Let the Journey Begin

In today’s fast-paced, data-driven economy, reliability is not just an objective on a checklist but a cultural framework for companies to adopt. Companies need to consider how each asset – and the conditions in which it operates – contributes to the larger business lifecycle. A reliability strategy adopted by petrochemical manufacturer SABIC, “lifecycle thinking,” enables the company’s leadership to consider impacts to natural capital across multiple types of environmental events, including potential climate change and cumulative energy demand, as well as across the full product value chain. By placing emphasis on reliability, companies can more easily adapt to changing energy demands and an increasingly connected world.

The journey to reliability starts by identifying the main business drivers, opportunities and performance killers from the equipment failure statistics. A robust data-collection and analysis process – or an asset performance-management (APM) program – is a key component for reliability because it provides organizations with failure statistics and a better understanding of how to optimize assets through actionable insight. The journey then requires the development of a companywide change-management plan targeting all organizational layers. The plan should introduce a new set of reliability methodologies that cut through typical organizational boundaries to reach out to real decision-makers on the shop floor.  

To achieve APM and a reliability-centric culture, organizations should consider five important steps.

1. Change the Culture

No company changes its culture overnight. A reliability culture will always be a work in progress, but it needs to be a function of every employee at an organization for it to truly take root. By implementing a training program for all employees, leadership will foster the values and behaviors necessary for organizational reliability, and also help to support talent retention and company growth. 

Training should review the fundamentals of reliability, detail the relationship to maintenance and operations and teach how basic reliability tools should be used to support sound asset management decision-making.

2. Rank Assets

When it comes to implementing APM across an entire organization, it’s not always feasible to focus on every asset at once. To strategically roll out an APM framework, organizations should first determine asset criticality. 

This process includes ranking assets according to which ones require the most focus and the impact they have on continued operations. Engineers must complete equipment criticality assessments for all assets, as well as reliability instrumented system studies for safety and instrument-critical functions. 

Once assets are defined, engineers can conduct reliability-centered maintenance studies for all critical, high-priority systems. As a last step, root cause analysis should be conducted on all incidents related to production, environment, health, safety, security, quality and customer complaints. 

3. Implement Loss Accounting

Even the smallest incident can cause a chain reaction that remains unnoticeable until there are more large-scale ramifications. To avoid costly losses over time, organizations should develop daily plans for specific assets and measure performance against plans. 

In larger organizations, operators can first identify common failures and issues across sites at a global level, and then narrow in on incremental losses and incidents at individual sites to prevent major long-term problems. By developing global recommendation plans, leaders can better distinguish what is a global issue versus what is a local issue. 

4. Standardize Processes

Integrating and managing data through standardized processes and systems across all operations and assets result in better and more strategic insights. Organizations should consider transitioning from multiple locally managed maintenance systems to one globally supported enterprise maintenance management system. A unified maintenance system reinforces a reliability-centric culture.

5. Track KPIs 

Reports that are automated, digital and standardized across the entire organization provide full transparency into asset performance and leave little room for failure. A reliability-focused organization should consistently track key performance indicators (KPIs), recommendations and performance improvements. This involves standardizing the practices of monitoring production deviation triggers, classifying incidents, identifying performance killers, benchmarking and measuring compliance and data quality, analyzing data and trending procedures, and finally, developing recommendations and closure for the loss-accounting process.

Many companies are focused only on the reactive rather than the proactive approach to incidents and reliability. Both are critical components of a reliability-centric culture, but there should be greater emphasis on proactive methodologies. Reactive methodologies focus on investigating failures or performance-improvement opportunities by setting corrective actions as required for preventing failure recurrence or enhancing performance.  

Proactive methodologies focus on generating and implementing asset-management strategies by optimizing the assets’ total cost, risk and performance impact. By transitioning to a more proactive approach with APM and following these five steps through a unified effort from all stakeholders, reliability will become a culture rather than a function. 

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