Reliability Engineering, and Prognostics and Health Management
The economic efficiency of technical systems is determined mainly by their availability. This availability in turn depends directly on their particular maintenance and repair strategy. Condition monitoring of technical systems and the associated condition-based maintenance has increasingly become part of normal industrial practice alongside corrective and periodic maintenance. Digitalisation and the networking of technical systems, in the course of Industry 4.0 in a Smart Factory, for instance, have played their part in enabling further progress to be made in the evolution of maintenance strategies, supplementing them with predictive maintenance and prescriptive maintenance. The evolution of maintenance strategies can be seen in Figure 1.
These maintenance strategies are based on individual knowledge about the current condition of the system. It is thus possible to make decisions about whether the system is still in order or whether there is a risk of a failure with potentially far-reaching consequences for economic efficiency or safety. The research field here is Prognostics and Health Management (PHM), which is considered to be a sub-field of reliability engineering. PHM is an interdisciplinary approach which provides for an assessment of the condition (Health Index, HI) of technical systems and a prognosis of their remaining useful life (RUL). The objective of PHM is to provide information which is used in the planning and coordination of maintenance and logistical processes as part of their health management. PHM therefore forms the basis for the use of predictive maintenance and other modern maintenance strategies. An extremely important step involves the development and application of a method for condition prognosis. Condition prognosis starts with a condition assessment and describes how the condition of the technical system develops over time. A schematic approach for a PHM application is shown in Figure 2.
The Faculty of Mechatronics and Electrical Engineering has teamed up with the Institute of Industrial Manufacturing and Management (IFF) at Stuttgart University for its work in this research field. Doctoral projects can be undertaken as part of this collaboration. Two funded research projects are currently underway in collaboration with industrial companies.