I joined the Reliability Belt training team in 2018 and have delivered 2 Reliability Green Belt and 1 Reliability Black Belt courses so far. This is article is a review of my experience and the feedback from the participants. Further information about the course is available on the Accendo website and on the Reliability Engineering Academy website.
This first article looks to the Reliability Green Belt. A future article will look at the Reliability Black Belt experience.
“Les, you were awesome. One of the characteristics I liked the most was your cadence of speech. The metered delivery of each word and concept was very effective for me and my style of learning. If the words and concepts get delivered too quickly, I don’t have enough time to connect with the concept, write down my notes, and still keep up with the next thing being said. I found your analogies and examples of real world applications to be very relevant and helpful. Overall, I feel I have received value well above my expectations for the course, and with your instruction I was able to hit the ground running on the first day I got back. Thanks for teaching the course, and I look forward to continuing my education with the Reliability Black Belt program.” — Chris, Reliability Engineer
The Reliability Belt program originated in Europe and is highly successful there. However, bringing it to North America has allowed a thorough review and some changes.
The Reliability Green Belt is intended for engineers and managers with little or no previous reliability expertise. Its objectives are to bring participants to the point they know when, how and why the individual methods can be applied in the product development process. The essential reliability activities can thus be independently implemented and integrated in a company’s organization by its own employees.
The Reliability Black Belt requires previous completion of the Reliability Green Belt, or current ASQ CRE certification. It introduces more specialized techniques, such as design of experiments, root cause analysis, durability modeling, and RAM/LCC. The goal of this module is to train specialists who can independently solve complex problems and work on challenging issues in your organization.
Reliability Green Belt
The question to be addressed by any reliability course is “how broad and how deep?” Our objective for the Reliability Green Belt is to provide a coherent whole that provides key techniques applicable throughout product development – that is the breadth. Equally, our goal is that any technique covered could be applied directly – that is the depth. And all within 4½-days tuition. Thus, our review of the existing program looked to:
- Subjects and their coverage
- Methods of delivery
Not surprisingly, an overview of product development and how reliability engineering methods fit in, is a necessary starting point. Mathematical descriptions of reliability are also essential, to ensure that we have a common understanding of the statistical elements of reliability. But we also need to be able to analyze reliability data – and this takes time if we are to ensure that everyone understands and can reach appropriate results. Reliability assurance is another key statistical concept, and the Reliability Green Belt approaches this from several test design standpoints – with or without individual failures, with or without test acceleration, with or without prior knowledge of the component life distribution. Failure Modes & Effects Analysis (FMEA) and Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) provide engineering analysis tools. Boolean system analysis through reliability block diagrams introduces the effects of redundancy on system performance. Concepts of fatigue and product life are emphasized, along with non-constant probabilities of failure.
Our review confirmed the basic syllabus as being sound.
We believe that it is essential for participants to apply the methods correctly – and not simply as “monkey see, monkey do.” Class examples need to develop in difficulty, to go beyond simple repetition. This required some improvement in the course delivery.
For example, FMEA teaching already included examination of a simple household appliance, with physical examples available to each team. However, the objectives for the exercise were not stated beyond that of teaching the process. This limited the challenge of the example.
Our review highlighted that the appliance has a design weakness and that this could be used to provide a challenge. We translated this to introduce an exercise goal to include identification of this weakness, and to use the FMEA technique to prioritize its eradication. There is no easy answer to this eradication – it is the process and prioritization for improvement that is being taught – but the participants very much enjoy discussing potential options . In addition, though, we have found that we can carry this analysis forward to become a challenging example for Fault Tree Analysis – this emphasizes how reliability techniques can work together.
In another example from the reliability test planning component, a more complex scenario was agreed to be needed that goes beyond simple use of mathematical formulae – we believe that reliability engineering should be project-centric, and not technique- or statistics-centric. Accordingly, one was developed whereby ongoing test results do not yet assure the required reliability to the required confidence. Project constraints of allowed prototypes and timescale are described such that the required objective cannot be achieved – without some change to the project factors. The objective from this conflict is to translate mathematical criteria into feasible project change proposals.
In all examples, there is emphasis of reviewing results and what decisions might ensue. This, we believe, gives the course a real-world feel and helps participants link their learning to their own projects – and be more prepared when they return to their companies.
All content was reviewed for timing and minor changes were made, including culling of secondary material in order to ensure that the key messages were covered. We have not had problems with this – this remains an intense course.
We also looked at the existing choice to make this a 5-day course, including exam. Shorter is often preferred by managers sending their staff – less time away from base. But longer would give more opportunity to explore reliability engineering and management – but that would encroach on the Reliability Black Belt.
We did indeed see if the course could be reduced to 4 days, with 3 ½ days teaching, but this would be a 25% reduction in time and a 25% reduction in content. We believe that this would detract from the necessary wholeness of the course and therefore, for now, we are retaining the current 5 days.
For in-house delivery, alternatives to a contiguous week could be explored – and are being so.
We are of the opinion that using computer software, particularly statistical software necessary to support reliability data analysis, can result in users simply making mistakes more quickly. However, in order to enable participants to return to their companies fully equipped, we do need to use software effectively within the program.
The original Reliability Green Belt course uses Minitab statistical software. This was used in the first US Reliability Green Belt. However, we found that the complex menu system and presentation of results made it difficult to separate the teaching of understanding from the mechanics of the software. (The overall capability of Minitab is not being questioned.)
Therefore, we considered alternate software that would clarify and that we could provide free to participants. Within the context of the Reliability Green Belt, Reliasoft appears to offer a more understandable package and this will be our preferred option going forward. 30 day licenses will be provided to all future participants.
Feedback from our Reliability Green Belt courses has been outstanding. I believe that we are on the right track!
The open-book, multiple-choice exam is challenging – or so the participants say. However, we have had a 95% pass rate so far.
“Thank you Les for sharing your knowledge on reliability. The real-life examples you gave were very helpful to understand the topic. I really enjoyed all the airplane related examples you gave. The knowledge obtained from this course will be used within my company to improve and sustain the reliability of our product. Right amount of information was provided by the instructor which allowed us to cover large portion of reliability engineering. I would defiantly recommend this course to my fellow coworkers and I hope to be a part of black belt training as well.”
“Les and the class participants really made this training experience worth the time. Being able to step through hands on examples of the material and tie in individual and company experience from a range of industries helped solidify the lessons and discussions. I would definitely recommend the Reliability Green Belt course for anyone who is serious about learning the fundamentals of Reliability and am looking forward to participating in the next available Reliability Black Belt class.”