A new kind of networking
Twice a year, T.A. Cook invites top managers from the field of maintenance to the
Maintenance Benchmarks Focus Group. This exclusive forum offers participants the opportunity to exchange experience and ideas on current organizational concepts, processes, strategies and performance indicators with one another.
Text: Christian Raschke
When an audience begins to look out of the windows, it would usually denote a certain critique of the speaker. However, in this case it showed genuine interest in what was being said: to introduce the autumn session of the Maintenance Benchmarks Focus Group at T.A. Cook’s Berlin office, Frank-Uwe Hess began by outlining the history of Potsdamer Platz just outside.
As early as 1910, the junction between “Berlin-Tiergarten” (Berlin Zoo) and “Berlin-Mitte” (Berlin Center) had become the most traffic-congested place in Europe. Horse-drawn carriages, pedestrians, trams and cars – all bustled so wildly amongst each other that in 1924 the city decided to mount its first traffic light there in an attempt to regulate the congestion. To this day, the so-called “ traffic tower” still stands before Potsdamer Platz railway station as a monument and provided Hess with a good example of how complexity can be either controlled or reduced for his introduction.
Maintenance is about just that, according to the CEO and Partner at T.A. Cook: taking control of complexity in order to avoid failures and accidents, while keeping system efficiency as high as possible. The simplest alternatives to crossroads are roundabouts. Admittedly, the solutions required for the process industry are rarely as simple as that, which is why senior executives from the field of maintenance from 13 companies currently meet every six months for the Maintenance Benchmarks Focus Group – most recently held in late September in Berlin.
“It has a unique format,” says Christof Riewenherm, Head of the Central Asset Services at Ineos in Cologne. A regular participant, he greatly values the exchanges with maintenance experts from different companies and branches: “At this biannual meeting of the focus group, I have had the opportunity to compare myself and my organization to others.” Representatives from other businesses include those from refineries, infrastructure service providers, food producers, chemical and pharmaceutical companies. “It is precisely this mix of branches that makes the exchanges so exciting. As our businesses are not in direct competition in the field, we can talk candidly with each other,” says Riewenherm. At their last meeting in Berlin, he presented Ineos’ maintenance organization and reliability management, revealing how he internally calculates hourly rates for tradesmen’s services.
It is precisely this spirit of open exchange and lively discussion that makes the Maintenance Benchmark Focus Group organized by T.A. Cook so worthwhile for its participants. Someone else who would count themselves among like-minded participants is Dr. Mathias Ruhland, globally responsible for processes, technology and reliability at Covestro in Germany. Since 2014, T.A. Cook has organised the biannual meeting at alternating locations in Spring and in the Autumn.
These intervals between the meetings have proven to be just about the right amount of time, and the fact that the attendees are always part of the topic agreement process for the next meeting has also proven its worth. “So far, we’ve discussed a great deal about performance indicators such as Meantime to Repair, Meantime to Failure and Maintenance Cost Rates, as well as how we can compare OEE with each other,” says Hess. At one of the sessions in Berlin, ‘Process Benchmarking’ was a new addition to the program: how is ‘Reliability Management’ organised at different businesses? With which tools and strategies do different companies work? Which different benefits can be achieved? The extent to which particular selected topics generate and excite interest can be seen in how presentations on various case studies concerning maintenance at BASF, OMV, Covestro, Bayer and Co. are frequently interrupted by queries and discussion.
Though such activity is often frowned upon at larger conferences, it is actively encouraged and expressly welcomed in the Focus Group: according to Hess, “The meeting lives from interaction.” The strong emphasis on practical relevance and solution oriented exchanges of experience have been successful in helping participants to undertake processes of change in their businesses, changes that have made tangible improvements. Moreover, the collection of uncensored presentations from each meeting made available as PDF files by T.A. Cook are a valuable resource. Whichever company or person has the possibility to compare the experience and performance indicators of other maintenance organizations with their own clearly has a better chance of convincing their company of making changes they feel are necessary.
“This openness is fantastic, but you have to be prepared to accept and go with it,” says Markus Finke, Head of Reliability and Integrity Management at Bayer Crop Science. He has attended the Focus Group on multiple occasions and recently gave a talk himself at the meeting on the strategies Bayer followed when changing from reactive to proactive maintenance: “My expectations of gaining insights into other businesses and organizations and being able to make meaningful comparisons have always been met.” He duly gave his presentation in a direct and frank manner, certainly not mincing any words.
After a day and a half of presentations, case studies and many discussions, the participants agreed that it had been another positive meeting.