Designing for reliability is the most recent term for engineering the equipment for reliability. Ensuring that there are no hard-to-reach points that require the equipment to be shut down to service will increase maintainability and as such will achieve reliability right out of the gate. It is during this phase that the importance of an experienced reliability professional is clear. Without the experience to know what failure modes or other issues will arise with the equipment once it is installed in your plant, you will spend a lot of money and lose a lot of productivity after the fact when these failure modes and issues arise during production. Organizations fail to recognize the importance of this phase in ensuring reliability and entrust it to young engineers or senior engineers without the experience to eliminate these issues before they arise. This can be made even worse by handing it over to suppliers.
Providing the equipment manufacturers with your organization’s specifications will go a long way towards setting up your facility for success. All too often organizations are more focused on the short-term cost of the equipment, and they pat themselves on the back for getting it cheaply. This is another failed approach that is prevalent in all industries today. Again, this is the result of leaders who lack the basic experience to run a plant effectively. They perpetuate the failed approaches of those who came before them because they are not qualified for the positions they are entrusted with. It will cost you less and you will get more reliability if you fix this problem before it becomes a reliability issue in your facility.
One of the best arguments for establishing these standards and specifications is standardization throughout your facility. Requiring the manufacturers to build to your specifications and not theirs will pay for itself hundreds of times over, absorbing any increased costs associated with the requirement. Equipment manufacturers use the cheapest materials they can get away with in their construction to increase their profit margins. If you do not demand quality, you will not receive it. By standardizing, you will reduce your development costs and materials costs. If you have little variation in your plant equipment, you need to stock fewer parts and your operators and technicians need to have knowledge of fewer systems. All of these things result in lowering the costs of operating and maintaining the equipment. Demanding that all the equipment’s service points be accessible while it is operating will require fewer non-productive hours to proactively maintain the equipment. If your return on investment is calculated by the equipment’s productivity, then maximizing the hours it can run will give you the best results. Sadly, the ability to design for reliability is not something taught in engineering schools. All of the thousands of engineers I have worked with miss this key aspect of designing and deciding on what equipment comes into your plant. This supports my declaration that the lack of senior leaders with a real reliability background is one of the driving forces behind the organization’s inability to truly have reliable production.
The final stage in design for reliability is to conduct a factory acceptance test (FAT). This refers to the functional test that is performed by the vendors once they complete the assembly of the equipment. This test will verify that the equipment meets the specifications and functionality agreed upon in the purchase agreement. Before the equipment reaches the plant, it is imperative that an organization put the equipment through its paces and recreate all failure modes during this phase to work the bugs out in the factory and not in the plant. I will bet most of you reading this are saying to yourselves “that is what we always do.” That is, you and your organization always seem to struggle for months or longer working the bugs out when you should be producing a product. The rush to get the equipment is shortsighted and something that poor leaders decide to do every day. Try as they will to justify this, it is factually a bad decision in all cases. There is no honest justification to rush the equipment into operation, and it will lead to continuous issues with the equipment for the entire life cycle. If you are telling yourself that I am wrong and your organization has done this successfully, you are lying to yourself.
The next part of the improper installation is the management of the organization’s spare parts storeroom. If the storeroom is run improperly (poor inventory, stock outs, etc.), the rest of the reliability operation does not stand a chance. The level of service in an organization’s storeroom is a solid indication of the effectiveness of its reliability efforts. Having the right parts is key to the elimination of improper installation. Without the right parts at the right time, reliability is not possible.What is the impact of not having the right parts? One thing is that the delay caused by trying to expedite the right parts to the plant increases downtime and costs. If this delay is beyond acceptable time restraints, then it becomes necessary to use an alternative part to make it work. This increases downtime and costs as well. Also, it requires additional repairs to remove the alternative parts and install the correct parts once they arrive. Now you incur more downtime, costs, and wasted reliability resources that distract the team that could be working proactively to address other issues. Of course, downtime is a loss of production and finished product; this impacts customers and their confidence in the organization.
Proper installation is also driven by the skill sets of the technicians working within the organization. The overwhelmingly poor decision by most organizations to shortcut the hard work needed to produce skilled tradespeople is the largest reason the reliability teams lack the skills to properly install components. In conducting development for my organizations or my clients, I have experienced this first hand. When discussing the simple topic of fasteners, I like to ask the attendees how often they torque the fasteners when they install equipment. Without fail, the response is rarely, if ever. Now you are searching for your answer, and I bet most of you respond in kind. However, that answer is incorrect; the correct answer is every time. When you tighten a fastener, you are torqueing it. Most people only consider it so if they apply a wrench designed to register the torque value. The truth is that both situations apply torque, but only one knows the amount. Precision reliability requires skilled tradespeople, and the only way to address improper installation caused by the lack of skilled tradespeople is to do the work and develop them. What I mean by develop them is to install a four or five-year apprenticeship, in collaboration with on-the-job development and mentoring by a real journeyman.
less intuitive reason for improper installation is the lack of a proper
development program for the organization’s operators. Here is yet another reason for unreliability.
The reason I include operator development in the category of improper
installation is because machinery that requires an operator is dependent on the
operator. In order to run the operator-dependent equipment, there must be a
human machine interface (HMI). The human
is as integral to the operation as the equipment is. Improper development of
these operators translates into the poor performance of the equipment. In a
sense, the wrong or inadequately
developed operator garners the same results as putting in the wrong part or
installing it incorrectly. The mistake I have repeatedly seen across all
industry is that most of this development is conducted on the job by another
operator. Organizations that entrust this development to junior operators or a
variety of different operators does so at its own peril. Repeatedly, I have
seen operators who have months or even weeks of experience training the new
operators. This is not development because neither operator is qualified to
develop the other.
Another aspect of improper installation is the organization’s desire to run the equipment beyond/outside its design. Most organizations do this because of a lack of understanding about the effects on reliability of operating equipment incorrectly. If the organization valued reliability, they would not operate their equipment outside its intended design. There are volumes of research that prove that operating equipment as it was designed to be operated will result in increased productivity and reduced repair costs. From an operator standpoint, the wrong operator doing the wrong thing is a recipe for disaster.