Simple Connections: Why is Reliability Important to Your Business?

I’m the type of person that always needs to know why.  Why am I doing this?   What’s the point?

What is the point of Reliability?

I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Andrew MacLennan.  His work on strategy execution is fascinating. Did you know there are almost a hundred times the number of Google results for “strategy development” as there are for “strategy execution?” We might be missing a step to success in strategy shifts if we don’t consider implementation!

During the Strategy workshop, we developed a Causal Map to show why a certain initiative added value to our company. I chose Plant Reliability and the result is above.

It may seem simplistic, but it’s not always clear how your work adds value.  If you can draw a direct link from your day-to-day actions and a key priority, then you know your work is important. That can powerful when you are mired in details – you can look up and see why those details are important right away.  Perspective is key to sustainable work.

Bottom line?  Reliability leads to increased profitability. It matters.

Think about the work you do every day.  Can you draw a causation map like the one above? Would having that map help you?

Reliability and Running

I’m a novice runner. I just finished my first “big” race last weekend (I finished!).  While I was trying to develop my running habit, it struck me how training for a race is similar to Reliability Engineering.

Stay with me, here.

Both Reliability and Running (or any habit, for that matter), require similar things to see progress:

  • Focus: working on the same goal every week
  • Baby steps: incremental advancement as you do those easy runs, or monitor the process, or generate failure modes
  • Repetition: only by doing something over and over again can you develop proficiency
  • Avoiding distractions: similar to focus, but instead f different work, this is about not procrastinating when something more fun comes along, (like sleeping in)
  • Listening to your gut: if it feels like there’s something else going on – an injury or a hidden failure – it pays to investigate

Once you get a little good at it, it becomes easier and you can play instead of grinding out the miles. Or the Root Cause Analyses.

What’s the end goal you could be looking for by developing a Reliability habit? A stable process is one that can be improved.  An equipment maintenance plan minimizes costs and headaches.  These can be your end goal, or part of something larger: a new product line because the process capability is understood; healthy equipment because there is room left in the budget to tackle your backlog.

In future posts, I’ll share some habit-building skills to help. How do you relate Reliability to habits in your life?

Past Present and Future

You can split plant engineering into general categories: Reliability and Improvement.

“Improvement” can either be discrete jumps (like after a large capital investment), or incremental gains.  Most often, there is an obvious cash reward; otherwise you wouldn’t do it.

But to do Improvement well, you need “Reliability.” Reliability is the foundation – understanding where you are means you stand on rocks instead of sand.  How else would you know an improvement?

To be reliable, be consistent and stable.  Meet your targets everyday. Know when you are veering from success; know what’s expected and needed, and do what’s necessary to get back there.

Improvement looks to the future, Reliability is the present. It’s easier to get caught up in the past and the future; to live in the present is difficult. And it’s crucial to sustainable success to have people who can do this.

How do you keep your focus on the present?

A Bird’s Eye View of Reliability

Reliability means you get what you need, when you need it.  In an industrial setting, it’s never perfect.

(Airlines need near perfect reliability, everything working in concert to get you to your vacation spot safe.)

Making steel requires two flavours of reliability: process and equipment.  One is more chemical engineering; the other more mechanical engineering. Without reliable equipment, there is no process.  And the whole point of the equipment IS the process.  When the two work together: magic.

Reliability is caring about the details, day in and day out.  Knowing your process, understanding your equipment, having the right tools to keep everything humming along. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t for everyone.

What’s your bird’s eye view of reliability? How do you explain it to your non-work friends or family?