The role and importance of Reliability Engineering

14th September 2021

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 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



Review breakdowns with GES/Engineer
08:00 08:30 Morning meeting
08:30 09:00 Review breakdowns in context of historic downtimes to pick up trends
09:00 12:00 Attend to weekly/monthly work, any of:
    Run FRACAS
    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

12:00 14:00 Ad hoc work
14:00 16:00 Attend 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, shut downs) 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:

Possible solutions for these challenges

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.

In a future article we will focus on a structured learning pathway that Pragma developed to train and prepare engineers for the role of a Reliability Engineer. This course clarifies the role, explain reliability engineering in practical terms and give learners the skills to calculate asset reliability and roles.

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