First Impressions

At first MTBF seems like a commonly used and useful measure of reliability. Trained as a statistician and understanding the use of the expected value that MTBF represented, I thought, ‘cool, this is useful’.

Then the discussions with engineers, technical sales folks and other professionals about reliability using MTBF started. And the awareness that not everyone, and at times it seems very few, truly understood MTBF and how to properly use the measure.

Continue reading First Impressions

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

A Life Data Analysis Challenge

old machinery couplingHere is a Challenge: Life Data Analysis

Some years ago a few colleagues compared notes on results of a Weibull analysis. Interesting we all started with the same data and got different results.

After a recent article on the many ways to accomplish data analysis, Larry mentioned that all one needs is shipments and returns to perform field data analysis.

This got me thinking: What are our common methods and sets of results when we perform life data analysis? Continue reading A Life Data Analysis Challenge

10 Reasons to Avoid MTBF

“Why do you avoid MTBF?”

I got this question the other day. The person knew about the NoMTBF campaign. They didn’t quite understand why it was a big deal, especially for me, to avoid MTBF.

The tiff between MTBF and myself is not personal. The metric has not been a part of my work or caused any significant problems for me personally.

It has caused problems that have caused problems for my enjoyment of products and systems though. It has lead to poor decisions by many organizations that create items I and you use on a regular basis.

We can do better than to settle with the use of MTBF in our own work or in the work of those around us. Here are 10 reasons I recommend you avoid using MTBF.

Continue reading 10 Reasons to Avoid MTBF

The Many Ways of Data Analysis

Given Some Data, Do Data Analysis

Let’s say we have a set of numbers, {2.3, 4.2, 7.1, 7.6, 8.2, 8.4, 8.7, 8.9, 9.0, 9.1} and that is all we have at the moment.

How many ways could you analyze this set of numbers? We could plot it a few different ways, from a dot plot, stem-and-leaf plot, histogram, probability density plot, and probably a few other ways as well. We could calculate a few statistics about the dataset, such as mean, median, standard deviation, skewness, kurtosis, and so on. Continue reading The Many Ways of Data Analysis

REVIEW Analyzing Repairable System Failures Data

REVIEW: Analyzing Repairable System Failures Data

Recently, Ziad let me know he published an article titled Analyzing Repairable System Failures Data in the April-May 2017 issue of Uptime magazine (subscription required). He suggested I’d be interested in the article since it provides a way to analyze repairable system data without using MTBF. He was right.

The article is a short description and tutorial on using mean cumulative plotting and function (MCF). While the article recommends staying away from using MTBF, it could be a bit of a stronger message. The article does provide a very nice worked out example illustrating the use of a mean cumulative plot. Continue reading REVIEW Analyzing Repairable System Failures Data

We’ll Meet Your Reliability But Not Your Spec

A Problem With MTBF

(Physics gets in the way!)

A Guest Post by Kevin Walker

I had an interesting case study a couple weeks ago, where “I’m giving you what you want, not what you asked for “ when the requirement as usual was a blanket MTBF, but the product design elements clearly indicated wearout could / would be a factor. — Kevin

Continue reading We’ll Meet Your Reliability But Not Your Spec

The Challenges in Reliability Engineering

What are the Other Challenges in Reliability

Creating a product or system that lasts as long as expected, or longer, is a challenge.

It’s a common challenge that reliability engineering and entire engineering team face on a regular basis. It’s also not our only challenge.

We face and solve a myriad of technical, political, and engineering challenges. Some of our challenges are born and carried forward by our own industry. We have tools suitable for a given purpose altered to ‘fit’ another situation (inappropriately and creating misleading results). We have terms that we, and our peers, struggle to understand.

Sometimes, we, as reliability engineers have set up challenges that thwart our best efforts to make progress.

Let’s examine a few of the self made challenges and discuss ways to overcome these obstacles permitting us to tackle the real hurdles in our path. Continue reading The Challenges in Reliability Engineering