I have had many experiences working with engineers over a few decades. It seems like there’s an entirely different view from the outside than the inside.
When I was a staff engineer, for example, I found that I would look at a problem too closely when I was dealing with it day by day.
On the other hand, being a consultant to engineers, I can see things from a different perspective. A failure problem in the field that has everyone stumped can look entirely different with an outsider’s perspective.
With that said, here are a few perspectives our team seems to be able to help inside engineers with thinking through, evaluating, and solving those pesky failures in the field:
- Manufacturing processes. Sometimes, a part that is not getting the life it is supposed to could have been affected by a simple step that is overlooked in the manufacturing process. It’s important to look at the whole experience of that part of machinery.
- Inertial considerations. The dynamics of a component may be complex. While many people try to simplify things into a static situation, the reality is that non-linear dynamics have an underestimated role in failure. Consider something like friction. While in some engineering assumptions, this can be considered minor, it plays a major role in reality.
- Stress loads. Fatigue, load factors and the upper thresholds that we are experiencing today may be something that was a design factor in the past. We have to be more conservative in our paradigms around fatigue and life of componentry.
- Expectations have changed. What was true before has changed. Whether for business reasons or that natural creep in design and requirements may exhaust old ways of designing. It’s not in a book, necessarily.
Those closest to engineering failure in the field are typically the ones with the most pain and know what’s happening.
I think that one of the great rewards of partnering from the inside-out with engineers focused on a problem is the new way of looking at failure and problems in the field.
There are many more factors that come from scars on my back and times working on various problems. But design and analysis with good collaboration typically makes for a ready answer over time.
How are you looking at your engineering failure problems?