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Reliability Maturity Matrix
The concept of a maturity model is not new. It provides a means to identif y the current state and illuminate the
possible improvements to a reliability program. The matrix serves a guide to assist an organization in improving
The matrix has f ive stages. In general, the higher stages are most cost ef f ective and ef f icient at achieving
higher rates of product reliability perf ormance. These stages—uncertainty, awaking, enlightenment, wisdom,
and certainty—are described in today’s post.
Stage 1: Uncertainty
“We don’t know why we have problems with reliability.”
Reliability is rarely discussed or considered during design and production. Product returns resulting f rom f ailure
are considered a part of doing business. Field f ailures are rarely investigated, and of ten blame is assigned to
customers. The f ew people who consider reliability improvements gain little support. Reliability testing is done
in an ad hoc f ashion and of ten just to meet customer requirements or basic industry standards.
Stage 2: Awakening
“Is it absolutely necessary to always have problems with reliability?”
Reliability is discussed by managers but not supported by f unding or training. Some elements of a reliability
program are implemented, yet generally not in a coordinated f ashion. Some tools such as FMEA and
accelerated and highly accelerated lif e testing are experimented with, but most ef f ort still f ocuses on
standards-based testing and meeting customer requirements. Some analysis is done to estimate reliability or
understand f ield f ailure rates, yet limited use is made of these data in making product decisions. There is,
however, an increasing emphasis on understanding f ailures and resolving them. Failure analysis is typically
accomplished by component vendors with little result.
Stage 3: Enlightenment
“Through commitment and reliability improvement we are identif ying and resolving our problems.”
A robust reliability program exists and includes many tools and processes. Generally, signif icant ef f ort is
directed to resolving prototype and f ield reliability issues. Increasing reliance is placed on root-cause analysis
to determine appropriate solutions. Some tools are not used to their f ull potential owing to lack of
understanding of reliability and how the various tools apply. Some reliance is placed on establishing standard
testing and procedures f or all products. Only some use of these testing results is made f or estimating product
reliability to supplement predictions. Predictions are primarily made to address customer requests and not as
f eedback to design teams.
Stage 4: Wisdom
“Failure prevention is a routine part of our operation.”
Each product program or project has a tailored reliability program that can be adjusted as the understanding of
product reliability risks changes. Reliability tools and tasks are selected and implemented because they will
provide needed inf ormation f or decisions. Testing f ocuses on either discovering f ailure mechanisms or
characterizing f ailure mechanisms. Testing of ten proceeds to f ailure, if possible. Advanced data analysis tools
are regularly employed and reports are distributed widely. There is increasing cooperation with key suppliers
and vendors to incorporate the appropriate reliability tools upstream.
Stage 5: Certainty
“We know why we do not have problems with reliability.”
Product reliability is a strategic business activity across the organization. There is widespread understanding
and acceptance of design f or reliability and how it f its into the overall business. Product reliability is accurately
predicted prior to product launch using a mix of appropriate techniques. New materials, processes, and
vendors are caref ully considered f or their ability to meet internally established reliability requirements. The f ew
f ailures that do occur are expected and analysis is done to identif y early signs of material or process changes.
Customers and suppliers are regularly consulted on ways to improve reliability.