Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

Episode 8: Solutions for People Issues, Process Issues and Profitability Issues with Joe Anderson

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 8: Solutions for people issues, process issues and profitability issues with Joe Anderson

This week on Masterminds in Maintenance, we hear from Joe Anderson – COO at ReliabilityX.  Joe has more than 20 years of experience in maintenance and management excellence in various different industries and plants throughout the US. He’s published articles, lectured throughout the US, and been recognized as one of the top 50 leaders in the country including the US Congress.

Joe argues that most organizations typically have three different types of problems: People issues, process issues and profitability issues. He walks us through what each one of those means, and the most common root causes for each.

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

Connect with Ryan chan on Linkedin Here and Joe Anderson on Linkedin here.


Got questions on maintenance & reliability? Looking for live advice?

Join our LIVE “Ask the Experts!” panel on November 12th, 11amPT/2pmET.

Ryan Chan, Masterminds in Maintenance

Robert Kalwarowsky, Rob’s Reliability Project

George Williams, ReliabilityX

Joe Anderson, ReliabilityX

Submit questions in advance here. Join us for our live conversation here.

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


00:00 Ryan Chan: 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. Sometimes the idea failed, sometimes it made their business more successful, and other times, their idea revolutionized an entire industry.


00:20 RC: Today, I’m excited to welcome to the show, Joseph Anderson. Joe has more than 20 years of experience in maintenance and management excellence in various different industries and plants throughout the US. He’s published many articles, lectured throughout the US in many areas. He’s been recognized as one of the top 50 leaders in the country and including the US Congress. Currently, Joe is the COO at ReliabilityX. Joe, welcome to the show.


00:48 Joseph Anderson: Hey, thanks for having me, Ryan. It’s good to be here.


00:51 RC: All right, so let’s get started. We’ll jump right in. First, we’d love to hear about where you are today, what your biggest focus is on today and where you’re really thinking… What you’re really thinking about in the maintenance and reliability space.


01:06 JA: Right now, we’re in all over United States and Canada helping clients. Our main focus, it varies depending on the client. We do a lot of training, we do coaching agreements, and right now, we’re working on a plant turn around in Canada, which is going very, very well. I’m excited about that. Just teaching them how to eliminate losses and understand how to develop a strategy to become better, gain the throughputs necessary to keep them competitive. So, it’s going really well.


01:40 RC: Awesome, so you basically, it sounds like, travel the country, help businesses and plants out with their maintenance, reliability, best practices.


01:49 JA: Yeah, and operations as well, yeah.


01:51 RC: Awesome. Joe, how did you get into this space? 


01:55 JA: Starting out of high school, basically, I turned 18 in January. I started at a beef packing plant in maintenance, and I’ve kinda continued from there. I went to school later on, knowing that without the degree, I couldn’t advance my career and I had goals to advance. Started as a mechanic and I worked my way up through the system, working at different various places and kind of started a niche for myself. Turning plants around, driving the turn around through the maintenance department, making the maintenance department the center of excellence, and then kind of driving the change there. So done this for a while.


02:37 RC: That’s awesome. Yeah, and I’m curious, what would you say were some of the most pivotal moments that led you to this path, that made you realize this is the path for you? 


02:53 JA: Probably having a mentor. I would suggest that everybody has at least one mentor to help them see the light sometimes. I [03:02] ____ very good at being a reactive maintenance manager. I’d work 21 hours a day, do whatever it takes to keep the plant running, not fully understanding what true proactive maintenance is. And I had this mentor pull me aside and basically wake me up to the fact that everything that I was doing was wrong, and that I needed to understand the right way of doing things. I would say at that moment, it woke me up to especially accelerate my growth, as to where I am today.


03:34 RC: That’s awesome. And how did you find this mentor? Where did they come from? 


03:38 JA: He was doing a CMMS implementation for one of our facilities, but that was just one of his pieces of his firm, but I guess he saw something in me and kinda took me under his wing and I’m very appreciative of that. And I talk to him to this day. It’s been great. I always have somebody there I can talk to, if I run into anything or have any questions. It’s always nice.


