Reliability culture refers to the cultural shift from a “fix it” mentality to “prevent it.” It requires everyone from upper management, engineering, maintenance, and operations to work together to ensure that assets will work failure-free within normal operating conditions over their lifetime.
But how can an organization support and enforce reliability culture? According to Bruce Wesner, former Managing Principal with Life Cycle Engineering, and the Asset Reliability @ Work podcast, it all comes down to asset ownership. We talk all about what reliability means in depth here.
Reliability-focused culture: What does it mean?
According to Wesner, there are three things you need to understand before you can wrap your head around reliability-focused culture:
1) Operators are the asset owners in a facility
Many leaders believe that the maintenance team at their facility owns the assets. Wesner argues that the operations team owns the assets. Operators interact with equipment day in and day out, meaning they understand the assets better than anyone. Acknowledging this fact is the first piece of understanding reliability culture.
2) Maintenance folks operate as on-site specialists
The maintenance team’s role is to ensure that an asset is available to perform its designated purpose at its designated rate, and that the asset is available for operations to meet their production needs.
3) All parties who will use and maintain assets need to be involved in design
Finally, it’s essential to get input from the people who will use and maintain an asset during the design phase. Wesner says it’s helpful to use a reliability, availability, and maintainability (RAM) analysis in this situation. A RAM analysis helps to measure the production availability of an asset over its lifetime by taking into account different failure modes.
When is it time for a reliability overhaul?
If a facility’s assets are proving difficult to use and maintain for either operations or maintenance people, there’s a problem with reliability. But what are the other, more tangible signs that a facility could need a reliability overhaul? According to Wesner, there are some very clear signs to look out for:
This is the number one red flag that points to a reliability problem. If maintenance technicians constantly have to repair broken assets and there isn’t a good process for these repairs, people are put at risk.
You’re drowning in reactive maintenance
If it feels like you can’t escape the constant loop of firefighting asset problems and reactive maintenance us ruling your maintenance team’s activities, then it’s time for a change.
You’re having trouble hitting your KPIs
Performance metrics tell the story of organizational health. If you’re having trouble achieving these metrics, it’s time to consider whether challenges in reliability might be at play.
You’re spending more time and money but seeing lots of downtime
A financial analysis reporting unusually high maintenance and overtime costs could point to a systemic problem with reliability. Similarly, if there’s frequent unplanned downtime in your facility, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
You’re seeing product quality issues or low customer satisfaction
Quality-based customer returns or complaints could indicate that things could be improved. Similarly, large amounts of scrap are a clue to look out for.
What are the challenges of establishing a reliability-focused organization?
According to Wesner, there are two mistakes an organization can make in trying to stand up a reliability-focused culture.
1) Failing to address organizational silos
In many organizations, engineering, maintenance, and operations exist in their own silos, with little communication between them. These silos must be broken down to create partnerships and ensure everyone works together.
2) Failing to create engagement at all levels
Implementing a culture of reliability gets difficult if stakeholders at all levels of an organization—from leadership to operators to the maintenance team—aren’t engaged early in the process. Ask yourself how everyone in the organization can be made aware of the need for reliability changes and how you can create a desire for them to adopt these changes.
How is reliability success measured?
KPIs are the number one way to measure the health of reliability processes, says Wesner. Leadership must be engaged in setting these KPIs and developing a dashboard that is visible and applied to all areas of the reliability effort. This will allow everyone else to start creating the right behaviors to support those KPIs and support an overall reliability strategy.