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[ Insights from the SAP-Centric EAM 2013 Event – Huntington Beach March 2013 ( Part 2 of 12): This is part of a blog series brought to you by Norm Poynter and Paul Kurchina, designed to inspire and educate by sharing experiences with the SAP Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Community. For the past nine years, the Eventful Group’s SAP-Centric North American Event ( Supported by SAP and ASUG ) has brought together the EAM community to network, share ideas and experiences, and explore solutions for Enterprise Asset Management.]

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This story is based on the presentation that was voted by attendees as the most popular from the Huntington Beach SAP-Centric EAM 2013 Community Event.

The stakes are high for drivers, support teams, and sponsors in NASCAR racing.  How high? According to Bob Williamson, president of Strategic Work Systems, in 2013 a Daytona 500 win paid $1,525,275; a 36th place finish paid $334,118. The cost of failure: $1,191,157.

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The stakes and cost of failure are just as high—or higher—at industrial facilities and plants around the globe. In his keynote presentation at the SAP-Centric EAM 2013 conference in March, Williamson, president of Strategic Work Systems, said failures cost and reliability pays. In his talk, entitled, “Achieving 100% Equipment Reliability: Learning from Top NASCAR Teams,” Williamson took the concept of reliability (to win) in NASCAR and related it to the most basic aspects of facilities maintenance.

“Equipment and facilities were not designed to sputter, fail, or break down, but they do. Imagine what would happen if you could make your most critical assets run at 100% reliability using some of the most common sense reliability improvement principles in the world,” said Williamson.

That is a promising thought, yet in our industrial lives (practices) I highly doubt most corporate vision or mission statements include such simplicity and direction regarding reliability.

“Why is it that we often struggle to improve the way our equipment and facilities run—faster, better, consistently? It should be a lot easier… and it can be easy. Reliability is more about the ‘human factors’ than it is about new technologies and tools,” said Williamson.

Those human factors weigh heavily in his 7 Principles of Reliability. One of the principles, “maintenance efficiency and effectiveness,” illustrates the importance of simple techniques around visualization. For example, NASCAR team car parts are visually inspected for quality and correctness, neatly categorized, and protected before going on the shelf or in the toolbox. Inspection and Maintenance histories are logged on labels, markings, and placed on the parts themselves whenever possible. These references are hugely impactful because they are visual. Visualization removes ambiguity, improves understanding, and simplifies training requirements. Given the nature of our technology driven age, visualization is ultimately where the technology of EAM is headed. The beauty of Bob’s presentation using NASCAR as an example is that no intense, expensive, or complicated technology was referenced. Again, human factors are significant contributors to reliability and often it’s the humans, not the technology, which are the keys to success.

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Williamson compared the racing principles of top NASCAR teams with how the industrial world should think about reliability. Three of my favorites include:

     · “Go slow to go fast” (Right the first time, every time—flawless human performance)

     · “The green flag drops at 1 o’clock on Sunday… whether you’re ready or not” (Plan your work and work your plan)

     · “If you’re not cheating you’re not racing” (Think inside and outside the box for a better way)

It’s the basics, and arguably, Williamson’s principles, when shifted into the industrial world would readily apply if we just took the time to focus on them.

Instead, we choose to check our personal brain and our personal expectations of reliability at the plant gate and switch to our industrial brain, which seems to be less creative, less expectant of performance and overly influenced by external business forces. (See an upcoming blog on how our personal expectations of reliability are very different from our industrial ones. For example, we expect 100% reliability when traveling by plane. Why can’t similar expectations be transferred to the industrial world ?

Toward the end of the presentation, Williamson summed up his learnings as a performance and reliability consultant:  “Lessons learned: 50 industries, 400 plants, thousands of equipment items, tens of thousands of front-line people and their leadership… but the problems are mostly all the same. Focusing on the foundations of good performance and reliability of our most critical physical assets can be very sustainable. Without a solid foundation, things tend to crumble away.”


From the 1950s to today, failures and reliability in the domain of racing have declined to staunchly low rates. Can the same be said for our plants and physical assets we are managing?  Some industries have set this bar high—pharmaceutical, airline, and nuclear industries come to mind. Other industries, however, still have a long way to go.

To learn more, watch the video of Williamson’s presentation, and view the powerpoint .

To view other blogs in this series.


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