top of page

Understanding & Communicating ‘The Reliability Approach’

Understanding & Communicating ‘The Reliability Approach’ is a big part of the Latino Legacy
Understanding & Communicating ‘The Reliability Approach’ is a big part of the Latino Legacy

The Reliability Approach… "Something understood and practiced by engineers and highly specialized technicians," is apt to be the first reaction of the line supervisor, "certainly not an area where I can be expected to become involved." Although this reaction is understandable, nothing is farther from reality. Let’s explore why.


First, what is The Reliability Approach?

The Reliability Approach is simply a systematic approach to keeping the plant running in an efficient, profitable, and safe manner.

Many line supervisors and hourly personnel probably think of The Reliability Approach as another way of saying "Preventive/Predictive Maintenance [P/PM]".  This would include tasks such as lubricating machines, checking for hot bearings and stopping the machine just before it fails. However, The Reliability Approach is much more than fixing something just before it breaks down.


Maintenance alone cannot overcome design or operating deficiencies, it can only react to the result of these problems such as breakdowns, or loss of bearings, turbine wheels, or heat exchanger tubes. The Reliability Approach can overcome these because it is a concept of integrating the human being, equipment and the process into an efficient system that performs for the optimum benefit of all concerned. 


We must learn to ask, "How are we going to keep it running?", Not, "How are we going to keep it from breaking down?" We must equate our operation with the team that goes all out to win, as opposed to the team which struggles to keep from losing.


This winning concept (once we become concerned with engineering plants and processes for “runnability”), in plant operations, can predict trends and trouble spots with specific approaches created to deal with identifying potential problems before they ever surface (i.e. – proaction).  In this manner we are using the risk of a potential failure to strategize how to prevent it, rather than sharpening our skills to react to its consequences.


Primary failures, such as an overheated bearing or a pitted heat exchanger tube, will be detected and corrective actions taken before secondary failures, such as loss of shafts or wheels, or rupture of heat exchanger tubes, can occur.


So where do line supervisors come in? Right where it all happens! Management can decide to install Reliability systems, engineers can be employed to design such systems, but it's only the line supervisors and their people who can make it work. They control the day-to-day operations of the system in their areas, and they are in the best position to observe the system in operation.  They can note any deviations and take immediate action and communicate their findings and corrective suggestions to their supervisor. Line Supervisors are also in a vital position to contribute to the formation and success of this approach in their plant.


Three Key Elements


You will find that three key elements are involved in The Reliability Approach:


1. Process

2. Equipment

3. People



Starting with Process Reliability, this factor has a major day-to-day impact on the plant's profitability, environmental integrity, and safety and loss performance. It is in the process that line supervision brings together the Reliability of their equipment and people to establish a plant performance target. By comparing actual performance to this target, information is fed back to supervision which helps them to adjust the process for improvement or perhaps recognize the need to improve the target.



As for the equipment, line supervision is looking both to the Reliability of their equipment to perform satisfactorily under expected operating conditions, and to the maintainability of this equipment. Reliability speaks mainly to the rate at which our equipment fails, while maintainability is concerned with the amount of time required to restore our process to operation once equipment has failed.


We can assist in improving Reliability to equipment by providing information on equipment failures which could help to determine what caused these failures and to suggest what might be done to reduce the number of failures in the future.

We can help in the maintainability of equipment by looking for the first signs of failure (i.e. – primary failures or signals of impending failure) so that corrective action can be taken before the failure becomes a catastrophic failure.



People, however, are the most important factor since they design and operate our plants and processes and are responsible for our successes and for our failures. People must also monitor our operations to assure continuity, safety, and profitability.


The human is typically the cause of 30-50% of all process interruptions. Since our primary responsibility is leading people to accomplish our department's assigned goals, the manner in which we understand and prepare our people will, to a great extent, determine the success or failure of our operation and subsequently the entire operation of the plant.

People do not make mistakes because they want to – other factors are involved such as: inadequate training and motivation; poorly designed equipment layouts; undue employee job stress; and unnecessarily bad or dirty jobs and workplaces.


Perhaps we have little control over deciding who works in our department, but we should do everything possible to see that all of our people are placed where they will be most productive and satisfied.


We can do much to assure our people's needs are satisfied by letting them know we can respect them as individuals and welcome their questions and suggestions. They can be extensions of our eyes and ears in the workplace and can provide an invaluable source of equipment and process information which can be translated into actions to keep the people, machinery and process system functioning productively.


How can we participate in the Reliability Approach?

When leaderships have committed to supporting The Reliability Approach, internal marketing campaigns should be developed to effectively communicate the message of what changes to expect.  Effectively, adopting The Reliability Approach is a major paradigm shift in perspective that focuses on proaction, and migrates away from the need for reaction.


