Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

Episode 24: Making Reliability Your Priority with Anna Goodman

Ryan Chan

On this week’s episode of Masterminds in Maintenance, we welcome Anna Goodman, reliability engineer at ARMS Reliability, on the show! In this episode, Ryan and Anna discuss the importance of prioritization, as well as gender roles in the maintenance and reliability space. Listen today!

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00:06 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 have revolutionized an entire industry. Today I’m super excited, we’ve got Anna Goodman on the show. We’ll discuss her journey into maintenance and reliability. Anna has spent approximately nine years working in maintenance and reliability at DuPont to Honeywell, from the nuclear industry, sugar industry, plastics, chemical processing, all the way to the oil and gas industry. Anna is a mechanical engineer by training and is currently a reliability engineer at ARMS Reliability. Anna, warm, warm welcome to the show, I’m super excited to be chatting with you.

00:55 Anna Goodman: Thank you. [chuckle]

00:56 RC: Of course. So to kick things off, what I always love to do is, I would love to learn more about your story, your background, and how you got started in this interesting little industry and niche.

01:08 AG: Okay, well I started out in the Midwest. So I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and that’s where I went to college. And then right out of school pretty much I ended up getting a job at a nuclear facility owned by Honeywell. And within that, there was a lot of politics to start out, especially for a first job, right? [chuckle] Being nuclear and being regulated by not only OSHA but the NRC, there was a lot to learn. And when I started with them, they were actually on a lockout with their union. So what the deal was, was that they had us… They had about a group of 20 of us engineers come in at once around the time of this lockout, and we were helping contractors run the facility until the union members came back, and once they came back, we helped re-qualify them, and then transitioned into process engineering roles. So there was a lot of hands-on learning, a lot of process learning and a whole adventure. [chuckle] And what was even more interesting about it is it wasn’t your typical… What you would think of as a nuclear plant. It made the fuel for the power plants. And so we actually converted UF4 into UF6 by adding flourine to it and cylinderized it, and then shifted to the nuclear power plants for them to do their thing.

02:32 RC: Wow.

02:33 AG: So that was kind of my first role. And then after a fashion, because it was an older facility, it was started in the 1950s, the NRC came in after Fukushima happened, and did an audit on the place. And because it was in Illinois, on a fault line, and so old, they said, “You have to do a lot of structural updates,” and as a result of those structural updates cost, they laid off about 60% of their task force. And a lot of that was these new engineers that they hired in the group, and myself included. And so from there, you go on the job hunt, and you see what you can find. And I ended up landing a gig with DuPont. It was actually a DuPont acquisition. They had bought a Danisco sugar plant in Thomson, Illinois, and I ended up being what DuPont called a mechanical integrity quality assurance engineer.

03:28 AG: And what that meant for that plant, because it was an acquisition, is I was starting a lot of the mechanical integrity program from the ground up, and I was also working a lot with maintenance, with the mechanics and technicians, trying to figure out how to incorporate their legacy knowledge into this corporate mandate to follow DuPont policies and procedures, right. Kinda find a happy good place for everybody to work together and for all that to work together nicely. I learned a lot there. There is a whole lot to learn. I had quite a few mentors on the site, as well as senior DuPont engineers that wanted to see that site become successful. And after a while though, I got sick of the cold, to be honest with you. [chuckle]

04:13 AG: So I asked to be transferred. And so they transferred me to the Orange facility, the Orange DuPont facility, and they’re on Chemical Row. I don’t know if you’re familiar, and it’s this long street of just plant after plant after plant, and DuPont happened to be one of them. And what they made there were a lot of copolymers. So I was in a plastics facility. And within that job, I was transferred from the MIQA world to a reliability engineer. But because the facility there was so much bigger and they had so much better resources, I was able to expand my knowledge of their programs into their application, learn more about what a good condition-based monitoring schedule and route looked like. I was able to achieve a couple of certifications in thermography and lubrication and vibration, and that kind of thing.

05:13 AG: And I learned a whole lot from the technicians there as well, about not only those sciences but how to apply them. And then they also had their own lab, which I thought was the best about that facility. They had their own lab where they did failure analysis in that lab. So if a hose failed, or a valve failed, or gears, or whatever it was, they took basically the carnage, and they took it to the lab and they dissected it and they figured out whether it was the metal, or lubrication, or something else going on with it. And so that was fascinating. After about two years, or two years there, I decided to come closer to a big city. So I started looking for jobs near Houston. And I ended up in a Taiwanese-owned place called LCY Elastomers, where basically they were making rubberized copolymers. And there, my title was maintenance engineer, but my role was reliability, mechanical integrity, small capital project, jack of all trades, right?

