Reliability Hacks for Manufacturing Leaders

The Truth About Reliability Drivers 

To break out of the reactive cycle, leaders need a clear understand of the drivers of Reliability. To illustrate why that is, this article sets out a series of Reliability hacks based on the experience of industry leader journeys to stable operation and beyond. Its an analysis which covers over 500 Line years of running time so despite the term "Hacks", these are legitimate steps that will improve Reliability levels. They also illustrate the importance of the leadership role in challenging behaviours which entrap many organisations in a cycle of reactive maintenance and lost output.

For a more structured approach to delivering high levels of reliability, consider booking an engineer or two on to our Next Maintenance Planning and Scheduling work control 3 day workshop. 21-23 September 2021. That will equip you with the tools you need to recognise gaps and plot a course towards industry leading levels of reliability.

Component Failures Are Only Part of the Picture
Equipment Reliability discussions often focus on avoiding component failure yet most calls for immediate maintenance intervention are not due to component failure. Most calls are to deal with process miss operation, or what is known as idling and minor stops such as jams, blockages or electrical trips.

In addition, although Reliability is often characterised as part of the Maintenance domain, much of the routine for production operators involves attention to avoid scrap or stoppages. It is not uncommon for the Mean Time Between Intervention (MTBI) for a production line to be measured in minutes. The role of operators on these lines is far from value adding.

By comparison, industry leading organisations have Mean Time Between Intervention (MTBI) measured in hours if not shifts.

They have learned that the delivery of high levels of reliability depends on more than technical expertise. As important is the way in which the leadership agenda drives front line Operator and Maintainer mindsets and therefore behaviours.

Why Mindset is Important
Compare the behaviours of two engineers responding to a failure caused by a broken chain that has stopped production.

  • The examples below illustrated the behaviours of similarly qualified engineers with similar job descriptions at two different food and drink manufacturers.
    Engineer A replaces the chain and once the process is restarted moves onto the next job.
  • Engineer B replaces the chain and moves on but also notes that the chain failed due to poor alignment. The Engineer then works with colleagues to establish new practices to prevent that happening in future.

The actions of Engineer B doubles chain life and reduces the incidence of quality defects caused by misalignment. The low cost solution also had a positive impact on engagement of front line operators who now carry out visual inspections as part of the work routine.

The difference between the behaviours of the two engineers stems from Leadership expectations of
1. What the Engineers are held accountable for (their purpose)
2. What the Engineers have learned that their Leaders value (Their intent).

Together, these 2 factors shape the Engineers identity to drive these similarly skilled engineers to behave differently under a similar set of circumstances. (See table below).

(Engineer Purpose) 
Leadership Value
(Engineer Intent)
Engineer A Fix breakdowns Problem fixing  Keep the line running at all costs.
Engineer B Improve asset reliability  Problem Prevention Learn from failure and prevent future reoccurrence

The difference in behaviours is due to the perceived Leadership values that that drive Engineering mindset.

The Leadership To Tame Technology

Without the right leadership agenda, traditional pressure on outputs can result in unintended consequences where there is no time to deal with the root causes of unplanned downtime even when they are understood.

At a time when skilled engineering and production personnel are hard to find and hold on to, this is madness.

Based on an analysis of over 500 production line running years of data, around 85% of the causes of breakdowns concerns a mindset that accepts poor equipment condition standards, knowledge gaps and weaknesses relating to difficult to do or complex work routines.

To change that pattern of behaviour, manufacturing leaders need to reset expectations and to do that they need to understanding the drivers of Reliability.

Below are a series of Reliability hacks based on the above analysis. Despite the term Hacks, these are all legitimate and proven steps to systematically improve reliability.  Try them, you'll find they work in most situations.  That doesn't make the role of the Maintenance Planner or Reliability Engineer redundant, on the contrary, the right leadership agenda makes them much more effective. 

For a more structured approach to delivering high levels of reliability, consider booking an engineer or two on to our Next Maintenance Planning and Scheduling work control 3 day workshop. 21-23 September 2021. That will equip your organisation with the tools you need to recognise gaps and plot a course towards industry leading levels of reliability.

Top Down Improvement Leader hacks
Set Direction

  • Poorly defined Asset condition standards are the cause of around 40% of unplanned downtime.
  • Make dealing with this a weakness a priority.
  • Once basic conditions are established, lock this in by defining accountabilities for reviewing and refining production and maintenance work routines. That will deal with another 25% of the causal factors for unplanned downtime.

Build Capability

  • Use the above review process to develop capabilities to refine routine tasks so that they are easy to do right, difficult to do wrong and simple to learn.
  • It takes consistent effort to do this but the annual gains are typically 4 to 6 times cost of time invested.

Front Line Improvement Leader hacks

  • The most common causes of reliability issues are accelerated wear and human error.
  • Use simple cross functional improvement team processes to target sources of contamination and error hot spots. (20% of the causes of sudden failure)
  • Develop practical asset care plans where inspections can be carried out at a glance. (25% of sudden failures)

Performance Management

  • Define performance improvement glide paths based on actions to extend Mean Time Between Intervention.
  • Use MTBI to track progress and Plan, Do, Check, Act Cycles to develop insight and share lessons learned
  • Where restoring basic conditions and improving work routines does not deliver improvement progress on to assess components suitability (only 15% of the causes of unplanned downtime)