Intelligent reliability analysis with incomplete covariates

Yu, Yi (2012) Intelligent reliability analysis with incomplete covariates. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The reliability analysis is crucial to reducing unexpected down time, severe failures and ever tightened maintenance budget of engineering assets. Hazard based reliability methods are of particular interest as hazard reflects the current health status of engineering assets and their imminent failure risks. Most existing hazard models were constructed using the statistical methods. However, these methods were established largely based on two assumptions: one is the assumption of baseline failure distributions being accurate to the population concerned and the other is the assumption of effects of covariates on hazards. These two assumptions may be difficult to achieve and therefore compromise the effectiveness of hazard models in the application. To address this issue, a non-linear hazard modelling approach is developed in this research using neural networks (NNs), resulting in neural network hazard models (NNHMs), to deal with limitations due to the two assumptions for statistical models.

With the success of failure prevention effort, less failure history becomes available for reliability analysis. Involving condition data or covariates is a natural solution to this challenge. A critical issue for involving covariates in reliability analysis is that complete and consistent covariate data are often unavailable in reality due to inconsistent measuring frequencies of multiple covariates, sensor failure, and sparse intrusive measurements. This problem has not been studied adequately in current reliability applications. This research thus investigates such incomplete covariates problem in reliability analysis. Typical approaches to handling incomplete covariates have been studied to investigate their performance and effects on the reliability analysis results. Since these existing approaches could underestimate the variance in regressions and introduce extra uncertainties to reliability analysis, the developed NNHMs are extended to include handling incomplete covariates as an integral part.

The extended versions of NNHMs have been validated using simulated bearing data and real data from a liquefied natural gas pump. The results demonstrate the new approach outperforms the typical incomplete covariates handling approaches.

Another problem in reliability analysis is that future covariates of engineering assets are generally unavailable. In existing practices for multi-step reliability analysis, historical covariates were used to estimate the future covariates. Covariates of engineering assets, however, are often subject to substantial fluctuation due to the influence of both engineering degradation and changes in environmental settings.

The commonly used covariate extrapolation methods thus would not be suitable because of the error accumulation and uncertainty propagation. To overcome this difficulty, instead of directly extrapolating covariate values, projection of covariate states is conducted in this research. The estimated covariate states and unknown covariate values in future running steps of assets constitute an incomplete covariate set which is then analysed by the extended NNHMs. A new assessment function is also proposed to evaluate risks of underestimated and overestimated reliability analysis results. A case study using field data from a paper and pulp mill has been conducted and it demonstrates that this new multi-step reliability analysis procedure is able to generate more accurate analysis results.

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ID Code: 61613
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Ma, Lin & Gu, YuanTong
Keywords: engineering asset management, hazard models, incomplete covariates, neural networks, reliability analysis
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 31 Jul 2013 03:07
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2015 05:25

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