06:17 RC: Yeah.

06:17 AG: I was the only mechanical engineer on the site and they pretty much used me wherever they could. And so I was very busy, very hopping around. And so I was able to apply a lot of that knowledge that I had learned at all these previous roles, right, and then about a whole new process. And so that was exciting, especially considering that particular facility was the only division in the Americas, where all their other factories were in Taiwan or other places. And so when they came to the Baytown location from Taiwan, some of the other engineers, we were able to get a lot of teamwork going to make things better in that way. And of course, there were some language and culture barriers that you have when that happens, but to me it just added to the experience. And then from there, I kind of made a decision for my personal life that I didn’t necessarily wanna be on site all the time and on call and all that stuff, right. So now I work for ARMS in Consulting and I’ve been working a lot more on the implementation side there again of strategies and optimization of those reliability technologies and things that I learned from previous roles.

07:32 RC: That’s awesome. So it sounds like you kinda got thrown into the deep end, and then over time, it sounds like you just weaved yourself into this reliability space, and it sounds like it’s become a strong passion of yours over the last few years.

07:51 AG: Yeah, yeah, I would say so. ‘Cause to me, what I learned through all the different transitions and meeting all the different people and working in all the different manufacturing types, is that at the end of the day, reliability is about the people, and it’s about keeping the people safe, and not having equipment surprises that could lead to injuries or fatalities, and working together as a team across maintenance, and even between maintenance and operation and all that, the inter-workings are incredibly detailed, but when they’re working smoothly, it’s a beautiful thing to see.

08:29 RC: Absolutely. Well Anna, I would love to talk about a potentially touchy subject today, but I think it’s a subject that not many people commonly address, and it’s really this idea that maintenance and reliability, from at least what I’ve seen, is traditionally a more male-dominated sector. And I’m curious Anna, working in this sector, maintenance and reliability, could you tell us a little bit more about what it’s like working in this space as a woman?

09:00 AG: Yeah. I’ve been doing it for a while. In one word, I would just say, challenging, it really is. But for me it’s a challenge accepted, sort of thing. Sometimes it seems like the men and the women are speaking completely different languages. You may use the same terms, but the way you describe things may be a little different, and so it becomes a little clouded. To me, in that, it’s become crucial to just, when that happens, to come back, to step back, and to try to gain that understanding and convey things in a different way and really have patience with the people that you’re working with to know and to understand that you all have the same common goal and the same… So you work together that way. In my experience, one example of that could be some men do have a very clear-cut way of thinking, that things can only be successful if it’s done one way, and it’s the way they’ve always done it, and they see no reason to change.

10:01 AG: And not just women, but I think the younger generation is working a lot on trying to change that and change that mindset. And so while this could be true from a technical perspective, sometimes giving a more emotionally intuitive spin could get things done faster or better in conjunction with other work and improved teamwork can be just as effective or better than the technology in the long run as a solution.

10:28 RC: Absolutely. So what I hear Anna, is that it’s not so much about… It has to do with trying to change the mindset of people who have been in the industry for a very long time and making sure that the case that we bring in as, let’s call it the younger generation, is worth listening to.

10:48 AG: Yeah.

10:49 RC: Anna, I’m also curious, do you have any advice for women working in maintenance and reliability today, or also women who are pursuing, or thinking about pursuing careers in this field?

11:01 AG: Yeah, I would say for women in the field right now, I would say the key thing I’ve learned on the job as while a title may earn a lot of respect, compassion and attention to details earn trust, and these can be essential in creating a good work environment for yourself. And then for women who are considering pursuing the field, I think I would encourage to realize that there are some differences between theory and application, right? The theories that we learn in school, while they’re validated in math and science, you need more finesse in the application. And when developing a project or program, you make sure you have all the pieces understood and not just the one you have to focus on and are responsible for.

11:40 RC: Yeah.

11:40 AG: And then I would even go maybe a step further in saying, I think that a pivotal thing in building confidence as an engineer is just knowing that mistakes happen. If you admit them, fix them if you can, learn from them, try to be better the next time. You’re really gonna build yourself up for success instead of failure.

