Why planning for failure is key to successful electronic assembly

The building, inspecting, testing and shipping of complex electronic products relies not just on the use of the right tools and materials but on rigorous quality checks that ensure all standards and criteria are being consistently met.

When choosing to outsource the manufacture of an electronic or electromechanical assembly to a contract manufacturer, there will understandably be a high degree of expectation on the part of the OEM. 

Safety or regulatory issues, greater-than-expected failure rates or excessive waste can all impact negatively on product quality. So the sooner that potential defects are identified and eliminated, the less risk there will be of having to contend with costly late-stage corrections, unplanned wastage or unhappy customers.

Process improvement tools have a vital role to play in helping to identify, correct and eliminate a wide range of manufacturing problems.

In this blog post we explore two quality management methodologies used in the electronics manufacturing environment - the Eight Disciplines of Problem Solving (8D) and Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA).

The Eight Disciplines of Problem Solving (8D)

The eight discipline (8D) problem solving model was first developed by the Ford Motor Company Ltd in the 1980s as a means to resolve critical issues in the automotive production process.

The effectiveness and relative ease of use of the process has seen it become one of the most popular quality management methodologies across a diverse range of manufacturing sectors, from the automotive industry to aerospace.

8D's detailed and team oriented approach focuses on three key outcomes - identifying the root cause of a problem, securing a short-term fix to mitigate the impact on the customer and implementing a permanent solution to prevent the problem happening again.

Although the method was originally devised as an eight stage process (D1 to D8), a ninth preliminary step (D0) was later added to allow for planning and preparation.

The D1 phase focuses on bringing together the team of people who have the relevant product and process knowledge. In step D2 the problem is then defined and described, in a quantifiable way. 

During step three (D3) an interim action plan is put in place to safeguard the customer in the short-term until a more permanent solution is found.

Next the team considers all the possible root causes of the problem (D4), before selecting and verifying the best corrective action (D5), and then putting those actions into practice (D6).

Step D7 focuses on the preventative measures (such as the modification of management systems, operations, practices or procedures) to prevent the problem happening again.

Finally, once the issue has been resolved, the process concludes (D8), with a formal acknowledgement of the team's combined contribution.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

For those working in an electronics manufacturing environment, Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) can be especially useful in helping quality teams to proactively predict, quantify and prevent potential issues before they become problems.

FMEA is a structured and systematic process improvement method, first developed in the 1940s in the US, that is used to predict where and how a product might fail, what the likely impact of that failure could be and how to reduce or eliminate the risk of the failure occurring again.

Ideally, the method will be put to work at the earliest conceptual stages of design, however it can then also continue to be applied throughout the lifespan of the product - for example to aid in product redesign, to help create a new application of the product, to implement design improvements or to address a failure issue.

The FMEA process begins by bringing together a cross-functional team that will frequently span design, manufacturing, quality, test, purchasing, maintenance, sales, marketing and customer service.

Next is the identification of the scope of the potential failure modes, or the ways in which things could go wrong. In this phase it will important to consider the boundaries of the project, and the degree of detail that needs to be covered.

It may also be necessary to break the scope down into separate sub-systems, component, parts or assemblies in order to establish the function of each individual element.

In the next stage of the FMEA method, the potential failure modes for each function are then identified, taking into consideration the consequences or effects on the product, the service and/or the customer experience.

Once all potential failures have been identified, they can then be prioritised (on a scale of 1-10) according to their severity ranking, their overall risk, how easily they can be detected and how frequently they occur.

The success of any electronic or electromechanical product relies on having a robust and consistent approach to quality control that mitigates the risk of defects and that is focused on providing the best possible customer experience.

Predicting and eliminating failure is a challenging task that will rely on having a committed quality assurance team that has the knowledge and experience of the tools that underpin process improvement.

If you'd like to learn more about about JJS's commitment to delivering quality and consistency in electronics manufacturing then please download our free eBook.

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Written by Neil Sharp

Neil has over 25 years’ experience in Electronics Manufacturing Services and Component Distribution. During his career, Neil has held a range of leadership positions in sales, marketing, and customer service. Neil is currently part of the ESCATEC Senior Management Team and is responsible for setting and delivering the overall Group Marketing strategy. Neil heads up the marketing department and is responsible for both the strategy and the implementation of innovative marketing campaigns designed to deliver high quality content to those seeking outsourcing solutions.