Ep 1: What is Reliability and how do we get it?

In this episode, we answer two questions:  1) What is Reliability? and 2) How do we get the Reliability we need from our machines?  Nancy also discusses how we design our Reliability both literally and figuratively.  The quality of our proactive maintenance and Default Strategies largely determines the Reliability we get from our equipment.  Inherent Reliability is explained.

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Hi, everyone. Welcome to The Heart of Reliability, where we break Reliability down to the basics. Because after all, anything that doesn’t have a strong foundation will eventually crumble. I’m Nancy Regan. And welcome to episode one.

Today, we are going to answer two questions.
1. What is Reliability?
2. How do we get it?

Well, let’s start by me sharing something about my 2014 Subaru Forester. I love my Subaru Forester and I love it for three reasons. Number one, it has never left me stranded. Number two, it always gets me where I need to go. And three, it always gets me home safely. So if you were to say to me, Hey Nancy, what do you think about your Subaru Forester? Do you like it? I’d say I love it. It’s really Reliable.

So there’s that word? Reliability. And you know, we can get all geeked out about Reliability. We can start talking about all sorts of equations, et cetera, but that’s not what we do here at The Heart of Reliability. At The Heart of Reliability, we get down to the basics because when you can understand things from a very basic level, then you can very easily build on that with more complex ideas and more complex issues.

Now, the easiest way to describe Reliability is how my mentor, John Moubray taught me. Here’s what John Moubray said about Reliability: Reliability isn’t a thing on its own; but rather it’s sprinkled amongst all the Functions of a piece of equipment. Now that just really makes sense. Because if you just step back and think about it, we buy a car, we buy a compressor, an organization has an airplane for a particular reason. We buy things because we need them to do something for us. And when they do it the way we need it done, we say something is Reliable. But when something is chronically failing, we say it’s really unreliable.

Okay? So that’s what Reliability is at the most basic level. What we can say is Reliability means we get what we need from a machine, but here’s the thing. We design our Reliability. We design our Reliability, both literally and figuratively speaking.

Now, literally the kind of Reliability that we get from a piece of equipment is largely dependent upon its design, right? I mean, you can’t get something more out of something than it was designed to do, right? It is what it is. That’s what we call Inherent Reliability.

But we also figuratively design our Reliability. See Inherent Reliability doesn’t mean how long something will last without failing. Inherent Reliability means how long something will last without failing provided that it is protected by the right Proactive Maintenance and some other Default Strategies.

So that’s what I mean when I say that we figuratively design our Reliability, Because as an asset manager or an asset custodian in whatever capacity you are, maybe you’re a manager. Maybe you’re an operator. Maybe you’re a maintainer. Maybe you’re a logistician. All of these people have a hand in how well a piece of equipment works, right? Because we have to put energy into our equipment to make sure we get the Reliability that we need.

So what do I mean by energy? Well, number one, there’s Proactive Maintenance, right? There is Preventive Maintenance. For example, we may do Scheduled Replacements or Scheduled Overhauls.

Maybe we’re doing Condition-Based Maintenance. Maybe we’re doing some sort of an inspection using our human senses or using some more technically advanced condition monitoring technique. But that maintenance that we do on our equipment is what helps us to get the Reliability that we need.

But it’s not just maintenance. You know, in our industry, a big focus is on maintenance and a big focus is on Condition-Based Maintenance and rightfully so. But there are other things that contribute to the Reliability that we get from our equipment. For example, how about Operating Procedures, Emergency Procedures, our training programs, our technical manuals. How about our spare parts?

And the list goes on, right? So we’ve got maintenance and we’ve got all these other things that contribute to the kind of Reliability that we get from our equipment. So it follows then that the quality of the energy that we put into our equipment is a huge factor in the kind of Reliability that we get out of it. In other words, our Philosophy.

When it comes to Reliability, our Philosophy significantly affects the kind of Reliability that we get from our equipment. Now, this podcast is dedicated to talking about the basics and it doesn’t get much more basic than having to do maintenance on our equipment. And we know that we need Operating Procedures and Emergency Procedures and tech manuals. And we have to train our people. And, oh, by the way, what about the spare parts? Right. It’s really basic.

But if we just talk about maintenance for a moment, the quality of the maintenance that we do, and I don’t mean just the quality of the technician performing it, but we have to step back and ask ourselves, are we doing the right maintenance? And are we doing it at the right time? One of the things I would like you to take away from today’s episode is to just step back and think from a very high level that yes, I and other people in my organization play a huge role in the kind of Reliability that we get from our equipment.

