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ARTICLE IN PRESS

Reliability Engineering and System Safety 94 (2009) 16181628

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ress

assessment of trends in maintenance data

D.M. Louit a, R. Pascual b,, A.K.S. Jardine c

a

lica de Chile, Av. Vicun

a Mackenna 4860, Santiago, Chile

Centro de Minera, Ponticia Universidad Cato

c

Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto, 5 Kings College Road, Toronto, Ont., Canada M5S 3G8

b

a r t i c l e in f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:

Received 24 April 2008

Received in revised form

6 April 2009

Accepted 10 April 2009

Available online 18 April 2009

Many times, reliability studies rely on false premises such as independent and identically distributed

time between failures assumption (renewal process). This can lead to erroneous model selection for the

time to failure of a particular component or system, which can in turn lead to wrong conclusions and

decisions. A strong statistical focus, a lack of a systematic approach and sometimes inadequate

theoretical background seem to have made it difcult for maintenance analysts to adopt the necessary

stage of data testing before the selection of a suitable model. In this paper, a framework for model

selection to represent the failure process for a component or system is presented, based on a review of

available trend tests. The paper focuses only on single-time-variable models and is primarily directed to

analysts responsible for reliability analyses in an industrial maintenance environment. The model

selection framework is directed towards the discrimination between the use of statistical distributions

to represent the time to failure (renewal approach); and the use of stochastic point processes

(repairable systems approach), when there may be the presence of system ageing or reliability

growth. An illustrative example based on failure data from a eet of backhoes is included.

& 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords:

Trend testing

Time to failure

Model selection

Repairable systems

NHPP

1. Introduction

As described by Dekker and Scarf [1] maintenance optimization consists of mathematical models aimed at nding balances

between costs and benets of maintenance, or the most appropriate moment to execute maintenance. Many times, these

models are fairly complex and maintenance analysts have been

slow to apply them, since often data are scarce or, due to lack of

statistical theoretical knowledge, models are very difcult to

implement correctly in an industrial setting. Other, more

qualitative techniques such as reliability centered maintenance

(RCM) or total productive maintenance (TPM) have then played an

important role in maintenance optimization. Nevertheless, data

analysis and statistical modeling are denitely very valuable tools

engineers can employ to optimize the maintenance of assets

under their supervision.

Acknowledging that many reliability studies or maintenance

optimization programs do not require sophisticated statistical

inputs, Ansell and Phillips [2] reinforce that even at a basic level,

we should always be critical of the analysis and ask whether a

technique is appropriate.

Corresponding author.

0951-8320/$ - see front matter & 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1016/j.ress.2009.04.001

has resulted in the fact that although many models rely on very

specic assumptions for their proper application, these are not

normally discriminated by the practitioner according to the real

operating conditions of their plants or eets, i.e. real-world data

[3,22,43]. OConnor (cited in [2]) points out that much reliability

analysis is done under false premises such as independence of

components, constant failure rates, identically distributed variables, etc. As critical constituents of any reliability analysis, timeto-failure models are not excluded of this situation; thus many

times the use of conventional time-to-failure analysis techniques

is adopted when they are, in fact, not appropriate.

The aim of this paper is to provide practitioners with a review

of techniques useful for the selection of a suitable time-to-failure

model, specically looking at the case when the standard use of

statistical distributions is useless, given the presence of long-term

trends in the maintenance failure data. The paper focuses on the

selection of single time variable models, since they are the most

commonly applied in practice, rather than in more complex

multivariate models such as the proportional hazards model,

which have also shown great value in their application to

maintenance and reliability [3].

The above does not imply that we propose that time-to-failure

models should be the center of attention in a reliability

improvement study; on the contrary, they should only act as a

ARTICLE IN PRESS

D.M. Louit et al. / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 94 (2009) 16181628

Objectives

Maintenance Data

Model Selection

Failure Process

Optimization Model

Solution

1619

insufcient data quantity problem would never disappear, since as

the aim of maintenance is to make failures rare events, one could

expect that as maintenance improves, fewer failures should occur.

Thus the solution, he says, is based on better a priori modeling.

Bayesian techniques, directed to incorporate into the models all

the prior information available, are useful in this case. Barlow and

Proschan [11], Lindley and Singpurwalla [12], Singpurwalla [13],

Walls and Quigley [44] and Guikema and Pate-Cornell [45] are

relevant sources for Bayesian methods in reliability.

Although it escapes the reach of this paper, it is valuable to

mention Bayesian analysis, because it provides a means to reach

optimal decisions, using standard models as the ones discussed

later on in this paper, when lack of data is a problem. In simple

words, and as described in [14], Bayesian estimation methods

incorporate information beyond that contained in the data,

such as:

tool for the objective the engineers assign to it. Actually, the

logical priority is that of objective, data and, nally, model

selection (as shown in Fig. 1). In other words, as suggested by

Ansell and Phillips [4] an analysis should be problem led rather

than technique or model centered. Nevertheless, correct

assessment of the failure process and of time to failure is

usually of critical importance to the (posterior) economic

analysis required to nd an optimal solution to the problem that

originated the analysis. Discussion of approaches to maintenance

and reliability optimization and models mixing reliability and

economics can be found in several references, for example [57].

