One Absolutely Critical Point
FMEA and the like
Engineering Driven Reliability (EDR) is the new method for the future of reliability.
Using a plant criticality scoring system (FMEA style) on current
machinery is a fine approach for prioritizing equipment importance. A
criticality ranking method like FMEA lets you identify what plant is
important to your continued operation.
With that knowledge you can decide your asset management strategies.
These include your spares holding strategy, preventive maintenance
strategy, predictive maintenance strategy and your equipment replacement
Mode and Effects Analysis) is one of several methods used for risk assessment
and enterprise operational risk management. FMEA also plays a key part in
QS 9000. An alternate criticality rating method used
in Japan is also discussed in 'The
Pocket Maintenance Advisor' available from Feed Forward Publications (www.feedfoward.com.au).
For new equipment I would do a full RCM
(Reliability Centered Maintenance). In new equipment you want to
get rid of failure risk and operating problems at the component level. RCM
will do that for you. It's the approach to use when you want to design
In a way RCM and FMEA are similar. They both focus on
reducing business risk from equipment failures. They both deliver a list
of design improvements and better operating practices that if implemented
to the highest of standards produce greatly improved plant reliability.
The difference is FMEA risk assessment is at the plant equipment level,
whereas RCM detects risk at the individual part and subassembly level.
The one major limitation with these techniques is that they do not
encourage creative, innovative, new discoveries! They simply promote best
practice methods and designs, not break-through, earth-shattering,
if Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb, had
it in his mind to only improve how lighting worked in his day!
What if he had approached the task of developing better lighting
with an RCM or FMEA mindset? I reckon every night we would now
be striking a match to light the longest-lasting, brightest
candles in the world!
I hope you can see my point. RCM and FMEA will not break you out of
using today's limiting technologies and designs that we all have to live
with (at least until the next 'Thomas Edison' comes along). With RCM and
FMEA you just end up 'making a better mouse trap' and you never discover
the new ideas that keep the mice away in the first place.
I hate the limiting technological choices we have to use to build our
machines and our businesses! Why can't we invent new equipment
technologies to give outstandingly reliable plant? Other industries have!
Do you realize that from the 1970's to the 1990's our entire
communication system was revolutionized? We went from sending letters that
at best took a week to get a reply, to now sending emails that get replies
That is a communications revolution the like of which humanity has ever
seen before! That happened over a 20-year period! 20 years ... only 20
years ... to totally change the way we communicate and make the world
We need the same thing to happen with the technologies we use in our
plant and equipment. We need the equivalent of the 1970's - 1990's
'communications revolution' in our industrial equipment.
It saddens me to think that roller bearings were invented nearly three
hundred years ago when the first clocks were built, and we still use them
today. They were definitely a wonderful discovery, and in three hundred
years we have got them just about right. But they are not the best
The best solution is a frictionless, lubrication-free, unfailing,
unbreakable device. Where is it? Three hundred years is too long to be
waiting for the next revolutionary invention in rotating shaft support
technology. We must research, innovate, discover, challenge, adventure,
excite, explode away from three hundred year-old solutions to our
Thankfully great technological advances are happening with some
equipment. The most astounding one I know of is the magnetic shaft
coupling (the magdrive pump is another good one).
You can now buy a shaft coupling containing rare earth magnets that
lets a motor drive a piece of equipment without having to physically
connect the shafts. That is wonderful! No physical contact between parts,
only magnetic force fields. That is the sort of equipment engineering
revolution I want to see more of!
The magnetic coupling is even more fantastic for equipment maintainers
and users, because it does not require perfect alignment. You can be out
of line by 6 mm (1/4"), and the motor will still drive the equipment.
That means my 11-year old girl can set it up. It doesn't need a trained
technician to get the shafts perfectly in-line with laser shaft alignment
equipment. But there is more!
The new technologies I want will do even greater things for us! They
will forgive human errors and still operate perfectly. The magnetic shaft
coupling is a great example. You can't destroy the motor or the equipment
because the magnetic fields decouple and unlatch the two shafts. So
nothing breaks! It needs no maintenance!
You can make 'human error' after 'human error' and the plant is
unaffected! It can't be broken! That's marvelous news to every operator
and maintainer's ear. And it makes businessmen jump for joy too! There
will be no need to allow for costly maintenance in the budget!
One day we humans will want to fly to Mars and the planets beyond, and
come back. But we cannot take a maintenance workshop, a machine shop and a
warehouse full of parts to fix our spaceship on the way. We must build
equipment that cannot fail. We must have equipment that does not need
maintenance. We must have equipment that is fantastically energy
efficient. And we must invent them soon!
Yes, it's good that your company wants to use RCM and FMEA. I encourage
everyone to apply RCM and FMEA and RCA and TPM and OEE and the rest. It's
all that we can do at the moment to improve our plant and equipment. And
they do work.
Properly implemented they can make a massive improvement to your bottom
line results (better to have efficient, failure-free candles than to have
to live everyday with candles that keep going out!).
But they will not give you the 'Thomas Edison type' industry-changing,
world-revolutionizing, humanity-advancing solutions we desperately need to
have if we really want to get past our industrial equipment maintenance
problems and let humanity fly to the stars!
The problem of technological limitations on equipment reliability
(reliability engineering) has
absorbed my thoughts and efforts for many months now. I do not believe
that we can ever successfully prevent equipment failures by using the
methods and technologies available to us today! Even using today's very
best operating methods, designs and training, our technology will let us
down in a comparatively short time!
I believe the best approach to rocket reliable equipment is to force
technologically innovation to its absolute limits!
Reliability (EDR) is the new method for the future of reliability.
No longer will reliability depend on people doing the right things!
Through technological innovation and engineering advancement EDR will
insure reliability is built into the machine!
We will have machines and equipment that cannot fail, and remove
forever today's situation where we work to keep the machines going!
Keep an eye on my new web site www.lifetime-reliability.com
where you will be able to get designs of outstanding reliability
equipment lifetimes more than three and four times normal! You are welcome
to become part of a network of engineers, design engineers and technicians
motivated to produce new, outstandingly reliable equipment designs.