Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

Episode 6: Tips on Establishing a Reliability Culture Within Your Organization with LaWayne Smith

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 6: Tips on Establishing a Reliability Culture Within Your Organization with LaWayne Smith

This week on Masterminds in Maintenance, we hear from LaWayne Smith, Head of Asset Management and Reliability at the University of Kansas Medical Center. LaWayne shares with us his journey being the steward of change for his organization in revitalizing their preventative maintenance program. Thank you, LaWayne, for joining us!

Listen to this week’s episode online here or on Apple podcasts here!

You can also watch the episode on our YouTube channel here!

Connect with LaWayne Smith on Linkedin here.

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


00:01 Ryan: 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 meeting with a guest who’s had an idea for how to shake things up in the maintenance and reliability industry. Today I’m excited to welcome to the show, LaWayne Smith, Head of Asset Management and Reliability at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Welcome, LaWayne, to our show.


00:27 LaWayne Smith: Hey, thanks, Ryan, for having me. Greatly privileged to be here.


00:30 Ryan: Of course, of course. LaWayne, you just won our Up-and-Comer in the Maintenance and Reliability Award for Upkeep. Tell us, you know, how did you get started in this industry? Tell us a little bit about your background.


00:41 LS: Alright, well, hey, first of all, I wanna say thank you to Upkeep for this award. Definitely feel humbled and honored for it. So, kinda how I got started in this industry, and I’ve been in the maintenance field for quite a while, happened to attend a meeting here in Kansas City of all kinds of other maintenance folks. And this guy stood up, his name’s Paul Crocker, by the way, I gotta give a shout out to Paul Crocker. He stood up and started talking about the Uptime Elements, and how everything kind of links together and if I was interested, I should contact them. So of course, right after the meeting I got his contact info, we just started chatting and after getting the Uptime Elements and the passport books and reading through them, I was hooked.


01:28 Ryan: I love it. Yeah, I know Paul as well. And you’ve got the Uptime Element right there in your background as well. I love it, I love it.


01:36 LS: Oh yeah, [chuckle] thank you.


01:39 Ryan: So you’ve been working in maintenance reliability for… It seems like a little over a year now, but it seems like you’ve made such a big impact already at the University of Kansas Medical Center. What’s one thing that you’re most proud of? 


01:56 LS: What I’m most proud of? Well, I think really, the line of thinking when it comes to managing our assets. I always like to say you don’t know what you don’t know. And there was several folks here that just didn’t know, hey, this maintenance reliability kind of existed. And what I’m most proud of is the change of thinking where they’re realizing that, hey, we can change some of our strategies, and the change from those strategies, you know, we can get more value from our assets.


02:31 Ryan: Absolutely. I’m curious, what was the maintenance reliability program like when you first started? And where is it now? 


02:41 LS: Well, when I first started in this position, it was really almost non-existent. The main focus was, hey, we need to revitalize or preventative maintenance program. And so that’s kind of what I started with, but then when I found the Uptime Elements and started doing more research and reading, I realized, hey, there’s a better way to do this. And so, I had to think of my end goal like where we wanted to be, and I shortened it up to five years. I said, “Where do we wanna be in five years?” And then I did this reverse timeline. I’m retired military so, of course, you know, we’re all about the reverse timelines and I kinda said, “Okay, here’s where we’re at, here’s where we wanna be. What are the steps we need to do to get there?” And yeah, so I just formalized that plan and tried to execute it.


03:33 Ryan: That’s awesome. You mentioned you’re retired military, I’m curious, you know, what are some of the learnings from the military that you brought over to maintenance and reliability and how has that shaped your thinking about maintenance and reliability? 


03:50 LS: Great question. First and foremost, I think through the military it kinda taught me the discipline to be detailed. And, because I think success in the M&R community really is about those details, right? So, if you can’t explain the small details and how they interact with the larger details, you’re gonna have a hard time bringing people onboard to what you’re wanting to do.


04:16 Ryan: Absolutely.


04:17 LS: Yeah, so that… And then, of course, from the military just the basic framework of work order management, work execution management, the different types of work, if you will. Yeah, I just kinda brought that here with me.


04:34 Ryan: That’s awesome. And it seems like you’re deeply passionate about this space, in a relatively short period of time, which is awesome. What keeps you the most passionate and interested in this industry? What are you excited by? 


04:50 LS: I think, number one, it’s the changes that I see that are occurring here in my organization. I started here three years ago, and I can remember back to how it was day one when we started. And then I look at where we’re at today and we’re a lot more methodical in making our asset management decisions because of the stuff that we’ve been doing. So another thing that I’m kind of passionate about and what I’m excited about this here is really the mindset that my upper management is kind of buying into saying, “Hey, we could really create value from our assets by doing these certain things,” and that’s just exciting to see the change in the enthusiasm of others around me.


