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Reliability Assessment

A single defect can easily cost £100 in diagnosis and repair if it is detected early in production
whereas the same defect in the field may well cost £1000 to rectify. If it transpires that the failure
is a design fault then the cost of redesign, documentation and retest may well be in tens or even
hundreds of thousands of pounds. This book emphasizes the importance of using reliability
techniques to discover and remove potential failures early in the design cycle. Compared with
such losses the cost of these activities is easily justified.
It is the combination of reliability and maintainability which dictates the proportion of time
that any item is available for use or, for that matter, is operating in a safe state. The key
parameters are failure rate and down time, both of which determine the failure costs. As a result,
techniques for optimizing maintenance intervals and spares holdings have become popular since
they lead to major cost savings.

During WW2 German scientists used the basic concepts of reliability to improve the reliability of
their V1 and V2 rockets. In the US, the military used reliability concepts to improve the reliability of
components like radar which had vacuum tubes. In 1950s an Advisory Group on the Reliability of
Electronic Equipment AGREE was set established.

A single defect can easily cost £100 in diagnosis and repair if it is detected early in production
whereas the same defect in the field may well cost £1000 to rectify. If it transpires that the failure
is a design fault then the cost of redesign, documentation and retest may well be in tens or even
hundreds of thousands of pounds. This book emphasizes the importance of using reliability
techniques to discover and remove potential failures early in the design cycle. Compared with
such losses the cost of these activities is easily justified.
It is the combination of reliability and maintainability which dictates the proportion of time
that any item is available for use or, for that matter, is operating in a safe state. The key
parameters are failure rate and down time, both of which determine the failure costs. As a result,
techniques for optimizing maintenance intervals and spares holdings have become popular since
they lead to major cost savings.

Before introducing the various Reliability parameters it is essential that the word Failure is fully
defined and understood. Unless the failed state of an item is defined it is impossible to explain
the meaning of Quality or of Reliability. There is only definition of failure and that is

• Failure is defined as ‘Non-conformance to some defined performance criterion’

An example of failure would be the failure of a valve

The definition of failure mode totally determines the system reliability and dictates the failure
mode data required at the component level

Examples of failure modes include – valve fail shut, fail open, leak to atmosphere etc

Examples of failure include

• Failure in operation (continuous operation)

• Failure to operate on demand

• Operation before demand


• Continued operation after demand to cease

Now that we have defined failure, we can define reliability.

• Reliability: The ability of an item to perform a required function under stated conditions
for a stated period of time. (BS 4778: Part 1: 1987)

• Paraphrased as ‘The probability of non-failure in a given period’