“This is Engineered to last.” “This [product] is unbreakable.” You may have heard the same sales pitches in your own office, but products don’t always last and few are truly unbreakable. Product failure isn’t a popular topic of conversation, and yet, understanding why a part or product failed can save thousands, millions or even billions of dollars in lost consumer trust, product recalls, or even personal injuries or lost lives.

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When a critical part of your assembly line fails, there are several questions that should be asked, and answered right away. Those questions are not for the sake of finger pointing and blame. Manufacturers and safety professionals need to know the cause and whether future failures can be avoided. If so, how?

Some questions and reactions are instinctive, but taken from the perspective of analysis of a product failure, the most important time to gather background information is during that first notification call regarding product failure.
Was the product used or abused? Every product or part is produced to withstand normal usage. The danger comes in when the part is not used as directed, or as designed.

Is the failure a unique incident or does it regularly reoccur? If the failure happens repeatedly, is it a cost of doing business, or improperly installed or incorrectly used? By not leaping to your own conclusions, and by asking the right questions, you may be halfway to answers even before the professionals analyze the failure.
Can the part be quarantined? This is essential to allow study of the failed part. In any ongoing operation, the pressure to keep production going is incredible, but in order to operate safely and more efficiently, studying the failed part may be a much better path to take before resuming operations.

After the initial questions have been asked and answered, and the part is subjected for failure analysis, experienced failure analysts, such as those as NSL Analytical Services are able to collect data and observations, including the fracture surfaces and environment. Additionally, those same analysts may execute a chemical analysis, tensile testing, and impact or hardness testing, in order to reach conclusions regarding the root cause of the failure.

Why does any of that matter?

Once the root cause of the failure is determined, it then becomes possible to take corrective action to prevent future failures from recurring. For instance, if a design deficiency caused the failure, the producer can check in-service loads and how the part is affected by its surroundings and then modify the design appropriately. When a material defect results in failure, that knowledge helps manufacturers to revise the quality control plan for components or raw materials. If a manufacturing defect caused the failure, the manufacturer can check and revise the production process or processes, such as casting, forging, machining, assembling and coating in order to make sure there is an alignment between the design and the manufacture of the product. If misuse is the failure source, new training conditions or printed directions on correct installation, use and care of the part are mandated. And finally, if the product has exceeded its useful life, educating on how to recognize signs or normal product lifespan periods may be the answer.

Because knowledge of the actual cause of the product failure is critical to curing future failure probabilities, it is even more important to have the failure analysis be performed by trustworthy, experienced and skilled testing service like NSL Analytical Services. When you need answers, visit https://www.nslanalytical.com/contact-us or call (877) 560-3943.