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Commentary - caution: constant failure-rate models may be hazardous to your design

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1 Author(s)
J. B. Bowles ; Comput. Sci. & Eng., South Carolina Univ., Columbia, SC, USA

This commentary examines the consequences, from a system perspective, of modeling system components using only their failure-rates, viz, the inverse of their MTTF, when, in actuality, they have a lifetime distribution with either an increasing or a decreasing hazard function. Such models are often used because: they are tractable; they are thought to be "robust;" they depend only on average values; or only small amounts of data are available for calculations. However, the results of such models can greatly understate the system-reliability for some time periods and overstate it for others. Using MTTF as a figure of merit for system-reliability can be especially misleading. Furthermore, the redundancy in a redundant system might provide very little of the reliability improvement predicted by the constant failure-rate model, and series systems might, in fact, be much more reliable than predicted. The overall result is that a constant failure-rate model can give very misleading guidance for system-design.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Reliability  (Volume:51 ,  Issue: 3 )