2014 Reliability

Building A Corporate Reliability Program

EP Editorial Staff | September 8, 2014


Here’s how ‘two guys with a passion for reliability’ developed a successful program from scratch for a multi-national company. The details hold value for others.

By Joe Park, CMRP, Global Reliability Leader, Novelis, Inc.

Novelis is the largest aluminum rolling company in the world and the largest recycler of aluminum globally. Its operations on four continents (28 facilities) provide high-quality aluminum sheet to beverage-can, automotive, building, electronics and specialty-product customers. Its manufacturing processes include recycling, melting, casting, hot and cold rolling, annealing, slitting, coating and others. Reliable performance is essential to meeting demand and customer expectations.

The reliability journey at our company began several years ago. Deeming equipment breakdowns and process interruptions unacceptable, our North America Regional President requested an action plan to ensure such incidents would not occur. The Director of Manufacturing Excellence, and my boss at the time, proposed that the company launch a centrally led program to help address reliability across all Novelis plants. Thus was born the Novelis corporate reliability program.

As the world's largest aluminum rolling company, Novelis provides high-quality aluminum sheet to industrial customers around the world. Its manufacturing processes include recycling, melting, casting, hot and cold rolling, annealing, slitting, coating and others.

As the world’s largest aluminum rolling company, Novelis provides high-quality aluminum sheet to industrial customers around the world. Its manufacturing processes include recycling, melting, casting, hot and cold rolling, annealing, slitting, coating and others.

There was no blueprint, no instruction manuals, no materials, no team—nothing but two guys with a passion for reliability who had been handed the opportunity and support to build a program from scratch.

Having agreed to this mission, our first step was to determine the basics: where to start, what to accomplish and what the program should look like.  We began by sketching out ideas on a white board that included:

  • Value-Added: The program must be seen as value-added by the plants. Credibility was to be built at the shop floor.
  • Practitioner’s Approach: Minimize corporate mandates that lack the support and know-how to make it happen.
  • Novelis Lead: The program must have the look and feel of an internally led initiative. Our desire was to bring the company’s deep talent to bear.
  • Integrated Approach: Use existing plant tools and methodologies so as not to be perceived as a competing initiative. This meant tapping into the continuous-improvement culture and using the improvement strategies everyone knew.
  • Focus on Education: Build expertise in the area of reliability throughout the organization. We wanted to create an army of reliability professionals.
  • Focus on Systems, not Fixes: The role of the corporate team is to assist in building sustainable systems, not to be caught up in fixing what breaks.
  • Holistic Approach: Reliability is more than good maintenance. We wanted to focus on a broad definition and approach.
  • Reliability as a Core Competency: Ensure that reliability is recognized as a key business enabler.

Once we identified the tenets of our program, it was time to choose team members. We began a search for subject-matter experts within Novelis and eventually built a team of five. The skill set within the group was varied. Expertise included work-management, maintenance-management, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, lubrication, preventive maintenance, CMMS, Lean, Six Sigma and materials-management. This diversity allowed us to provide direction in a number of different areas.



With the team in place, we established a baseline of performance to help us understand where plants ranked across various reliability elements. We selected 14 elements for our model, then built a “Facilitated Self-Assessment” that consisted of about 400 questions. We provided written guidelines for each of four scoring levels for those questions, resulting in nearly 1600 definitions.

To drive a cross-functional approach to the assessment, we designated the list of required attendees who should be tapped to discuss the different elements. For example, the procurement element required representation from engineering, maintenance, operations, procurement and materials-management.

When the tool was delivered to the plants, the core team provided guidance on how to conduct the assessment. After each plant completed its assessment, our team visited the plant for a three-day session to review results, calibrate scores where needed and develop action plans based on the findings. Within 10 months, we had created and completed the assessment in all nine Novelis plants in North America.

Around this time, other Novelis sites around the world had become aware of what we were doing in North America and asked to participate. Accordingly, the assessment was adopted, translated into multiple languages and administered across the globe. All plants worldwide have now completed the assessment and use it as the guideline to develop their annual reliability-improvement plans.

The development of the Novelis reliability program included defining the expectations of the Reliability Engineering role. Today, Reliability Engineer is a recognized title within Novelis, and most company plants have people in this position.

The development of the Novelis reliability program included defining the expectations of the Reliability Engineering role. Today, Reliability Engineer is a recognized title within Novelis, and most company plants have people in this position.

Building the army

The assessment process highlighted the need for education. We began by defining our expectations of the Reliability Engineering role within Novelis, a new position for the company.

Next, we constructed a curriculum to support this vision. We wrote an eight-week course to be taught internally over a one-year timeframe. When we sent this curriculum out as an offering, the response was astounding. Even more surprising was the fact that people in other parts of the globe wanted to participate. As a result, we had 25 students in our first class with representatives from three of the four regions.

