Breaking the Cycle-Preventing Failures by Leveraging Historical Data During Conceptual Design
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Major engineering accidents are often caused by seemingly minor failures propagating through complex systems. One example of this is an accident involving a Bell 206 Rotorcraft where a fuel pump failure led to the severing of the tail boom. Cataloguing and communicating the knowledge of potential failures and failure propagations is critical to prevent further accidents. The need for effective failure prevention tools is not specific to rotorcrafts, however. Failure reporting systems have been adopted by various industries to aid and promote failure prevention. The catalogued failures usually consist of narratives describing which part of a product failed, how it failed, and the circumstances behind the failure. While this information is vital to learning from past mistakes; often, the narratives are designed simply to report the events, not to use the data for product improvements or new designs. Therefore, more effective systems for cataloguing and utilizing corporate memory of recorded failure events are needed. This paper presents the design of a computational database to support the failure prevention tool, the function based failure propagation (FFP) method. FFP promotes failure prevention by identifying failure propagation paths through a system as early as the conceptual phase of product design, where impacts of failure prevention are greatest. It uses a database populated by historical failure information to present specific paths that potential failures might take as they propagate through a system. The information communicated by the FFP method is the potential location of and likelihood failure propagations.