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The Road to Maintenance and Reliability: What You Need to Know [Part 3]

by mark west, director of reliability

Road to Maintenance and Reliability

The Journey to World-Class Performance Levels

The journey to world-class reliability performance continues with Part 3 of our Reliability Series. Now that you have explored the fundamentals of reliability best practices and uncovered a clear picture of your organization's foundations, including the internal strategies that can be used to improve operations, we will now conclude our discussion with an exploration of how valuable data can shape your reliability program.

Our next round of reliability-based questions considers the power of data, and how incorporating quality analytics can help your organization measure and maintain success.

Mark West
Mark West, Director of Reliability

10- How to Utilize Reliability Analytics

Reliability analytics are the tools we use not only to determine how well our reliability program has been set up but also to guide us through our weak areas to make improvements. I always say reliability analytics is about starting with the end in mind. The analytics we are performing is based on data, so where does the data come from and how can we make sure the data is valuable?

Fortunately, we have these incredible things called Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (sometimes referred to as PMS or EAM systems, depending on where you live and what industry you are in) which allow us to store data in structured databases that make analytics easy — if we use them properly. Setting up equipment classes, failure code/cause lists and standardizing procedures for how work is entered into the system are some of the basics for analytics. Simply putting these in place does not generally result in good data. Training, monitoring and reinforcement are all necessary to achieve good data.

What's most important is that we achieve results. We must use the data provided and demonstrate how it was useful to gain the trust of those who we are asking to enter the data. Seeing the data used and used in a way that makes their lives better, is the fastest way to achieve quality data in the future.

How is your data quality?

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11- Performing Root Cause Analysis

So, you took all the steps towards a successful maintenance and reliability program, but you are still suffering some failures. What’s going on? The good news is that you have set yourself up with a strong asset hierarchy and quality data to help pinpoint the areas we need to investigate!

One of the most important questions to ask at this time is, “When should we perform a Root Cause Analysis (RCA)?” The answer: It depends on whether this is a chronic or acute issue and the severity of it.

  • Chronic issues are identified using tools such as Pareto charts. Think of this as “death by a thousand paper cuts”. We first need to determine where the cuts are coming from before we can work on identifying why it’s happening.
  • Acute issues require the development of severity criteria. Low impact issues can then be handled by a 5-why analysis performed by the person in the field. Medium impact issues may warrant a small team to investigate. High impact issues may necessitate a larger investigation with engineering support. The purpose of these analyses is to identify the true causes and implement corrective measures to eliminate future occurrences.

The key to starting out an RCA program is to set reasonable severity levels. Overloading staff with RCAs will typically yield poor results as they rush to complete them. Set the severity levels higher to begin and as things start to improve, lower your thresholds.

Is your RCA program on track to drive improvement?

12- Continuous Improvement: A Living Process

Although we have determined root causes and what should be done to keep failure from recurring, we often find ourselves repeating the cycle. Typically, continuous improvement processes (or the lack thereof) result in many initiatives failing to achieve the desired outcome.

It is imperative to address the root causes, put the appropriate operational controls in place to mitigate further occurrences, then, measure the success of those actions and adjust them if required. The piece lacking in most facilities is the follow-up process. Systems change, materials change, technologies change and people change. Therefore, Continuous Improvement must be a living process.

Has your organization seen a recurrence of identified root causes in your facility that should have been corrected through Continuous Improvement?


This concludes our insight series, The Road to Maintenance and Reliability: What You Need to Know. Revisit Part 1 to explore five (5) reliability-based questions your organization needs to consider on the journey to accomplishing maintenance and reliability best practices. Revisit Part 2 to consider the foundation of your organization’s internal strategies and how they can be revised to drastically improve operations.

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