A Review of the 2018 ASQ CRE Body of Knowledge
The new CRE body of knowledge goes into effect for exams starting January 2018.
The changes include topics that has been dropped, added, or altered. There also is a new structure with 5 main groups rather than the previous seven. Overall, the BoK remained pretty much the same with a reorganization of the topics.
Reading the new BoK and comparing it to the old BoK raises a few concerns or observations. Let’s take a look at the new structure and what the changes say about the reliability engineering profession.
The New CRE Body of Knowledge Organization
The biggest change is the restructuring of the organization of the topic.
The old BoK included 7 top-level groups:
I. Reliability Management
II. Probability and Statistics for Reliability
III. Reliability in Design and Development
IV. Reliability Modeling and Predictions
V. Reliability Testing
VI. Maintainability and Availability
VII. Data Collection and Use
The new top-level groups are now:
I. Reliability Fundamentals
This includes two subgroups, leadership and reliability foundations, rather than management concepts of strategic management, reliability program management, and product safety and liability. The specific topics listed remain very similar to the old BoK section I, with a slight shift toward the reliability engineer operating as a leader.
The topics range from basic definitions, ethics, and systems engineering. Reliability engineers work within a larger organization and with teams facing many different priorities. Reliability engineering fits within an existing structure to design, manufacture, and maintain items.
II. Risk Management
This is a new top-level group of topics. This highlights the focus or elevation of risk management within the organization (not to mention within ISO standards). This group has 3 sub-groups of Identification, Analysis, and Mitigation.
The risk analysis topics include the familiar tools of FTA, FMEA, and hazard analysis. The identification and mitigation sub-groups are rather new. The new topic of risk management techniques alludes to fitting within a larger risk management framework.
III. Probability and Statistics for Reliability
This area is almost the same as the previous CRE body of knowledge. A little less emphasis of basic statistical tools such as hypotheses testing and the range of non-parametric tools.
An increase in the emphasis on sample size determination. This one could be rather broad and may include the range of statistical tools we may use when creating point estimates, doing comparisons, or designing tests.
Gone is the sub-group of statistical inference. The new sub-group is data management which was the old BoK top-level VII. Slight differences and make sense to include sourcing, collecting, and dealing with data as we often summarize or analyze data using statistical tools.
IV. Reliability Planning, Testing, and Modeling
This combines the old top-level groups of IV. Reliability Modeling and Predictions along with V. Reliability Testing. The testing section from 13 specific topic to 5. I would say this is suggesting we do not do as much reliability testing as in the past.
Parts count prediction is not a topic anymore (yeah!) and is only mentioned within the topic of Reliability prediction methods. Now if we could drop mentioning MTBF.
V. Lifecycle Reliability
The last section includes three sub-groups
A. Reliability Design Techniques which has much of the old III. Reliability in Design and Development.
B. Parts and Systems Development which is bits of the old B. Parts and systems management sub-group
C. Maintainability which is a stripped-down version of the old top-level VI. Maintainability and Availability. Seems the CRE is moving further away from asset management and related topics.
Changes in Exam Questions Distribution
The CRE body of knowledge includes how many exam questions to expect for each of the top-level groups. Since there isn’t a one to one match between the current and previous BoK, here’s my best guess at changes:
I. Reliability Fundamentals has 25 questions, whereas the old BoK I. Reliability Management had only 19 questions. The new BoK added more topics with emphasis on leadership and the increase in the number of questions suggests an increase in relative importance.
II. Risk Management has 25 questions. The old BoK did not have a similar section and include some of the topics in a few different areas of the BoK. Obviously, risk management is now important and includes many new concepts and topics. This one may be difficult to deal with as different industries have different risk management practices and to some extent terminology. The ISO standards provide some commonality yet there are numerous ISO and other international standards dealing with risk management and they are not consistent.
III. Probability and Statistics for Reliability with 35 questions remains a major element of the exam. This is the area with the highest potential for calculation based questions (which many struggle with during the exam). Overall though there are fewer questions as the old data management (18 questions) in now in this group of topics and the old prob and stats group had 25 questions. The shift from 43 to 35 questions is pretty big and may signal a reduction in math skills, which is a shame.
IV. Reliability Planning, Testing, and Modeling with 35 questions decrease the emphasis on this area given the old BoK had two groups with a combined total of 46 questions. This area is a mix of techniques and methods for testing, plus plenty of math. Again, does this suggest a reduction in the need for math skills?
V. Lifecycle Reliability with 30 questions also shows a decrease in questions when comparing the previous two top-level groups which had a combined 42 questions. This is the biggest relative drop.
The increases in questions in the fundamentals and risk management areas and reduction elsewhere signal a shift in the weighting of the overall body of knowledge. Less math and more leadership.
Overall Thoughts on the New CRE Body of Knowledge
Creating a body of knowledge for the diverse field of reliability engineering is a difficult task. In my opinion, they got it right in some areas and wrong in others. The intent of the CRE BoK updating process is to end with a document that reflects current practice. It is not to shape or guide what we do, just record what we currently do when we work as reliability engineers.
Risk management is becoming more prominent across industries. The various ISO standards, 9001, 14000, 55000, and others have elevated risk management across industries. As reliability engineers, we have dealt with many elements of risk and the management of risk. The tools, FTA, FMEA, etc, are familiar to use. It is the fitting within a larger risk management framework that is new.
I do like the increased emphasis on reliability engineers being leaders. We lead teams to solve problems, we lead meeting to optimize reliability performance, and we lead our peers across the product lifecycle. The better reliability engineers take on this leadership role and thrive. Glad to see it called out in the body of knowledge.
The movement away from designing in reliability and working closely with design teams is disturbing. Many of the topics are still in the BoK, yet there is a lack of cohesion or emphasis on designing in reliability. The sections on parts (vendor management) and maintainability really short change those critical areas to any system’s ability to operate reliably.
The real test, no pun intended, for the new BoK is the reception of this with the CRE and how well they perform as reliability engineers. If they add value for their organization based on the tools, concepts, and skills outlined in the BoK, that is good. If not, the relevance of the ASQ CRE will deteriorate.
Take a look at the new BoK, and leave your thoughts and comments below.