The Art of Reliability (and Performance) Improvement
It is well known that businesses can achieve superior results if their assets are more reliable and achieve higher levels of performance. It is also well known that an initiative that seeks to improve reliability will include an endless array of “obvious elements” (condition monitoring, precision lubrication, planning and scheduling, risk analysis, and so on, and so forth).
What isn’t as well known is how you implement the program to achieve optimal results, and how you gain, and retain, support from senior management, the plant-floor, and everyone in between. The author would contend that there are essential elements that must be included in a program if it is to be successful.
Let’s start with the foundational elements which must be present for the program to have any chance of succeeding.
VALUE: The program must be based on a solid understanding of how the program delivers value to the organization. Every task performed must be aligned with the goals of the organization. And those goals must be constantly reviewed as business conditions change. If there is a strong business case, we will win senior management support; without it the program will not succeed.
STRATEGY: There must be a strategy and the strategy must include tactics. We can’t blindly wander towards the “reliable plant”, and we can’t randomly implement those “obvious elements”. Many have tried; most have failed.
PEOPLE: Our value proposition will win the support of senior management. With the support of senior management, we can win the support of the people working in the organization. If we don’t win their support, the program can’t be truly successful. We need skilled, motivated people who contribute to the program, with everyone understanding how they personally benefit.
Cycle of reliability
With a solid base of value, strategy, and support of the people, we can build a continual cycle of reliability improvement.
DISCIPLINE: A reliable plant requires discipline. There should be one way to perform every task and every task must be performed one way. Discipline starts with accurate information (master asset list and bill of materials), a management of change process, accurate spares database, workflow diagrams and procedures (work and operational), all documented in a functioning computerized maintenance management system CMMS to manage it all. Work must be performed with precision, and a QA/QC process will catch any mistakes.
CARE: Our disciplined processes will set up our equipment for success. Now we must care for their equipment while it is operated. It should be clean, tight, smooth, calibrated, and correctly lubricated. It should be operated per the standard operating procedures, within the integrity operating windows. We will also care for our spares, and utilize condition monitoring to detect the root causes of failure.
ANALYTICS: Our actions will be driven by data. Financial and reliability data will set our priorities. Asset health data will drive our maintenance actions. Performance data will guide our operational decisions. And strategic KPIs will reveal opportunities for improvement. Where possible, we will utilize machine learning, big data, and IIoT to deliver actionable information at heightened levels of speed, intelligence, and efficiency.
OPTIMIZE: Continual improvement, driven by data, will ensure a program always delivers maximum value. We cannot set and forget our program.
We must also consider the lifecycle of the equipment.
ACQUIRE: We must stop importing trouble into our plant. Our project management, design, and procurement processes must seek to achieve the lowest total cost of ownership by prioritizing maintainability, safety, and availability. And to make absolutely sure that new and overhauled equipment are fit for our reliable plant, we will utilize utilize acceptance testing as QA/QC.
EOL: When the assets reach their end of life, root cause failure analysis (RCFA), supported by a Failure Reporting, Analysis, and Corrective Action System (FRACAS) will insure we do not repeat "avoidable" failures. We will also dispose of the asset with minimal impact on the environment.
Reactive maintenance cycle of doom
There is one more element we must consider. Many plants attempting to improve reliability already suffer excessive reactive maintenance. The drain on resources, and our emotions, will never allow our program to succeed.
CONTROL: We must add a phase that gains control of our maintenance practices so that we can focus on the elements within the cycle of reliability.
Combining these essential elements, we have the key to reliability improvement. Ignore any one of these elements at your peril.
While there is so much more that could be said about each of these topics, it is hoped this article will provide some guidance into what must be performed in order to overcome the common barriers to reliability success.
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