Categories: General Date: Jan 12, 2015 Title: 2017 Free Book for Members
Thnaks Jack, The birth of Mirce-mechnaics, Ignited by the professional wisdom of John Gregory Hessburg (1934-2013)by J.Knezevic, to be published in 2017.
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“I shall conduct the reader over the road that I have myself travelled, rather a rough and winding road, because otherwise I cannot hope that he will take much interest in the results at the end of the journey.” Albert Einstein
This book is a book about the journey over the road I have travelled since birth till today, but it is not a book about me, this is a book about the quest for the new body of knowledge, which finally was named Mirce-mechanics, after me, by me, without reasonable excuse!
According to my mother I loved the smell of petrol whilst still in her womb. Hence, my childhood was dominated by my love for cars and everything related to motorsport. For me, a year was a time distance between two Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix races. With the years my attention gradually drifted towards the Monte Carlo Rally. I found totally irresistible the challenge of driving as fast as possible for hours and days on many different road surfaces, continuously facing numerous challenges, from traffic conditions to machine failures, while following the strict time table governed by the rules and regulations. While attending secondary school I got involved with my father’s car maintenance that, in my mind, brought me closer to rallying, whose main axiom is “to finish first, first you have to finish”. Hence, from the very early age I learnt the importance of reliability (Chapter 1).
In 1971, when the time came to choose a university subject, I had no dilemma. The Faculty of Mechanical Engineering was the place where I am going to learn how to design reliable cars and how to keep them running till seeing the chequered flag, at the end of a rally. While studying mechanical engineering, in 1974, I started rallying in a car assembled by me, in the neighbor’ garden from parts obtained from the Belgrade’s scrap yards. Not having any car manufacturer’s sponsorship, apart from competing, I had to look after the running of my own car, with an almost non-existent student’s budget. Hence, I have been tormented by the question, which spares to purchase: a fuel, water or oil pump, for example, as each of them requires different tools for replacement and have different consequences on reliability. The more integrals and differential equations I solved, while studying thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and many other subjects, the more I realised that the mechanical engineering degree will not equip me with the knowledge required to solve my “rallying dilemma”, which was how to maximise my chances of reaching the chequered flag, with the budget I had available (Chapter 2).
After graduation I started working as an engineer, while continuing the quest for the knowledge that I needed to resolve my “rallying dilemma”. This journey took an additional three years of studies for the Master of Science in Maintenance Engineering (Appendix A). Still not satisfied I spent further 5 years doing research witch culminated in the award of the Doctor of Science in Reliability Engineering (Appendix B). Both degrees I obtained from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Belgrade University (Chapters 2 and3). By this time, I stopped rallying, without finding the solution to my “rallying dilemma”. Hence, I went to Exeter University in the UK, to continue the quest, while learning English, which would open the access to the body of knowledge contained in western world, based Educational Institutions.
After several, extremely demanding but immensely enjoyable, years totally devoted to the research, the professional breakthrough came. For this I have to thank to the visionary Director of the School of Engineering, Professor John Flower. He gave me the opportunity to start teaching Reliability and Maintenance Engineering to second year undergraduate students of Engineering science. That was exactly what I was hoping to learn when I had been in their position. This new development inspired me to work even harder on solving my “rallying dilemma”. During my years, at Exeter University, I came to realisation that the rest of the worlds have very similar problems to the rally driver. For example, the transportation industry is also driven by the strict time scheduled delivery of departures and arrival of aircrafts, trains, buses and ships. With that realisation I have established, in 1988, a self-financing Research Centre for Managing Industrial Reliability, Cost and Effectiveness, M.I.R.C.E., at the School of Engineering. Very quickly the Centre attracted industrial sponsorship, and started running research projects, scientific symposia, and training sessions. In 1991 we offered the world’s first Master Programme in Logistics Engineering, from the School of Engineering, which followed by the Master Programmes in Reliability and Maintainability Engineering (1995) and finally in 1997 a Master Programme in System Operational Effectiveness (more details in chapter 4). All the activities within the Centre produced a new body of knowledge towards final solutions to my “rallying dilemma”. Some of them were presented in my book, “Reliability, Maintainability and Supportability - A Probabilistic Approach”, published by McGraw Hill in 1993.
Needless to say, that together with running the Centre for M.I.R.C.E., I continued earning my only salary by fulfilling all obligations towards undergraduate courses, at the School of Engineering. To broaden young students horizons and motivate them to dream about big engineering creations, during the winter months, I started giving Evening Lectures related to the Boeing 747, Concorde, Ferrari F40, French High Speed Train (TGV) and similar engineering marvels. Then, while searching through material for those Lectures I came across a few articles related to the development of the new passenger aircraft, by the Boeing Corporation, known as triple seven 777. The more I read the more I was impressed with it. Very soon, I learnt about great Boeing engineers who were working on this project, like Neil Standal, Ron Ostrowski, Granny Frazer, Jim McWha, Henry Shomber, Tom Gaffney, Dale Hougardy, Fred Howard and many others . The whole effort of the Boeing Company was orchestrated under the slogan Working Together, by the great Alan Mulally, who understood engineers, managers, contractors, customers, and, above all, the aircraft itself. Then, I learnt that since the first Boeing aircraft was produced, exactly one century ago, there was a Chief Engineer and Chief Pilot for each model. However, on this occasion the new “Chief” was created, and it was the Chief Mechanic, whose job was to make the aircraft “maintenance friendly”. This “discovery” totally changed my life forever.