The course was broken into four sessions. Each consisted of one week of classroom work followed the next month by a one-week “hands on” session during which we brought the students together in one of our plants to practice what they had learned during the previous week of class. During the final week of class we reviewed all material and invited the supervisors in the group to join us for a day during which the students “taught back” a summary of topics we had covered.

On the last day, two different exams were given: one was internally created and based on the material we had taught. The other was the exam for Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP). The pass rates were an astounding 80% for the CMRP and 100% for the internal exam. The pass rate for the CMRP is even more impressive considering that more half of the class consisted of foreign students who had to take the test in English.

Reliability Engineering has now been added as a recognized discipline within Novelis, and most plants have people in this position. In addition, at least 12 people who passed our curriculum have been promoted to leadership positions.


Reaching a broader audience

Our Reliability Engineering curriculum was structured in modular fashion so we could reach a broader audience. This allowed us to extract portions that can be taught as standalone workshops. These include:

  • “Reliability Leadership”—A two-day session focused on education of management on a process approach to reliability.
  • “Planning THEN Scheduling”—A three-day event focusing on the proper planning/scheduling procedure for maintenance work.
  • “6S for PMs”—Applying the Lean 6S methodology to PM Optimization, this workshop resulted from a plant request about how to optimize PMs. We sketched out the process and saw that it aligned with the Lean 6S methodology. It has been one of our most popular workshops.
  • “TPM Initialization”—How to approach a poorly performing piece of equipment and prepare it for operator-care activities.
  • “Work-Management Processes”—Teaches a process-mapping approach to defining work management from identification, request and approval, through to planning, scheduling, execution and history.
  • “Lubrication Excellence”—A three-day workshop focusing on design and implementation of lubrication excellence that includes lubrication selection, rationalization, storage, purchasing, handling, filtration and sampling techniques.
  • “Procurement/Stores Practices”—A two-day workshop that addresses best practices in procurement/stores that sustain reliable performance.

As the program gained momentum, we created a global leadership structure. This consists of a Global Reliability Leader with Regional Reliability Managers, each of whom has a team of subject-matter experts to service their region.

Novelis' Global Research & Technology Center, near the company's headquarters in Atlanta, GA.

Novelis’ Global Research & Technology Center, near the company’s headquarters in Atlanta, GA.


The time, effort, organization and hard work associated with the Novelis reliability program have paid off in several ways:

  • The reliability program won Novelis’ North America and Global Best Practices internal award from the company our first year.
  • Standardized metric sheets are used by all plants around the world.
  • Standardized reliability-plan templates are based on assessment results.
  • The “Reliability Engineering” course was translated into most languages across the company, and is now offered on a regional basis.
  • Standard reliability language is used across the company.
  • “Reliability Engineer” is an official job title at Novelis, with a job description that speaks to the body of knowledge required to fulfill this role.
  • A Sharepoint-based Reliability Playbook encompasses everything we teach in our RE class along with procedures, templates, reference documents and examples. This will be accessible to everyone across the organization as a reference.
  • A global semi-monthly newsletter is produced with articles highlighting achievements in the area of reliability from each region.
  • A soon-to-be Sharepoint-based Reliability Incident Report will enhance our help chain and share lessons learned.
  • Root Cause Failure Analysis is well established with guidelines, templates and distribution lists, and it’s available online.
  • Our Reliability In Design (RID) process links key reliability considerations and activities to phases of a capital project with gate review questions and official sign-offs. Reliability Engineers are now on the project organizational chart.
  • A well-connected network of reliability professionals now exists across the organization.
  • Reliability is becoming a core competency within the company.

We all know that the pursuit of Reliability Excellence is a long-term investment: The most sustainable results typically don’t come from meteoric steps, but from steady improvement over time. However, we must never lose sight of the fact that a company makes investments in expectation of results. Investment in a reliability program is no different.

A successful program has to be structured to deliver short-term successes without sacrificing its long-term vision. Breakdowns, for example, are easy to identify, but “non-failures” are not. Thus, it is essential to find ways to highlight achievements to the organization, and never forget to give credit where it’s due.  MT

In his current position as Global Leader for Reliability at Novelis, Joe Park is responsible for training, coaching, auditing and the development of Reliability programs within the company’s manufacturing facilities worldwide. An ASQ-Certified Reliability Engineer and Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP), Park holds a BSEE from Tennessee State University. This article is based on his presentation at the 2014 MainStream Conference, in Austin, TX. Contact Joe at Joe.park@Novelis.com.



View Comments

Sign up for insights, trends, & developments in
  • Machinery Solutions
  • Maintenance & Reliability Solutions
  • Energy Efficiency
Return to top