When dealing with reliability eld data, frequently some

practical problems such as the unavailability of large sets of data

occur. This paper will briey touch on this and other problems, as

they are relevant to the discussion of model selection techniques.

This document is structured as follows. Section 2 refers to

common practical problems found in the analysis of reliability

data. Section 3 describes the concept of repairable systems and

identies some of the models available for their representation.

Section 4 presents a series of graphical and analytical tests used to

determine the existence of trends in the data. Section 5 proposes a

procedure based on these tests to correctly select a time-to-failure

model, discriminating between a renewal approach and the use of

an alternative, non-stationary model, such as the non-homogeneous Poisson process (NHPP). Section 6 presents numerical

examples using data coming from a eet of backhoes. Finally,

Section 7 contains a summary of the paper.

2.1. Scarce data

One major problem associated with reliability data is,

ironically, the lack of sufcient data to properly run statistical

analyses, as many authors mentioned repeatedly. In fact, Bendell

[8] points out that all statistical methodologies are limited when

done based on small data sets, since the amount of information

contained by such sets is by nature small. Furthermore, as

mentioned in [9], empirical evidences indicate that sets of failure

times typically contain ten or fewer observations, which emphasize the need to develop methods to deal adequately with small

data sets (naturally the larger the data set, the more precise the

statistical analysis). Also, many data sets are collected for

maintenance management rather than reliability. Hence the

information content is often very poor and can be misleading

without careful scrutiny of the material and cleaning if necessary.

generic information coming from actual data from similar

systems;

expert judgment and belief.

This information is converted into a prior distribution, which is

then updated using new data gathered during the operation into

posterior distributions representing the failure process of the

component or system of interest. Scarf [3] warns about the fact

that many times the expert judgment comes from the same

people responsible for the maintenance actions; thus it is possible

that prior distributions may reect the current practice rather

than the real underlying failure process; so special care should be

taken when attempting to use a Bayesian approach.

2.2. Data censoring

Another common practical problem in a reliability study is the

presence of censored data. A censored observation corresponds to

a non complete time to failure or to a non-failure event, but this

does not mean it does not contain relevant information for the

reliability modeler. Censoring can usually be classied in right,

left or interval censoring. Truncation may also be a practical

problem in some data sets, commonly confused with censoring.

An example of the latter is the case when the time to failure can

only be registered if it lies within a certain observation window

(failures that occurred outside this interval are not observed, thus

no information is available to the modeler).

Another situation that may arise is when data collection begins

in a specied moment of time and the operating time of the items

under analysis is unknown before the start of the monitoring

period. The monitored life to failure of a component under

observation can then be called residual life.

If time-to-failure data are found to be subject of representation

by a renewal process (RP), a statistical distribution can be tted to

times between failures (see Section 3). There are well-known

techniques to determine parameters for many distributions in the

presence of these censoring types. Detailed descriptions of such

techniques can be found in [1518], among others. Tsang and

Jardine [19] propose a methodology for the estimation of the

parameters of a Weibull distribution using residual-life data.

2.3. Combining data

A valid alternative when data are scarce is the combination or

pooling of data from similar pieces of equipment. This is a

ARTICLE IN PRESS

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D.M. Louit et al. / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 94 (2009) 16181628

operations where a large number of identical systems are utilized,

such as eets of mobile equipment or parallel production lines.

Stamatelatos et al. [14] provide a check list of coupling factors for

common cause failure events (one triggering cause originates

several failures), found to be helpful in the denition of conditions

needed for proper data pooling, as usually these same conditions

are met by equipment subject to data pooling:

same design;

same hardware;

same function;

same installation, maintenance or operations people

(and conditions);

same procedures;

same systemcomponent interface;

same location and

same environment.

similar in many cases, as engineers should use their judgment

and experience in assessing the similarities between two or more

items before they are combined for analysis. If a more rigorous

analysis is needed, when in the presence of two or more samples

of data from possibly different populations, various statistical

methods can be used to determine if there are signicant

differences between two populations (or two-sample problem),

even in heavily censored data sets [20,21].

Usually in practice, components can be repaired or adjusted,

rather than replaced, whenever a breakdown occurs. These

interventions (here referred to as repair actions) are likely to

modify the hazard rate of the component; so it can be argued that

the expected time to failure after an intervention takes place is

different from the expected time to the rst failure of a new

component. But the most common approach to reliability

assessment does not take this into account, as time to failure is

modeled using statistical distributions assumed to be valid for

every failure of the component or system (rst, second, third, etc.).

This is called the as good as new or renewal assumption. In fact,

in the reliability literature, as Ascher and Feingold [22] notice,

there is a xation in mortality, or rather, its equivalent in reliability

terms, time to failure in a non-repairable item or time to rst failure

of a repairable system.

In order to take repair actions into account (when they

effectively affect the behavior of the component or system under

study), a so called repairable systems approach has to be

adopted.

3. Repairable systems

A non-repairable system is one which, when it fails, is

discarded (as repair is physically not feasible or non-economical).

The reliability gure of interest is, then, the survival probability.

