Some of today’s top RAM professionals take exception to the notion that technical books dealing with reliability, availability, and maintenance (“RAM”), and/or equipment-asset management can become outdated over time. They rightly dispute that everything the technical person ever needs is readily available on the Internet.
As some have suggested, currently (in mid-2021), it would appear that only 6% of the world’s printed knowledge can be downloaded from the Internet. Moreover, it can be shown that the Internet consists of dots, or “islands of knowledge.” Connecting the dots requires considerable experience, much of which comes from reading books. And there are very important side benefits from reading (online and in printed formats). It’s through reading that we learn to express our thoughts in the form of intelligible sentences, be they spoken or written.
But authors of successful books must know their audience or readerships. Texts that deal with the implementation of equipment reliability-related matters, i.e., management of a facility’s physical assets, deserve to reach a wide audience. Their world-wide readership probably includes (or should include), among others, operators, technicians, maintenance professionals, reliability engineers, supervisors, mid- and senior-level managers, and RAM consultants. Whether they’re working in plants or in the field, all of them, in effect, are “equipment users.” And all are people whose actions influence equipment reliability.
THE HARD FACTS
Time, motivation, and opportunity must come together as Subject Matter Experts and other qualified writer and authors approach publishers. Readers will always benefit from no-nonsense “actionable” texts. Intent on adding value, such texts have been written by many authors. The good ones are loath to merely “dispense hot air.” Good authors will have no trouble finding good publishers, ones with both experience and “staying power.”
In providing a good technical update, experienced authors must assume that readers want them to carefully select, craft, recombine, and condense relevant material for publication in a book. Defusing anecdotes is part of the task; I firmly believe that serious readers have reason to shun mere collections of consultant-conceived generalities.
Likewise, whenever anecdotes are repeated, there is great risk of full or partial anecdotal information being viewed out of context, which makes them potentially dangerous. Chances are that these readers, in the course of their respective work, have seen non-offending, rather lukewarm generalities expounded upon, and quickly concluded that being side-tracked by mere generalities is not adding value to an enterprise.
Thinking of one’s target readership, many of their equipment-life expectancies and plant profits likely fall short of reasonable projections. If that is indeed the case, we suggest the readers of RAM texts ponder over questions such as: Could failure to meet projections or expectations be rooted in issues that are not popular to pursue? Or could lack of success be rooted in a mere anecdote being passed down and implemented/applied after being stripped of its original context? Or could it be that management is distrustful of, say, a reliability technician’s recommendations because of some past, ineffective action steps initiated by managers that were responding to opinions instead of facts?
Management support is always essential. Ideally and logically, value-adding asset reliability-related publications take past management hurdles into account. Relevant material will remind us of the mistake in expecting reliability improvements without the support and cooperation of many interacting job functions. Additionally, efforts to achieve equipment reliability are greatly influenced by the support and continuity given by management. Unlike water flowing from a tap, our RAM-related pursuits cannot be turned on and off at will. Putting it another way, equipment reliability, availability, and maintenance are clearly affected by the implementation skills of the people in the trenches, so-to-speak, and by the perceptions of everyone between them and higher management.
Every one of us fits in somewhere and somehow influences asset reliability. By way of an automobile analogy, the driver, maintenance technician, and design engineer carry equal weight. If one of them slacks off, reliability can be illusive. We need to apply the same logic in our plants and facilities. We must accept the facts that our respective responsibilities overlap and that everybody matters and fulfills a role.
Authors of RAM-related books should explain which strategies and concepts have stood the test of time. Readers will find those types of strategies and concepts embraced by well-managed Best-in-Class (BiC) companies, i.e., interwoven in those organizations’ cultures, and not to be separated.
Seek out books (online and in print) that can be shared among many job functions. It follows that in compiling their books, skilled authors who have had prior RAM-related experience with BiCs will give their readers all the pertinent facts. These facts should be explained in a manner that gets to the point quickly. Good authors will be up to the task and will carry it out accurately and non-judgmentally (but in an uncompromisingly truthful way, nevertheless). Be advised that there are plenty of those authors out there.TRR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, asset management, professional development