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What is ‘proaction’ as opposed to ‘reaction’ and why is it not more widely accepted?

Reliability Center, Inc. (RCI) was originally an R&D group of a company called Allied Chemical Corporation (more commonly known as Honeywell today). The Reliability Center was chartered to take the principles of Reliability Engineering from Aviation and the U.S. Military and make them practical for application in the continuous process industries. Reliability Center pioneered the development of the first corporate, global Reliability Department in the manufacturing sector. In 1985, RCI spun off as an independent company that now serves industry, services, government, healthcare and the military around the world.

Rake Narang: What is Root Cause Analysis? Why must organizations have a reliability plan?

Robert J. Latino: The intent of Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is to drill down on undesirable outcomes to gain a thorough understanding of why people make poor decisions at the time that they do.  Many such analyses tend to stop at something physical that failed and replace the parts.  Worse yet, many stop at the ‘whodunnit’ and feel that discipline is a form of prevention.  True RCA will seek to understand why the person who made the bad decision felt it was the right decision at the time.  This exploration usually uncovers deficient management systems that fed poor information (e.g. – inadequate, insufficient, obsolete or nonexistent) to decision makers.  If we seek ‘Reliability’ of our organization, we need to have steady operations which will require consistency in our decision-making capabilities.  True Reliability means ‘no surprises’.  To have no surprises means you have to be able to control your failure rates by focusing on risk and prevention.

We are committed to changing the current paradigm encouraging reaction to one of proaction: “We never seem to have the time and budget to do things right, but we always seem to have the time and budget to do them again!”

About Robert J. Latino

Rake Narang: What is ‘proaction’ as opposed to ‘reaction’ and why is it not more widely accepted?

Robert J. Latino: It is human nature for us to strive to become better reactors or responders to failures that have already occurred.  This provides the sense of urgency in an organization to mobilize the troops, isolate the damage, protect our people and get back to normal operations.  This strive to become better responders is also usually encouraged by our regulatory requirements as well as our recognition systems.  This is because a certain threshold of ‘pain’ has to occur before we are required to conduct a full-blown RCA or investigation.  This pain usually surfaces in the form of an injury/fatality, regulatory violation (e.g. – release of chemicals into the community) or excessive damage costing a certain $ amount.  In this scenario, the bad outcome had to occur in order for us to have a call to action.

However, from a proactive perspective, why aren’t we doing RCA’s on unacceptable risks, chronic failures that do not reach the threshold of regulatory ‘pain’ and/or near misses where we simply got lucky?  The truth be known, we don’t do this because we don’t have to (no regulatory driver)!  However, we should perform this proactive activity because it is the right thing to do and it is the financially sound course of action as we prevent the more costly potential consequences.

There generally is not an urgency to be proactive, therefore more attention is paid to being reactive than proactive. Our incentive systems demonstrate this as well because we rarely provide recognition to people that prevent failures!

Rake Narang: How does a well implemented reliability plan assure a measureable ROI? How does this impact the bottom-line?

Robert J. Latino: The key to conducting such proactive activities as I have explained prior is to link their effectiveness to measureable and meaningful metrics.  Oftentimes we conduct such forced investigations to be ‘compliant’. However, in many of our organizations we know that regulatory compliance itself does not materially improve your organization’s throughput, reliability, quality, safety or profitability.  We should be doing these proactive activities and measuring their effectiveness using our corporate Key Performance Indicators (KPI).

I will use the example of healthcare (HC) in the U.S.  There are over 6000 hospitals in the U.S.  Most all of them are accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC) who accredits hospitals on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  Accreditation ensures that hospitals receive their federal CMS monies.  Hospitals have been required to conduct RCA’s since 1996.  However, the patient safety statistics since that time have worsened, not improved.  Therefore we cannot draw a direct correlation ‘that because we have a compliant RCA, that our patients are any safer’.  To measure effectiveness of our RCA’s they must measure the impact on the patient and not by simply passing a regulatory audit.  If we do this, we can demonstrate a measurable impact on our bottom-line as we will have fewer claims, less of our scarce resources responding to emergencies and fewer extended lengths of stay caused by hospital errors.

Rake Narang: How can regular education of workforce lead to better regulatory compliance?

Robert J. Latino: Teaching our workforce about proaction is the single biggest defense we have against unexpected failure.  Teaching our workforce how to recognize and be aware of elements of their work environment that are conducive to an increase in human error, is critical.  Fine tuning the senses of our workforce will dramatically cut down the failure rate and increase operational Reliability, safety and profitability in the near term. 

Teaching people how to properly learn from failures that do occur is instrumental as well.  Conducting ‘compliance’ RCA’s won’t cut it.  We need to go beyond the regulatory minimum requirements and honestly seek the truth…why did someone feel the decision they made at the time, was the right one?  Answering this simple question will uncover deficiencies in the management systems that we depend on for providing people the ‘right’ information to make the best decision.

Company: Reliability Center, Inc.
501 Westover Ave., Hopewell, VA, 23860 U.S.A.

Founded in: As R&D group of Allied Chemical (Honeywell today) in 1972; as independent company named Reliability Center, Inc., in 1985.
CEO: Robert J. Latino
Public or Private: Private
Head Office in Country: Hopewell, VA, United States
Number of Employees: 12 + the company has ongoing, specialized contract talent of 30 strong strategic partners worldwide.
Products and Services: Reliability Engineering Offerings specializing in Risk Management, Failure Investigation and Human Error Reduction Strategies. Reliability Center, Inc. (RCI) trains, consults and develops investigation management software. We are experts in Reliability of operations focusing on creating a proactive working environment that seeks to prevent failure rather than respond to it.
Company’s Goals: Educate organizations in the principles of Reliability and the role of Human Error in undesirable outcomes. We strive to teach our clients how to identify unacceptable risks and prevent failure from occurring in the first place.
Key Words: Reliability, Root Cause Analysis, RCA, Risk Management, Accident Investigation, Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, FMEA, Human Error Reduction, Human Performance,  Quality Improvement, Performance Improvement, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Continuous Improvement
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