04:08 RC: Absolutely, very cool. That’s so critical, having that mentor that will help push you to be better at the end of the day.


04:16 JA: For sure.


04:20 RC: Since you’ve been 18, you’ve been working in this industry for a couple of years now. Just a few.


04:24 JA: Just a few, yeah.


04:28 RC: What changes have you seen for better and for worse, within the maintenance, reliability space over the past couple of years? 


04:35 JA: I think for better, we’ve grown to understand more of the need and how to develop maintenance strategies, how to implement them. I think all that knowledge is out there. That’s been a plus, but on the minus side, with an aging workforce and companies cutting training budgets, and cutting apprenticeship programs, and those types of things, we’re losing skill sets at the same time. A lot of places are starting again at ground zero. With all this knowledge out there, internet technology, all these things, we’re still way behind the curve as a majority. Now, there are great companies doing great things, but at the vast majority, they’re not there.


05:21 RC: Yeah, so how can we get better to solve and address that gap? 


05:28 JA: That’s something I wrestle with myself. For me, it’s just sharing my knowledge and trying to make people better. Really, you can only do it one person at the time. Again, it’s difficult. If I had the answer, I guess, that would be my niche, and I would be making some money out of it, right? And I think with the changes in generations, and some of the differences there, I think it makes it a bit of a struggle as well. I don’t know, I really wish I had an answer.


06:06 RC: Your group, ReliabilityX, we’ve read that you guys say that most organizations typically have three different types of problems: People issues, process issues and profitability issues. Can you walk us through what each one of those means, and what the most common root cause is for each one of these issues are? 


06:26 JA: Yeah. The people issue is more on the training side, like we just talked about. I think eliminating your training departments, a lot of companies have gotten away from it. But they expect more from their employees with less knowledge. That’s a huge issue. But that ties into processes as well, because a group of processes developed correctly creates a system. And without a system, we blame people for the reason why our organization is where it is. I think one of the main root causes to both is the lack of systems.


07:06 JA: From a profitability perspective, it’s, again, I think they all kinda tie together. With no processes, no systems, you blame people. And there’s no urge to get better. There’s a demand for throughput, but we’re not willing to invest in what it takes to get there. We wanna get more for less, which, you can in some cases, but at most, it’s a detriment to the business.


07:35 RC: Absolutely. What kind of systems are you talking about? 


07:39 JA: Well, one is a system of accountability. For example, standard work. Having operators do standardized work on the floor, so we’re all operating the equipment the same. If you don’t have that system in place, first shift comes in, they play with the machine and get it to run the way they like it. Second shift comes in, does the same thing, third shift comes in, does the same thing. And you have no mechanism to hold them accountable to. And so, without that system in place, we wanna blame people, and we say, “Oh well, third shift, they just stink.” And that isn’t the case. The fact is, we haven’t standardized work, we haven’t trained them to what our expectations are. We just think by sitting in the office, and we have our own expectation in our head, but it’s not communicated to the floor, but somehow, we think it’s gonna translate and that doesn’t work. Without those systems in place, you have no mechanism of accountability. Without accountability, at least, the chaos. You have to have a system in order to keep things in order. Same with planning, scheduling work, any of that type of stuff.


08:51 RC: Yeah, I’m sure we’ve all experienced that chaos at some point within our careers. Well, yeah, I think another thing that or we come off often hearing is really this tendency to over-PM and overthink our preventative maintenance schedules. I’m curious, what you think about that, Joe. Is that something that you hear? Is that a common tendency for reliability teams? 


09:23 JA: It is. There’s a few reasons for that. One is, as a maintenance guy, you feel the need to do maintenance on everything, right? Whether it’s a critical piece of equipment on the floor or the exhaust fan on the roof of a warehouse that has no consequence to the business, we still think that there’s some sort of work we have to do with it. Having that level of understanding drives a part of that. The other piece is, not having a robust strategy, or not understanding how to develop a strategy. “Did you do a criticality analysis on the assets? Did you rank them?” “And then are you doing RCM or FMEA on those top critical assets driving down to failure modes and trained to eliminate failure modes on critical pieces of equipment, where a lot of the equipment in our facilities should be run to failure?”


