Exploring the top 5 Benefits of a Reliable Plant

When assessing a plant’s performance concerning its production and maintenance activities, we often focus on evaluating the overall reliability of the plant. “Reliability” has become a buzzword in today’s industrial world and can be interpreted in various ways. However, in this article, when referencing reliability, we specifically refer to the consistency of a plant’s operations and performance.

This article aims to spotlight the top 5 benefits of being a highly reliable plant — elucidating the benefits that come from maintaining such operational consistency in today’s industrial sphere.

As previously indicated, reliability refers to how consistent a plant’s operation and performance are. Thus, a plant boasting high reliability demonstrates the capability to sustain consistent production levels, meet market demands, and avert unexpected asset failures and downtime. Consequently, it is evident that the primary advantage of operating a reliable plant is:

1. High equipment availability

A highly reliable plant possesses the ability to accurately plan shutdowns and repairs before asset failure occurs. To achieve this level of success, predictive technologies are often heavily deployed throughout the site. When implemented correctly, predictive technologies, such as vibration analysis, infrared thermography, oil analysis, and ultrasonics, provide accurate diagnostics of asset health. This allows for proactive planning of corrective actions based on asset condition, thereby minimizing unnecessary intrusive systematic component replacements—something commonly observed in less reliable plants.

Moreover, predictive technologies are by nature non-intrusive, meaning that they must be executed when the equipment is running. Consequently, a reliable plant not only plans shutdowns before unexpected failures happens but also deploys maintenance strategies that prioritize technologies that must be performed when the equipment is running, therefore maximizing the throughput of their operation. Consequently, maximizing operational throughput will directly lead to increased production and machine availability, which for most plant will directly result in higher revenue generated from the plant.

2. Lower maintenance cost  

Based on a study done in the 2010s, it was shown that on average that for a same facility with the same production output, a plant of a fourth quartile (worst quartile) is likely to spend 3500% the amount that a first quartile top performer would spend. A non-reliable plant will be highly reactive, meaning that most of their maintenance activities will be emergency break-ins work. Emergency maintenance is the costliest type of maintenance for several reasons. By nature, emergency maintenance is often not planned and scheduled, therefore the planning and scheduling happens in an ad-hoc mode where you will focus on three main things:

  • Parts: For parts, you might have some in your plant’s store but when it’s not case, often you will ask to have express shipping for parts, leading to unnecessary higher cost.
  • Labor: Depending on the nature and the moment of the failure, you might not have the expertise required within your maintenance team to perform the work, leading to contracting a third party in short amount of time, therefore increasing your maintenance cost. Furthermore, emergency break-ins can happen at any given moment, often leading to labor overtime which is, again, directly related to higher costs.
  • Tools: Depending on the nature of the emergency maintenance required, some specialized tools and set-up might be required to execute the work, for example: crane, scaffolding, vessel, etc. However, factories often do not own specialized tools and requiring them in a short interval comes together with higher cost.

The reality of emergency maintenance is that you might have the available labor, the parts and the tools required to do the work, leading to not extra maintenance cost – however, if you constantly have break-ins, from our experience, often that goes together with a poor spare parts inventory, poor management of tools and poor usage of their CMMS. In short, a top quartile reliable plant knows its assets health, therefore they have in contrast with a reactive plant low amount of emergency break-ins maintenance, resulting in significantly lower maintenance cost.

3. Enhanced safety:

Most workplace injuries occur during emergency break-in maintenance tasks. When individuals face immense pressure to resolve a situation rapidly without any prior preparation, it’s a prime scenario for injuries to happen. Indeed, ad-hoc planning and scheduling will often under-equip the maintenance team, leading to putting even more responsibility on floor workers to perform in unfavorable conditions.

On the other hand, a highly reliable plant with minimal emergency maintenance will consequently have a better injury rate. Indeed, in an environment where your maintenance workforce predominantly engages in predictive and preventive maintenance activities, this type of activity does not require high pressure when being performed. Furthermore, even when performing planned corrective work, because of the vision and knowledge that predictive maintenance is equipping the plant with, with regards to assets health, this allow to have the corrective activities that are planned correctly, providing all the essential tools, procedures, and parts required for proper maintenance operations.

4. Reliability’s continuous improvement

A highly reactive plant primarily focuses on survival, striving to manage day-to-day emergency work in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day. Conversely, a reliable plant represents an environment characterized by stability and control. In such a setting, a plant can proactively plan. Rather than solely addressing immediate daily activities, a reliable plant often incorporates a continuous improvement process or team centered on enhancing reliability.

This dedicated improvement team enables a comprehensive examination and resolution of the plant’s reliability issues on a broader scale. It specifically identifies common failure patterns and problematic components within its plant, implementing targeted initiatives to tackle these challenges. Moreover, operating within a stable and consistent environment will provide the time for your continuous improvement team to be aware of the newest industry best practices and the deployment of new technologies in the industrial world. Therefore, it will allow your team to deploy the newest technologies and ensure that the plant consistently ranks as a top performer in terms of reliability. In short, while a reactive plant will be trying to implement the old “new” technologies, a reliable plant will be looking to implement ground-breaking and future technologies, keeping their competitive reliability edge on their competitor.

5. Adapt to the market for future success!

Like the last benefits around the fact that a reliable plant allows for continuous improvement, not only the improvement can be centered around reliability but also enables your plant to align its operations with future market demands, ensuring sustained survival and success. A plant that ranks in the worst quartile for reliability faces an ongoing struggle to catch up in various areas: implementing reliability initiatives, responding to new market demands, developing new products, and more. While this adaptability might seem like a positive initiative, they often have a short-term focus and reactive approach simply because they do not have the time to think further along the timeline.

Conversely, a reliable plant consistently maintains a proactive stance. Instead of merely adapting to current market needs, it stays ahead of the curve. While a reliable plant focuses on reinventing itself to meet future demands, a reactive plant adapts to the current market, catering to existing demands without a long-term vision. Ultimately, a reliable plant ensures continuous evolution, allowing for ongoing improvement and innovation. This perpetual evolution secures a competitive edge and ensures the long-term sustainability of the organization.

In summary, here are the five key takeaways from a business standpoint regarding the benefits of having a reliable plant. Beyond the organizational scope, a reliable plant frequently comes a higher employee retention rate. Operating in a non-emergency environment that is centered on continuous improvement in reliability fosters a positive culture that resonates with employees. When employees can notice the ongoing initiatives and witness the company’s agility over time, it becomes a powerful intangible factor that significantly boosts morale and enhances employee retention.

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