The more I read about the Chief Mechanic of B777, whose name was Jack Hessburg, the bigger and bigger his stature became, in my eyes, and, naturally, more and more I wanted to know. Based on what I read, in my mind, he became one of those people who are described as “larger than life”. From the perspective of someone who learnt through rallying that maintenance is an integral part of the life of any machine, and as such it needs to be considered while the machine itself is being conceived. Jack was doing exactly that on B777, with assistance of hundreds of first line Science from the world leading airlines, like United Airlines, British Airways, All Nippon Airways and a few others. Jack brought these mechanics into the design office to talk reality to Computer Aided Designers. When asked, to explain the maintenance philosophy of the B777, he replied, “All I want is to go to Cleveland and never crash”. Immediately, I realised that he was the first design engineer who spoke my language, as in my short rally career all I wanted to do was to reach the chequered flag while driving as fast as I could, without crashing. My professional “obsession” with Boeing’s Chief Mechanic continued with exponentially increasing intensity. That was exactly what I have been searching for during my engineering education and my professional engineering career, but never found it, till now. My evening Lectures on B777 were well received, as each year I had a student doing the final year project related to this aircraft (see chapter 5).
All the pieces of my “B777 jigsaw puzzle” came together, for me, during the World of Aviation Congress in Anaheim, California, 13-15 October 1997. There I finally met all my B777 heroes, Alan Mulally, Jack Hessburg and Gordon McKinzie, United Airlines representative on B777. The rest is history, partially described in the book.
Our meeting in Anaheim ignited and united Jack’s and my life long passion for creating and maintaining machines that are destined to work in accordance to the scheduled timetables, under pressure and with huge consequences of failing to do so, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. Jack accepted an invitation to visit my Centre at Exeter University and give a Lecture to the Members of the MIRCE Industrial Club, on the 27 January 1998 entitled “Airlines do not spend millions on aircraft to make roost for pigeons on vertical fin, fouling the logo”. This Lecture totally shaped my life, and I am pretty sure that it heavily influenced each of the 125 attending professionals. During my student and academic career, I attended hundreds and hundreds of lectures, but none of them neither before nor after, made such an impression on me. Jack confirmed “larger than life” perception that I had of him. He delivered 90 minutes of smooth, interesting, intelligent, informative, philosophical, provocative, and authoritative presentation regarding the job of Chief Mechanic, the first and the only one in the world, without a single slide, note, or any other teaching aid. The transcript of the whole lecture is given in chapter 6, for the future generations to learn about ‘Jack’ the genius, from the words spoken by the genius himself.
During the Lecture, Jack said, “Now, how do you get that equipment availability?
There's a number of ways you can do it, but some of them have very, very expensive consequences. What you must have is an extremely high degree of reliability. I can do that if I put my designer’s hat on, but the problem is, you're not going to like the price. I'll give you 100% departure reliability and VP of maintenance at the airline, even if you Boeing, don't do it, I can still do it, because I'll throw enough parts and people at it and I'll give you 100% departure reliability that I'm broke in a week. So I am immediately, as in all design work and engineering work, faced with the business of compromise, I have to trade cost 'producibility', my own costs, with a degree of reliability. Now we have to start thinking about, where I'm going to have to start making these trades. That's a cute stunt” As a student who self-financed his rallying ambitions, I fully understood every single word Jack said, and their implications. Then, he continued by saying “So now, I as a designer, and I have to fill my customer in as well, I have to decide where I'm going to put economic redundancy into my design, because it costs money. We have really not developed the discipline where we know how to normalise that, yet. But you begin to put those into the design. What happens? Between a Minimum Equipment List, a basic decision on the degree of reliability of the device and economic redundancy, if you hit the right combination, you should never find the vehicle in a position where it is not able to fly because you have intruded upon airworthiness. But, by the way, don't spend so much money; because I'm paying extra for these things, I'm going to be carrying it for the next 20 years. If you have the full answer to that, would you please see me after this meeting! There's a Nobel Prize in it.” These words have been governing my life ever since, because it was exactly that type of knowledge that I was hoping to gain from my university degree Programme, but did not. There was nothing wrong with the mechanical engineering degree programme I attended; It was all wrong with my expectation from it. Mechanical Engineering Programme had not been established to even address this type of knowledge. Further more, I discovered that a University Degree Programme, which would deliver this knowledge, does not exist anywhere in the world!
The following 18 years of my professional and personal life have been driven by the search for the solution to “Jack’s Challenge”, as I came to call it. For me it was the most significant revelation as my “rallying dilemma” has now been pushed back by Jack, into design office where much more could be done than merely selecting spares and tools to carry with me. This brought my life obsession with car rallying and my professional focus on mechanical engineering design, together in such a natural and logical way thanks to Jack. That realisation, with a possibility of getting a Nobel Prize, put me into a very challenging, professional and personal situation. My academic standing was very high and I was well respected by the world leading defence and aerospace organisations, which were regularly sending students to my educational programmes and training courses, which were praised by external examiners and well respected by the students themselves. For many of them that was the pinnacle of their professional educational. However, truth be known, I knew that my exploration of all of these issues, although important and connected, were nowhere near being sufficient to address “Jack’s, Nobel Prize, winning Challenge”. Fully aware that the entire operation of the Centre for M.I.R.C.E. during last 10 years was self financed, gave me strength to start thinking of the unthinkable. That was to take a “plunge”, leave Exeter University and establish the new organisation, exclusively dedicated to the development of science based knowledge that would provide the answer to “Jack’s Challenge” and eventually win the Nobel Prize, because its applications will be found to be “the greatest Benefit to Mankind” in the year of discovery. (Chapter 7)
“Fast forward”, I decided to resign from the Exeter University, founded the Mirce-mechanics, as an independent institution, to engage in scientific, educational, training, literary and professional endeavours related to the development of the scientific body of a knowledge required to solve “Jack’s Challenge.” To my great pleasure and pride, on the 25th May 1999, the MIRCE Akademy , was officially opened by the great late Jack Hessburg himself. It is located at Woodbury Park , about 6 miles from the city of Exeter. \at the University of Exeter, all the undergraduate courses I used to teach and the postgraduate Programmes offered by the Centre for M.I.R.C.E. were discontinued. The following day, Nigel Mansell who fully understood and supported our quest for the new scientific solutions for the problems that caused his 108 DNF (Did Not Finish) out of 187 Formula 1 Grand Prix races, delivered the Inaugural Lecture of the Akademy, (Chapter 8).
