In this episode…
Renaud is joined this week by two interesting guests who’ve been on the podcast before: Clive Greenwood a quality consultant at WWMG associates who is a Six Sigma Black Belt and has a special focus on medical devices and product compliance and Sofeast’s head of New Product Development, Andrew Amirnovin who has a background in electrical engineering and a keen focus on product reliability.
The topic is the long-term costs of poor product quality and reliability, and they’ll be examining some real unreliable and poor quality product examples, the many problems caused by poor quality and reliability, strategies and tips to prevent these issues, and how to construct an effective quality management system.
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🎧 The Long-Term Costs of Poor Quality & Reliability 🎧
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00:00 – Greetings & today’s topic
01:16 – Clive & Andrew introductions and industry experience
03:59 – Some real-life examples of products that suffered from bad quality and reliability
- The Samsung Note 7 with exploding batteries. The cost of the problem to Samsung was over US$5.3 billion and untold damage to their reputation!
- The Boeing 737 Max with software issues that caused them to crash. Over 300 people died in crashes, again costing Boeing a huge amount in reputational damage and billions in costs.
- Masks for use as PPE in the fight against Covid that were totally unsuitable and unsafe for use as medical devices and have led to numerous global court cases and wholesale changes to how the supply chain is monitored.
11:17 – People often focus on quality, but not reliability. A mistake?
Clive: The designer should provide a detailed DFMEA that sets the roadmap for quality. Common certifications like ISO 9001 talk about understanding the customer requirement, in this case, a product that works and is reliable. The total cost of quality includes both the cost of good quality (COGQ) and the cost of poor quality (COPQ) and product repairs and recalls can quickly take costs out of your control.
Andrew: To ensure quality & reliability, during development consider how to make the design more reliable, how you’ll test for reliability, and put in place manufacturing controls. An example is the Nokia drop test that led to design changes to the phones where it became standard for them to disintegrate on impact (case comes off and battery pops out).
17:28 – How to make a reliable product and prevent quality & reliability issues?
Andrew: Make a reliable product design, use case scenarios for the product, DFR, use reliable materials and components, follow the DFX process. Design FMEA for risk analysis. FEA (finite element analysis). Select components from suppliers with reliability and quality systems. Analyze and track field failures. Reliability testing needs to be figured out to test any and all ways a user could use the product. HALT and HASS accelerated testing are particularly effective for testing reliability by accelerating possible issues so they can be found during development and not in the field.
Clive: On supplier selection – a product is only as good as its weakest link. If that weakest link was chosen due to price over quality the product risks failing. Suppliers need a recognized quality system that can be audited and verified. Buyers often buy the cheapest possible components with quality as an afterthought if at all, however, it should be one of the first.
27:27 – Where do design engineers go wrong?
Andrew: During development, engineers can get tunnel vision and don’t look at the big picture about how the product could be used in the field by the customer and in which environments. These impact quality and reliability. Quality and reliability teams need to educate the engineering team to focus on customer requirements, how the product will be tested and evaluated, and more. Without doing this there are many risks ahead.
Clive: The fundamental aspect of manufacturing is that the design to manufacture has to have a quality limit. A business with a long-term outlook must equate cheap with throwaway products (cellphones where the battery is poor after about 18 months, for example) as reliability doesn’t really come with a lower cost.
Andrew: Cheap Christmas lights with unsafe wiring that could lead to electrocution is an example of irresponsible product development where safety wasn’t considered. This is why ‘cheap products’ should be avoided when quality and reliability are desired. For standard consumer products, their reliability should at least cover the warranty period.
34:34 – Compliance standards
Clive: A product should comply with international or national standards of the location it is going to be sold in. There is no black or white. Laypeople don’t usually understand standards, though, and are more interested in price which can be put above safety and reliability.
37:22 – A list of typical costs of poor quality once a bad product hits the field
- Shipping and recovery costs
- Rework or re-engineering
- A total recall of products (causing irreparable damage to reputation)
- Increased inspections
- Storage for returns
- Manpower allocated to handle RMA, rework, and repair
- Loss of sales and revenue
- Customer dissatisfaction
- Tarnished brand image
- High warranty cost
- Legal fees & financial fines or damages (for safety issues and customer injuries)
39:39 – The example of a defective toy and how it affected the brand
A company was supplying toy train sets and sometimes the Chinese manufacturer missed a screw from the box. They didn’t think it was a big problem, but customers would complain bitterly, especially, say, if it meant the toy couldn’t be used as a Christmas gift. The brand has to send single screws by air which was costly in labor and shipping costs (US$50 per time per screw) and they still got poor online reviews that damaged their brand.
42:47 – The relationship between the design and quality & reliability teams
Clive: Being led by accountants rather than quality people results in a lot of the failures discussed in this episode.
Andrew: There is often contention between design and reliability & quality teams. The former may say that the latter tested the product too hard and broke it. The art of a reliability engineer is to devise the perfect test plan that catches issues without giving a false failure and proves that there is an issue from one build to the next to the design team who can then go and fix it. This gets a design team on-side as they then see the quality & reliability team as helping them avoid embarrassment.
Renaud: The obeya system is where facts and actions (such as what is wrong and needs to be fixed) are made clear to everyone and the teams work together on them. This is leadership with quality and reliability in mind.
47:45 – Process risk analysis
Clive: IPCDA – ‘identify’ and plan a way to test issues.
Renaud: Deming says 85% of issues can only be fixed by management as they have to put the systems in place.
Andrew: Pareto analysis. Sometimes only 1 or 2 issues are causing 80% of the failures. The reliability engineer needs to identify that critical component to the design team and once it’s fixed so many issues won’t reoccur.
50:51 – The 8D corrective action process
Clive: At what points did the need for corrective actions start. You assume that the customer used the product within its limitations, but that’s hard to prove.
Andrew & Clive: If you find issues in the field, the engineer often fails to report it to the design who’re working on the new product based on the one that has failed. This results in the new product having the same issue as the old one because the design team didn’t know. A lack of an obeya system means there isn’t good communication between departments and customer complaints in the field don’t get back to a design team.
55:26 – Wrapping up
Renaud: Management has to set the right system and make facts and feedback accessible to the right people so design, quality, reliability, and procurement staff all work together well. Without this foundation, a company can’t be expected to develop and sell good products.
Andrew: From a design and development point-of-view you must have a way of identifying issues before the product goes to manufacturing and of verifying and validating materials and components. Pilot runs, devising inspection points during production, putting in place incoming QC, doing a first article inspection, ongoing reliability testing, etc. All of these processes must be in place to find reliability and quality issues before a product leaves the factory.
Clive: Don’t forget that your prototype is a key tool to tell you if and how the product fails.
- What’s The Cost Of Quality? [Podcast]
- How To Drive Your Chinese Suppliers To Improve Reliability
- Your Cost of Poor Quality Is Higher Than You Think
- How Bad Product Design Leads to Many Quality Issues
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