Are You The Next Takata?

The urgent recall of over 5 million passenger cars manufactured in multiple countries is the result of Japanese air bag manufacturer Takata’s catastrophic product failures.  “Only” 2 people have been killed by the defective airbags, but the identified flaw warrants exigency.

The fatal failures appear most probable in high humidity environments, although can occur anywhere.  What does that tell us about the Takata product testing component of the company’s New Product Development (NPD) process?

With no inside information, the facts suggest insufficient environmental testing.  Given that passenger vehicles are used from the icy temps of Greenland and Alaska to the heat of Texas and Okinawa, effective NPD testing should obviously include extreme temperatures for extended periods.

Given that a majority of the world’s population lives along coastlines, it seems intuitive that extensive humidity testing is equally required.  If that was done by Takata it was unreliable.

With the known advantages of getting to market first, imagine the pressure on product testing engineers.  No one wants to test for 10,000 elapsed hours (over 400 days) so how to best verify assertions of product durability with extensive use?  The engineers are expected to generate simulations that are fast and sufficient to verify claims.

Clearly the Takata process was insufficient.  Global airbag competitors smell blood (figuratively) and are moving quickly to replace Takata at the six major car manufacturers impacted.  This problem could be the death knell for Takata.

Are you certain that the product testing component of your New Product Development process is sufficiently robust?  Is that a fact, or merely a hope?  Speed to market is exceptionally important, but not at the cost of speed to destruction.

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