Kobbacy, K. A. H. and Murthy, D. N. P. (2008). An overview. In K. A. N. Kobbacy and D. N. P. Murthy (Ed.), Complex System Maintenance Handbook (pp. 3-20) United Kingdom: Springer Verlag London Limited.
The efficient functioning of modern society depends on the smooth operation of many complex systems comprised of several pieces of equipment that provide a variety of products and services. These include transport systems (trains, buses, ferries, ships and aeroplanes), communication systems (television, telephone and computer networks), utilities (water, gas and electricity networks), manufacturing plants (to produce industrial products and consumer durables), processing plants (to extract and process minerals and oil), hospitals (to provide services) and banks (for financial transactions) to name a few. All equipment is unreliable in the sense that it degrades with age and/or usage and fails when it is no longer capable of delivering the products and services. When a complex system fails, the consequences can be dramatic. It can result in serious economic losses, affect humans and do serious damage to the environment as, for example, the crash of an aircraft in flight, the failure of a sewage processing plant or the collapse of a bridge.