The paper illustrates the application of the ant colony optimization algorithm to solve both continuous function and combinatorial optimization problems in reliability engineering. The ant algorithm is combined with the strength Pareto fitness assignment procedure to handle multiobjective problems. Further, a clustering procedure has been applied to prune the Pareto set and to maintain diversity. Benchmark case examples show the superiority of the ant algorithm to such problems. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.