Original Date: 11/01/2004
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Root-Cause Analysis
The Center for Advanced Life-Cycle Engineering provides the resources and demonstrates a capability that exceeds the ability of industry to perform Root-Cause Analysis for failed electronic components and assemblies by following an approach that combines a holistic view on how failures occur, systematic processes for performing the analyses, and the appropriate resources in equipment and engineering personnel to accomplish it.
American manufacturers spend more than $22 billion in warranty costs resulting from product failures. A significant number of these failures are attributable to loss of either electrical or electronic functionality. Electronic reliability is the critical factor affecting decisions on the introduction of certain new technologies. The biggest challenge facing industry is completing sufficient analysis to identify the root-cause of failure, rather than troubleshooting a quick fix. Quite often companies do not have the equipment resources or time to determine the actual cause of a problem. The Center for Advanced Life-Cycle Engineering (CALCE) provides industry with a unique resource for conducting thorough Root-Cause Analysis for electronic components and assemblies. In addition, its ISO 9001 certification provides assurance that testing is conducted using well-documented procedures.
CALCE’s Root-Cause Analysis methodology is based on a physics-of-failure (PoF) approach, which is founded on the fact that failures are governed by fundamental mechanical, chemical, electrical, thermal, and radiation processes. These processes initiate when the applied stress exceeds the material strength. Understanding how to influence this interaction provides clues to the direction the Root-Cause Analysis process must follow. This fundamental approach is coupled with a systematic process that follows logical stages beyond accepted industry practice. This process involves gathering evidence for analysis, hypothesizing root causes, and sample testing to assess each hypothesized root cause. Results and key data obtained at each stage are documented and stored to ensure data completeness and integrity. The actual testing stages are scheduled so that non-destructive evaluation is performed prior to moving onto tests that would require destruction of the samples, thereby allowing the gathering of unique data from each testing technique. All tests are conducted using documented procedures to assure reproducibility and avoid inadvertent damage to the samples. Once the root cause is identified, corrective actions are developed to prevent the recurrence of the problem. A documented failure analysis knowledge base is maintained as a key reference tool to quickly review research that might hold clues to the current analysis, thus avoiding duplicate testing. CALCE is equipped with the instrumentation and staff essential to the conduct of rigorous analysis resources that exceed the reach of most companies. CALCE is also able to take advantage of its proximity to major testing facilities (both government and private) to share highly specialized resources not readily available.
CALCE provides industry three unique capabilities that mark its Root-Cause Analysis methodology as an industry leader: a holistic approach based on PoF (probable causes are linked to sound scientific principles); a systematic and documented process for directing the actual investigation; and well-equipped facilities and a highly skilled staff. Combined, these capabilities assure higher likelihood that the actual root cause of a problem is isolated and resolved.
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