New product development (NPD) is often driven by cost and schedule. In the electronics industry, being first to market with a new technology or product is crucial to its success, and enhanced speed to market is what differentiates world class companies from the rest.
In the haste to meet product introduction deadlines, it’s common to sacrifice product reliability. This is evident from numerous product recalls seen in recent years, with one extreme example coming from a popular gaming system designer. Poor product design was determined to be the cause of excessive field failures, which hurt the gaming company’s reputation and caused them to lose market share that has not been regained.
A common practice used in NPD is the Stage Gate process, introduced by Robert Cooper in the late 80s. Over the last 25 years, the Stage Gate process has gone through many transformations in response to industry demand for a leaner process. The most updated Stage Gate process uses a “build, test, obtain feedback, revise” method in an effort to improve the NPD process, but it has traditionally focused heavily on quality rather than reliability, and these iterations can delay product releases and cause unnecessary rework. For some industries, the Stage Gate process might be the only opportunity to build reliability into the product. However, for the electronics industry, there are advanced tools that can help companies meet target release dates, stay on budget and gain a competitive advantage.
In a reliability-integrated NPD process, it’s critical to introduce the concept of Design for Reliability (DfR) from the very beginning. A Physics of Failure (PoF) approach coupled with design analysis tools focuses on design and testing that’s effective at meeting scheduling and budget constraints and most importantly, helps to ensure predicted product reliability. Likewise, a lean approach to integrating the DfR concept with the NPD process has the best chance of success in meeting overall product quality and reliability goals in today’s climate. The core focus of any lean initiative is to eliminate non-value added steps, and the reliability integration to the NPD process, as shown in the figure below, has 6 key stages:
Figure 1 - Reliability consideration at each stage of the NPD process
Within each of these stages, there are traditional NPD activities and reliability activities that must be integrated before moving on. Aligning DfR tools with the activities in each stage, as shown in Figure 2, will help to close the reliability gap in the NPD process and reduce risks to a company’s reliability reputation.
Figure 2 - Typical DfR tools associated with a lean reliability integrated NPD process
Achieving product reliability in today’s environment can be quite challenging. Traditional reliability engineering that focuses on physical testing and statistical analysis is no longer the preferred method to meet today’s demand. What the industry needs now is a more lean, agile reliability process that is based on PoF rather than statistics.
To explore real world examples and analysis of how DfR and PoF work together to ensure product reliability, speed time to market and lower the cost of quality, watch our popular Design for Reliability webinar on-demand. Click the button below to access.