12:03 RC: Was there a pivotal experience for you that made you realize, “Hey, I can do this, and I can not just do this well, but I can do this to the best of my capabilities better than everyone else?”

12:17 AG: I wouldn’t say there was necessarily a pivotal experience, but maybe just the biggest gap I had to cover was when I went from a nuclear facility that I had operated and was very familiar with, to that sugar plant where I was leading an effort to change a plant that was very set in its ways, from… And I was getting direction not only from the plant about the old ways, but I was getting direction from DuPont about their ways, and to just work with both sides and realize what was truly needed, and kind of filter through a lot of the mess. It taught me a lot about there again, that cool theory versus application. So in theory, you’re supposed to do A, B, C, D, right? And this is the procedure and this is the corporate way to do it. But in application, maybe C and D don’t apply, maybe those regulatory bodies don’t go. So you don’t wanna force a square peg into a round hole.

13:18 RC: Yeah. [laughter] Yeah. I’m super curious, what was one thing that was really impactful to you when you were just moving to the sugar facility, when you had to change the mindsets of a bunch of people that had been doing things a certain way? What was the most… What was one thing that really worked for you?

13:42 AG: Being a good listener. [chuckle] I think that was the big thing that really saved me. Because sometimes what people say, there’s another level of what they mean, and if you don’t grasp that right away, it could end up in conflict instead of compromise. When they’re like, “This is the way we’ve done it for 30 years and there’s no way I’m gonna change it, this is stupid,” and they’re getting all fired up, if you can calm them down and be like, I hear you. I understand, I understand that this part doesn’t make sense. So therefore, the part that doesn’t make sense, we’re not gonna apply, we’re just gonna leave that to the site and we’re gonna focus on what does make sense.” And a lot of the time when you appeal to them that way, a lot of the crazy kinda goes away. [laughter]

14:27 RC: I think you bring up such a good point because at the end of the day, maintenance and reliability, while you’re working with large machinery and equipment, it’s people that are operating it, it’s people that are the ones turning wrenches, putting it up back up online, and people have emotions, and connecting with people, understanding the why behind the frustration is always so, so important.

14:52 AG: Mm-hmm.

14:55 RC: I’m curious, we talked about… You mentioned in the very beginning that it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that you accept. I’m also curious, flipping the coin the other direction, if you could give any of your male colleagues any advice on working with women, what’s something that you’d wanna share? Or what’s one thing that would make it easier for more women to come into this space and field?

15:22 AG: I would say that the best men I’ve worked with is who I would probably try to glean from the most with that. And so they were never afraid to admit when they were wrong or to learn something new. And it’s not a sign… And to know that it’s not a sign of vulnerability but a sign of growth, that’s something that I even have to remember myself sometimes, to make sure to put the ego to the side and focus on the things that truly matter within a project or a program or whatever it is you’re working on.

16:00 RC: That applies to everyone. It doesn’t matter, male or female, it doesn’t matter what color of skin you have, it doesn’t matter whether you have an accent or not. I think that applies to everyone. Anna, I’m curious, who inspired you, who influenced you to become the leader in maintenance and reliability that you are today?

16:19 AG: Honestly, I think I wouldn’t be able to say that it was just one person. If I had to break it down over my life, I would say my dad helped me, or he encouraged in me the love of science. My mom, she loves people and she’s always been a very compassionate, empathetic woman. And those two things were very influential on me when I was growing up. And then in high school, there was a German teacher that helped me learn how the human brain works and how better understanding that can lead to success in other ways. And then in the field, in the jobs that I’ve done, there’s a gentleman named Dan Hague that taught me how to keep a good work-life balance and how that’s the key to any job, right. And there was this guy, another guy I think I had mentioned in one of my blogs, Olen Pepple, that always was looking to better himself, even if that meant going way out of his comfort zone. He started out as a welder, and by the time I was there, he was running stores, and he actually transitioned into the maintenance superintendent.

17:32 AG: So to go that far and the career of 20 years is amazing and very rare, and it’s because he was willing to do that. And then I think the most recent one was probably my friend Charlie Block that taught me that knowing the answer isn’t as important as knowing where to find it, or knowing where, who to talk to, or just kind of checking it out, don’t be afraid to ask those questions that some people are afraid to ask, because the worst thing that they’ll say is no. [laughter]

18:06 RC: That’s amazing. Anna, it sounds like you still have such a positive attitude. It sounds like you’ve gone through a lot of different experiences where you got thrown into the deep end, but it also sounds like you’ve been supported by so many different people that have helped along the way. And I think that’s what makes all of us so successful. It’s never a one-person show. It’s everyone that we’ve learned from, everyone that we can turn to ask questions to and push us to be better. Anna, you’ve worked at so many different industries across gas, sugar, manufacturing, nuclear powerplants, and now you’re on the consulting side. I must imagine you see so many different experiences, challenges with different organizations. I’m curious, is there one that stands out to you, one common challenge that you see time and time again, regardless of industry that you go into?

