Renowned researcher Michael Pecht from CALCE at the University of Maryland has extensive knowledge about how the real world reacts in relation to reliability and product development. We here shared some of his most interesting observations, which he presented at SPM’s anniversary seminar.

More than 60 representatives from a wide range of Danish companies took part in the SPM Association’s 50-year anniversary seminar in September 2017. Here, renowned researcher Michael Pecht from CALCE (Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering) at the University of Maryland shared some of his lengthy experience about how the real world reacts in relation to reliability and product development.

One of Michael Pecht’s central messages was that it is crucial for the quality and reliability of a company’s products that you are familiar with and follow up on the supply chain – a job which is easier said than done in a world that it characterised by electronic materials and components that change so quickly. Supply chains have become extremely complex and widespread and are subjected to enormous price pressure, pressure on time-to-market, and incredibly tough competition with many new players.

Michael Pecht offered several examples of instances where things have gone wrong as a consequence of lack of follow-up combined with ignorance and, in some cases, actual fraud.

CALCE was the first entity to identify the failure mechanism CAF (Conductive Anodic Filament), which has been blamed for hollowing out glass fibres in PCBs. Among others, CAF has led to failures in critical applications such as military, aerospace, medical, and automotive equipment. The PCBs were supplied by a company registered in the Cayman Islands which had more than 20 subcontractors of glass fibre material. Given each of these subcontractors purchased glass fibres from a number of different subcontractors in China, which the supplier of the PCBs neither knew about nor followed up on, it is not strange that things went wrong.

Some of Michael Pecht’s other cases demonstrated instances of outright fraud. For example, there was a component from a distributor, which in reality was not – or may have been at some other point in time – a distributor for the brands which were advertised on its website. This unoriginal and unapproved component played a part in 174 airplane accidents and crashes, including 17 deaths and 39 injuries.

A case was also presented with ceramic capicators that led to failures in the market due to degradation of the capacitance. Investigations showed that rare and expensive earth elements were missing from the ceramic material.

In Michael Pecht’s view, the course of inadequate supply chain management may be:

  • That companies do not adequately take quality and reliability into account in the construction and management of an efficient and cost-effective supply chain
  • That companies do not know how to select components which are reliable in terms of their specific use
  • The complexity and spread in the supply chain and rapid changes in the product development result in poor quality management of suppliers and components
  • That changes are carried out without warning, and when notice is given, then the customers are not given sufficient information to understand the consequences of the change
  • Big differences in the risk perception between customer and supplier
  • That project plans and cost optimisation are prioritised more than reliability