Consequently, the scene was set for the “Jack’s Challenge” to be addressed fully. The more time was passing by the more I realised the brutal truth of the Einstein’s statement that “A theory can be proved by experiment; but no path leads from experiment to the birth of a theory.” I have experienced many n-service phenomena and had learned about many more through literature, but I could not find anything to lead me to the road towards the birth of a theory. That was exactly where we were at the MIRCE Akademy during the early years of this century. Despite putting in hours, months and years of extensive research and hard thinking we could not find the correct path forward. In the moments of “desperations” I was calming myself by saying that even the great Jack Hessburg, who created the name, job description and made maintenance friendly B777, did not even have a name for this “discipline”, as he referred to it in his Exeter University Lecture. Even further, the realisation that the mighty Boeing Corporation that has got all necessary departments for the advanced research, development, design, manufacturing, certification and customer support for numerous products of theirs, have not yet developed a body of knowledge to deal with this “discipline”, to the best of my knowledge, made me fully aware of the task ahead.
I knew, all the time, that some “physically” observable characteristic, that would reflect their overall “reason for existence” of machines have to be created in order quantitatively to determine measures of their functionability that define their in-service behaviour. This was a crucial problem that I had to resolve, but the most difficult one, by far. There is no question that, from anybody’s point of view, in, say aircraft design office, that the reason for existence of an aircraft is to deliver passengers and cargo from A to B through the air, with the best possible functionality performance (maximum speed and minimum fuel consumption for a given weight and minimum production cost). Generally speaking all of these parameters could be quantified, for each aircraft type by a single number known as the “power to weight ratio”, which is possible to accurately predict with the existing knowledge of aeronautical engineering. At the same time, there is no question, from anybody’s point of view, in the Board Room of any Airline that the main reason for existence of an aircraft is to “generate profit”, which is possible only by delivering all scheduled flights “on time and never crash”, at minimum demand for operation and maintenance resources, All of these words could be quantified, for each aircraft type, by a single number know as the “dollars per seat per miles”, which is measured and described by statistics, many decades after the aircraft design was completed.
Hence, I understood, extremely well, what the Chief Mechanic’s job has in the design team. However, I understood, extremely well, that Jack did not have a proven body of knowledge to rely on, while doing his job, which was equivalent to the body of knowledge contained in aeronautical engineering, extensively used by his colleagues. Of course, what Jack as an individual had, from my point of view, was a unique in-service experience, total devotion to designing “aircrafts that go on time and never crash” and professional integrity to publically declare the necessity for the new “discipline, worthy of the Nobel Prize”. In summary, as I saw it very clearly, while aeronautical engineering predicts “power to weight ratio”, the future body of knowledge, by now named Mirce-mechanics (see chapter 9 for details) should be able to predict “dollars per seat per miles”. Although “the penny has dropped”, regarding what has to be done, the huge question mark for me was how to do it?
Needles to say, I was fully aware that there are a large number of specialist engineering disciplines that address and deal with specific in-service characteristics of machines, like reliability (uses MTBF), maintainability (MTTR), supportability (MTTS), availability (Ao) and similar. This is also reflected in the way the curriculum of educational and training programmes were established and delivered all over the world. Of course, I would be the first to say that the educational programmes and training courses, which I run at Exeter University, were exactly the same. It was correct for those specialist disciplines. However, despite the fact that all of these specialist subjects and their measures have their own specifications and design requirements, there was nothing to “normalise” them and define overall in-service performance of a machine that would indicate how many daily flights “to Cleveland” are expected to be delivered on time during the in-service life of the given aircraft type, which is the main driver of the “dollars per seat per miles” figure.
While I have been thinking “hard”, about that all embracing in-service performance characteristic that quantifies the “purpose of existence” of machines, I received an email from a classmate, from XIII Belgrade Gymnasium (for more details see Chapter 1), asking me to write a few pages for the book “Collection on Memories (1967-171)” that was going to be published as part of the celebration of the Anniversary of our matriculations. During the following weekend I “transferred” myself into those beautiful and indeed memorable years of my life, recorded them in 12-page essay and emailed it back to Belgrade.
However, during the following few days happy memories were continuously coming to me. One of them was matriculation exam in physics, where the very first question was related to the concept and units of work in physics. I still remember every single word written in my notebook related to work that says “In physics work is considered done when an object is moved over a distance by an external force applied in the direction of the displacement. If the force is constant, work may be computed by multiplying the length of the displacement by the force acting along the path.” Suddenly, I realised that what I was told almost 40 years ago, and accepted as a given truth, can be useful inspiration for solving my long standing problem, namely “Jack’s Challenge”. It became crystal clear to me that the purpose of existence of every machine that humans have ever created is to do something, as it is inconceivable to him that something would be specified, designed, produced and acquired by somebody in order to do nothing. Finally, the eureka moment came, and I realised that the “purpose of existence” of any machine is to do the work. To differentiate the concept of work in physics and in Mirce-mechanics, the latter type of work I named, as the functionability work. Immediately I realised, that a functionability work is considered done while machine is being functional over time, in the similar way as, in classical physics, work is considered done when an external force displaced an object over distance .
