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.

Prepping for Proactive: Set It Up and Make It Stick

Right now we are fleshing out the details of our proactive reliability plan for 2016.  Proactive plans are easier, and more difficult.  Easier, because we can take a holistic view of the potential work, and then pick where it would add the most value.  Harder to implement because it’s not Urgent.  And since reliability requires everyone to participate, as a reliability leader or ambassador, you have to convince people to look away from the Urgent to spend some time on the Important.

This is not easy to do. Proactive reliability is methodical and exhaustive.

Two thoughts: how do we set it up, and how do we make it stick?

Proactive reliability is predicated on understanding risk. This can seem nebulous, so how can we break it down into workable pieces? Risk is about what could happen, not what has already happened.  We are looking at the potential impact of failure, and what plans we have in place to mitigate it. We are casting a broad net across our shop to see any hot spots, then focusing there first. This is how we’re setting it up.

Making a proactive program stick means we have to know why it’s important and be able to explain it.  More than that, it’s about buy-in (like any change management, imagine that?) I’m tempted to rush ahead and get as much accomplished as possible, to fill out the analysis and get the “results.”  I’m learning that even though it might take longer, involving everyone in the process means more buy-in over the long run.

How do you create buy-in for proactive work? What is the right balance for involving people in the journey and making efficient use of everyone’s time?

Clear the Deck: Starting a New Year


Being an extroverted Introvert, I look forward to quiet time at the end of the year.  It could be any old time of the year, really, but the habit of reflection at the close of one year and the beginning of another is one I enjoy.
It’s a way to capture and timestamp the accomplishments and lessons from the previous year.  To mark a point in time, compare to a year ago and see how much progress has been made. Sometimes it can be a reduction in stress (“remember this time last year?  Glad I’m not there now”).
I like setting goals because of the way they direct progress. I know I won’t end up in the exact destination, it’s rather like when you get your bearings with a compass, pick the tree that’s due north, and head that way.  I like that goals keep working in the same direction I hope to travel.  A fine line between achievement-oriented (my natural tendency) and acceptance (a little Zen here, please!).
I recently participated in a goal-setting workshop by Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete. He talked about setting big, ridiculous goals on a five to ten year time frame, ones that make you excited, and then looking at smaller, stepping stone goals to keep focus. I’ll share some of my stepping stones goals today, and let you speculate about the ridiculous ones.
My over-arching themes are Health, Family, and Career. Some of this year’s goals are:
  • Run the Hamilton Around the Bay 30K for the first time
  • Blog twice a month
  • Complete a continuing education course well outside my comfort zone.

I invite you to clear the decks with me and start anew. Look at the long term, then back to the short term and make sure they align. It helps me focus. Why not put something down on paper/on a blog/in a text file today?

Choose People Over Logic and Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Something we’ve been working on recently is the level of analysis we chose to do. Two parts: what piece of equipment? And what level of detail?

We can start with a criticality assessment   Absolutely a useful tool to map out our prioritization.  If we have 100% support from all areas, and a lot of time, this is the most logical way to go about it. There are other factors at play.

If we treat EMP development as a knowledge transfer tool, spend the time on the assets of the experienced millwright who is close to retirement. Their knowledge can’t be replaced, but we may capture enough to avoid disaster, and to remember why the machine is set up that way (not “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”) This strategy is a good reason to break down an analysis by craft.

Chances are, maintenance folks know what the biggest headaches are and will want to work on them. If we’re starting (or restarting) an EMP review process, we may want to let them lead and choose the topic. Establishing buy-in is worth the investment and our interests will dovetail before long.

If we are learning a new software or type of analysis, choose a subject that we’re comfortable with to start. It’s a smart way to ease into a new technology.

These are these factors we’ve been using to prioritize our EMP Development work lately.  The level of detail depends on the time and people available.

What other factors impact your EMP Development projects?