Importance Of Quality Engineering In Consumer Electronics

By Subhabrata Chatterjee

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In a modern world, it is a big challenge for many industries in information technology or manufacturing to maintain quality without compromising on the costs of quality and non-quality. These two together make the total cost towards maintaining quality of a product, and are involved throughout the project’s life cycle. The primary challenge here is to determine how to trim the overall costs of quality and non-quality.

There are many definitions of quality set by various gurus around the world, some of which are given below:

“Quality should be aimed at the needs of customers, present and future.”
—Dr Edward Deming

“Quality is the degree of excellence at an acceptable price and control of variability at an acceptable cost.”
—Robert A. Broh

“Quality is the loss (from function variation and harmful effects) a product causes to society after being shipped, other than any losses caused by its intrinsic functions.”
—Dr Genichi Taguchi

Consumer electronic products have huge competition in today’s market. Due to this, there is a thin cost margin with good character that draws consumers to buy the merchandise, along with quick and quality after-sales service.

There are many factors that may affect costs of quality and non-quality. A few of these are mentioned below.

Cost of quality is the cost of conformance incurred from costs of prevention and appraisal. These include:
• Cost of contract
• Cost of employee training and education
• Cost of auditing
• Cost of maintenance
• Cost of resolving an impediment
• Cost of maintaining company assets like test equipment
• Cost due to field trials
• Cost of employee wages
• Cost of prototype and reviews
• Cost of continuous improvement
• Cost to make infrastructure for logistics and packing (focus on packing technologies)

Cost of non-quality is the cost of non-conformance incurred due to internal and external failures. These include:
• Cost of rework
• Cost of frequent design change
• Cost of requirement change
• Cost of material waste
• Cost of delay in release due to internal failure or regressions
• Cost due to non-conformance in manufacturing process
• Cost due to non-conformance in raw materials like electronic and electrical components
• Cost due to non-conformance in assembly of components
• Cost due to warranty claims
• Cost incurred from customer complaints
• Cost due to return of product
• Cost due to service
• Cost due to lack of service (losing customers)
• Cost due to legal and government rules, when certain regulations are not followed in product designing and implementation

The development, quality assurance and quality control team is mostly responsible for reducing the costs of quality and non-quality. Research says that most recurrences from the field that get consumers unhappy are technical issues, including ones due to behaviour of a product with other connected devices, reliability, stability, performance and so on. This requires skilled employees (both proof and evolution) who can identify issues related to design, protocol or codification.

Owing to the immense pressure to establish the product early in the market, organisations focus more on getting the work done, bypassing many quality-related processes (which increase the software deliverable process time), which may also impact the fast pace of field returns. By this point, it is too late to contain the cost of non-quality.

The challenge is to manage this state of affairs, so that industries can optimise the overall monetary value without compromising the quality of products. Below are a few factors that may allow organisations to achieve such goals.

Of the many reasons for the cost of non-quality, a few important ones are explained below.

Cost of rework. Repeated tasks to achieve a certain goal is called rework. This may happen if engineers have not performed error-free work at the first try. Rework is the most common problem that many organisations face in their day-to-day project lifecycle.

Consequently, situations of schedule constraints create extreme pressure for the development team, which may result in the lack of involvement in the testing phase.
Below are some probable points due to which rework may occur:
• Faults not solved correctly, non-conforming with regards to coding standards or logic
• Very frequent change in requirements, design, etc, during development and testing stages
• Incomplete coverage in code implementation or hardware implementation during design implementation phase
• Test executions or design implementations not measured or evaluated; hence, incomplete coverage
• Incorrect test plan and test strategy creation
• Frequent regressions
• Negligence by developers or test engineers

Cost of frequent design/requirement change. Design changes in software are very common during the software development lifecycle. Generally, design changes come in when projects are in the middle of software development lifecycle, which contribute to a lot of rework. Below are a few points that indicate the impact of design changes:

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