Reliability, QC, and Perfection

Vortex

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So I’ve been thinking a bit lately. It seems like most RDs have had some sort of issue.

Escorts have the lockup bug. Suction cups and cases have split apart.

Uniden speakers die or the OLEDs fail. The firmware update process can be a PITA.

Radenso’s sometimes reset their settings on their own and disable radar detection on certain bands. or their laser detection becomes problematic and gets disabled altogether.

The new V1’s are dying and are having display issues.

I sometimes see similar issues with dashcams overheating and shutting off.

and this isn’t counting many of the other issues that have since been resolved.

Some of these issues are more prevalent than others. Some are fairly common while others are very rare. Plus some issues are more critical than others. They’re not all the same.

Maybe this is just the fact of life when working with tech products? There’s gonna be bugs, design flaws, or improvements that need to be made. In an ideal world, everything would work flawlessly, but I guess that’s just not reality... Maybe that’s more of just a dream.

It’s easy to rag on certain companies or products, but can any of them be completely problem-free?

Even iPhones and Androids with billions of dollars of R&D and countless talented engineers behind them have issues that need to be fixed. Cars have recalls to fix problems that can literally put people’s lives at risk.

Maybe it’s not just limited to tech products? Heck I make mistakes in my videos too. Also sometimes I’ll say something, only to realize after I publish that I could have said it in a much better or clearer way.

Maybe that’s just life? I’d love for everything to be perfect for everyone, but is that truly an attainable goal? Is that idealistic and unrealistic? Instead of perfection, should there instead be some sort of QC threshold that they try to exceed?

I don’t know... I figure companies and manufacturers already have QC standards that they try to meet. That’s gotta be better than expecting complete perfection.

Anyway, just a little late night pondering...
 

jdong

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It definitely is starting to become a fact of life. We've demanded so much out of our consumer electronics that, (take this as someone who's been working for about 10 years now shipping year after year of products that sell millions) it's REALLY HARD to get it right immediately out of the gate.

In terms of what separates an acceptable from unacceptable experience, there's a number of things I go on, and it's not in any particular order:
  • Does the manufacturer have a history of resolving these issues and how long does it usually take for that to happen?
  • How "new" is the product for real? For example, the Redline BS/RDR was arguably a small software tweak on a detector that was first introduced many many years back. Though BS/RDR changed the game for us, from a manufacturing standpoint it was no harder to make. Or in terms of the Max360, the innards have been sooooo similar product after product, it feels less justified for it to continue to have issues like lockups.
  • Is the manufacturer communicative and how exactly do they communicate? Do they acknowledge the problem? Provide a timeline for resolution? Do they act appreciatively for issues that we find or dismissive or defensive?
  • Even when they say all the right things, does that actually lead to real results or is it a lot of good talk but no deliverables to back it up?

I'm not going to attempt to score any manufacturers on these metrics. I would say, in general, this is an industry wide problem and as a community, we tend to pick a specific set of companies to idolize and extend a lot of forgiveness while other companies get extremely harsh judgement at the slightest whiff of a problem.
 

Deacon

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Maybe this is just the fact of life when working with tech products?
It’s a fact of life with any product. The difference is that when there’s a design oversight in the batwing design of the shredder hanging off the PTO points on your tractor, no firmware update in the world is going to save you. Some airbags can kill you, some lip balms grow funk, some transmissions exhibit jarringly hard shifts, some air purifiers buzz slightly after replacing the filter a few times.

As consumers, reliability is something we always consider, but it usually takes a distant back seat to price first, aesthetics second, and bells/whistles third. You think the compressor on an LG refrigerator is legitimately any more or less reliable than the Samsung or GE fridge next to it? I wouldn’t buy an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio because I couldn’t possibly trust it. Yet I still have my F250 I bought new in 2011 where the reverse sensors have never worked right. I mean, who knows?
 

Bloovy One

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I'd guess that a big part of the problem these days is that the ICs used in most products are so small, that actually inspecting the layering process (doped areas, excluded areas, created traces with chemicals, etc.) is most likely impossible for each device. They might inspect a small sample percentage, but even then it gets to be a matter of whether something looks good enough or not to the inspector. Once it's sealed up, they can only test externally.

If they test a device and it falls within certain parameters while not being 100% in the ideal zone, it passes and they move on to the next one in the sample.
In the case of the V1 Gen2, It probably comes down to a small part that partially makes up the DC-DC converter. A failed/failing device looks identical to a working device and it's encased in packaging. It could be that traces were not well formed and those traces are either bleeding in to one another or burning away.

Over time, a manufacturer that's using these pre-made parts will be able to know which parts to trust, and which parts are junk and then focus their attention there to make it better.

I had a brand new Samsung that quit communicating over cellular and wifi a couple of days after I activated it. Had to trade it in for another.
 

R4D4RUS3R

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Reliability, QC, and Perfection are on a scale. If you make 10 of something and 4 fail its not the same as 10k and 4 fail. Things can happen in the process that cause some units to have an issue. I'm not sure the number of units produced but if its noticeable here in this small scale of users, then it might be a bigger issue. On the scale of things, iPhone in your example, how many have been produced versus had issues. There have been a few years like the iPhone 4 with the antenna lines but otherwise the number is small considering the scale of production. Uniden displays on the R7 have me using dark mode which I have come to like, but it's only because I wonder if the display will die. Yes, things do have issues but we all hope the number is small and we don't want to be the one it happens to. Honda is a fantastic company but the mowers with auto choke, fail for that design. Ha
 

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It’s easy to rag on certain companies or products, but can any of them be completely problem-free?

