Reliability Ain't Just Another Word for Maintenance

I'm often amazed at how many manufacturing organizations interpret, approach and manage asset reliability management. Reliability is not a synonym for maintenance. While maintenance is clearly an important aspect of reliability, they're not the same. Reliability management spans the life cycle of an asset or process and affect, and is affected by, the entire value stream of the organization. Let's dive deeper...

Here's my attempt to summarize reliability in a nutshell. In essence, reliability engineering and management provides a framework of quantitative and qualitative analytical tools to improve the design, operation and maintenance of equipment, processes and software to enable an organization to achieve its goals, which could include profit, health, safety, environmental responsibility and compliance with laws and/or standards. It includes reliability, availability, maintainability, operability, flexibility, safety and quality of its operations. The tools and techniques may be applied to equipment, products, software and business processes across the value stream of the organization – product/process/equipment design, upstream supply chain, operations, maintenance and downstream supply chain.  It includes technical artifacts, organizational artifacts and human artifacts that lead to failure and/or loss.

In my experience, the distribution of manufacturing failures or losses is distributed as follows:

  • Marketing induced losses - 25-50% - These include undersold capacity or oversold capability.  Sometimes marketing simply asks the plant to make things that are beyond the capabilities of the systemsand/or provide more customization than the system was design to support.
  • Production induced losses - 25-50% - These include poor management of standard operations, slow, ineffective changeover, supply chain disruptions, etc.
  • Equipment induced losses - 25 - 50% - In these cases, the equipment's failed - either due to lack of design for reliability, maintainability, operability, flexibility, etc., or the maintenance policy is flawed or poorly executed. Due to design/procurment policies that are driven to minimize purchase price instead of focusing on life cycle cost of ownership, they're responsible for about half of these losses.

Reliability is not another word for maintenance. Again, it's about managing losses accross the value stream and accross the life cycle of an asset or process. I've often pondered why the management of reliability typically, and often by default, falls to the maintenance organization in the plant. I've reached this conclusion:

"Irrespective of where a problem starts - marketing, sales, product, process or equipment design, production and/or supply chain - once it reaches the maintenance department it's got no place else to go."

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


Drew D. Troyer, CRE, CMRP