Understanding Risk: What is Proactive Reliability?

The next few posts I’d like to talk about what Proactive Reliability is and why it’s important.

Today, I will introduce the philosophy behind Proactive Reliability. Whether you are an equipment or process reliability person, the point is the same.  To understand risk: identify it, rank it, and prioritize action to mitigate it.

What are the structured tools to use to quantify your risk? There are several – FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis) is a standard tool used to used objective criteria to determine which process devations or failures could cause the biggest impact to your business. Other tools can be used, the key is to apply them consistently across production lines.  In this way, the risks can be ranked relative to each other, and you can take action on the biggest hitters.

There are several tools available to quantify risk, but any risk will always be relative to all the other risks in our shop.  There is no crystal ball to say WE NEED TO SPEND OUR TIME AND MONEY AND EFFORT HERE. Proactive reliability gives us a structured way to be smart about the resources we do have, and a way to exercise due diligence to minimize the risks we face.

We can’t chase down all risk.  That’s too expensive – putting in redundancy, having extra engineers or operators or maintenance folks and holding extra inventory is expensive.  So applying these principles means we can prepare for the biggest risks, using the available resources.  Biggest bang for our buck.

In the next post I’ll talk about how the exercise of systematically analysing the risk to our business benefits those performing the analysis.

Race Car Mentality: Proactive Maintenance


When we do equipment reliability work, there is a mentality we can run up against – a culture that values firefighting over installing fire detectors and checking extinguishers. I should be clear – people that can “fight equipment fires” or excel at fixing emergency problems are invaluable, and it’s not a skill I possess. However, it is probably not the best strategy to rely on it, if we are trying to give ourselves an edge based on a relatively smaller operating budget.

A different way to look at it is to consider our process line as a race car. The maintenance crew spends a lot of time understanding which components fail when (usage based? time-based?), have the right spares on hand, execute pit stops (shutdowns) with precision, get feedback from the driver (operator) – all because they know they are critical to winning the race.

What if we treated proactive maintenance like a pit crew, instead of performing fire extinguisher maintenance?

It is not one individual that can make this shift on their own, but culture change has to start somewhere – why not shift our perspective and see if makes a small difference?

There are many articles and further reading out there (NASCAR presented at a conference I attended), if you are interested in taking the analogy further.

How do you view proactive equipment maintenance?