micrometerBusiness and industrial systems depend on armies of technological components. To perform their jobs correctly, everything from healthcare tools to fuel distribution devices must incorporate high-quality parts that are engineered to withstand routine wear and abnormal abuse.

To meet the demand, many parts are designed to exceed usage and quality standards. Such practices place increased responsibility on the metal fabrication enterprises that create the components in the first place.

How Do Better Parts Affect Oversight Blind Spots?

In the world of engineering, many professionals work to increase Mean Time Between Failures, or MTBF. By pushing the envelope and developing improved technologies, engineers hope to create more reliable parts and systems. Although few would argue that this is a bad idea, it’s important to consider the psychological realities of working with equipment that has comparatively low failure probabilities.

Business decision-makers may be lulled into a false sense of security. It’s easy to assume that a system will last forever if it can function with seeming perfection for months or years even after users forget to perform routine maintenance. Because most devices are made to operate quietly and fail gracefully, their users often fall prey to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that commonly precludes catastrophic failures.

The Onus on Manufacturers

Improved MTBFs aren’t always associated with increased operator errors, but they raise an important question: How can part suppliers ensure that the systems they provide minimize the risks of different failure modes? Some potentially viable strategies may include:
* Adhering to strict machining tolerances during processes like metal fabrication to reduce the likelihood of in-use failure,
* Standardizing quality control procedures to keep track of production line flaws before they can impact products,
* Working closely with clients to understand part usage cases and design around human error or abuse tendencies, and
* Performing product testing that reveals the exact capabilities, tolerances and durability characteristics of individual materials and components.

Full Disclosure Is a Must

It’s also important for manufacturers to remember that the mere use of statistics like MTBF can also create a false sense of security among users who misinterpret what such figures really mean. Just because something has a minimal chance of failing within a given time frame doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed not to succumb to a deficiency. Part fabricators need to be transparent about the critical characteristics of the items they create so that their users can employ them as safely and consistently as possible.

Does Your Parts Manufacturer Fit the Bill?

If you rely on third-party metal fabrication, then you can’t afford to work with a manufacturer that doesn’t satisfy these basic criteria. Whether you’re trying to maintain product consistency or avoid costly liabilities, it’s up to you to choose a partner that understands how to provide high-quality parts and the knowledgeable engineering services to help you use components effectively.

Our metal fabrication experts have many years of combined experience in fabricating quality metal parts. Give our metal experts a call at 414-744-3996 for any questions you may have on manufacturing metal components.

See also “Why Tolerance Matters in Aluminum and Stainless Steel Fabrication“.