Consequently, in Mirce-mechanics the concept of functionability work, as far as I was concerned, should be classified into the following two categories:
• Positive Functionability Work, which is considered to be done when a machine is being in positive functionability state over time. In the Founder’s Lecture (presented in chapter 8), I quoted that Pan Am’s B747, with a tail number N747PA, during the 22 years of its in-service calendar time has been working for 80,000 flying hours, covering 37 million miles and delivering 4 million passengers to their destinations, without crashing.
• Negative Functionability Work, which is considered to be done when a machine is being in negative functionability state over time. In the same Lecture I also quoted that the same Boeing 747, while in NFS, has received 806,000 maintenance man-hours of work.
After the several months of “self celebrations” for having “discovering” the concept of functionability work in Mirce-mechanics, the way forward became much clearer. For the very first time I “saw” the method for bringing together a “Minimum Equipment List, a basic decision on the degree of reliability of the device and economic redundancy”, which are Jack’s design optionals for “never finding the vehicle in a position where it is not able to fly because you have intruded upon airworthiness.” Thus, from then on, design teams will have a single, all embracing, measure of the “goodness of design” regarding functionability performance of their future machines. This practically means that each feasible design solution will be associated with positive and negative functionability work, accomplished in the direction of calendar time. Although I was extremely happy with the “discovery”, I soon realised that it was only a part the solution of “Jack’s Challenge”. That is because, as it stood then, these are in-service characteristics of machines measured by their users, which means that they will become known to the design team several decades after they have completed their design. The data I quoted in the Inaugural Lecture were statistics compiled by Pan Am over 22 years of flying B747, rather then Boeing’s predictions.
During the following months of the development of Mirce-mechanics, it became clear to me that “discovery” of functionability work, as a measurable physical characteristic of functionability performance was not the end of “Jack’s Challenge.”, There is a caveat that was described, by nobody better than, Jack himself, “By the way do not spend so much money, because I’m paying extra for these things. I’m going to be carrying it for the next 20 years” Translating into “ordinary English,” it means that it is not enough to determine the design solution that will provide the maximum positive functionability work during in-service life of a machine. This is not enough because the main objective of any business is to stay in business, and for that to happen generated revenue must be higher than the cost of doing the business. Again, in my view, nobody expressed it better than Jack when he stated, “Airlines are in the transportation business; Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed, Airbus, they're in the airplane business. You must keep equipment available, you can have the shiniest looking airplane in the world, the most remarkably engineered airplane in the world, it's an academic marvel, it's an engineering marvel, but if the damned thing is not at B3 in Chicago at 9.15 to originate the trip to Cleveland, forget it.”
Having established the concept of positive and negative functionability work, I came to a realisation that it is essential to introduce a cost elements associated with these types of work. For me, as an engineer and scientist, cost is nothing else than a monetary value of the physical resources used to generate functionability works necessary. This topic I studied as part of the research related to my Master Dissertation Thesis, (details are given in Appendix A). Consequently, in Mirce-mechanics, I established the concept of functionability costs, grouping them into the following two general categories:
• Cost of Positive Work, which is the monetary value of the resources used while being in the PFS, like personnel, material, equipment, facilities, energy and similar. Thus, a cost of doing positive functionability work could be measured for each machine considered .
• Cost of Negative Work, which is the monetary value of the all resources necessary used while being in NFS, like spare parts, trained personnel, material, equipment, facilities, energy and similar. Hence, the cost of doing negative work is a measurable quantity for each machine considered ,
Although I was not deeply interested in the finance/accountancy per se, I knew that the functionability cost categories are very well monitored and accounted for, by the numerous departments and experts from in-service organisations. However, I was fully aware that the order of magnitude of these costs is predetermined by the decisions made in the design office at the very early stages of machine design. Hence, there is a “life time difference” between the time when functionability cost is committed in the design office and the time when functionability cost is measured in the accountancy office of its user. This fact of life brought Jack and me together. He knew it and wished to have a “discipline” that would enable the design office to compare all feasible solutions regarding the new machine type, and for the chosen one to inform the airline’s accountancy office what the functionability cost is expected to be, rather than to “keep fingers cross for decades” in the hope that the final number will be good enough for the “repeated sale”. I understood “Jack’s Challenge” in 1early 1990s and over two decade of intensive research and thinking created Mirce-mechanics, as a solution to it.
In summary, the philosophy of Mirce-mechanics is based on the premise that the “purpose of existence” of machines is to deliver a positive functionability work. This is associated with necessary resources like personnel, material, faculties, energy and so forth. The monetary value of resources consumed constitutes a positive functionability cost. Complementary, the negative functionability work is done while a machine is being in negative functionability state, which is associated with necessary resources such as personnel, spare parts, material, tools, equipment, faculties, data, energy and so forth. The monetary value of resources considered constitutes negative functionability cost. At this point of the development of Mirce-mechanics, it became clear to me that its main objectives were not to develop methods for measuring and statistically analysing functionability characteristics, but to develop a body of knowledge that would enable designers to predict them for each feasible option, based on both sets of figures, and then to select the most favourable one regarding “dollars per seat per miles” in conjunction with “power to weight ratio” figure. To achieve that goal Mirce decided to endeavour the in-service behaviour of maintainable systems to the proven methods of science and mathematics to:
1. Experimentally observe and measure their functionability performance that are quantified through the work done by a machine and the work done on a machine throughout a time, together with the resources consumed in these processes, as well as to determine the patterns of their behaviour in respect to time.
