10 Reliability Engineer Responsibilities (With Skills)

Updated 20 November 2022

A reliability engineer is a technical expert who assesses the risks and reliability associated with assets in business operations. They typically conduct risk assessments and help organisations with loss elimination and lifecycle asset management. Exploring the responsibilities of this technical role can help you decide if this job is right for you. In this article, we define a reliability engineer, outline 10 reliability engineer responsibilities and discuss some of their skills.

What is a reliability engineer?

Before exploring reliability engineer responsibilities, it's often helpful to first review a definition of this technical role. A reliability engineer is an expert in identifying and mitigating risks that can affect asset reliability. These assets typically refer to plant and equipment, such as production machinery, process production equipment, refining equipment, appliances and vehicles. A reliability engineer identifies how assets may fail, the implications of asset downtime and management strategies to minimise asset downtime.

A reliability engineer's primary function is essentially to reduce the costs associated with asset downtime by ensuring organisations have an excellent life cycle asset management plan. For example, a reliability engineer may assess the assets of a resource extraction operation. They determine the risks that can cause conveyor, sorter and crusher machinery to fail and outline the financial and production risks associated with these asset failures. A reliability engineer also instructs the resource extraction company on how to manage these assets to ensure their longevity and continual performance.

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10 reliability engineer responsibilities

Below, you can explore 10 typical responsibilities of a reliability engineer:

1. Conducting failure mode and effects analysis

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a process for analysing an asset's entire design, assembly and manufacturing process to determine the potential causes of failure. A reliability engineer typically conducts this analysis technique for large and complex assets. It's a relatively time-consuming task that involves intense focus and extensive research. For this reason, a reliability engineer might only conduct this analysis for operational-dependent assets. For example, in a resource extraction operation, a reliability engineer may assess the potential causes of failure in a large mining conveyor belt rather than fleet vehicles or earthworks equipment.

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2. Performing predictive analysis

A reliability engineer may perform predictive analysis procedures to identify when and how failures might occur. They may perform this with an FMEA test or conduct it as a standalone analysis. This predictive analysis can help companies plan maintenance procedures and develop effective asset management processes. For example, a reliability engineer may predict that a mining conveyor belt may fail after one year without daily, weekly and monthly maintenance procedures. With this insight, the company can plan a proactive maintenance schedule that ensures the conveyor belt can operate when required.

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3. Planning performance evaluation assessments

A reliability engineer usually develops performance evaluation criteria and assessments for operational assets. These assessments and criteria essentially outline the benchmarks for asset performance, ensuring a productive and safe operation. For example, a reliability engineer may develop a performance assessment for a reverse-cycle drill rig. The assessment includes benchmarks for operating temperatures, air pressures and rod rotation speeds. If the drill rig doesn't perform to the standards outlined in the performance assessment, it suggests a lack of performance and a potential hazard to its operators. These assessments help companies plan proactive maintenance procedures to avoid complete asset failure.

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4. Conducting root cause analysis

Reliability engineers seek to prevent asset failures, but they also diagnose asset failures to ensure they don't occur again. They typically diagnose asset failures through a root cause analysis. This analysis technique is a relatively broad term applied to varying industries and operations. For example, in the information technology (IT) industry, software engineers and testers may deploy root cause analysis software to identify software bugs. Reliability engineers usually use a rigorous step-by-step procedure to identify faults in mechanical and electrical assets. They often conduct physical inspections and review design, manufacturing and assembly specifications.

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5. Developing proactive maintenance procedures

A site reliability engineer often collaborates with engineering teams and maintenance crews to plan a proactive maintenance approach to managing assets. This proactive approach aims to prevent failures from occurring, even if assets aren't showing signs of failure. For example, a reliability engineer may develop a proactive maintenance plan for maintaining earthworks machinery. The plan involves a replacement of engine oil every 200 hours of operation. The machine might not require an oil replacement that frequently, but it eliminates the potential for complete asset failure or engine issues caused by contaminated or dirty oil.

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6. Reviewing newly installed plant and equipment

A reliability engineer usually collaborates with project engineers when installing new operational assets. The reliability engineer typically reviews the installation process and assesses the reliability of the newly installed assets. For example, a site reliability engineer may operate in an industrial oil refining facility. The facility is installing new conversion refinery systems. During the installation process, the site reliability engineer monitors the installation of specific components and systems. After the installation, they assess the maintainability and reliability of system specifics, such as distillate hydro-treaters and reformers. The review of installed plant and equipment can ensure operations can begin promptly.

7. Creating and monitoring life cycle asset management plans

A life cycle asset management (LCAM) plan outlines several stages of asset management procedures that vary depending on the asset and operation. One of the more common LCAM plans includes four stages, which are planning, procurement, maintenance and disposal. A reliability engineer typically reviews an organisation's existing plan or may help an organisation develop a new plan. LCAM plans help an organisation procure the right assets, implement effective maintenance protocols and dispose of assets safely and correctly. A reliability engineer typically ensures operational procedures conform to the processes outlined in an LCAM plan.

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8. Assisting in design and development planning for custom assets

Depending on a reliability engineer's employment, they might assist development teams in creating custom assets specific to the organisation's operation. They typically assist in the planning, manufacturing and assembly of assets to ensure they're reliable and suit the operational environment. For example, a company might develop a unique fertiliser crusher for their fertiliser production operation. A reliability engineer may ensure the crusher includes components and systems that can operate reliably and consistently in the specific environment. This is a relatively rare responsibility, as many manufacturing and industrial operations may utilise existing and proven assets.

9. Providing technical support

Reliability engineers typically focus on preventative procedures for asset failure and diagnostics procedures for recurring failures, but they may also provide technical support. For example, if a maintenance team struggles to correct an issue with an asset, a reliability engineer may contribute their expertise to help resolve the issue. They might also contribute their expertise to production processes to enhance efficiency and productivity.

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10. Monitoring overall equipment effectiveness

A reliability engineer may review the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) of operations. The OOE is a measurement outlining manufacturing productivity. It compares production losses, such as product defects and damages, against a performance benchmark. If an OEE is 100%, it means an organisation's manufacturing process produces no defects. A reliability engineer reviews the OEE measurement to identify potential issues with manufacturing assets. For example, if a company has a poor OEE, a reliability manager may investigate assets that might contribute to the poor OEE. They may discover that a specific asset is causing defects in an assembly line production process.

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Reliability engineer skills

Below, you can explore some of the typical skills that can help you perform your duties as a reliability engineer:

  • Attention to detail: When diagnosing complex assets, a minor issue might escalate to a complete asset failure. Your attention to detail can be an excellent skill for identifying these minor issues, particularly in a root cause or FMEA analysis.

  • Problem-solving: One of your primary responsibilities as a reliability engineer is usually to diagnose and resolve problems with assets. Your problem-solving skills can help you identify complex issues, consider effective solutions and develop preventative procedures.

  • Communication: As a reliability manager, many of your duties can benefit from excellent communication skills. For example, when developing proactive maintenance plans, you can discuss complex procedures with maintenance team members to ensure they understand their duties.

  • Collaboration: Depending on your responsibilities as a reliability manager, you may work alongside project engineers, maintenance team members and production employees. Your ability to collaborate with your colleagues can enhance your productivity and efficiency.


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