Product defects are problematic for customers, manufacturers, and even the legal system. In truth, product defects are a symptom of larger problems within the manufacturing and distribution processes. A problem that begins as a small hiccup has grown into a full-scale crisis by the time the first defects are returned to the plant. Such problems are like a cancer that is indiscernible when the first cell mutation appears. However, by the time the tumors start appearing on scans and tests, the cancer may have already harmed more than one body system. For this reason, product defects and their origins must be taken very seriously.
All machines break down periodically, but when the causes of those breakdowns are neglected, the problems can and often do affect the quality of a product. Defects like improperly positioning a part, leaving out a screw, or failing to withdraw the proper amount of glue are issues that can cause a product to fail. Neglected machinery leads to sub-standard processes, and even damage to the product that isn’t visible to the consumer. To prevent these problems, companies incorporate stringent preventative maintenance schedules, quality control systems and equipment inspections.
Sometimes the problem originates in engineering, where the product is conceived. A bad number or word transposition, miscalculation, or illegible writing are minor details that can lead to major design flaws. Many companies test the product before executing it, but some flaws still make it into the final design. Problems like overheating laptop batteries, cribs with hazardously wide slat widths and toys that are created small enough to choke on are all issues that made it to the customer before the design flaw was discovered. Companies have taken steps to try and curtail such problems through safety protocols that designers must follow when creating new products.
The food industry has been in the news over the past few years due to bad ingredients that have tainted entire product lines. Peanuts, spinach, beef and other products come away from their source with the contamination that is undetected as the products are assembled. The first signs of a problems are customer illness and even death from pathogens that have been traced to the material source—the farms. Track and tracing has given some relief, as has testing of ingredients before they are used in plants, and stringent inspections of the source facility.
Broken seals or weak and faulty packaging can lead to contamination as well. When the packaging on items such as pharmaceutical drugs fails, the results can be quite serious. Packaging issues arise due to faulty equipment, less than sufficient materials and even improper execution of procedures.
Whatever the defect may be, the only way to clean up the mess caused is to trace the problem to its source, which is usually in the packaging, equipment, materials or design. Although these are vast areas, they are the places that inspectors check first, and often the places where the source of the defect is found.
Eagle Technologies Group is an industry leader in the design and installation of factory automation systems worldwide.