The Benefits of Reliability & Maintainability (Interview with Dr. Klaus Blache)

The Benefits of Reliability & Maintainability (Interview with Dr. Klaus Blache)

If you're a maintenance professional, you probably already know you want to minimize the amount of reactive maintenance you perform. And a great way to do that is to focus on reliability & maintainability. 

We've asked our partner at the University of Tennessee's Reliability & Maintainability Center, Director Dr. Klaus Blache, to discuss the nuances around how a focus on reliability and maintainability can strengthen a maintenance and operations program. Dr. Blache has over 35 years of experience in various areas of manufacturing and lean applications, including reliability & maintenance, continuous improvement processes, industrial engineering, ergonomics, and change management. 

What Are Reliability & Maintainability?

Vector Solutions: Could you tell us briefly what reliability is and what it’s all about?

Klaus Blache:

The standard definition of reliability is that it's simply the probability that a piece of equipment is going to perform a required function without failure for a certain amount of time and produce a quality product to specification. At the end of the day, it's about getting what you need, as fast as you need it, and at the quality you need it at.

But there are hundreds of factors that go into that process, for example, lubrication, documentation, maintenance planning and scheduling, root cause analysis of failures, etc. 

To attain the best reliability, it's really about three things. Everyone tends to think about the reliability of their assets or equipment first, but it's also about the reliability of processes and of your people.

Vector Solutions: What is maintainability? 

Klaus Blache:  
People often confuse maintenance and maintainability. Maintenance is the work of maintainability, but the two terms aren't actually the same. Maintenance is the performance of actually doing a repair or replacing a piece of equipment or asset.

A textbook definition of maintainability would be that it refers to the ease with which maintenance activities can be performed on an asset or equipment.

At the University of Tennessee's Reliability & Maintainability Center, we teach 33 different modules on maintainability, including design-in-maintainability. For example, say I have a piece of equipment and need to replace a specific part every 3 months. It’s a relatively inexpensive piece that costs $5, but to replace it, you need to remove a different part that costs $500. If you break it, that's a LOT more money. Why didn't they design it the other way around? So, part of maintainability is also designing systems in a way that makes sense and is easy to keep all parts maintained.

What Is Reactive Maintenance? 

Klaus Blache: 

Reactive maintenance is simply emergency repair. It doesn't count things like outages, or planned stops, or refurbishments. It's those emergency repairs. It's what takes you away from your normal schedule.  

In North America, 31% of the maintenance that organizations perform on average is reactive. That hasn't improved a lot in the last 10 years and it's still way too high. 

And so the big challenge is, how do you work on culture? Because 70% of companies say culture changes and shifting mindsets from reactive to proactive maintenance is the biggest roadblock.  

What are the benefits of focusing on Reliability & Maintainability?

Vector Solutions: For an organization or company, what would be the benefits of focusing their efforts on improving reliability and maintainability? 

Klaus Blache: 

Regardless of what company you're in, small or large, doesn't matter what type of industry, there's big dollars to be saved. SPQRC are the five things that any business should focus on.

  • S: Safety 
  • P: People and Processes 
  • Q: Quality 
  • R: Responsiveness (or throughput) 
  • C: Cost

All businesses that run for-profit are managing those five elements. At the end of the day, if you want ROI in the right processes, that's what you focus on. And reliability can certainly impact those five elements as your reliability and maintainability process matures. 

I'll close out with just a simple example that if you compare top to bottom quartiles like the top 25% of the companies to the bottom, for the top quartile in North America only 9% of the maintenance that they perform is reactive maintenance, like emergency repairs. They don't do a lot of it.  

The bottom quartile on the other hand, is performing mostly reactive maintenance. About 64% of the maintenance work that they do is reactive. 

R&M Percentages by Quartile

1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Reactive Maintenance 9% 19% 47% 64%
Maintenance Cost / Replacement Asset Value 2.1% 3.6% 9.2% 13.3%

Source: Blache, Klaus M. Know Your R&M Quartile. Efficient Plant Magazine

There is a cost associated with reactive maintenance. What those numbers show, those bottom quartile companies versus the top 25%, is that their maintenance costs are significantly higher than the top quartile companies. 

And that doesn't include what you lose on production, which could be 10, 15, 20 times higher. 

The average return on investment that I see from doing the right reliability and maintainability as a management process is about 15:1 and 20:1, so that's huge. I've seen investments over 100:1 for doing the right stuff. So, the payback is there, and the data supports that improving reliability and maintainability is good for the bottom line. 

Conclusion: Reliability & Maintainability Are an Investment in Your Organization's Future

We hope you can now see how efforts to improve reliability & maintainability at your workplace are an investment (and much better than relying too heavily on reactive maintenance). Education and training courses have the potential to revitalize an organization’s maintenance strategies and develop a culture of preventive maintenance.

With a trained team that is well-equipped to take a proactive approach to maintenance and reliability, the stage will be set for better operations, less downtime, and—most importantly—more satisfied customers.  

Vector Solutions has partnered with thousands of organizations who have leveraged our online maintenance training courses and LMS developed specifically for industrial organizations to mitigate risks, retain employees, and drive uptime.   

Contact us today to learn more. 

Want to Know More?

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