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The role and importance of Reliability Engineering

The question often arises on the actual role and responsibility of a Reliability Engineer. This article considers where Reliability Engineers fit into an organisation, what kind of data they require, and when and how it should be provided. We also look at their key challenges and possible solutions to address these challenges. In more recent times, this also includes digital transformation and how the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will influence the activities of a Reliability Engineer.

The main purpose of the Reliability Engineer is to improve the reliability of critical assets (fixed plant, earth moving equipment and supporting assets such as utilities and facilities). Reliability is achieved by implementing the reliability engineering elements of the Asset Management (AM) system and a rigorous and systematic analysis of physical failures, asset conditions, and component reliability data. The Reliability Engineer is also responsible for compiling business cases to motivate and or evaluate improvement suggestions; these suggestions are based on the asset life cycle costs and the value of improvements. The Reliability Engineer is thus a technical advisor and support to the Senior Engineering Manager and asset managers.

The above is a very theoretical description, so let’s consider a typical 10-point activity list of the required output of a Reliability Engineer’s role:

The role of a Reliability Engineer

  1. Define the section’s asset criticality according to the organisation’s standards and risk analysis portfolio.
  2. Establish, document, and coordinate defect elimination (DE) activities on-site or remotely with digital, real-time telemetry from equipment sensors (including defining DE triggers, leading complex DE projects, creating a root cause analysis capability and tracking DE results).
  3. Facilitate the development and optimisation of asset tactics for approval by the relevant Section Engineers and the Asset Management Engineer for execution.
  4. Define the spares criticality, associated stocking decisions as well as stock levels.
  5. Monitor the performance, condition and reliability of key assets to identify opportunities for improvement.
  6. If required, develop accurate and relevant reporting systems on equipment performance and key performance indicators that can be utilised throughout different sectors and levels of management within the organisation.
  7. Quantify the value of proposed improvements and compile business cases to motivate and justify them based on their return on investment.
  8. Use life cycle costing to support financial decision-making, like end-of-life repair-replace decisions or selection of new assets.
  9. Do Reliability, Availability and Maintainability (RAM) studies, analyses and specifications for new projects or installations.
  10. Develop technical information management and procedures, such as machine specification and warranties.
A typical day in the life of a Reliability Engineer
07:3008:00Review breakdowns with GES/Engineer
08:0008:30Morning meeting
08:3009:00Review breakdowns in context of historic downtimes to pick up trends
09:0009:30Attend to weekly/monthly work, any of:
Facilitate RCA’s/Warranty claims
Review breakdowns and formulate warranty reports
Build data projects on RCA’s and FRACAS
Review monthly cost report
Build business cases for improvement projects
Write RE report
Review planned Capex purchase and develop RAMS readiness report
Develop new purchases’ LCC
Attend monthly supplier meetings
Review LCC data
12:0014:00Ad hoc work
14:0016:00Attend to monthly/quarterly work, any of:
Review quarterly DE wins
Training and training renewal systems
Lead FRACAS quarterly review
Develop acceptance tests in conjunction with GES/Engineer.
Review warranty summary
Review changes to repair and replacement strategy.
Review spare parts stockholding, criticality models.
Review asset management plans for primary equipment.

Where in the organisation’s organogram do Reliability Engineers fit?

Physical assets supported by human assets are what make money for any asset owner. Hence, AM should be at the core of any business, with reliability engineering being a primary focus. We believe a Reliability Engineer should be at the core of an integrated AM department (engineering, maintenance, planning, projects, shutdowns) and have a key role in the decision-making of an organisation.

What are the most common Challenges for Reliability Engineers?

Several of Pragma’s reliability engineers agree on the following challenges across their various client sites:

  • The poor quality of master data is due to poor design or a lack of management’s involvement.
  • Long delays in data received due to manual data capturing and paper-based feedback.
  • A lack of discipline when using systems, such as capturing and managing equipment failures.
  • Staff is poorly trained and don’t understand the functionality or importance of properly using systems.
  • The lack of participation of required resources when doing root cause failure analysis.
  • The implementation and change management required to address all of the above points.

Possible solutions for these challenges

  • The use of properly configured enterprise asset management systems and condition monitoring and IIoT technologies.
  • The integration of datasets from various sources.
  • Defining key performance indicators and reporting of the above-mentioned data sources.
  • Training and mentoring.
  • Cultivating a culture of discipline and diligence.
  • Implementing structures and procedures.

In conclusion

The role of reliability engineering forms a critical cornerstone in meeting an organisation’s asset management objectives. Organisations should focus on obtaining the right skilled resources and ensure that they focus on the correct day to day activities.

The Pragma Academy developed a learning pathway that can help develop the required competencies for the role of a Reliability Engineer.  They also present a short course, Reliability Engineering in Practice, that clarifies the role, explain reliability engineering in practical terms and give learners the skills to calculate asset reliability and roles.


We hosted a very interactive webinar with a bunch of Reliability Engineers on ‘A day in the life of a Reliability Engineer ‘.  Here is the recording of the webinar.

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