Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

Episode 28: RCM Blitz – One of the Top RCM Methodologies in the Industry with Doug Plucknette

Ryan Chan

On this week’s episode of Masterminds in Maintenance, Doug Plucknette, founder of Reliability Solutions and author of the book “Reliability Centered Maintenance using RCM Blitz”, as well as, “Clean, Green, and Reliable”, shares the development and process of RCM Blitz, a methodology he created to improve manufacturing reliability, while reducing health, safety, and environmental incidents and accidents. Listen today!

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00:05 Ryan Chan: Welcome to Masterminds in Maintenance, a podcast with 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. Today, I’m super excited, we’ve got Doug Plucknette on the show. Doug is the founder of Reliability Solutions and author of the book “Reliability Centered Maintenance using RCM Blitz,” as well as Clean, Green and Reliable.” He’s provided reliability training and services to numerous companies around the world, including Fortune 500 companies, Whirlwind, Whirlpool, Honda, Energizer, Coors Brewing, Cargo, and so much more. Doug has made several key contributions towards standardizing reliability measures for manufacturing and reliability training programs worldwide. Welcome to the show, Doug, I’m super excited to have you as a guest on today’s podcast.

01:06 Doug Plucknette: Well, thanks Ryan, it’s great to be here, and I’m honored to be part of your podcast.

01:11 RC: Well, absolutely. You know, the way that I love to kick things off, could you start by just sharing a little bit more about your background and how you got started in the reliability industry? This interesting little niche that we’ve got.

01:25 DP: Alright, so this goes back quite a ways. I had been going to a college called SUNY Geneseo and didn’t quite do too well there, so they sent me packing, and I worked a summer job at Eastman Kodak Company with… As a summer employee, you can pretty much work anywhere there, and I ended up with some pipefitters that were building a new building. I thought, “Well, this was really an interesting trade,” and these guys taught me, over the summer, how to solder, how to braze, and was working with them installing stuff and they said, “Wow, this guy, he’s alright, he’s pretty bright, he gets it, comes to work on time every day, understands what plumb is and what square is.” And I learned a lot that summer, and they said, “Hey, you ought to think about getting into our apprentice program.”

02:10 DP: What’s interesting, ’cause my dad had worked at Kodak and he had gone through the apprenticeship there, and so I started inquiring about that. And when my summer was over, I got in contact with some people and said, “When are they doing these tests?” ‘Cause you had to take a test to get into the program, so I took that test, and then the following February, I was hired. So I worked as an apprentice there first with the pipefitters, and then as a journeyman, and then a lead person, and then worked in supervision for a short time, and realized that was not going to be the career niche I thought it was going to be. So I went back to Rochester Institute of Technology, RIT, Mechanical Engineering first, and then Kodak had started a reliability program, I got asked to be on that team.

02:52 DP: I had been doing some projects and had some success with just the simple process control, and some quality projects, and I got involved with that team, and then worked with RIT to develop a reliability engineering program, along with a couple of colleagues, including one of my bosses, a guy by the name of Jerry Haggerty. In going through that program at RIT, and meeting and learning reliability, and talking with professors, and developing those relationships, that’s when I first learned about RCM. Everything that I had learned, and then Kodak sent me to a couple of different training programs, nothing was really centered around RCM for manufacturing, it was all about more safety performance, design for safety and reliability, and I really looked at it and thought, “There’s a real niche for this in manufacturing. It makes sense to understand failure modes.”

03:46 DP: And I saw that, even as a company, by that time, we had dropped our apprentice programs, and the new people we were hiring were really just component replacers. They weren’t thinking about why things failed. And so I got to understand the power of understanding failure modes, and how failure modes impact reliability, and then looked at, how can I make this work for manufacturing? And that’s really how RCM Blitz started. I created it while I was at Kodak, actually went because my boss was a little nervous about… ‘Cause I had been to some other courses, well [04:20] ____ we don’t wanna steal anybody else’s information.

