Workforce Development / Leadership Skills / Maintenance Work

6 attributes to look for when you hire your next reliability engineer

The reliability engineer must provide leadership, direct the asset management plan, and assume responsibility for improving asset reliability.

By Terry Alexander, Life Cycle Engineering

During my 30-plus-year tenure in industry maintenance and operations organizations, I have seen organizations create or fill reliability engineering positions without clearly defining expectations and qualifications. Ironically, this approach could introduce failure into the RE position.

The reliability engineer’s primary role is to identify and manage risks that could affect plant or business operations. The reliability engineer must provide leadership, direct the asset management plan, and assume responsibility for improving asset reliability. This person also champions the plant's work processes, procedures, and practices that ensure adherence to reliability best practices. As the main steward of the plant’s installed capacity, the reliability engineer builds and oversees the daily operations asset plan to ensuring optimal utilization and efficiency of the plant’s assets.

To help you find the right person for this important role, here are six attributes to consider when hiring or developing your next reliability engineer:

  1. Communication and computer literacy: The candidate must possess the ability to communicate effectively with all levels of the organization. He or she should also possess the computer skills required to build effective key performance indicators and create documents supporting asset reliability.
  2. Logical thinking and organizational skills: The reliability engineer needs to be a logical thinker with excellent organizational skills to accomplish these dimensions of the role: professional and systematic building of the asset operating plan and the risk management plan; ensuring standardization of processes and procedures for proper operation and operator care of production assets; and anticipating reliability- and nonreliability-related risks that could affect plant operations.
  3. Proven leadership skills: The reliability engineer will need a leadership skill set that promotes the open communication needed to guide efforts that ensure reliability and maintainability of the plant’s equipment, processes, utilities, facilities, controls, and safety/security systems.
  4. Flexibility and multitasking skills: The reliability engineer wears a lot of hats. To be effective, he or she must be able to juggle the previously mentioned controls and processes in a flexible manner, ensuring that there's no failure to meet expectations. He or she also will need to be able to multitask well, especially if managing multiple sites across a corporation.
  5. Formal reliability engineering certification or educational background: Professional development in the reliability engineering field will ensure that the candidate is proficient using analysis techniques such as statistical process control, reliability modeling and prediction, fault tree and Weibull analysis, and Six Sigma methodology. Your candidate also should have experience using reliability tools such as root-cause and root-cause failure analysis (RCA and RCFA); a failure reporting, analysis, and corrective action system (FRACAS); overall equipment effectiveness (OEE); cost of goods sold (COGS); and other reliability engineering parameters that define operating condition with the liability and costs of assets.
  6. Knowledge of reliability engineering program elements: A strong candidate should have a working knowledge of lifecycle asset management, configuration management, risk management, and loss elimination. In addition, because the reliability engineer is the owner and developer of your PM/PdM program, the candidate should have a working knowledge of all predictive technology strategies and how to apply them.

While these are not only the attributes to look for in your new reliability engineer, I believe they are the most important characteristics for ensuring that your candidate will succeed in the position.