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10 Reasons you Need to do Reliability Engineering

Updated: Apr 5

Reliability engineering has an image problem. It is seen as an imbugerance that destroys budget, schedule and fun. People sometimes think reliability engineering is simply statistics, data analysis and other mind-numbing stuff. Reliability purgatory. Which brings us to the first reason you need to do reliability engineering.

#1 - Reliability engineering is not reliability purgatory. Reliability purgatory is all effort and no outcomes. Reliability happens at the point of decision. Design decisions. Manufacturing decisions. Maintenance decisions. True reliability engineering helps you make better decisions – which often comes down to organized judgment and not statistics.

The second reason you need to do reliability engineering is to #2 eliminate problems – not just failure. We typically fixate on ‘failure’ when talking about reliability engineering. True reliability engineering prevents problems. Like manufacturing issues that force you to delay launch OR launch sub-standard products. Problems like finding out you selected the wrong material at the final design review. Getting tolerances wrong, having circuitry too close to hot exhaust manifolds and anything else that forces you to redo stuff is what true reliability engineering eliminates.

So true reliability engineering means #3 no complex expensive fixes. Thinking about reliability at the point of decision means you incorporate simple things that make robust designs from the start. And there are plenty of great tools to help you #4 quickly solve the VITAL FEW problems – and not the trivial thousands. Fixing the trivial thousands is over-engineering. Today’s customers and users are demanding smaller, lighter and ‘funkier’ things. Not over-engineered monstrosities.

Now this might surprise you – especially if you have had bad ‘reliability experiences.’ Reliability engineering means #5 happier people. When reliability engineering is baked into culture, you don’t have loud ‘infant managers’ berating engineers, designers, manufacturers and maintainers into doing the wrong thing fast (WTF). Any short-term cost and time saving quickly blossoms into those problems we talked about above. Then comes blame. Costs are incurred. Expenditure is cut to the bone. There is no money to innovate. Yuck.

True reliability engineering creates positive experiences. And #6 saves (LOTS OF) time and money. Not only are happy people more productive, but our now robust product, system or service hasn’t encountered many (if any) production problems.

But we are not done yet. Reliability engineering #7 makes your thing better (than your competitors). Failure isn’t limited to your machine breaking, exploding or physically disintegrating. Failure occurs when we fail to meet our customer’s or user’s expectation. And that means all our reliability tools can be unleashed to help you come up with amazing new features and functionality … before we start designing.

Happy people. Knowing what they need to do. Focusing on the vital few. No production problems. # 8 No overwhelm. Reliability purgatory involves ‘process zealots’ insisting you do everything ‘by the (very old) book.’ Or ‘ponderous professors’ complaining about not having enough data and taking decades to analyze what ‘little’ data they have. True reliability engineering involves logically working out the VITAL FEW things we need to do to help make better decisions.

The inevitable by-product is #9 value. We are on time and budget. Time to market (TTM) is reduced, and we can perhaps reduce our recommended retail price. (True) reliability, budget and schedule never compete – no matter what people tell you.

And the final reason you need to do reliability engineering is #10 your reputation. If you consistently design, manufacture or maintain better things cheaply and quickly … you will get noticed.

So why doesn’t reliability happen more often? Perception? Reliability purgatory? Are these the only things stopping you?


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