Design for Reliability - Part 1 of 4

When I launched into the reliability profession, I thought condition monitoring was the center of the reliability universe. 

I was so focused on putting my hands on equipment to feel if it was running right or listening to it talk to me about its condition to determine when something was going to fail. The next step was ensuring my spare part was around.  It never occurred to me I may be able to prevent the failure from ever happening or at least extend the life of the component and system.  

I never thought of design improvements, manufacturing process or total system interfaces impacts to my failures, if I did it was a blame not a solution.  Budgets seem to be squeezed and limited for RCM and many times a lesson learned instead of a proactive event.   

I was frustrated with the design or at least what I thought was the design of many components and had no foresight to focus on a different type of bottom line. 

For companies looking for the bottom line, why not take good reliability practices and lessons learned out of OPEX and place a few strategic items in CAPEX, where improvements can make a large impact to OPEX. 

This is 1 out of 6 series that takes a look at reliability into research, design, manufacturing, commissioning  and operations.

Design for Reliability is simple good engineering practice.  Not many engineers start from zero with a design,  unless there is a patent or a ultra step changing product.  Most engineers and technicians use multiple sources of qualitative data to make design improvements.  This information comes from vendors, communities of practice, workshops and events hosted by NACE, United Association Union of Plumbers,  Fitters, Welders and HVAC Service Techs, International Council for Machinery Lubrication, and the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals. Just as much these groups offer ideas for a different type of impact.

Over time, teams and management can assess the tradeoff between design improvements and operational maintenance efforts as well as understand operational performance goals through design for reliability, see Figure 1, CAPEX Vs. OPEX Impact to Bottom Line.


Figure 1. CAPEX vs. OPEX Impact to Bottom Line

What this provides for is designing out known failures modes such as corrosion, fatigue, mechanical connection, leaks, as well as design in redundancy, simplify the design.

While reliability has a scale that can vary from region and department within one company,  decreasing OPEX seems to be everyone’s center of focus with no room for flexibility. 

Want to increase the probability that your equipment will perform the intended function for a specified period of time under a given set of conditions? Then consider Design for Reliability.

Take a look at Marshall Institute's maintenance tips:

  • Total Productive Maintenance (TPM/TPR) Tips  Maintenance Tips 17, 21, 13, 5
  • Preventive/Predictive Maintenance Maintenance Tips  3, 1

If you are regularly performing any of these, the data that you need to share with your suppliers is already there.  While many pieces of equipment require minimum predictive maintenance regardless of reliability, the dialogue between shifts, departments, and suppliers will provide improved decision making and an impact to the bottom line.

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