It is essential that the supplier understands the environment in which the customer will operate and maintain the product. Environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity, limit the way in which personnel can perform required maintenance. For example, when products must be maintained in very cold climates or under hazardous conditions (radioactive, biological or chemical environments), personnel will be wearing heavy clothing and gloves. Such clothing restricts movement, requires more room for access, and reduces dexterity. In addition, materials can shrink or expand making connection and disconnection of mating parts difficult. In hot climates with high humidity, perspiration can impair vision and affect a person's grip. If maintenance must be performed outside, the maintainability engineer must try to design access panels so that rain cannot penetrate into the interior of a product. For some products, it might be necessary to perform maintenance while the product is operating. In such cases, the maintainability engineer's primary concern is to design the product and procedures to minimize the hazards involved with maintenance.
In addition to analytical techniques, the maintainability engineer has two excellent methods of characterizing the support environment. First, the customer's maintenance personnel can be brought in to participate in the design process at the earliest phase of product development. Second, maintainability and design engineers can visit the customer's operating sites to gain firsthand knowledge of the operational and support environment.
Every product needs to be assessed for the environmental impact on maintainability.