The times between failures of a non-repairable system are

independent and identically distributed, iid [23]. This is the most

common assumption made when analyzing time-to-failure data,

but as many authors mention, it might be unrealistic in some

situations. Many examples have been given of systems that rather

than being discarded (and replaced) on failure, are repaired. In

this case, the usual non-repairable methodologies (statistical

cannot be appropriate [24].

Repairable systems, on the other hand, are those that can be

restored to their fully operational capabilities by any method,

other than the replacement of the entire system [22]. In this sense,

reliability is interpreted as the probability of not failing for a

particular period. This analysis does not assume that times

between failures are independent or identically distributed. When

dealing with repairable systems, reliability is not modeled in

terms of statistical distributions, but using stochastic point

processes.

The number of failures in an interval of time can be

represented through a stochastic point process. Furthermore, in

this case the point process can be interpreted as a counting

process, and what it counts is the number of events (failures) in a

certain time interval. In reliability analysis, such a process is said

to be time truncated when it stops counting at a particular instant.

It is called failure truncated when it stops counting when a certain

number of failures is reached.

The ve main stochastic process models applied to modeling of

repairable systems are [22]

The

The

The

The

The

homogeneous Poisson process (HPP).

branching Poisson process (BPP).

superposed renewal process (SRP) and

non-homogeneous Poisson process (NHPP).

condition every time it is repaired, so that it actually converts time

between failures in time to rst failure of a new system or, in

other words, leads to a non-repairable system approach, in

which time to failure can be modeled by a statistical distribution

and the iid assumption is valid. The HPP is a special case of the RP,

that assumes that times between failures are independent and

identically exponentially distributed, so the iid assumption is also

valid and the time to failure is described by an exponential

distribution (constant hazard rate).

The BPP is used to represent time-to-failure data that can be

assumed to be identically distributed, but not independent. As

Ascher and Feingold [22] mention, this process is applicable when

a primary failure (or a sequence of primary failures having iid

times to failure) can trigger one or more subsidiary failures; thus

there is dependence between the subsidiary failures and the

occurrence of the primary, triggering failure. Very few practical

applications of this model are found in the literature. A thorough

description of the BPP and its application to the study of

repairable systems can be found in [25].

The SRP is a process derived from the combination of various

independent RPs, and in general it is not an RP. For example, think

of a set of parts within a system that are discarded and replaced

every time they fail, independently. Each part can be modeled as

an RP, and then the system would be modeled using an SRP. But as

a possibility exists to investigate the times between failures for

the system as a whole, then the question whether this approach is

justied or not arises [4]. In addition, the superposition of

independent RPs converges to a Poisson process (possibly nonhomogeneous), when the number of superimposed processes

grows (by the theorem of Grigelionis, see [26]).

Since the RP and the HPP are equivalent to the regular, nonrepairable items methods, and the BPP and SRP have either not

been largely applied or, in the case of the latter, can be

approximated by an NHPP (with a relatively large number of

constituent processes), they will not be described in greater

detail here. These models are covered in detail by Ascher and

Feingold [22].

ARTICLE IN PRESS

D.M. Louit et al. / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 94 (2009) 16181628

system does not involve a signicant modication of the

reliability of the equipment as a result of the repair action, the

NHPP is able to correctly describe the failure-repair process. Then,

the NHPP can be interpreted as a minimal repair model [27]. Note

that for (i) hazardous maintenance, i.e. when condition of the

equipment is worse after repair than it was before failure or for (ii)

imperfect repair, i.e. when reliability after repair is better than just

before failure, but not as good as new, other models have been

proposed. These models are even more exible than the NHPP, as

they allow for better representation of imperfect repair scenarios

(see, e.g. [28,29], among others). Nevertheless, we concentrate on

the NHPP given its simplicity, along with the following reasons

(as listed by Coetzee [30]):

1621

made, since time between failures is apparently independent from

the age of the equipment. For B and C, however, a trend is clearly

present; for B a decrease in reliability is evident, while for C

reliability growth is taking place. Whenever these latter situations

occur, and there is signicant evidence for recognition of an

ageing process taking place, the usual RP approach has to be

disregarded, and an alternative non-stationary approach would

usually be used to model time between failures for the system.

Note that equipment age refers to the age of the system under

analysis, measured from the moment it was rst put into

operation, as apposed to the time elapsed since the last repair

(which is signicant for a RP).

3.1. The non-homogeneous Poisson process

trend, due to the fact that the accepted formats of the NHPP

are monotonously increasing/decreasing functions;

ii. NHPP models are mathematically straightforward and their

theoretical base is well developed;

iii. models have been tested fairly well, and several examples are

available in the literature for their application.

Under the NHPP, times between successive failures are neither

independent nor identically distributed, which makes this model

the most important and widely used in the modeling of repairable

systems data [31,32]. Actually, whenever a trend is found to be

present in time between failures data, a non-stationary model

such as the NHPP is mandatory, and the regular distribution tting

methods are not valid.

