Contents of a Reliability Improvement Policy that Drive a Reliability Growth and Improvement Program

A reliability improvement policy is a document containing a set of principles to guide decision making and actions. It tells how reliability will be achieved in an operation. It covers the whole asset life cycle and says what will be done at each phase to deliver reliability.


Unfortunately, we have been operating in a crisis manner without a reliability improvement policy. Have you samples of a Reliability Improvement Policy that I can use as a basis of crafting one for my organization — do you have anything to share?

As I have stated in the past, the materials you post have been a big blessing to my work. You have definitely empowered me with great information that I see changing the way people work.


Hello Friend,

Industries using machines require them to run reliably (no failures or unplanned stoppages) with high availability (ready for immediate use) and high utilization (continuously in use) all their working life.

High equipment reliability requires quality manufacture and precision maintenance, coupled with correct operating practices, which all together deliver the necessary controlled conditions that produce high reliability. You get equipment working superbly reliable when designers make the right choices, the maintenance people do their work to design specification, and operators run equipment so that operating stresses are low. There is no downtime if the equipment design is right for the service, if the parts work in a low-stress environment, and it is operated accurately.

Highly reliable production should be normal and natural with plant and equipment working dependably at long-term sustainable capacity. If under operation, equipment performance is not as designed, then something is amiss. But not with the equipment; the problem is in the business processes, or there are uncontrolled external agents at work. The challenge is to identify the process failures that cause defects and prevent equipment from delivering design performance, and then to act firmly to rectify the situation.

Man-made equipment and machinery only work well for a long time when they work precisely. Precision means meeting specified standards to within allowed tolerances. Precision requires that the specific standards needed for high reliability are set and continually achieved during design, manufacture, assembly, operation and maintenance

A reliability improvement policy is a great place to start in driving reliability growth. I have a few suggestions for its content, which I hope will help you to craft one for your organization.


Match Policy to the Reality of Your Situation

A policy is a document containing a set of principles to guide peoples’ decision making and actions. It needs to be connected to the other business policies, and tell people how it will help those to be achieved. Describe how reliability improvement will help production, and marketing, and maintenance, and customers. This validates it to managers and employees. It also needs to reflect what is possible in an organization and not try to envision an unbelievable future. Use it to move ahead in a series of manageable steps toward the grand vision. You re-write the policy to make the second step after you have taken the first, the third step after completing the second, and so on.

There is no point saying you will be a high reliability organization if you still have breakdowns. That is rubbish and everyone can see it. A policy that says we will build the systems that reduce production breakdowns by half is what I would put in the first policy document. In the document I would go on to list the systems and processes needed to halve current breakdowns. In the second policy document we would build the systems to prevent all production breakdowns. In the third policy document we create a high reliability organization. Reliability improvement is a journey with destinations to be reached one after the other.


Build the Right Principles into the Policy

There are three fundamental premise that I believe a reliability improvement policy need to contain.

The first is that equipment can only be failure-free if its individual parts do not fail: nothing else matters. Parts fail first and then equipment stops. The health of equipment parts fatally impacts equipment reliability. Take care of the parts and the equipment cannot help but be exceptionally reliable. This premise is the cornerstone of production and maintenance success and its achievement will liberate great wealth.

The second premise is that people operate plant and equipment. People introduce ‘human factor’ and human error issues that can destroy equipment reliability, such as their degree of competence, interest in doing better, amount of curiosity, level of dedication, desire to learn more, and many other entirely normal human traits. The better the ‘human factors’ are managed and developed, the more successfully and failure-free will equipment run.

The third premise is that we are working to build a world-class business. A business built of reliable processes that produce desired results which stakeholders and customers are delighted to have. Poor plant and equipment reliability is a business process failure that prevents business success. The more precisely that plant and equipment are used and maintained, the less is the risk of failure, the higher is the quality, the lower is the product price, and the shorter is the delivery time. Customers like that and will buy your product, so making the business successful.

Parts, people and processes; machine, man and method; these are what make our products and services. Each is important to business success and must be encouraged to perform at their best.


6 Requirements for Reliability Improvement

Reliability growth and improvement is a result. It is an effect produced by the right causes. First must be the cause before there can be its effect. Here is a list of five causes of reliability.

Standards: Reliability is inextricably connected with quality and precision. You must know exactly how close to perfection your equipment parts must be engineered and kept to get the reliability you want.

Structure: People build machines, run machines and work on machines: people deliver reliability. How they work together and are supported in their efforts by the business is of paramount importance if you want good performance from them.

Systems: Quality and precision are delivered in a business through its systems and processes. The methods and practices that your business uses to deliver world-class reliability for its equipment need to be in your documents.

Skills: Mastery of the skills of precision engineering, precision operation and precision maintenance is mandatory if you want to travel the road to world-class reliability

Schooling: Training, education and continual learning is necessary if we are to make reliability improvements. Start helping engineers, trades and operators improve equipment reliability with technical flyers that teach them the exact details of how their machines and production processes really work.

Scientific: Measurement and proof is critical to successful reliability improvement. All work done on machines and equipment must be proven to be precise. All decisions and actions affecting equipment performance must be based on proven fact that they will produce positive effects. Opinions are fine, we want to encourage innovation, but they are not accepted without testing and proving they are right.


Control Variation – it is the cause of all reliability problems

Most industrial businesses make their equipment fail. They have breakdowns because their business processes are preventing achievement of the requirements for reliability, their processes need to be redesigned or improved to those that can deliver the necessary quality and precision. Operating plants and machines rely on us to get their working conditions right for them. The best strategies for improving reliability are those that extend the life of parts. When machine parts live and work in conditions that limit stress levels to values that deliver long operating lives, they can return maximum reliability to us.

The challenge for a business is to control variation in design, procurement, operation and maintenance to within those limits that produce good outcomes for our machines. First identify what is excellent performance regarding the issue under investigation. If a process cannot deliver the required excellence; redesign it and standardize on one way, and one way only, for the process to be done. You start changing to a reliability culture by first installing the right processes and systems into your business. Then you teach the people to follow them.

I hope that these thoughts will be of use to you as you draft your company’s reliability improvement policy.

My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini

P.S. If you have questions on life cycle asset management, equipment maintenance strategy, defect elimination and failure prevention, or plant maintenance and reliability, please feel free to contact me by email.