The phenomenal advances made during the last century in information technology have generated high expectations for an unprecedented revolution in all scientific and technological fields in the 21st century. Newer and smarter materials, including composites, biodegradable materials, high strength plastics, minimum waste or effluent-producing processes, material recycling, clean energy sources, and nano-materials, will govern the design of all future products in the 21st century. Key areas like genetic engineering, biotechnology, and nanotechnology hold the key to developing sustainable products, systems, and services. In fact, all future technological pathways will help minimize if not reverse the damage that has already been done to the earth’s environment by the last industrial revolution.
As of now, the performance of products, systems, and services is judged in terms of dependability, which aggregates attributes like quality, reliability, maintainability, and safety without overlooking the cost of achieving these attributes. These attributes are very much influenced by their design, raw material, fabrication, techniques, manufacturing processes, control, and usage.
With the world’s resources declining and the human population on the rise, the cost of raw materials and resources is likely to escalate in the near future. This phenomenon has already been witnessed in the last decade. Keeping pace with the rising population, the increased volume of production is likely to affect the world environmental health further unless pollution prevention measures are strictly pursued. Therefore, the control of effluents and waste management along with the minimization of energy requirements will become even more important considerations in designing products and their manufacturing processes. Moreover, the internalization of hidden costs of environment preservation must be accounted for sooner or later in order to produce sustainable products in the long run. Therefore, it is time we start taking a holistic view of the entire life cycle of activities along with the associated cost of environmental preservation at each stage of product manufacturing while maximizing performance.
The conventional perspective of dependability ignores the environmental impact considerations that accompany the development of products, systems, and services. However, any industrial activity that creates a product, system, or service is not free from the environmental impacts that follow at each phase of development.
The concept of performability allows us to take a holistic view of entire life cycle activities connected with the design, manufacture, use, and disposal in relation to performance, environmental, and economical considerations. In other words, performability is an aggregate attribute that reflects an entire effort of a system engineer to achieve dependability and sustainability.
At present, researchers in the areas of quality, reliability, maintainability, availability, and safety are hardly concerned with sustainability aspects of product design (implying dematerialization, requiring minimum energy, generating minimal waste, and using pollution prevention strategies) and are working in isolation. Similarly, those working in sustainability do not concern themselves with dependability considerations. Therefore, it is true that existing journals on the subjects of quality, reliability, maintainability, and safety hardly ever deliberate issues related to product or system sustainability, nor do journals on sustainability and related areas ever touch upon problems of quality, reliability, or safety. A truly optimal design must balance out all these conflicting conditions imposed upon the product or system development while resorting to clean manufacturing processes. We need to address the inherent complex problems of this task from the perspectives of performance, environment, and economics all at once, as the sustainable products will inevitably be produced in a competitive world market.
There is not a single international journal that deals with this problem from a holistic perspective. The International Journal of Performability Engineering aims to bridge this gap of information between the diverse groups of researchers so that the challenges of designers, manufacturers, and users of 21st century products and systems can be overcome effectively. Nanotechnology, biotechnology, and other clean technologies, processes, and environmental directives are likely to dictate and revolutionize the way products and systems are designed, manufactured, and used in the 21st century. This interaction, if encouraged, is likely to usher in a new technological revolution.