Methodology/Approach: This paper is based on a study of ten customer related reliability problems in an automotive company. The interviews were all based on open-ended questions that facilitated the interviewees to give narrative descriptions of their views and experiences. In total 13 interviews; each between one and two hours; have been performed and secondary data has been used as a complement.
Findings: The cases analysed are all customer related problems; meaning that the failures were detected when the product had been introduced in the market. However; a majority of the failure modes were created in early development phases. Many of the failure modes that eventually occurred in customer use had their cause in the concept development and selection phase. A costly time gap seems to exist between failure mode creation and failure mode detection. The research in this study indicates that this gap could probably be minimized and faults avoided through a more proactive failure mode avoidance work.
Research Implication: This paper calls for a change of mindset in the work to improve reliability; a change from a focus on failure mode detection to failure mode avoidance. This implicates a need to frontload the product development process in terms of reliability enhancing efforts.
Originality/Value of paper: For researchers as well as practitioners in the field of reliability this paper offers an insight into current industrial practice in this area; revealing areas in which further research and development is needed. The findings of the paper will hopefully facilitate a shift in reliability practice from work on failure mode detection to work on failure mode avoidance.
Keywords: Failure Mode Avoidance; Failure Mode Detection; Reliability; Robustness