Is it maintenance or reliability?

April 8, 2009

The continual debates and semantical posturing over the difference between maintenance and reliability engineering is one of the most astoundingly ridiculous debates to emerge in physical asset management in the last 10 years. 

Some people feel compelled to cut and paste role descriptions when we talk about this stuff, but it can be defined quite simply. Maintenance Engineering is about efficiency while Reliability Engineering is about effectiveness.

The continual debates and semantical posturing over the difference between maintenance and reliability engineering is one of the most astoundingly ridiculous debates to emerge in physical asset management in the last 10 years. 

Some people feel compelled to cut and paste role descriptions when we talk about this stuff, but it can be defined quite simply. Maintenance Engineering is about efficiency while Reliability Engineering is about effectiveness.

It makes sense, and we do not need to get too complex about it. But the more important point isn't how they are different, but how they are the same!

By focusing on workflows, data capture and time and motion (say) you can become extremely effcient at doing the wrong work!

Likewise, there are more than a few reliability initiaives that have worked out the secret of more effective maintenance, and a better application of time and effort that fail. And why do they fail? Often because they do not consider the implications of how this work is going to be done, and what the overall load/impact variatons will be on staff.

To state it a different way, you cannot focus on doing the right job (reliability engineering) without doing it the right way (maintenance engineering).

They are two sides of the same coin, and creating artificial barriers between them is not what people in our profession should be trying to do. Bariers are created to separate "them" from "us" and to protect the status quo.

And as we all know, there is far too much status in the status quo. 

I am voting for tearing down the walls. Make them all Asset Management Engineers and give them all the skills to work across both areas. Divide the work among them based on the supply/demand principles and make sure everyone is very keenly focused on doing the right work, and doing it in the right way.

Amazing that this is even an issue ... 

You can network with other reliability practitioners here, ,and see the latest in reliability jobs here.

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