Structuring Reliability Training

EP Editorial Staff | October 2, 1997

Industrial companies are addressing plant capacity improvement in many ways. The cornerstone of these processes is often overall equipment effectiveness, which includes both equipment and process reliability. Several terms are used to describe programs that are structured to improve equipment reliability, including reliability-centered maintenance, reliability-based maintenance, total productive maintenance, and condition-based assessment.

The common thread for successful implementation of all of these initiatives is the applied knowledge and skills of the maintenance craft workers and operations personnel.

As competition drives companies to optimize plant capacity and reduce maintenance costs, some important work force performance issues must be considered:

  • How to boost employee morale by giving employees the skills and knowledge to do the job right the first time
  • How to save energy costs through efficient operations and well-executed maintenance plans
  • How to increase the company’s independence from vendors and their costly services
  • How to decrease the probability of personnel errors
  • How to reduce the number of surprise downtime incidents
  • How to benefit from consistency and accuracy in job activities through the joint participation of maintenance and operations departments

The Integrated Technologies Group of Fluor Daniel addressed these issues as part of its business enterprise optimization services for clients and to prepare its own workforce for contract maintenance activities.


The material presented here outlines our approach. It can be used as a basis for assessing your training needs and developing a program, or as a basis for developing specifications for a training program or materials to be supplied by others.

The primary objective of this initiative was to create a cost-effective method of delivering specialized skills for a selected group of employees to enable them to mitigate equipment failures.

Knowledge and skills transfer for maintenance personnel
The scope and content of the reliability training component of our program is based on an analysis of the classical reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) analysis process model.

Instructional Model For Maintenance

Fig. 1. Instructional model for maintenance personnel covers the main elements of reliability-centered maintenance.

Our analysis was accomplished by a team of reliability engineers and training specialists. The team focused on the definition of the knowledge and skills that facilitate maintenance craft worker participation in the corrective engineering and maintenance task implementation activities. Five topics, as well as the prerequisite knowledge for learning these topics, were identified, Fig. 1.

The basic building blocks, or prerequisites, for technical skills development can be found in existing craft training materials, vendor programs, or instructional materials designed for site or equipment-specific applications. However, the materials developed for equipment-specific training should reflect the results and recommendations of the RCM process, because these recommendations form the basis of maintenance.

A crucial step in the maintenance task implementation component of RCM is to determine the training and the special tools required to carry out the tasks. Procedures must be developed or revised to document the steps involved in performing difficult tasks. The documentation should be amply detailed to identify proper training requirements. Measurements must be used to gauge the results of the programs.

In addition, because the workforce also must be educated in the fundamentals of RCM and their roles in supporting the process, we developed a series of print-based and interactive media programs (computer-based training) to support this need. Topics covered to support the instructional model for maintenance personnel include the following:

  • Introduction to reliability
  • Selecting and performing preventive and predictive techniques
  • Identifying and explaining approaches to root cause failure analysis
  • Implementing root cause failure analysis
  • Identifying and explaining failure modes and effects analysis
  • Identifying and explaining wear and failure points
  • Identifying and explaining prevention or mitigation tasks

Knowledge and skills transfer for operations personnel
As companies move toward the elimination of traditional organizational lines between the production and maintenance departments, they often use elements of total productive maintenance (TPM). The five pillars of TPM call for

  • Maximizing equipment effectiveness
  • Involving operators in daily maintenance
  • Improving maintenance efficiency
  • Training to improve skill levels
  • Emphasizing maintenance prevention.

Operators in many companies are assuming responsibility for cleaning, routine inspection, and selected fundamental maintenance tasks. In addition, operators can provide valuable predictive or diagnostic support because of their familiarity with the equipment and their awareness of changes in the condition of a machine or a process. Operator feedback can provide valuable information for the root cause failure analysis process.

Instructional Model For Operations

Fig. 2. Instructional model for operators begins by introducing personnel to basic maintenance concepts.

Our skills enhancement program for operations personnel is outlined in Fig. 2. The building blocks necessary for advanced knowledge and skills development include a working knowledge of plant systems and equipment, safety and regulatory parameters, and equipment-specific skills. These training requirements are typically provided by equipment vendors, consultants, and inhouse subject matter experts.


We found there is a void relative to training products that are used to provide operators with the fundamentals of predictive technologies and preventive strategies and that also support the development of core maintenance skills at a technical level appropriate for operations personnel. Routine maintenance skills for operators was the first area we addressed in the development of the operator-performed maintenance (OPM) section of our program.

We developed 21 training modules covering mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and electronics, and general maintenance topics (for example, Introduction to Walk-Down and Inspection Programs).

The OPM modules were developed at an introductory level of maintenance technology appropriate for operators and nonskilled maintenance personnel. We also provided recommendations on how personnel can use their senses to determine equipment performance deviations and problems. Information about what an operator should look, feel, smell, or listen for is provided in module activity sheets.

The OPM modules were followed by a series covering the principles of RCM. Whereas the routine maintenance skills training facilitates the expansion of operator roles, the reliability-related modules enable production personnel to participate in equipment diagnostics and fault resolution. Each course should include an effective blend of classroom knowledge transfer and structured on-the-job training.

Because most companies have reliability programs that are specific to their industry and facility design, their training needs vary accordingly. Training programs and materials designed to support a broad range of equipment maintenance requirements can usually be tailored to support site-specific needs.

Most materials can be supplemented with more detailed equipment-specific courses or seminars that are consistent with the technical knowledge and skills of the incumbent work force and promote overall program objectives. MT

Michael E. McGrey is senior director at Facility and Plant Services, Inc., a Fluor Daniel Co., 100 Fluor Daniel Dr., Greenville, SC 29607-2762; (864) 281-4400.





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