Reliability Is Not Just About Engineering—It’s about Culture

October 20, 2015

Guest post by Fred Schenkelberg, Reliability Expert for FMS Reliability

In a previous posting (Five Steps to Building a Better Reliability Culture”, posted on 10/06/2015), I discussed equipment reliability, reliability engineering, and reliability management. But this Holy Trinity of reliability does not operate in a vacuum. To create a sustainable reliability program within an organization requires an understanding of its culture as well as its structure.

Every organization or product is different. The technology, expectations, and environments are all different. Consider two organizations, each of which has a reliability professional well versed in a wide range of reliability tools and processes. One of these professionals provides coaching and mentoring across the organization and encourages every member of the team to learn and use the appropriate tools to make decisions; the other performs nearly all the reliability work independently without support or consultation with team members. It is easy to see that the first organization’s team, being empowered to make decisions about reliability, will be better equipped to meet its reliability goals. 

Thus differences in the basic culture of an organization can lead to vastly different approaches to how reliability is incorporated in its operations. The organization that incorporates reliability into its internal processes starting from the design phase will inevitably experience fewer failures and make more efficient use of its design team and suppliers. How the reliability professional functions within an organization has a strong impact on its culture.

The organizational structure of an organization is also intertwined with its culture. There is no single organizational structure that leads to improved product reliability performance over any other structure. Both centrally and distributed reliability teams have successfully created reliable systems. Even the presence or absence of reliability professionals on staff is not an indicator of reliability performance.

Top-performing organizations use a common product reliability language and possess a culture that encourages and enables individuals to make informed decisions related to reliability. Individuals across the organization know their role to both use and share information essential to making decisions. There is an overriding context for reliability decisions that balances the needs to meet customer expectations for reliability along with other criteria. Alignment exists among the organization’s mission, plans, priorities, and behaviors related to reliability.

Equipment reliability is not the only element that benefits from a proactive culture. Whether top-performing organizations enjoy a proactive culture that naturally includes reliability activities to make decisions or evolved while improving product reliability to become a proactive organization with collateral benefits for other areas of running the business remains unclear. The latter is more likely, since it takes leadership to build and maintain a proactive organization, although some organizations focus on building a proactive reliability program and develop the benefits later in other functions of the business.

Moving the organizational block around the organizational chart may have some value, although it is not directly related to improving reliability. It entails a more fundamental change than developing the reporting structures to transition from a reactive to proactive reliability program.

Once a group of people get settled into a routine way of accomplishing something, it is not a simple matter to change the process. Doing so requires overcoming organizational inertia. For reliability professionals to implement reliability improvements, overcoming this inertia entails working closely with key influencers, making the current reality visible and accessible, and celebrating successes. Although every organization is different and every situation warrants its own approach, these three paths to overcoming inertia may facilitate implementation of any proposed changes.

Overcoming organization inertia is one crucial aspect of changing a reliability culture. Some organizations tend to react to reliability issues. Prototype testing and downing events continue to surprise the team. The worst organizations fall into a cycle of always finding someone to blame. Better organizations set out to work to understand the problem and quickly resolve the issue. Some have better ‘fire departments’ than others. However, responding more quickly is often not the best way to deal with reliability. The very best organizations prevent issues from creating surprises in the first place.

Understanding the reliability culture is the first step to change it.

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4 Steps to Perform a Simple Functionality Test on your Shaft Alignment Tool

October 13, 2015

When there is a lack of repeatability, or unexpected results are obtained during laser shaft alignment, a simple functionality test can be performed on the alignment tool’s heads to determine if they’re working properly. This can be achieved on a laser-and-sensor system, such as the ROTALIGN ULTRA IS or a transducer-and-prism system, such as the SHAFTALIGN OS3. If the system passes the functionality test, it is most likely working properly. However, this test does not replace an official calibration check.

Perform the following procedure if there is doubt that your laser alignment tool’s heads are not working properly:

  1. Mount the heads on a piece of stiff pipe about six to ten inches apart. Do not use pipes that are smaller than two inches in diameter. Also, do not use solid shafting or bar-stock. The pipe does not have to be perfectly straight, but its surfaces should be smooth enough for the brackets to be mounted on.
  2. Enter the dimensions. Use the halfway point between the heads as the coupling center. Set the coupling diameter to ten inches. The remaining dimensions are irrelevant.
  3. It is ideal to mount the pipe on V-blocks, but this step can be performed with your hands as well: Center the laser beam on the dust cap. Remove the dust cap and take a set of readings while rotating the pipe 360 degrees. The coupling results should be zero or very close to it.
  4. Repeat this procedure at least four more times. Position the laser at different locations on the detector each time.

