Zero failures is not a myth it’s a reality if you Design for Reliability

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The reliability of your process is determined before it even arrives on the factory floor and not by the quality of your maintenance manager

In the past year, I’ve made around 36 return flights to 3 continents covering over 65,000 miles that’s equivalent to approximately 6 days of continuous flying. However sad that may be, I am pleased to be here to say that there have been “zero breakdowns mid production”.

Zero failures mid production during 6 days of continuous running-how many of you can truthfully say your plant has achieved that in the past 12 months? And, of course, my flights are just a tiny fraction of the 100,000 flights which take place every day without failure.

If your answer is ‘often’ then maybe you should consider opening your doors to others who I’m sure would be keen to pay handsomely for you to share the solution.

In the vast majority of occasions, our intervention with the customer takes place sometime after the plant has been in operation and underperforming against expectations. Most often, the maintenance manager has an uphill battle to maintain the level of reliability the process is capable of and, over the course of many years, is able to make only minor gains.

Using techniques such as Lean RCM and a different attitude towards operations and maintenance, we are able to support the problem owner make a significant improvement in plant reliability. The problem with this approach however, is that the customer has to pay for the plant once, suffer the cost of under-performance for some period of time and then pay again to rectify the problems inherited from the day the plant was installed.

How much easier and cheaper would it be if the plant was designed for reliability in the first place? Right first time is synonymous with world-class reliability performance. The problem is that companies spend 80% of the time fixing things that were wrong from the concept and only 20% of the effort getting that concept right. In contrast, world-class reliability requires 80% of the effort getting it right first time to guarantee much less effort will be required to keep it there.

A way forward, a solution.

Once again, this is not a myth, the solution is already out there, it just needs to be adopted by more. Companies need to practice Whole Life Cycle Costing not just talk about it. This is done by introducing Lean RCM during the capital project phase.

  • First of all, the person responsible for reliability needs to be involved in the design of the process not just a project engineer. Secondly, the project manager responsible for delivering the equipment or process should not just be measured by on-time and budget but by the process delivering the performance standards required.
  • A multifunctional capital project team is required.
  • Representatives of Operations, Safety, Product Quality and Compliance need to be involved as they are responsible for defining the functions and performance standards of the equipment.
  • The Project engineer and the Reliability engineer need to work together and be responsible for working with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and capital delivery partners to ensure equipment is capable of delivering these performance standards, by:
    • Putting the required functions and standards of performance first
    • Identifying what could go wrong that can result in a failure to deliver the required function at the required standard of performance
    • Where this can be eliminated, identifying how this can be eliminated by designing out the problem before it is even built – Design for Reliability
    • Where these cannot be eliminated in the design, how can these failures be monitored and detected during operation to prevent unplanned failures and secondly, how can we make the monitoring and detection of these failures possible with the equipment operational and by using the equipment operators? – The optimised preventative maintenance strategy including autonomous maintenance and condition monitoring
    • Where these cannot be eliminated, prevented or detected – what components will need to be replaced – The Critical Spares List and secondly, how can we make it as quick and easy as possible to restore operation after the failure (i.e. Formula 1 pitstop)- Standard operating procedures



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