What is Reliability Engineering and how can it help your start-up?

4 Minute Read


In the context of a plant start-up, Reliability Engineering is the systemic application of engineering practices and techniques to deliver a reliable and cost-effective plant.  The desired outcome is that the plant performs as required, under the flowchart conditions, for the design life.

In this guide, we’ll consider the application of reliability engineering through the design and early life of an operation.  We’ll explore:

– How can Reliability Engineers help with Plant Design?

– How can Reliability Engineers help with the Maintenance Strategy Build?

– What role do Reliability Engineers play in early life failures?

– What value do Reliability Engineers add to start-ups?

What is Reliability Engineering - robotic conveyor belt

How can Reliability Engineers help with Plant Design?

To arrive at the nameplate design for a plant, there is an assessment made on plant availability and capability.  The reliability engineer will conduct reliability studies on the identified assets, to provide reliability block diagrams (RBD’s) that illustrate the expected reliability for each component and overall system.  The use of RBD’s will provide a clear linkage between the component systems to indicate the expectation of equipment reliability in its current state.

This assessment of the reliability of individual components and the overall system is required as an input into the plant availability calculation.  The reliability engineer can perform this assessment, advise the bottlenecks in the flowsheet design, and recommend improvements.

The skillset of a reliability engineer (and maintenance engineer) also lends itself to selecting reliable equipment and materials.  They work with the project engineering and supply teams to review the technical aspects of each bid to shortlist those that are acceptable.  Once the equipment is selected and the 3D-plant model is taking shape, they can also advise on maintainability.  Their experience is invaluable in design reviews to determine the positioning of equipment so it can be accessed or removed for maintenance.

How can Reliability Engineers help with the Maintenance Strategy Build?

Reliability is just as much about the people who operate and maintain the equipment, as it is about the quality of the equipment itself.  These people are guided by the operating philosophy and maintenance strategies.

When developing the maintenance strategies for new equipment there is a mix of experience, judgement and risk analysis required.  Methodologies such as Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA), start with breaking complex systems into components for further analysis.  The reliability engineer will have the experience to identify the failure modes and the causes of failure for each component, as well as the understanding of strategies to manage or eliminate each one.  They can determine the overall risk by making a judgement on the probability of failure and severity.  The output will be a suite of maintenance activities (strategy) and spares that mitigate the risk of the most likely failures.

What role do Reliability Engineers play in early life failures?

Once into operations, there are likely to be some early life (infant) failures that require investigation.  Once again, the reliability engineer can step up to the plate with their skillset.  As inputs into the investigation, they can conduct a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) or equivalent, to determine the root cause of the failure.  Having been involved in the earlier strategy development, they can review this work to uncover any deficiencies in the original strategy. They can also be the representative who works with the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for their input into the investigation and for any subsequent warranty claims.

Final Thoughts

Front-end loading reliability into the plant design, equipment selection and when developing the maintenance strategies, will help guarantee the success of your start-up.  The goal is to identify potential reliability problems as early as possible in the project lifecycle and manage accordingly.

Reliability engineers can help model the flowchart design, to optimise for the required availability.  They can help with the selection of reliable equipment, materials and plant layout for maintainability.  They’ll make sure the risk of component failure is managed by selecting the appropriate maintenance strategies and spares holdings.  Reliability engineers identify the root cause of early life failures and put corrective actions in place, whilst also dealing with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for any warranty issues.

When it comes to determining who to hire first on your start-up, ensure the reliability engineering skill-sets are covered and let them loose on what they do best during design, strategy development and early operations.  The investment will pay back 10-fold.

If you need any reliability engineering or asset management assistance, then please reach out to the team at EnterpriseIS.  After exploring what success looks like for you, we’ll tailor a solution to deliver on your goals.

Contact us at the EnterpriseIS office nearest to you or submit an inquiry online.

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