Reliability  Maintainability Programs
Reliability Maintainability Engineering

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Reliability and Maintainability Engineering Program Approach

The approach to a reliability and maintainability program is dependent upon many factors that include the customer's requirements, the business strategy of the company, and the size of the project etc. The effective implementation of an R&M Engineering Program must take into consideration these and other factors. Detailed in Mil-Std-785 and Mil-Std-470 are various tasks associated to the reliability and maintainability engineering program. Careful task selection must be made for each particular program, to ensure that the reliability and maintainability requirements and objects are achieved. How do you determine the reliability of a system, taking into consideration the mission operation profiles? How do you optimize the reliability (and availability) of a system with respect to the life cycle cost? Where should you focus your engineering efforts to minimize program cost? These are just a few of many questions that need to be asked and answered prior to implementing a reliability and/ or maintainability program.

Reliability  Maintainability Programs FMECA

Reliability and Maintainability Program Requirements

Program requirements can be derived from the customer or the company's business strategy. For example:

Customers requirements: The customer may request specific R&M engineering tasks to be implemented. This may include the development of reliability and maintainability models, or reliability and maintainability testing, to collected field data. Availability analysis could also be a requirement.

From the view point of a customer, R&M performance characteristics may be critical in terms of the impact upon a system availability, safety and cost. In one scenario the end user of a military product requires a certain amount of confidence that a product will perform its operational function when required to do so and for a set duration. In another scenario a commercial enterprise who releases a product to market with an inadequate reliability, whether it is a television or an automobile, would be severely penalized with warranty costs. It is also true that any expected unreliability issues can be offset by augmenting the warranty charge in a product. This only serves to dull the competitive edge of the manufactures product. This is also true for the maintainability characteristics of a product. Inadequacies here could result in excessive downtime, affecting the overall availability and/ or repairs cost to a consumer, impacting directly the product and the company's reputation.

Company Strategy: The main concern to a company could be to adopt a strategy to develop a reliable and maintainable product. A key business objective must be to provide a product, which is highly reliable and maintainable, as these two characteristics have a direct impact on a product's operational and maintenance cost to the end user. This is commonly referred to Life Cycle Cost of Ownership, and can be of great importance to the company, in the event it invests in a single product or multiple products for more than one customer. This may include relatively simple standalone products such as a television, to more complex electronic and mechanical systems, such as a ground based early warning radar system.

It should also be realized that these days, many government and commercial organisations, when requesting bids are asking for LCC data elements to be provided with a proposal submission. The LCC data elements consist of key costs drivers, such as the reliability and maintainability performance characteristics. It is quite obvious from this, that these organisations are not just placing the selection criteria emphasis on functional performance, but also on R&M and LCC attributes and characteristics. If reliability and maintainability are not considered and integrated into in the product design, it is highly unlikely that the product will stand out from the competition.

Reliability and Maintainability Program Plan

For more complex R&M programs, the need to develop a R&M program plan presents itself as a must. The R&M program plan will identify as a minimum the following

Program requirements: Specify what the program R&M requirements are, in terms of quantitative and qualitative objectives and also the required R&M engineering activities;

Program scope and objectives: Define the limitation of the program in terms of scope, detailing the main objectives;

Program Management: Detail the general program management effort, in terms of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and program schedule, showing relationships through organization charts to other key program players and with the customer etc.;

Program Tasks: Detail the actual R&M program tasks that will be implemented, making reference to the specific requirements and specifications;

Interface with design engineering and other groups: Identify the interface particularly where critical inputs are required. These inputs could be in the form of program milestones and engineering support data;

Interface with the customer or end user: This interface can be captured by working group reviews, telephone hot lines and status reports;

Interface with Subcontractors: Depending on the involvement and level of effort required from a subcontractor, key information required may be the Point-of-Contact, their deliverables and the schedule tied to their deliverables; and

Delivery schedules: List the deliverables that are required this maybe the results or reliability and maintainability analyses and testing results.

Reliability and Maintainability Program Tasks

The R&M program tasks can be broken out into the following categories;

Program Control: Has to take into consideration what is required to be done, when is it required to be done and who shall implement the required tasks.

