Quality and Reliability are Inputs, Well Before Prototype Designs

You’re at the end of your design process, proud of what you’ve accomplished. And, then come other people from other cross functional groups and they’re saying, “No.” Quality engineering and reliability engineering friends are pointing out some problems with your design.  

It’s important to know that Quality and Reliability are inputs into your design process. It is not quality control for the design process. If we wait until we have a prototype in our hand to start applying quality methods and getting input from our quality and reliability friends, it’s too late. We’re too far down the design path.

By not applying quality thinking earlier, we’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities that would have been easy to implement and have great lasting effects on our product design. By not involving our quality friends earlier in the design process:  

  • we’ve missed out on some opportunities to make our design more robust, more functional, safer and easy to use 
  • we missed an opportunity to arrange supplier agreements with details that reduce risk 
  • we’ve missed a better understanding of the in-process manufacturing testing needs or design for manufacture ability 
  • and we’ve missed opportunities to design out risk because we didn’t thoroughly understand the risks in our product not working, our user not understanding how it works, or our manufacturer not understanding critical features of a component 

Besides the missed opportunities, applying quality methods and tools and thinking during the design process also helps facilitate cross functional input early. I facilitated many quality analysis meetings with a cross functional team. The team consisted of product designers but also marketing, field ops, other independent designers, regulatory, manufacturing…and there is not one analysis that I’ve helped perform where the designers just happened to capture all the risk on their own. And, in many cases, there was a lot of learning happening between all the cross functional groups.  

To conclude, recognize that the methods that quality and reliability engineers use can result in design inputs: inputs that you can take advantage of early as opportunities to implement the right type of controls, and your best design. Get your quality engineering and reliability engineering friends involved early. Even at the black box phase where you only have inputs, outputs and a black box as a design. 

If you’re in a design project now and haven’t gotten your QE and RE friends involved yet, reach out. Tell them about your project and see how they’d like to get involved.