As time goes on and the journey proceeds, plant management will be developing systems encompassing The Reliability Approach. These systems will be tailored to a specific plant’s needs and culture, to aid in meeting the plant's objectives. The programs might cover the following areas, some of which may include techniques and practices new to us and will require additional materials and support to enable all departments to participate:


  1. Prediction of mechanical failures

  2. Root Cause Analysis (RCA) of failures

  3. Collection of plant data

  4. Processing data

  5. Analyzing data

  6. Organizing for performance improvement

  7. Application of ergonomics or, as better known, Human Factors Engineering (HFE).


Working together with our people can help make our operation more reliable by addressing ourselves such things as:


  1. Contributing to a listing of equipment critical enough to be routinely inspected.

  2. Noting and reporting apparent trends in equipment failure and operating difficulties.

  3. Personally taking care of routine checks that are part of the job.

  4. Being alert for and reporting unusual noises, machinery overheating or other suspicious operating conditions.

  5. Not getting trapped by the philosophy "If it's not broken, don't inspect it." After all, that's why people have physical examinations to catch problems in their early stages when they can be more easily cured.

  6. Contributing information to help investigations carried out to find the root cause of process interruptions.

  7. Reporting operating difficulties caused by such things as intermittent problems, need for earlier and redundant alarms, need for better access to equipment.

  8. Being alert to identify difficult-to-read gauges and instruments, poorly placed and designed controls, inadequate lighting, extreme heat or cold, dust, noise, worker stress, poorly designed work benches and chairs, unsafe procedures and acts, and other "people" problems.

  9. Knowing how and why equipment operates the way it does.

  10. Being aware and noting sequences of events or changes that seem to precede and/or accompany failures.

  11. Making sure that needed plant data is collected and recorded accurately.

  12. Asking for feedback of information resulting from processing and analyzing plant data for undesirable situations or changing trends which may be good or bad.

  13. Questioning and making suggestions for changes in equipment, instruction, and operating procedures and maintenance procedures which might reduce downtime of the equipment, interruptions to the process or harm to the product quality and yield.

  14. Remember the most important of all our responsibilities is to see that our people are properly trained to do their jobs safely and efficiently. Keep in mind that an injured person (no matter the level of harm or potential harm), just as much as a broken machine, represents failure.


Commentary from Robert J. Latino

In loving memory of Charles J. Latino, 1929 - 2007
In loving memory of Charles J. Latino, 1929 - 2007

The entire previous article was written by my father, Charles J. Latino, in 1972…verbatim! Our purpose in re-introducing one of his pioneering papers was to demonstrate the enduring principles of The Reliability Approach.

Had I not revealed this was written in 1972, couldn’t we have easily assumed it was written for the current day? The power and principles of The Reliability Approach concept has no time boundaries. The bigger epiphany here is,

Why 50+ years later do we still have difficulty in applying these foundational and simplistic Reliability principles (that’s another paper😊)?

For more information on the legacy of Charles J. Latino and his phenomenally successful Reliability Approach, please use this link.



Robert J. Latino, Principal, Prelical Solutions, LLC



Charles J. Latino - Reliability Pioneer


A Reflection on the Latino Legacy

In 1951, Charles graduated from NYU as a Chemical Engineer, and joined Allied Chemical & Dye Corporation as an entry-level engineer in Chesterfield, VA. He soon found himself in the Maintenance Department, trying to get the significant number of ‘bugs’ out of the plant equipment and processes. He couldn’t understand why their equipment and processes broke down so much. He often mentioned, “If airplanes were maintained that poorly, nobody would fly on them”. It is at that point that Charles decided it was time to make his plant ‘fly’. In the 1950’s, he referred to this effort as "increasing uptime".

"Eventually he worked himself into the worst job in the plant, the Maintenance Manager!!" A colleague of Charles’, Bill Salot went on to say “As managers of big league baseball teams only have job security when their team’s are winning, Maintenance Managers only have job security when their equipment is running as well”. 

Charles believed that uptime could be made through a more aggressive engineering approach to Maintenance. At that time, Charles established a new engineering group called Reliability Engineering. This group applied a combination of analytical tools, engineering technologies, economics, human performance principles, and salesmanship to drive a remarkable turnaround in equipment performance at his plant.

Meanwhile, equipment breakdowns at their local sister plant in Hopewell, VA were getting out of hand in 1973. It became so bad that top management sent in Charles and his team of experts to assess, analyze and improve their reliability. One of the recommendations was to establish a Reliability Engineering team at that plant as well. The result was another outstanding turnaround in equipment reliability. Even today, Reliability Engineering continues to thrive at this plant.

Following the successes at these two Allied plants, Charles rose to the Corporate ranks where he founded and directed the first Corporate R&D Reliability Engineering Center, from which he and his team introduced and supported Reliability Engineering to other Allied plants around the world. Their R&D charter focused on Equipment, Process and Human Reliability principles. 

In 1985, after 34 years with Allied (Allied soon after purchased Honeywell and took the Honeywell name), Charles retired and purchased his department from the corporation. He started his own company called Reliability Center, Inc. He was now able to apply his Reliability Approach to various industries around the world, and they lined up for that opportunity. 

Charles passed away in 2007 leaving his company and his legacy to his 5 children to carry on. In 2019, 3 of his 5 children retired and they collectively sold their 34-year-old international Reliability consulting firm. 

The remaining 2 brothers, Ken and Bob Latino then formed Prelical Solutions, LLC to continue to carry on Charles’ legacy and make the world a more reliable place!!


 Communicating with FINESSE is a not-for-profit community of technical professionals dedicated to being highly effective communicators and facilitators. Learn more about our publications, webinars, and workshops. Join the community for free.


bottom of page