10:16 JA: The example of the exhaust fan: If there’s no consequence to the business, why am I wasting time and money to do PM on this exhaust fan, when if the B belt breaks, there’s no consequence? If the motor goes out, there’s no consequence. I spend 300 bucks and replace the motor when I get time to do that work. And so, it takes away from the time that we have to do work on critical assets because we’re wasting time on non-critical assets. I think that’s why we over-PM.


10:52 RC: Yeah. I’m curious, where do you think most businesses are on the spectrum of over-PMing and under-PMing? 


11:00 JA: I think it’s both, it’s bulked together. I think we’re over-PMing a lot of equipment that shouldn’t do PM at all, and we’re under-PMing the equipment that needs to be PM-ed. But it’s not just PM, it’s the utilization of predictive technologies, having a backlog, doing corrective maintenance, and restoring assets back to base condition. I don’t think we focus on any of that. I think we go out, we do the work that’s put in front of us, and we turn the paperwork in. And that’s because a lot of people don’t understand what it takes to maintain equipment and I chalk that up to a lack of leadership because of a leadership’s inability to invest in their people. So then, we wanna go back and blame people again. “Why is this machine breaking and you’re PMing it?” And a lot of that has to do with their level of knowledge.


12:00 RC: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think what I heard is really this, there’s no silver bullet to this, but it really comes back to thinking about strategy before just doing work to do work, and really think about the effectiveness of our daily tasks.


12:18 JA: Right, well, there’s two pieces, right? It’s we have to define terms. There’s effectiveness, and there’s efficiency. Okay. We can be very efficient at doing the wrong things and be very, very efficient at it, but effectiveness is doing the right things. And then once you’re effective, you should focus on efficiency. And I think we get the cart before the horse so many times, that we’re not doing the right things, and we bring in a group to focus on making us more efficient, instead of focusing on the right things first, and then making it more efficient. And there’s a big push, and there has been for years to come in and make things more efficient. The problem is, is we’re not doing the right things. You’ll always see gains by making things more efficient, but if you’re not doing the right things, it’s not sustainable. And so it becomes a big problem.


13:13 RC: Yeah, and it really comes back to why are we doing the things that we do. And one of the most common things that we hear is, “We wanna reduce downtime. We wanna reduce downtime, increase production.” And so, I had read one of your papers earlier today, citing that maintenance contributes to roughly about 17% of losses at a given plant, that’s caused by down… Or 17% of losses caused by downtime from maintenance. What do you think are the biggest contributors towards downtime that can be mitigated in a plant? 


13:50 JA: Well, there’s two major contributors, at least from a manufacturing perspective. I can’t speak to other industries, my background’s manufacturing. But from a manufacturing perspective, it’s speed losses and minor stops. The problem we have today is we don’t understand losses. We only have two buckets. It’s called unplanned downtime and planned downtime. And there’s so many things that are tied into those two buckets. We don’t break them down to try to understand them. What ends up happening is this unplanned downtime bucket gets thrown in the lap of maintenance, and maintenance gets the blame. And so, even though they are about 17% of the problem, they get the blame for almost 100% of the problem.


14:39 JA: For example, maintenance should be responsible for breakdowns. But how do you define a breakdown? And I don’t think we get that granular. A breakdown, by TPM definition is 10 minutes or more, and requires a part. Any stop that’s 10 minutes or less is normally owned by operations as it’s considered a minor stop. And we really don’t look at those. The box machine jams for one minute, we unjam the box, we push the button, we keep running. That happens 400 or 500, 600 times a day on one machine. We’re losing three or four hours of downtime due to one minute stops, but we have that 130 minute breakdown, and the maintenance manager sits in a meeting in the morning and has to explain where did the throughput go. And that’s because we don’t understand losses.


