Information enters our consciousness either because we intend to focus attention on it or as a result of attentional habits based on biological or social instructions.
For example, driving down the extremely busy and often chaotic streets of Kolkata, we pass by hundreds of cars without actually being aware of them. Their shape, size and colours might register for a fraction of a second, and then they are immediately forgotten the next moment.
But our primary objective is to reach from one place to another without an accident or suffering a scratch. But how do we achieve that goal?
So while driving, we occasionally notice a particular vehicle, perhaps because it is moving unsteadily between lanes or because it is moving too slowly or because it looks strange in some way.
The image of the unusual vehicle enters our focus of consciousness and we become intensely aware of it unusual behaviour.
In our minds, such visual information about the car (the abnormal behaviour) gets related to information about other errant cars stored in our memory, which helps us determine into which category the present instance fits. Is this an inexperienced driver, a rash driver, a drunken driver, a momentarily distracted (talking on a mobile phone) but competent driver?
As soon as the event is matched to an already known class of events, it is identified. Now it has to be evaluated: Is this something to worry about? If the answer is yes, then we must immediately decide on an appropriate course of action: Should we speed up, overtake, slow down, change lanes, stop?
All these complex mental operations must be completed quickly and in real time. But it doesn’t happen automatically. There seems to be a distinct process that makes such reactions possible. This process is called attention. It is attention that selects the relevant bits of information from a potential of thousands of bits available.
It takes attention to retrieve the appropriate references from memory, to evaluate the real-life event and then choose the right thing to do.
Despite its great powers, attention can’t step beyond the limits as already described. It can’t notice or hold in focus more information that can be processed simultaneously. Retrieving information from memory and bringing it into the focus of awareness, comparing information, evaluating, deciding — all make demands on the mind’s limited processing capacity. For instance, the driver who notices an errant car will have to stop talking on his cell phone if he wants to avoid an accident, which is, in fact, his goal.
Some people learn to use this priceless resource very efficiently while others simply waste it. The mark of a person who is in control of his/her consciousness is the ability to focus attention at will, to stay away from distractions, to concentrate as long as it takes to achieve a goal and not longer. The person who can do this effortlessly usually enjoys the normal course of everyday life and can effectively meet the challenges of everyday life.
Improving reliability of industrial equipment needs such keen attentional energy which Reliability Centred Maintenance helps one to achieve. It, of course, depends on how well a Reliability Centred Maintenance System is designed, developed and implemented.
But what is essential is the development of memory bank, which can be only developed through comprehensively designed training and education system run over a long period of time.
Computerised Maintenance systems, Condition Based Maintenance technology, rigorously developed Maintenance Planning, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence can all help but without a broad-based deep memory bank of different types of failures, failure modes, interactions and mechanisms that create failures, methods to detect failures, interpretation and evaluation of relevant information and deciding the right course of action –improving reliability of industrial systems would remain as a desire only,
Attention is the key to achieving desired outcomes and improving any system. It can’t be ignored.
By Dibyendu De