In today’s social media galaxy, news of a negative product review can spread across the universe before your damage-control team gets their jetpacks on to track it down; because of this, companies involved with complex electronics prioritize the prevention of these quality issues from ever shipping to market.
The “cost of quality failure” has both internal costs (scrap, rework, and shipping delays) and even more severe external costs (expensive product recalls, returns and brand damage).
Those familiar with chaos theory know how a single product failure can crescendo exponentially into a nightmare that can doom a business. Don’t believe it? Take the story of the product quality failure that not only got a rookie Storm Trooper fired, but devastated an entire enterprise — or should I say, empire.
The Empire had just issued an APB to all Storm Troopers at the Mos Eisley spaceport on Tatooine to keep a look out for two rogue droids smuggling highly sensitive documents.
For the rookie Storm Trooper in question, his standard-issue helmet — while providing filtered air, enhanced vision and communication systems — suffered from a failure of the Jedi Mind Trick deflector shield. Sadly, this product defect was repeatedly documented in the past, yet never formally corrected.
This very product failure enabled crafty Jedi master Obi Wan Kenobi to baffle the Storm Trooper with his wizardry, thus escaping capture. And the rest is Star Wars history.
So why was the helmet quality failure not corrected? Why did it persist? The answer was the Storm Trooper helmet design team relied upon disparate design systems that obstructed supply chain-wide visibility to proactively monitor deflector shield errors and product failures in the design processes.
As it turns out, a dangerous problem with the use of multiple disparate design systems is the inability to efficiently retrieve recorded notes; because of this, reports and prior corrective actions are difficult to verify. Quality Digest discovered that up to 80% of quality issues are repeat issues for which a corrective action has already been identified but does not persist.
And in the case of the Storm Trooper helmet, quality failure was indeed documented, but unfortunately other collaborative design team members did not have easy access to this record to make the necessary corrective changes.
“My boss screams, ‘Those were the droids you were looking for, you moron!’ confessed the rookie Storm Trooper with a pained sigh. “I got fired, but I’m not the only victim of Jedi Mind tricks because these dumb helmets we were issued never worked in the first place.”
Star Wars historians can attest to evidence of Storm Troopers being suckered by Jedi Knights into buying endless shots of Jagermeister for an entire cantina, unwillingly handing over the Empire’s corporate credit card to several young Jedi for shopping sprees on Tatooine, and starting a legendary frat house-like food fight at Dex’s Diner in CoCo Town. And of course there’s the story of a Storm Trooper tricked into eating a spoonful of wasabi thinking it was green tea ice cream. “Even I had to laugh at that!” said the rookie Storm Trooper, who posted a picture of the flailing Storm Trooper with the hash tag ‘#toomuchicecream.’
Bottom line: the Storm Trooper helmet product error would not have persisted if the Empire had considered Arena’s all-in-one Quality Management Solution (QMS).
Whether you’re building Storm Trooper helmets or T-70 X-Wing Fighters, it’s imperative your Quality Management Solution provide visibility and insight to past failures to prevent the same mistakes from happening again. Making this information available to all the necessary stakeholders is one way that helps.
Your historical quality information should be integral to and a guiding force during product development, influencing design and allowing you to create better products. This creates a quality solution that not only solves quality issues but enables you to actively identify them earlier and prevent them from recurring. The ability to see mistakes across common parts and create a historical narrative is something paper processes will never be able to replicate.
Arena’s QMS takes a product-centric, or bill of materials (BOM), focused approach to quality management, which enables companies to optimize quality management in the context of their entire product record. In the case of the Storm Trooper helmet, Arena’s QMS solution would have provided enhanced visibility and traceability to dramatically reduce supply chain oversights and missteps that would lead to helmet errors.
For the fired Storm Trooper, the story has a happy ending; all of his personnel files were lost and managerial references vaporized when the Death Star exploded. So, when the interview question “what would your past manager say about you” arose, the rookie had an answer: “My managers would say, ‘I can spot a rogue droid from a mile away,’” said the Storm Trooper with a wink. #myreferencesarevaporized.