2. Scientifically understand physical phenomena that govern occurrences of functionability events through life of a given Mirce-system to the level of the dimensional fidelity ranging from the atom to the Solar System (10-10 to 1010 metres).
Theoretically define a scheme for calculating expected functionability performance for a machine that is uniquely determined by the physical properties of consisting parts and their configurations within a machine, as well as its: operational scenario, environmental conditions, maintenance policies, support strategy and in-service constraints within a given Mirce-system
Mirce’s journey along the road described above has generated a body of knowledge, named Mirce-mechanics by him, which provided the scientific solution to “Jack’s Challenge”. It comprises of axioms, laws, theoretical equations and calculation methods that enable accurate predictions of functionability performance of machines to be done, based on the scientific understanding of the mechanisms that cause occurrences of observable positive and negative functionability events through in-service life of machines (Chapter 9).
Tragically, towards the final stages of this long research journey, initiated by Jack in the early 1990s I received an email from our mutual colleague and friend in July 2013 that said “Mr. Jack Hessburg has suffered a debilitating stroke and is currently unable to speak or interact with the world around him. This occurred almost 3 months ago. Jack is living in rehabilitation Hospital, but has made little real progress toward being himself again. I am sorry to write with this discouraging news, but I knew you would want to know”. Within a week I rearranged all professional and personal commitments and flow to Seattle, on the board of Jack’s B777. By some magic, Jack recovered most of his mental capacity and we had memorable conversations, between 8 am and 8 pm, during the four days I spend with him. Sadly Jack passed away with two weeks after he addressed me, for the very last time, with following words “Mirce I am ready for you to go home.” (Chapter 10)
The latest developments regarding Mirce-mechanics dissemination activities, since, Jack’s departure, related to the publications in scientific journals, professional communications through conferences and list of selected positive and negative functionability events that took place in the world during the last 3 years that we recorded and analysed in order to the scientifically understand the mechanisms that cause their occurrences. (Chapter 11)
I have already started writing a book on the “Mathematical Principles of Mirce-mechanics” which will include all the necessary knowledge required for understanding and application of the Mirce-mechanics to design of transportation, communication, defence and many other machines that satisfy human needs, evolutionary process of which has been presented in this book.
Dr Jezdimir Knezevic
Founder & President
P.S. Dear Jack, I wish to inform you that we have finally got the body of knowledge to answer your question “What is the kilogram of maintenance worth?”
Thanks for asking
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“Creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting point and its rich environment. But the point from which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the obstacles on our adventurous way up”. Albert Einstein
“Why did he have to park his car in front of our house?” Asked a seven-month pregnant wife to her husband! “How do you know, lying in bed in a dark room, that it is in front of our house?” replied he. ”Can’t you smell the petrol?”
Two months later the couple had their first son, whom they named Mirce. Within months he clearly demonstrated love towards cars and other machines. At the age of two and a half, walking home with his parents, he saw a Land Rover parked in front of the British Embassy in Belgrade. He insisted that a photo of himself and the “jeep” be taken. In the early 1950s, in Yugoslavia hardly anybody had a camera. However, his “organic love towards cars” was stronger than any other natural necessity. Mirce stood in front of the car for 5 hours, while the hunt for a camera was going on, without any words of complaint or desire for food, water or toilet. Finally, the camera was found and the photo taken shows a young boy with a huge smile and a clear expression of happiness.
During his whole childhood Mirce’s toys lasted 10 minutes max, as he dismantled each one, including his sister’s dolls, to see what was inside and how it worked. On numerous occasions his mum was saying that the best job for him would be to manage a “scrap yard”.
The love for machines was present throughout his childhood, supported by the love of his parents. From the age of three he had his first tricycle that was like a part of his body. All winter he would ride it in the flat with assistance from his nana, which would be moving chairs and all other obstacles in his way. At the age of four he started roller-skating. The sturdiness of the metal frame and the wheels that were attached to the feet by bright red leather belts impressed him no end. Every free moment of every day he was out on the pavement skating with his friends or just by himself. When he was six years old his mum bought him a beautiful blue bicycle in Venice. That was a new age in his life. Pneumatic white tyres, front and rear brakes, dynamo for the front light and the red reflector on the back gave him extra hours of enjoyment, especially during the short days in autumn. Very quickly, with the help of the older boys from the neighbourhood, he learned how to maintain the correct tyre pressure, lubricate the drive chain, adjust the height of the steering bar, and adjust the brakes “bites” and perform similar maintenance tasks. His toolbox consisted of one universal bicycle spanner and one screwdriver. He would borrow pliers and other tools from his friends, but had an ambition to have his own one day. Hence, it was very easy to choose birthday and New Year’s presents for him.
Mirce’s family bought their first car when he was eleven. He went with his dad to collect their Skoda 1000 MB from the dealer and “as the happiest person in the world” arrived home sitting in the front passenger’s seat. By definition that was his seat and he hardly ever ventured to the back seats. The following day they got the number plate, BG 424-16, which “the boys” attached to the car and made it legal.
Within weeks, he started checking the oil and water level in the engine and the tyre pressure. Sunday afternoons, father and son bonded together by washing the car somewhere in the suburbs of Belgrade where the water was publicly available. During these times he learned how to start the engine and mastered other driving skills. By the age of 13, Mirce convinced his father that the car should be drying outside the puddle that would form while the car was being washed… so that he could move it. Dad’s agreement was the happiest moment in his entire life. Then, he learned that the bigger the puddle that he made while washing it, the farther he would drive it.
