Case Study: How early analysis of failures can be helpful

Have you heard of Apple’s ‘Early Field Failure Analysis’ (EFFA) Team? This team works under Apple Care & is tasked with identifying problems that early Apple buyers face on using the device. And then ensuring that each one of them is eliminated from the root itself so that they do not ‘spread’. 

It would pay to remember that the maximum number of problems get reported during the initial days of a product launch & hence EFFA is most active when Apple launches new products. Analysis done by Apple indicates that the majority of problems for Apple devices arise out of components not been connected well – an unconnected cable, improper soldering etc. Each hour a problem goes unnoticed or undetected, Apple manufacturers continue to manufacture ‘defective’ devices at full speed. The result: thousands of defective phones enter the market, resulting in thousands of unhappy & disappointed customers, and millions of dollars spent in repairing or replacing them. Last but not the least, these defective phones provide ‘content’ for late night comedy shows!

Is Apple the only company following this strategy? Of course not. There are companies like Toyota who do even better. They follow ‘Kaizen’ – a continuous improvement program. Pursuing the path of Kaizen helps Toyota to proactively identify & eliminate defects form the root itself. No wonder Toyota has earned world wide reputation for building reliable vehicles.

Business lesson for us: Even after you have created the most perfect product in the lab / on your drawing board, unexpected & unplanned problems will always occur at any stage. Plan for these contingency as Apple has done by forming EFFA, tasked with responding with lighting speed to any problem it detects, no matter how insignificant, before it becomes a large problem. Or better still, follow Toyota’s Kaizen program so that problems are proactively eliminated form the root itself.