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The Reliability Engineering Toolbox: Bathtub Curves

What is the bathtub curve?

The concept of the bathtub curve is derived from the human life experience involving infant mortality, chance failures, plus a wear out period of life since data for births and deaths is accumulated by government agencies. Most equipment lacks the birth/death recording by government agencies and most non-human systems can be regenerated to live/die many times before relegation to the scrap heap.

Why use the bathtub curve?

Failure rates are different for both people and equipment at different phases of operation and the medicine to be applied to both humans and equipment need to be considered for effectively treating the roots of the problem.

When to use the bathtub curve?

The concept is useful during design, operation, and maintenance of equipment and systems to understand the failure mechanisms

Where to use the bathtub curve?

It explains the human experiences to the ordinary person to relate equipment/system failures to those experienced in real life so as to coordinate the design, operation and maintenance of equipment. For other definitions see MIL-HDBK-338, section 9.

These definitions are written by H. Paul Barringer

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Paul Barringer

Paul Barringer, is a reliability, manufacturing, and engineering consultant. His worldwide consulting practice involves, reliability consulting, and training with a variety of discrete and continuous process manufacturing companies and service industries.

He has more than fifty years of engineering and manufacturing experience in design, production, quality, maintenance, and reliability of technical products. His experience includes both technical and bottom-line aspects of operating a business with an understanding of how reliable products and processes contribute to financial business success.

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