Five hats for reliability engineers
I was recently meeting with some new reliability engineers as they were getting ready to step into the role for the first time. They were asking what kind of things they should expect to be doing in the role. I came up with five hats that they will wear on a regular basis. I have listed them below with a bit of detail.
The technical reliability hat
Reliability engineers, first and foremost, are there to analyze failure history and prevent or mitigate failure in the future. While wearing this hat, they will use tools like RCM, RCA, statistics, PdM, FRACAS, experts, and the internet.
The trainer hat
Reliability engineers will wear this hat when they begin to share new techniques for predictive maintenance or precision maintenance, as well as any other technique that have not been used in the past. They will be looking to introduce the “best practice” and demonstrate how it should be done and why it is important. While wearing this hat, reliability engineers use training manuals, equipment manuals, single point lessons, experts from outside the company, and maybe even a bit of Power Point.
The coach hat
Successful reliability engineers will put this hat on when they go out on the floor after providing training. They will work with individual to ensure complete understanding of the improvements to the process. While wearing this hat, engineers need to listen and understand the concerns of the individual and his hands to demonstrate the concepts while answering the questions that linger in the minds of the students.
The sales and marketing hat
Reliability Engineering is not understood by the masses yet, so reliability engineers must have a sales and marketing hat. While wearing this hat, the engineer will be marketing the value of precision maintenance, RCM, RCA, FRACAS, and the cost of not doing it. The engineer will also be selling the predictive maintenance tools to both the maintenance crafts as well as the leadership. He or she will feature the “saves” to build a basic understanding by the affected parties until everyone “buys in” to the concept. When wearing this hat, the RE will be using samples of past success, failed components as props, pictures, case studies, and benchmarking results.
The meeting hat
This is an ugly hat in some organizations where they exhibit the traits of a “Meeting Manufacturer”. These MM sites seem more focused on making meetings that they are on making products. In general however, the RE should expect some time with the meeting hat. Wearing the hat is the only way to get many things accomplished within the organization. While wearing this hat, the engineer may find that he or she needs to take along all of the hats above to be successful.
Avoid the fire helmet
This is the one hat that reliability engineers need to avoid as much as possible. If engineers are continuously forced to wear this hat, they will not be able to put in the time wearing the others. If reliability engineers are focused on today’s spot fires, they cannot be focused on tomorrow’s forest fires and will be held back from improving overall plant reliability.