You can,buy the best and most expensive cars that you can find, or the best and most expensive air compressor that you can find. But if you put it online and you never really take care of it, well, we know where that’s going to go. It’s going to end up in poor Reliability.

Let’s explore three things.

So we’ve talked about what Reliability is, and we’ve essentially said that it boils down to getting the Functions that we need from our equipment. And I’ve used that word a lot – Functions. You know, if you are heavily into Reliability, then you’ve probably heard of an FMEA or a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, or a Failure Modes, Effects and Criticality Analysis or Reliability Centered Maintenance.

It’s no coincidence that they all start by identifying a piece of equipment’s Functions. It’s because when you do that, you actually identify what you need. Now, a lot of times in our industry, this exercise is done as a matter of routine, right? To provide compressed air to the plant.

Well, you know, that Function pretty much describes every compressor, every air compressor on the planet. It’s very important as responsible custodians that, from the outset, we define exactly what we need, because that way we’re actually defining the Reliability that we want.

See if we don’t first define it, if we first don’t identify what it is that we need, how are we ever going to be able to figure out the kind of energy we have to put into it to get that Reliability? Because, we haven’t defined the goal, right? You know, just like you sit down and, you know, with the turn of the New Year, or I don’t know if you finally get fed up personally about your weight or about your strength. And you set some personal goals, right? You may set a goal to lose 20 pounds, just for example. So you set the goal and now, you know what you have to do to achieve it. It’s the same thing with our equipment, identify what you need.

So then you can figure out how you are going to get it. In other words, what kind of maintenance and other actions are you going to have to put into your machine to get that Reliability? So there you go. It’s huge Reliability basic, but it is often a step that is overlooked. I mean, how many times have you personally experienced this in your professional career?

Or you’ve heard others say it – that they buy a new piece of equipment and right from the outset, it doesn’t do something that they need to do. It’s because this kind of a thoughtful process was not carried out. Now I’m going to give you a personal example.

Let’s go, let’s go back to my 2014 Subaru Forester. So yes, it’s very Reliable. It always starts up and I always get to where I’m going safely in it. And I never really considered the details of the heat and the air conditioner, because very recently I went to turn on the air conditioner and, you know, I turned the dial, the fan to level one and I turned it to level two. I turned it to level three and nothing’s happening.

I’m like, oh, okay, great. And I live in Alabama. So in the summertime, this was not good because it gets very, very hot here. So, you know, I turn this thing on and nothing’s coming out. Then I turn it to fan level four. And all a sudden the air conditioning starts blasting out.

So on one hand, this is good, right? Because I can still use it. I can still get cool in the car, but it’s not exactly what I want or what I need because in the summertime what I had to do was I to turn it on full blast to number four. And then, you know, it’s like really noisy.

It’s annoying. It’s, you know, blowing my hair all over the place. If I want to be on the phone, you know, that sound is really distracting to the person on the other side of the line. So in other words, it wasn’t exactly giving me what I need.

And when that happened to me, it brought me back to this whole idea about Reliability and how there were so many organizations out there that don’t simply sit down and figure out what it is they need their machines to do.

If you don’t sit down and plan at the beginning of a work day what you’re going to do that day, you can end up wasting a lot of time. Sometimes I don’t do that. I don’t know, I’m tired, or I don’t use my own self-discipline.

But when I do write down the top six things I have to do. And I use my will, and I use my discipline to start at number one. And don’t go to number two until number one is done. When I do that, three o’clock rolls around and I feel fantastic because I actually got a ton done and I didn’t allow myself to become distracted.

Now I’m going to come clean with you. I absolutely 100% don’t do that all the time. And when I don’t, you know what happens. I waste a lot of time. I’m in my email. Then all of a sudden, I look in a drawer and it’s a mess. And I start cleaning out some old files. I get all kinds of distracted. And I waste my time. And really the same thing goes when it comes to our Reliability. So, number one, you absolutely have to identify what you need from your equipment.

When you do that, you’re essentially identifying the Reliability that you need. The next thing I want to talk about is Maintenance. Now in future episodes, we’re going to get really detailed about this. I’m going to explain this. We will explore this in more detail, but let me just set this forth now, because it’s very important to getting the Reliability we need. That is, doing the right maintenance at the right time.

Now, what do I mean by that? Preventive Maintenance, which means you’re doing some sort of a Scheduled Replacement or a Scheduled Overhaul. If we take a simple example from my Subaru, I have my oil changed every 7,500 miles. I do it regardless of the oil’s condition at the time. I bring it to Subaru and they change my oil. And I do that because I know that it is an age-related failure.