The next section of the paper reviews a series of trend-testing

techniques found very helpful for model selection purposes,

focusing on the discrimination between a renewal approach and

the need for an alternative model, such as the NHPP. Should the

reader decide to pursue the modeling of times to failure using

other non-stationary models (i.e. imperfect repair models), the

techniques presented in this paper are equally valuable to

establish the existence of trends in the data, which justify the

decision of not using the standard distribution tting methods

such as Weibull analysis.

Fig. 2 shows three theoretical situations that may occur in

practice, in relation to time to failure of a particular system. From

the gure, it can be noticed that the three data sets generated

from systems AC are very different. For A, no clear trend can be

failure:

the number of failures to be found in an interval in relation to total

age of the system, through the intensity function. Two popular

parameterizations for the intensity function of an NHPP are the

power law intensity (also called Weibull intensity) and the loglinear intensity.

The power law intensity gives its name to the power law

process (NHPP with Weibull intensity) and is given by

lt Zbtb1 ,

(1)

The log-linear intensity function has the form

lt eabt ,

(2)

Several practical examples reviewed show that the power-law

process is preferred, because of its similarities with the Weibull

distribution tting method used regularly for non-repairable data.

Actually, Z is the scale parameter and b the shape parameter, and

the intensity function is of the same form of the failure rate of a

Weibull distribution.

Details concerning the tting of a power-law and log-linear

intensity functions to data from water pumps in a nuclear plant

are discussed in [23]. A practical example using jet engine data

combined from several pieces of equipment is found in [24].

Ascher and Kobbacy [33], and Baker [34] also provide applications

of both log-linear and power-law processes.

When using an NHPP, engineers could imagine it as a twostage problem: the rst (say, inner stage) relates to the tting of

an intensity function to data and the second (outer stage) uses

the cumulative intensity function to estimate reliability

(or probability of failure) for the system. When trends are not

present and data can be assumed to be iid, only one stage is

needed, where directly a time-to-failure distribution is tted to

data and reliability (or probability of failure) estimates are

obtained from it.

Age

4. Trend testing techniques

Age

Age

Fig. 2. Possible trends in time between failures.

failures data is identied, a rst step in model selection should be

that of assessing the existence of trend or time dependency in the

data. Several techniques accomplish this task, and a selection of

them is described here.

Before presenting the testing techniques, it is of great

importance to identify the possible trends one may encounter

when analyzing reliability data. A trend in the pattern of failures

can be monotonic or non-monotonic. In the case of a monotonic

trend (such as the ones shown in Fig. 2), the system is said to be

ARTICLE IN PRESS

D.M. Louit et al. / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 94 (2009) 16181628

4.1.1. Cumulative failures vs. time plot

The simplest method for trend testing is a plot of the

cumulative failures against time for the system observed (Newton, in Ansell and Phillips [4]). When a linear plot results, data can

be assumed to have no trend and the same distribution for time

between failures is accepted. Fig. 3 shows generic plots expected.

Plot A clearly shows the existence of a trend in the data, while plot

B shows no evidence of trend. Sometimes, a curve like plot C

occurs, where instead of a smooth trend, two or more straight

lines can be plotted. This may be the consequence of changes in

the maintenance policy or changes in the operational conditions

of the equipment; for example, dividing the failure behavior of the

system into two or more clearly different periods. When this

situation arises, one alternative is to discard data not

representative of the current situation; thus a no-trend plot

would result, for the most recent data set, and a renewal

assumption could then be made. When a plot like D occurs, a

non-monotonic trend may be present in the data set.

This kind of test is very simple to perform, does not require any

calculations and is very powerful when there are strong trends in

the data. When slight trends are present, this solution may not be

enough and an analytical test should be performed. A weakness

for this test is that assessment of trend is based on interpretation

(as in all graphical procedures). Ascher and Feingold [22] provide

an example of the use of this graphical test for diesel propulsion

engines in a US Navy ship.

Also in [22], it is noted that this test may result in masking

local variations when very large samples are available. An

alternative procedure is to divide the total observation interval

into several equally sized intervals, calculating (and then plotting,

if necessary) the average rate of occurrence of failures for each of

them, using

Time

A complementary test to the cumulative failures against time

plot is one consisting in plotting the service life of the ith failure,

against that of the (i1)th failure If no trend is observable, only

one cluster of points should be obtained. Two or more clusters, or

linear plots, indicate trend.

This test is also very helpful in checking for unusual values for

the failure times in a set of data, which may be related to poor

data collection, accidents or other situations not representative of

the failure process, and thus providing a means for identication

of candidates for data ltering. Knights and Segovia [35], for

example, applied this test to data coming from mining shovel

cables (see Fig. 4 for an example of this type of plot, points out of

the cluster suggest a revision of some failure times).

The tests described up to this point are for a single system only.

When in presence of multiple systems, two alternatives are

available for combination of the systems for assessment of trend.

The rst is based on the assumption that all systems follow the

same failure process (independently), and leads to the use of the

total time on test (TTT) transform of failure times (see denition

in Section 4.1.4). This approach results in one single process with

times to failure given by the TTT transformed values; thus singlesystem tests can be applied to the transformed data set. The

second alternative assumes that all systems follow possibly

different failure processes, and leads to the combination of the

Fig. 4. Example of a successive service life plot (highlighted points indicate

anomalies).

