Reliability Engineering Articles
Our expert staff is well known throughout the industry for its breadth of knowledge gained through years of practical experience. The following articles, written by members of our staff, have been published in industry journals and Web sites.
Look up Reliability Engineer (RE) jobs on Indeed.com and you’ll find more than 20,000 openings listed. I would argue that emerging technologies are driving some of this huge demand, which raises some questions. Has the role of the manufacturing plant RE changed? What new skills and competencies are required and what do REs need to do to stay on top of the changes and continue their vital role in managing the life cycle of assets?
One of the biggest challenges I faced as a manufacturing plant reliability engineer (RE) was managing new equipment that had been installed in my area of responsibility without my knowledge or input. Several of those assets jumped to the top of my list of bad actors.
The primary purpose of an equipment maintenance plan (EMP) in a manufacturing facility is to minimize the impact of unplanned events on safety, the environment, and business profitability. The reliability tool best serving as a vehicle to achieve and sustain EMP goals is the failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA). Optimum long-term cost of ownership is typically a result of an effectively facilitated and thoroughly implemented FMEA.
For more than a decade we have been coaching our clients to identify their critical spares at the earliest possible opportunity – ideally when an item is first ordered and/or set up in the system – and review them on a periodic basis to keep the information up to date.
Asset hierarchy structure is one of the most basic elements of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). It’s also often overlooked. When we evaluate a company’s asset infrastructure, the CMMS hierarchy often scores poorly when assessed against best practices, and setting up the hierarchy properly ends up as a part of many project scopes. Here are some of the issues I’ve encountered when working on these projects
By Scott Hoff, Life Cycle Engineering
My former boss liked to say, “If you keep doing the same thing but expect different results, that’s insanity.” Doing firefighting maintenance and hoping for a different outcome, that’s insane.The issue might be financial: “There’s no money in the budget to buy a vibration analyzer(or some other predictive tool).” Another common roadblock is: “I don’t have enough manpower to do proactive maintenance.”
The success of your equipment maintenance plan (EMP) will depend on how involved operators were in its development and implementation. Are operator experience and abilities underutilized in your organization for the purposes of improving and sustaining asset reliability? Even if you don’t have an operator care (OC) program in place, you should consider operator care’s mitigation capabilities when a strategy is required to lower risk to the value stream. EMPs are also a great way to show the value that operators bring to the reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) team. Cross-functional collaboration is necessary to develop effective operator inspections. Operators are in a perfect position to develop, test and institutionalize routine equipment care and inspection tasks.
If you’re good at root cause analysis, you can learn from your mistakes. If you’re great at root cause analysis, you can prevent mistakes from happening. The concept of analyzing failures and tragedies to prevent them from occurring has been around for centuries. In fact, this is really the foundation of many legal systems and regulatory entities. When the United States government enacted the Pure Food and Drugs Act in 1906, and effectively created the Food and Drug Administration, this was in response to public health being negatively impacted by dangerous or misbranded food and drugs. People who had serious diseases needed scientifically tested medicines with controlled ingredients and dosages – not snake oil.
The effectiveness of a root cause investigation is predicated on several elements, but the time spent preparing for the subsequent analysis is the most important. A thorough preliminary investigation, identifying the right team members, and anticipating problems at the analysis meeting could mean the difference between a highly reliable asset and recurring failures. To drive this point home, consider the analogy of assembling a puzzle.
With constant pressure to reduce maintenance costs as well as short-term budget constraints, asset managers are often compelled to continue operating aging assets while deferring maintenance and investment. As the consequences of such decisions are rarely immediate, it can seem relatively harmless to skip a PM or eliminate repairs/upgrades from an outage schedule. In fact, deferring maintenance and investment will often result in the desired outcome (cost reduction) in the short term, further reinforcing the practice.
I was recently asked to perform a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) at a large food processing facility. This piece of equipment was similar to about 40 other assets and we were excited about being able to leverage this FMEA as a template. Furthermore, we were going to be able to extend this to other facilities that this client operated across the country.
A reliability engineer (RE) must have technical competencies like risk analysis, reliability modeling and root cause analysis, but that's not enough. In order to contribute to and influence the business, an RE needs to be capable of communicating and facilitating meetings effectively.
Mechanical integrity (MI) is just one of the 14 elements included in Process Safety Management (PSM), driven by the the OSHA 1910.119 standard, but it is significant in terms of the asset coverage involved. For example, MI includes any and all equipment/assets used to produce products made from specific quantities of defined hazardous materials on the list covered by the PSM standard.
Today’s Reliability Engineer (RE) must possess a thorough understanding of the Reliability Engineering Body of Knowledge1. Beyond acquiring the knowledge, one of the most difficult aspects of the RE’s job is building and cultivating a reliability-centered culture. This article explores opportunities for REs to develop leadership abilities by immersing themselves into the effort to transform an organization’s culture.
By Bill Barto, ASQ CRE, CMRP, Life Cycle Engineering
As appeared in RxToday
Having a background in mechanical engineering, I have always appreciated the level of analysis necessary for many conventional engineering tasks. For example, when asked to consider a bearing carrying a particular load at a particular speed, the engineer’s job is not over after determining in which direction the load is being applied. An engineer should determine the amount of applied load and make the calculations to determine the size and type of bearing needed. In this sense, would it be enough for a reliability engineer to look at an asset’s failure history and simply point out that time-based maintenance should be performed?
Recently, I led a discussion panel on the topic of reliability and maintenance. The conversation eventually settled on the issue of demonstrating the value of reliability engineering and asset management in general. One young reliability engineer stood up to express his desire to learn a way to show the executives in his company that they should continue to support his group’s efforts. The group in attendance offered many great examples of personal success. My goal for this article is to share a few thoughts and provide some examples of how to get your reliability activities noticed.
By Bill Barto, ASQ CRE, CRMP Life Cycle Engineering
As appeared in RxToday
There is no lack of good information available on improving reliability in your organization. It usually comes in the form of tools to learn and tasks to complete. Learning the proper way to critically rank your assets or create a fault tree is important, but is only the start of making a real difference in your company. The hard work is finding ways to exceed expectations and make significant and meaningful cultural changes.
By R. Keith Mobley, Principal SME, Life Cycle Engineering
One thing that has always bothered me about most continuous improvement programs is that they ignore the impact of the plant’s infrastructure on productivity. If you stop to think about real factors that limit performance, infrastructure must be a primary consideration. Perhaps one reason that most continuous improvement programs ignore or covertly address infrastructure is that few of us like to be told that we are the reason our plants are ineffective.
By R. Keith Mobley, CMRP Principal SME, Life Cycle Engineering
As appeared in Plant Engineering magazine
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the lifeblood of your company. They measure how critical functions and activities are performing relative to your business plan and the goals established to meet market and business demands. Selected and used properly, KPIs create a stretch model that empowers the entire workforce and drives a continuous improvement engine that assures meeting today’s goals as well as the company’s long range objectives.
By Sam McNair, P.E., CMRP, Life Cycle Engineering
People often define the sole measure of success for Root Cause Analysis (RCA) as being able to "kill" the problem forever. But does that mean dead at any cost? How big are the problems we are solving? Are we trapping mice (forever chasing irritating little problems) or hunting big game (only responding to major events)? Forever is a long time. Is one re-occurrence per 100 years good enough? And is the true objective the analysis, or the actions that follow?