Hiring a Reliability Consultant

Michael Gehloff | Principal, Allied Reliability

Why Hire a Reliability Consultant

What industrial organization doesn’t want to improve safety performance, decrease downtime, and improve throughput while optimizing cost?  Even if you think you are running at full potential, the competition looms:  How do you stay ahead?  It’s not always easy to put our finger on exactly what this improvement looks like, how to quantify it, or where to begin.

In these situations, one might consider bringing on a temporary consulting partner to help you  complete an objective assessment, and to help you along the first portion of the journey.  Make no mistake about it, this help must be very focused with clear objectives and milestones in place – with one of the most important milestones being the end of the journey together.

Let’s look at some reasons why you might need to consider a consulting partner and follow up with some attributes that could help you pick the right partner for you.

Here are a few avenues where a consulting partner may add value to your organization.

Horsepower and Speed

If you had enough people available to do some of this work, you might already be doing it.   Hiring a consultant can provide you that temporary horsepower to get things done…the key word being temporary.  Not only will a consultant give you the horsepower you need, but they are more likely to complete the effort more efficiently.  Afterall, it’s not their first rodeo or put another way “they know a thing or two because they’ve seen a thing or two”.

Tools, Techniques, Expertise

Assuming you have specific issues that need to be addressed, the right consultant can provide you with the in-depth knowledge of industrial maintenance and proven tools / techniques to tackle them.  It may be possible that these are one-time efforts where the right consultant can come in and address your needs in a more efficient manner than you would be able to, or it might be that as they are making progress, they can coach and mentor your workforce to carry the torch forward once they are gone.

If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t quite put your finger on it or articulate the improvement opportunity for your organization, the right consultant should be able to help assess your opportunities, the path forward to success, and most importantly build a business case that will support your efforts.  With the right skill and expertise, nearly any issue can be quantified, and you should expect your plan to include ROI and not just simple “Industry Best Practices”.

A Different Perspective

 Sometimes it helps to have fresh eyes on a challenge.  Not only do consultants provide a new look, but they can bring ideas from other companies and other industries.  A fresh perspective can help you identify new opportunities for cost savings in efforts such as energy management and preventive maintenance (PM) optimization.

In the case of preventive maintenance optimization, a consultant can identify non-value add PM tasks that can be eliminated or reassigned, that can be replaced with predictive maintenance solutions, or that can be reengineered.  Basically, a new, more efficient way to tackle your preventive maintenance efforts.

Ability to Sell Upward

Often, the problems and improvement opportunities we can visualize in our respective roles are not fully appreciated by those higher on the organizational chart who may approve, sponsor, and perhaps fund such efforts.

The right consultant can act as an advocate for you, helping you to build your business case, shape your message, and deliver it to those who might approve it.  The right consultant for you has been there before, answered similar questions, and will ultimately lend credibility to your ask.


We all find ourselves overwhelmed from time to time, unable to keep up with the objectives we set at the beginning of the year.   A true partner in this journey will help you a couple of ways:

Oversight and Accountability The right partner for you will help you to set up a charter for your effort, outlining milestones and deliverables, along with metrics to measure the value we deliver back to the organization.  From this will come a detailed project plan that will help everyone understand how we will achieve these objectives, and how far ahead or behind we are today.


Couple this with a proper cadence and we have a recipe for success…. what is a cadence you may ask?   A cadence is a simple short and formal conversation about the effort held at a predictable frequency, delivered to the highest level of authority we can draw into the equation.


If we must present on our progress, say monthly, to the Senior VP of Operations, we will be much more likely to stay on top of things and stay on task than if no such presentation exists.   The right consulting partner for you will be able to help you shape up and execute this cadence to ensure we deliver value each month.

Focus It is likely that your organization has many avenues of improvement available to them, with new opportunities popping up every day. It is important to apply our capability with a narrow focus, sticking to the plan, and overcoming the urge to chase every squirrel that falls out of a tree.


A good partner will be able to continually remind you of what we set out to do, what we agreed that we would achieve together, and caution against overextending ourselves and taking on too many things at once.

Invoicing Let’s be honest, if we are getting a monthly invoice that we must approve, we are likely to be more attune to the progress we have made in that time frame, and any course corrections that may need to be made to get us back on track.   As well as being keen on accomplishing what we set out to do so that the invoicing will eventually stop.  Again, we are on a journey together with a clear ending planned out at the onset.


Who is the Right Reliability Consulting Partner for Me?

Just like with everything else in the world, there are good consulting partners and bad consulting partners for you given the specific challenge you face…rarely is it a one size fits all situation.  I am sure all out there making you the offer mean well, but to achieve success, you really need that best fit that can help you deliver success in a collaborative manner.