Cumulative Failures

(3)

Cumulative Failures

Ni t N i1 t

with i 1Dtptpi Dt;

Dt

Cumulative Failures

li t

where Ni(t) is the total number of failures observed from time zero

to the ith interval and Dt the length of each interval. If there is a

trend in the data, then it will be reected in the average rate of

occurrences calculated. Then, if the system is improving, the

successive values of li(t) calculated will decrease and vice versa.

Time

Cumulative Failures

to get longer (decreasing trend in number of failures); and it is

said to be deteriorating (or sad system) if the times tend to get

shorter (increasing trend in number of failures). Non-monotonic

trends are said to occur when trends change with time or they

repeat themselves in cycles. One common form of non-monotonic

trend is the bath-tub shape trend, in which time between failures

increases in the beginning of the equipment life, then tends to be

stable for a period and decreases at the end.

It should be remembered, when testing for trend, that the

choice of the time scale could have an impact on the pattern of

failures; so special attention has to be given to the selection of the

time unit (calendar hours, operating hours, production through

put, etc. [31]).

1622

Time

Time

Fig. 3. Cumulative failures vs. time plotsexamples (A: Increasing trend, B: no trend, C: two clearly different periods, D: non-monotonic trend).

ARTICLE IN PRESS

D.M. Louit et al. / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 94 (2009) 16181628

combined test. This is usually performed by combining test

statistics from single systems (for examples see Sections 4.2.2

and 4.2.4).

4.1.3. NelsonAalen plot

Another useful graphical test is the NelsonAalen plot. This test

uses a non-parametric estimate of the cumulative intensity

function of an NHPP, L(t), and plots it against time [31]. The

estimate is given by

^

Lt

X

T ij

1

,

YT ij

pt

intensities. Modied from [31]).

(4)

where Tij is the time to the ith failure of the jth process under

observation, Y(Tij) the number of systems operating immediately

before time Tij and L(t) 0 for tomin{Tij}. The formula in Eq. (4)

is valid for multiple systems under observation (multiple

processes, j 1,2,y,m).

If there is no trend, then the plot would tend to be linear, and

any deviation from a straight line indicates some kind of trend. It

should be noted that when only one system is observed, then the

NelsonAllen plot is equivalent to the cumulative failures vs. time

plot. It is also interesting to notice that the NelsonAalen plot

counts the number of systems operating before a certain time;

thus it may include suspensions to assess trend.

4.1.4. Total time on test (TTT) plot

As mentioned above, sometimes we are in the presence of

several pieces of equipment. Now, the combined failure process

for the entire group of components observed may or may not

present a trend. This test is directed to the identication of trend

for the combined behavior. So, if there are m independent

processes with the same intensity function (i.e. several identical

systems under observation) and the observation intervals for each

one are all contained in the interval [0,S], then the total number of

P

failures will be N m

i1 ni , where ni is the number of failures

observed for each process in its particular observation interval.

For the superposed process (combination of the m individual

processes), let Sk denote the time to the kth failure time. And let

p(u) denote the number of processes under observation at time u.

If all processes are observed from time 0 to time S, then p(u) is

Rt

equal to m. Then, Tt 0 pu du is the total time on test from

time 0 to time t (this is known as the total time on test, or TTT,

transformsee [36]).

The TTT plot test for NHPPs is given by a plot of the total time

on test statistic, calculated as

R Sk

pu du

TSk

,

R0S

TS

pu

du

0

1623

upper right section, whereas for a bath-tub shape (Fig. 5C), further

spacing will occur in the middle section of the curve.

Some other graphical tools, such as control charts for reliability

monitoring (described by Xie et al. [37]), can also constitute a

useful method to identify if improvement or deterioration has

occurred in a particular parameter of interest, such as the rate of

occurrences of failures (ROCOF) or failure intensity. Nevertheless,

they rely on an RP assumption and are not directed to test for

trend when evaluating the use of a repairable systems approach.

4.2. Analytical methods

If preferred over the graphical approach, analytical testing

methods are available to test data for trends. Additionally, the null

and alternative hypotheses of these tests are of great help in the

determination of the most suitable model for the data.

Ascher and Feingold [22] provide a very complete survey of

analytical trend tests, and present them organized according to

their null hypothesis (i.e. RP, HPP, NHPP, monotonic trend, nonmonotonic trend, etc.). Hereby, only the most popular tests will be

described, according primarily to Elvebakk [38]. Other methods

are described and referenced in [46].

4.2.1. The Mann test

The null hypothesis for this non-parametric test is an RP. Then,

if this hypothesis is accepted, we can continue the reliability

analysis, tting a distribution to time-to-failure data. The

alternative hypothesis is a monotonic trend.

The test statistic is calculated counting the number of reverse

arrangements, M, among the times between failures. Let T1,T2,y,Tn

be the interarrival times of n failures. Then a reverse arrangement

occurs whenever TioTj for ioj. For example, if the following times

to failure were observed for a system:

21; 17; 48; 37; 64; 13;

(5)

p(u) m, that is, when all processes are observed during the

complete interval, the TTT plot is also called a scaled NelsonAllen

plot with axes interchanged [31]. Fig. 5 shows different forms

possible to obtain when constructing a TTT plot. As in other

graphical techniques, a linear plot is representative of a no-trend

situation (thus validating a renewal assumption for the entire

group of observed items). The TTT plot is especially useful to

identify non-monotonic trends in time-to-failure data, such as the

bath-tub failure intensity (see Fig. 5C).