05:42 Ryan: Absolutely, I mean, that’s huge, right? The perception of maintenance and reliability. I’m curious, did you run into any challenges when you were first trying to change the perception to upper management? 


05:56 LS: Yes, and I think everyone will say that, right? Because it is a new line of thinking and of course, it’s change management, because people have been doing it this way for a very long time. For me, my biggest challenge was I wanted to do too much all at once, so I really had to take a step back and say, “Okay, what are the immediate changes I can make that’s gonna make a bigger impact and get people to actually buy in to what we’re doing?” So I had to look for those quick wins, if you will, and kind of started from there. And once I started getting those quick wins, other people started kind of saying, “Hey, I like what you’re doing, really, let’s keep it up.


06:48 Ryan: Absolutely, I’m curious, LaWayne, what were some of those quick, small wins? 


06:55 LS: Well, first of all, it was through the adaption of a criticality analysis of all of our assets and before I even started that criticality analysis though, I had to form a team ’cause I can’t do it by myself, so I formed this team, and I call us the Reliability Committee and so after the criticality analysis, this team started seeing well, hey, yeah, this is really a critical asset and we haven’t been treating it as such. And so, once they started seeing the different priorities of assets, they were like, “Oh, I see what you’re saying now about changing these different preventative actions or whatever on how we apply the maintenance strategy to these.


07:43 Ryan: Absolutely, and what I hear from that, LaWayne, is it’s really just starting, having this starting place of looking at all of your assets and running it through a criticality analysis is just really the first step to really get better visibility into your equipment, your assets, what’s important, what’s not. Again, what I hear is just take that first step. I’m curious, LaWayne, what are you excited by in the future of maintenance and reliability? 


08:18 LS: I think the emerging technologies piece is kind of exciting. So being in this industry for a while, I understand that we have the older generation and the younger generation, and it’s hard to bring the younger generation into our industry and with us adopting like emerging technologies, it gets those younger people excited. And then once they come in, because we drew them in with the different computers or centers or ultrasound or whatever, once they get into it, they start seeing how it interconnects with everything else in life, you know what I mean? Which is really exciting.


09:03 Ryan: Absolutely, and I think this also goes back to this perception of maintenance and reliability, too. Once we start changing the perception of maintenance and reliability, I think more people are just gonna be excited to want to come into this space as well.


09:18 LS: Oh, without a shadow of a doubt.


09:21 Ryan: Awesome. So with that being said, any recommendations for people who want to get into this space? Where should they start? 


09:32 LS: Good question. So, I will say changing the culture, what I like to say is evolving the culture because you don’t know what you don’t know. It can be very difficult. So if you’re looking at getting into this space and you’re very passionate about making these changes for the better, you have to slow down, you have to think about where you wanna be and formulate a plan on how to get there in small chunks. How do you eat an elephant one bite at a time? And you have to understand that it’s not a project, it’s a journey. And so, even if you think five years or 10 years down the road of, hey, this is my goal of where we wanna be, it’s not gonna stop there, it’s still a continuous improvement, continuous journey. And kind of going back to what you said earlier, you just have to start. So pick something and just start it. And you’ll start seeing improvements very, very soon.


10:32 Ryan: Absolutely. And we talk about this journey. For the folks that are just starting out on their reliability journey, I’m curious, what kind of career advancement opportunities do you foresee or have you seen in this space for the up-and-comer going into this industry? 


10:55 LS: Yeah, well, first of all, it really allows you to learn how all the pieces in the organization come together for a common goal. And so, the ISO standards, ISO 55000 talks about creating that holistic line of sight, and as you’re developing your maintenance strategies through reliability-centered maintenance or preventative maintenance optimization, etcetera, you kinda start seeing how all the pieces of the pie fit together and as you’re starting to learn how each thing kind of fits together, it’s gonna open the door of possibilities throughout your organizations. So I can really see an asset manager or your reliability engineer, or your specialist or whatever, really getting promoted maybe even to the chief financial officer. Because the way you understand… You’re creating value in your physical assets, that’s our main goal and objective in this industry or this community, but as you’re learning how to create this value in your assets, you can easily apply that to other assets, whether it’s your financial piece or whatever else a CFO does. So those are just some of the things I could see career enhancements or something like that.


12:17 Ryan: Absolutely, and I think you bring up a really good point which is, maintenance is not just here, and reliability is not just here to go out and fix something when it breaks down. This department, this team is responsible for production and keeping our equipment up and running. And when we think about it that way, absolutely, there is such a big impact on the financials of an entire business.


12:48 LS: Yes, exactly, exactly.


12:51 Ryan: Awesome. So, I guess, pivoting a little bit, we were talking a little bit about the Uptime Elements and I also saw that it looks like you’re preparing to take the CMRP exam.


