Related Resources: Reliability Engineering

Reliability Practices Benchmarking, Commercial

Engineering Applications and Design
Design for Manufacturability

Reliability Practices Benchmarking, Commercial

Prepared by: Reliability Analysis Center Under contract to: Rome Laboratory Griffiss AFB

Open: Reliability Practices Benchmarking, Commercial


As introduced by Xerox, benchmarking is a process for finding the world-class standards for a product, service, or system and then adjusting one's own products, services, and systems to exceed those standards. These world-class standards can be found by looking at competitors who are recognized leaders for the product, service, or system. Benchmarking done using competitors as models is called competitive or strategic benchmarking. Operating units or functions within a company can also be used as the model; this approach is called internal benchmarking. Finally, benchmarking can be done using companies that are the best practitioners of a particular function, regardless of what industry the exemplar is in. This type of benchmarking is called functional benchmarking. Benchmarking is a method now commonly used by companies as part of their efforts to improve quality, and it is a necessary element for winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Another form of benchmarking is called normative benchmarking. In normative benchmarking, a consultant collects data from a group of companies on a product, service, or process and then delivers a set of statistics to the companies with company names expunged. The benchmarking effort described herein incorporated elements of normative and functional benchmarking

The Reliability Analysis Center (RAC) conducted a fact-finding, study project to benchmark the reliability and maintainability (R&M) practices used by commercial industry. The project was performed for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Economic Security, Weapon Support Improvement Group. Initially, the study objectives were to:

  • Gain an understanding of the best R&M practices being used by commercial industry
  • Recommend changes to existing DoD R&M standards and handbooks
  • Identify R&M tools and techniques and, when possible, evaluate their effectiveness, applications, and cost.

As Defense Acquisition Reform progressed, the second and third objectives were deferred. The project was rescoped to focus on the first objective and on reliability as a means of providing useful input to the ongoing DoD acquisition reform effort.

The benchmarking consisted of four distinct tasks: a literature search, a survey of the R&M practices of a wide range of commercial companies, personal interviews of a smaller group of companies, and an analysis of the data collected. Based on the results of these tasks, areas of commonality and divergence among commercial reliability practices were identified, as well as the general commercial approach to designing, developing, and manufacturing reliable products. Three benchmarks and eight Keys to Success were derived from the findings and conclusions. Insights were gained into the motivations behind commercial companies' approaches and their use of military specifications, standards, and handbooks.


Chapter 1 - Introduction - The background leading up to the benchmarking effort is described as is the benchmarking process.

Chapter 2 - Technical Approach - The approach used to perform the benchmarking is described.

Chapter 3 - Results - The results of each step in the benchmarking effort are presented.

Chapter 4 - Conclusions - Conclusions are presented.

Chapter 5 - Areas Requiring Additional Research - Areas related to reliability engineering and its implementation that require further research are presented

Appendix A - Defense Acquisition Reform - Background information on the current reform efforts.

Appendix B - Literature Search Results - Bibliography and synopses of selected references.

Appendix C - Survey Forms - Samples of the survey forms used.

Appendix D - Interview Ouestions and Notes - Samples of the interview questions and expurgated notes from the interviews.

Appendix E - Terms and Definitions Appendix F - RAC Product Order Form

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