In other words, as time goes on, I know that when I reach 7,500 miles, the probability of my oil starting to fail, starts to drastically increase. In other words, additives are depleted, et cetera. And the oil cannot lubricate my engine components properly. So I replace my oil.

Now, when it comes to Condition-Based Maintenance, there are some details, some basics, that are still widely unknown and or misunderstood that I’ll set forth right now. I’m talking about Potential Failure Conditions. And I’m talking about the P-F interval. There’s a podcast dedicated to that specifically. So I won’t go into the details, but the point I’m trying to make is that Condition-Based Maintenance tasks – how often we do them – are dependent upon the P-F interval.

Do you know what a P-F interval is? If you’re listening to this podcast, you probably do. So if you do, let me ask you this. Can you think of people within your organization who don’t know what a P-F interval is, but who should? See that is wildly important because not doing the right maintenance and not doing it at the right time can have a huge negative effect on our Reliability.

Okay. The third thing I want to talk about is people. The most valuable resource in any organization, in my opinion, is the people – especially the people who work on, who maintain, who operate our equipment on a daily basis, because they are the ones who understand the operating environment. They understand what we need from our equipment, and they know how to get it.

But way too often, we don’t ask them, right? The energy we talked about putting into our equipment in the form of maintenance that is often formulated and implemented by other people, by people who aren’t as intimate with the operating environment and with the equipment as our equipment experts. So that’s another key thing when it comes to getting the Reliability we need is getting the right people involved. I have a podcast dedicated specifically to that as well.

Now, the last thing I want to talk about is the other energy that we put into our equipment. And that is like our operating procedures and our training procedures and our training programs, our technical manuals, our spare parts, right? A lot of times within organizations, it’s kind of like, you know, Reliability has its own pockets, right? You know, this department is responsible for training. And this department is responsible for spare parts and, you know, operations is this department. And what happens most of the time within our organization is that all of these disciplines kind of work independently of each other. So that’s one problem, right?

When it’s not one cohesive group that poses its own problems, Reliability solutions can be fragmented, right? So we have to bring all of that together. That is largely considered what we call Reliability Culture. And I have an episode dedicated especially to that as well.

But the other thing that I want to say about it is that for example, the quality of our operating procedures significantly contributes to the kind of Reliability that we get. So it’s important that our operating procedures are written properly and in enough detail. The same thing goes for our trainingprograms and for our tech manuals, right? It’s not just operating procedures; it’s all of it. But the awareness that I, that my goal is to raise with this episode, is that it plays a significant part.

Now I’ve said a lot of times on this very first episode of the heart of Reliability that, you know, I’ve mentioned like Condition-Based Maintenance and Preventive Maintenance and Reliability Culture, and I’ve got podcast episodes dedicated specifically to those because it warrants it; it needs it, that level of detail is needed. That kind of understanding is needed.

But I’ve mentioned frequently that I’ve got other podcast episodes about these things, because all of that contributes to the kind of Reliability we get, right. Well, what is Reliability? It’s getting what we need from our equipment. But we’ve got to make sure we have all these other details sorted out. So it’s kind of like this first episode, which thank you very much for listening this far into it.

I’m super excited about this podcast. It has been a goal of mine to get it done. And I finally sat down to do it, but that is just so similar to Reliability too, right? Because as human beings personally, or professionally, we’ve got things that we say we want to do.

And sometimes we just never get there. And Reliability is the same way. You know, if within your organization, your culture is that you’re running from fire to fire and it feels like there’s not enough time to kind of stop and take a step back and do what you have to do to get out of Reactive Mode. I mean, you’re not alone.

Most organizations are in the same position. And so that’s why one of the reasons why I decided to start this podcast is to shed some light on things and talk about things from a very basic level. And maybe you can start attacking your Reliability just one piece at a time.

So there you have it. The first episode of The Heart of Reliability is now in the books. It was completely dedicated to talking about what Reliability is and how you can get the Reliability you need from your equipment at a very high level.

In the next episode, we’re going to talk about Failure Modes. A Failure Mode is what specifically causes Functional Failure. It’s the currency of physical assets, a very important part about getting the Reliability that we need from our equipment.

I’m Nancy Regan. Thank you for tuning in. And I look forward to welcoming you back next time!

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Nancy Regan

Welcome to The Heart of Reliability with Nancy Regan. We focus on Reliability basics because anything without a firm foundation will eventually crumble ~ and that includes Reliability!

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