Let’s look at a few attributes of a good consulting partner.

Ability to Listen and Understand your Specific Needs

Many consultants will greet you with their own slick PowerPoint slides filled with jargon and carefully branded methods.  While this may serve to illustrate some depth of knowledge, it can also be a red flag that your potential improvement partner is lacking in another key attribute, empathy.  Empathy being the ability to listen and adapt the conversation appropriately to maximize the benefit for all involved.

It has been said that there are many paths to your chosen destination, all a person (or an organization) need do is choose the path that is best for them and take the first step.   While there are many proven methods, techniques, and terminology available to guide an improvement journey, we need to find the best combination of these factors that will help your organization achieve its highest potential….what we call it matters much less than the measurable value we can achieve and communicate with others.

A good consulting partner who can best guide you on this journey will listen carefully and seek to understand your current situation.  From this understanding, they should be able to share with you experiences of customers in similar situations (not always the exact same industry, but similar enough to illustrate the point) and help paint a picture of how they set out on this journey, the challenges they faced, and the measurable improvements they enjoyed at the end of their journey.

Approach with caution those potential consulting partners who seem to walk in the door for the first time with the answer in hand.  They may not be as open to listening and learning about you.

While well-established business process and techniques can certainly accelerate your ability to learn and grow, unbending dogmatic approaches can often stand in the way of your own people embracing such a process as their own…. you often here them refer to such programs as the “consulting firm X approach” rather than our internal business system.

Starting with an Exit Strategy

When hiring someone to help you on your reliability journey, you are not looking for a lifetime commitment, but rather some short-term assistance to overcome some obstacles you are facing.  If you were looking for a longer commitment, you might just hire someone with the appropriate skill and expertise.

A good partner in your improvement journey will start with an exit strategy in mind.  What are we trying to accomplish?  How will we get there?  How can we transfer and internalize the skill and knowledge to internal personnel to ensure that we have the best chance of sustaining our improvements once we have reached the goal we had in mind.

A consulting candidate that cannot help you build such a vision may not be the right partner for you.  Think deliverables, measurement of value, transfer of knowledge, and sustainability when shaping up the details of your partnership.

A Track Record of Proven Results and Leadership Skills

Finally, a good consulting partner should be able to offer tangible case studies explaining how they have helped other organizations facing similar challenges.  They should be able to tell you this story confidently in a short, succinct way, with a theme of deliverables, measurement of value, transfer of knowledge, and sustainability.  Evidence of successful project management, team building, and conflict resolution should be present.

Use caution when listing to long meandering diatribes about customer experiences that are filled with tales of extensive activity and analysis, with an unclear measurable return at the end.   If one cannot explain what they accomplished, but rather fill the airwaves with endless accounts of high levels of activity, often illustrated by page count or some meant to be impressive high number of analyses performed, it is possible they did not consider the desired outcome at the beginning of that effort.

Be especially mindful of criticism of past customers…likely in the form of “well we would have achieved this with customer X, but they just were not willing to listen…”.  The duty of a consulting partner is just that…be a partner…listen, learn, adapt to help your customer best achieve their potential.   If the best one has to offer in conversation later is some tale of how we would have been successful if only the customer had listened to them, they might not be that partner you are looking for.


More than a substantial financial commitment, establishing a relationship with a consulting partner will have a long-lasting effect on your organization for years to come.   This effect may be negative, in that it served to prove the skeptics right, and in fact the status quo was the best we could do, and improvement was just not possible – probably unlikely.

More likely, the opposite is true, in that we, together, have created new skills and capabilities within your organization, that has transformed the way you work and the way you think.   We, together, have an exciting story to tell of the value we have created and how we have firmly established the ability to create future value in the organization.   This only happens when you pick the right consulting partner to join you on that journey.

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About the Author

Michael Gehloff Principal, Allied Reliability

Mike Gehloff has worked in the maintenance and reliability discipline for over 30 years with a wide range of experience both as a practitioner and a consultant. His area of expertise lies within the social sciences related to the discipline, particularly in the work control (maintenance planning and scheduling), operator care, and management systems areas.

Mike has worked extensively in the steel industry and held several corporate and division-level reliability positions. He also has experience in the miningfood and beverageoil and gas, and power generation industries with a proven track record of delivering results. Mike is particularly effective in team-based environments where frontline associates are empowered to make a change in their organization. Breaking down barriers to communication, motivation, and a set of common goals for the organization are all areas that represent a professional passion for Mike.

Mike graduated from Eckerd College. He is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP), as well as a Certified Plant Maintenance Manager (CPMM). Mike is also a Six Sigma Black Belt and has earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Florida. Mike is always open to adventure and has an extensive international travel resume.

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn.