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9:45 pm
April 27, 2016
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Honeywell Process Solutions Establishes Digital Transformation Biz

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 4.21.16 PMHouston-based Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) has announced the establishment of a new Digital Transformation business unit to help end users harness the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and rapidly deploy technologies to better manage and analyze data. The goal is to assist organization in making their operations safer, more reliable, and more efficient than ever.

Andrew Hird has been named vice president and general manager of the new  unit and will report directly to HPS president Vimal K Kapur. Hird most recently served as HPS’s global vice president of sales, where he gained exposure to customers in industries ranging from oil and gas and mining to power generation, and pulp and paper. He has more than 20 years of experience in industries ranging from oil and gas and mining, to power generation and pulp and paper, including 12 years with Honeywell.

Honeywell technologies that help operators prioritize and manage a growing amount of operational data include, among other things, DynAMo alarm and operations management; Industrial Cyber Security Risk Manager; Assurance 360, a multi-year cooperative service arrangement to maintain, support and optimize performance of the corporation’s control systems; and Honeywell Pulse, a mobility app that allows plant managers to easily monitor real-time operations from a smartphone.

HPS’s IIoT solutions utilize Honeywell’s patented software infrastructure that provides a simple method for capturing big industrial data in a secure portal that can be scaled to meet the varied needs of single-site or enterprise-wide operations.

For the refining and petrochemical industries, HPS will leverage the expertise of Honeywell UOP, a leader in inventing and licensing technologies used globally to turn oil and natural gas into transportation fuels and petrochemicals.

For more information on Honeywell Process Solutions, CLICK HERE.


6:53 pm
April 12, 2016
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Uptime: Asset Reliability and Costs — Take a Life-Cycle Approach

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Fundamental, early-design-phase decisions set the stage for life-cycle asset reliability and costs in plants. How new physical assets, i.e., equipment, systems, and facilities, are designed can be a testament to engineering prowess and/or observing the awesome, life-long performance of other assets—or neither. In many cases, though, budgetary constraints and construction/installation shortcuts can limit reliability and increase life-cycle costs. The result is high periods of unreliable operation, added maintenance, and modifications and workarounds to make the assets perform as needed.

What if the elements of life-cycle asset reliability and costs are unknown, not addressed, or ignored in initial-project conceptual definition and design? Chances are pretty good that reliability, operating and maintenance budgets, and planned asset life would all be a huge gamble. While the project could come in on schedule and under budget, is that what defines business success?

Conversely, what if there were an overall template or a management system that outlined and specified all elements important to the business, short- and long-term, over an asset’s life cycle? Chances are pretty good that the reliability, operating and maintenance costs, and planned life of the equipment, system, or facility would contribute, by any measure, to business success.

Here are five big questions to help us begin thinking about establishing a life-cycle physical-asset management system. Use them with your site’s top-management team, engineering group, and/or operations and maintenance leadership.

  1. What are your physical assets supposed to do in support of the organization’s goals?
  2. What physical assets put the achievement of the organization’s goals most at risk?
  3. What processes are in place to assure that these physical assets perform as expected throughout their planned life cycle?
  4. What processes are missing that may be preventing these physical assets from performing as expected throughout their planned life cycle?
  5. What are the life-cycle physical-asset management processes that should be established to guarantee the answer to the first question (“organization’s goals”) is predictably and consistently assured?

This is exactly what the ISO 55000:2014 Asset Management Standard is asking organizations to define: an asset-management system that covers the entire life cycle of physical assets.

According to ISO 55000:2014, “An asset-management system is a set of interrelated and interacting elements of an organization, whose function is to establish the asset-management policy and asset-management objectives, and the processes, needed to achieve those objectives. An asset-management system is used by the organization to direct, coordinate and control asset-management activities.” (ISO 55000:2008, 2.4.3 & 2.5.1)

With such a system in place, a project team would be responsible for executing and held accountable each step of the way for assuring that the organization’s goals are met—even with regard to its most-at-risk physical assets.

compressor station to deliver water for iron ore beneficiation

The life-cycle reliability and costs of equipment, systems, and facilities are essentially set by decisions made during the early design phases of these assets.

Life-cycle reliability

From a reliability and cost perspective, the life cycle of a physical asset can be divided and sub-divided into numerous phases and activities. For purposes of simplicity and brevity, let’s highlight four major ones and look at elements of each that have a direct impact on cost and reliability.

Project Design Phase. Management of a new physical-asset project, be it related to equipment, systems, or facilities, requires a team of highly qualified and specialized thinkers to focus on the foundations for life-cycle reliability and costs. The project-team leadership must understand and internalize “life-cycle thinking” throughout the Project-Design phase. Remember, 95% of life-cycle costs are determined during this phase (“Uptime,” March 2016 MT).

In this phase, life-cycle reliability- and cost-critical elements required to assure the new design will perform as expected include:

  • goals of the organization, i.e., financial (P&L), longevity of the assets, go/no-go criteria
  • operations concept, maintenance concept, technical/automation/software concepts, personnel/staffing levels, financial targets
  • management activities, i.e., project management, engineering design, construction, installation, start-up/commissioning, operations, maintenance, purchasing, logistics, spare parts, training
  • engineering design, operability engineering reviews, maintainability engineering reviews, reliability engineering reviews
  • documentation, i.e., detailed engineering drawings, diagrams, schematics, specifications, and calibrations.

(Note: Given the activities in the Design Phase listed above, it is essential that top-level operations and maintenance management be involved.)

Acquisition-Construction Phase. The Acquisition-construction phase involves putting the detailed design into action from procurement to building and installation to startup/commissioning. A number of the activities that influence this phase were initially defined in and influenced by the Design Phase. The Acquisition-Construction Phase is strengthened by the involvement of operations, industrial engineering, and maintenance plant-floor leadership.

In this phase, life-cycle reliability- and cost-critical elements required to assure the new design will perform as expected include:

  • design engineering handoff to industrial, manufacturing, and plant engineering personnel
  • construction, installation, start-up/commissioning
  • identification of pre-startup maintenance requirements
  • development of operations and maintenance work methods
  • definitions of job skills and knowledge requirements
  • production control, maintenance control systems (CMMS, EAM)
  • plant engineering, maintenance, spare parts, QA/QC, material handling, training facilities
  • critical spare parts, consumables, inventory levels, management systems
  • documentation, i.e., detailed machine drawings, diagrams, schematics, specifications, calibrations, operations instructions, maintenance and repair instructions, troubleshooting charts, bills of materials
  • initial workforce recruiting, screening, hiring, on-boarding, training.

Operation-Maintenance Phase. This is the longest asset life-cycle phase. While the Project and Construction Phases may have been successful, it is the Operation-Maintenance Phase that proves the concept over and over again. This is also the phase where the asset-management system endures.

In this phase, life-cycle reliability- and cost-critical elements required to assure the new design will perform as expected include:

  • on-going workforce development, i.e., recruiting, screening, hiring, on-boarding, training standards
  • maintenance and repair work processes, i.e., planned, preventive, predictive, overhaul, repair, unplanned repair standards
  • spare-parts management, inventory-control standards
  • data acquisition, analysis, reporting systems standards.

Decommissioning-Disposal-Restoration Phase. Think of this as an end-of-life phase that encompasses decisions and actions regarding the next steps for the assets. It can be as involved as decommissioning and disposal of hazardous materials and facilities or as simple as surplus or scrap sales. There may also be cases where the assets or sub-components and major equipment items can be reconditioned, restored, or repurposed.

Where are you now?

Life-cycle reliability, costs, and asset management are all highly interrelated and interconnected. That said, achieving your organization’s business goals in a consistent manner is dependent on an asset-management system that establishes and deploys the policy and objectives—along with the processes necessary to achieve those objectives.

Planning new projects? Great: You’re in the Project-Design or Acquisition-Construction Phases.

Already in the Operation-Maintenance Phase? Don’t worry: It’s not too late to begin your life-cycle asset management journey. Pay attention to the elements listed for this phase. In the meantime, look back at elements of the previous phases and begin fleshing them out with an effective asset-management system in mind. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people-side of maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


7:44 pm
April 11, 2016
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Do You Have Cyber Security?

1604mrccyber01pFew companies have a true grasp of cyber security and their computer technology in general. For most, when cyber security rears its ugly head, it’s usually in the form of a very expensive crisis. It’s a massive undertaking to gain a full grasp of what you own in terms of hardware and software, who has access to your systems, and how resistant you are to cyber attacks. It’s likely that the most challenging aspect of cyber security is maintaining control into the foreseeable future. To help you better evaluate your situation, here’s information from two people with more than a little cyber-security experience. —Gary L. Parr, editorial director

You Can Prevent Attacks

In a presentation at the recent ARC Forum conference (Feb. 8 to 11, 2016, Orlando, FL,, Stuart Madnick, professor of information technologies at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, MA, presented findings from research performed as part of the MIT Interdisciplinary Consortium for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. Addressing the question, How did breaches (threats) occur?

  • 67% were aided by significant errors by the victim
  • 64% resulted from hacking
  • 38% used malware
  • >80% of breaches had patches available for more than a year
  • 75% of cases go undiscovered or uncontained for weeks or months.

Findings from the Research

  • Solving security problems “upstream” is more effective than fixing them “downstream.”
  • Models help understand the security issues involved in patching and software release dynamics.
  • Understanding the tools and techniques of finding vulnerabilities helps improve security.
  • Understanding the researcher/hacker/security workforce helps with defense.
  • All organizations can learn from bug bounty programs.

The MIT people also recommend that you apply accident and safety research to cyber-security failures. In other words, they treat events as a type of accident and use prior research from other events to identify, understand, and mitigate possible cyber hazards.

Seven IT Factors to Apply to ICE

Mike Bastian, global controls manager, Ford Powertrain, Dearborn, MI, discussed his team’s work to apply IT security practices to the industrial control environment (ICE) in a presentation at the Manufacturing in America event, held in Detroit, March 23 and 24, 2016. The event was presented by Siemens Industry Inc., Norcross, GA, and Electro-Matic Products Inc., Farmington Hills, MI. As a result of their work, they have identified seven areas that should be applied to ICE:

  • Establish a disaster-recovery plan that allows you to promptly replace/restore all hardware and software.
  • Maintain full control over any changes in hardware or software.
  • Implement a “line of sight” arrangement that does not allow any external access to internal networks/systems.
  • Install virus and malware protection and keep it up to date.
  • Use secure access controls, particularly passwords, wherever possible.
  • Determine early on what will be the end of life for hardware and software.
  • Manage your internal technology and that of your suppliers. For Ford, that means Tier I and II suppliers. MT


6:02 pm
March 18, 2016
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Final Thought: RCM — Great Tool or Ravenous Monster?

Cklaus01By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee, Reliability & Maintainability Center

Reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) is a process designed to establish the safe minimum level of maintenance for each piece of machinery/equipment in a facility. It’s concerned with maintaining functionality of individual components in an entire system. Many companies are aspiring to do it. Others are doing it partially. A smaller number do it regularly. Some start and then stop. What’s going on?

While there are superficial variations of the methodology to differentiate for marketing and some differences between full or classical RCM and shortened versions, should RCM really stand for “resource-consuming monster?” Let’s first look at some key historical documents.

As summed up on the back cover of John Moubray’s 1997 RCM2 book Reliability-Centered Maintenance, (Industrial Press, New York), RCM is “a process used to determine systematically and scientifically what must be done to ensure that physical assets continue to do what their users want them to do.” RCM2 knowledge came from early studies in the military.

One of the most referenced documents is the 1978 U.S. Department of Defense AD-A066579 Reliability-Centered Maintenance report by Stanley Nolan and Howard Heap (both with United Airlines). Their study generated the six failure curves you see in every RCM-related presentation.

Showing that age-related failures account for only about 11% of all failures drives much of the optimization of maintenance tasking. In 1996, the NAVAIR 00-25-403 report introduced Guidelines for the Naval Aviation Reliability-Centered Maintenance Process.

I’m personally familiar with SAE JA1011 (1999), which provides the minimum criteria for what should be in an RCM process. My reliability and maintenance team at General Motors was involved with Ford, Chrysler, Boeing, Caterpillar, Pratt & Whitney, Rockwell International, and many other contributing organizations to create a reliability and maintainability guideline. The result was a 1993 publication by the National Center of Manufacturing Sciences Inc., Ann Arbor, MI, and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Warrendale, PA. It was titled Reliability and Maintainability Guideline for Manufacturing Machinery and Equipment (publication M-110).

Regardless of the RCM process you plan to use, know that it will consume scarce operational and support resources. It’s important to determine what time is available and put it in your business plan.

An RCM analysis, among other things, requires an FMEA (failure modes and effects analysis) and concludes with PM optimization (selecting the best failure-avoidance strategy). Preventive maintenance (PM) optimization is a streamlined methodology that identifies failure modes and develops PM tasks to minimize/avoid failures.

Based on your improvement needs, allocate adequate time for each level of RCM. For critical and complex issues, do full RCM. For moderate issues, do an overall FMEA for similar equipment/components. For less-critical areas, just doing a PM optimization will be a good start. This approach can free up resources to do more crucial problem solving and predictive and preventive tasks. Identifying the annual total time available can help prioritize the levels of analysis to do.

I’ve found that if sufficient time is spent preparing for classical RCM, boundaries are clearly identified, and scope-creep is managed during the event, full RCM doesn’t take much longer than shortened versions. Even simple things done prior to an RCM event, i.e., completing, with participant input, a draft of the three ranking scales (severity of problem, likelihood of occurrence, and likelihood of detection) can save time. If you start RCM/FMEAs without an implementation strategy, the resource-consuming monster will swallow you.

Many RCM-process variations can work if they follow SAE JA1011 and are conducted under the proper circumstances. You must do adequate readiness investigation and preparation, however, to understand the limits, risk, and consequences of your chosen path. Used correctly, RCM is a great tool. MT

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee (UTK), and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him directly at


5:50 pm
March 18, 2016
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EMI Will Drive Process Decisions

Enterprise manufacturing operational intelligence (EMI), if it isn’t already, will most likely become your process-monitoring/control best friend. For most, vast amounts of data are already available. The information just hasn’t been put to use.

The information isn’t limited to process data. Most facilities also have available business information, operations data, and key-performance indicators, all waiting to be collected, organized, and used to help make smarter decisions.­—Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director

In a presentation at the recent ARC Forum conference, Janice Abel, principal consultant of the ARC Advisory Group industry and product group, presented data in her introductory remarks for a panel discussion on EMI that shed some light on the importance of EMI in manufacturing. The data are based on research performed by ARC Advisory Group. For more EMI information, contact Abel at

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4:41 pm
March 18, 2016
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Corporate Profile 2016: SPM Instrument Inc.

1603spmprofile_HD_ENV_pressreleaseEstablished in 1970, SPM Instrument rates as one of the earliest pioneering companies in the field of Predictive Maintenance.

In the 1960s, rotational equipment monitoring consisted of putting a wooden rod or screwdriver to the ear and listening to a machine. Often, when a sound was heard, it was already too late. A.P. Moller, a Danish ship owner, was not happy with the overabundance of cargo-pump failures with no forewarning throughout his tanker fleet. An inventor and enterprising financier decided to do something about the problem. In 1969 inventor Eivind Sohoel patented the first method for monitoring rolling-element bearings.

The “Shock Pulse Method,” (from which SPM Instrument gets its name) was revolutionary to what was then the early stages of vibration analysis and rotational equipment monitoring. This started a journey down a path of developments in multiple technologies used to perform what is now generally referred to as Predictive Maintenance.

From 1970 until today, there have been many industrial developments and technological advancements: widespread use of computers throughout all industries in the 1980s, advancements in lubrication technology, digital signal processing, micro circuitry with noise reduction, the list goes on.

As industry has changed and technology advanced, so has SPM. Dedicated efforts over the years to continually develop simpler and more efficient evaluation methods have enabled SPM to remain a top choice for Predictive Maintenance and machinery-monitoring solutions.

SPM recently released HD ENV® as proof of its continued commitment to advancement in technology.

SPM offers a wide product range from high-tech, lightweight, portable instruments, as well as online systems and a comprehensive Condmaster®Ruby software. With qualified service and sales personnel in more than 50 countries and customers in all fields of industry, SPM Instrument has the knowledge, instrumentation, and solutions to fit your Predictive Maintenance needs.

1603spmprofile_SPMcmsCMYK copy 300 dpiSPM Instrument Inc.
780 Bailey Hill Road, Suite 3
Eugene, OR
P: 800-505-5636


4:33 pm
March 18, 2016
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On The Floor: Let’s Talk Security — Everybody Else Is

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

The topic is a hot one. Reports of cyber threats and actual attacks across various business sectors fill the 24-hr. news cycle, day in and day out. The potential impact on industrial operations is well known—and frightening. But how deep into the issue are those in the maintenance and reliability (M&R) trenches? Do you and your teams play a role in combating such threats? For a reality check of sorts, we asked our Maintenance Technology reader panelists the following questions:

  1. How issues of cyber security or threats of cyber attack are approached within their operations (or if consultants or suppliers, those of their clients/customers), and, among other things, how policies and procedures are communicated and enforced.
  2. How their sites’ M&R personnel/departments/functions (or those of their clients/customers) figured into or supported the operation’s cyber-warfare policies and efforts, and if they weren’t why not.
  3. Had their sites (or those of clients/customers) received specific cyber threats or experienced actual cyber attacks and, if so, what steps were taken in the aftermath.

Edited here for brevity and clarity,  the answers we received were eye opening. While most of this month’s respondents don’t appear to be intimately involved with matters of cyber security, the varying levels of site/company interest and preparedness they cite is somewhat surprising.

Industry Consultant, Northeast…
From what I’ve seen most of the reactions have ranged from absolutely ignoring the potential [of cyber attacks] to a moderate increase in attention to the possibility. But one company I’m aware of has been hyper about it [cyber security] for as long as I’ve known them. I don’t believe the majority [of companies] think anything will ever happen to them. I’m not sure which approach will be more effective in the long run.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…
Our computer techs take care of this [cyber security] and only allow certain types of emails to be received. If we find any emails that were let through, and we aren’t sure if they are spam/viruses, we’re to delete them. Another thing: We can’t add any upgrades and things like that since we can’t log in. To add anything new, one of our [computer] techs has to do it for us.

Industry Consultant, North America…
My company provides M&RE [maintenance and reliability engineering] services for a government agency, and we are constantly reminded of the threat of a cyber attack. There is a very strong IT [information technology] group in place [at the agency] to combat the threat, and the training has changed over time to address current issues. M&R [through our services] doesn’t provide support to the effort, as it is 100% driven by the customer. My company simply tracks compliance with training requirements.

Across the [client] agency, there have been several attacks, some successful, most not. Every time there is an incident, it is published to reinforce the fact that we need to be vigilant.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Manufacturing, Midwest…
I’m not really sure what type of security our company has. I am sure it goes beyond our IT [information technology] people, though. I do know that I have seen announcements about using the [name of and references to the] company on social media sites. Regarding this, there is language in our contract about social media: mainly what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Engineer, Process Manufacturing, South…
[Cyber security is] taken very seriously [with] password changes almost once a quarter on all programs, and dual verifications [required] on most. All of this [increased level of security] has been added in the past five years. The only M&R [maintenance and reliability department] involvement is on the hardware side.

There has not been a specific threat [at my plant] that I am aware of.

