Explaining Reliability

Most everyone knows what reliability means in its precise sense, and we can refer to definitions most anywhere which are all consistent. But I know that some of us who work in the reliability fields often struggle explaining what the field is about, and what is included or excluded in it.

I have a proposed definition for the reliability field: the study, management, and reduction of the variability in supply to meet uncontrolled demand.

Now some people will react to that definition to say something like “I am a reliability engineer, but I don’t do all that.” But I think what they do will fit within that definition.

Others will say that definition is rather broad, and doesn’t address components and systems, which is really what reliability as a profession addresses. But I suggest those components and systems, indeed even those systems-of-systems, networks, and other such creations are all supplying some function, capability, or are themselves being supplied for such, and therefore the focus is really on the supply. That supply is impacted by our creations, thus we often turn toward those creations to address the real issue, which is variability in supply.

As the managing editor for IEEE Transactions on Reliability, and as a consultant in the networks and systems reliability field (among other fields I support), I think I’ll start testing this definition, or similar forms of the idea, with people outside the engineering and scientific fields, to see how well it conveys what the profession is really about. I suspect it will work better than the definitions we often point to in dictionaries and textbooks.

About Rupe

Dr. Jason Rupe wants to make the world more reliable, even though he likes to break things. He received his BS (1989), and MS (1991) degrees in Industrial Engineering from Iowa State University; and his Ph.D. (1995) from Texas A&M University. He worked on research contracts at Iowa State University for CECOM on the Command & Control Communication and Information Network Analysis Tool, and conducted research on large scale systems and network modeling for Reliability, Availability, Maintainability, and Survivability (RAMS) at Texas A&M University. He has taught quality and reliability at these universities, published several papers in respected technical journals, reviewed books, and refereed publications and conference proceedings.

He is a Senior Member of IEEE and of IIE. He has served as Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Reliability, and currently works as its Managing Editor. He has served as Vice-Chair’n for RAMS, on the program committee for DRCN, and on the committees of several other reliability conferences because free labor is always welcome. He has also served on the advisory board for IIE Solutions magazine, as an officer for IIE Quality and Reliability division, and various local chapter positions for IEEE and IIE.

Jason has worked at USWEST Advanced Technologies, and has held various titles at Qwest Communications Intl., Inc, most recently as Director of the Technology Modeling Team, Qwest’s Network Modeling and Operations Research group for the CTO. He has always been those companies’ reliability lead. Occasionally, he can be found teaching as an Adjunct Professor at Metro State College of Denver. Jason is the Director of Operational Modeling (DOM) at Polar Star Consulting where he helps government and private industry to plan and build highly performing and reliable networks and services. He holds two patents. If you read this far, congratulations for making it to the end!

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