My first lesson in reliability engineering was taught by a now 45 year experienced instrument technologist. He said, “If it was made by man, it will fail one day and our job is to catch it before it does”. I definitely learned a lot from this gentleman over the years and I attribute much of my success to this one fundamental learning. It does not matter if the equipment or asset is at home, work or across the landscapes we travel, I have yet to observe a technology that is 100% reliability without any intervention. The most basic, common activity we can apply to achieve top reliability is our maintenance strategies.
Let’s take our personal vehicles for example. I don’t like to use the term, “Run to Failure”, so I choose to say, “Run to End of Useful Life”. Like our windshields, how many spare windshields do you have? ZERO right? It’s not cost effective for us to carry around spare windshields nor is it practical. This is a reactive or run to end of useful life strategy. When our windshields are cracked or broken, we identify the appropriate spare and get it replaced. How about routine maintenance? We get our oil changed every (x) thousand miles and it is normally considered scheduled or frequency based maintenance. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) recommends the services, frequencies and parts to use in order for the equipment to function as designed. And the last approach I’ll mention is condition based maintenance. 20 years ago when we ran over a nail, the only indication was that our steering became imbalanced because of an air pressure difference in one of the tires. Nowadays we have tire pressure sensor (TPS) monitors that will give an alert on our dashboard that the pressure has dropped below a certain acceptable limit. When your TPS light comes, you know that some conditions have changed and that it’s probably best that you pull over and investigate further. Now this alert doesn’t tell you that a nail is in your tire, but it does keep you from losing control over your vehicle [bonus message: analytics are great for failure indication but don’t forget about failure analysis, someone still has to identify that there is a nail in the tire].
So if you apply any of these methods for ensuring the 100% reliable operation of your vehicle, then you can say that you understand the basics of reliability, 1) Reactive based, 2) Frequency based and 3) Condition based.