15:36 JA: And speed losses are the same. Those are more related to design issues with engineering. But yeah, what I’ve done is TPM is close to 50 years old now. And they came up with the OEE metric and some other metrics behind it, what’s called the six big losses, but no one’s really looked at that and decided to break that down even more or into smaller chunks. And then, there’s another piece called the 16 major losses. What I’ve done is I’ve broken those up even more to get more granular, and I have now what’s called the 30 major losses. We have a white paper on it on our website at reliabilityX.com if you wanna check it out. And then OEE, I add a seventh loss, which is called a process failure. Process failure being, 10 minutes or more, and doesn’t require a part.


16:38 JA: For example, e-stop isn’t located in the right place, but an operator accidentally hits it. And we can’t figure out why the machine’s down, they call maintenance. It takes us 15-20 minutes to recover, but all we did was pull out the e-stop, and hit the reset button and start up again. That’s not a maintenance issue, that’s an operational issue. And so, understanding those losses helps you bucket them so you know what to prioritize and what to go after.


17:12 JA: What I found doing loss analysis, I’d say, I don’t know, it’s over 50 lines now that I’ve done loss analysis on, and in eight or nine different facilities. What I found is maintenance is only about 7% of the problem there. And 50 to 70% of the losses or speed losses and minor stops. If you really wanna gain throughputs, then you focus on those areas that are your big buckets of losses. And that’s what I do.


17:46 RC: Where do you see some companies getting it really right? What do they do that’s different than everyone else? 


17:57 JA: Well, I can vouch for a facility that I’ve worked in, and knowing that there’s elements of everything that you have to do right. For example, in the maintenance department, they planned schedule where [18:11] ____ all their jobs were very effective, very efficient with their work there. And on the operations side, they were doing their operator care PMs taking care of the equipment. See, if we mitigate the little things upfront through operations, like missing bolts, lubrication, those types of things, they don’t lead to the bigger things which cause breakdown. If we nip it there early on, then you start eliminating your breakdowns. We had a zero breakdown facility, zero injuries, quality was great, and we freed up so much capacity that they shut down six of the 15 lines, because we didn’t have demand. And so we took all the practices, all the best practices we could find and tried to implement them in our facility, we wanted to be the best. And I think that culture has to be ingrained, the desire to be the best.


19:09 RC: Absolutely, absolutely. You mentioned earlier that maintenance gets the blame for a lot of the problems, but they only are a very small fraction of downtime. What can we do to begin to shift that culture and mentality? 


19:32 JA: What I do… What I’ve done in the past is I start breaking down that data into those loss buckets. And I start defining terms. And that way, when I walk into a facility in the morning and I have to go explain that 30-minute breakdown, I can explain it. But at the same time, I could say, “Hey, we lost four hours on this box machine due to cardboard jam. I’ll take responsibility for that 30 minutes and I’ll do what I can to fix it, make sure it never happens again. But what are we doing about the bigger issue, the four hours of downtime because of bad cardboard or whatever that we’re losing on these machines?” and getting people to ask questions instead of focusing on the 30-minute breakdown. And that’s why I say we drove it, and I’ve always driven it from the maintenance department, is educating people, bringing that awareness that if we truly want throughputs, we need to understand why we’re losing every minute of every day, and then go after it. And so that’s what I’ve done.


20:41 RC: Yeah, absolutely. And you also mentioned OEE as a metric, and that metric was designed to capture all the different types of downtime. I’m curious, what do you think of that metric? Is it a good one? And should we be tracking OEE? 


21:03 JA: Yes and no, it depends on what you’re using it for. The purpose behind OEE is to understand what your losses are, and it creates big bars, basically, and tells you what you need to go after, where your problems are. The problem is, as we’ve converted it to this efficiency metric, and we give people a goal and say you have to hit this number. And as with any metric, I’m all about measuring things, but the reason we measure things is to improve, not to rate people or give them a score based on what number they hit or whatever. If you tell me that I need to hit a certain number, I’m gonna manipulate the number to make sure I hit it. Why? ‘Cause you tied it to my bonus or you tie it to my performance review and you’re beating me over the head with this number. So I’ll do whatever it takes to hit the number. The problem is it’s very dishonest, and if we truly wanna get great at what we do, we really have to be honest. And that’s hard for a lot of organizations, because we’re not as good as we think we are.


