Voicing concern about MTBF

Voicing Concerns about MTBF

In January 2006, Jim Renfroe, Executive Vice President (Retired), Haliburton, published an essay titled,

Interpreting Reliability Metrics with Confidence. He discussed reliability, it’s defintion, importance, and working with suppliers to achieve higher product reliabilty. He also said,

MTBF or MTTF can be misleading

As you know, I think this is understated.

Jim, goes on to describe using reliability (function, environment, probability of success and duration) as the proper way to communicate and talk about relability with suppliers and within your own organization. He includes the idea that MTBF can be misunderstood as a failure free period or time to first failure.

Jim closed the essay with

Reliability-in-action means reliability designed and built in to all the components of a device, process or system. Properly interpreting reliability metrics can make the difference between minimizing exposure and realizing the potential of your assets.

Couldn’t say it better myself.

I got to know some of Haliburton people and have found a general acceptance that MTBF is not useful. They preferred using reliability directly and only converting to MTBF upon customer request.

I wonder if Jim’s article or maybe his influence helped to create the no MTBF climate? Haliburton is large corporation within a couple of large industies. I knew people in the oil exploration area. They regularly dealt with customers, suppliers and internal groups that expected or demanded the use of MTBF.

Jim and others apparently encourage to use other metrics and not MTBF. I appaud that effort. While we have a long way to go to eradicate MTBF from common use. It is the efforts of people like Jim that help us make it happen.

I’ve asked for permission to post the full essay on this site, to date haven’t heard back from Halliburton (if you know someone…). In the meantime, enjoy the article at the link above.

Finally, I know there are others making the effort to clear up the misunderstandings around MTBF. What’s your story? What is happening in your area?

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.

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