Reliability is basically having something do what you want, when you want, and how you want. Sounds nice doesn't it. But, how do I achieve that? You have to think reliability. I know what you're thinking, this is ridiculous. I tell you that it is absolutely the most important thing you can do when you are trying to achieve the level of reliability you want in your equipment. How many technicians do you know who are not reliable but their work is? The mind directs the action and if the technician is reliable his work will probably be reliable too. Managers everywhere are probably screaming by now that they cannot get enough reliable technicians or that the reliability is not determined by the mindset but by some great engineering designs.
Reliable thought breeds reliable thought. Have you ever heard the various sayings that allude to a person becoming who they associate themselves with? The reliability starts with the leadership. Put simply the reliability must start from the top down. The manager has the responsibility to sell the reliability to his staff. I am not at all saying this is easy but it is something that must be done. Reliable thinking is like shock treatment to some people. It takes discipline, accountability, and responsibility. Not every technician will give in to the shock treatment and some will fight it to no end. Like the car that just won't run right and the mechanic is brought in to fix it, the maintenance program can benefit from the reliability mechanic. The introduction of an outside source with specialized knowledge to identify reliability issues can be the thing a maintenance program needs.
The inefficiencies are the product of unreliability. First, there is the issue of poor historical data. I know that is what CMMS is for blah, blah, blah! I hate to break it to all of those die-hard CMMS believers out there that think as long as they put data in that they have the historical data for reliability studies. The problem is not so much that data is not being entered into the CMMS but that the data is garbage because the people entering it are not thinking reliability. The problem is not always that the technicians do not care but sometimes (actually most of the time); they are just not informed by the management to what information is needed and how it is used. I know you have work orders that have all of those nifty fields that have to be filled and have notified the technicians that they must be filled in for completion. Why? So you know it's finished? Don't tell me, tell the poor technician who keeps replacing that seal in the hydraulic system because nobody has put in a work order narrative stating that sand is damaging the seal. Fixed doesn't cut it when you want to improve the reliability of your equipment.
By now several people have probably put this down because they are offended or downright disgusted but it still doesn't change the fact that if we can't admit that the system is broken it will never be fixed. Denial is also inefficiency. I have heard a lot of maintenance people talk about their maintenance programs. Statements like "We do a lot of maintenance" and "We do oil and vibration analysis", do not always mean you are efficient. I won't touch the "We do a lot of maintenance" issue because it speaks for itself. I will however comment on the oil and vibration analysis. Oil and vibration analysis are great tools for any maintenance program when used properly. Far too many times the periodicity for these analysis are set way too low or too high because the right information was not used or analyzed properly. For example, if a bearing starts showing the failure symptoms one year prior to failure and you check that bearing every quarter. Wouldn't it be more effective every 6 months? I know that the example was kind of generic and lacked the detail to make a proper decision but this is what is happening with decisions in maintenance shops around the world.
Selling reliability is a hard process if done right because you have to do your homework. Generally most technicians and management want to improve just for the level of personal achievement that is involved in being in a world class facility. The key is to understand what reliability is and how it will improve the process and environment. Once this is understood the information has to be passed on and explained to the technicians and management. The explanation has to include the how and why. The lack of explanation of how and why the reliability improvements have to happen will mean almost certain failure. The key is to bring them to the table on the subject of reliability and not expect them to decipher the hidden code you are putting out when you don't explain the direction you are going.
By Robert Apelgren, CMRP, Reliability Engineer, Anteon
Robert Apelgren is a Reliability Engineer with Anteon. He received his BS in Industrial Technology from Roger Williams University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. He is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional. He has 13 years of maintenance experience as a technician, supervisor, coordinator, consultant, and trainer