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The above title doesn’t really disclose what I wanted to capture here: If your company is still repair-focused in late 2020, it will be no match for competitors whose conversion to being fully reliability-focused began over a decade ago, and is now complete. Consider the following real-world example and associated details.

Key observations from an old audit I carried out years ago with Paul B., a highly knowledgeable, long-time collaborator, determined that the reliability function at the plant in question was not generally separated from the site’s maintenance function. This facility was largely repair-focused (which we labeled as “RFI, meaning “room for improvement”). Additionally, traditional maintenance priorities and “fix it the way we’ve always done it” mentalities prevailed more often than warranted.

In contrast, Best Practice facilities know precisely when upgrading is warranted and cost justified. Their personnel view every maintenance event as an opportunity to upgrade and are organized to respond quickly to proven opportunities. We documented that the reward system at the referenced RFI plant was often largely production-oriented and certainly not geared toward consistently optimizing the bottom-line life-cycle-cost (LCC) impact. As in other RFI operations, the LCC concept was not applied to upgrade options.

It’s worth noting that that Best-Practice facilities are driven by the consistent pursuit of longer-term LCC considerations. Thus, life-cycle costing is applied on both new and existing (upgrade) equipment options in those plants.

At the RFI plant we were auditing, reliability professionals had insufficient awareness of the details of successful reliability implementations elsewhere. Notice that I always come back to the importance of reading: How else would the professionals at your plant become reliability-focused? Best Practice operations provide easy access to mentors and utilize effective modes of self-teaching via mandatory exposure to:

♦  trade journals and related publications (in print and online)

♦  frequent and periodic “shirt-sleeve seminars,” i.e., briefing sessions
that give visibility to the reliability technicians’ work effort, disseminate
technical information in single-sheet laminated format, and serve to
upgrade the entire work force by slowly changing the prevailing culture.

As a general observation, lack of continuity of leadership is still found at many RFI plants. These organizations don’t seem to retain their attention span long enough to effect a needed change from their present repair focus to the urgently needed reliability focus. The influence of both mechanical and I&E equipment reliability on justifiably coveted process reliability does not always seem to be appreciated at RFI facilities.

Some of the most successful Best-Practice organizations have seen huge advantages in randomly requiring maintenance superintendents and operations superintendents to switch/trade jobs back-and-forth. There is no better way to impart appropriate knowledge and “sensitivity” to both of these mid-level management functions.           

At RFIs, failure analysis and effective data logging are often insufficient and generally lagging behind industry practices. In contrast, Best-Practice organizations involve operations, maintenance, and project/reliability personnel in joint failure analysis and logging of failure-cause activities. A structured and repeatable approach is being used. Not only are accountabilities proclaimed, they are also enforced.

At the typical RFI plant, there are gaps in planning functions and process-mechanical coordinator (PMC) assignments. There is also an apparent emphasis on cost and schedule that allows non-optimized equipment and process configurations to be installed and, sometimes, replicated. Reliability-focused installation standards are rarely invoked and responsible owner follow-up on contractor or vendor work is practiced infrequently.

Best-Practice organizations actively involve their maintenance and reliability functions. LCC considerations are given strong weight. Also, leading Best-Practice organizations have contingency budgets that can be tapped in the event that debugging is required. They do not tolerate the notion that operations departments must learn to live with a constraint.

Finally, a reliability-focused Best-Practice organization will be diligent in providing feedback to its professional workforce. The typical RFI facility does not use this information route. In fact, during the many years of our collaboration, Paul B. and I were unable to find even a single Best-Practice operation (top quartile company) that was repair focused. That’s important, since experts generally agree successful players must be reliability-focused to survive.TRR



Editor’s Note: Click Here To Download A Complete List Of Heinz Bloch’s 22 Books



Heinz Bloch’s long professional career included assignments as Exxon Chemical’s Regional Machinery Specialist for the United States. A recognized subject-matter-expert on plant equipment and failure avoidance, he is the author of numerous books and articles, and continues to present at technical conferences around the world. Bloch holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and is an ASME Life Fellow. These days, he’s based near Houston, TX. Email him at heinzpbloch@gmail.com.

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, asset management, professional development