It is important to mention that spacing between points will not

be constant in a TTT Plot. Rather, in an increasing trend (Fig. 5A),

larger spacement between points will occur at the lower left

section of the plot. In the presence of a decreasing trend curve

(Fig. 5B) points should tend to be further from each other at the

21o48, 21o37 and 21o64. We have that for the sample:

M 3 3 1 1 0 8.

In general

M

n1 X

n

X

IT i oT j

(6)

i1 ji1

arrangements present in the data set. It takes the value of 1

whenever the condition is met, in this case, when (TioTj). Mann

[39] who originally developed the test, showed that M is

approximately normally distributed for nX10 and tabulated

probabilities for smaller samples.

If the hypothesis of an RP is correct, then the expected number

of reverse arrangements is equal to n(n1)/4, so large deviations

ARTICLE IN PRESS

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D.M. Louit et al. / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 94 (2009) 16181628

considers a single system under observation.

4.2.2. The Laplace test

This well-known test has a null hypothesis of HPP vs. an

alternative hypothesis of NHPP with monotonic intensity. In other

words, if the null hypothesis is not rejected, then we can assume

that times between failures are iid exponentially distributed. If not,

then a NHPP should be used. The test is optimal for NHPP with

log-linear intensity function.

The general idea behind the test is to compare the mean value

of the failure times in an interval with the midpoint of the

interval. If the mean of the failure times tends to deviate from the

midpoint, then a trend is present and data cannot be assumed to

be independent and identically distributed.

The test statistic, L, approximately follows a standard normal

distribution under the null hypothesis, and is calculated as

(7)

Note that Eq. (7) can be simplied when the starting point of

observation is time t 0, since (b+a) and (ba) both equal the end

point of the observation interval. The statistic above is applicable

for the case when only one process is being observed. Generalization of the laplace Test to more than one process is fairly

simple, and for m processes, the statistic is given by the following

expression (combined Laplace test statistic):

^

ni

m 1

Sm

i1 Sj1 T ij Si1 2 ni bi ai

q

^

2

1 m

12Si1 ni bi ai

(8)

trend is present in the data. Then, the null hypothesis is rejected

with small or large values of L, and the sign is an indication

of the type of trend. If L40, then an increasing trend

(deterioration) is detected. Analogously, if Lo0, then a decreasing

trend (improvement) is detected.

4.2.3. The LewisRobinson test

This test, used for testing of the RP assumption, was derived by

Lewis and Robinson [40]. The test statistic LR is obtained by

dividing the Laplace test statistic L by the estimated coefcient of

variation of the times between failures, cc

v, which is calculated as

cc

v

sX

X

(9)

failures of the system. Then, the LR statistic is given by

LR

L

,

cc

v

MH 2

j1

ba

,

ln

Tj a

(11)

As before, the generalization to m processes is given by

(combined MH test statistic):

^

MH 2

ni

m X

X

b ai

.

ln i

T ij ai

(12)

12 nb a

q

,

^

2

1

12 nb a

j1 T j

where Tj is the age at failure for the jth failure, [a,b] is the interval

^

of observation and n is given by:

(

nobserved number of failures if the process is time truncated

^

n

n 1 if the process is failure truncated:

n

X

i1 j1

Pn^

L

As in the Laplace test, the null hypothesis for this one is a HPP,

and the alternative a NHPP with monotonic intensity. This test is

optimal for NHPP with increasing power-law intensity (reliability

deterioration with Weibull intensity function).

The test statistic for a single system (process) is w2 distributed

^

with 2 n degrees of freedom under the null hypothesis, and is

dened as

(10)

with L given by Eq. (7). If the failure times follow a HPP, then LR is

asymptotically equivalent to L, as cc

v is equal to 1 when the times

between failures are exponentially distributed. That is, LR is

asymptotically standard normally distributed. As in the Laplace

test, the expected value of the statistic is zero when no trend is

present; thus deviations from this value indicate trend. The sign is

an indication of the type of trend.

P ^

freedom under the null hypothesis of HPPs, where p m

i1 ni .

TTT-based statistics for both the Laplace and the Military

Handbook test are also available for the pooling of data from

several systems (see [31]).

Another test, known as the AndersonDarling Test (derived by

Anderson and Darling [41]), has been found to be very powerful

against non-monotonic trends, but normally simpler graphical

tests are able to detect this situation. For this reason, it will not be

described here.

Vaurio [42] and Ascher and Feingold [22] proposed procedures

based on various trend tests, directed to the proper selection of

models for time-to-failure data. Both methodologies are robust

and incorporate a set of tests leading to the selection of a model,

but are subject to simplication in order to achieve a larger use of

the testing techniques by maintenance analysts. Based on this, a

new diagram consisting of several steps to model selection is

proposed. This procedure only considers explicitly two models with

practical applicationthe RP and the NHPP (though it leaves the

option open to the user to select other non-stationary models).

