Why a Great Reliability Engineer Should Be a Conspiracy Theorist (Kind of!)

Brace yourselves because it might sound outlandish: a touch of conspiracy theorist mentality is a good quality for a great reliability engineer! Yes, you read that right – embracing a dash of conspiracy thinking might just be the secret sauce for top-notch industrial machines caretaker.  

I know you’ve seen them and are too afraid to acknowledge they exist:  working from the basement of their industrial site, without natural light, always asking questions, with their big whiteboards filled with incomprehensible text except for that one enigma written in red in the center: WHY?

The top 6 qualities

Now, before you start envisioning reliability engineers with tinfoil hats, let’s clarify: we’re not advocating believing in aliens building machinery or secret societies controlling industrial equipment (or maybe?). Instead, it is about adopting a mindset that questions, probes, and sees beyond the obvious. Here’s why a touch of conspiracy theorist flair can be oddly beneficial: 

  1. Questioning the Unquestionable: Reliability engineers need to challenge the status quo. Just like conspiracy theorists question mainstream narratives, great engineers don’t take things at face value. They ask, “What if this isn’t working as it seems?” This approach encourages digging deeper and exploring alternative possibilities, which can uncover hidden issues before they become disasters. 
  2. The ‘What If’ Mentality: What if there’s more to a seemingly insignificant glitch? A smidge of conspiracy thinking encourages exploring the ‘what ifs’ and considering worst-case scenarios. It’s not about expecting the worst but preparing for it, just like conspiracy theorists prepare for, well, just about anything. 
  3. Connecting the Dots: Conspiracy theorists are notorious for connecting unrelated events. Similarly, great reliability engineers excel in seeing patterns, connecting seemingly disparate data points, and anticipating potential failure modes by drawing unconventional links between various system elements. A quality to possess when leading RCA activities for sure! 

Connecting the dots during RCA… 

  1. Embracing Paranoia in a Good Way: Okay, not the full-on paranoia, but a bit of healthy skepticism. It’s about constantly looking over one’s shoulder, metaphorically speaking, to anticipate what might go wrong. After all, a little paranoia never hurts when it comes to preventing catastrophic equipment failures… 
  2. Thinking Outside the Instruction Manual: Sometimes, reliability engineering demands thinking beyond the manual. While conspiracy theories might stretch reality, they encourage exploring uncharted territories. Similarly, great engineers sometimes need to go beyond conventional practices to find innovative solutions. 
  3. Preventing the Real ‘Conspiracy’: In a way, the real conspiracy reliability engineers aim to uncover is the potential collusion of failures within systems, sometimes induced by poor design, or poor installation practices, or poor operating methods. By being a bit of a conspiracy theorist – scrutinizing every detail, exploring unconventional angles – they thwart the real ‘conspiracy’ of multiple failures plotting to bring systems down. 

The ultimate quality! 

One thing that is sure is that standout reliability engineers possess the innate ability to search by themselves—a skill as crucial as any in their repertoire. It’s about being a lone detective in the labyrinth of systems, adeptly navigating through data, past records, and troubleshooting guides without relying solely on predefined paths. This ‘searching by oneself’ quality embodies a spirit of independence and resourcefulness.

Much like a curious sleuth, they venture into the depths of intricate machinery armed with their knowledge and an insatiable thirst for answers. Their inclination to seek solutions independently often leads to uncovering unconventional fixes or preemptive measures that manuals might overlook. This self-driven exploration not only fosters a deeper understanding of the systems but also cultivates a resilience that comes in handy when faced with unprecedented challenges. 

So, should reliability engineers start wearing foil hats? Absolutely not! But incorporating a pinch of that questioning, probing, and thinking outside the box mentality can indeed elevate their game. Think of it as embracing a ‘conspiracy theorist light’ mindset – always curious, vigilant, and ready to uncover hidden truths within machinery and systems. 

PS : with that in mind, can you tell if this article is part of a conspiracy theory? 😊 

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