What is required; Will depend upon what the customer's requirements are and/ or what the company strategy is. Again, it has to be take into consideration the type and size of the project. Is it a developmental, commercial or a hybrid design solution? Is it a simple product or a more complex system? This leads to several activities that may be implemented:

Program reviews: These would include Design Kickoff Meetings, Design Reviews, working groups and Test Readiness Reviews.

Customer Liaisons: These can be conducted as part of a formal program review or in some cases in adhoc fashion as required.

Subcontractor Controls: Depending upon the type of program and the level of support required from a subcontractor, will dictate the hows, whats and whens of their involvement. They themselves could be required to implement a R&M program and be required to undertake the same program tasks, or in the case of less complicated projects/ programs they could be required to perform some basic analytical tasks and/or provide basic engineering data.

Engineering Interface: The R&M program generally has to be coordinated and synchronized with other engineering efforts.

Design Impact and Evaluation: To ensure that R&M is an inherent design characteristic, the greatest influence is achieved as early as possible in the concept and design phase. This can be implemented and monitored through the implementation of key R&M analyses.

Design Criteria: This is one of the more import aspects of the design process. Based upon the product requirements, careful consideration must be given to the approach of defining the R&M design criteria, to ensure that the required R&M characteristics are achieved.

Tradeoff analyses: This effort is particularly important where certain elements in the equipment/ system architecture consist of COTS or NDI elements and/ or components. These analyses can be both quantitative and qualitative. The output of these analyses will provide an understanding if one configuration solution compared to another is more reliable and/ or maintainable.

R&M Modeling: This effort will identify potential reliability and maintainability performance characteristics of the equipment/ system design. The modeling can be simplistic in nature, or more complicated depending on the configuration of the system with respect to redundant elements.

Failure Modes and Effects Analyses: This is a widely used analysis and if completed correctly can provide very useful feedback to the designers and other engineering activities, such as safety and logistics engineering.

Design Verification: The design verification of the R&M characteristics can be achieved in several ways. One would be to validate it by the analyses performed during the design process. An issue associated with the analyses, which must be overcome, are the assumptions made, or conclusions based upon engineering judgment. Thus a validation effort may be extended and implemented to gather actual performance data. The real R&M performance of an equipment/ system will be revealed once it is deployed and operating in its intended environment. This could be too late for some programs, as a validation effort maybe required prior to a full-scale production. An approach could be implemented through reliability and maintainability testing. These tests can include a combination of reliability and maintainability demonstration (or qualification), environmental stress screening and/ or reliability growth tests.

Reliability and Maintainability Interaction with other organizations

The importance for the interaction between reliability and maintainability engineering and that of other related engineering disciplines cannot be over emphasized. The more prominent engineering disciplines are:

  • Program Management and Engineering
  • Logistics Support Engineering
  • Safety Engineering
  • Testability Engineering
  • Configuration Management
  • Quality Assurance

Program Management and Engineering

Program Management and Engineering are key to a successful reliability program. Generally it is the program manager that will rely on the reliability engineering effort. The program manager will normally be aware of the value and importance of a well planned and executed reliability and maintainability program, in particular when there are liquidated damages associated with a contract. Otherwise some program managers can display an attitude that the whole reliability and maintainability effort may be a nice luxury which cannot be afforded nor required.

Logistics Support Engineering

Reliability Engineering Analysis and tasks are instrumental in supporting the Logistics Supporting Engineering functions. These include reliability analyses such as the Failure Modes and Effect Analysis and Reliability Predictions. Additional tasks that may be of importance to the Logistics Support Engineering is the Failure Reporting and Corrective Action System (process), commonly know as FRACAS .

Safety Engineering

Reliability Engineering Analysis and tasks are instrumental in supporting the Safety Engineering functions. These, like Logistics Engineering includes reliability analysis such as the Failure Modes and Effect Criticality Analysis (FMECA) and Reliability Predictions. The output of these analyses may serve as inputs to the safety analysis, such as the FMECA may identify failure modes which would be shown as basic events in a Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)

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Last Updated: July 2009