The modern market is moving in some rather strange directions with regards to the value delivered to the end user through products. It’s more and more common to see companies designing products that fail after a short term, whether intentionally or not. This is sometimes a problem of improper reliability measures in the design, but in other cases it’s because the product/component has not been tested extensively enough.
Design for Reliability (DfR) and Design for Testability (DfT) are two disciplines that can directly address this issue, and familiarizing yourself with them and their potential impact on your operations is a very good idea if you’re having trouble with the long-term value of your products.
Design for Reliability
There are many components to DfR, but the main point is to ensure that your products will continue to operate as expected over a long period of time. Some companies nowadays fail at this on a pretty grand scale, either intentionally or not. There is actually a new trend in the manufacturing world to create products that fail after a specific time, in order to secure future business for the company.
Various studies have continuously shown that this is a very bad approach though, at least as far as the long-term perspective of the company is concerned. The issue is that you’re trading a quick short-term profit for long-term sustainable growth and customer acquisition, and by the time you realize the problems in that approach, it’s often far too late to do anything to reverse the course.
Reliability can come in many shapes and sizes, and in some cases it’s more about the ability to provide long-term support for the product, rather than ensuring it never fails in the first place. This is another common problem in the modern industrial world, with many products being designed and manufactured in a way that if something breaks, the whole system is as good as gone.
Design for Testing
On the other hand, it’s also important to ensure that all designs produced by your facility can be easily verified according to some standards. There are various ways to go about that, depending on the specific industry you work in, and to be fair, in some cases testing is not actually all that important.
But for products with an intended long life cycle, it’s important to make sure that all of their features are up to par with whatever the specification says.
This can sometimes be pretty problematic though, especially if your design doesn’t lend itself to testing that much. There are various ways to promote a more rigid design for testing, and they all depend on the specific line of work you’re in.
For the most part, you’ll want to ensure that the design follows the “white box” principle as much as possible. That is, details should not be obscured from testers, especially when it comes to the internal workings of the machine/component. Of course, in some cases, resorting to black box designs is inevitable. This is especially true when it comes to designs that reuse third-party components and other elements that are beyond your control.
Sometimes you’ll just be forced to work with their specifications without any real knowledge of what’s going on inside them, and it’s important to adapt to that properly.
There is a lot you can do to provide additional value to the customer with the use of DfR and DfT. However, not every type of product lends itself to this style of work, and you’ll want to make sure that you can integrate these concepts into your own production properly before looking in that direction for possible optimizations.