Mirce’s father drove the car because somebody in the family had to, but he took very little pleasure in doing it. On the contrary, for Mirce that car was the centre of the universe. At the age of 14 he learned how to change the engine oil, and what type of oil should be used in winter and what in summer. Needless to say, replacing the water with antifreeze in October and draining the engine in spring were probably the most important assignments in life at the time.
All of his pocket money obtained for birthday and New Year and on other occasions, he spent buying models of cars that his family could not own. In that way, many cars made by Ferrari, Porsche, Ford, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Pontiac, Simca, Datsun, Toyota started entering his “bedroom garage”, in scales of 1/18, 1/25 and 1/43.
After a lot of persuasion, initially of his parents, and then of the owner of the Skoda Service and Repair shop in Belgrade, Mirce manage to secure unpaid work as a car mechanic apprentice. At the time, in Yugoslavia it was illegal to have anybody under the age of 18 in the work place. However, with full parental approval and sympathetic views of the garage owner, Mirce spent a month working in the Garage, from 7.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m., Monday to Saturday. That was the best holiday he could imagine. The smell of petrol and oil, proper blue overalls, a huge collection of tools, the inspection pit, diagnostic equipment, compressor, and hydraulic trolley jacks and many other special tools, were irresistible attractions to him. He saw maintenance manuals for the first time in his life; he was now seeing and using wiring diagrams, tyre construction and pressure charts. None of these means of technical communication had ever been mentioned in his physics classes.
At the end of the day it was Mirce’s job to collect the tools from the repair shop and put them on the wall at a marked place, and of course to report if any were missing, mainly in order to make sure that no tool had been forgotten in any engine bay or car that could cause problems to the owners and users.
From the money he received for his 16th birthday he bought a hydrometer, a special instrument that measures the specific gravity of the electrolyte in the battery. He had read somewhere that before each winter electrolyte’s specific gravity had to be above 1.2 g/ml and if that was not the case the battery needed to be recharged so that it would be ready when sub-zero temperatures started. When the inspection of the battery was finished, Mirce went home to report its state to the “family committee”. Before he had a chance to say a word, his mum asked, “What have you done with your trousers?” When he looked down, to his horror, the trousers looked like a sieve – hundreds and hundreds of small holes were covering them. Somehow, without knowing the nature of the electrolyte, he spilled it, causing a total destruction of his trousers. By some miracle, his hands and legs were not affected by this “human error”. However, Mirce said “I need to go back to the car to cover the battery terminals and clean them with acid protective grease; otherwise the battery will be as bad as I am”. “Son, you cannot go out like this”, said his father. “Why not?!”, replied Mirce and before anybody could say anything else, he disappeared.
The rest of the chpater is available to the Members of the MIRCE Akademy free of charge
"The principal goal of education is to create individuals who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done." Jean Piaget
As far as Mirce was concerned he had two options in life, namely to become a qualified car mechanic and spend the rest of his life repairing “broken” cars or to study mechanical engineering and learn how to design cars that hardly ever never break, and when they break are fixed quickly. The latter option became even more attractive when he read the brief description of the mechanical engineering in the Yugoslav Encyclopaedia that describes mechanical engineering as “the branch of engineering, which is concerned with mechanical and energy systems, along with the intelligent use of modern materials. Mechanical engineers conceive, plan, design and direct the manufacturing, distribution and operation of a wide variety of maintainable systems for energy conversion, environmental control, material processing, transportation, material handling and other purposes. The field of mechanical engineering is very broad, and the profession thus provides an ideal base for interdisciplinary activities”.
Mirce’s father was happy that his son has ambitions to study at the university, but was worried that his handwriting in his view was not good, as a technically minded individual should have. Mirce tried to convince his dad that technicians are people who do the drawing and worry about “calligraphy”, where as engineers create maintainable systems that will satisfy human needs in the future. Hence, for being a good engineer it is not necessary to have good handwriting.
Looking at the curriculum of the mechanical engineering programs it was clear to Mirce, that they are designed to provide not only a thorough understanding of the engineering sciences but also of the principles of manufacturing and organisation that are used to implement these fundamentals in practical engineering applications.
Consequently, with good marks, just obtained, in his Matriculation and Graduation Project, Mirce applied to study at the Belgrade state University . It is a legal name of the educational Institution that encompasses many different subjects, each of which is studied at different Faculties, which are scattered all over Belgrade. Hence, it was not a campus type of university, where students live and study together. Most of the students from different faculties never meet each other. It is a pity from a social point of view, as that is the time in human development when it is natural for “boys and girls” to be looking out for each other, and yet there were around 1000 “boys” alone studying mechanical engineering and about 5 km from them 1000 “girls” alone studying foreign languages, without any opportunities to meet, while studying at the Belgrade University. Of course, Mirce realised that the situation is the same in many other Universities in the world and that he could do nothing about it.
Faculty of Mechanical Engineering
Mirce, decided to apply to study Mechanical Engineering , at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Belgrade University.
As 800 candidates applied for 400 places available at this Faculty, all potentials students had to take an entry exam, which consisted of three parts. Hence, at the end of August the entry exam, started with physics, followed by mathematics and finished on the third day with chemistry. Mirce was really happy with his performance on all three subjects, but still was a little apprehensive regarding the final outcome.
Several days later, the results from the entry test were posted on the Notice Board at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Mirce was 192nd on the list that contained 400 names of the candidates that were accepted to study in 1971/72 academic year. With that final peace of Mirce’s educational jigsaw puzzle in place, his professional future was determined. He is going to design cars that are reliable and when they fail it will be easy to repair them.
