All posts by Fred Schenkelberg

About Fred Schenkelberg

I am an experienced reliability engineering and management consultant with my firm FMS Reliability. My passion is working with teams to create cost-effective reliability programs that solve problems, create durable and reliable products, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce warranty costs.

Are We Teaching Reliability All Wrong?

Let’s Demand Better Reliability Engineering Content

Teaching reliability occurs through textbooks, technical papers, peers, mentors, and courses. The many sources available tend to use MTBF as a primary vehicle to describe system reliability.

What has gone wrong with our education process? Continue reading Are We Teaching Reliability All Wrong?

Life Data Analysis with only 2 Failures

Life Data Analysis with only 2 Failures

Here’s a common problem. You have been tasked to peer into the future to predict when the next failure will occur.

Predictions are tough.

One way to approach this problem is to do a little analysis of the history of failures of the commonest or system. The problem looms larger when you have only two observed failures from the population of systems in questions.

While you can fit a straight line to two failures and account for all the systems that operated without failure, it is not very satisfactory. It is at best a crude estimate.

Let’s not consider calculating MTBF. That would not provide useful information as regular reader already know. So what can you do given just two failures to create a meaningful estimate of future failures? Let’s explore a couple of options. Continue reading Life Data Analysis with only 2 Failures

Discussions and MTBF Questions

The Importance of the Discussions around MTBF Questions

The best way to help others understand and stop using MTBF is to engage them in a discussion. I get questions concerning MTBF or reliability a few times a week. I attempt to answer each and every one, plus adding a follow up question or two.

In person or online, ask and answer MTBF questions. You not only improve your understanding of MTBF and reliability, you improve your still at tell stories to help affect change across your industry. Continue reading Discussions and MTBF Questions

3 Types of MTBF Stories

The MTBF Stories You Tell Can Cause Change

Stories communicate well. We have been telling stories long before the invention of writing, or the internet. The MTBF stories we tell communicate our ideas, suggestions, and recommendations.

There are a differences between good and poor stories. How you tell a story matters as well as the subject of the story. Now, MTBF stories may not be the most thrilling or entertaining, yet there are stories on MTBF topics that matter.

Let’s explore using the power of story to cause those around us to better understand and avoid the use of MTBF. Continue reading 3 Types of MTBF Stories

3 Recent Questions and Comments Concerning MTBF

Trying to Respond to All Questions and Comments Concerning MTBF

Over the past couple of days, like most days, have received questions and comments concerning MTBF. I do try to respond to all questions and acknowledge the comments.

Glad to help in anyway I can, so please feel free to send me your questions. Certainly do appreciate the supporting comments, or any comments for that matter.

Let’s take a look a few such discussion that occurred over the past two days. Continue reading 3 Recent Questions and Comments Concerning MTBF

Exposing a Reliability Conflict of Interest

Is Your Organization Compromising Reliability Performance Due to a Reliability Conflict of Interest?

Kirk Gray wrote the article titled Exposing a Reliability Conflict of Interest on Accendo Reliability. He talked about a recent article discussion the maintenance costs for the F-35 fighter jet program and how the companies designing the system make a significant profit selling spare parts or maintenance services.

If you count on the profit from the system you design failing, you have an inherent conflict of interest concerning creating a reliable system.  If you create a reliable product you lose money. Continue reading Exposing a Reliability Conflict of Interest

How We Think About Reliability

How We Think About Reliability Is Important

Getting on an airplane we think about the very low probability of failure during the flight duration. This is how we think about reliability.

When buying a car we think about if the vehicle will leave us stranded along a deserted stretch of highway. When buy light bulbs for the hard to reach fixtures we consider paying a bit more to avoid having to drag out the ladder as often.

When we consider reliability as a customer does, we think about the possibility of failure over some duration.

And, we really don’t like it when something fails sooner than expected (or upon installation). Continue reading How We Think About Reliability

MTBF Use May Reduce Product Reliability

Is MTBF Preventing Your Product From Being Reliable?

MTBF is not reliability. Attaining a specific MTBF does not mean your product is reliable. MTBF use may be the culprit.

Therefore, working to achieve a MTBF value may actually be preventing you from creating a product that mets your customer’s reliability performance expectations.

Actively working to achieve MTBF using the common tools around MTBF may be taking you and your team down the wrong rabbit hole. You may be working to reduce the reliability of your products rather than improving them.

Let’s take a look at a couple of ways the pursuit of MTBF is harmful to your product’s reliability potential and contrary to your customer’s expectations. Continue reading MTBF Use May Reduce Product Reliability

How Did Reliabilty Become Confused with MTBF?

When Asking for Reliability Information Do You Ask for MTBF?

