Last month General Electric unearthed a time capsule buried a hundred years back in the cornerstone of a building. One of the objects inside was an incandescent light bulb. They plugged it in and it lit up. Now that’s engineering.
Not that every companies can claim a product that will work reliability out of the retail pack much less after having been buried for a century. Kudos to GE. Of course this is a sample size of one and its storage life, not operating life. But still…
So what does it take to engineer a product that will work reliably for an extended product life?
- K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid): Pretty much what the acronym says–design for simplicity.
- Note that achieving simplicity is in fact a lot tougher than a really complicated design
- Run lots of experiments; run lots of tests. Edison is famous for describing that it was not so much that he invented a way to make an incandescent light bulb, rather that he found thousands of ways to NOT make an incandescent light bulb.
- Design experiments and tests to investigate orthogonal aspects.
- Don’t try to design a home run test that clouds the analysis
- Try to design experiments that will fail–too often engineers try the opposite, to get a pass
- Learn from all those failures to come up with a design that works
- Use predictive tools like FMEAs