Product Reliability

Technological advances and increasing consumer demands have seen new products released into the market at an alarming rate. The products are more complex and with a short life cycle. In fact, better, faster, and cheaper products are the keywords that companies are using to survive in the dynamic world as the global market demands and competition become intense. Consequently, along with product complexity and use of new raw materials, the new products come along with the risk of product failure and potential damage. For both the consumer and manufacturers, product failure is undesirable. Nonetheless, although product failure cannot be avoided or eliminated, Carlson (2012) notes that companies can reduce the risk of product failure by focusing ensuring product reliability. Ideally, product reliability as a quality parameter is a key element that is defined as the probability of a device performing its required functions and under the specified conditions for a particular duration. Therefore, consistent with this information, we will conduct a research on product reliability based on the two-wheel hoverboards that constantly exploded leading to a total product failure. In order to have a comprehensive overview about reliability program failure, the study will also consider the phase of the life cycle for the product and describe the reliability aspects involved in the collapse. The study will further explore various ways in which the incident affected consumer expectations and how the industry was affected. Lastly, we will evaluate how a Six Sigma team could have done it differently to prevent this failure as well as the type of FMEA that would have been used and how.

The Two Wheel Hover Boards

In 2015, the hoverboard was one of the most popular forms of transportation among trendy kids. Unfortunately, the self-balancing scooters quickly turned into a source of threat as they could potentially catch fire and burn the rider or property down. In fact, the turnaround from the cool form of transportation to a potential risk was so huge that in 2016, more than 500,000 hoverboards were recalled (The Guardian, 2016). The Consumer Product Safety Commission received at least 99 reports of hoverboard battery packs that exploded or just caught fire. Similarly, at least 18 people suffered hand, legs, or neck injuries and properties destroyed. In short, the hoverboards failed to meet the expected reliability and quality assurance threshold and did not meet the consumer needs and expectations.

The Phase of the Life Cycle for the Product

Within the normal product life cycle, products usually go through a series of stages from introduction to the market, growth, maturity, and decline (Somers, Cain, & Jeffery, 2011). The product life cycle sequence is often associated with changes in the marketing environment, which plays a more significant role in the marketing strategy and marketing mix. In the case of the two-wheel hoverboard, the product was successful in the first stage, which is also the introduction stage.  Consumers became aware of the product and went ahead to make purchases. Unfortunately, during the next stage, which is the growth stage, the product failed to meet the market threshold and instead went straight to the fourth step, also referred to as the decline stage. 

Two-Wheel Hover Board Product Reliability aspects

Usually, when creating products, the goal is to create one that meets the expectations of the consumers. According to Pham (2016), product reliability is expected even though it is not explicitly mentioned in the design or advertisement. More specifically, products reliability aspect lies in the ability of the product to meet consumer expectations that the product will work as intended within the stipulated duration. In the case of, the two-wheel hoverboard the reliability aspect of was missing. From its inception, the hoverboard was designed to offer a free form of transportation to the consumers. However, the product failed to meet the consumer expectations and in fact turned into a major source of safety risk.

Impact of product failure to Customer Expectations

Meeting customer expectations is a goal sought by many businesses. When products fail to meet customer expectations, they affect not only the company but also the consumer. With the case of the two-wheel hoverboard, hundreds of consumer suffered economic loss, especially the group that did not claim reimbursement after the equipment failed. Others suffered bodily injury as well as property damage when the hoverboard caught fire in their house.

Impact on Business

In the world of business, dissatisfied customers are more likely to tell friends about their negative experience when a product fails to meet their expectations. When this happens, companies suffer losses due to lost consumer trust and decreasing purchasing power of the consumer. With the hoverboard, it was not only a case of dissatisfied customers but also a product that failed to meet the reliability test, driving manufacturers out of business even before they reached maturity level.

Preventing Failure Using Six Sigma

The purpose of the Six Sigma’s is to prevent errors, failures, and defects that can affect the consumer in existing and new products. Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) usually provides a framework for the project team to help them identify process failures and estimate how failure will affect the consumer (Mukherjee, 2006).Project teams use FMEA in the analyze stage of the DMADV Six Sigma methodology, which is preferred for new products. FMEA is also useful during the design stage to identify processes that should be improved and to detect a potential failure and their risks. Ordinarily, FMEA is often classified into three categories, which include the system, design, and process FMEA. System FMEA also referred to as concept FMEA is the highest-level that is used to analyze and prevent product failure related to technology and system design. According to Yang (2007), this type of FMEA is often carried out to validate the system design and reduce functional failure during execution. However, although the system FMEA helps identify potential system failure modes, the most suitable type of FMEA that should have been used with the two-wheel hoverboard is the design FMEA. Ideally, design FMEA is an analytical tool that is used by project teams to identify potential failure, assess the risk of failure, and provide corrective actions before the design proceeds to the production level. In reality, the design FMEA serves as an error prevention tool. Nonetheless, it should also be noted that sometimes, the FMEA is performed immediately after the first design remedial actions developed based on the analysis of failure modes. Design FMEA is critically significant in mitigating the risk of failure. It is achieved through by identifying potential failure and addressing the impact it can have on the environment, safety, and to enhance compliance with government regulations. It also helps to evaluate the design regarding functional requirements, serviceability, and to ensure customer satisfaction is achieved.

References

Carlson, C. (2012). Effective FMEAs: Achieving safe, reliable, and economical products and processes using failure mode and effects analysis. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.

Mukherjee, P. N. (2006). Total quality management. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India.

Pham, H. (2016). Quality and reliability management and its applications. London: Springer

Somers, G., Cain, J., & Jeffery, M. (2011). Essential VCE business management: Units 1 and 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Guardian. (2016). Half a million hoverboards recalled due to fires, explosions and injuries. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/06/hoverboards-mass-recall-danger-explosion-fire-hazards

Yang, G. (2007). Life cycle reliability engineering. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.

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