When anyone asks me "How do you go about developing a reliability program?", I tell them that any reliability program can be broken down into 4 basic steps:
1) Assess where you are at
2) Develop good Goals
3) Write a solid Plan on how to get there
4) Develop a good Execution Strategy
Often times companies skip this first key step and jump right into setting goals for a program, yet how do you know what goals to set and whether you can achieve them if you don't first take an inventory of what you have? It's like baking a cake. If I decide that baking a cake is my goal, I can find a recipe (my Plan), but first must take an inventory of my supplies (flour, sugar, etc.). And if I find that I don't have some of these key ingredients, I need to first get them before I can get very far with my cake.
An assessment is no different. Until I take inventory of my situation, I won't get very far no matter how much time I spend developing good goals. And if I find that I am missing an ingredient, I need to go out and either hire or train or buy software.
Assessments can be performed for a variety of different reasons - During a RoHS transition, for a Warranty Analysis, looking at Compliance/Safety on a new product, and even when reviewing a company's Software Reliability program (next month, our feature service will be Software Reliability and how to effectively conduct a Software Reliability Assessment).
One of the most effective types of assessments is one for an entire reliability program.
Many customers come to us and know exactly what service they need - a Reliability Prediction, a HALT, maybe an FMEA, or perhaps an Accelerated Life Test. But often times, customers come to us wanting to make improvements to their overall reliability program and don't know which technique(s) to use. This is a perfect time for a Reliability Assessment.
An assessment is a systematic evaluation of a broad range of potential reliability activities and tools as currently employed and integrated.
In simplest terms, we come to your facility and through a series of discussions with key personnel, we figure out what you are doing that is working vs. what you are doing that is not working (or what you are not doing at all).
Our Reliability Assessment Services will give the following information:
- Where you are (Reliability Assessment)
- How far away are you (Gap Analysis)
- What do you need to do to get there (Reliability Goal Setting and Reliability Program Plan Development)
Objectives of an Assessment
There are 5 key objectives of our Assessment process, all with the goal of shortening time to market, lowering manufacturing costs, and improving field reliability:
1) Assess capabilities and practices in many areas, including (but not limited to) the following: a) Design Control/Design Process Review
b) Engineering Practices
c) Electrostatic Discharge
d) Environmental Stress Screening
e) In-House Test Data
f) MTBF - Piece part and system level
g) Parts Screening
h) QA Processes
i) RMA Returns
k) Test philosophy
l) Vendor Selection and Performance
2) Identify and define a path forward to continue reliability improvements.
3) Identify strengths and weaknesses in current reliability program.
4) Make recommendations on how to improve in each area. Each recommendation shall clearly show a positive cost/benefit trade-off.
Value/Benefits to Your Organization
An objective view of the existing reliability program permits the effective investment in areas of the program that will efficiently improve product reliability. The very rapid ability to focus improvement efforts on the critical few items coupled with a long term view and plan to get there assists an organization to dramatically alter their reliability program's capability.
A summary report/presentation after each phase outlining initial findings and areas of focus for next phase.
A final report/presentation detailing strengths and weaknesses of current reliability program. Include recommendations on next steps and long term reliability program improvements.
Reliability Assessment Activities
There are 3 distinct phases of an Assessment: An initial or high level view, a detailed assessment, and a gap analysis.
Phase 1: Initial Assessment and Definition of Objectives (where you are - 10,000 ft view)
Duration: 1 week (one day on site plus 1-2 days to write up report and review with team)
Tasks: Review product specifications and requirements. This includes overall division reliability related objectives, specific product objectives and performance.
Conduct interviews/discussions (approximately 1 hour each) with 6-8 key individuals on reliability objectives and management processes. The focus is on reliability related areas of design, procurement and manufacturing of products to meet reliability objectives.
Conduct a cursory review of each area highlighted in the Project Objectives.
Develop an objective score for each area discussed. The scoring system ranges from 0 (activity not currently performed) to 4 (activity performed effectively). Create a weighted average of the total score in each of the following areas: Overall Program, Management, Design, and Manufacturing.
Deliverable: Conduct a draft review with participants to verify accuracy of observations. Create a summary report/presentation on initial findings and areas of focus for next phase.
