Testing, Testing, and more Testing

Do you like tests? Just saying the word makes people nervous. It probably brings back memories of math, science, or anything else that makes you want to turn around and run away. But what if I asked you to “try” (i.e. test) the two cakes from ‘La patisserie des reves‘ (literally the cake shop of dreams) in the photo above? Doesn’t sound too nerve-racking does it? You’d probably want to take the test! The fact of the matter is test might give you the willies but they do serve a purpose. Not only do they help you figure out what you know and don’t know, but the results of a test can help you improve.

In last month’s issue of Wired magazine, there was an article that addressed this issue of testing, learning from the results, and being able to model future possibilities to help us improve the way we do things.

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The article really brought home the fact that the best companies in the world manage failure well – this means being able to test and understand when their products fail and how to anticipate this. Not only does this have an impact on customer satisfaction, but ultimately on the bottom line, and in the case of article’s focus on cars, people’s lives as well!

This all comes down to maintaining a balancing act of how to produce a product people want and still keeping the costs down. It means setting a benchmark and testing if these products can last.

…its impossible to make a product that lasts exactly 10 years. But setting this goal provides a concrete minimum to work with. And establishing that minimumthe point where its OK to start seeing the first product failuresis one of the most vital parts of reliability engineering.

This is where tests can be handy and where we have the technology and know-how now to simulate failure and the risks that come with it, whether it’s about the time it takes something to fail, what causes the failure, or how things break down. So the next time you think of tests, think of it as a way to know your ‘breaking point’ and how you can learn from it to make (self) improvements for the future – cake or no cake.

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