:36 RS: He brought experts in. I was not one of ’em that had that… The depth of knowledge at that time to understand it. But the fully integrated maintenance software we had, condition of employment was all work had to be in the CMMS, condition of employment. And some of the people didn’t make it. Some people got terminated because of that. So when you close out a work order, your data had to be accurate, had to be correct.

07:02 Ryan: Wow. So what I’m hearing is the data quality was the fundamentals of being able to make improvements on to the business and get you guys to this world-class standard.

07:15 RS: Absolutely. And people try to duplicate this. Some large corporations came in and paid a lot of money to this plant to learn their model, and none of them went back and did much. They may have spiked a little bit, but then they dropped off, unfortunately. It’s terrible in that it happens. But it requires discipline, it requires a process, and it requires metrics to deal with management, leading and lagging metrics.

07:41 Ryan: Yep, absolutely. So we talk about reliability, world-class standards. I feel like after talking to many, many people in the industry, everyone’s got their own little definition of what reliability is, whether… And it depends on who you are, what industry you’re in. So Ricky, what does reliability mean to you? And what does getting to world-class standards mean?

08:08 RS: Reliability is really about meeting the functional requirements of the end user. And if it’s an asset, the functional requirements of that asset. So the asset is supposed to perform at a certain level, rate, speed, function, whatever function that is. Then reliability is built to provide that, just the reliability of the asset. Just like buying a new car. We don’t wanna buy a new car, and it break down. So we want it reliable. But the same thing goes true. It is two types of reliability. There’s asset reliability or the equipment side, and then there’s process reliability. If we don’t have both stable and in a focused effort to keep us there, then we’re not gonna be fully successful. We may be successful, but not where we could be.

08:56 Ryan: Yeah. Absolutely. And so I read a recent post of yours, and we’re talking about having reliability success. I imagine a lot of having success requires a lot of planning. So your most recent post regarding maintenance planning, where do you see the biggest mistakes that people are making with regards to maintenance planning?

09:18 RS: I guess it’s kind of a humorous conversation. I always kept bring up is that you know you’re in reactive maintenance if your maintenance planner is chasing parts every day for current jobs. Because once the planner is, it’s the future work only, future work only, if it’s today’s activities, it’s the maintenance supervisor’s responsibility to handle it, not the planner. If you wanna be successful, make sure you got a planner, make sure that no one touches this person. I mean, sometimes, you have to talk to them. Sometimes that happens, but it will be a rare case when you go see the maintenance planner. That ought to be rare.

10:00 Ryan: Got it. So what I’m hearing is having a separation of concerns, a separation of people roles and responsibilities, someone who thinks about the future versus someone who thinks about the today. And what I hear is you’re breaking it out between a maintenance supervisor handles the today activities, and the maintenance planner handles the tomorrow activities and the future activities.

10:26 RS: The future. Right. So the planner is strategic, the supervisor’s tactical. That’s the way I look at it.

10:32 Ryan: Absolutely. And so I can imagine a lot of people asking this question next is, when is it the right time to hire and separate these into two different roles? How do you know when it’s the right time?

10:47 RS: Day one. That’s when you start. You gotta start somewhere. If you’re reactive, starting anywhere is gonna get you somewhere. But a planner, a lot of people wanna go outside and hire a planner. I’m more taking the best maintenance technician that will sit up behind a desk, that can use a computer, I wanna make them a maintenance planner. I wanna have them formally trained, but when they’re formally trained, send them somewhere to a company as trained maintenance planners, but make sure you send the maintenance manager with that planner. So them two together can learn together ’cause otherwise, people send planners off to training. I’ve trained a lot of them, and they go back and just like, “We’re talking about maintenance planning, and they don’t even understand the real definition of maintenance planning and scheduling.” I said, “Yeah. I told you to bring in the guy with you.” That’s the only way it’s gonna work. You gotta bring the boss with you.


11:43 RS: Or the other option is, bring the instructor back to the plant, train the plant on planning scheduling.

