Every day we read about a product that is having problems. Some are recalled, some taken off the market and some remain in the marketplace and cause problems well into the future. While some of these issues clearly relate to manufacturing or quality control, others are simply a foreseeable result of having the product rushed to market without undergoing thorough testing.
Unfortunately, with the increased use of computer power and technology in product design and manufacturing, the time to production for new product designs has significantly decreased. Traditionally, the time to production for a new product would take into account the time needed to design, test, validate and re-design it if necessary, and then it would be sent to manufacturing for mass production. This process tends to be longer for more complex products –passenger cars/trucks are typically redesigned in model years, and cell phones can be obsolete in six months.
The downside of decreasing the time to production is that testing and validation corners can be cut in order to meet sales deadlines. A product may have been blessed as tested and validated based on similarity to previous designs, despite the fact that the fundamental engineering form, fit, or function has actually been altered or changed.
Additionally, the original product design may have been altered by the manufacturer for manufacturability without re-testing or validation. Again, the alterations or changes may have been accepted based on similarity.
Furthermore, with decreased time to production and a reduction or elimination of testing and validation, issues with a product may not fully manifest themselves until thousands have been produced, delivered, and sold.
As the great James ‘Jim’ Henry Mohn once said, “[Engineering] analysis is great and will help get a design made, but ultimately means nothing. If you don’t test your products, you are testing your products on the people [consumers].”
PETER CHEN, M.S.M.E., M.B.A., P.E., CFEI, ACTAR, is a mechanical engineer at ARCCA specializing in Accident Reconstruction, Fire Cause/Origin, Product Failure/Liability, Car/Truck Failure Analysis, Industrial Equipment, Worksite Safety, Aviation, Medical/Rehabilitative and Exercise Equipment, Warnings and Instructions, and Transportation, including Railroad incidents. He is ACTAR-certified, a Certified Fire/Explosion Investigator, a Certified Crash Data Retrieval Analyst and a JLG Certified Equipment Trainer.