Design for Reliability: an attribute towards Excellence

“Designing products with reliability in mind is a very crucial factor in ensuring their success. However, the impact of poor reliability is not immediately obvious, but often only becomes clear after a product has been launched into the public domain. Design for Reliability (DfR) is a key capability that enables the delivery of Product Performance and Customer Experience over time.”

Author: Dr. S.A. Arul Shalom, DfR Workstream Leader and DfSS Master Black Belt, Philips Group Innovation

An integrated coherent approach to DfR management

Of course, it is very difficult to accurately predict how a product will be used, and what the effects will be of the environment in which it is used. To really work, Design for Reliability activities must be integrated at different stages of the design to manufacturing process, at multiple levels within a company, and across groups. With this in mind, we’ve created a methodology for ‘designing in’ product reliability. This also allows design groups to assess the impact of poor reliability on products thoroughly.

Our DfR approach is based on the methodology of DfSS (Design for Six Sigma), with ‘time’ and ‘usage stresses’ included as additional dimensions. We aim to support integration of Design for Reliability into business processes, from the development phase up to time to market – and beyond. The scope extends from designing-in reliability to solving reliability problems both during development as well as when an existing product presents challenges. Thus our approach supports the designing-in of reliability and ongoing improvement.

Managing Reliability

Strengthening a product so it will withstand ‘real life’ customer use and environmental factors is a challenge for developers everywhere. I’ve worked for a wide variety of business units and have built up experience in ways of introducing a ‘Design for Excellence’ mindset. To make this easier, our methodology breaks down the processes into a comprehensive set of guidelines. The entire program is built around five key elements: training, coaching, peer reviews, sharing best practices and building up a community of internal and external experts. As product creation becomes more complex, sharing knowledge is vital.

For most companies, it would be extremely costly and difficult to develop and maintain the required levels of knowledge in-house, which is where our approach can help. Responses from customers that have used our solution have been great. However, this is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Each company has to discover the best ways of working for their own situation. Integrating Design for Reliability will take some effort at first, but the benefits are significant: from smooth product launches and market introductions to reducing the costs resulting from poor field quality and improving customer satisfaction.

Image: Framework for Reliability Management – The Design for Reliability (DfR) program aims to deliver products and services with excellent functional performance delivering quality and customer experience over the full lifecycle. DfR strives to embed the mindset and practice of ‘design-in’ reliability while balancing development costs and delivery time. This is based on a common framework, built on the Design for Six Sigma methodology and Lean principles.

The generalized framework for Reliability Management shows the DfR process steps. The activities, tools and techniques which are related to these steps are to be embedded into existing processes. The objective is the realization of these DfR activities in the existing product creation and realization processes, utilizing existing development and quality resources.

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