‘Nothing changes, if nothing changes’ [Anon]

There are a number of superb examples of how an organisation’s embrace of safety excellence has had a transformative effect on the organisation as a whole.  The focus on safety excellence in  ALCOA under Paul O’Neil (as described in ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg) or the introduction of  Process Safety in Scottish Power (case study available from the UK HSE) not only see dramatic improvements in safety, but also show up in the results of other aspects of the business. Logically, the interconnectedness of organisations should demands this.  If you want to be excellent at safety then you better be excellent operationally and a have a strong culture of accountability and leadership! In effect, safety is something everyone can get behind and provides license and leverage for other improvements.


Notwithstanding the overall safety programme, this principle can be applied as we chunk down the organisation and look for opportunities of other leveraged improvements.   A good example of this is in maintenance and the mundane, frequently performed, unglamorous world of lubrication.


There are lots of ways of improving reliability and tools and techniques have been developed such as Root Cause Analysis, FMECA, Predictive Maintenance etc.  However, one of the keys to sustained reliability improvements is changing the behaviours and perceptions of the whole workshop.  If I was to describe the look and feel of my ideal workshop, it would be the cross between a world renowned orchestra playing with passion in a room where you would be happy to eat your dinner of the floor!  Great housekeeping, a fantastic environment to work in, where all activity is done with precision and purpose, resulting in great maintenance and reliability.  But the puzzle is how to get there….


One place start unlocking this puzzle is lubrication.  A focus on getting really good at lubrication starts to build the behaviours and practices that will support the rest of the reliability programme.  Historically in many industries,  lubrication is done poorly.  It is a frequently performed task, carried out by the least skilled members of the team with-out much thought. Yet because that is the way it has always be done, no one realises the damage being done.  As a result, by doing lubrication right an enormous opportunity for improvement opens up in improved reliability, extended component life and reduced costs.


The mantra of lubrication excellence is ‘right oil, right quantity, right time, right location, right quality (ie free from contaminants)’ – this demands precision, sound  organisation and systems, good housekeeping, pride and enthusiasm. Apply this to lubrication and the impact is felt in all aspects of the workshop.  Take contamination control which is an aspect lubrication excellence.  Good examples of contamination control result in; adoption of 5S in the workshop and in the plant; colour coding for different oils, storage and transfer containers; the implementation of fit for purpose facilities with filters, desiccant breathers and metered delivery;  the development of procedures and techniques to minimise accidental contamination; the use of filter carts to kidney loop equipment when it is in for a service. Doing these things doesn’t just help with contamination control.  It also improves the way we approach maintenance in general.  Get the team passionate about contamination control and they will be passionate about other aspects of lubrication excellence and the rest of the reliability programme.


From a foundation of lubrication excellence, the journey to maintenance precision, root cause analysis, work management, condition monitoring and failure modes should not be so hard.  The behaviours to support reliability are already in place and already making a difference.  After all, it can be easier to get buy-in about good old tangible dirt than it can be for esoteric less tangible RCM…

Jan Cuppens

Director Global Engineering

Global Operations & Engineering