System optimization with component reliability estimation uncertainty: A multi-criteria approach

David W. Coit, Tongdan Jin, Naruemon Wattanapongsakorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


This paper addresses system reliability optimization when component reliability estimates are treated as random variables with estimation uncertainty. System reliability optimization algorithms generally assume that component reliability values are known exactly, i.e., they are deterministic. In practice, that is rarely the case. For risk-averse system design, the estimation uncertainty, propagated from the component estimates, may result in unacceptable estimation uncertainty at the system-level. The system design problem is thus formulated with multiple objectives: (1) to maximize the system reliability estimate, and (2) to minimize its associated variance. This formulation of the reliability optimization is new, and the resulting solutions offer a unique perspective on system design. Once formulated in this manner, standard multiple objective concepts, including Pareto optimality, were used to determine solutions. Pareto optimality is an attractive alternative for this type of problem. It provides decision-makers the flexibility to choose the best-compromise solution. Pareto optimal solutions were found by solving a series of weighted objective problems with incrementally varied weights. Several sample systems are solved to demonstrate the approach presented in this paper. The first example is a hypothetical series-parallel system, and the second example is the fault tolerant distributed system architecture for a voice recognition system. The results indicate that significantly different designs are obtained when the formulation incorporates estimation uncertainty. If decision-makers are risk averse, and wish to consider estimation uncertainty, previously available methodologies are likely to be inadequate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-380
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Reliability
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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