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**Availability, Reliability, SIL
**

What’s the difference?

Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) MTBF is the mean operating time (up time) between failures of a specified item of equipment or a system. In the diagram, this is the average value of t over the operating life of the equipment.

Up Down t1 t2 t3 t4

MTBF is commonly used to express the overall reliability of items of equipment and systems. We often come across the above terms, and others, when we are talking about equipment and systems. All of them relate in some way to how well something will perform in a particular task; however it is important to use the correct term for the task in hand, otherwise you are likely to end up with the right answer ...but to the wrong question! Which of these statements is true? • • • • A ‘SIL’ certified product is more reliable and will give fewer trips. I need 100% availability. If the Mean Time To Failure is 100 years, then half of the units will have failed after that time. Reliability and safety are the same thing. MTBF is the correct term when talking about an item of equipment that is repairable. When we consider items that are not repaired when they fail, then Mean Time To Failure (MTTF) is the more correct term, but it does not much matter as they mean the same thing, Often MTBF is used when talking about non-repairable items too. Failure rate (λ)

Well, none of them are true; read on to find out more. Reliability What do we mean by reliability? Reliability is “The probability that an item will perform a required function, under stated conditions, for a stated period of time”. Put more simply, it is “The probability that an item will work for a stated period of time”. There are a number of ways of expressing reliability, but one commonly used is the Mean Time Between Failures. Let’s examine what this means.

Failure rate is measured in units of time-1, such as failures per million hours. Failure rate is often used to express the reliability of simple items and components. It is also frequently used to express the reliablity of particular functions, for example the dangerous failure rate of a safety system.

AN9030 Rev3 270510

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otherwise the calculated availability will be incorrect. years. MTTR is often taken to be 8 hours. The averages of each of these are: • • Mean Up Time. but if it can be repaired quickly when it fails. For example. which we have already seen is known as the MTBF Mean Down Time. after a time that is some multiple of the MTBF. the probability that a unit will still be working is just 0.37. but only if the failure rate does not change over time. such as a safety function. As MTBF and λ are measuring the same thing. It does not.com AN9030 Rev3 270510 .01 x MTBF 0. But MTTR may not be the same as MDT because: • • • The failure may not be noticed for some time after it has occurred It may be decided not to repair the equipment immediately The equipment may not be put back in service immediately it is repaired Whether MDT or MTTR is used.com THE AMERICAS: +1 800 835 7075 mtlsupport@cooperindustries. hours) – is most often used to express the overall reliability of equipment. or something like that.and Down Time – the time when the equipment has failed and so is unavailable. the length of an ordinary work shift but in reality the repair time in a particular installation might be different. or MDT By definition: Availability = = Up time Total time Mean up time Mean up time + Mean down time MTBF MTBF + MDT The meaning of MTBF It is all too easy to assume that MTBF means average life or expected life. on average. pmh. then the table shows the probability that the unit will still be working after a given time.5 x MTBF 1 x MTBF 2 x MTBF 99% 90% 61% 37% 13% = Sometimes Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) is used in this formula instead of MDT.com ASIA-PACIFIC: +65 6 487 7887 mtlsupport@cooperindustries. 1 . EUROPE (EMEA): +44 (0)1582 723633 mtlsupport@cooperindustries. why have different terms? • • • MTBF (years. From this we can see what is meant by Up Time – the time when the equipment is available . The table shows the percentage of units that will be still working. Percentage of units still working.A redundant system has two or more parallel paths so that the system continues to operate after the failure of one path. Usually this is so for simple equipment but not so for redundant1 systems. After a time equal to the MTBF. its availability could be high.1 x MTBF 0. An item of equipment may not be very reliable. it is important that it reflects the total time for which the equipment is unavailable for service.Relationship between MTBF and λ Since Availability Availability can be defined as MTBF and = Total operating time Number of failures Number of failures Total operating time 1 λ “The proportion of time for which the equipment is able to perform its function” Availability is different from reliability in that it takes repair time into account. FITs) – is convenient to use for components. hours) – more correct for items that are not repaired λ (hr-1. In the process industries. after a time equal to the MTBF only 37% of the units will still be working. After a time equal to or the probability that a single unit will still be working 0. and it is easy to calculate the MTBF of an item of equipment from the sum of the component λs. If only one unit is being considered. Look again at the diagram we saw earlier: Up Down t1 t2 t3 t4 λ It is implied that = MTBF = This is true. MTTF (Mean time to failure. It is also commonly used to express the reliability of a particular function.

