Or, one really good reliability engineering professional.
Or, an entire staff of highly talented reliability engineers.
The number of reliability engineers on staff really doesn’t matter. The outcome of your product and system reliability is not contingent on headcount or office space or list of degrees. Reliability performance is a function of the many decisions, large and small, that go into the design, development, manufacture, and operation of the item.
A reliability engineer doesn’t make all of those decisions if any.
Why hire Reliability Engineers?
There are two reasons to hire reliability engineers and neither directly improve your product’s reliability performance.
First, the reliability professional brings experience, tools, and techniques which allow your organization to:
- Set clear reliability goals,
- Identify reliability risks,
- Estimate future reliability performance,
- And, interpret test and field reliability data.
In essence, a reliability professional enables others within an organization to make informed decisions. They illuminate the often talked about yet vague world of reliability performance.
Second, the reliability professional can change the culture in your organization. By helping others make solid decisions, they take an important concept (reliability performance) out of the realm of vague objective, into reality.
As the engineers and managers in your organization realize the many benefits of considering reliability information to make decisions, they adopt a new mindset- an approach that seeks and uses the best available data and information to make decisions.
Should you hire more than one?
Maybe you should.
There is no guarantee that the sole reliability engineer will have the necessary skills to teach, mentor, and encourage those in your organization to make better decisions using reliability engineering concepts. Maybe the first hire will become overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks.
Suitable reliability performance doesn’t happen at one desk or meeting. It happens at every desk and meeting.
The ability of one person to influence decisions across the design and development team, the supply chain management and marketing teams, the maintenance and field service teams while possible are unlikely. A small team of reliability professionals can.
The best reliability engineering hire
Is not a reliability engineer, in my opinion. A good mechanical or software engineer can learn the necessary reliability engineering tools and techniques.
And, eventually, all of the engineering and technical staff will learn and use reliability engineering concepts such as goals and apportionment, risk identification, reliability modeling and data analysis.
The best hire for your reliability program is a person that has the ability to explain the benefits of making good decisions using reliability information. They may need
- to understand which tools to use to get started;
- to help find or create reliability information;
- to teach and encourage using reliability in every decision;
- to demonstrate making informed decisions.
The best reliability engineers I know do not have reliability engineering as a title. They did have a deep understanding of the concepts and a drive to enable and encourage others to do likewise.
If product reliability is important to your customers and your business, you need everyone in your organization to understand reliability engineering tools and concepts.
You need the entire staff to make informed decisions that lead to achieving the desired reliability results.
Success as a Reliability Engineer (article)
Successful Reliability Engineers Add Value (article)
10 Ways to Find Reliability Value (article)
Roger Stephens says
I agree 100%. Reliability doesn’t necessarily come with a degree. It is a culture and mindset of an organization from the top executive down to the people who actually are doing the work. The way that the organization makes decisions on what work will be done is what determines whether or not they have a good reliability program or not.
Fred Schenkelberg says
Roger, thanks for the comment and agreement 😉 much appreciated. cheers, Fred
Darren Murphy says
Great article Fred and I agree with it in principal, but it somehow doesn’t sit right with me.
While a agree that Reliability is a state of mind, I really don’t believe any engineer can apply the concept. 85% of the engineers I have had the pleasure of working with consider reliability a ‘dark art’ and simply do not have the historical skill set and basic fundamentals.
Every good engineer should have reliability at the forefront of their mind when completing their day to day job, but it is diluted with corporate ideals / budgets / timelines … a reliability engineer will put reliability first always and other areas will compromise!
Therefore, in my mind at least, a reliability engineer is a must (just as a QA, Accounts, Sales etc) for any successful company
Fred Schenkelberg says
Hi Darren, thanks for the note and as you may suspect I’ll disagree with the notion an organization must have a designated reliability engineer. In fact, many organizations do not have a single identifiable reliability engineer on staff. And some do very well creating reliable products. Some, likewise do not.
Even with a reliability engineer the resulting performance varies.
I content that is how the design/development and management teams make decisions that is key, not the presence of a one or more reliability engineers. Anyone in the organization can ask about the impact of product reliability performance and most are savvy enough to sort out how to answer the question.
Sure we bring skills and techniques that help the team explore and make better decisions. Yet, we bring an ability for the organization to also consider ‘ oh, the reliability team will address that, it’s not my job ‘ mentality.
I suspect that to be a very successful reliability engineer, the products much meet or exceed customer expectations when created in an efficient and effective manner. We certainly can help the organization to accomplish that kind of performance, and help the team continue to have successes. And, I submit, to do that it is not our work alone that creates the outcome, it is the combined talents across the team. Our role therefore is to influence and encourage and cajole the team to become reliability minded with every decision.
Walter Abbott says
I am not a Reliability Engineer, but I have seen enough of the output and dug in some books to try and understand how the RMA reaches the conclusions it does.
Form where I sit, it appears to be a box check to the SOW. The customer does what it wants with respect to how much budget they have. I do RCM on system equipment to determine what the preventive/scheduled maintenance requirements might be. Generally, if the tasks turn out too expensive, it gets tossed.