“A few months later a survey carried out by Gallup found that 31% of Americans thought that Toyota vehicles were unsafe…”
It is not an isolated case: Sanyo, Bosch, Apple, Siemens and Samsung have experienced similar situations. It is not hard to find recall notices on the internet for defective products that have seemingly been working correctly for months (http://www.siliconrepublic.com/digital-life/item/36662-apple-and-samsung-announce)
The impact of an announcement like the one above on an OEM is not just limited to the damage to their brand image (their clients lose confidence and their competitors improve their market position), but the replacement of the defective equipment with new, updated versions involves significant financial outlay. The bigger the product base affected (we live in a globalised market where there are barely any boundaries), the more damaging the impact and the longer it takes to recover the lost ground… if it is recovered at all.
Nobody is safe from the problem. Electronics are present in practically every sector, the complexity of products (or the subsystems that control them) is increasing and development periods are shortening, making the risk of something unforeseen happening ever greater. Newspapers only publish the announcements by consumer brands (since they have to make their announcement reach the general public, who are the end-users) but the problems are much more widespread in OEMs who work in industrial sectors, who invest a lot of time and money in replacing their defective products (often subsystems) as discretely as possible.
Against this backdrop, here at IKOR we think we can implement actions that help us to eliminate (or at least reduce) the problem.
The first factor that can help us is product traceability. If it has not been possible to prevent the problem from arising, we can limit its impact. That is why it is necessary to have a system that enables us to link the finished products with the components and processes used to manufacture them. At IKOR we have implemented a system we will describe in an upcoming article and which gives our clients this traceability.
But we all know that there is no better way of reducing the impact of a problem than preventing it from happening in the first place, and for this, our plan at IKOR is based on improving the product validation system, in both the Design and the Manufacturing phases.
The “traditional” product validation process focusses on testing it during the design phase, using a series of prototypes to carry out the various tests: functional tests, EMC and environmental testing, electrical safety testing, etc. Once all these tests have been passed, the product would be prepared for industrialization, where the final production methods, which will be used to manufacture a new product batch, are developed and some of the samples from this batch are used to certify the product at an accredited laboratory.
Once these tests have been passed, the OEM considers their product to have been “validated” and focusses on verifying that the EMS has manufactured identical replicas of this product, i.e., that they have bought the components listed on the Bill of Materials (BOM), that they have put them in exactly the right position and have carried out the welding correctly. That is why they select a manufacturer who has a good range of testing resources available (optical inspection, in-circuit test, functional testing, X-ray…) and a high quality process.
We can assume that the high level manufacturers named at the start of this article follow a process similar to the one described, but this has not stopped them having to withdraw their products from the market. Do you think they still use the same validation methods today, or that they have improved them? Has something similar happened with your product? Do you worry that it could happen to you?
If you want to know more about the new techniques that are now being applied in the validation of electronic products and their manufacturing process, do not miss our next post that we will be publishing soon.