Missing a new product’s launch date is every hardware company’s nightmare — from the executives to the engineers monitoring the assembly line. It’s not difficult to understand why. Narrowing market windows means less revenue, unanticipated builds or extra units means higher costs, and for the engineers who are toiling in the factory, more time under intense pressure from above and usually away from their loved ones.
After over 100 conversations with engineers at companies large and small, late-discovered issues are the most frequent cause of a product-launch delay. Once the issue has been found, it needs to be fixed, which usually involves a manual failure analysis process, DOEs, and changes to process or design. No matter how experienced the team you’ve assembled, there are bound to be issues that arise — and having the best failure analysis tools can be the difference between salvaging a tough situation, or fading.
That’s exactly the case with our client, Company B, a Fortune 500 consumer electronics company that created Company B Product, a handheld electronic device.
Company B’s team was top-notch, experienced, innovative, and well-resourced. They had missed their rumored (and scheduled) ship date by over a month due to an issue, and with a big shopping holiday looming, they needed to understand the issue and fix it fast. Before contacting Instrumental, the team had already spent multiple weeks investigating poor reliability results. In their initial failure analysis, they measured components, evaluated adhesives and pressure fixtures, built up new configurations, and repeated the reliability test many times. The slow iterative DOE cycles were draining resources and the schedule was getting later and later. “We have got to ship this thing and don’t necessarily have the data we need to solve this problem,” said a Company B product design engineer. The team needed a better way to correlate data from before and after reliability testing.
The slow iterative DOE cycles were draining resources and the schedule was getting later and later.
With Instrumental, the Company B team was able to use software to quickly identify and diagnose issues—from China and the United States. Less than three weeks after Company B approached Instrumental, Instrumental deployed the Instrumental system on their China-based assembly line to capture a total of three photographs for each unit, covering before and after assembly. Immediately, Company B engineers in the United States were able to review and compare the data from specific units using Instrumental’s software.
It’s an X-ray view into the product, and is really useful for the development phase. — COMPANY B PRODUCT DESIGN LEAD
Company B’s team were delighted with how powerful these photographic data sets would be. “It’s an X-ray view into the product,” said the product design lead, “and is really useful for the development phase.” Before Instrumental, the team didn’t realize how much variation there was in their assembly — and ultimately, that variation was the root cause of more than one issue they solved with Instrumental. The team was able to successfully understand the underlying issue, devise a fix, validate it, and ship in time for the important holiday.
As Company B moves into the next generation of their product development, they now have an additional tool in their toolbox that enables them to understand variations in their process, and that’s Instrumental.
Read the full case study here.