Apple new iPhones will be somewhat different to those of the past. They will now have a USB-C charging and data port, and not Apple’s lightning cables. Why? Because the European Union said so. And they said so because they are not happy with the number of different charging cables we all now need for our various devices. Having a single cable that can charge an iPhone, Samsung smartphone, and virtually every other small electronic consumer product makes sense. It means fewer cables, smaller carbon footprints, less electronic waste, and prices will come down as less and less products assume that they need to provide a charging cable in their packaging. I have at least 20 power cables in my office that have been provided with various electronic gadgetry over the years.[Read more…]
Reliability in Emerging Technology
The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. We are constantly exposed to new and better products, services that are more efficient, and things that generally make our lives better.
But how long will they work for? … and will they be safe?
And we often get it wrong. Toyota vehicles of the early 2000s had a problem with their new electronic throttle control system that saw them accelerate without warning – reliability was not the priority it needed to be. But autonomous vehicles are perhaps faced with an over-abundance of caution bordering on trepidation, meaning that the 95 per cent of road deaths caused by human error are still happening as the technology ‘drives unused.’ And then there are the new products that you either never hear of or can barely remember because they barely worked long enough for customers to enjoy. Budding entrepreneurs forget that there is a difference between time to market and time to market acceptance.
So what are we to do? The answer involves a healthy dose of historic ‘reliability-principles’ with a blend of tailored approaches that goes (well and truly) beyond a ‘checklist’ or ‘compliance’ approach. So how do we get that mix right? That is the question.
It looks like 2023 will be the hottest year on record. Along with all the cyclones, hurricanes, floods and bushfires we have already had. Those who study and take climate change seriously unanimously agree that man-made changes to the environment are causing the climate to change so fast that mother nature will struggle to keep up.
And for the minority (yes, it is a minority as has been confirmed by many surveys and studies across the world), their arguments against climate change go something like this …
It might not be because of us …
… so it’s definitely not because of us.[Read more…]
Climate change is universally accepted. And when I say ‘universally,’ I mean that the only people who think it is not a thing are fringe elements of society who are predisposed to specific interpretations of religion or commercial greed that would be harmed by any attack on fossil fuels and the energy we derive from them.
The good thing about this is that organizations who are serious about being successful and profitable can’t do so by sharing the ideology of a small minority. More and more people (including younger humans who will be the decision makers of tomorrow) are demanding more and more from the organizations they buy services and products from – especially when it comes to environmental concerns.
So to be successful, you need to take this stuff seriously.[Read more…]
I was recently asked by a product design engineer why their organization struggles with reliability even though they have a very ‘robust’ design process that seemingly has lots of different ‘good’ reliability engineering activities embedded in it. And when I say ‘good’ reliability engineering activities, I mean activities that have (in the past) shown to have a really good impact on reliability.
When I looked at some of this engineer’s processes as summarized by a ‘process flow chart,’ the reason his organization struggled with making reliable products was quite obvious.
The process was so complex that it became the ‘product.’[Read more…]
One of my more unfortunate memories of my early military career is the death of a soldier on a training exercise. I was posted to a place very close to the equator … along with the heat and humidity that came with it. The soldier who died suffered from heat stroke, brought on by dehydration. And when we looked back on what went wrong, a key issue was that the training exercise risk assessment was ‘word for word’ identical to previous risk assessments when it came to managing heat related illnesses.
Organizations are all about ‘success.’ Being ‘successful.’ Which can many different things to many different people. ‘Success’ is not simply the ‘antithesis of failure.’ One could argue that ‘mediocrity’ in many cases is accepted as the antithesis of ‘failure.’ ‘Mediocrity’ is hardly the same as ‘success.’
Organizational success means that a lot of different people need to be doing lots of very different, but very important things. And this often means things that can go unnoticed. The ‘one percenters.’ Getting things done right the first time.[Read more…]
I often start teaching my reliability engineering courses … by focusing on other reliability engineering courses. Why? Because they exemplify what is wrong with how most ‘reliability experts’ go about convincing others to take reliability seriously.
A typical reliability engineering course will start with images of disaster. A Chernobyl here. A Fukushima there. A crashed airplane. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Lots of other atrocities that happen when we don’t do reliability engineering properly.
I (like most of us) try to keep learning about stuff. And this includes (on occasion) listening to guys like Simon Sinek who has made a name for himself as an inspirational speaker and author. I learn a lot from some of his stuff. Most people like Simon are skilled at simplifying fundamentally ‘good’ ideas and principles into really simple messages that are easy to break through our sometimes cluttered brains.
We’ve all been ‘there.’ Watching the ‘mechanical’ design team lead go through 378 PowerPoint slides of suffocating technical content, pixelated iPhone pictures of bearing housings, and lists of ‘open’ items in fonts that are too small. There are ‘senior’ engineers wheeled in to ‘review’ but instead nod knowingly and ask sporadic questions about something they once designed ‘back in the day.’ And the chairperson will often ask our ‘mechanical’ design team lead if they are ‘on track.’
At the 2019 Annual Reliability and Maintainability Symposium, I was involved in a discussion with US Department of Defense (DoD) reliability engineering teams and industry representatives. And on the agenda was a review of an emerging document called the ‘Reliability and Maintainability Engineering Management Body of Knowledge.’ Let’s call this the ‘DoD RAM BOK’ for short.
I only had access to this document’s quick reference guide, and it suggests that the DoD RAM BOK describes what reliability engineering activities need to happen from ‘concept’ through to ‘operations’ for a typical military capability being introduced into service.
I was having a lunch meeting with a project manager, and the topic of outsourcing came up. Specifically, outsourcing the manufacture of a particular machine that would form part of a larger vehicle system. I asked him why he was doing this, particularly when for many years the predecessor to this machine was very successfully manufactured in-house. His answer was simple.
It was to transfer risk to a supplier. [Read more…]
There are plenty of reasons for renewable energy to become increasingly important. These reasons start with climate change and end with our unmistakably finite amount of fossil fuels buried in our fragile planet. One of the early criticisms of renewable energy was that it wasn’t cheap. Sure – the energy sources such as sunlight, wind and flowing water are inherently renewable, but the costs to manufacture and maintain all the equipment that extracts energy from these resources can be very high. [Read more…]
You can’t win wars where your allies are also your enemies
Steve Tengler from Forbes Magazine recently wrote about how Audi was improving the reliability and quality of its cars … by helping its suppliers. And while I wished he had a little more robustness behind his conclusions, he reinforced just how important it is to focus on who makes your products and not just what they make. [Read more…]
We often get sucked into drawn-out conversations (or heated debates) about the ‘true’ meaning of words. Especially when it comes to sports. Was James Harden (a basketball player) in the ‘act of shooting’ when he was fouled? It matters – because if the answer is ‘yes’ he gets up to three free throws. So what does the ‘act of shooting’ mean and who decides it? There will be endless debate over beers about what this means. Perhaps largely dependent on which team you support.
At the end of the day, it usually doesn’t matter. You can debate it as much as you want, but the referees have already decided what happened on the court. It is done. It is over. You can disagree with them. But nothing changes the score. [Read more…]
When I was working at a university, I was involved in a conversation with a representative of an energy company. He was having all manners of problems with a valve. It was failing too often. He wanted us to look at what we could do in terms of optimizing the preventive maintenance (PM) or servicing regime to hopefully fix these problems. But … there was a catch.
He had heard about ‘deep learning’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ from another university. And he wanted some of it. [Read more…]