Maintenance Supervisor, Process Industries, Canada…
Our system is remotely controlled. It [cyber security] is taken seriously, and we do have restrictions on what we can access on the Web. This is an ongoing topic that gets more detailed as we move forward. The M&R department maintains the network, but any policies or software are done at the corporate level without much input from us.

As far as I am aware, we have not had any threats.

Sr. Maintenance Engineer, Process Industries, Midwest…
At my company, we have a centralized corporate IT [information technology] department that develops and maintains cyber security protocol and hardware. All of our operating facilities operate under the same set of rules and regulations (the “plan”), and have the same security measures in place. Even if the “plan” isn’t perfect, we know that all of the sites are covered the same. Typically, the maintenance team is not involved in developing or maintaining the “plan” beyond being a point of contact for the local IT service technician (employed by us) when they are onsite to install, repair, or implement the “plan.” It [cyber security] is taken very seriously, and [our organization] is constantly adapting to new developments and potential threats. Mass changes can be—and are—deployed to all sites at once to lessen gaps in security.

M&R Team Member, Process Industries, North America…
The IT department is a group that meets to discuss upgrades to the systems and new technologies out there. As for specifics, I’m just not in that loop. My perception from talking to the IT guys is that we are corporately managing all of our mill sites with the right people and processes. Policy changes are communicated on a corporate-wide basis, and sign-off sheets are usually required to be filled out and returned to HR [the human-resource department] for confirmation that the policy changes have been read. The M&R department is not directly responsible for the cyber warfare policies [in our company]. That’s left to IT, as it is most capable of handling this aspect.

Our site(s) have not, to my knowledge, received any specific cyber threats.

Maintenance Engineer, Discrete Manufacturing, Midwest…
Our corporate IT [information technology] department gives reminders and alerts regarding cyber security or software threats to the network. They also are responsible for the continued upkeep of anti-virus software or software-specific upgrades. Our company [also] has control of the M&R personnel’s computers and limits who and what can be installed as far as programs, software, and data stored on M&R department computers.

So far, no perceived or actual cyber-security issues have been found at our facility by the site or corporate IT department.

Engineering Group Leader, Process Industries, Midwest…
We are not concerned with cyber security at this time. MT

About the MT Reader Panel

The Maintenance Technology Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed and their responses are not necessarily projectable. Note that our panel welcomes new members. To be considered, email your name and contact information to with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.


4:25 pm
March 18, 2016
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Uptime: Reliability’s ‘Chicken Or Egg’ Question

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Discussions about life-cycle asset management and curiosity about the ISO 55000 Asset Management Standard have been growing since its launch in January 2014. While we are anticipating how this standard will affect decision making regarding the life cycles of an organization’s assets, we already know top management plays a key role (see “Uptime,” Feb. 2016). But, top management is only the leadership component.

Only the leadership component? What an understatement. Organizational culture is determined by leadership—either by design or by default. For most traditional organizations, transitioning from a typical project-based investment in new equipment and facilities to a life-cycle-centric, risk-based, asset-management culture requires highly focused, decisive, real-world leadership from the very top of the organization.

ISO 55000 defines asset management as the “coordinated activity of an organization to realize value from assets.” Two key words from that definition should resonate with us: “coordinated” and “organization.” Any meaningful coordinated activity requires a reliable organization. This approach is dramatically different from the traditional project phase, followed by a loosely connected operations-maintenance phase, i.e., an unreliable organization.

Asset management requires reliable equipment and reliable people in a reliable organization. Think about it. “Reliable equipment performs as intended, without failure, under stated operating conditions, for a specified period of time.” Reliability, though, is often expressed as mean time between failures (MTBF). People and organizations must be aligned with the goal of reliable equipment to increase the MTBF.

We know that equipment, systems, and facilities are all physical assets that must perform reliably to minimize their operating and maintenance costs and ensure long and productive service. Well then, what about the desired performance of an organization and its people?

Is it possible to have equipment consistently perform as intended if the people that operate and maintain it are inconsistent or unreliable?

