Carl and Fred discussing the role of common sense in reliability engineering and management.
Join Carl and Fred as they discuss how faulty thinking that defies common sense can lead us in the wrong direction.
- What is “common sense”? Why is it important?
- Every failure matters, and should not be ignored
- The importance of personal integrity and character
- Tests need to add value and make sense
- Ask why you are doing each of your tasks
- Common sense needs to be at the forefront
- Fred talks about the “sniff test”
- Question what you’ve always done, and ask “why”?
- Be aware of how things are used, and of potential phase changes, to stay within realistic failure mechanisms
- Brainstorming works when creative ideas are later evaluated for feasibility
Enjoy an episode of Speaking of Reliability. Where you can join friends as they discuss reliability topics. Join us as we discuss topics ranging from design for reliability techniques to field data analysis approaches.
SOR 625 Common SenseCarl Carlson
Keith Fong says
I’m not enthusiastic about the appeal to common sense. What people call common sense is subject to education, experience, mentoring, perceptiveness, humility, and prejudices such as confirmation bias. For example, I coached a couple of young engineers doing root cause analysis on a plastic part. To me, it was plainly obvious that the root cause was the injection point location (i.e. common sense), but they had no clue. However, I’ve worked with plastic parts since before their parents met.
That said, I think the other point you make about adding value is key. I taught a measurement system analysis class to the test technicians in our product test lab. I asked them what their job was to which the consensus answer was “pass parts.” They got that idea because they got yelled at if parts didn’t pass. Having previously been a product design engineer in that same product line, I know how much the product engineers don’t know or misunderstand. There are a lot of part designs that shouldn’t pass the first or, even, the second time.
The correct answer I taught them (and their manager) is to generate reliable data. If the part passes, that’s great, but if it fails, that’s OK, too. (Assuming the data is reliable.) The product design engineer will have to figure out what is wrong so that the design can be successful in use.
I’ve come to the view that Reliability and Quality departments’ true function is to be the source of meaningful, reliable data and information to make decisions about designs and processes over which the Reliability and Quality departments have no direct control. (This speaks to Fred’s idea that manufacturing can’t make a product better than it was designed.)
For that utopia to be achieved, the integrity and character of every member of the team has to be unimpeachable. The unhappy people will be looking for any scrap of evidence to reject the data that they don’t like.
Carl Carlson says
I agree with most everything you wrote here. I, too, used to manage a test lab and before I took over, the job was passing tests. Of course, the right job is to provide accurate test results.
You are absolutely correct that the true function of quality and reliability departments is to “be the source of meaningful, reliable data and information to make decisions about designs and processes.” Fred and I have added an entire chapter in our new book on the subject of supporting key program decisions.
Regarding “common sense,” you make excellent points. However, the point Fred and I were trying to make is the role of common sense along with accurate data. They go together. It’s like keeping your eye on the big picture, while being completely thorough in your analysis. Thoroughness and accuracy are essential, common sense can keep you on the right track. And, yes, it is subject to “education, experience, mentoring, perceptiveness, humility,” as you point out.
Regarding confirmation bias, it is very important that the scientific method be used with humility and diligence to avoid biases.
I very much appreciate your comments and contribution to the discussion.
Keith Fong says
Thanks for your thoughts, Carl.