11:49 Ryan: Yeah. That’s huge. So, what I heard is getting buy-in from multiple stakeholders is really important, especially when you’re thinking about separating this role. So imagine we’ve got a brand new facility that’s trying to take on reliability and basically saying, “Hey, we’re gonna take in a maintenance technician, turn them into the scheduler, the planner.” Any tips, tricks, advice that you’d give this new person coming into this new role to think about how to create an effective maintenance plan?

12:30 RS: I’m gonna take a step even further back. Let me think about it. Let’s say you spent a billion dollars on a plant, and you really don’t have insurance under reliability. You may have monetary insurance, but really, what does your customers want? And that is, they expect a certain quality, output, on demand. And that’s what we gotta deliver. So in order to do that, we have to have a maintenance strategy, reliability strategy, that’s gonna protect that process and asset reliability. Because if we wanna be the lowest cost producers and we’ve looked at maintenance cost as the percentage of replacement in asset value that reactive plans are extremely high, upwards at 18% and then we’re world-class plants of somewhere between 1.7% and 3.4%, that’s a massive amount. Imagine the production losses when you’re spending that much money on maintenance.

13:26 Ryan: Huge.

13:26 RS: It’s massive. It’s massive. So if you’re gonna build a new plant, you need an insurance policy. And that’s proactive maintenance. Not just planning and scheduling, just total proactive maintenance.

13:38 Ryan: Yeah. So this is a really good conversation into this next question here around KPIs. We look at total replacement value and maintenance as a function of that. What are the best KPIs to track as a maintenance reliability department, especially as we think about moving away from firefighting into more of a proactive role?

14:06 RS: That’s a great question. What I like is, one is have a dashboard where everybody can see it up on the big screen when you walk in the plant. It hits you right in the face, what’s our maintenance data, what’s it look like. And then in the maintenance shop, the break room, wherever I can see it ’cause I’m trying to change people’s behavior. So some of the metrics that I’m having to start with, we’re talking about preventive maintenance, this is where a lot of the work is gonna come from. So, preventive maintenance, what is my percentage, my PM compliance? But also besides PM compliance, I like PM labor hours versus emergency labor hours. I like to trend it ’cause it doesn’t make sense if we’re performing preventive maintenance on equipment that continues to break down. That’s called insanity.


14:51 RS: And then in planning, percentage of planned work. SMRP, Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals, made up of members like myself. That’s why you see that CMRP into my name. It isn’t about being certified, it’s about being in a community where you can learn from some of the best practices. So within that, SMRP has created… Our membership, we’ve created metrics, definitions for those metrics for all up on the score board and for a lot of things. So to give you an example, so I’m at a plant. So we got percentage of planned work, we’ve got PM labor hours versus emergency labor hours, percentage of planned work and there’s a structure to that metric. Schedule compliance, I like it by day, by hour. Okay, some people do it by week, but that means you got reactivity. We can’t do it today. We’ll push it off tomorrow. We’ll still get our compliance. It doesn’t work that way in my world. Okay?

15:50 RS: And then when we do the… When we go forward with that work execution, so when we execute the work, do we have rework from that? Rework’s a metric that says, “We performed maintenance on it, but we had to go back to it within a certain amount of time and had a problem with it again. And it’s probably one or two things. It’s either the same problem we didn’t solve, or we were trying to solve the wrong problem.” And then get down to it, I wanna know my work orders. What percentage of my work orders are closed out when all the code’s identified. Because that, once those codes going into CMMS, you can’t change it. You can go in and manipulate it you think, but you can’t. It’s in there. It’s out.

16:32 Ryan: Yeah absolutely. We talked about some KPIs that are related to preventative maintenance, whether it’s PM compliance, whether that’s labor hours, whether that’s what percentage of your jobs are proactive in nature. I think the common thing that we’ve also seen, too, is shifting away from doing PMs just to say we finished the task. So, I think the question there is, how do we make sure that we’re not just tracking work that’s being done just to make it be done? How do we make sure that our PMs are effective? How about that?

17:10 RS: Yeah. Well, that’s why I like PM labor hours versus emergency, urgent labor hours.

17:15 Ryan: Got it.

