The last post in this series dealt with the design team, and the influence that team has on the product reliability process. This post will turn to product development and design managers, again looking at the role of that position in relation to product reliability. The series of posts on reliability participants will continue after today’s post with the roles of quality and reliability engineers and managers.
Why are design managers important?
Product development and design team managers provide the prioritization and resources that enable the design team to create a new product. A primary role related to reliability is the reinforcement of the importance of reliability by ensuring the use of suitable data and information for each decision under the full consideration of the influence various options have on the product’s reliability performance. For example, when considering two power supply options, the capabilities of the supplies such as weight, power output, and stability, along with cost, may dominate the decision of which option to incorporate into the design. The consideration of reliability here includes whether either or both options meet the reliability goal allocation.
Another consideration is the tradeoff between cost and expected cost of field failures. If one product has a markedly higher expected failure rate than another, it may cost more in warranty expenses and customer dissatisfaction than the other option. Many design managers encourage design tradeoff calculations related to performance, cost, and time to market. It is an additional duty to require full consideration of reliability for nearly all decisions made during development.
Consider the following example. In a product development team meeting, a design team manager listened to a report on an early reliability prediction of the design. It was broken down by the group, within the team: display, motherboard, power supply, etc. The first report indicated that the power supply was the weakest link or the most likely element to fail. So, at the design team manager asked the power supply team lead to do something about the low reliability and develop a plan to tackle the issue at the next week’s meeting.
Each week the team focused on the element that limited the product reliability as being the weakest link. The team considered tradeoffs between cost and reliability. The team made steady progress, and the leads learned to prepare a plan, in case the prediction tagged their area as the weakest link.
What’s the lesson?
The lesson here is that with a little reliability information and the simple question, “What are you going to do to improve your reliability?” the team’s focus on product reliability enhanced the design and its reliability performance.