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What Does a Reliability Engineer Do?

Much as a detective seeks clues to solve a mystery, the reliability engineer will analyze design schematics and work flow processes, sometimes at an extremely detailed level.
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  • Written By: Jan Fletcher
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
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A reliability engineer may ensure or improve quality control in manufacturing processes, or in the performance of engineered products. Efficiency and reliability are key concerns for someone in this profession, and attention to small details is frequently expected. Engineers who work in this area of expertise often seek to balance production costs with consistent product performance. It is common for these engineers to work within a team. A reliability engineer may engage in activities that could have large-scale repercussions, should reliability concerns arise.

Ensuring ongoing quality control in the manufacture of goods is a key function of a reliability engineer. The manufacturing process is typically reviewed at regular intervals by the engineer to correct inefficiencies that may have crept into the process over time. Degradation of manufacturing processes may occur as a result of workers' tendencies to allow slippage in quality control processes over time.

A reliability engineer frequently makes recommendations in the design processes to improve reliability in manufacturing. He or she will likely apply engineering science to the manufacturing process, taking note of those production aspects that may be generating a higher rate of defects. Much as a detective seeks clues to solve a mystery, the reliability engineer will analyze design schematics and work flow processes, sometimes at an extremely detailed level. The engineer will do so with an eye toward uncovering and remedying those areas in which glitches may be occurring. He or she may also synchronize various requirements in the manufacturing process.

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The science of engineering reliability is a profession in which aspects of failure and performance are subject to controlled testing. As a result, the reliability engineer is usually expected to know how to apply stress analysis. He or she will likely be familiar with other possible common and not-so-common contributors to mechanical failure. Someone working in this profession may also be familiar with financial data, as balancing production costs with performance generally requires a basic understanding of accounting knowledge.

Since there are potentially huge repercussions when defects or inefficiencies are present in a manufacturer's operations, a reliability engineer usually focuses his or her attention on averting problems. Recalling defective products is often very damaging to a company's reputation. When a product is reengineered, such as a new engine design in an automobile, those working in this capacity carry a huge responsibility to verify the reliability and performance of the new design.

Some reliability engineers may work extensively with computer-aided design programs to study mechanical properties before an item is manufactured. Those who work in this area often do so in cross-functional teams, with other workers in the company. Team members may include company personnel in the marketing department, or those who assist customers in product support, as well as company accountants and other engineers.

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