17:16 RS: You can track it and trend it. It’s just logical. I did that as a maintenance supervisor, and it shocked my maintenance technicians., they didn’t like it, they didn’t wanna see it. And I said, “It has nothing to do with you, it has to do… We have a process problem. It’s not a people problem, it’s a process. We’ve got to get this process functional.” And we did. And well, how long did it take? I don’t know. I mean, till we really started making some serious gains, we’re probably six months to eight months but we had focused on it every day.

17:45 Ryan: That’s huge. And we often talk about creating a cultural shift. Any advice there on how to create a cultural shift inside the entire company and within the department?

18:00 RS: All about the money. I mean… [chuckle] it’s a big one. There are ways of doing it to calculate how much losses there are on a plant. It has to be done formally, has to be done in a state that management will accept it. And once you have those numbers and you look at then you quantify where the losses have been, where they go to. Because in most companies, I can tell you 99% of companies most of your losses come from production, not maintenance. They blame it on maintenance, but it’s really production cause losses. So looking at that, it’s a big deal. How much are you losing money? And there’s a numerous ways you can do it. Weibel, plotting. We use Weibel for looking at process losses, but not monetary losses. We can use process Weibel to do the same thing in our process, how we work, how much money are we losing.

18:52 Ryan: Got it. So it’s really centered around tracking KPIs and associating all of these things that we’re doing to how it affects the value of the business and the entire production line or whether that’s the dollars that we lose from process problems.

19:16 RS: We get repeatable failures on similar equipment. We don’t even know it because we don’t track the information. You have a motor problem in one part of the plant, you probably got motor problems on everywhere in the plant. You just don’t know it because it’s not linked together for you to see the mess.

19:31 Ryan: Yep. So, let’s talk a little bit about common failures for assets and their failure patterns. I read one of the statistics that you more recently published as well that 89% of failures are random and only 11% of failures are age-related. Knowing that 89% of failures are random, what can we do as budding reliability leaders to get ahead of this problem?

20:00 RS: Well, first thing is making sure the equipment is kept in a maintainable condition. If it’s not in a maintainable condition then it doesn’t do any good. And it’s what I call an insanity performing preventive maintenance on equipment that continues to fail. So the best thing to do if you have equipment that continues to fail while performing preventive maintenance on it, put a big stick on it, RTF, run to failure. We know that’s our maintenance strategy.

20:23 Ryan: Okay.

20:24 RS: So, also how equipment is operated. It has a lot to do with those human-induced failures, 89% of failures. You know? The random ones. Random ones, the best way to mitigate random… To mitigate them as PDM, to actually identify ’em because some you can’t identify far enough in advance, some you can, is using predictive maintenance and condition monitor. That’s a big deal. A lot of people, I’d say 90% of companies… I’m giving a generic number, but I tell you it’s very true; 90% of companies use PDM only for insurance reasons. So once a year or every six months someone comes in and does some vibration or does some infrared and they’re going, “That’s not the way it worked.” Your assets need to be identified based on criticality and defect severity. And once you do that then you go through that ranking and then determine which assets do I wanna put PDM on and what interval.

21:21 RS: It always goes down to the lowest common denominator, like an electric motor. What fails first on electric motor? Bearings. So, if bearings fail first and we get an indication, and bearings fail randomly, SKF has proven that from all the studies. So when someone does vibration analysis and says, “Hey, we got a bearing fault on this outboard bearing on this 50 horsepower motor,” first thing they ask is, “How long you think it’ll run?” I got no magic wand. They sold out of those a long time ago. I’d say, “What you need to do, you need to go ahead and plan it. You may not schedule it now ’cause you can’t interrupt production. Plan it, have a new motor waiting, you’re ready to go or rebuild shop, ready to go whenever that is, the weekend or whatever and we go in to replace it.” And yes, it is still running, but it will fail randomly, I promise you, and it’s not at the right time either.

22:17 Ryan: It’s never at the right time, huh?

22:19 RS: Never the right time, yeah.

22:21 Ryan: So I also read your 95% of equipment from that study will benefit… You mentioned 95% would benefit from some sort of condition monitoring, and that only 6% benefit from some sort of time-based replacement or overhaul. Do you think companies are relying too much on time-based replacement, time-based preventative maintenance?