13:04 LS: Yes I am. Yes I am.


13:07 Ryan: Why did you decide to take the CMRP and what does this certification mean to you? 


13:13 LS: Okay, well, when I first started this about a year ago, I’ve laid out some short-term goals, not just for the organization, but also for myself and just one of those goals that I set out was to earn or obtain the CMRP. To me, it adds that staple to say, “Hey look, I’m really serious about maintenance and reliability,” and it kinda adds… The only word that’s coming to my mind is, it’s adding that value to me as I communicate it. So if I’ve proven that I can become certified in this industry, and then I start talking about it, people will tend to listen a little bit more. It’s almost like the difference between, I don’t know, talking to your mechanic or your dad. So your dad may be really good at fixing cars, but there are some limits to that, of course, unless he’s an ASE certified mechanic, but he’s not. So are you gonna believe your dad, which you should have faith to trust your dad, I’m not saying that, but in regards to this problem you’re having with your vehicle, or should you believe the mechanic who has that certification? You’re gonna believe the mechanic a lot more, right? 


14:34 Ryan: Absolutely, and for all of our listeners, I’m curious, where do you go to continue learning? Where do you go to continue getting better and going deeper into this industry? 


14:51 LS: What I like to do is stay active in LinkedIn because there’s a lot of people out there that are a whole lot smarter than I am and they post a lot of good articles and of course, read all those articles you can, try to visit other companies websites. There’s a lot of people that have websites out there that talk about maintenance reliability. I also recommend getting on like the MRO bookstore, LinkedIn through Amazon, and just find books and read books. And then, of course, as you’re reading the books, try to think to yourself how you can incorporate whatever you’re reading into your organization.


15:37 Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. Reading and education is one thing but application of this knowledge is the thing that actually drives change.


15:46 LS: Exactly, exactly.


15:47 Ryan: Absolutely.


15:48 LS: Because that’s the biggest thing, too, is it’s good to read all you can, but another big aspect that I’ve learned is really connecting with people, whether they’re inside or outside of the industry, the MNR industry that we’re in, connection’s very important. You can share ideas and get buy-in or whatever.


16:10 Ryan: Yeah, and I think it all goes back to this idea of taking the first step. And from our conversation, it seems like the first step that you took was taking a look at all of your assets and running a criticality analysis on them. For our listeners, where did you start with this process? And would you recommend that to everyone? 


16:33 LS: First of all, yes, I would recommend it to everyone. And the reason for that is you wanna make sure you’re doing the right job or the right task at the right time and everything that you want your technicians to do needs to be value added to the success of the organization. So going back, I did form that reliability committee, first and foremost, to get them on board and start sharing that. When we got the committee together, I kind of facilitated the requirements of the criticality analysis. So what are some of the things we should really focus on? And got buy-in from there. So, what we chose to focus on for our criticality analysis was number one, the probability of failure, number two, the risk of failure. And then, I also incorporated safety, so if there was a safety aspect to it. And then, because one of my committee members is also an energy manager, I incorporated this energy management piece. And then so once we came out with that criteria, then we decided on a scoring mechanism, we set up an Excel spreadsheet that we just plugged a number in, it would automatically do the formula and changed the color to green, yellow, or red, and then the way we set it up, if it’s red, it’s a priority one; which means it’s a critical asset, green is a priority three; not so critical.


18:05 Ryan: Absolutely, that sounds like such a good process to go through for all of your equipment. I’m also curious, how do you weigh the cost benefit of doing a full RCM analysis on each asset? 


18:20 LS: Yeah, so I took the approach… The RCM process can be a lengthy process so it takes a lot of time. And so to create more value, not just for our assets, but also respecting people’s time, we just started focusing in on the RCM efforts for our most critical pieces of equipment, so all those pieces of equipment that was a one or in red in color. And it’s still an ongoing process, we still don’t have all of our assets completed yet with the RCM analysis. But it at least allowed us to say this is what we’re gonna focus on first, because if these assets fail, it’s gonna be the biggest impact to our organization or to the system.


19:08 Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. So if I got that correct, it sounds like what you first started with was first, gathering all of your assets into that Excel spreadsheet, running the criticality analysis on each one of those, and then I’m guessing you chose the top five or the top 10 that’s priority one to run that full reliability-centered maintenance analysis against. Does that sound about right? 


19:35 LS: Yeah, yeah, for the most part. So here on our campus, we do have an energy center, and so that supplies all the utilities to our campus: Steam, chilled water, [19:47] ____, etcetera. And so, you can probably guess that most of the assets in that facility are critical, because it would shut down the whole campus if not, but what was really good is there’s redundancy in that facility, as well. So when you do an RCM on a pump, as an example, you can apply it to all the pumps in that facility. So it cut down a lot of work and a lot of time, but you just have to stay laser-focused to say, “Well, this is what we’re doing RCM on.


