New to reliability? Don’t just do what they tell you

If you happen to be a new reliability engineer in a company I urge you not to focus solely on that task in front of you.
Instead, step back and take a broader view.

This is something I should do myself when I started my first position in reliability testing, few years back. Initially I was aksed to focus on FMEAs. Our customers wanted to see design FMEAs done and the team had trouble doing good job in that area.

And so I did trainings and tried to build proper FMEA process in the design group.

It was waste of time. Why?

Because it was not what they really needed.

Later I discovered that guys in design did the „design for reliability” homework really well. They looked at previous falure modes, they applied derating and checked temperatures of electronics, etc.

It was not FMEA that was needed. Good reliability testing was needed. Not just system life demonstration, but rather testing focused on new parts and how long they can last.

Gap analysis

This is something I should try at the beginning – to discover what the organization was lacking in terms of reliability engineering.

How to do it well? Talk to the right people.

Lower level managers are typically good source of information. They can connect signs of problems to their sources. And then after initiall reviews, wouldn’t it be good to gather them in one room for 1 hour and discuss specific reliability problems? Tell them what reliability engineering tools could be applied and ask if it makes sense for the company to apply them? Sounds like a training? Sort of.

Now, I bet all of you think that you can’t manage that group, especially if you are a new employee.

But at the same time we don’t want to change the way they work (which typically sparks resistance) – instead, we want to…

Build reliability awareness

This is how you start to build reliability thinking in an organization. Having at least one person from design, quality, service, manufacturing, and others, trained in reliability engineering toolset allows them to understand how they contribute to final product reliability. They understand it’s not just design, not just quality, not just manufacturing errors. If they all talk the same language it will be easier to discover what’s left to improve.

So, if you are new, don’t just do what they tell you. You are in unique position to have that neutral and broad view and look for gaps.

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