A Silver Bullet for Machinery Reliability

Drew Troyer
Tags: maintenance and reliability

"There is no substitute for hard work."
-Thomas Edison

After a decade and a half of watching the maintenance and reliability world invest heavily in various maintenance and reliability techniques and technologies, which research suggests have delivered only a fraction of the value they could, I believe I have found the secret to maintenance and reliability success. Call it a silver bullet for machinery reliability if you like. The concept is a simple one that I have codified into an executable program called World-class Optimized Reliability Keys, or WORK for short.

A Game Plan
To use a North American football analogy, this revolutionary new program is about basic blocking and tackling. If you prefer a basketball analogy, WORK is about solid defense and patient shot selection. WORK is not a technology - nor is it an engineering framework. Rather, WORK is a management technique that enables other equipment maintenance tools to function more effectively.

Reliability-centered maintenance (RCM), for instance, is a sound and proven method for allocating maintenance and reliability resources to align with the organization’s mission. WORK enables RCM to function more effectively. Root cause analysis (RCA) is a proven tool for getting to the bottom of a failure. It enables an understanding and ultimate correction of the root cause(s) of a failure event so that its recurrence may be avoided. WORK facilitates the effective completion of an RCA so its objective is met.

WORK Dimensions
WORK as a management framework has several elements, or keys, that can be generally classified into two dimensions, Smarter and Harder. WORK Smarter is perhaps the most important of the two dimensional components. Imagine that you have a roadmap that identifies the best route to travel by car from Nashville, Tenn. to San Antonio, Texas. You’ve studied the map, which lays out a clear plan for you. The technology, the map and the technique for following the route suggested by the map, are all sound. They enable efficient travel from Nashville to San Antonio. Using them to guide you is employing the Smarter dimension of WORK. Failure to use such available tools can result in a tortuous path of travel. Even with the right tools, we can get off track and lose our way.

Working Smarter
Suppose, for example, that en route to San Antonio, your gut tells you that there is a shortcut. So, despite the fact that you are not an expert in map-making or geography, you abandon your proven technique and technology and head off into another direction, which takes you from Nashville to San Antonio via Seattle. A WORK Smarter game plan probably would have saved you dozens of hours of travel, hundreds of dollars in fuel cost, wear and tear on your vehicle and, above all, the frustration of failure - particularly among those who really needed to get from Nashville to San Antonio quickly. You may find that without a WORK Smarter program, your travel companions may resist traveling with you in the future. The Smarter dimension of WORK targets effectiveness.

Working Harder
Harder is the other dimensional component of the WORK model, which targets efficiency. It relates to the diligence with which efforts are carried out. There are about 940 miles of interstate highway between Nashville and San Antonio, which works out to be just under 16 hours of driving at 60 miles per hour. If you choose to drive eight-hour days, you’ll make it in two days. However, if you prefer to limit your driving to two hours per day, it will take you more than a week to make the trip. It all depends upon how hard you want to work.

 

An eight-hour day can be spent almost entirely behind the wheel, adding to this rest stops for gas and human comfort. Conversely, one can drive 30 minutes and rest for 30 minutes. WORK Harder is the diligence of effort that gets you to your destination in the least amount of time possible. Without proficiency provided by WORK Smarter, however, it is difficult for WORK Harder to yield significant benefits to the organization. No matter how diligent our effort driving from Nashville to San Antonio, without a good roadmap and travel plan, it is difficult to estimate our travel time and arrival date. WORK Smarter, however, also requires WORK Harder to be effective. Good plans without consistent and diligent execution fail to deliver the desired results.

While we lack a large body of empirical evidence, initial observations suggest that those organizations that effectively combine both the Smarter and Harder dimensional components of WORK in executing equipment maintenance and reliability programs enjoy a great deal of success. Their RCM programs, RCA programs, lubrication programs, machine-condition monitoring programs and other maintenance initiatives actually do improve equipment reliability, drive down operating costs and increase return on net assets (RONA).

Table 1 shows an organization’s maintenance and reliability program where low and high levels of effectiveness are achieved on the two-dimensional components of WORK.


Table 1. Dimension of WORK and Its Effect on
the Maintenance and Reliability Organization

Implementing the WORK program requires a paradigm shift in the organization, which may take some time. But paradigm shifts and culture change are two other activities enabled by the WORK model itself.

While obviously written tongue in cheek, I believe this column strikes at the heart of industry’s failure to even begin to take advantage of the opportunities to improve organizational competitiveness and profitability by maintaining equipment for reliability and cost effectiveness. Proven engineering frameworks and technologies exist to accomplish the goal. But focus and execution are the keys to success.

The next 10 years will be an interesting and telling time for industry in North America and Western Europe. What industries will lose to low-cost and low-regulation economies? For the industry sectors that do survive, which companies will survive and thrive? Maintenance effectiveness and efficiency are important variables, particularly in the second question. But we cannot simply talk the talk, merely knowing the hot reliability buzzwords. We have to WORK Smarter and Harder - we have to execute. That’s my Viewpoint. As always, I’m interested in yours.