I was recently talking with my colleague Fred Schenkelberg from FMS Reliability (this conversation can be heard here), about a plane that he had never heard of. Most of the world hasn’t heard of it. And there is a reason you probably haven’t either. The plane in question is a case study on how to design something to fail.
There is no question that standardizing processes, techniques and best practices has contributed greatly to technological evolution. Just writing down or passing on what has worked well in the past helps anyone’s learning process. But there are many problems associated with this approach when blind obedience kills critical thinking.
When is the biggest ‘improvement’ in the reliability of a new ‘type’ of product? This is a very broad question with no doubt lots of answers that aren’t wrong. But what we do know is that the more experience we have with building something, the more reliable it gets. And this effect is most marked at the start of the product’s life. [Read more…]
InnoCentive CEO Dwayne Spradlin wrote in this article about how many companies in a rush to develop something new and innovative try to solve a problem that they want to solve rather than the problem the customer wants to be solved. He quotes Albert Einstein who once said
If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.
Imagine you are not feeling well and you go to a doctor. When you sit down in the doctor’s office, he doesn’t even look at you. Instead, he has a book opened on the desk and starts reading it aloud. You sit there without being examined, listening to a list of medicines, activities, exercises and diet changes. The doctor then looks up and says that you need to do all of them. Take all the medicines. Change all your activities. Start doing all the exercises. And completely change your diet. [Read more…]
In the late 1970s, Hewlett Packard was a company that valued quality compliance, certification and awards. But the then Chief Executive Officer noticed a problem. He (on a hunch) initiated an analysis of ‘quality related expenses.’ He wanted to quantify the cost of defects and failure. The results were terrifying. [Read more…]
In 1995, the United States Department of Energy (DoE) funded research into Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). PPPL was developing plasma fusion techniques, and the research in question focused on quality assurance within the laboratory. It was investigating the utility of a new type of quality assurance: on that was performance-based. [Read more…]
Two rockets launched from Earth in November 2013. They carried a total of 61 small satellites from 20 different manufacturers. A satellite that is less than 500 kg in mass is considered ‘small.’ But small satellites are unique in many other ways. Old and ‘big’ satellites are massive, multi-billion dollar machines that take years to build and are the ‘only shot’ at achieving a mission. A ‘big satellite’ that stops working is a disaster. If a ‘small satellite’ fails, there can be many others floating around Earth to pick up the slack. [Read more…]