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Soft Reliability - Overview

In fast, strongly innovative product development processes, one of the key-problems of using formal specifications as reference for reliability problems is the difference between the time that is required to develop a product and to learn the actual product performance in the field. Applying new technology in new products and submitting them to new customers will always involve a high degree of uncertainty; uncertainty about the performance of the new technology and uncertainty about the way customers will apply this new technology. In other words, in strongly innovative products there can be a natural gap between real customer requirements and product specifications. The shorter the (relative) time is between the definition of specifications and actual customer feedback (provided that this feedback is sufficiently detailed) the smaller this gap will be. Over the last decades the speed to bring new technology to the market has increased considerably. However, the time required to learn about the actual performance and perception of this new technology has not been reduced at equal pace.

brombacher.jpg “Thanks to the constant influx of new technology, systems and services become possible that were unimaginable for even our parents. Currently it is possible to generate systems that have the ability to, to a high degree, adapt to individual wishes and needs of individual customers/users. It is unlikely that a modern design process is able to capture all these, often strongly implicit, requirements already during the design process especially since many of these requriements emerge only during the actual use phase. Therefore, it is most likely that the amount of Soft Reliability issues will only increase in the near future. Sucessful product innovation therefore cannot succeed without adequate instruments to analyse and manage Soft Reliability.”
Aarnout Brombacher (Professor and Dean, Eindhoven University of Technology)

“Our knowledge about the ‘soft reliability’ of a product should have the same level of objectivity and detail as our knowledge about technical performance; the ‘hard reliability’. In current practice however this not yet the case. I strongly believe that this multi-disciplinary project will deliver new methodologies to determine and manage ‘soft reliability’. That is why Océ contributes to this important project.”
Fred de Jong (Interaction Designer, Océ Technologies bv)

ouden.jpg “Soft reliability is an increasing concern in many of the businesses we deal with. Products are getting more advanced due to the opportunities new technologies do provide at very interesting prices. At Philips we want to bring products and services to our customers that do include these advanced technologies, but are still easy to experience. The research in Soft Reliability will help us to understand what customers currently experience with our products, and will help us to design better products in the future.”
Elke den Ouden (Managing Consultant, Philips Applied Technologies)

“The competitive edge of products lies more and more in the fit with the way users want to use it. Engineering methodologies must be developed to manage that fit. This requires a much deeper understanding of the way people perceive products and a better knowledge of the reasons why some products are more usable than others. The field of usability design works with a cyclic approach in prototyping and usability testing. For the future this is no longer enough; we must learn to engineer usability with the same objectivity and accuracy as we do other parameters. I am convinced that this project will help in designing methodologies for that purpose.”
Guus Lambregts (Vice President Engineering, Océ Technologies bv)

joop_postema.jpg “Treating customer complaints only in terms of ‘cost of non-quality’ will never lead to an increase in customer satisfaction. In addition, it misses opportunities: “Each call is an opportunity to communicate with the customer.” -Ken Ishiwata of Marantz”
Joop Postema (Chairman IOP IPCR, Agentschap NL)

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