The procedure also reduces the number of tests considered in

order to concentrate the users efforts on the techniques that seem

to be subject to easier practical implementation. The diagram

presented below is similar to that of Vaurio [42], which though

very complete in its procedure for model selection, appears to be

too complex for regular industrial application. The Ascher and

Feingold [22] ow diagram (AF ow diagram) is simpler, but as

they consider a broader review of tests and do not include them

explicitly in the graphical representation of the procedure, it can

possibly result in misguiding the practitioner.

Fig. 6 presents the suggested guideline for model selection,

applying the testing techniques reviewed here. As mentioned, this

procedure is believed to be a simple way for maintenance analysts

to correctly assess the failure processes in their operations and to

discriminate whether a standard renewal approach or a

repairable systems approach should be used to represent them.

Although the use of an NHPP is suggested in this paper as it is

capable of representing data with a trend, the reader should note

that the NHPP is best interpreted as a minimal repair (or as bad

as old) model, thus it will not be necessarily be the most

appropriate model for imperfect repair situations (neither as good

as new nor as bald as old system after repair). Minimal repair is

dened here as the situation when the components reliability

ARTICLE IN PRESS

D.M. Louit et al. / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 94 (2009) 16181628

CMMS Databases

Collect operating time for

each failure registered

1. Define object of

study

2. Identify similar

systems

No

data?

1625

Evaluate

Bayesian

techniques

Valid to

combine?

Order them chronologically

(failures only)

Graphical tests

(any)

Test for Renewal Assumption

Mann Test

Weibull

Exponential

other

No

trend

RP

Valid?

Fit

distributions

to data

TEST

HPP

Valid?

Laplace Test

LR test

Military HB

Test

HPP

Rejected?

Weibull

Log-linear

Determine

intensity

function

Evaluate

goodness of

fit

NHPP

(or other non-stationary model)

Evaluate

goodness of

fit

RP

TIME TO

FAILURE

MODEL

Nevertheless, the procedure remains valid for the testing of the

renewal assumption, even in the scenario of imperfect repair.

When imperfect repair is observed, more exible models (e.g.

models I and II by Kijima [29]) could provide a better t to the

failure data.

The box for testing for renewal assumption and the box for

testing against NHPP have been grouped in Fig. 6, under TEST.

Intuitively, all tests considered (graphical tests, Mann, Laplace,

LewisRobinson and Military Handbook) have the same

objective of testing for trends in the data, but only the Laplace

and Military Handbook tests explicitly have a HPP as null

hypothesis (that is, if no trend is found when applying these

tests, then a HPP can be used, and an exponential distribution

should be tted to failure times). It is important to notice

that suspended data is not considered in trend testing, as no

technique is currently available to assess the existence of trends

incorporating the effect of censored observations, to my knowledge, with the exception of the NelsonAalen plot. This plot,

as it counts the number of systems in operation before each

failure, may indirectly use suspensions in the trend assessment

calculations. This is not necessarily a shortcoming of the framework proposed, since the tests reviewed usually need few failure

times to be validated (using only failures and ignoring censored

observations).

of censored data sets, so that intensity functions or distributions

may be tted using more information. In a repairable systems

approach, the simplest extension of the treatment of a single

system to multiple systems is when they are all observed from the

same time, as in this combination the group may be thought of as

a single system. In this case, the rate of occurrences of failures for

the combined set must be divided by the number of systems to

determine the ROCOF for a single unit.

6. Case study

Failure data coming from a eet of backhoes, collected

between 1998 and 2003, are used in the following numerical

example to illustrate the use of the trend tests and selection

procedure described in the paper. These equipments are operated

by a construction rm in the United States. The data consist of the

age at failure for each of 11 pieces of equipment, with a total of 43

failures. Table A1 in the Appendix presents the complete data set.

The following example will consider two cases: (i) single-system

analysis, for which all calculations are based on backhoe #7 (with

7 failures during the observation period) and (ii) multiple-systems

analysis, using the pooled data for all 11 backhoes. Time to failure

is expressed in operating hours.

ARTICLE IN PRESS

1626

D.M. Louit et al. / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 94 (2009) 16181628

Cumulative failures

19982003. The times between failures are: 3090, 850, 904, 166,

395, 242 and 496 h. By looking at these numbers, deterioration

appears to be present in the data, that is, times between failures

seem to be shorter as the equipment ages. Fig. 7 (cumulative

failures vs. time plot) conrms this belief. Similar plots are

obtained for 7 out of the 11 backhoes analyzed. When plotting the

successive service lives, only two points lay outside the main

cluster (implying that one failure time might be an anomaly, see

Fig. 8). This is the rst service life of 3090 hours, which is much

larger than the rest. This failure time (as well as all other failure

times in the data set) was validated by the eet operator;thus no

need for further revision or elimination of data is identied.

According to the procedure depicted in Fig. 6, the Mann test could

be used to conrm the ndings obtained by the cumulative

failures vs. time plot, that a trend is present in the data. In this

example, M 0+1+0+3+1+1 6. This number differs signicantly

from the expected value of 10.5. Actually, it is signicantly low, as

PMoM=H1 0:881, implying that the data show a degradation

trend (H1 is the alternative hypothesis, of degradation trend).

