I agree with all your points, but doesn't the huge waste of resources in this way of working bother you?
I don't claim to have any neat solutions, but that does not mean that this throw-away attitude is right?
You bet - people don't get things fixed if the repair cost is a significant percentage of the replacement cost. It gives them an excuse to upgrade! So I think a root cause of part of the quality issue, the part that is driven by time-to-market and thus no-time-to-engineer along with must-be-cheap-to-build-and-sell, is the (ultimately unsustainable) consumption-driven approach. We don't want to make a phone or music player to last 40 years because we EXPECT to replace them much sooner. We MUST replace them much sooner to keep the cash flowing through the system. We WANT to replace them sooner because new (NOT ALWAYS BETTER, mind you, but new and different) methods and activities are enabled by advances.
Time was, you could get a TV or VCR repaired. Now, no - costs too much. You can't get the parts (lifetime), AND the item can't be worked on anyway; it is ONLY designed to be ASSEMBLED - not repaired. Time was, any given thing you purchased was an investment (still is, but the time scale is somewhat shorter :-) You were going to keep that radio 20 years. You were going to get 250,000 miles out of that car (if you could :-)
Prosperity has brought a sense of entitlement: I want it NOW, and I want to KEEP UP with peers. In this environment quality is less important than cost. I agree that component-level quality (and quality in certain industries) seems to be trending up. Oil-impregnated caps in tube radios are gone, and good riddance :-)
All the new products designed are looked for low weight. Naturally the strength of these unexpectedly goes below the designed levels in the field. The failures take place. There comes the learning curve for every component makers and system builders. This will slowly pick up but by the time further reduction of weight leads to the similar issues. A contentment on the weight of the product will give more success stories.
Its very difficult to incorporate Quality becuase not many Engineers wants to do documentation, Unless it get driven strongly from top management in the Organization, its impossible to drive this. The Non conformance needs to be taken seriously and actually its not too much of a burden if the Engineering documents are aligned to QMS. But I agree if you want to deliver consistent results, successively adhering to QMS is a must.
I absolutely agree with Bert.
Components have not degraded in quality. If anything, the quality has got a lot better.
However where we do have a problem is that systems have got a lot more complex.
Dry joints and dried out capacitors and such (everyday occurrences in the 1900s - right to the end) have decreased by an order of magnitude. However the number of joints has gone up even more.
We had to be able to service these things because they were so bad that they needed it.
I am sure everyone old enough can remember 1970s cars that would have trouble starting, need the oil checked weekly and be otherwise high maintenance. Replacing the battery come winter was pretty much routine.
These days you'll drive 5000+ km/miles without popping the hood!
Electronics is much the same.
Sure the old products didn't miss a beat unless you count all the crap they really did give us!
"How many times have we had to deal with any of those problems lately?"
You don't see them, not because they are not there, but because people don't even try to get things repaired, they just chuck 'em. The problems still exist, possibly more than ever.
I'd agree that we don't want to make mobile phones or boom boxes to last 40 years, but sometimes we've gone too far the other way.
As above Bert, I'd disagree that they make them better, smarter sure, but if you think there are no quality problems you aren't looking too hard.
In some things - like cars - the increase in warranty length points to an increase in quality. And the safety is undeniably better - they may be plastic but that's a lot more fogiving than metal to hit, and airbags and crumple zones that wreck the car but protect the occupants are, undeniably, better than the cars of old.
Some of this needs no fixing. Does anyone really think that the world would have been a better place if boom boxes were built to better longevity requirments? Or perhaps, those portable 45 RPM record players?
In other cases, what with the Internet and the ubiquitous customer comments at the various retailer sites, low quality products are immediately identified.
I'm still not buying the majority of this. One problem I have is that many people seem to be thinking only in terms of the quality of little hand-held gizmos, like smart phones or perhaps tablets, that are (a) never meant to be long lasting products, and (b) comparable to similar low quality and short-lived stuff from the past, like the boom boxes, portable cassette players, or portable record players of the 1960s and 1970s. Cheap stuff. "Who cares" stuff.
On the other hand, back in the days of tubed electronics, it was entirely commonplace to have to get your TV, radio, or stereo in for repairs. The problems were most often caused by burned out tube filaments and other components failing for heat stress. So it wasn't always just a matter of changing a tube. Not to mention, the quality of passive components, e.g. electrolytic capacitors, was quite poor. Power supply filter caps were notorious for failing (creating that roaring sound). And even more prevalent, the performance of most of these electronic products deteriorated gradually but very significantly, over their normal life spans.
How many times have we had to deal with any of those problems lately? Radios, TVs, and the better audio systems (i.e. maybe not the boom box equivalent cheap mini-stereos) last a very long time, with no visits to any repair shops. And they are technically a whole lot better than they were in the past besides. What usually gives up first is the switch gear, and even that has gotten much better lately. For instance, mechanical volume control pots, that often became scratchy in short order, have been replaced by electronic contols. Mechanical tuning caps, that also became noisy, and the circuit was badly drift-prone besides, was replaced with digital synthesized tuning circuits. Huge improvements, not only in stable performance, but also in longevity.
"They don't build them like they used to." Thank goodness for that! They make them a lot better.
i think quality is inverse proportional to NRE cost. ASICs or complex digital chips are usually of excellent quality nowadays as you can get them to work (and prevent a 2nd turn) only with rigorous measures. on the other end of the scale, software/firmware updates delivered via the web tend to cause poor quality. ultimately that is also the difference in thinking between hardware engineers and (many) software engineers.
I purchased a Norelco microwave oven in 1977 and it never had any real problems, except that twice, about 5 years apart, I had to replace a glass fuse inside. It worked perfectly for about 32 years, until my wife got tired of it's looks. Now I have been through about three more microwave ovens since then. Likewise, thos old tube type radios and televisions did outlast the newer ones by a fair margin. Also, my 30 years of service from my kitchen aid dishwasher were quite good, with no problems. Eventually the timer motor did fail, but the dealer would only sell the complete timer, which was almost as much as I paid for the dishwasher used 30 years earlier. My new dishwasher has had one safety recall already. It is quieter, but I understand that the touch-control panel will not last that long. So there certainly was a plan to make products durable that has since been forgotten.
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.
Brought to you by