Our customers, suppliers, and peers seem to confuse reliability information with MTBF. Why is that?

Is it a convenient shorthand? Maybe I’m the one confused, may those asking or expecting MTBF really want to use an inverse of a failure rate. Maybe they are not interested in reliability.

MTBF is in military standards. It is in textbooks and journals and component data sheets. MTBF is prevalent.

If one wants to use an inverse simple average to represent the information desired, maybe I have been asking for the wrong information. Given the number of references and formulas using MTBF, from availability to spares stocking, maybe asking for MTBF is because it is necessary for all these other uses. Continue reading How Did Reliabilty Become Confused with MTBF?

The Business of Providing MTBF

Vintage advertisement of overhead craneWhat Price Providing MTBF?

If your livelihood consists of providing MTBF upon request, what good is your service?

Sure you earn some money, yet did the customer receive value in the transaction? As you know, or should know, MTBF is so commonly misunderstood that it is likely the customer confused what they want, reliability, with MTBF. Providing them MTBF does not answer their question.

Worse the customer thinks they got something of value and blithely heads off with rather meaningless information.

My contention is by providing MTBF because customer’s request it is wrong. We know better. Those performing predictions, doing data analysis, and other reliability engineering work know that MTBF is a faulty and rather meaningless metric often confused with reliability, R(t). (probability of success over a duration). Continue reading The Business of Providing MTBF

A Couple of Questions for You Concerning MTBF

Let me ask you something concerning MTBF

Do make compromises around gathering and analyzing data since you only need to report MTBF?

Do you use MTBF (exponential distribution) based test planning when you know the product has a non-constant hazard rate?

These questions came up this week via email looking for advice when directed to ignore the actual situation and just do what the customer wants.

I’m traveling this week, rather jet-lagged today, so going to keep this one short.

How would you answer these questions? What advice would you give someone using exponential based reporting, test planning, or data analysis approaches knowing the customer expects that process yet the data and your experience suggest you should use another method  (Weibull or MCF, for example)?

Please add you comments below and let’s prepare a list of what one should say or use to respond to such actions.

 

How to Judge a Reliability Book

How Do You Judge a Reliability Book?

By it’s cover no doubt. The title and cover are important, this is true. When you judge a reliability book we often first see and evaluate the cover.

The author? Do you buy the book based on who wrote or edited it?

Do you have a quick scan or check for key features before you add the book to your library? I’m curious how you select a book to use a reference for your work. The books we read and use for work shape our work, thus it’s important to have the right works at our disposal. Continue reading How to Judge a Reliability Book

Should One Profit From Failures?

Should One Profit From Failures?

“Do not improve reliability as it cuts into our repair activity profits.” Is this a way to run a reliability program?

I’ve seen this in action and that company is no longer in business. In another situation the field service department withheld vital information to improve products lest his department (and self-importance) dwindle.

Is this a bad business model, or is it just my thinking it not so smart? Continue reading Should One Profit From Failures?

Book Review: Accelerated Testing

Accelerated Testing: Statistical Models, Test Plans, and Data Analyses by Wayne Nelson

Published by John Wiley & Sons in 1990 this 601 page book started my career in reliability engineering.

I didn’t know it at the time in the early ‘90s, yet my assigned task to create an accelerated test for a new product would spark an interest in cheating time. Wayne’s book helped make that first accelerated test successful.

The Accelerated Testing book is a compendium of different ways to conduct accelerate tests with a focus on the planning the test and analyzing the data. Wayne is a reliability statistician, and as he will tell you, not an engineer. Thus the book tends to focus on the math.

What I enjoy about the book is the math is not the dry academic derivation driven material, it is full of examples and immediately useful formulas. There is just enough explanation to help the math wonks pursue their interest, and enough practical information to allow engineers to develop and conduct meaningful experiments. Continue reading Book Review: Accelerated Testing

High MTBF with Low Reliability

Can You Have a High MTBF and Low Reliability?

As regular readers know, MTBF by itself is misleading. When representing actual data it can be deceptive as well. Just because you have a high MTBF value doesn’t mean it is reliable.

In a previous article, 10 Reasons to Avoid MTBF, I mentioned that it is possible to have a relatively high MTBF value when the actual reliability is low. Ashley sent me the following note:

Hi Fred, i love reading your articles they are very informative. I have a question about something you said in a comment which i am hoping you will be able to clarify for me. You said products with higher MTBF can actually be less reliable than products with a lower MTBF

I have tried to find information on how this is possible online, and tried to do the maths myself to make this happen but i have to admit i am struggling.

No worries, Ashley, let’s work out an example to illustrate what I meant. Continue reading High MTBF with Low Reliability