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Reliability improvement is the conceptual norm but has not been achieved by all sectors of industry. The U.K. aerospace industry is one that has aspired to make the transition from a culture of reliability demonstration to enhancement. This paper presents action research that examines the challenges facing this industry. A statistical model is developed to help measure the likely impact of failure modes on operational performance, hence providing a basis for managing the enhancement process. The model, which has general applicability to other product development processes, is stated and justified. The industrial interventions are described and an analysis of findings is presented. The proposed model is better than traditional approaches because it provides a systematic process to capture and integrate data from different sources to estimate reliability by directly measuring the engineering improvement achieved through product design and development. The estimates can be used to inform a traceable coherent argument about the level and growth in reliability to management and the customer as well as to provide insight into the impact of alternative engineering modifications to the design team. The modeling process has contributed to the partial transition to reliability enhancement of a consortium of companies who have changed their standard operating procedures to reflect the lessons learned from the research intervention. The insights gained contribute to an understanding of how the U.K. aerospace industry is changing its management of reliability enhancement in design.
Date of Publication: May 2006