The 15 Most Common Obstacles to World-Class Reliability

A Roadmap for Managers

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The 15 Most Common Obstacles to World-Class Reliability

The 15 Most Common Obstacles to World-Class Reliability

A Roadmap for Managers

Don Nyman


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Good things come in small packages. If you want to read a book that may seem more like an autobiography for most maintenance professionals, read Don Nyman's "The 15 Most Common Obstacles to World Class Reliability". Mr. Nyman not only does a superb job summing up the challenges faced by most Maintenance Managers, he provides an easy to understand road map to follow for solutions. Best of all - this book can be read in one or two sittings. Get a copy of this book for all your supervisors, planners, operations and maintenance managers.

Terrence O'Hanlon, CMRP, Uptime Magazine



Reliability is dependent upon shared understanding and beliefs. Managers at all levels must understand how their decisions and directions often impact adversely the ability of their organization to achieve and perpetuate Reliability…thereby undermining realization of broad business objectives.


The 15 Most Common Obstacles to World-Class Reliability identifies and explores fifteen cultural obstacles commonly encountered by most organizations in their pursuit of World-Class Reliability. The intent is to provide senior management with a wake-up call. They must address the identified obstacles the people they have charged with pursuit of reliability (middle managers, engineers and functional specialists) can be successful. Otherwise, senior management is its' own worst enemy. It is a must-read for Senior Managers at all levels (Corporate to Plant and within Plant at Departmental levels).



  • Examines the larger issues (culture, leadership, commitment, consistency) that functionaries cannot overcome without strong senior management involvement.
  • Focuses on the managerial leadership, cultural change, organization-wide commitment, and perseverance required to transform the operational environment from reactive to proactive.
  • Uses illustrations to visually convey Principles and Concepts of Maintenance/Reliability Excellence.
  • Includes appendices that provide generic tools and plans used to drive the essential change.

The 15 Most Common Obstacles to World-Class Reliability

A Roadmap for Managers

by Don Nyman


Don Nyman is a recognized Maintenance/Reliability authority. During his long career as plant engineer, corporate executive, and management consultant, he has been instrumental in helping more than 300 organizations improve operational reliability and effectiveness. His influence and contributions have been further expanded through his popular series of seminars and training courses. 


Don earned a B.S. from Virginia Military Institute and a M.S. in Industrial Management from Stevens Institute of Technology.  He coauthored the best-selling Maintenance Planning, Coordination & Scheduling (Industrial Press, 2001), and he continues to write and still occasionally counsels from his retirement home on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. 

The 15 Most Common Obstacles to World-Class Reliability

A Roadmap for Managers

by Don Nyman




OBSTACLE 7 - Maintenance Functions Organized for Reactive Response

Maintenance/Reliability excellence is dependent upon organizational structure fostering pro-action, rather than the reactive structure deployed by most organizations. Unfortunately in these organizations, the bulk of maintenance resources are postured for reactive response to urgencies with insufficient resources remaining for pro-active reliability.

Yet, those same organizations wonder why they live in a constant state of reaction to urgent demands (real or exaggerated). The answer begins with the fact that they have essentially organized for reactive response by decentralizing a disproportional amount of labor resources to fixed-designated assignments within narrow areas of the facility. As a result, technicians spend a significant portion of their day in standby mode, waiting for the next failure to occur. Consequently, few resources remain for performance of important scheduled work aimed at elimination of failures that inhibit asset reliability.

In today’s competitive world of downsizing, maintenance labor resources are too sparse to be wasted in standby mode. Deferral of critical maintenance leads to further breakdown, perpetuation of reactive maintenance, and ultimately to failure of the business entity. It perpetuates the reactive status quo, causing the organization’s future to look like its past — with continued failure to meet organizational objectives. To achieve high schedule compliance leading to high process reliability, organizations must recognize and provide for the three broad types of work performed by the Maintenance department:

• Prompt response to urgent demands
• Reliable routine service (e.g., PM/PdM procedures)
• Timely relief of jobs in the backlog through effective scheduling

Emergency response is simply the urgent work. It is not the important work because all it does is perpetuate the status quo. Actually, urgent repair is not maintenance, but the consequence of non-maintenance. Reliable routine service and timely backlog relief are the important work because they improve operational reliability by reducing future failures.

For the above reasons, labor resources must be balanced with workload and distributed organizationally in a manner that assures timely and effective performance of the three broad types of maintenance work, as discussed below.

The 15 Most Common Obstacles to World-Class Reliability

A Roadmap for Managers

by Don Nyman


From the Back Cover


The purpose of this book is to reveal and demystify the 15 leading obstacles management commonly encounters in its quest for World-Class Reliability. Why 15? This is the number of obstacles  consistently identified whenever comprehensive, maintenance/reliability assessments are conducted. These obstacles relate largely to cultural and environmental “habits” that upper-management must change before more specific reliability efforts by middle managers (line and staff) can be implemented and made to take hold. Thus, the focus and uniqueness of this book is its emphasis on the managerial leadership required to transform reactive operating environments to proactive environments through culture change, universal commitment, and perseverance. Such a transformation is essential if an organization is to achieve World-Class Maintenance and Reliability, which in turn is a necessary ingredient for optimizing asset reliability.

The 15 Most Common Obstacles to World-Class Reliability

A Roadmap for Managers

by Don Nyman



Origin of Identified Obstacles & Insights Presented
Creating a Culture for Reliability 

  • Obstacle 1: Lack of Understanding, Beliefs and Commitment
  • Obstacle 2: Lack of Integrated Missions, Plans, Goals, etc
  • Obstacle 3: Emphasis on Cost Reduction vs. Reliability Excellence
  • Obstacle 4: Failure to Effect the Cultural Change to Pro-Action
  • Obstacle 5: Insufficient Organizational Stability
  • Obstacle 6: Lack of Master Plan, Budget and Commitment

Structuring the Maintenance Organization for Reliability 

  • Obstacle 7: Organized for Reaction to Detriment of Reliability
  • Work Type Organizational Structure

Clarifying Required Asset Capacity and Maintenance Workload

  • Obstacle 8: No Clear Quantification of Required Asset Capacity
  • Obstacle 9: No Clear Quantification of Workload & Required Access

Balancing Maintenance Resources & Workload 

  • Obstacle 10: Imbalance of Workload and Authorized Resources

Maintenance Skill Requirements

  • Obstacle 11: Incumbent Skills Fall Short of Technology Requirements
  • Souces of Skilled Technicians
  • Education/Trainng Options
  • The Skills Training Process
  • Pay for Skills

Materials Support

  • Obstacle 12: Procurement Focused on Initial Cost; Not Reliability
  • Vendor Partnerships

Insufficient Preparation

  • Obstacle 13: Planning
  • Work Measurement

Insufficient Statement of Expectations

  • Obstacle 14: The Coordination Process
  • Scheduling
  • Schedule Compliance
  • Obstacle 15: Insufficient Leadership of Job Execution