When an asset or product works for longer than its expected lifespan, we often consider it reliable. Customers around the world look specifically for reliable products and services. Unique organizations may have to pay a premium for reliable services, with the goal of obtaining “failure free” value. When designing a product or planning any services, organizations often want to create the most reliable item within the constraints of resources, time, and cost.
Experts believe that fixing a design in the early stages of a product’s life cycle usually means it involves less maintenance and costs less in the long run. Product recalls or major failures can ultimately damage profits and brand image. The same thing applies to critical assets utilized in industrial sectors. These industrial assets require various monitoring from the stages of engineering, procurement, and construction until the stage of service delivery.
To address this, it’s essential to create awareness among industrial organizations to invest in reliability-based services and software solutions. Here are the top three ways your company can invest in improving asset reliability:
1. Invest in an effective reliability language (a.k.a. software)
The metrics, specifications, goals and any other way we write or discuss reliability should be clear. For example, the lack of thinking about what the term "mean time between failures” (MTBF) means, and how and when to use it, continues to confuse a common understanding of reliability. The way to clear any doubt on this is to:
Be clear. Ask questions. Challenge assumptions.
By doing this you’ll create a common understanding around reliability.
If the desire is to operate an asset without failure for 5 years in a strenuous working environment, communicate it just like that. And document what percentage of assets should work during that time. If you want 999 out of every 1,000 units to operate for 5 years, say you want a 99.9% probability of surviving over five years of use in a working environment.
The key is to be simple and clear with your customers and your organization, enabling an open conversation about asset reliability.
2. Invest in making decisions on reliability that are synced with the C-Suite
With day-to-day operations, every company has a variety of materials, equipment, and technology that, when combined, will create a product from an asset similar to the planned design—yet never with perfectly pure materials, ever precise equipment, and flawless execution of assembly procedures.
Site engineers are reminded about ease the of manufacturing, testability, repairability, transportation and installation, customer experience, human factors, asset criticality, safety, and dozens of other things to consider in the operational process. Due to lack of communication between plant professionals and C-level executives, reliability may get lost in the decision making process.
A way that this can be avoided is to ask:
- How can services or a software solution help by quantifying the value of reliability?
- What is the cost of an asset failure?
- What is the disadvantage of losing an asset in operation due to unplanned downtime?
- How important is asset reliability to the product value chain as per dynamic market trends?
These types of discussions can assist in the investment decisions for reliability measures, with a balance on cost considerations.
3. Invest in learning from failures
Failures are part and parcel of plant operations. We can ignore them at our own risk and hope they go away OR we make efforts to stop failures from occurring again. When we start learning from them, the real insights on asset characteristics arrive. Failure analysis and root cause analysis (RCA) are common terms when trying to learn what specifically led to the failure and why it occurred. This analysis will lead to the correct path on achieving efficient asset reliability. The idea is that when we understand the failure, we can create a remedy to avoid similar failures in the future. And if these remedies are delivered on a timely basis through intelligent software, then it’s the icing on the cake for organizations. By finding and fixing the first-to-occur failures, the asset in turn becomes more reliable.
Some organizations wait for their experienced personnel to find failures for vulnerable assets. Site engineers tend to wait for O&M personnel and time to pass, possibly resulting in the shutdown of operations. Fortunately, now companies can leverage robust asset reliability software, which delivers data-based monitoring capabilities for reaching excellent asset optimization. The best way to learn about the limits and faults of equipment is to find failures beforehand by utilizing robust asset performance management (APM) software to understand the failure mechanisms and design a way to avoid and/or mitigate the problem.
With a little investment and commitment in clear language, decision support from board-level executives, finding failures before they happen, and performing critical analysis, organizations can consistently create reliable assets. In the future, some organizations will find this asset reliability mission a major undertaking, while for most it will be a subtle shift in focus toward maintaining critical assets and creating a reliability culture.
If your industrial organization seeks that investment toward asset operations and maintenance needs to be serving the asset reliability aspects, too, then GE Digital's APM suite of solutions can help.