Data, Where Art Thou?
the Problem Resolution Process for Products While Acquiring Meaningful
Because accurate and timely product information is central to our work, it is not a surprise that reliability engineers tend to champion the development of integrated systems that provide efficient access to comprehensive and accurate product quality and reliability data. However, the effort required to implement such a system is likely to be a complex process that requires the cooperation of multiple disciplines/departments within the organization. In order to obtain support for the system, it is important to demonstrate that the system provides tangible benefits to management, participating departments and to the entire organization as much as or more than the system helps the reliability engineer. One approach to implement and gain acceptance for a system that meets reliability analysis and other requirements is to build the necessary data capture mechanisms into a unified incident reporting and problem resolution process for the organization’s products. This article examines some considerations for the design and development of a process/system that will maximize efficiency for the affected departments and simultaneously capture/manage valuable reliability/quality information for the product.
Although these issue reporting and problem resolution activities occur in most organizations, the responsibility for problem identification and correction shifts during the process among various personnel and departments (e.g., from the engineering department to the in-house testing group to the customer service group) and the valuable reliability/quality information that is identified during problem resolution activities may not be integrated and available for analysis. In most cases, the problem resolution process generates sufficient data at different stages of the product’s life cycle for effective reliability analyses. The challenge is to capture and use the information generated from these processes by determining how best to store, validate, correlate, organize, manage and employ this valuable data resource.
the Problem Resolution Process to Maximize Efficiency and Capture/Manage
Figure 2 demonstrates an example of an effective FRACAS process/system. This is a closed-loop process designed to allow multiple cross-disciplinary teams to report issues for a product and analyze, manage and resolve problems. In this example, the process is supported by a centralized database that interacts with distributed user input screens and reporting engines. The process begins with an incident report from the source that identified the issue. Depending on the product and the stage in its life cycle, the sources for these reports may include in-house testing facilities, distributors, suppliers, customer support representatives or other personnel with information about the product’s performance and design. All relevant details that may be required to resolve the issue and support future analysis and problem resolution will be captured directly from the source at the time when the issue is observed. These details may include occurrence date/time, affected parts, behavior, fault codes and other items of interest for the particular product and organization. If the incident must be resolved individually (for example, to repair the product for a customer), the details of that resolution are also tracked and recorded by the system.
Responsible personnel (for example, an engineering review board) review the reported issues/incidents on a regular basis. From within the collection of reported incidents, the reviewers attempt to identify the specific problems that need to be addressed. Often, multiple incidents are instances of the same basic problem. These incidents are then grouped together into problem reports that include information about the problem and information on each reported occurrence related to the problem. The problem reports are then assigned to specific personnel or teams to coordinate the analysis and problem resolution procedures. The problem resolution process often involves assigning personnel to perform a variety of activities intended to fully define, contain, correct and prevent the problem from occurring again in the future. Actions associated with a problem may include, for example:
The responsible person or team assigns and oversees the actions necessary to address the particular problem until an acceptable resolution has been reached. In some cases, a “closure review board” may review and “sign off” on the acceptability of the resolution and the organization implements the solution to completely resolve the problem.
of a Well-Designed Problem Resolution Process with Integrated Reliability