System Engineering and Reliability
Join Chris and Fred as they discuss systems and reliability engineering, and how they do or do not relate with each other. In fact, one systems engineer once said to Fred that ‘systems engineering’ invented ‘reliability engineering.’ It didn’t … reliability engineering has existed for thousands of years before it was called reliability engineering. So how do they relate to each other?
- Each engineering discipline can really help each other. OR be a hindrance. There are organizations where systems, reliability and perhaps quality engineers work really well together. But there are also organizations where systems engineers focus on the ‘process’ of making the perfect system, reliability engineers focus on ‘data analysis’ and not making better decisions, and quality engineers focus on ‘checklists’ and not improving anything. So no discipline is ‘bad.’ The engineers make or break this approach.
- What is wrong with ‘systems engineering?’ Nothing. It comes down to implementation. For example, there is a systems engineering ‘V’ model which essentially describes how you start with ‘high-level’ specifications that are incrementally allocated to ‘sub-systems’ and ‘components’ … which are then designed and incrementally tested ‘back up’ as they are integrated into the subsystems and then systems. The underlying message in this model is the importance of hierarchy. But in practice, designing a complex system needs ongoing iteration and review. If one component can’t do what we initially envisaged it could … what can another component do to compensate. The ‘V’ model … when implemented ‘dogmatically’ … doesn’t allow this. Good systems engineers know this. Bad systems engineers worship the ‘V’ diagram.
- Experience is key. Many systems engineers get a ‘post-graduate degree’ in systems engineering after having no engineering, design or manufacturing experience. So this means that their only skills are in implementing a process. But wonderful systems are based on prioritizing design, creativity and novel new ways of manufacturing.
- Reliability engineering (along with design, manufacture et cetera) share the same ‘status’ when it comes to systems engineering. You cannot systems engineer your way to a magnificent system. But systems engineering can be really good at coordinating different disciplines in a harmonious way. A systems engineer is not the pre-eminent expert on manufacturing high strength alloys, or designs that mitigate dendritic growth in integrated circuits, or really advanced human-machine interfaces. Many systems engineers see reliability engineers as only relevant when it comes to testing, verification and validation. But by this time … it is too late! The system’s reliability is what it is by this stage. We need to IMPROVE reliability.
- And using the MTBF is not an OK simplification that systems engineers can use because they deal with high-level perspectives. There is plenty of material on Accendo about this …
Enjoy an episode of Speaking of Reliability. Where you can join friends as they discuss reliability topics. Join us as we discuss topics ranging from design for reliability techniques to field data analysis approaches.