Reactive and Proactive: The Two Approaches of Product Reliability

product reliability
Conducting a product reliability test is important for businesses. Without such tests, any defects discovered after the product launch may potentially impact product reception and sales figures. It may even result in product recalls, such as the case of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphones. Companies that do perform product reliability can approach the test in two ways: reactively or proactively.

Reactive Approach

This approach identifies failures, makes use of root cause analysis, and implements the appropriate corrective action. It starts by waiting for product failures to surface. Customers are usually the ones who report on these failures by filing a complaint or by writing a negative product review. The product team then responds with analysis, refinements, and adjustments to improve reliability.

Of course, this approach does have the limitation of waiting until something goes wrong. This might be the only time when senior management would pay attention to product reliability as they typically focus more on product functions and time to market.

Proactive Approach

This approach centers on preventing failures before launching a product. Instead of executing test methods on a known failure, it focuses on possible failure mechanisms. It takes on a what-if road by subjecting the products under various tests, such as a stress test. The goal of this approach is not just to fully understand the full range of incidents that may happen, but also to design a product that can withstand these incidents.

The proactive approach takes more time for thinking and may cause a delay if one takes too long. The wait may be worth it, however, if the time spent reduces the list of possible failure mechanisms and prevents the occurrence of a product recall.

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In a nutshell, a proactive approach centers on preventing failures while a reactive approach aims at identifying them. Neither approach is right nor wrong. In fact, using both approaches can reduce field failure rate and create a more positive experience for the customer.