Reliability Efforts Broaden

Expanding from a plant-based focus provides significant benefits.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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Focusing reliability efforts only on the issues within production plants misses significant opportunities, emphasizes Paul Dean, global director, reliability and operations productivity services for Dow Chemical. So, the company is sharpening its long-standing focus on reliability by adapting concepts learned from its pursuit of operational excellence.

"This is a broader and more holistic focus on reliability across the entire value chain. The vision: zero unplanned events that impact external stakeholder commitments," says Dean.

This wider application of proven reliability methodologies is enhancing productivity and margin growth. Other essential elements of the approach include: engaging with suppliers who embrace Dow's reliability vision and their role in exceeding quality and service targets for customers; using advanced analytics to uncover and implement improvement opportunities; and tracking reliability in production units, work flows and value chains via customized and localized performance metrics.

The enterprise-wide reliability effort at Dow is founded upon every employee's ability to reduce the tolerance for defect or deviation from the best practice or desired end state (Figure 3). So all staff are sensitized to the importance of, e.g., improving reliability and reducing hidden factory waste. Dow's entrenched lean/six sigma culture also supports this productivity effort — helping to design new processes and improve current ones to deliver the customer satisfaction at the lowest possible internal cost.

"The concept of holistic reliability seems simple to envision, but implementation is a never-ending pursuit, especially in a diverse and large organization such as Dow. And as with everything we do, our employees are always the most fundamental element to our success. Throughout the company, we are seeing even greater ownership to focus on the sustainable reduction of unplanned events, as well as the drive to develop deeper understanding for their role in achieving enterprise-wide reliability. We want each employee to clearly understand how their work impacts commitments made to external stakeholders," notes Dean.

"Taking our holistic view, with engagement and accountability across the entire value chain, the company has and will continue to show strong improvement in areas where the rate of progress had otherwise slowed," he stresses.


Seán Ottewell is Chemical Processing's Editor at Large. You can e-mail him at


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