19:04 AG: Yes, I would say I wish more people outside of the maintenance and reliability groups understood that in order to not have surprises, equipment health has to be maintained and monitored by more than just mechanics and technicians when the equipment is down. In order to take the best care of the equipment, many techniques and eyes have to be applied in an optimal way to ensure that the design of the equipment is holding up to expectation, and if not we must work as a team to eliminate these issues. And priority has to be on reliability for it to become a reality because if it’s not your priority, it’s just… You’re gonna continue to see the same failures until you do something to change that.

19:43 RC: Yeah. So what I’m hearing is, a lot of people have this idea of maintenance and reliability but they’re not putting a priority to it. So it sounds like you often see people let it slip through the wayside and you kind of forget about it. I’m curious, what are some of the impacts that that has?

20:04 AG: The biggest one is dollars.

20:06 RC: Yeah.

20:08 AG: When you’re taking things down too frequently, because it’s failing, that’s money. That’s money to fix it, that’s money for parts, that’s money for down-time. Optimizing. That is key, and to also not waste on the other side. If you’re looking at something too often that can be a big resource and money waster there too. So it’s just, if you’re able to look at things in a more high level and then deconstruct it to the smallest thing and optimize, that’s the key thing to save those money and resources.

20:45 RC: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, Anna, I’ve learned so much. It sounds like you’ve learned so much from your mentors. Do you have a favorite book that you read and learn from, whether it’s related to maintenance and reliability or something completely different too.

21:01 AG: I actually have two for this one. So, on the professional side, Reliability Centered Maintenance by John Moubray. I think it’s MOUBRAY. I don’t know how you would say that exactly. But that’s a really good one. It breaks down all the basics, it gives you the connection between the mathematical statistics, and the science that is put into all the optimization and analysis that you hear about and it really is a good book for that. And then on the life side of things, I would say one book that I read recently that really has had a big impact on my life is called Unlearn: 101 simple Truths for a Better Life. And it’s by a guy name Humble the Poet. And it really just breaks down some of the myths and legends that we tend to carry in our life that if we could just unlearn them, we would be liberated in so many ways. [laughter]

21:58 RC: Any highlights that you could share with us, Anna?

22:02 AG: I think one is, sometimes we focus a lot on what we think matters, right? We have this list in our head of this matters, and this matters, and so sometimes it’s hard to prioritize that. And one way that he… Or one thing that he talked about, is that the true prioritization comes in what you spend time on. So if people you say matter to you, you have to take the time to spend time with them. If there’s something that you wanna learn, you’re never gonna learn it, if you don’t spend the time to practice it and to do it, so.

22:39 RC: Yeah. That’s so interesting, because now I’m thinking back about what’s the most common mistake that you had mentioned around maintenance and reliability, it was this idea that we say maintenance reliability is really important, but are actually practicing what we preach. And to your point, are we spending the time…

22:58 AG: Exactly.

23:00 RC: To actually show that it is a true priority? That’s I think a really good takeaway that a lot of people can learn from and myself included too. [chuckle] Well, thank you so much Anna. I’ve personally learned so much. Could you share with all of our listeners the different ways that they could connect with you and learn from you, on your journey through maintenance and reliability?

23:25 AG: Yeah, so I’m on LinkedIn. If you wanna just look up Anna Goodman. I’m probably the only one on there with brightly colored hair. I have bright orange hair in my profile photo. And if that’s not accessible to you or you don’t have a profile, my email address is [email protected] I’d be more than willing to have any kind of conversations that you… Or answer any questions or concerns in regards to reliability and maintenance, or maybe even how my company could help you out if you’re in need. So…

24:00 RC: Alright, well thank you so much Anna, for joining us and thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in to today’s Masterminds and Maintenance. My name is Ryan Chan. I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. You can also connect with me. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. You can also reach me directly at [email protected] Until next time. Thanks so much Anna.

24:17 AG: Thank you.

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