It’s as simple as that. If the coupling results are not consistently close to zero, the heads will likely need to be calibrated. We recommend that you have your heads calibrated every two years for optimal performance.

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5 Steps to Building a Better Reliability Culture

October 6, 2015

Guest post by Fred Schenkelberg, Reliability Expert for FMS Reliability

Equipment reliability is not the sole responsibility of the maintenance engineer but results from nearly everyone in an organization making decisions that move toward the desired reliability performance. As a reliability professional, I often find it necessary to explore ways to leverage my knowledge of these areas to change the culture within an organization to create a sustainable program that achieves reliable systems time and again.

Proactive organizations are those that work to prevent problems associated with reliability before the product reaches the prototype line stage, let alone a production line. Reactive organizations wait until fails occur, then deal with the consequences. If you are in an organization that tends to react rather than prevent, consider how you should set about changing the culture. Effecting change by itself can often be difficult, but I offer a few ideas that can be useful as you confront this challenge.

  1. Reflect the current situation back to the organization.
    An assessment that examines the current way the organization includes reliability in its discussions and decisions creates a picture of the process, tools, and attitudes that form the current culture concerning reliability. Is the organization simply saying ‘reliability is important’ and then focusing on other priorities? This often occurs when reliability is difficult to measure whereas cost is directly measured. How are tools such as FMEA and ALT being used in the organization? Are they used to just satisfy a checklist or to prioritize work and understand specific failure mechanisms? In either case, the degree to which the organization selects and uses tools to make decisions reflects its overall culture.
    By creating a short report that includes what the organization does well, areas for improvement, and specific recommendations, you can make the current program visible and available for examination. See the ebook Reliability Maturity: Understand and Improve Your Reliability Program available for free download.
  2. Create a vision of what could be.
    With respect to changing a culture, what would success look like? How would you know that the culture has actually changed? You need to be specific and include concrete examples of what technicians are saying, uptime graphs, comments from co-workers, etc. By painting a strong sensory image of what it will feel like when the culture has changed, you make the need for change compelling.
  3. Map the steps needed to attain the goal.
    A compelling vision is the goal, but it is insufficient to motivate change across your organization. A road map or plan detailing both obstacles and milestones can help. The idea is to show how to get started. Explain the first step and how that will lead to the steps necessary to achieve the objective. For changes to an overall reliability program the steps may include improved data analysis, changes in ways data are requested from vendors, creation of a reliability/availability model, and starting to use HALT or FMEA.
  4. Set expectations.
    Within a larger organization expectations should be set for key individuals (e.g., change agents, respected individuals, and community links). This creates a very clear connection between their role in the organization and the proposed changes. A handful of influential individuals working together to achieve change can very likely achieve success in effecting change.
  5. Provide support and encouragement.
    Change is hard work. It involves personal risk, learning new processes or techniques, and moving away from the known to the unknown. Change does not occur with a single meeting or announcement but is an ongoing process. Some best practices include continuously encouraging attempts to move along the proposed path; answering questions, providing training, and shoring up confidence, checking in regularly with key change agents; rewarding successes, and highlighting value obtained along the way.
    The improvement resulting from a change in a reliability program today does not immediately reduce downtime, for example. Often, a significant delay ensues before the benefits are realized. Providing tools and processes to estimate future value is essential. Changing reliability culture may take the coordination of one person and the support of a small team. The change of the conversation to include data, value, and customer reliability expectations may be sufficient to significantly prevent reliability problems. Effecting change will not be easy and will take some time to accomplish. Often, several cycles of equipment improvement projects are needed to create permanent change.
    With a clear assessment of the current situation, a vivid vision for the future, a basic guide to get everyone started, and the regular addition of your energy to continue making progress, change is possible.
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Proud to be an SMRP Approved Alignment and Balancing Training Provider!

