As a New Reliability Engineer, Are You Confused About Your Role?


During a recent reliability and maintenance conference, we met several reliability engineers who told us that they found their jobs different from what they expected. Many had graduated as reliability engineers and had learned all about Mean Time To Repair (MTTR), Mean Time To Failure (MTTF), Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF), Weibull charts, Failure Mode Effect Analyses (FMEA), and Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM). This is all good stuff. Most of them worked in chemical, pulp, paper, steel, food processing, and other process industries.

They also told us that, on the job, they never used any of what they had learned.
We have found a big gap between what the colleges are teaching and the “real world” engineers’ experiences in industry. To simplify the role of a reliability engineer, we suggest teaching the following:

1. Prevent: includes everything you can do to prevent problems from occurring: a) reliability and maintainability design;
b) cleaning; c) lubrication; d) alignment of components; e) equipment operating procedures; f) filtration of lubricants, seal water, etc.; g) storage handling of spares; h) other preventive measures, depending on site.

2. Find: includes early detection of problems: a) predictive maintenance; b) basic inspections

3. Analyze: From event reports and equipment history, triggers will determine which problems should undergo a Root Cause Problem Elimination (RCPE) analysis.
When the results of analysis are in, use the data to close the loop by implementing whatever measures can be taken to 1. Prevent and 2. Find problems early.

Are your reliability engineers preventing- finding-analyzing? Or are they doing something else? Take our survey to let us know! Find the survey at:

Christer Idhammar is founder of IDCON Inc. Reach him at

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