Project engineering, meet maintenance

Nov. 18, 2011
Mike Bacidore says consider equipment reliability and repair when designing systems.

The annual conference of the Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP,, which was held in Greensboro, North Carolina, in October, is a great place to hear some extraordinarily forward-thinking individuals explain how to make the business case for good maintenance practices. It’s also a great place to see some old friends.

I swear I talked with David Crosby for the second year in a row at this year’s conference. Although he claims to be a reliability coordinator for a U.S. energy company, I know he’s most likely operating under a pseudonym in the witness protection program. If he could only remember his name. Plus, neither one of us remembers being at Woodstock, and, as we all know, if you remember being there, then you definitely weren’t. Either way, it was good seeing him again.

SMRP’s conference is one of the best places to meet like-minded practitioners who are willing to explain why it’s important to design systems with maintenance and reliability in mind.

John Hardwick, for example, is executive manager — maintenance and replacement planning at AusGrid (, which provides electricity to 1.6 million homes and businesses in Australia. His company has developed a repair/replace decision-making tool that incorporates economics, risk costs and technical issues. He advises using information gathered from failure modes, effects and criticality analysis (FMECA) along with reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) when engineering future designs to make systems more reliable and to engineer out the failures.

To be on the front end, in the design phase, maintenance and reliability engineers need to be part of project engineering, explained Ramesh Gulati, manager, asset management & reliability planning, at Arnold Engineering Development Center/Aerospace Testing Alliance (AEDC/ATA, ATA provides operations, maintenance and support services to AEDC at Arnold Air Force Base near Tullahoma, Tennessee. Some companies are now even co-locating the reliability and the project engineering departments.


Gulati offered four principles of failure-free design, including adequate safety margins, highly reliable components, redundancy and a consideration for the operating environment. “Design means thinking about things such as how will we perform maintenance on equipment?” he explained. “How will we get a hoist over there to lift that asset?”

Finally, David McKeown, CEO of the Institute of Asset Management (, which is headquartered in the United Kingdom, reiterated Gulati’s point. “How many people have heard that the budget will be cut by 5% because upper management doesn’t really understand what maintenance and reliability does?” he asked. “If the engineering and design stage took maintenance and reliability into consideration, then those costs wouldn’t be so high in the first place.”

Those words are like music to my ears. Hey, I think I have an idea for a new CSN song. I’ll let David Crosby know when I see him again next year.