Faculty of Physics
To ensure a University place, Mirce also decided to apply to study Physics at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, which is also a part of the Belgrade University. Physics was his favourite subject in previous schools and his graduation project was in Physics. Learning and solving problems related to gravitational, electrical, magnetic and other natural phenomena was a real pleasure for him. Hence, this was his second choice, and the subject that he would be happy to study and research. In Mirce’s mind, mechanical engineering could be seen as applied physics combined with technology. Also, he was able to do this as the Faculty of Physics was accepting their future students on the basis of their performance in the secondary schools.
Mirce’s name was on the list of the 60 students that were accepted to study Physics, at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics that year.
Mechanical Engineering wins over Physics
Having been accepted by both Faculties, Mirce’ had to make a final decision. That decision was to determine the future of his life and to govern it for a very long time.
Fundamental truths about “workings” of nature studied by physics were very attractive for him. Mirce, was a very straightforward and open person, who was always honest and in full harmony with the surrounding physical world. However, at that time Yugoslavia was one of many developing countries in the world, without huge funds required for the fundamental research in Physics. On the other hand, his favourite Yugoslav scientist, Professor Pavle Savic , had been a student at this department, which means that it is possible to succeed in pure science, even from Belgrade.
Mechanical engineering, as Mirce saw is nothing else that “Intelligent” application of fundamental sciences to many different domains of human needs. Even further, cars were the central features of his life, and being in the position to spend each day of his “grown up” life in their presence was an irresistible picture for him. During the weekend he had to make the final decision regarding the topic of his studies, one of the world’s most famous Formula1 race took place. It was the Italian Grand Prix, at Monza. As it happened, that race ever since, was referred to as the fastest Formula 1 race of all time , and being glued to the TV screen for all of 2 hours of indescribable adrenalin rush. That was the decisive moment which totally convinced him that between the two offers, the intellectual discussion could be held for rather a long time, without an obvious winner, but regarding his emotions the discussion was finished when the chequered flag went down in the Monza race.
Mirce’s final decision was, to accept the offer from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, as he felt that there are many more opportunities to have an enjoyable and productive professional life if he studies man made maintainable systems, rather than nature made systems, although they interact very much.
The smell of petrol still had a strong impact over him!
“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered.
The point is to discover them.” Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Since the smell of fuel attracted Mirce, from the time he was in his mother’s womb, and all the years he enjoyed nothing more than repairing, cleaning, driving or just looking at cars in motion or over an inspection pit. Hence, to nobody’s surprise, during the interview for a compulsory military service in Yugoslavian National Army, he managed to convince the Military Authorities to send him to the transportation division, which is the furthest possible from the guns that he really did not like, but the closest to the motor vehicles, which he adored.
A few days before going to Military service, Mirce said very sad and long good-bye to his hand and home made Z750. During last three years they visited many places in Europe, participated in 5 rallies, daily travel to the University and kissed a few girls, only while stationary. From the money obtained, Mirce both accordion to his father, who always wished to have one, and a substantial golden chain to his mum, as a sign of appreciation for everything that they have done for him during all 24 years of his life.
Mirce spent a year at the School for Reserve Officers in Montenegro, where among other things he learned how to drive off-road and heavy goods vehicles. Driving lessons on the dusty and deserted fields around Titograd were the brightest moments of his military career. It was the closest that he ever came to the “Safari Rally”, the event that he dreamed off for years. Even more, during these months he understood the inevitability of equipment failures and the importance of maintenance management process that deals with them and logistics support function that provides all necessary resources for “repairing broken maintainable systems.” Mirce found a lot of similarities between preparing a car for a rally and preparing a military vehicle for a mission.
In summary Mirce learned how to drive heavy goods vehicles during the first six months of the military service, and though the principles of working with motor vehicles with the new generation of soldiers during the second six months.
In the morning of 5th February 1978, Mirce shaved for the last time and returned to the civilian life within a few more hours. After a daylong train journey to Belgrade, Mirce was met at the railway station by his parents, while the rest of the family and friends were waiting at home, where the welcoming party has already started. His parents took him towards brand new Skoda 120 LS, which he has never seen before, and while his father was giving him the keys of the car, him mum with a tears in her eyes said “that is our present to you, as you have done us proud all your life.” Totally overwhelmed by this “huge present”, speechless Mirce kissed both of them and started the engine of his new car.
While accommodating to “normal” life and looking for the first job, Mirce published the first scientific paper in a professional Journal , which was based on the research preformed for his Graduation Dissertation.
To make up for the “lost time” in military service, Mirce spent the whole July camping with his primary school friend Mire, now a piano teacher, and some of her friends in his beloved Italy. During that time they got to know every single village and place on the circular train line “Circumvesuviana Napoli-Sorrento”, visiting places like Torre del Greco, Pompeii, Vesuvius, Herculaneum, Torre Annunziata, including the island of Capri.
From the beginning of August Mirce started looking for the first job and actively thinking about the continuation of his university studies.
The rest of the chpater is available to the Members of the MIRCE Akademy free of charge
After successfully completing his Master of Science Programme at Belgrade University, Mirce started thinking about the continuation of his research. He felt that what he has done so far was good and interesting, but by no means sufficient. The knowledge acquired by now was, presented to him or he read it in the books or scientific journals, but really and truly he never felt that he was in control of it. In a sense Mirce felt that he provided correct answers to all of the questions to all of the exams, but somehow, he never felt that he owned the answer. In a sense, if anybody had have asked him how do you know that, he would not have had any other option than to reply that he read it in the book of the professor so and so said it. Although, it was common feeling among the majority of postgraduate students he had spoken with, Mirce wanted to change that reality. One of his main obstacles for a significant change was his inability to make use of the existing information that was written in English. At the age of 28, Mirce felt that he does not have the time to go and start learning English at evening classes, as it will take many years before he would even learn the proper answer do the question “How do you do”, metaphorically speaking.