October 1, 2015

LUDECA Inc. has been recognized by the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) as an approved provider of continuing education and training aligned with key subject areas related to reliability and physical asset management.” said Ron Leonard, SMRP CMRP Chair of APEP Committee

SMRP-Approved-Provider-LogoAs an SMRP Approved Provider, LUDECA is recognized for its best-in-class continuing education training programs for precision shaft alignment of rotating equipment and precision balancing as part of reliability and physical asset management. LUDECA is a Tier 2 Approved Provider with courses that are taught on-site, regionally, or at their own state of the art training center in Doral, FL.

The following are currently approved courses that map to SMRP’s Body of Knowledge Pillar #3 – Equipment Reliability:

We are thrilled to be part of this select group of training companies.” says Ana Maria Delgado, CRL, Marketing Manager for LUDECA. “Our company has always made it a priority to deliver quality hands-on training with alignment and balancing best practices to improve asset reliability. Our new SMRP Approved Provider status provides us with the opportunity to enhance our commitment to our customers and to the success of their reliability programs.”

LUDECA is a leading provider of Preventive, Predictive and Corrective Maintenance Solutions, including machinery laser alignment, vibration analysis and balancing equipment as well as software, rentals, services and training. For more details, visit

About SMRP
The Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) is an international, nonprofit society dedicated to promoting excellence in maintenance, reliability and physical asset management. Its 4,000 members specialize in achieving improved efficiency and profitability across many industries by applying best practices and proactively managing operations, equipment and people. SMRP provides ANSI-accredited professional certification to validate critical knowledge and skills of the top practitioners in the profession. For more information, visit

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What is a Compound Move and When do I use it to Benefit the Alignment Process?

September 29, 2015

A “Compound Move” is when an aligner performs both a vertical correction by shimming and a horizontal correction by moving a MTBM (movable machine) simultaneously.

Traditionally, during the alignment process, after a rough alignment is made, the aligner will shim the movable machine until it is within the vertical alignment tolerance. Once within vertical tolerance, the aligner will then make the horizontal correction. Sometimes this will result in several moves until the tolerance is reached for both vertical and horizontal.

The “Compound Move” has been used successfully by many aligners for 20+ years. The success of making a vertical and horizontal correction simultaneously is dependent on when to perform this step.

The following steps should be performed before making a Compound Move:

  1. All pre-alignment checks and corrections completed.
  2. Rough align the MTBM.
  3. Perform Rough (Initial) Soft Foot.
  4. Perform Final Soft Foot.
  5. Now, perform the Compound Move and you will find that many times, you will complete the final alignment in just one or two moves.

The benefit of performing a Compound Move is saving time.

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How can you make your plant more profitable and stable?

September 22, 2015

Traditionally, company profits have been maintained and increased through three primary means:

  1. Increase the price of goods and services sold.
  2. Increase the amount of goods and services sold.
  3. Reduce the costs of goods and services sold.

Options 1 and 2 can be very difficult or even impossible to implement in a competitive market.  Therefore, option #3 may seem like the only viable option.  Reductions in costs can be accomplished in many ways.  Some are drastic attempts such as reducing product quality or the number of employees.  It is almost impossible for companies to achieve true long term profit gains in these ways, because those gains are usually short-lived.

What can you do to help your company increase profits in the competitive world we live in, and provide greater stability in your job? Reduce the costs of goods and services produced (option #2) in a way that you or your facility may not have previously considered. You can do this by:

  • Improving equipment reliability through implementing Condition Monitoring reliability practices (RCM, FMEA, RCFA, etc).
  • Ensuring the correct maintenance activities are planned, scheduled and completed on-time.
  • Ensuring that the correct spare parts inventory is available and kitted when the work is scheduled and executed.
  • Ensuring that value-added PM’s are created and completed on the equipment.
  • Ensuring that reliability based engineering is completed. Maintenance cannot overcome poor design and installation.
  • Ensuring operational activities that support maintenance and reliability are followed. Maintenance and Operations should work as partners and not competitors.
  • Supporting those in your facility that are working toward these efforts.
  • Making sure that the right work is being done on the right equipment. This requires prioritizing based on a thorough understanding of equipment criticality, understanding how and why your equipment can fail, what really needs to be done to keep it operational upon demand, etc.

All of the above efforts can help your facility reduce maintenance costs and the cost of goods and services produced. This could be the difference between being the leader in your market or watching your job, profit and company suffer.

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