Where do I start? I have heard this question many times, and there is no easy answer other than “pick a spot.” What I mean is that normally when a company decides to start a reliability program, there are a lot of improvements to be made in other areas as well. I have never heard of a facility in which everything is perfect and the only thing they need to do is start a reliability program to become world class.
Reliability is tied to almost every other area in a facility, and so when one area is at a low point, other areas are also suffering. I would call on all of the experienced reliability veterans to offer their suggestions to help those who want to start a reliability program.
Gather all of your best people, including the top people in production, maintenance, quality and safety/environmental. This group should have various levels of technicians, operators and management. The group should figure out the areas that need improvement. I do not only mean specific pieces of equipment, but all of the areas that affect reliability, such as training, scheduling, parts and tools. The list can go on, but the point is that you need to have a picture of the potential improvement to get some direction. The list of improvement areas needs to be prioritized so everyone can get on the same track.
Once you know what needs to be improved, you can decide on the tools you need to start working. Sometimes the tools are already in the toolbox, which is great. If the tools are not in the toolbox, it is time to buy them. When purchasing tools, you want to buy the quality ones and not the bargain-bin tools that will fail to live up to the task. Some of the tools include root-cause failure analysis (RCFA), reliability-centered maintenance (RCM), fault-tree analysis (FTA), life-cycle cost analysis, etc. The tools are not all related directly to reliability either. Your different areas — planning/scheduling, quality, custodial services, etc. — can have a profound effect on reliability.
The champion must be a person who is committed to the job and the future goals. Far too often, this hat is given to a person who already has a few hats, and it ends up getting shelved at times. That can impede progress in moving a reliability program forward. The champion also needs to have the power and ability to make changes happen and influence the decision-making process. Responsibility without the ability is a recipe for failure. The champion is normally a cost in the beginning, but over time will pay for itself over and over again.
There are many more things you can do to start a reliability program, but this is a great way to start.