Creating the Reliability Plan at Your Plant
The term “Improve Reliability” is often used to define future improvement efforts and set expectations for employees and managers. But, the term is often not clear to all involved. Most of us intuitively have a general understanding what a reliable plant is, but, when the term is used in order to drive an improvement project, it has to be clarified what we mean… exactly.
While a company’s Mission Statement may be “To increase profitability through increased reliability”, this is in fact very vague. Expectations need to be clarified with supporting measurable and time limited goals and action plans, but should also have clear definitions around reliability.
The term reliability is used often, but the concept is seldom explained more than what we find in Webster’s definition in the dictionary. So, let’s try to clarify the meaning and what responsibilities it leads to.
First, the goal of a typical plant is not only to be reliable. Plants have many other requirements such as cost/unit, safety, and environmental responsibilities. Reliability must therefore be discussed in the context of plant operation as a whole – not as an isolated project. On a positive note, it has been proven that reliability is interlinked with many of the other goals of a plant. For example, there is a strong correlation between a reliable plant and a safe plant, the more reliable a plant is, the safer it is. This makes sense since a reliable plant needs fewer repairs, and any necessary repairs are better planned. Cost per unit is also lower at a reliable plant.
The goal for any plant is typically to safely increase overall production reliability and to reduce cost per unit. Safety and cost per unit is almost always measured at plants while reliability is measured in different ways and sometimes not at all.
Reliability can be measured by Overall Production Reliability (OPE). Traditionally, this measurement is called overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). OEE and OPR refer to the same measurement, but I use the name OPR since it better describes the partnership between operations, maintenance and engineering we want in our reliability efforts.
OPR is calculated as:
OPR = Quality (%) x Speed (%) x Time Availability (%)
Speed, Time Availability and Quality describe all losses in a production or process line. OPR is, therefore, an excellent measurement to use when setting joint reliability goals for operations, maintenance and engineering.
OPR should be measured at bottlenecks of the production, or if possible, on a whole production line.
Common mistakes when measuring OPR is to hide opportunities while the whole point of the measurement is to reveal the full potential of the production. The availability should be based on 8760 hours, planned shutdowns and other downtime should not be taken away from the denominator of the calculation. The exception to this rule is economic downtime, meaning that the plant or line is shutdown because the product can not be sold.
Another common mistake in measuring the OEE is to divide the OEE by department so that the Mechanical department has, for example, 96% OEE, the electrical 96%, instrumentation 96%, and operations 96%. In this scenario everyone think they are excellent, but the total OPE is 85%. OPE should be a JOINT measurement to create a partnership between departments and should show the full potential of the production line.
Process and equipment reliability
The primary responsibility for Operations is process reliability. The “reliability goal” is for the process, or manufacturing, to operate with as little waste as possible. Examples of process waste are quality and production losses due to operating parameters such as setting of pressures, machine speeds, cutting tool selection or concentration of chemicals.
Equipment reliability is Maintenance’s primary responsibility. Lack of equipment reliability creates waste due to failing components, quality losses for the reason of equipment problems, or speed losses because of component wear or breakdowns.
Engineering should focus on supporting equipment and process reliability through Life Cycle Cost (LCC) design. LCC is used to consider the cost of buying and owning equipment. It is common that engineering departments only focus on making sure a new installation is on time and under budget. Reliability and maintainability aspects of the equipment design are forgotten. For example, why would someone buy a motor or gearbox without jacking bolts (pushbolts used when aligning equipment) installed?
We know world-class shaft alignment is virtually impossible to do with a sledgehammer, so why don’t we specify jacking bolts as part of the design?
Reliable production can only be achieved when these three groups work in concert. We should therefore not measure each departments OPE, it should be a joint measure, but each department must understand its role in reliability.
Creating the reliability plan at your plant in 5 steps
Starting to improve reliability requires clarity and a path forward. How can management create a clear plan for equipment reliability improvement? In my experience, there are often competing views on what needs to be done to improve reliability. If we simply tell the plant that reliability needs to improve without a clear path forward, there will probably be many disjointed efforts started that may lead to the opposite result.