Phase 2: Detailed Reliability Practices Assessment (where you are - Ground-level view)
Duration: 1-2 weeks
Tasks: Based on results of Phase 1 plus guidance from customer, identify 2-3 product reliability focus areas for in-depth assessment.
Conduct a more thorough review of a few key areas highlighted in the Project Objectives. The focus is a detailed assessment of current product reliability practices.
Review detailed field failure information, production yields, test data, and any other form of data available to understand possible holes in processes.
The intent of this phase is to explore in more depth areas of concern uncovered during the Initial Assessment, or areas of concern of specific interest to the customer. If these are all explored sufficiently during the Initial Assessment, and none warrant a deeper level of exploration, then we shall skip this phase.
Deliverable: Create a summary report/presentation on assessment results, observations, and results of data analysis.
Phase 3: Gap Analysis (how much improvement is needed)
Duration: 1 week
Tasks: Conduct analysis of information from Phase 1 and 2, compare to other successful reliability programs based on our collective experience on similar programs.
Determine areas of weakness and how much improvement is needed in these areas to achieve reliability based on customer requirements and benchmarking results.
Deliverable: Create a final report/presentation detailing strengths and weaknesses of current reliability program. Include recommendations on next steps and long-term reliability program improvements.
In this report, we shall use the weighted average score that we came up with also compare how your company is doing against companies that are "best in class" in the following areas:
1) Management Understanding and Attitude
2) Reliability status
3) Problem handling
4) Cost of Reliability as % of net revenue
5) Feedback process
6) DFR program status
7) Summation of reliability posture
8) Cost of Reliability as % of net revenue
We shall then plot these scores against our Reliability Maturity Matrix to see how your organization compares against "Best in Class" organizations and show you the gaps you need to fill to get there. This will be the starting point of developing our reliability program.
Development of Reliability Program and Integration Plan
Following the assessment, the next logical step is to write a Reliability Program and Integration Plan. With the details of the assessment, the only other piece of information that we need are to set good reliability goals. Then we are ready to write our plan.
Phase 4: Reliability Goal Setting
Duration: 1 week
Tasks: Identify key reliability metrics (e.g. MTBF, DOA rate, Annualized Failure Rate, Warranty Returns).
Hold workshops with key departments to come up with realistic goals for each metric based on current capabilities, customer requirements, and benchmarking results.
Deliverable: Create a summary report/presentation on results of Reliability Goal Setting, identifying several key metrics and associated goals for each.
Phase 5: Reliability Program and Integration Plan Development
Duration: 1-2 weeks
Tasks: Develop a Reliability Program and Integration Plan taking into account goals, gaps, schedules, and resources. The plan shall outline which elements of reliability to include and the expected contribution of each element to the overall reliability and how to integrate each element together for a cohesive reliability program.
Deliverable: Create a Reliability Program and Integration Plan. This Plan shall be used to drive the entire Reliability Program.
Reliability Improvement Activities
Once the Reliability Program and Integration Plan is written, now it is time to execute our Reliability Program. Whatever techniques were called out in our plan are now implemented here. Often times, the best first step is to educate the team members on how to effectively use each element. This then calls for a good Design for Reliability (DfR) Seminar.
Phase 6: Seminar on Design for Reliability/Reliability Integration
Duration: 2-3 days
Tasks: Develop and give a 2-3 day tailored seminar on Design for Reliability/Reliability Integration in which we introduce each of the significant reliability design tools such as Predictions, FMEAs, Design of Experiments, Thermal Analysis, Derating Analysis, Software Reliability, and others, and show you how to integrate them together into a cohesive reliability program. We will have examples, case studies, and classroom exercises.
Deliverable: Seminar on Reliability
A variety of circumstances require knowledge of the current reliability program and how best to make changes to improve product reliability:
1) Increasing field returns or changes in customer expectations
2) Management decision to compete on reliability
3) Decision to reduce warranty costs
Whatever the reason, a Reliability Assessment is an effective method of obtaining this knowledge so that we can then develop an effective execution strategy.
Ops A La Carte has performed over 100 of these types of assessments in over 20 different industries including Telecom, Computers, Medical, Defense, Aerospace, Oil Exploration, Alternative Energy, and Consumer Electronics. Give us a call and we can talk with you if an assessment is right for your situation. You can also read more about this service on our web site at Reliability Assessments.