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product failures

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When Quality Fails - ISO Update

Standards function to provide the end-user with quality products and services, but they also protect the vitality and reputation of a business. Your system should be built in such a way that it is constantly putting measures and checkpoints in place that does not allow product to leave your hands until it is safe, and up to yours and your customers’ standards. So, how does a product of subpar quality leave your plant? Who is responsible? How did your management system allow this failure to happen? When your product fails, or worse, you must issue a recall and you want to assign blame. Who is to blame? Why did your system fail you?

Case Study – Toyota Unintended Acceleration Recall, 2009

If an auto manufacturer finds flaws in their cars and lists a product recall, the public’s perception of this company will suffer. No greater example of this exists than the 2009 recall of Toyota sedans.

Toyota issued a recall of 8.5 million of their sedans in 2009 due to unintended acceleration caused by floor mat issues, brake problems and “sticky” gas pedals. The recall was issued in response to accidental deaths and provides an example of the grave consequences that may arise from poor execution of a QMS. In this case study, findings suggest that Toyota ignored quality warnings when failures began to happen. This is not a problem that is exclusive to Toyota, but rather an industry, and worldwide, problem. Read the full case study here.

InfoTrend dives into the deteriorated public opinion of Toyota immediately following the recall from the period of 2009-2011 in the United States. They deeply investigated the effects the media had on the public’s opinion, and how the recall shaped their opinion of the brand, being pro-, con- or neutral about the brand.

In 2014, Simply Communicate discussed the strategy Toyota took to rebuild their company image, and their internal culture and morale after the damage took its toll on the company. The shift in the culture at Toyota was substantial, losing talent, working hard to keep talent, and striving to keep employees, even if it meant shifting their jobs, all without losing more profits.


The NHTSA has a handy recall check for those in North America to verify their VIN number against any product recall it may be involved in.


It’s not easy to bounce back from catastrophic product failure, and that is especially true for organizations without multi-millions of profits and bail-out opportunities. It is the goal of a properly implemented ISO 9001 QMS to prevent these failures from happening in the first place. How did my system allow this failure to happen?

How does Failure Occur, and who is to Blame for a Product Failure?

If, or when, a product failure occurs, your organization shouldn’t point fingers. The first question you need to ask is “how did my quality management system allow this failure to occur?”. A simple investigation tactic you may want to implement is “Root-Cause Analysis – 5 Whys”. This method prompts you to ask yourself and your organization “why” until you have a root-cause (this could take fewer or more than 5 “why’s”). The basic framework allows you to develop pathways for why a failure happened in the first place, and where you can identify areas for improvement.


Read more about the 5-Why’s Method and Root-Cause Analysis from ISixSigma


Failures should not be a cause for removal of your certification or attempted to be hidden from your auditor. Failures, especially those caught by your system, should be celebrated. Consider them an indication that your system is working if the problem is caught, and an area for improvement is identified. Feedback is essential for growth, and even negative feedback should be viewed in a positive light and mentality.

Why is Quality Important for My Business?

The aim of any business is to maintain quality to an acceptable standard and failure to do so can result in any number of serious consequences. Quality control is important to guarantee customer satisfaction and more importantly retention. Customers are only likely to be retained and return for another experience if previous services have lived up to their expectations of a certain quality. More importantly, quality also has an effect on company reputation which is paramount to attracting new customers and profits.

Perhaps to customers, the quality of goods or services is the most important aspect of your company, this role proves to be vitally important for the survival and growth of an organization. Maintaining consistent quality without incurring massive costs should then be a primary goal for any organization.