Reliability can be seen as quality over the long haul rather than just quality on the day of delivery. If a product fails quickly then you would not consider it a quality product. On the other hand, a quality product should deliver quality performance and consistency over a extended period of time.
Do we mean "quality" here or "reliability"? Let;s be sure we are clear with ourselves and others, they are not the same thing.
In short: "quality" means it meets the promised spec, when first used or tested; "reliability" means it continues to work to spec and not fail or degrade in use.
You can have one, both--or neither!
One of the first things to ask is what is Quality? From my viewpoint Quality is:
* products that meet or exceed their specifications that deliver on the promises made. * products with comprehensive documentation of all of the features with how to use and configure them. * products that have been fully tested at the manufacturer before being released into the marketplace. * products that are provided with services for the manufacturer which includes active, helpful and knowledgeable technical support. * products that are updated quickly when defects are found. * products that have a very low infant mortality. * products that are reliable. * products that "do what they say and say what they do". * products where the quality of the documentation exceeds the expectations of the customer. * products whose manufacturers care about their customer's experience with their products and are actively engaged in using customer input to improve their products.
The first questions you should ask about the "self-serve" methodology is "Have you ever resolved your issue in this way"?
Many companies have adopted this method because giving personalized service to every person that calls their tech support line is not scalable. As a former tech support person I cannot begin to tell you how many issues would never have occurred if the person calling had read the data sheet or the app note through. Having said that, there are certain technical issues that will only be resolved by escalating the issue to a product or design engineer.
About a zillion years ago, various quality initiatives were served up at larger companies in an effort to improve quality. In some cases, there were spectacular successes. I think. Motorola? TI? In others, where the product wasn't a widget but perhaps a service, the effort was a giant waste of time with no perceivable value, except to make management feel good, and to give jobs to a host of past-their-prime engineers who became "facilitators" or some such silly title at the quality meetings. (Of course, some of these engineers never had a prime, they were always the overhead paper-pushers... but that's another gripe.) It seemed that these programs were always being jammed down our throats, whether or not the original target activity fit the new application. For example, something called the 5 S or 5 R or some other 5 thing showed up in our engineering office at Big Aircraft Company. "What're the 5 Rs?" I wanted to know. No one knew, it was some Japanese thing. The wife of some suit on mahogany row, I was told, thought it was a great idea. Turns out it was intended for manufacturing. Well, part of Big Aircraft Company manufactured Aircraft. We didn't manufacture anything: we put black plastic marks on paper. What a waste. Then there was ISO 9000, which documented both very good practices and very poor ones as well, but it did give rise to a whole industry of parasites while adding another tax on the price of a good...does anyone think HP's or Tektronix' products were improved one iota by an ISO 9000 sticker? C'mon. Perhaps I'm a bit jaded, but I've never personally seen a quality system do good and avoid evil except at Western Electric. Perhaps there were others. Perhaps...
Good topic! Here are some questions:
* Do you think Quality of products over the last few years is generally unchanged, improving or getting worse?
* If getting worse, why do you think that is?
* Does companies in general give you enough time to put quality into the products and documentation that you work on?
* Do you think, on average, that companies provide sufficient quality and support for their products?
* Are you able to get to support engineers easily? If not, why not?
* Do "peer support forums" really work?
* Do you regularly get answers to your support questions in a timely fashion?
* Has the quality of the components that you use put at risk the ability for you to successfully complete your more complicated projects?
* How can you tell if the components that you choose have sufficient quality and support?
* What can we do to encourage companies to provide qood quality and support for their products?
* What do you think about an Engineer's Quality Seal of Approval that is awarded to companies and products that are recognized to provide consistent quality and support, an award that is used to distinquish those companies and products that do well in the area of quality, documentation and support.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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