On his 29th birthday Mirce said to his parents that he “must” go to England, very soon, to learn English, as his future career, in general, and scientific research, in particular, would suffer badly. His mother, who was very energetic and an optimistic person was in favour and asked how she can help him. However, his father who is a very conscious person, who does not like many changes, said that just going to a foreign country, where you know nobody, is practically an impossible project and not worth even thinking about. Mirce started doing a feasibility study for going to England to spend a year or two. He started looking at the available information about he Schools of English Language for foreigners in England and even in Malta. Of course, he needed help from friends and his eight-year younger sister, who’s English, was very advanced, just to understand the brochures and course explanations.
After a week or two, Mirce’s father said, “I found the contact details of a very nice Professor of Sociology, from the Exeter University, whom I met on one of the conferences”. Mirce looked at his father with surprise, firstly because he was against the idea of him going to England, secondly how a Professor of Sociology can help him to find a good school for English language and thirdly where is Exeter?. Within two weeks, Mirce was proven to be totally wrong. After sending an introduction letter to Professor Leaper at Exeter University, together with Mirce’s CV and brief description of his research ambitions, the reply came very quickly, stating that it would be waste of his son’s time to go and learn English as a foreign language. The advice was to go to the School of Engineering and continue the research and learn the English language, as he went along. Mirce and his parents warmly welcomed the recommendation, but how could he, from Belgrade, secure a place at the School of Engineering of the Exeter University? One telephone call to Professor Leaper clarified all of that, as Professor Leaper has spoken with Professor Flower , the Head of the School of Engineering, who warmly welcomed Mirce to the School, from the beginning of the new academic year. The rest is history, whose silent moments are documented in continuation of the book.
Mirce Arrives to Exeter University
In September 1982, Mirce joined the School of Engineering at Exeter University in the UK, as an Honorary Research Fellow, which practically meant that he had all privileges as a member of staff, but had to pay for his living there. Of course, it was more than fair, as he has not had any obligations towards the University, students and staff. His employer from Belgrade financially supported his six months stay in Exeter under the condition that he does all his annual teaching during the second six months. Mirce came to Exeter to learn English language that was the main obstacle in using FORTRAN, programming language that he theoretically learned during his master studies, but never applied it to the “real computer”. Now it became possible to use computers in his research activities related to reliability engineering and maintenance management processes, and of course making use of a vast amount of information available in English language.
Reliability engineering was rather a new subject for the existing members of staff, all of which were classically educated in mechanical, electrical, civil and chemical engineering. The Department of Engineering was established in 1965 and successfully attracted and graduated around 100 students a year, on the 3 years Bachelor of Science programmes. However, all members of staff, starting from the Head of the Department, Professor John Flower, were extremely interested in his work and very helpful regarding his research and well being. Mirce considered himself extremely lucky to be in that position, and from day one he applied himself to make a positive contribution to the life in the Department.
Mirce was allocated to Mardon Hall, which was all male students’ accommodation in the Campus. With a title of the “Resident Don” he enjoyed the privilege of having a study and a bedroom, at his disposal. It was a typical Hall of Residence, for about 120 students, with a traditional daily lunch at 1.10 p.m., and dinner at 6.50 p.m. Each Tuesday, there was a Formal Dinner that started with a Sherry Reception hosted by the Warden of the Hall, for the visiting members of Staff from the University and a selected number of students who studied at the guest’s department. As the Resident Don, Mirce always sat at the top table in the dining room and had opportunities to meet all students who had been invited to eat there, based on the meticulously created and applied scheme, by the Warden, Dr Frank Oliver.
Mirce took this opportunity with great interest and motivation to make himself at home, in this totally new world for him. He established a very good relationship with the “Students Union” team, and very soon he started driving students from the Hall to different sporting and social events and activities. It was great for the students who could drink without worrying about driving, and it was good for Mirce too, as he learned, tradition, language and culture, much faster than the majority of the visitors to the UK. Those activities included, gliding, horse racing, go carting, canoeing and other activities loved by students.
Mirce’s Search for New Approach to Reliability
The most common approach in reliability theory to the calculation of reliability characteristics was based on the probability distribution of random variable, TTF, which represents the operating time of the component or system to failure (see equation 3.1 and 3.2). However, this approach considers only two possible states of a component or a system, namely a state of functioning and a state of failure. It left no room for the user to follow the changes in their conditions during in-service life. The system is accepted as a “black box” which performs the required function until it fails. Such an approach is fully satisfactory from the point of view of mathematical statistics, but not from Mirce’s point of view, because engineers, especially maintenance engineers, would like to know ‘what is going on inside the box’ and “how good is good box”? Experience teaches us that the change in the condition of a component and a system is a real continuous process during its operating life, and that they are able to perform their required function as long as their “measurable physical condition” is within the acceptable range.
Neither the time-to-failure approach , which defines a reliability function by the equations 3.1 and 3.2, nor the stress-strength approach , which is based on the probability that stress will be less than strength, are capable of taking into account the distinction of the range of satisfactory conditions of the system. Mirce believed that designers and users must have more ‘engineering’ approach to reliability that is based on the actual condition of a component/system and the observable change in the condition during in-service time. Hence, sometime towards the end of 1982, while seeking to formulate research topic for his Doctoral studies, Mirce contemplated the following question: Is it possible to incorporate the condition of a component/system into, currently, binary approach to the reliability definition and calculation?
Thus, that was the beginning of his search for the new approach to reliability that would provide the positive answer to this question and start the new era in reliability predictions of the reliability of components/systems, which is to be based on their real physical conditions. If that is to be achieved, then