04:24 DP: So they sent me to the corporate attorneys, and we reviewed the Nowlan and Heap document and where I got all of my information from, and it was actually that corporate attorney that whispered in my ear, “Hey, you’re still paid as an hourly employee. Unless the company compensates you for this, this is really your idea, so if you wanted to go get a trademark on it and copyright on it, I’ll show you how to fill out the paperwork.” So that’s really how I got started, I went from there and spoke with another colleague at SMRP and got some calls from those companies, which included Whirlpool and National Steel, and those were my first customers. I took a risk, Kodak was downsizing at the time, and I knew that, at some point in time, regardless of who you were, ’cause we were already tapping good people on the shoulder at that point in time, that I might be looking for a job, so…

05:18 RC: What an amazing journey, Doug, from working as a pipe fitter, working your way up the ranks, getting into reliability, and then it sounds like taking an unfortunate situation, where Kodak was downsizing, and starting your own business. That’s such an amazing journey. So, Doug, it sounds like 1999, roughly about 20, 21 years ago, you started RCM Blitz. Tell us, what is RCM Blitz? How does it differ from traditional RCM reliability centered maintenance methodologies?

05:52 DP: Yeah, I think, really, what allowed me to get a niche in the market is because I did design this for manufacturing. I talked about, when I first started taking courses in RCM, anybody that was teaching it was saying, “Oh no, you have to do RCM on everything at your plant.” And I would look at that and say, “My goodness, at the plant that I worked at, we had 400,000 assets. It would take you years to get that done.”

06:20 DP: And I would venture to say that you probably would not get a return on investment on all of that work, right? So I try to focus on, where should I do RCM that I’m going to get a return on investment? And that’s really… That addition alone is what turned on the lights to lots of managers that are in operations, that are in maintenance, ’cause they have to be able to show, if we provide training for people, we wanna get something back for it, right? So I started looking at… I was lucky enough to work with Bob Hansen in our reliability group at Kodak, and Bob wrote the book on OEE and T, and said, “OEE is the way to do this. Let’s measure OEE on critical assets, and those assets that are struggling with operational losses, speed losses, and quality losses are great candidates for RCM, so any critical asset that’s suffering was where we were gonna do RCM.” And when we did that, we were immediately starting to see results.

07:22 DP: You could do an RCM Blitz in one week, get it implemented over the next four to six weeks, and then start seeing results after that, and that just turned managers right on, ’cause they got something now that they can show. We trained people, we invested money, we then did this analysis, and we spent time on that, we spent time implementing it, and we got a return on investment. We took a machine that had an OEE of 46 and took it up to 83.

07:49 RC: Wow.

07:49 DP: That’s a huge difference. And we showed one project after another and after another, and that’s basically the presentation that I did at the first SMRP that got me started, that got companies like Whirlpool and National Steel interested.

08:04 RC: That’s amazing. So it sounds like RCM Blitz is really going into an organization, looking at the most critical assets, and running RCM on those, versus trying to do the entire plant all in one go, and it might take years and years and years. I’m curious, Doug, as you look back at some of the most successful projects, what made them so successful? What allowed you to take a line or piece of equipment and turn it from 43% OEE to 80%?

08:38 DP: The great part about this process, number one is, I always tell people, this is really simple. It’s a seven-step RCM process, it’s traditional RCM. Now, you’ll read things of mine that says it’s five steps, that’s… And I’ll explain that probably later on in this presentation. Number one, understanding your critical assets; number two, taking the time to do the measures, and that’s really what turned Whirlpool on right away. I was lucky with that, and that my first customer got into doing the measures, they got into doing their OEE, and then they learned, “Gee, OEE is actually a reliability tool.” If you do it right, if you can show where your losses are, then that turns people on to, gee, there’s some simple things we can do to improve reliability here that really even have nothing to do with maintenance.

09:25 DP: What’s our supply chain look like, and how do we order and stock those things to make sure that we have got enough of the screws to put that little motor or pump in? ‘Cause we run out of those from time to time and the line shuts down for 10 or 15 minutes while we’re out hunting those up. How do we make all that stuff work together? So in doing that, when you have those successes, and this is one of the things that I really love, going to a company new, like I’m doing a new one here in Rochester, which is fun for me ’cause it’s actually the first company that’s had me in from Rochester, believe it or not, and I go in and I tell those maintenance and operations folks, I said, “You know how you sit around the break room and you complain, ‘Gee, if they only listened to us, we could make things better here?’ This is your chance to do that.”