As a trend was identied, a renewal approach is not valid for

modeling time to failure, and a repairable systems approach is

required. Alternatively, testing through parametric tests such as

the Laplace, LewisRobinson or Military Handbook tests was

performed, with similar results (NHPP with monotonic intensity is

the model selected). The Laplace statistic L equals 2.189 for

backhoe #7. This is given that the process in this case is failure

truncated (e.g. nal point of the observation interval given by the

failure time of the last recorded failure event). This result is

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

0

1000

2000

3000

4000

5000

6000

increasing trend in the intensity of the failure process (i.e.

degradation). The LR statistic equals 10.187 and the MH statistic

equals 3.5698, leading us to the same conclusion (the latter at 0.01

signicance level). Fitting of an intensity function to the data is

the next step considered in the procedure presented in Fig. 6, but

will not be included here for brevity. It is important to mention

that not all tests need be performed in this case. On the contrary,

the idea is to choose a test that accommodates the user and, only

in the case that not enough evidence is available, then validate its

results using a second testing technique.

If we were interested in modeling the time to failure for the

pooled group of backhoes, existence of trends in the pooled

behavior should be assessed. A common mistake is to assume that

every piece of equipment operated for the same number of hours

over the entire interval, which in this case is not true. As these

backhoes are operated by a construction company in different

projects, during the same observation period of 19982003, some

of them operated more than 6000 h, whereas others barely

reached 2500 h of operation. Then, for the performance of

graphical tests such as the TTT or NelsonAalen plots, the modeler

should have special care in identifying the number of units in

operation for different ages of the eet. Note that time is

expressed in operating hours, so in the superposed failure process,

11 backhoes can be considered to be in operation just for the

interval between t 0 and t 2028 operating hours. For more

advanced ages of the eet, the number of backhoes in operation

decreases. Fig. 9 shows a TTT plot constructed for this example.

From the form of the curve, a clear indication of an increasing

trend in the intensity of failures is observed (i.e. degradation).

Fig. 10 presents a Nelson-Aalen plot for the same data, again

suggesting the same conclusion.

Results for the combined Laplace and Military Handbook tests

are the following: L 3.096 (signicant indicator of degradation,

at 0.01 signicance level) and MH 31.859 (signicant indicator

of degradation, at 0.01 signicance level). Then, the pooled failure

behavior for the eet effectively presents a trend, thus a RP cannot

7000

Age (hours)

Fig. 7. Cumulative failures vs. time plotbackhoe #7.

3000

TTT statistic

3500

2500

2000

1500

1000

500

0

0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

Fig. 8. Successive service life plotbackhoe #7.

3000

3500

1

Scaled failure number

ARTICLE IN PRESS

D.M. Louit et al. / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 94 (2009) 16181628

25

1627

Table A1

Failure times for a eet of 11 backhoes.

Fleet of backhoesfailure data

Cumulative intensity

20

Equipment #

Failure #

TBF (h)

1

2

3

4

5

346

1925

3108

3610

3892

346

1579

1183

502

282

1

2

3

4

875

2162

3248

4422

875

1287

1086

1174

1

2

3

4

2920

4413

4691

4801

2920

1493

278

110

1

2

3

4

1234

1911

2352

3063

1234

677

441

711

1

2

3

896

1885

2028

896

989

143

1

2

3

1480

3648

5859

1480

2168

2211

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

3090

3940

4844

5010

5405

5647

6143

3090

850

904

166

395

242

496

1

2

3

4

1710

1787

2297

2915

1710

77

510

618

1

2

3

1885

2500

2815

1885

615

315

10

1

2

3

1691

2230

2500

1691

539

270

11

1

2

3

1210

2549

2621

1210

1339

72

15

10

0

0

2000

4000

6000

Tij

Fig. 10. NelsonAalen plotall backhoes combined. Increasing intensity is

suggested.

not only because the graphical tests indicated a similar trend, but

also because the results obtained for single systems showed that

many of the backhoes presented individually a deterioration

trend. The next step in this example would be, then, to estimate

parameters for an NHPP representing the failure process of the

backhoes. Coetzee [30] contains expressions for parameter

estimation and goodness of t procedures for an NHPP.

7. Conclusions

This paper reviews several tests available to assess the

existence of trends, and proposes a practical procedure to

discriminate between (i) the common renewal approach to model

time to failure and (ii) the use of a non-stationary model such as

the NHPP, which is a model believed to be subject to an easy

practical implementation, within the alternatives available

for a repairable systems approach. The procedure suggested

is simple, yet it is believed that it will lead to better representation of the failure processes commonly found in industrial

operations. Through numerical examples, the use of the several

tests reviewed is illustrated. Some practical problems that

one may encounter when analyzing reliability data are also

briey discussed and references are given in each case for further

review.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Dr. Dragan Banjevic, of the Center for

Maintenance Optimization and Reliability Engineering at the

University of Toronto, for his valuable comments on an earlier

version of this paper.

See Table A1.

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