Reliability Beliefs – Driving Organizational Accountability

Reliability Beliefs – Driving Organizational Accountability


This is the second in a series of Blogs on improving plant reliability performance through improvement in culture, programs and equipment design, maintenance and operation.  This Blog focuses on Reliability Beliefs – a key element in organizational accountability for everyone to do the right thing every time.  Read the first blog in the series – Eliminating Bad Actors (click) 

Reliability Beliefs are a set of statements that establish the culture of an organization. 

In highly reliable plants, each employee, contractor and vendor subscribe to the beliefs.  It is not enough to discuss beliefs or post them on bulletin boards or in control rooms.  These beliefs must be embedded into the culture of the organization and can be recited by employees and outside service providers.  They represent how employees at all levels behave when working at a plant or in a corporate role.


I spent many years of my career working with a Dutch affiliate of the enterprise.  This plant, despite operating for over 35 years, exhibited superior reliability performance sustained over two decades.  Originally, this plant had not been constructed to the best standards; having problems with small-bore piping connections, machinery reliability, corrosion under insulation and stainless steel cracking issues.  However, through a strong problem-elimination program, delegation of authority, accountability and management support, the plant improved quickly.  One example (shown below) is a graphic tracking leak reduction.  The plant had experienced about 80 leaks per year before the dedicated programs were started.  Leaks were reduced to 1 or 2 per year.

Becht reliability leaks investment

How Did The Company Do It?

They truly believed all incidents could be prevented or predicted.  Unexpected shutdowns were embarrassing failures and not tolerated.  It was just unacceptable to be surprised with an issue.  They also established strong inspection programs with highly competent personnel who were expected to know the ongoing condition and potential damage mechanisms impacting every piece of equipment in the plant.  This went beyond knowing the condition of pressure vessels and included machinery, instruments and electrical gear.

As they drove reliability improvement across a huge family of plants, we asked the Dutch site to work with us to determine why the performance had dramatically improved and been sustained over many years.  There were many factors that drove this superior reliability.  These included:

  • Continuity of the management team;
  • Strong relationship with the regulatory bodies;
  • Training of new employees;
  • Funding of improvement programs;
  • Management belief that reliable plants are safe and profitable;
  • Delegation of authority and accountability at all levels;
  • Strict adherence to engineering standards;
  • Field quality control;
  • Relationships and expectations imposed on vendors;
  • Respect for all employees at all levels; and
  • Absolute belief in their ability to perform at superior reliability levels.

As Morpheus told Neo in the movie The Matrix, “Don’t think you can, know you can.”  That statement sums up the overall belief that a plant can perform at an elevated level.  All employees must share that belief. 

Extending The Process

As we toured some of our other plants that joined the Enterprise through acquisition, we found they tolerated and even expected shutdowns, emergency repairs,  accepted poor housekeeping and other negative conditions and attitudes.  The extent of the negative beliefs was directly proportional to the incidents and lost production.  Outages were considered a normal part of operating a chemical plant.  There were many excuses why personnel could not achieve Operational Excellence.  At that point we established an overall Operational Excellence program and statement and a set of Reliability Beliefs for the organization.  The objective was to solidify the culture, behaviors and beliefs across the organization.

The Operational Excellence statement was quite clear — outlining overall expectations:


These Reliability Beliefs were quite simple and to the point.


  • Everyone has a role in improving reliability;
  • Reliability drives excellence in safety, environmental, quality and cost performance;
  • All reliability events are predictable or preventable;
  • Reliability excellence is a competitive advantage;
  • We build, maintain, support and operate our plants to achieve long term business objectives;
  • We do not sacrifice safety or environmental performance in pursuit of production goals; and
  • Contractors and suppliers are selected based on their ability to deliver services aligned with our reliability goals.


These concepts provided the basis for improving the performance of an acquisition with over 10 major olefins plants from 4th quartile performance to near 1st quartile performance in about 4 years.  These concepts also drove competition, accountability and reliability improvement in all plants. 

***Don’t think you can achieve these results – Know You Can.***

Becht reliability at site costs


About The Author

Rick Hoffman joined Becht Engineering in June, 2009 as a Senior Engineering Advisor. He has more than 39 years experience in engineering, reliability management and maintenance in the refining, petrochemical and synthetic fuels industries. Prior to joining Becht Engineering he was the Director, Specialty Engineering for LyondellBasell Industries. In this role he had worldwide responsibility for corporate technical support, mechanical engineering and maintenance for more than 40 chemical plants and two refineries. He was also responsible for capital project support, setting the strategic direction for Lyondell maintenance

Authors Recent Posts

Reliability Beliefs – Driving Organizational Accountability
Let Becht Turn Your Problem
Into Peace of Mind