A culture of reliability

Emerson Automation Solutions

By Murray Cox
Tuesday, 15 May, 2018

A culture of reliability

Reliability is a key business imperative for any company in an ever-increasingly competitive global market. It is a cornerstone of any operational excellence program. Those companies operating in the top quartile of reliability performance, when benchmarked against the average performance of their peers, enjoy 4% more availability, at half of the maintenance cost (as a consequence, not an action), and typically have a better safety record as a result.

Those top performers have some important behaviours in common. They have reliability-centric business processes in place. They maintain their assets proactively and have an optimal mix of preventive (time-based) and predictive (condition-based) maintenance work processes. They have strong reliability engineering capabilities. They apply IIoT sensing and analytics technology appropriately for condition monitoring and diagnosis of their assets.

But the key factor that allows the top performers to achieve all these things is the culture. They have been successful in embedding a reliability culture in their organisations. To draw a parallel, over the past decades — and to everyone’s benefit — almost all organisations have been successful in embedding a safety culture. Everyone is aware of safety, and the role they play in making themselves and others in their workplace safe. Gone are the days when safety was considered the sole responsibility of the safety manager.

The top performers in reliability have achieved the same with a reliability culture. Everyone in the organisation understands their role and impact on reliability, and the enormous financial and business advantage gained through performing in the top quartile. They understand the value of integration between departments (operations, maintenance, finance, IT, materials management etc) and the benefits of a coordinated focus on reliability performance. In these top performers, the days are gone when reliability was considered the sole responsibility of the maintenance manager.

The path to this culture requires investments in people. Top-performing companies ensure that their people understand the bigger picture, see the benefit in changes to work processes, and the introduction of technology that will enhance them, not detract. So how do the top performers do that?

They build integrated teams. Whoever is leading an initiative, a business plan is unlikely to be successful without cross-functional collaboration. Each organisation brings valuable perspective to business plan development, execution and measurement against business objectives.

They focus and start small. Smaller initial improvement projects address clear business needs in a measurable way, while also providing the opportunity to demonstrate to the organisation what success looks like, and to evaluate broader applications and deployment as they gain expertise.

They transform employees as well as processes. The greatest benefits are realised when worker skills are enhanced and work processes are updated to take advantage of new technology and work practices.

With these considerations top of mind, businesses will be well positioned to get significant returns on their reliability program investments. And with strategic business plans guiding these investments, they will also gain experience and expertise that will drive a broader adoption of new work practices and IIoT technologies for reliability improvements.

Murray Cox is the Director of Reliability and Wireless in Australia and New Zealand for Emerson’s Automation Solutions consulting services. He has over 25 years’ experience in the automation industry and has experience in control systems, safety instrumented systems, measurement technologies and wireless.

Image: ©stock.adobe.com/corepics

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