An effective reliability program is comprehensive and must take into account the entire process — from design to execution. It is exceptionally important to manage your reliability program from the top down and ensure that every level is well organized and well maintained. How confident are you in your process? Do you feel like there is some room for improvement? Here are some key elements for an effective reliability program.
Building Your Company's Leadership
An effective reliability team begins with leadership. Company culture is informed from above, and when the company's leaders aren't supportive of a reliability program, others will not be either. Not only does the C-suite need to thoroughly understand the value of a well-planned reliability initiative, but they need to be able to express it to those who are under them and align the rest of the business on a common reliability vision.
For the reliability initiative to be successful, the company itself has to transition to taking a proactive approach rather than simply being reactive. As part of this, leaders must have an in-depth understanding of the benefits of greater reliability as it relates to all areas of the business.
Defining the Current State of Your Organization's Reliability
Figuring out where you currently stand, and identifying where you can improve, is a vital next step in building any successful reliability improvement initiative. This is accomplished by analyzing the current state and the related elements of your organization's reliability program. Understanding potential weaknesses and shortcomings can help you build better processes and achieve superior results.
First, ask yourself which areas of reliability you are most concerned with and define what your goals are. Do you want to safely and reliably improve productivity? Do you want to eliminate untimely equipment breakdowns through a stronger maintenance strategy? Do you want to improve quality assurance on products and services delivered to customers? Do you want to make sure that your employees achieve optimized effectiveness and efficiency overall?
No organization is able to grow without clear metrics for improvement. By identifying key metrics, you can analyze how quickly your organization is able to improve. If your organization doesn't show improvement in its core metrics, it will become immediately obvious that processes and/or cultural behaviors need to be modified.
Allocate or Reallocate Roles and Responsibilities
Do you want to ensure that your goals can be met? Start by allocating or reallocating roles and responsibilities as necessary. Often, people are not able to improve a process because there's no "ownership" of that process. They do not feel empowered to make changes because it isn't their role. By putting someone in charge—ideally the person who is closest to any given process—you can ensure that they take action as needed.
Often, companies struggle with reliability as employees come and go. Because reliability processes may not be assigned to an individual, or to a given role, it becomes difficult to on-board new employees. By creating a culture of reliability with defined roles and responsibilities, the necessary processes endure because they are part of the company culture, not simply a temporary fix that will vanish when the generation of employees who created them leave.
Ultimately, developing a reliability program requires accountability. If no one feels as though they are going to be held responsible, and if there is never any consequences for a lack of reliability, then reliability isn't going to become a priority.
Define Your Core Reliability Processes
Any consistency within a business requires strong business processes that have been implemented across the organization. Define and establish your core reliability processes early to ensure that everything is managed successfully. These processes do not have to be perfect; they may evolve or be adjusted over time. By establishing these processes, however, you will have a baseline upon which you can modify and improve.
Some of the processes to define, establish, review, or improve include:
- Work Execution Management. An effective reliability program requires a proactive approach rather than a reactive one. The driving force behind this is the establishment of repeatable processes to drive the flow of maintenance work, coupled with clear process expectations to which personnel will be trained and accountable. Proper Work Execution Management that includes work identification, planning, scheduling, execution, job plan reviews, continuous improvement, and a solid shutdown management strategy are key to this. A simple work prioritization system will allow you to more effectively manage your backlog. Through better planning, scheduling, and execution, businesses are able to address potential issues before they contribute to organizational downtime.
- Quality assurance. How will quality be assured? Through checklists and testing processes with strong reporting and resolution procedures. An organization must have processes not only for the discovery of potential quality assurance issues, but also the speedy resolution of these issues. Quality assurance should be audited periodically to ensure that the quality of products moving through, and the work that enables such, is up to standards.
- Operator care. Operator Care is not about dumping all maintenance functions on operations, or check-the-box inspections. Operator Care is about operators taking increased ownership for equipment and setting a structure around existing informal activity. An effective Operator Care program must not be developed by outsiders and imposed upon operators, but jointly developed with the operators to increase engagement, ownership, and accountability and ultimately result in reduced equipment delays and product quality issues.
- Inventory management. Inventory lifecycle management goes beyond simply understanding what inventory you have. It also requires that you understand what spare parts are needed based on criticality, when inventory should be maintained or decommissioned, if it can be repurposed once it is decommissioned, and how future equipment can be designed and purchased with reliability in mind to ensure it fulfills the company's needs.
Once your reliability processes have been established, they need to be distributed among personnel, while being optimized and audited as needed. Identify areas of weakness in the processes, improve upon them, and request recommendations from those closest to the point of execution.
An effective reliability program does not form overnight. It requires a lot of attention, maintenance, and diligence. However, a solid reliability program is the best way to ensure the consistency of your business. Through better reliability, you can safely improve your productivity and achieve lasting results for your business.