but its general reliability may not be. monitoring a process. A system is considered to be safe. only those failures which remain hidden but will defeat the operation of the safety function when it is called upon. PFD means probability of failure on demand. equivalently. So. This is important. A safety-related product is designed to have a particularly low rate of failure of the safety function. PFD is the unavailability of a safety function. Calculations of reliability and failure rate of redundant systems are complex and often counter-intuitive. implying that they are suitable for use in safety systems. a safety system may be less reliable in total (lower MTBF) than a non-safety system performing a similar function. the formula for PFD looks very similar to the formula above for general unavailability: PFDavg ≈ λDU MDT PFDavg means the average probability of failure on demand. Whether this is really true depends on a lot of detail.Unavailability Sometimes unavailability can be a useful term: From this we get the simplest form of PFD calculation for safety functions: Unavailability = = 1 – availability 1– MTBF MTBF + MDT λ MDT 1 + λ MDT λ MDT What is SIL? PFDavg ≈ ½ λDU T1 = = What is PFD? SIL is one of the most misused terms in the field of reliability. But remember that even when a product genuinely complies with ‘SIL’ requirements. The system may fail much more frequently in modes that are not considered to be dangerous. An item is highly available if it does not fail very often and. MTBF is a measure of reliability. The safety function is equally likely to fail at any time between one proof test and the next. since the probability does change over time – the probability of your system having failed will depend on how long ago you tested it. as it warns us not to assume that a safety-related product is generally more reliable than a general purpose product. which is really the correct term to use. • • • • • © MTL Instruments 2010 EUROPE (EMEA): +44 (0)1582 723633 mtlsupport@cooperindustries. or the average life. but not doing anything until a safety limit is exceeded when they must take some action to keep the process safe. except in a defined safety context. as we noted in the previous section. If a demand to act occurs after a time. Consequently. or some other desirable feature. on average it is down for T1 / 2 hours. ‘SIL’ is not a guarantee of quality or reliability. the failure rate of dangerous undetected failures. that is only telling you that it will do a certain job in a safety system. These safety systems are often known as emergency shut down (ESD) systems. a dangerous undetected failure will not be apparent until either a demand comes along or it is revealed by a proof test. It does not. SIL1 is the lowest level of safety protection and SIL4 the highest. Suppose we proof test our safety function every year or two.com AN9030 Rev3 270510 . it can be quickly returned to service. say every T1 hours. SIL means safety integrity level. the useful life. It is used to describe the degree of safety protection needed by a process and consequently the safety reliability of the safety system necessary to achieve that protection. Useful to remember • • An item is highly reliable if it works for a long time without failing. what is the probability that the safety function has already failed? As you might expect. We are not counting any failures that are deemed to be ‘safe’. what is the MDT for a safety function? By definition. Many products are described as ‘SIL’ rated. so. Safety systems are often designed to be working in the background. perhaps because they cause the process to shut down. which is beyond the scope of this article. Note that we talk about λDU here. but it does not mean the expected life. its MTBF) may not be very impressive.com THE AMERICAS: +1 800 835 7075 mtlsupport@cooperindustries. Its safety reliability may be high. higher reliability. when it does. if it is reliable in performing its safety function.com ASIA-PACIFIC: +65 6 487 7887 mtlsupport@cooperindustries. ‘SIL’ is often used to imply that a product has better quality. but its total failure rate (or. a number between 1 and 4.

com AN9030 Rev3 270510 .com THE AMERICAS: +1 800 835 7075 mtlsupport@cooperindustries.com ASIA-PACIFIC: +65 6 487 7887 mtlsupport@cooperindustries.EUROPE (EMEA): +44 (0)1582 723633 mtlsupport@cooperindustries.

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