20:18 Ryan: Got it, absolutely. LaWayne, what goes into a full RCM analysis? 


20:25 LS: Ooh, wow. [chuckle] There are seven steps, and forgive me, I can’t quote all seven steps verbatim, other than the approach that we took, so we took the approach of, okay, here’s this asset and here’s what it is designed to do. Then the next piece is we said, “Well, what are we asking this asset to do, and does it fulfill what it was designed to do?” And then from there, we took and we said, “Well, what are all the possible failures that could occur with this asset? And then, is there really anything we can do to kind of combat those failures?” And basically, it was like a modified FMEA, if you would. But what’s really good about that RCM analysis, too, is it help me developed some asset management plans which actually listed the maintenance strategy, whether we’re gonna do a time-based intrusive maintenance or condition maintenance or just run to failure.


21:28 Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. It’s actually interesting. So this is just for our listeners, but we actually recently did a game internally about all the different acronyms used in this phase.


21:41 LS: I saw that on LinkedIn, yeah.




21:43 LS: There’s a bunch, aren’t there? 


21:45 Ryan: There’s a bunch. And I think we only got 1% of them but, RCM, we commonly use this acronym stands for reliability-centered maintenance. The FMEA is failure modes effect analysis, is that right? 


22:00 LS: Yes, failure mode and effect analysis.


22:01 Ryan: Alright, got that one. Alright, cool.




22:04 LS: Yeah, I’m trying not to use that many acronyms.


22:06 Ryan: I know, that’s my fault.


22:08 LS: But it’s hard.


22:08 Ryan: I think I started that one.


22:09 LS: No, no, no, no, it’s… I don’t know, it just comes naturally, it seems like, especially being retired military when that’s all we use are acronyms.




22:19 Ryan: Alright. Let’s talk a little bit about culture. I think we all know that you can’t make change within an organization by just a single person. So I’m curious, what have you done to help affect the culture of maintenance and reliability at the University of Kansas Medical Center.


22:38 LS: Yeah, great question. So I don’t know if anybody’s ever read Ron Moore’s book, Making Common Sense Common Practice. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you read it. The reason why I say that is because he touches on some culture pieces in that book, and he comes out with this analogy about these people being in a boat and you have your active resistors, your passive resistors, and those people that are just gonna be on board no matter what. So thankfully, I had been in this organization long enough where I kinda knew the people that would be on board from day one. And I also knew the people who were the passive resistors, if you will, that are just standing there with their arms crossed like, “Well, I’m just gonna see how this goes and then I’ll make my decision.” So I thought it was really important to get the people I knew that would just jump on it right away, to get them in, and then, use them as champions as well. To me, I’m the champion of this but I gotta bring other champions on board, so I use them as champions as well to kind of start communicating it. And we’re not there yet, we still have a ways to go, but again, it’s a journey, and we all kinda understand that journey. But us champions, we get together and we hope to influence those passive resistors, which we’ve slowly started doing through a lot of the changes we’re making and then through that, hopefully we get those active resistors in.


24:12 Ryan: Absolutely. And I’m also gonna do a big shout out to you too, LaWayne. I think one thing that drives a lot of culture within an organization, is painting that picture of what is our goal five years out.


24:25 LS: Yeah, most definitely.


24:27 Ryan: Once you guys all have that common goal, it becomes a lot more clear about why we need to do this and what kind of change we need to make today. So, to me, this is a big shout out to you for doing that, and I think that’s huge in terms of culture for the team.


24:45 LS: Thank you.


24:46 Ryan: Of course. LaWayne, you mentioned you’re pretty active on LinkedIn. How can our listeners connect with you, learn more about you and follow you along your journey? 


24:58 LS: Yeah, so again, I am on LinkedIn, and I don’t know if you have show notes or something, you can put my LinkedIn profile there. But yeah, definitely reach out and connect that way. I do plan on attending some more reliability conferences, so we do have the SMRP conference coming up. And I’ll be there, so you can find me with the bald shiny head, [chuckle] definitely. And then, also, if you wanna connect, I can give you my work email address as well, and people could just reach out that way.


25:32 Ryan: That’s awesome. Thanks so much, LaWayne, and thank you for joining us. Congratulations once again for winning our 2019 Upkeep Award. And lastly, thank you to all of our listeners for tuning into today’s Masterminds in Maintenance. Have a great rest of the day! 


25:47 LS: Thanks, Ryan. Appreciate you.


25:50 Ryan: Alright! Awesome job, LaWayne! You did it! 


25:51 LS: Hey, wow, thanks. I know, that was actually pretty good, I think, I don’t know.


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.

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