July 16, 2014


I have been working in the “Maintenance Training” field for just over four decades.  During that time, in addition to daily maintenance “fix it” activities, advances have been underway to improve operational quality and enhance bottom line results through a variety of maintenance-related activities.


Today, the “Reliability” movement has achieved the focus of much of our maintenance emphasis.  Its many positive results, financial as well as operational, are leading the way in the better manufacturing organizations.  Yet, Reliability’s roots take us back more than half a century:


  .  .  .  principles set forth by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a pioneer in using statistical methodologies for reliability and quality improvement. Known for being the father of the Japanese post-war industrial revival and a leading quality guru in the United States, Deming helped Japanese industrial leaders and engineers transform world perception of Japan from a cheap manufacturer to a world class manufacturer producing innovative, high-quality products.  .  .  .


Deming returned to the U.S. and embarked on a mission to teach his philosophy and statistical techniques for quality to American manufacturers. In 1982, Deming published his book “Out of the Crisis,” in which he presented his 14 Points. His philosophy is an important framework for implementing reliability, quality and productivity improvements. Even in the new age, there is still a lot to learn from these 14 points.  .  .  .   ( )


However, there still remains some ambiguity in the terms we use today:


People often confuse reliability and availability. Simply put availability is a measure of the % of time the equipment is in an operable state while reliability is a measure of how long the item performs its intended function.  .  .  .    ( from:


And, there is a marked delineation between routine maintenance and reliability, as well as a new emphasis on sufficient training for both activities:


Professed commitment to reliability is not unlike professed commitment to safety. Just as a grocery store wouldnt admit to employing unsafe food-handling practices, no industrial operation would confess to having little interest in asset reliability. What sets Best Practices Plants (BPPs) apart from others is their ability to effectively identify and follow the best routes to reliability coupled with a willingness to build and sustain strong reliability-focused organizations over time. Ensuring a smooth handoff from knowledgeable and skilled employees to future generations of workers is crucial for these plants. To accomplish it, they support training roadmaps and career-path-development plans for all personnel.  .  .  .  Moreover, training can become little more than an afterthought in operations that dont make a clear distinction between what their maintenance and reliability teams are supposed to do:

          Maintenance thinks today(short-term). Its function is to keep equipment in operable condition (i.e., restore to as-designed or as-bought condition).


          Reliability thinks tomorrow(long-term). Its function is to evaluate upgrade opportunities (i.e., perform life-cycle cost studies and develop implementation strategies whenever component upgrading makes economic sense). 

–  ( )


  .  .  .  Maintenance defined: sustaining the desired level of performance (not fixing things that break). If you think maintenance is expensive, what about the cost of no maintenance? If you think education and training are expensive, what about the cost of ignorance? Not knowing what the equipment requires for reliable operation throughout its life cycle can be easily corrected and then proper actions can be taken. But, making such decisions based on project and operating budgets rather than equipment requirements is frightening! And, there is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action(I believe Goethe said that.).   –  (So should we cut Maintenance or Training   by Robert M. Williamson )


As chance would have it, the major Reliability Conference takes place this month in Bonita Springs, Florida —- “Solutions2.0,” July 28-31.  It’s probably too late for you to attend this one but, if Reliability is your interest, you can make plans to do so next year.  Reliability should be a major focus for all of us in the Process & Manufacturing space.  The paybacks in efficiency and profitability can be huge.


—- More on Monday

Bill Walton:  co-Founder, ITC Learning