22:18 JA: And so if I come in and I say, “Look, you’re OEE. You’re reporting it at 70, but truly, it’s about 26%.” You’re gonna blow heads, right? People are gonna be mad because they’re so used to using it as this number that we have to hit instead of understanding what it’s truly utilized for. If it’s used correctly, I’m all for it. If you’re using it to beat people over the head with it, I don’t agree with that at all.


22:46 RC: Yeah, absolutely. And I think what it comes down to is having a standard way of tracking, measuring it so that you can’t game it. I’m curious, of the facilities, of the groups that you’ve worked with, is there a good way to track, manage it, so that it can’t be gamed, so that it can’t be dishonest? 


23:08 JA: Yeah, but again, if you report the number that you’re truly at, and upper management, they don’t understand, then all hell’s gonna break loose. And so, that’s why people are dishonest with it. It’s not that they don’t know that they’re… It’s just that, are you willing to pay the repercussions that come down, and the retaliation? And as much as we don’t wanna admit it, that’s the fear. That’s why it won’t be tracked correctly. But yeah, there’s a lot of ways to do it. It’s understanding it correctly, and how to measure it correctly. It’s not hard to measure, but it’s very easy to manipulate.


23:52 RC: Yeah. Very interesting. Enough about the bad. What are you excited by about the future, Joe? [chuckle]


24:04 JA: It’s only up from here, that’s the great thing. You’ve got new generations of people coming in. There will always be work for people like us, which is great, and the ability to teach other people and work with other people, that’s one of my passions. I’m willing to teach somebody everything I know, which isn’t much, but I’m willing to invest in them because I wanna see people do better. And I think there’s a lot of opportunity in that area, and I’m excited for that, as well as some of the technologies that are coming in. I just think there’s a lot going on that we get to look forward to.


24:44 RC: [chuckle] Yeah, it’s so cool. I, again, see so much innovation in this space that has commonly not gotten the most, either. Is there any one specific technology that you’re excited by coming soon in the near future? 


25:04 JA: I would say, with RDI’s motion amplification, that system is phenomenal and I think it’s just starting to gain ground and I’m looking forward to that. I’ve used it, I’ve bought one. Their technology is phenomenal. From the AI perspective, I think that there’s a lot that we can learn from it but I also think, again, if we don’t know what the right things to do are, then it’s just gonna be a waste of money. We have to be very careful there, making sure that we understand the data and what it is we’re trying to do there, but I think getting back to the basics is where we need to be, at this point. Although technology’s fun, and it’s sexy and it’s always great to talk about, I still think we need to get back to the basics, but that’s just my opinion.


26:05 RC: Yeah, no, I completely agree. There’s so much foundational work that we’ve still got a lot to improve on. And from this conversation, Joe, I’ve personally learned a ton. This has been a blast. Can you share with our listeners ways that they can connect with you, learn more about yourself, the company that you work with? Yeah.


26:27 JA: Sure, reliabilityX.com is our website. We’ve got a lot of resources there. We have our own podcast called Practical Reliability, which Ryan’s been on. You have to check that out. It’s on Anchor or you can get to it from our website. We also have a YouTube channel, The Reliability Experience. We put some knowledge-based things on there trying to teach people in small increments. We have a lot of short videos, we have some longer videos, where we discuss certain topics. There’s a lot of stuff there. We also have the Captain Unreliability column in Plant Service. Every month in Plant Services, it’s more of a comedy take, a satire article on the industry, which is fun for me ’cause I get to be sarcastic and vent a little bit with some of my frustrations, but at the same time, have fun with it. So yeah, it’s been great.


27:26 RC: I’ve seen some of those. It’s definitely worth checking out.


27:29 JA: I appreciate that.


27:30 RC: [chuckle] Awesome. Well, thank you again, Joe, for joining us and thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in to today’s Masterminds in Maintenance. Again, my name is Ryan Chan. I’m the CEO of Upkeep. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, and directly at [email protected] Until next time. Take care, Joe.


27:48 JA: Thank you.

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