Yes, Virginia, Reliability is Real

Feb. 12, 2013

After reading a few of my blogs last week, my long-suffering bride Trish came away with a question. "You mostly blog," she asked, "about how factories ought to run, rather than the way they actually do, don't you?"

"Well," I replied, assuming my most deeply knowledgeable posture, "most of the blogs are designed to suggest improvements to our readers' factories, so I guess they're more about the ideal than the typical plant."

After reading a few of my blogs last week, my long-suffering bride Trish came away with a question. "You mostly blog," she asked, "about how factories ought to run, rather than the way they actually do, don't you?"

"Well," I replied, assuming my most deeply knowledgeable posture, "most of the blogs are designed to suggest improvements to our readers' factories, so I guess they're more about the ideal than the typical plant."

"Thought so," she replied, walking away. "I don't see many organizations run that smoothly."

Fortunately, before I had time to reexamine my career and decide to chuck the whole reliability thing, I received an email from Mark Earley, plant manager of Baldor Electric, Marion, NC. Baldor, Marion is featured as Plant Services' Plant Profile factory for February. (http://e-ditionsbyfry.com/Olive/ODE/PLS/Default.aspx?href=PLS/2013/02/01 Page 13.)

Mark wrote two things reminding me that the battle for factory reliability is winnable. First, he told me that the Marion plant’s maintenance staff has improved machinery uptime to 98%. Since most of the Marion equipment runs in lines and cells, I figure the percentage for individual machines must be sneaking up on 100%.

The second thing Mark shared is a quotation from Randy Rampey, Baldor Marion's manufacturing services manager. "Because we have reduced unplanned downtime," Rampey says, "our team can be very diligent about seeking root cause detail for every unplanned maintenance occurrence."

So, out here in the real world, there is a plant that has achieved the kind of uptime that reliability programs are designed to deliver. Beyond that, when unplanned maintenance does occur, maintenance and reliability take the time to invest in further improvement of the system.

This reminds us that when people are incredulous about reliability, we can assure them that everything we talk and blog about; RCA, silo breaking, condition monitoring, PM, PdM, and all the rest, is happening every day all over the country. In some factories, enough of these tools are in place that the synergy among them is helping those organizations steadily improve their OEE, safety, ecological performance, and profitability.

A better day really is dawning in U.S. manufacturing, and the superior sustainability of plants with solid reliability programs will guarantee that they will grow as a percentage of the population.

Yes, Virginia, (and North Carolina, and Rhode Island, and the rest of the United States), reliability is real. It is here and it is making a huge difference to the manufacturing companies that roll up their sleeves and create cultures to support it.

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