Reliability or safety first?

In an asset intensive environment an integral part of Reliability is Safety, in other words when reliability increases so does the safety.


It is always a pleasure to see that when reliability initiatives are starting to have a positive effect on equipment, people and processes the safety Key Performance Indicators (“KPI’s”) go up as well. But why does this happen and which is coming first? Is it the safety or reliability? I say reliability comes first then safety, people become more comfortable and positive in their respective roles because the processes are under more reliable control and safety is one of the positive side effects of reliability.

Let’s take a look at the illustrated scenario below:

In a Reactive Maintenance environment:

  • Safety is very instinctive in nature; that is to say when a problem arise instincts are what drives the situation more than anything else. Instincts say that one can react to the problem in a particular way, unfortunately often ignoring or not noticing the dangers that are present.
  • Reliability, if that definition can be used in this situation, is almost nonexistent; that is to say there are no failure mode focused or planned maintenance activities and therefore the maintenance activities are all reactive or break down maintenance.
  • Behavior is all reactive; in a reactive maintenance regime it is close to impossible to expect anything else.

In a Planned Maintenance environment:

  •  Safety is enforced; through planned maintenance activities safety procedures are most often enforced through the planning process.
  • Reliability is scheduled; scheduled maintenance activities can support reliability initiatives. Focusing maintenance activities on failure modes, therefore preventing failure obviously contributes to increased reliability. However one needs to be mindful that too much planned maintenance can backfire. Focusing on the wrong maintenance activities (the ones not focusing on the failure modes, etc.) will not help and last but not least the maintenance induced failures also contribute to less reliability.
  • Behavior is guided; through the planning process safety procedures are usually a part of the Planned Maintenance procedures and thus enforced.

In a Pro-active Maintenance environment:

  • Safety is embedded; in a pro-active environment safety conscience is a second nature. Embedded in all levels of the organisation, responsibility for safety is everyone’s role and viewed as an added value to the business.
  • Reliability is Continuously Improved; in the Pro-active maintenance environment maintenance activities are not only performed, they are always performed in a way that focuses on how they can be improved. It also focuses a lot on condition monitoring and only intervening when failure modes are measured as trending up.
  • Behavior is self disciplined; in a pro-active maintenance environment the behaviours are self disciplined to focus on reliability continuous improvements with embedded safety in all aspects of the maintenance and production environment.

As can be seen above the development of Reliability and Safety have a strong correlation. Focusing on increased Reliability will promote the right behaviours and result in better safety KPI’s. In addition to all these great benefits to the organisation it will also have a positive impact on the productivity and therefore profitability, which is always a good added benefit to any initiative.

Fixed and improved… better than new!

Picture of a broken piston and connecting rod ...

Why did it break down?

When faced with failures it is important to empower your maintenance and operator employees to look for opportunities for improvements. Only by constantly focusing on how one can get better one can improve and this is a focus point that can never be lost.

In manufacturing facilities it is always a core focus point to produce, so too often when a failure occurs the environment and ambiance around the failure instantly go into “get it running again as soon as possible” mode. Unfortunately, with this attitude, companies are losing a lot of improvement possibilities. When facing a failure it is wise to take a step back and understand what caused the failure (using for example the 5x why method). Once the failure has been properly documented and a clear understanding for the root cause of the failure has been established then it is possible to put in place measures to prevent it from happening again.

The measures for preventing re-occurring failures can be for example an improved PM/PdM activity, measuring something that will indicate the failure mode. It can be a revised operating procedure, improving the way to operate the process or machine. It can be a re-design of components, machine or process. This list can be extremely long… improvements can take on many forms.

The core message to take from this short Blog is that when faced with a failure and don’t take the time at that moment to improve you will always be struggling with the same failures over and over again.

Take some time now to save a lot more time later.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

Tunnel VisionSome might wonder why my blog this time has a header with a quote from Albert Einstein. The reason is that lately I have been extremely busy and a lot of pressure put from many sources, this is just the normal environment of a Maintenance & Reliability professional.

However it is important to not forget to take a step back from the logic of our existence where we solve problems, implement better practices and processes, etc. in a logical way every day. These logical functions that we deliver makes us have a bit of a tunnel vision, like the horse that is pulling the wagon with the blinds on so he does not get distracted.

Stepping back and Imagining where we could go, what we could do better, how we can deliver better results, what we can learn from anything and use it in our Reliability & Maintenance practices. Only focusing on the problems we are in without looking around for opportunities can make us miss some extremely great opportunities.

Only focusing on the problem of being stuck in the snow far from everybody in the middle of the mountain

Could make us miss the opportunities that are all around us, the beautiful views, the nature... and of course the people around that could help out 🙂

So in the heat of the game of finding the very best Reliability & Maintenance practices don’t forget to take a step back, relax and imagine… because Imagination will take you everywhere.

Another good quote from Albert Einstein is : “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

But more on that later, I hope you have a great Imaginative rest of the weekend and don’t forget to comment 🙂

Warm regards, Bjarni Ellert Ísleifsson, CMRP

Data in Maintenance & Reliability

Since my studies in Manchester University, where I studied MSC in Maintenance Engineering & Asset Management, I have always been interested by Data and how we tend to use it to further our Maintenance & Reliability processes.

My MSc thesis titled: “Data collection and its use to advance maintenance management and maintenance practices to support business objectives” discusses it in great details.

So why post a little blog about it? Well, I wanted to get a discussion going about the three main focus areas once you have decided what data to collect.

1. Data collection systems: How can we effectively use them for our benefits? The systems are many and the data is of various natures. There are for example the graphs from our vibration program, the thermal images from our IR program, a lot of statistical data from various systems like ERP, EAM, CMMS, Cost & Profit from accounting data systems… and the list can be quite long. With all of those systems how can we collect all the data and send it to the Data processing systems to be processed effectively and efficiently?

2. Data processing systems: These systems can vary in nature and function. Usually these systems are as many as our techniques to collect data. To effectively process the data it is a key factor to gather the data in a perfectly uniform way. This can be challenging to do and we will need great work processes to be able to get this right.

3. Information output systems: The quality of the results depends greatly first on the quality and amount of the data collected, secondly on the way we process the data and finally on how we interpret the information that comes out of the information output systems. It is crucial for the quality of the decisions made to have the data uniformly collected, processed and put out of the information systems.

In conclusion, it is a three-step process:
1. Collect the data.
2. Process the data.
3. Output information.

After these three steps we will need to make decisions that benefit our Maintenance & Reliability process and the positive effect of those decisions will depend greatly on the quality and uniformity of each step in the process. 

Data collection systems - Data processing systems - Information output systems

Data collection systems - Data processing systems - Information output systems

I would appreciate all of your comments and discussions here below, thank you for your time and interest in my Blog.