10:13 DP: We’re gonna talk about your machine, and you’re the ones that know best how this thing operates, and then, what are the things that cause it to fail, and we’re gonna talk about, what do we need to do to either eliminate those failures or somehow mitigate them so that the downtime is less, like you and I talked about starting out. If we can eliminate that downtime, we can put more product out the door. We put more product out the door for the same cost or less, we can reduce the unit cost of product. When we produce the unit cost of product, we become more competitive, and that puts pressure on our competitors. And so, when you relate that to the business people, to the people that are on the ground floor, and show them, you have the power to change this, but you gotta stand behind it. When we get done with this, we gotta make sure it gets implemented, that the task actually gets done. Until then, all we’ve done is sit around a conference room and talk about this, and that accomplishes nothing. So you’re the folks that understand it, and you’re the folks that actually have to do this. And in the end, you’ll find out you’re the ones that actually get credit for it as well.

11:21 RC: Where do you often see the lowest hanging fruit when you first step into an organization and say, “We wanna run RCM blitz on your equipment?” Where is the most common low-hanging fruit?

11:32 DP: Probably the RCM that I’ve done the most is compressed air. It doesn’t even matter where the company is, the further south you go, the more they abuse their compressed air systems, because they don’t have to worry about it freezing up. They get enough warm weather that, even with equipment outside, their air is wet, and it’s dirty, and it’s impacting all their instruments, and they’re seeing all kinds of failures, like solenoid valves sticking, and they’re going, “Oh yeah, we have solenoids fail. That’s once every two, three weeks.” And I look at them and I go, “What?”

12:04 DP: I said, “You shouldn’t have a solenoid failure for years. It’s just a little shuttle that goes back and forth.” I said, “Your air must be filthy,” and they’ll giggle. They go, “Come over here and look at this,” and they’ll go open a tri valve, and the first thing that comes out is water instead of air. So that’s really… In most places, when we talk about the low-hanging fruit, let’s start there. And I’ve, in fact, gotten to the point where I say, “I really should just sell an RCM on compressed air systems, ’cause they’re pretty much all the same.” Here’s a free win for you, go ahead and take it.


12:39 RC: Alright, so that’s like… It sounds like easiest, lowest-hanging fruit, compressed air. Do you have like a two and a number three as well, Doug?

12:47 DP: Oh, sure. Probably number two would be their most critical manufacturing asset, so whatever product they’re making, they generally… Most companies are fighting fires with that machine, and they will have, again, a component replacement type of culture, or they don’t think about why things fail. In terms of number three and low-hanging fruit, it’s… It wouldn’t be an RCM, it would be inventory. Companies almost have the reverse of what they need in terms of inventory, ’cause they’ve gotten hung up on this term called turns, and in reality, what they need is what’s critical, and risk is involved in that. That’s one of the places, a few places, that I consider risk, is in spare parts.

13:37 DP: In terms of doing maintenance, I think risk doesn’t have much to play there, and I’ve gotten in nice discussions with lots of people at conferences about that, ’cause that’s been a big word recently. Yeah, it would be what they carry for inventory in understanding obsolescence. They wanna carry… I go into stockrooms and I see chains and sprockets and belts and sheaves, and I go, “What do you have that stuff for? You can get that at any supplier within an hour from here, but you don’t have the I/O card for your critical asset here. Why don’t you have that? ‘Cause it doesn’t turn an inventory.” “And when’s the last time you looked to try to buy it?” And they look at you. I said, “You might wanna look to see if you can even buy one anymore.” And they’ll come back to me the next day and they’ll go, “You were right. We can’t get one.” I said, “So now, where are you gonna get it?”


14:31 DP: Start looking on eBay first, but when you bid on it, don’t be surprised if the price goes up.

14:36 RC: Yeah. That’s really good feedback here, Doug. So to all of our listeners, compressed air, number one; number two is your most critical asset; number three is inventory. Really good places to start. So Doug, we talked about RCM Blitz. Could you walk us through that five-step process that you’ve got for RCM Blitz?

15:01 DP: Okay. In reality, when we look at RCM in terms of, is your RCM process a traditional RCM process, which is seven steps? RCM Blitz is that. What I teach, I teach a five-step process, the upfront tasks that need to be done. So those upfront tasks include criticality analysis, so understanding where your critical assets are; reliability measures, so measuring OEE of those critical assets; and then several steps to select that critical asset, gathering information from the asset that you select, training your people, then we get into the second step would be understanding functions and functional failures. Step number three would get into dealing with probability and consequence, and understanding the relationship and probability and consequence to that particular critical asset.