Is it possible to have people consistently perform at the intended level if the organization has unclear, inconsistent, and unreliable standards and, therefore, behaviors?

We’ve had technologies to improve equipment reliability for decades. But true reliability has proven to be elusive whenever the root cause of unreliability isn’t addressed. For example, because reliability isn’t designed in—because operability and maintainability aren’t designed in—shortcuts and workarounds are often deployed to the best possible equipment performance.

Because 95% of life-cycle cost is determined at the design stage, and upward of 75% of those costs are attributable to operational and maintenance activities (Blanchard, 1978), organizations and people have to play a huge role in life-cycle cost and reliability of an asset. This is why life-cycle asset management continues to be an essential business-success factor for enterprises that depend on physical assets (equipment, systems, and facilities) to achieve their goals.

As also discussed in the Feb. 2016 installment of this column, various holistic equipment-management strategies since the early 1970s point to the need for organization-wide, life-cycle spanning, and coordinated activities. With few exceptions, however, the emphasis on people fell through the cracks: Why? Organizations typically had large numbers of skilled and knowledgeable people on staff. Vocational-education programs trained some of the best and brightest skilled crafts and trades. People weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to make a decent living. And the growth of technology was relatively slow, compared with the exponential explosion of the past 20 years.

ISO 55000 defines an asset as “an item, thing, or entity that has potential or actual value to an organization.” At this point in our industrial/business evolution, and given the ISO 55000 definition of an asset, I consider an organization and the people within it to be assets.

Think ‘systemic reliability’

Organizations and people are destined to be the most important components of physical-asset management in our increasingly competitive marketplace with its rapidly transportable and growing technologies. Given that belief, now is the time to think more systemically about asset life-cycle performance and costs.

Equipment (asset)-performance reliability:

  • The asset must be designed, built, installed, started up, operated, maintained, and decommissioned or restored, according to specifications and life-cycle cost goals.
  • Failure and/or functional failure must be defined for each asset.
  • Operating conditions, duty cycle (operating duration) must be specified.
  • Planned service life (period of time) must be specified.

Organizational-performance reliability:

  • The organization must be designed, staffed, started up, operated, maintained, and improved, according to specifications and employee life-cycle plans.
  • Organization goals, objectives, vision, purpose, guiding principles, and values must be defined.
  • Work processes, methods, and procedures must be specified (standardized).
  • Constancy of purpose toward improvement (Deming) must be established.

Human-performance (people) reliability:

  • Employees must be recruited, selected, hired, on boarded, trained, qualified, deployed, improved, and transitioned according to specifications and life-cycle plans.
  • Employees’ roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined and communicated.
  • Job training and on-job performance-qualification processes must be specified (standardized).
  • Periodic re-training and performance qualification cycles must be established.

Chicken or egg?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The question is perplexing because a chicken is a living organism that hatched from an egg from a chicken from an egg… We have a similar conundrum when it comes to reliability: Which comes first, reliable equipment, reliable people, or reliable organizations?

For the most part, we know what reliable equipment is supposed to do. We can also measure its reliability in terms of MTBF. But, shouldn’t that same thinking apply to organizations and people? From a life-cycle asset-management perspective, we should be able to define what the organization looks like and what it is supposed to do—and then define when it fails to perform its intended function. Again, measured in terms of MTBF.

When people fail to perform as intended, we are inclined to call it human error. It’s more complicated than that, however. Reliable organizations must have specific methods for determining the root causes of human error to achieve the goal of flawless human performance. Human-induced failures can also be measured in terms of MTBF.

So, it’s not about reliable equipment, or people, or organizations. It’s really about reliable equipment AND people AND organizations. Share your thoughts with me. MT


Blanchard, Benjamin S., Design and Manage to Life Cycle Cost, M/A Press, 1978, Oregon.

Deming, W. Edwards, Out of the Crisis, MIT Press, 1986 (reprint July 2000), Cambridge, MA, and London.

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people-side of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at