Failures can be contained in the Research & Development stage

Failures can be contained in the Research & Development stage. - Qimpro

Product Life Cycle

Products have life cycles. The four stages are: Introduction; Growth; Maturity; Decline. In an ideal world, the four stages have equal time.

The responsibility for each stage is unique:

  • Introduction: Research & Development Department
  • Growth: Sales & Distribution Department
  • Maturity: Marketing Department
  • Decline: Cost Accounting Department.

THINK: Tata Nano; HM Ambassador; HMT Watch; Bata Ambassador, Polson Butter.

Organization Life Cycle

Organizations too have life cycles: Introduction; Growth; Maturity; Decline. Organizations aim to have an infinite Growth stage. We call it organization life extension.

Organizations extend their lives by launching a series of new products. With planned obsolescence. They are strong on Research & Development.

Survival is compulsory. Success is not guaranteed.

THINK: ISRO; Hindustan Unilever; Marico; Mahindra; Asian Paints; Amul; HDFC Bank.

Start-Up Life Cycle

In start-up organizations, the Introduction stage is critical. Innovative products and services are developed, at speed. Better, Faster, Cheaper, and Different.

The Growth stage in successful start-ups is exponential. And the Maturity stage is a distant dream.

Very few start-ups succeed.

THINK: Ola; Flipkart; Paytm; Make My Trip.

How can more start-ups be successful?

For a start, I recommend that each start-up use a unique Quality / Reliability Tool, FMEA (Failure Mode and Effect Analysis), during the Introduction stage. This is not rocket-science.


In fact, every organization should embrace FMEA.

Failures can and must be contained in the Research & Development stage.

Random Thoughts:

  1. Should Reliability Engineering be a specialization at IITs?
  2. Suggestion: A start-up for digital training on Quality Engineering and Reliability Engineering.
  3. Suggestion: A start-up for effective repair of potholes.
  4. Should investors in start-ups be taught FMEA?   

10 thoughts on “Failures can be contained in the Research & Development stage”

  • FMEA is a proactive tool for Reliability Improvement and can be applied at any stage – Research, Design and Development, Operations & Maintenance. I agree that by embracing FMEA at Research & Development stage itself, we can nip the potential defects in the bud.

    For FMEAs to be effective and evolving, it needs to be conducted in a team and reviewed periodically.

    • You got it right Rahul.
      Nip the failures in the bud.
      The core competencies of world-class organizations are:
      1. Understanding customer needs
      2. Translating the needs into technical language.
      BOTH are the responsibility of Research & Development.

  • Easier said than done Mr Lulla! Here are a few challenges that I have observed while working on projects:
    1. Even if Process FMEA is done, it is a mere paper exercise with no data validation for the scores.
    2. Most failure modes are attributed to lack of controls or control failures. Result – more controls more waste in the process.
    3. There is a bias in scoring in the absence of data towards “comfortable” or “easier to implement” actions.
    4. It is mostly a “one-time” exercise with no data captured to validate the failure modes or scores. Also, there is no periodic and event-based review.
    5. Scores not reviewed even when identified mitigation actions are not completed on time.

    Thank you for bringing this into focus!

  • Very true!!! Sometimes the user widens the scope of product and handle it beyond the intended usage!!! This is when the failure occurs, in my view!!! FMEA should definitely help!!! Thanks!!!

    • Quality = Fitness for Use. Dr J M Juran.
      We must creatively think of unintended use while conducting an FMEA.
      Example: Give a toy to a child. The intended use is seldom adopted. Creative unintended use is the concern. Primarily, from safety considerations.

  • FMEA is equally critical in the service industry especially healthcare. Complex processes have a higher propensity to fail and hence should be subjected to FMEAs. It is pertinent to note that healthcare failures could have devastating fallouts. Quality management tools can help improve healthcare processes to a great degree.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *