Re: TW and QA

Subject: Re: TW and QA
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 09:08:09 -0400

I'll stick with the point I made before.

Quoting the home page of,

"Failure Mode, Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) or simply (FMEA) is a disciplined design review technique that focuses the development of products and processes on prioritized actions to reduce the risk of product field failures, and documents those actions and the review process.

"FMEAs are intended to result in preventative actions; they are not "after-the-fact" exercises done to satisfy a customer or obtain QS 9000 status. Time and resources for a comprehensive FMEA must be allotted during design and process development, when design and process changes can most easily and inexpensively be implemented. Only after a product failure or financial crises arising from late changes in production is the cost of not performing an FMEA revealed. The AIAG [Automotive Industry Action Group, although FMECA is certainly not limited to the auto industry--DM] describes an FMEA as a systematic group of activities intended to:

" * Recognize and evaluate the potential failure of a product or process and its effects.
" * Identify actions which could eliminate or reduce the chance of the potential failure occurring.
" * Document the process."

There is no rule that a tech writer should be involved in a FMECA; this is an engineering function. If the engineers involved decide to invite a writer to participate because they respect the writer's knowledge and logical abilities or if they ask one to serve as a scribe, then a writer will be present; otherwise, the engineers are responsible for documenting the exercise.

My point was that had this been done in a diligent manner, the question would have arisen (as it should for almost any component that gets mounted to a frame or shell of any kind), "Is the mounting designed to prevent installation in the wrong orientation or position?" Clearly that question was not asked in this case. Had it been, the mounting would have been redesigned so that mounting holes or pins or whatever were arranged asymmetrically.

As the switches were designed and manufactured by a subcontractor, it's not entirely clear (to me, because I don't have any evidence in front of me) whether the prime or sub was responsible for the attachment interface; but clearly somebody was asleep at the, um, switch.

Goldstein, Dan wrote:

The article described a stunning gap in QA. A failure of the gravity
switches would (and did) lead to the total loss of the $264 million capsule.
Was there no way to test their functioning when installed according to the

When I posted this, I had no idea whether there was a writer or assembly
instructions. It did occur to me that (a) if there wasn't a writer, there
should have been, and (b) if there was a writer, part of the writer's job
was to ask, "How do I know that it works the way that I described it? What
happens if it doesn't?"

I have not yet been formally trained in QA, but as a technical writer, part
of my job is to ask those questions.

Dan Goldstein


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RE: TW and QA: From: Goldstein, Dan

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