When I ask an organization to define what reliability is and how it is measured, I seldom get a comprehensive or consistent answer.
I am pretty sure you are trying to improve reliability at your plant as you are reading this. Does your plant have a collective plan (operations, maintenance, & engineering) to achieve improved reliability? If so, do the employees with “skin in the game” understand the plan and how to execute it?
If you cannot answer a definitive "yes" to these questions let me offer some advice on how to create a clear path of action following five (5) steps.
1. Get all necessary people involved
There will be no “buy in” if a lone individual creates the plan. Create a team and build awareness of the reliability process. This is by far the most important step in the process and the one most often forgotten. When creating the team remember these points:
- The team has to have “clout” in the organization AND management must take part
- Involve operations, maintenance and engineering
- The bigger the team, the more buy-in
- The bigger the team the longer it will take
- The team must have an understanding for what good looks like, where they want to go.
- The team must understand how good/ poor the plant currently is with regards to reliability.
- The facilitator must be respected by the organization and viewed as a leader for the improvement effort
2. Create a vision and/or mission statement and goals for reliability
The vision is where the plant wants to be in the future. The mission is how the plant is getting there. The statements should be simple but clearly understood. It is important your organization understands where you want to go, what is the destination? Here is an example:
Vision – We will achieve 80 percent of our agreed “best practices (see below in bullet 3)” by X date
Mission – We will execute the best practices
Goal – We will achieve a 90% OEE in line 1 by Jan 2021
3. Create a best practices checklist
Reliability best practices are those actions that improve equipment reliability. It is a good idea to define best practices and to divide the best practices by work processes. You may define a work process as something that is – 1. Documented (set expectation), executed and followed-up upon. Here are two examples:
- Job Planning
- Document the definition of a planned job
- Execute job planning by the definition
- Follow up by assessing the percent of jobs that are planned correctly
- Document condition monitoring (CM) on-the-run inspections for mechanical equipment
- Execute the CM routes
- Follow up by measuring the route compliance and the number of corrective work orders initiated by the CM routes for the mechanical equipment
You should end up with anywhere from 150 to 300 points by describing reliability processes this way.
4. Prioritize opportunities and create a detailed plan
This begins with an honest assessment of your plant’s current performance versus the best practice checklist. You will then have a good idea of the areas within the checklist that need priority. It could be hard to select which processes to start with. Try to get the team to select improvement opportunities that will have the biggest financial benefit for the plant. It is easy to slide into pet projects for area and department heads.
Make a detailed implementation plan for each item, including training and support for the frontline. The plan has to be more detailed than for example “Improve planning”. The plan should describe the actions needed to achieve a result, not just list the result itself. Improve Planning may contain actions such as “define workflow for planning including roles and responsibilities”, and “train team in new process” and “coach the frontline in the new process 3 days a week”, etc.
5. Audit your plan’s progress using the best practices checklist
For best practices to be embedded (and embraced) by your plant, you need to monitor the progress.
I suggest you follow the process two different ways:
- Assess Work Process: Use your checklist of best practices and create a scoring system to assess the work processes. Use your checklist every 6-12 months to do a gap analysis of the work processes.
- Performance Management. The newly improved work process should include new role descriptions. Managers need to follow up with each individual to make sure that each role follows the work processes. Any organization should have a performance system through the HR department, but in my experience these processes do not exist or are not aligned with the agreed upon work processes for reliability. I suggest making a checklist of the 8-10 most important tasks for each role. Ask managers to sit down with each role they are responsible for and ask how each of the 8-10 tasks is going. This should happen at least 6 times a year.
The hardest part in an implementation process is to change the behaviour of people. People may understand they can improve, they may even know how to do it, but this does not mean they will make the change. Human behaviour is hard to change. A fat smoker may know he needs to stop smoking and start eating better, but it does not mean he will. A driver knows that texting and driving is a bad idea, but it does not mean he will stop. In reliability, we are trying to change the behaviour of a whole department. It can be done, but it will take determination and consistent follow up to make the change.
Text: Torbjörn Idhammar, President of IDCON
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