15:58 DP: Step number four is FMECA, failure modes and effect criticality analysis, going through that process in the RCM. And then step number five are the follow-up tasks, so that’s implementing, tracking results, so continuing to measure and being able to show that return on investment, and then getting into selecting your next asset. So those are really the five steps that I teach in training, but realistically, it’s a seven-step process.

16:26 RC: In seven days. You said you could do this in a week.

16:30 DP: Yes. Actually, five days.

16:32 RC: Five days?

16:33 DP: Yeah, I start out with… We do two to three hours of training to teach a team, basically, the RCM process, and then the lingo that goes along with RCM, functions, functional failures, failure modes, failure effects, what those things mean, and then we jump right into doing the RCM. Now, when I say we do that in five days, there’ll be some time before hand to select that asset, obviously, but when I come in and I wanna hit the ground running, we know what we’re gonna be working on, they’ve sent me information, we’ve got hierarchy loaded into the database, and we’re ready to go.

17:10 RC: I love it. I love this idea, it sounds like it’s a crawl-walk-run, starting with the most important critical assets. I’m curious, Doug, what… This is me just playing devil’s advocate here, but what are some of the setbacks of running an RCM Blitz program versus an RCM program? Why do you feel like a lot of companies want to standardize the entire company to certain RCM standard before, let’s call it, taking the crawl-walk-run approach.

17:41 DP: Well, those that wanna do that will find themselves, at some point, in a position where somebody a level or two up is gonna say, “Where is my money going?” I’m only gonna dump so much money into this hole before I, at some point, say, “What am I getting for it?” The advantage of the crawl-walk-run is, you’re gonna be able to see that money. The disadvantage of that is, sometimes it goes at a pace that people just are like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, hang on, whoa.” This gets to a point where… I’ve had customers that have gotten so excited, ’cause we get through their first one, that they say, “Okay, can you come back next week?” And I’ll tell them. “Well, why don’t you implement what we just did, and I know that’s gonna take you a month, and a month from now, we can talk about whether I’ve got a window open to do that.” And they’ll look at me, and they’re like…

18:37 DP: This actually happened with Cargill, they said, “You’re telling us you don’t want any money?” I said, “No, that’s not what I said. I said I want you to be successful.” “Yeah, but if we offered you to come back next week, you’d say no?” And I said, “Yeah, absolutely. You’re right. When you show me you’ve got 80% of that implemented, I’m ready to come back. Until then, you haven’t showed me that you’re willing to do your part.”

19:10 DP: This is a partnership, I’m teaching your people. I want you to get something out of it. And that was kinda shocking to them but then they also realized, “Holy smokes.” There’s actually consultants out there that would say, “No.” That would say, “Do what you have to do first before I come back.” And that kinda to them, they went, “Wow, this guy, he’s alright.”

19:34 RC: Yeah, it’s not just about charging me an arm and a leg. And that’s what I love about you Doug. It sounds like you’re really looking out for company’s best interest. Now I’ve gotta ask the question as well. I’m sure you’ve done so many of these different RCM implementations. Some it sounds like have done tremendously well for the companies. Where do people most commonly struggle with RCM implementations?

20:00 DP: Yeah, they try to take on too much at once. And that’s why I say, I struggle with… Okay, I don’t wanna come back until you got 80% implemented. They’ll look at that implementation and they’ll see, let’s see, we did… We talked about failure modes on 85-100 components and we came up with a couple of hundred failure modes and 300 different tasks. Holy smokes, we’re never gonna get all that done. And that’s one of the first things that I did with my new databases. Say, how can I export this, get into Excel format that they can sort this and realize that out of those 300 tasks, here’s a chunk of the first 25 of the exact same task written over again because we’re talking about machine manufacturing or filling jugs of something. Six motors, six gear boxes, six VFDs, they’re gonna have pretty close to the same task if we’re talking about the same size motor and the same failure rate and so on. It’s not that we just copy paste everything, but anything that’s similar.

21:06 DP: So we sort by number one, let’s look at what’s our most critical in terms of failure modes. We look at probability and consequence and then that determines a criticality. So we have a criticality for the tasks. And we look at… Let’s do the priority ones first and we sort those and which ones are identical. Which ones are PMs? Which ones are on condition task? Which ones are failure findings? And it’s not that difficult once you learn how to sort and go through that. And that’s, sometimes I’ll add a day on to what we’re doing and saying, “We can do this from home through a teleconference like we’re doing now.” And I show them how to sort that worksheet and here’s how I would implement it. And I give them tips on that. Doing anything the first time often seems like it’s overwhelming or cumbersome. And when somebody thats got experience with it shows you… No, no, no, here’s how you sort this to go. In reality, you’ve got a chunk of peons, a chunk of uncondition task, a chunk of failure finding task and a chunk of redesigns. Those first three, and let’s add operator care to that. So that first four are all things that can go into your CMMS system. Very simple, you just call them something different.

22:19 DP: So let’s decide on what we’re gonna call them? Who’s gonna do them? What the interval is? Now you’ve got a relationship ’cause I go back through it. I use their hierarchy. Here’s where it came from. Here’s the parent. Here’s the child. Those tasks are tied to this child. And I show them how that matches up and they go, “Oh, wow, now we know why you wanted that download.” Well, that’s pretty… Now what you got left here are these redesigns. Now, which ones are ones that you can do simply out of a maintenance or operations budget? And which ones are gonna require management of change and some small capital? And here’s how you sort those and who you assign them to. Now, assign the people, put due dates on them, and let’s get going. Now you’re ready to start something else. Now how long is it gonna take you to do those four items that I showed you? And they go, “Oh, crap, we could do that in a week if we’d put one person on it.” There you go.

23:12 RC: Yeah.

23:13 DP: And they’ll say, “Why is it taking companies six months to do this?” And I said, “‘Cause most companies never show ’em how it’s done or they’ve never had experience themselves at actually doing it, so they can’t show them.

23:25 RC: Yeah. So it sounds like it’s a training thing. Once you do it once, you’re like, “Okay, cool, I can do it.” But essentially, if you’ve never done it before, you’re basically recreating what RCM is. And that recreating it can take, like you mentioned, months, years even.

23:45 DP: Yeah.

23:46 RC: So what I hear from you Doug is, get started, get all the resources, get a consultant even to help you go through that process once. And once you do it once, then it’s a whole lot easier the second, third, fourth, 10th time around. So Doug, you’ve been in the industry for several years now. You’ve seen so much good. You’ve also seen some facilities that you know that you could have helped. I’m curious, as you continue on your journey in this space, where do you continue… Where do you find yourself continuing to learn from? What resources do you go to? And where do you go for new ideas?

24:27 DP: Yeah, conferences, are probably where I go and get learning from. It’s also LinkedIn. There’s been a ton of this conversation about the Industrial Internet of Things, and smart machines and machine learning. And I’ve had some… The pleasure of working last year on a new smart machine that was being built for a very well-known snack food company and doing an RCM analysis on that. And talk about how that worked and what we did in the RCM and how those two things would work together. So there’s some excitement there. And there’s also a lot of confusion there. So that’s probably the only thing down the road that concerns me is, I think that there’s… And that was a learning for my customer during that week was, just because they called the machine smart, that’s not gonna make sure that the maintenance person makes sure that they do precision alignment when they’re working on their precision balancing or using torque wrenches or doing their job correctly. All those failure modes still apply that we’ve had in the past. And you now have twice as many instruments to detect them. So until you spend the time to teach your people to do the right way, don’t expect things to change too much.

25:56 RC: But the positive note here too is that we can do something about that. And we could do something about that today.

26:03 DP: We sure can.

26:04 RC: And all of this technology that’s coming out today, these are all very exciting things that people want to learn about as well. So I think that’s a very, very positive thing, especially with all this new technology coming out. Doug, I learned so much from you from this short conversation that we had today. Can you share with all of our listeners different ways that they could connect with you and follow you on your journey?

26:29 DP: Sure, I’m on LinkedIn as Doug Plucknette or if you look up RCM Blitz on LinkedIn you’ll find me there. My email address is [email protected], pretty simple.

26:43 RC: Well, thank you so much, Doug, for joining us, thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in to today’s Masterminds in Maintenance. My name is Ryan Chan I’m the CEO on founder of UpKeep. You can also connect with me, I’m very active on LinkedIn or you can also email me directly at [email protected] Until next time. Thanks so much.

27:01 DP: Thank you, Ryan, it’s a pleasure.

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