Inspectioneering Journal

What Does Reliability Mean in 2016?

An Executive Q&A with Walt Sanford, President and COO at PinnacleART

By Jeremiah Wooten, Managing Partner at Inspectioneering. This article appears in the March/April 2016 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.

Everybody is familiar with the term “reliability.” People often use “reliable” to describe that long-time friend that is always there when you need them, that old truck that just refuses to quit running, or that 100 year old rifle your grandpa gave you that still shoots as straight as it did the day it was made. The fact is, all people appreciate reliability; we just don’t always understand or recognize the effort that goes into being reliable.

Reliability can generally be defined as the probability of someone or something performing what is expected of them at the time and for the duration that is expected. For a business, the reliability of its people, products and assets is of vital importance to the success of the business enterprise. If its people do not perform their required functions, the business will fail to operate, grow and survive. If its products break or fail to function properly, customers will at the very least, take their business elsewhere. If its assets break or do not operate as expected, the company has to invest resources to either repair or replace them, which could be extremely costly and detrimental to the business. The point is, Reliability is important, and how companies manage and maintain an acceptable level of reliability could mean the difference between success and failure.

Inspectioneering recently had an opportunity to sit down with Walt Sanford, President and COO of Pinnacle Advanced Reliability Technologies, and discuss what Reliability means to his clients and others in our industry. We hope you find the exchange interesting and informative.

Asset reliability is at the heart of Inspectioneering. As the President and COO of PinnacleART, how do you define “Asset Reliability” and what do you see as the key ingredients of a successful Reliability team?

[WS] Asset reliability as we look at, is the reliability of the functionality and desired outcome of an asset and the way in which it is used. And so, we define asset reliability as meeting the stakeholder’s requirements, the business requirements, and the regulator’s requirements, and putting them all together into a set of well-defined requirements. The ability to meet all of those requirements is how we define the success of an asset reliability program.

A successful reliability team needs to consist of a good cross section of the organization; touching on every process or function within the organization. So, a successful reliability team should consist of more than just those who traditionally fulfill maintenance/reliability functions. It should include individuals from supply chain management, engineering, accounting, and other departments, because all of them have influence over the reliability of that business and the stakeholder’s requirements. So in my opinion, it’s really about understanding the process of reliability and clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of each person in that process.

What steps should facility owner-operators take to establish an effective Reliability program?

[WS] It is important to define what it is you’re trying to achieve first. You really have to understand and clearly define your desired results, and it’s important that they are documented. Then, assess where you are and specifically identify the gaps that need to be closed. You could go through and throw out all of your practices and try to design something from scratch, but chances are you do many things well already; they just may not be closely aligned and working the way you want them to work. So, I would recommend clearly defining the steps, the processes, the desired outcomes, and the practices you want to employ first, then identify the gaps and strategically close those gaps, harmonizing the whole thing into the organization.

What major regulations or codes & standards are guiding the movement across the O&G and Chemical Processing sectors for improved asset reliability?

[WS]  In oil and gas and chemical processing we deal with PSM/RMP in terms of compliance. The opportunities that people take when complying with these and other regulations to address asset reliability as a whole is really where companies are going to have an advantage. ISO 55000 is actually an asset management standard. It really just puts a framework in place in which owner-operators need to identify what’s required, identify the risks associated with their assets, and then identify the program that they’re going to use to mitigate those risks. And like any other good standard or process or system within which you would work, you also need to establish a process for continuous improvement. And that’s really what’s involved in that particular standard. So, we have regulations that we must comply with, and there are also industry standards that describe good asset management practices that can help keep facilities safe and meet business objectives.

Over the last 10 years there have been some amazing technological advancements in our industry. How has technology changed the way Reliability is being managed in today’s facilities?

[WS] Well, technology has added a lot of opportunities for improving reliability and facility owners’ ability to manage assets. It has also provided a lot of challenges, most notably, the creation of large amounts of data; in some cases, more data than people can really understand or interpret. So the real challenge is finding ways to take advantage of all of that data.  It’s sort of the industrial internet of things and how we actually recognize in the data what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable, what’s normal and what’s abnormal, and to whom that information applies. So new technologies have given us much more data than we ever had before, but what’s important is that from the data, we are able to identify the information needed to make informed decisions about mitigating risk and improving reliability. Understanding how to make informed decisions on a growing data set and how to parse and understand that data is really a challenge created by emerging technologies, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity.

If a facility owner only has the time and/or budget to implement one change to improve asset Reliability at their plant, what would you recommend they do and how could this realistically affect their facility’s overall reliability?

[WS] In my experience, the concept of operator-driven reliability is where I would start. Owner-operators should be armed with tools to actually, from a front line standpoint, identify what’s normal, control abnormalities and external influences on equipment reliability, understand their processes better, understand the actions to take when they encounter abnormalities, and should be proactively involved in the reliability process. Operators taking this proactive stance, versus reactively addressing things like failures or upsets, is really the one thing, and probably the most cost-effective thing, that can be done to yield the biggest return on investment. So, operator-driven reliability, for those that have done it well, has been shown to provide a really positive impact on reliability.

What would you say to a young professional that is looking to get into the reliability field? Is it worth it? Is there a lot of opportunity for growth in this career?

[WS] I would say the reason to get into reliability is because, first of all, there’s a strong demand for it, and there’s a reason for this demand. We at PinnacleART have a great need for people that have a passion for reliability because that’s what we’re all about. Getting into reliability really exposes you not only to the engineering and technical side of the business, it exposes you to the business itself. You’re learning how to merge the technical side of an organization with the business side, you can really see the impact of what you do. I think people get a lot more satisfaction when you can actually see the true business impact of the decisions you make every day. Reliability is more than just a piece of equipment, it’s how a system works together; whether it be fixed equipment integrity, rotating equipment, instrumentation, electrical, etc. All of these things have to work properly because they’re a system, and that system is there to provide a return on investment. Whether the business is manufacturing or any kind of processing, it’s really about understanding the system and understanding how to get the greatest return out of that system. And that’s the difference between Reliability, and something like designing a facility. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but a lot of times you really just don’t see the impact of what you’ve done because you’ve turned it over to somebody else. Reliability is about managing assets throughout their life to ensure you get the greatest return from those assets.

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