Quality in electronics products is deteriorating, and
supplier customer support is woeful, imperiling engineers' ability
to complete projects, according to results from an EE Life survey.
More than 100 EE Life readers responded to the survey, which was
inspired by reader Don Baechtel
and created with reader input
not scientific, the results illuminate a growing problem inside both
public and private companies that's resulting in widespread engineering
frustration. The major culprit? Time-to-market and
"Everything from my stapler to my laptop fail sooner," said one
respondent. "Lack of proper documentation makes solving problems
harder. Support phone calls are usually unproductive due to
(language difficulties) and poor product knowledge."
Curse of the bean counters
Nearly 60 percent of respondents said product quality is worsening,
and a like number believes that product quality is imperiling their
ability to finish design projects.
"Companies (are) going overseas to meet a price-point rather than a
'quality' point," wrote another respondent. "The bean counters don't
seem to realize that consumers and end users WILL pay more for a
Some respondents pegged product complexity, whether it's software or
hardware, as key factors in the quality crisis.
"…Quality, to be addressed properly, requires a holistic
perspective; because no one person (or small team) can grasp all the
design details, quality becomes fragmented," said one reader.
Lack of support
Quality might not be such a pain point if customer service were
excellent, but the survey indicates this is not the case in
electronics today. Sixty-four percent of the respondents said
companies don't provide sufficient support and quality in their
Three-fourths have used a vendor's self-help or peer forum to try to
address quality problems, but more than half said that did little to
solve the issue.
"I no longer expect real support without at least two levels of
morons to go through," wrote one reader.
More startling were responses about readers' internal processes and
procedures. Nearly 60 percent said their company does not give
engineers enough time to put quality
into the products and
documentation they work on. What quality initiatives are undertaken
at electronics companies must show a return within a year or less,
according to a little more than half the respondents and that time
frame is shorter than ever.
There was one silver lining
within some organizations. Nearly a
third felt that quality initiatives at their companies are usually
approved regardless of ROI. But 13 percent said such initiatives are
usually rejected regardless of return on investment.
How to fix the problem
In the next installment, we'll describe what you think can be done
to fix the situation and whether we need an electronics industry "quality seal of approval" as a first step. In the meantime, do these results track with your own experiences?