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March 14, 2019

Failure, Change and a Reason to Do So…

Recently I was asked “is there much info in the way of how a trucking fleet would set up shop to include a maintenance program with both CK-4 and FA-4 oils?”

That’s a really interesting topic because it really addresses some fundamental, core issues at hand in terms of failure. Unfortunately it is s not as easy as buying a fancy pump station. I always believed that failure could be reduced to four basic root cause elements – materials, machines, methods, and man. Seems like every time I do a FMEA the root is always back to man as a primary with the other three as secondary. And why it traces back to man is rooted in lack of understanding, laziness, carelessness, stupidity, or malice. I can’t say that these factors attribute to 100% of failure but it’s pretty high.

I have spoken on failure for many years and always attempted to provide a method out. To loosely quote TS Eliot, They constantly try to escape from the darkness outside and within, by dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good. But the man that is will shadow the man that pretends to be.’ While Eliot was referencing the failure of a much grander institution, nevertheless the sentiment still resonates; in a factory, you can’t fake it.

The solution is change. We have witnessed change all our lives. By stepping back and just watching what works I have come to the conclusion that there are some basics that all successful changes embody. Positive change (one with reduced failures) needs a Vision. A clear insight as to the direction that one will go. Something simple yet profound: “Our vision is to create a better every-day life for many people.” ... “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. ... “To be a nerd for all your needs.” ... “A world without Alzheimer's disease.” Now these are powerful visions for sure! Maybe something a bit more toned down for a maintenance garage like ‘Lets fix it like we own it” or “No repeat business for the same reason”. Now one implies a level of personal responsibility while the other is founded in a reliability centered maintence approach which is ‘don’t let it fail the same way twice.’ You see, without that clear message, folks just get confused as to what the overall vision for the place is...

So, start with that. Now comes the three key ingredients to make it begin to take shape: Competency (chops), a Reason ($, self-worth, belonging), and Assets (people, places, tools, materials). If someone isn’t well versed in a trade or task and they lack competency then anxiety takes over. They have limited understanding of the outcomes that occur and worse, they have no clue how to react in a new and challenging situation. They are not prepared and they know it. For years I would be ridiculously anxious flying on a plane. Not a favorable trait in my line of work. It wasn’t until I really reflected on why I was anxious, I was able to apply the solution. Having Six Sigma belts taught me the opportunity for failure and while there are millions of them on an airplane, many if not ALMOST all are addressed. Secondly, reading about the stats helped but what really mattered was to make sure I always understood the survival and escape plan in case something happened. While this might be a fool’s errand, it provided solace that I had some control because I was preparing in a calm way on the various scenarios. To this day, after a million miles, I still read the safety brief and listen to the flight attendant explain the use of the seatbelt and oxygen mask (which many don’t realize but they all operate individually – there is no central O2 line feeding them. It is important to pull on them hard to activate a chemical reaction that will produce O2 for about 15 minutes. If you need it after 15 minutes your SOL!). This info is invaluable to an anxious person. Increase a competency and you reduce the anxiety and thus increase reliability. Such an elegant and simple equation!

Next is a reason – money rewards (or keeping a job), internal gratification, or social / workplace recognition are all great reasons to change for the better and to keep improving. We all need incentives be them from a bonus check, bossman bragging about you, or just knowing you made a difference. It all fuels change. The last ingredient to positive change and the elimination of failure is having the assets to get it done. Tools, people, materials needed to do what is required otherwise people get mad, frustrated, and become apathetic. They acquiesce into an accident prone, semi-conscious stupor. Now all three of these ingredients working in sync with the vision can only happen with a plan. No plan, no happening. Tis the function of management. Anything worth doing is worth writing down and following (my Dad would remind me of that when we would go to the grocery store).

Now that’s a long primer to get to the original question: How would a trucking fleet set up shop to include a maintenance program with both CK-4 and FA-4 oils?

  1. Establish the vision – if only for the oil dispenser (but better for the garage): maybe “Do it right the first time, so the competition doesn’t have to fix our mistakes”
  2. Develop Competency – means to train them on not only the functions of an engine oil; which many may think they know but only a rare few really do, but to school them on API and the origins and reason why the classifications are what they are. Now an SN, CK-4, or FA-4 isn’t so anxiety provoking!
  3. Give them a Reason to – this is a leadership challenge but by and large, people want to do the right thing and the correct thing because everyone wants to feel like they matter and contribute and have a handle on things.
  4. Provide them Assets – in the case of the different class oils, specific containers with identifiable markings that are color coded, shape coded, bi or tri-lingual, and spout specific to the engines the juice is going into. A cool trick is to set them on the task of developing a system on how to manage it and allow them to make the purchasing choices on the dispensing concepts. This feeds back to #2 & #3 – tricky huh?
  5. Now plan it out.

Unfortunately it is not as easy as buying a fancy pump station – that would be pretending to be good. We don’t want shadows! Following the aforementioned steps to change and it will all but 100% guarantee…nope, it will guarantee success in the quest of putting in the right juice into the right crank.

- Michael D. Holloway