We often get asked to describe the role of a reliability engineer within an organisation. Often, these organisations have different expectations of their reliability engineers than what we would expect.

Although this is not a comprehensive list of what all reliability engineers are responsible for, we can observe that the core purposes of a reliability engineer is to be focused on guidance, analysis and improvement – not on managing the day-to-day execution of maintenance tasks.

Reliability engineers are responsible for improving equipment across its life cycle.
Reliability engineers are not responsible for the day-to-day maintenance actions. That is the function of the maintenance supervisor, maintenance engineer or plant engineer.

The way reliability engineers interact with other departmental functions will differ based on the organisational structure and reporting lines, but during each of the life cycle phases e.g., planning, acquisition / commission, operate / maintain and disposal, there are certain things reliability engineers will be responsible for.


During the planning stage, reliability engineers are often responsible for:

  • Establishing the maintenance philosophy for equipment or specific asset classes, in support of the asset management and organisational objectives
  • Specifying maintenance budget requirements on new projects
  • Defining maintenance manning targets on new projects
  • Establishing any associated reliability targets to achieve the asset management and organisational objectives

Acquisition / commission

During the acquisition / commission stage, reliability engineers are often responsible for:

  • Ensuring that maintainability and reliability concepts are considered as part of any new design – e.g., through maintainability studies, reliability modelling or class of plant quality studies
  • Additionally, depending on their level of expertise they could be involved in specific equipment or material selections in support of the reliability targets
  • Performing Level of Repair analysis to determine replace vs repair strategies for major components/equipment items and their associated spare parts holdings strategies
  • Establishing initial preventive maintenance programs for new equipment by applying Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) or other applicable techniques
  • Establishing initial spare parts holdings for new equipment
  • Performing reliability testing to verify that installed equipment meets specified reliability / maintainability performance levels

Operate / maintain

During the operate / maintain stage, reliability engineers are often responsible for:

  • Analysing and optimising the maintenance performed on equipment
  • Analysing defects or failures by applying appropriate analysis techniques such as root cause analysis, defect elimination, fault tree analysis, etc.
  • Analysing operating profiles to optimise equipment life – equipment capability vs operational requirement
  • Optimising spares levels – based on analysis of usage and need associated with maintenance strategies, as well as breakdown analysis
  • Analysing and reporting on equipment performance – MTBF, MTTR, OEE etc
  • Providing direction to maintenance, operations, and engineering on the priorities for reliability improvement
  • Providing guidance and direction to operate for reliability programs


During the operate / maintain stage, reliability engineers are often responsible for:

  • Reviewing equipment reliability and feeding the results back for consideration when establishing or specifying new project requirements or specifications.

Do you want to improve your equipment reliability?

We have written a number of articles detailing various aspects of reliability improvement processes, with our goal to be helpful to any organisation wishing to increase their uptime and maximise the value of their physical assets. At the centre of these initiatives, we often provide training on Reliability Centered Maintenance and Preventive Maintenance Optimisation, both key tools in improving equipment reliability. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to be notified of new articles on these topics.

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