The concept of a maturity model is not new. It provides a means to identify the current state and illuminate the possible improvements to a reliability program. The matrix serves a guide to assist an organization in improving its program.
The matrix has five stages. In general, the higher stages are most cost effective and efficient at achieving higher rates of product reliability performance. These stages—uncertainty, awaking, enlightenment, wisdom, and certainty—are described in today’s post.
Stage 1: Uncertainty
“We don’t know why we have problems with reliability.”
Reliability is rarely discussed or considered during design and production. Product returns resulting from failure are considered a part of doing business. Field failures are rarely investigated, and often blame is assigned to customers. The few people who consider reliability improvements gain little support. Reliability testing is done in an ad hoc fashion and often just to meet customer requirements or basic industry standards.
Stage 2: Awakening
“Is it absolutely necessary to always have problems with reliability?”
Reliability is discussed by managers but not supported by funding or training. Some elements of a reliability program are implemented, yet generally not in a coordinated fashion. Some tools such as FMEA and accelerated and highly accelerated life testing are experimented with, but the most effort still focuses on standards-based testing and meeting customer requirements. Some analysis is done to estimate reliability or understand field failure rates, yet limited use is made of these data in making product decisions. There is, however, an increasing emphasis on understanding failures and resolving them. Failure analysis is typically accomplished by component vendors with little result.
Stage 3: Enlightenment
“Through commitment and reliability improvement we are identifying and resolving our problems.”
A robust reliability program exists and includes many tools and processes. Generally, significant effort is directed to resolving prototype and field reliability issues. Increasing reliance is placed on root-cause analysis to determine appropriate solutions. Some tools are not used to their full potential owing to lack of understanding of reliability and how the various tools apply. Some reliance is placed on establishing standard testing and procedures for all products. Only some use of these testing results is made for estimating product reliability to supplement predictions. Predictions are primarily made to address customer requests and not as feedback to design teams.
Stage 4: Wisdom
“Failure prevention is a routine part of our operation.”
Each product program or project has a tailored reliability program that can be adjusted as the understanding of product reliability risks changes. Reliability tools and tasks are selected and implemented because they will provide needed information for decisions. Testing focuses on either discovering failure mechanisms or characterizing failure mechanisms. Testing often proceeds to failure, if possible. Advanced data analysis tools are regularly employed and reports are distributed widely. There is increasing cooperation with key suppliers and vendors to incorporate the appropriate reliability tools upstream.
Stage 5: Certainty
“We know why we do not have problems with reliability.”
Product reliability is a strategic business activity across the organization. There is widespread understanding and acceptance of design for reliability and how it fits into the overall business. Product reliability is accurately predicted prior to product launch using a mix of appropriate techniques. New materials, processes, and vendors are carefully considered for their ability to meet internally established reliability requirements. The few failures that do occur are expected and analysis is done to identify early signs of material or process changes. Customers and suppliers are regularly consulted on ways to improve reliability.
The reliability maturity matrix is available to download for free for Accendo Reliability members. You can find the download at the Reliability Maturity page along with the ebook about the maturity matrix and how to apply it properly for your program.