Over the past 15 years, Reliability Engineers have become common place in many of the resources industry maintenance teams. With this increased effort and significant investment in reliability engineering……., why do we still have equipment that is way under-performing on our reliability expectations?
The top 9 mistakes that we see companies making which prevent the investment in reliability engineering achieving the improved equipment reliability are:
- Reliability Engineers working as data specialists – Reliability improvement must start with the data to understand where improvements must be made. However, the collection of this data is better done by the people who are on the front line and doing the work. Often we see reliability engineers wasting many hours trying to collect the data to find out what actually failed and for how long. Leave this task with those best placed to capture the data and ensure they are collecting it in a manner and system that is useful for the reliability engineer.
- Reliability Engineers working as Report Writers – Another problem we see is reliability engineers spending so much time to report where the problems are that they never actually get to implement the actions which will prevent the re-occurrence of the failures. Ensure that the reports can be simply generated from the data that is collected and that these reports are utilised to dictate actions.
- Reliability Engineers working as project engineers – One of the most insidious problems that prevents the reliability engineers from achieving consistent reliability improvement is when the reliability engineer is utilised as a maintenance or project engineer. They get involved in improvement work or projects to upgrade equipment and are not utilised for their intended task as a reliability engineer. Sometimes the work outside their core purpose can be all consuming and encompass tasks associated with fixing breakdowns rather than working on eliminating breakdowns.
- Reliability Engineers who want the system data to tell them the actual failure mode – The data in the ERP system will not be able to provide the failure mode for each failure. The ERP systems could be setup to capture failure modes but to date they have not been and the best that can be taken from the data is the key areas of focus. Often the reliability engineer realises that the data is not sufficient to provide an exact solution to a specific problem so they embark on a large data gathering exercise that takes years and prevents them from actually managing failure modes. By the time the data has been further detailed the focus on reliability has been lost and people move to their next role then the cycle repeats. It is recommended to utilise the data to drive focus/priority areas and then utilise each and every failure to find the actual failure mode and ensure it can be managed in future. These learnings can then be extrapolated to similar equipment. For example, if we find a pulley bearing failure on a conveyor due to poor greasing practices or incorrect greasing standards we can ask where else on the plant do we have incorrect greasing practices. This can then enable us to eliminate breakdowns before they occur in the other areas of the plant. Of course, adopting this approach also means the engineer must spend time outside the office and looking at the failed components. See our previous article on keeping failued parts Here
- Reliability Engineers following overly complicated RCA processes – Sometimes reliability engineers are trained to follow RCA processes that are so prescriptive and process-oriented that they consume many man hours of the reliability engineer and others such that, by the time the issues has been resolved, three others have arisen. It is recommended to follow a simple process such as in the diagram at the bottom. Identify failure mode, check current strategy for managing this failure mode. If none exists put one in place and if one does exist then identify whether it is able to manage the failure mode or was not implement correctly. This simple process minimises the time reliability engineers have to chase problems that the maintenance execution team can easily correct themselves and maximises the time engineers have to work on problems that require this level of analysis.
- Reliability Engineers who do not understand how machines fail – Reliability engineers and equipment maintenance management personnel need to understand the types of failure modes that exist on equipment. Much has already been written about this and we would recommend that all maintenance people understand the core concepts in Mobray RCM2. Developing maintenance strategies and inspection regimes that will be effective in managing the type of failure mode is essential.
- Reliability Engineers who ‘too often’ try to design out failure modes – Redesign should be the last option when deciding how to manage failure modes. Unfortunately, we see engineers taking this as the first option. This can often actually design in new failure modes and may not address the real problem. This ‘design out’ type of approach usually leads to temporary reliability improvement and we wrote a separate blog article about this previously Here . We recommend to only use design out when this is the only way to manage the failure mode and it is cost effective to do so.
- Reliability Engineers who turn over too often – To be an effective reliability engineer it is essential that the person understands the equipment, ie. how it works, the operating limits, the rate of wear on components etc. This detailed technical understanding of the equipment takes time and experience to develop. We often see engineers who change roles just after they have become technically competent with the equipment. After they move the cycle starts again as they are often replaced with a less experienced engineer.
- Business leaders who think reliability is the sole responsibility of the Reliability Engineers – Unfortunately, equipment reliability can not be achieved by reliability engineers alone. It is essential that business leaders understand that the way equipment is operated and the quality of maintenance execution have a greater impact on the equipment reliability than the strategy which is developed by the engineer. We believe that the reliability engineers should be used when required in a similar manner to the responsibilities shown below.