Occasionally I am asked, “What exactly is reliability?” For most of us, it means getting what we expect. We expect the car to start every time, the lights to come on when we flip the switch, or even that people will perform or behave as we anticipate. At our manufacturing sites, reliability is simply our ability to run our assets at their full capacity upon demand with no failures that cause harm to people or the environment. Obviously, this is a vitally important aspect of manufacturing, as more of our products and production units become sold-out. We need every pound we can get, and doing harm in any way is unacceptable. Therefore, at Celanese, we focus on reliability as one of our core principles.
As a population, our global manufacturing sites run quite reliably – and in recent years we have improved significantly. But we are not perfect, and sometimes we lose production. This may happen for many reasons such as equipment failures, human errors, off-spec materials, raw materials shortages, etc. – the list is long. In my area of focus, one cause of unreliability that we have full control over is equipment failures. Celanese employs a comprehensive approach to reduce failures to zero. Operational Excellence dictates that we implement world-class systems, tools, key performance indicators (KPIs) and work processes in our operating units and maintenance organizations. One of our key tools is a comprehensive model of best practices to guide our sites to best-in-class performance. We evaluate ourselves against the best practices identified and work to improve all aspects of how we manage our equipment. An important aspect of our approach is our focus on the foundational aspects of reliability first before we move on to more sophisticated or complex remedies. It’s a “walk before you run” mentality. Reliability excellence, however, is not a quick fix – I often say, “It’s a marathon and not a sprint.”
Over time, as our performance improves, continued progress gets increasingly more challenging. The easy fixes are done. We are now at mile 20 of our marathon; this is referred to as “the wall” by marathoners, and it will take determination and a strong team effort to make it the full distance to 100 percent reliability. As we “Move to the Core” in Manufacturing to more closely service the daily operation of our units, we can’t forget how we got where we are today. We must leverage this new opportunity and harvest the last few percentage points of reliability. They are incredibly valuable to us. Through a focus on making good decisions every day, solving problems and refining our systems, we can achieve our goal of flawless reliability. With everyone’s focus, it’s going to be a great finish!