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People-Centric Systems Reliability Teaching Methodology At The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Instruction in Systems Thinking and Design at the undergraduate and graduate level has strongly emphasized that systems performance is dependent upon efficiency. However, in most cases, efficiency as the sole target provides results that do not represent the state of a system in its entirety. In response to these issues, members of the Center for Advanced Systems Research (CASRE), at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville have developed methods to teach systems thinking through the concept of reliability. Changing the paradigm from efficiency to reliability in both the undergraduate and graduate-level courses on Reliability Engineering has demonstrably improved the students’ understanding of systems analysis. Instead of the efficiency-based system analysis, it is possible to dive deeper and evaluate systems’ behavior with respect to their intended function over specified periods of time. This approach enables the analysis of each system component, breakdown of the component’s failure modes, elaboration of the system as a collection of networks, and the role of people within systems. The result is the establishment of reliability-based performance metrics, whose support mitigation of events responsible for variations and disruptions within these systems. The following phase comprises a hands-on experience, where students perform a reliability analysis of chosen systems at their companies. The targets of such analyses lie on developing reliability-based solutions for systems, then elaborating a solution sustainability plan around enhancing the employees’ quality of life. The combination of a strong curriculum in systems thinking and engineering, along with people-centric reliability, has yielded several solutions for organizational issues. Nonetheless, the uniqueness of such solutions is not represented by systems thinking, but by placing people as the most important asset that they have.