22:44 RS: But when you get into oil refineries and all, sometimes a lot of the data it comes from them. And when they have an outage, you have to look at everything that could possibly fail and change the valves especially based on criticality. So if the criticality of that asset is extremely high and the risk to the business is high, then we’re probably gonna rebuild it, replace it. But in normal companies you don’t have that.

23:08 Ryan: Yeah.

23:10 RS: So it’s a different, depending on what market you’re looking at. Some of the data comes from oil and gas and mining, and everybody’s a little bit different.

23:20 Ryan: Sure, absolutely. So pivoting a little bit, what do you see some of the biggest mistakes that people often make in the maintenance reliability space especially for new, up and coming reliability leaders?

23:34 RS: Well, one, they don’t have procedures.

23:37 Ryan: Okay.

23:37 RS: People don’t have repeatable procedures. That’s a big one for up and coming… That’s a big one. I would definitely start writing procedure. In fact, I’d say in the last three years, 100% of the plants I’ve been in don’t have repeatable procedures. They thought they did, but when really detailed out it’s not. So the worst thing that can happen if you have a failure, you pull out the procedure and say, “What went wrong?” And you don’t do it by chastising someone, you have a technician that worked on it, say, “Guys, do you see any difference in the procedure?” “Oh, yeah, man I missed the step.” “Okay, this one’s on me. Next one’s on you.” Yeah, I mean, you gotta change that culture but you can’t use a hammer to do it. You gotta do it slowly.

24:23 Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. So again, going towards the new reliability leaders, what resources do you find yourself leaning towards to learn more about the industry and hone your skills and your knowledge? Where do you go for new ideas and thoughts in this industry?

24:47 RS: Wow, that’s a great question. I mean, the best, I tell you 100%, SMRP conference, where there’s a symposium conference. I tell you it’s no smoke and mirrors. The people are speaking there first hand, “This is what I did.” Be prepared if you come, have a list of issues you have in your plant and look for those ahead of time so you got it mapped out which sessions you wanna go to and then what the expectations are when you come back. And you may even, if there’s a consultant there, say, “I like what he said.” You may wanna say, “Can I bring you back with me? When can you come see me?” ‘Cause there’s nothing wrong with that, it works well. The other conferences I like, International Maintenance Conference. I tell you, that’s an awesome conference. What I like to do there, is go there and breakfast in the morning and you meet one person there who looks really like glum, and like, “Oh, my god.” Not they drank too much, it’s just they’re bummed out about what they’re hearing. And I ask them, “So how’s things going?” “They’re going good.” I’ll say, “How do you think the conference is going?” “I’ve learned a lot, a lot.” They just don’t know how to put it into action.

26:00 Ryan: I bet you didn’t realize, yeah.

26:00 RS: I said, “Okay, this is the way I look at it. Just pick one or two things that you’ve learned and take it back with you. One or two things. You could say, the guy that was speaking in that session, buy him a beer that night or buy him dinner or something and get their ideas and that way you can take it back with you.” Never go to a conference without bringing some action items back. Don’t ever do that. It’s a waste of your time and a waste of company’s money.

26:25 Ryan: That’s huge. I genuinely believe that too, Ricky. And I believe the SMRP is next month in October, is that right?

26:33 RS: Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

26:34 Ryan: Alright, very cool. So, are you gonna be at the SMRP, Ricky? Where can our listeners go to contact you and find you?

26:44 RS: Best way to contact me is on LinkedIn or… Yeah, Linkedin is the easiest way. Ricky Smith CMRP. So it’s the Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional. That’s what I use, Ricky Smith CMRP. Or you can go on Twitter, follow me on Twitter. Facebook, I have a Facebook page, worldclassmaintenance.org on Facebook page, so they can look that up too. So, plenty of places to find me and I share a lot of information with a lot of people. I’m not bashful at giving information out.

27:19 Ryan: Alright, well…

27:20 RS: All I ask is you to do something with it, okay?

27:23 Ryan: Amazing.

27:24 RS: If I give you something, do something with it.

27:26 Ryan: Exactly. Awesome. Thanks so much, Ricky. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for joining us on this show and thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in to today’s Masterminds in Maintenance.

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