Guest Post by John Ayers (first posted on CERM ® RISK INSIGHTS – reposted here with permission)
Reliability is designed into a product. Quality is built into a product. Poor reliability is long term, difficult and expensive to rectify because it is woven into the fabric of the product.
Quality is a relative short term problem because once the badly written procedure, non-compliant material or poor workmanship is identified, it usually can be fixed relatively quickly with minimal impact to the program.
What is Reliability?
Let’s look first at reliability:
Reliability starts with availability, MTBCF (mean time between critical failures), MTBF (mean time between failures), MTTR (mean time to repair) or similar life requirements. The next step is to generate a system level reliability model to define the requirements that are flowed down to the design team. These include: redundancy, testability, fault isolation, MTBF, MTTR, MTBCF, and other applicable reliability requirements. Procurement specs are written with the reliability requirements to ensure the reliability of materials will align with program requirements. Redundancy and testability are incorporated into the design. Reliability requirements are then incorporated into subcontract specifications.
What is Quality?
Quality plays a major role in the design and production of products.
Quality is involved in the design process by monitoring and ensuring compliance to the review processes (e.g. system requirements review, peer review, preliminary design review, critical design review, and test readiness review). All requisitions are reviewed and approved by Quality. Subcontract SOW (statement of work) and specifications are reviewed and approved by Quality. Subcontracted and procured materials are inspected and accepted by Quality. All production documents are also approved by Quality. All production products are accepted by Quality for the company.
My Reliability Story
I worked for a defense company that wanted to be a major provider of Sonobuoys to a navy (unmentioned country), a new market for the company. At the time, one manufacturer supplied the country’s navy with approximately 80 % of the buoys. My company’s strategy was to build a ¼ scale model of the buoy, test it, and win the contract for the next procurement by submitting a spec compliant proposal significantly under cost ( a deliberate buy in to get the business). They won the contract. Wall Street loved the buy in strategy and the stock went up. My company only had to scale the design up, build it, pass qualifications tests, go into production and deliver product. However, this effort turned out to be much more difficult and involved than they bargained for.
The design phase went well. The qualification test items were fabricated, integrated and put into qualification tests as planned. The qualification testing went badly. They failed test after test for various reasons. Engineering identified the cause of the problems as they appeared and put in fixes the best they could without having to go through a major redesign. The company spent tens of thousands of dollars on finding, fixing, and retesting problems. They became significantly behind schedule. The customer was becoming very upset. After approximately 2 years working on the contract and trying to pass qualification tests, my company (with approval from the customer) decided to novate the contract to another company. A novated contract removes a company from any obligations by selling the government contract to another qualified, approved and offshore company.
The new company was a well-known manufacturer of defense and nautical products. They assigned dozens of quality, reliability and design engineers to the program. The team’s desks were placed right on the production floor next to the action. In spite of this rather large application of engineering manpower, and utilization of their successful manufacturing track record and experience, it took them longer than expected to pass qualification tests and get into production. The yield in production was measurably less than projected but they managed to complete the contract albeit late and over cost.
Risks and Root Causes of the Problem
The root cause of the problem was the reliability of the design. Scaling the design from a ¼ model to a full up model may have been fairly straight forward from a performance viewpoint, but was a miserable failure from a robust, reliable design aspect. No one wanted to conduct major surgery on the design to fix the problem properly, especially after the design was completed and the drawings released to production. It would take too long and cost too much money to take this approach. They felt there was only time and budget to put band aids in place to solve the problems which turned out to be a big mistake.
John earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and MS in Engineering Management from Northeastern University. He has a total of 44 years’ experience, 30 years with DOD Companies. He is a member of PMI (project Management Institute). John has managed numerous firm fixed price and cost plus large high technical development programs worth in excessive of $100M. He has extensive subcontract management experience domestically and foreign. John has held a number of positions over his career including: Director of Programs; Director of Operations; Program Manager; Project Engineer; Engineering Manager; and Design Engineer. His technical design areas of experience include: radar; mobile tactical communication systems; cryogenics; electronic packaging; material handling; antennas; x-ray technology; underwater vehicles; welding; structural analysis; and thermal analysis. He has experience in the following areas: design; manufacturing; test; integration; selloff; subcontract management; contracts; risk and opportunity management; and quality control. John is a certified six sigma specialist, certified level 2 EVM (earned value management) specialist; certified CAM (cost control manager).
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