I think it's the nature of technology at this point. Failures do happen, as you said. Nothing is going to be perfect. However, some companies get passes because of who they are and perception of what the company is, and that translates to the severity of the QC issues.

I was thinking about this last night. I rag on Escort a lot. I know others on the forum do as well. IMO, I believe it's justified to a degree. The fact that someone just yesterday reported a lockup problem proves that this whole fiasco is still going on to some extent. The problem continues to rear it's ugly head in some form or another and they seem too busy trying to litigate their way to profit than fix it at this point. So they, IMO, rightfully get a bad reputation for QC.

If Valentine were Escort right now with these QC issues, they would have been tarred and feathered on this forum at this point. Frankly, it's unacceptable IMO that they are having this level of QC issues, especially when all I have heard since joining the forum was how indestructible and dependable the Valentine Quality is.

BUT

The difference is that I completely trust Valentine will fix it, and I believe that is where the perception of the company comes in and makes it less of a big deal. And to a degree, it does truly make the issue less of a big deal. We sort of saw the same thing with Uniden. If they were Escort when they were having the OLED issues, again, they would have been dragged over the coals here. And they did face some some criticism (not nearly as bad as Escort), but they also provided a fix (sort of). They changed the factory default screen color to red (to reduce strain on the screen) and a lot of us found how useful Dark mode is. And you know what? It wasn't a perfect fix by any means, but you have certainly seen the number of screen fade complaints go down. Valentine will without a doubt figure out what is wrong with their detector power issues and fix/replace all of them. That's just how they do business. I am sure Radenso will have teething problems with Theia to some extent, but I am even more sure Jon and the team will fix them as quickly as they can.

Escort? Nah, you're still gonna have lockups, even 4 (or is it 5 now?) firmware versions later from when we said we fixed it.

Nothing is going to be problem free in the world of consumer electronics. I think everyone knows that. But, the response of the company to those issues is a massive component in how severe they are. It also makes a difference in what the product will be like down the road. I believe that company culture and "backing their product" is as big a component of reliability as the parts that go into building said product.
 
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thebravo

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As someone that used to work in electronics repair I can certainly say that the saying you get what you pay for is often true though isn't always. The problems I think come from multiple areas. Part of it comes from time crunch to design, build, and release product quickly and efficiently to meet sometimes unrealistic schedule and to compete with other companies that are releasing their products. It also comes from the fact that very little is built start to finish in one place, all the components on the circuit board are typically being purchased rather than made in house. all those components come from different companies and different lots, and the places making those components are getting the supplies to make them from other places still. if any one of those suppliers has a bad batch, cuts cost by going a little cheaper on material quality it can impact the reliability of the end product. It's hard enough to control your own manufacturing process but controlling your suppliers manufacturing process is even harder.

Since I was in the repair dept for and A/V company I can certainly say the companies that rebranded or contracted another company to build something for them seemed to have more issues with quality control and failure, that said there were some issues that were industry wide due to a component that is only avilable from one manufacturer. There was a set of DMD chips for DLP projectors that are made by TI they are the only ones that make them, they had a bad batch and it was wide spready across the brands that these chips would fail after a short time. There was also a fairly wide spread issues with a certain brand capacitors that were incorrectly made, and there were a few electronics brands that used that particular brand of capacitor, we saw a lot of those TV's come through the shop (literally thousands of that same model all with power supply failure due to capacitor failure) the replacement power supplies from the manufacturer had the same capacitors and would fail again. Once they were out of warranty most places that used them didn't want to spend any money to fix them due to the hassle and consistent problems. I took home more than 100 of them, resoldered new capacitors of a different brand and resold them cheaply as used/refurbished. I still have several of them in use at my home 8 years later they are still solid, those few 10 cent capacitors was all that stood in the way of something failing 2-3 times under 2 years and a 10+ year lifespan.
 

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My NES from the 80s still works fine, as does my Gameboy from the 90s.
There is likely some survivor bias there, but electronics when made properly can last a long time.

Some electronics are designed with a short lifetime in mind such as phones; you can debate about how many years but most mfgs assume they're going to be upgraded every few years anyway. RDs on the other hand should not be made this way. An STi-R from 2007 is still a viable option if one does not encounter legit K band. Unfortunately the build quality of RDs appears to be circling the drain. Escort took a huge hit when they moved their mfg overseas, uniden's products feel like cheap plastic garbage, and the QC on the V1G2 sounds like its a huge disappointment especially after how well built the OG V1 was. (Can't comment on Radenso's current lineup as I have no experience) Hopefully Theia bucks this trend, but it damn well better at the price point they're hinting at....
 

R4D4RUS3R

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My NES from the 80s still works fine, as does my Gameboy from the 90s.
There is likely some survivor bias there, but electronics when made properly can last a long time.

Some electronics are designed with a short lifetime in mind such as phones; you can debate about how many years but most mfgs assume they're going to be upgraded every few years anyway. RDs on the other hand should not be made this way. An STi-R from 2007 is still a viable option if one does not encounter legit K band. Unfortunately the build quality of RDs appears to be circling the drain. Escort took a huge hit when they moved their mfg overseas, uniden's products feel like cheap plastic garbage, and the QC on the V1G2 sounds like its a huge disappointment especially after how well built the OG V1 was. (Can't comment on Radenso's current lineup as I have no experience) Hopefully Theia bucks this trend, but it damn well better at the price point they're hinting at....
We have a Pro M in our lineup. Its lightweight plastic of not a high quality feel. It works great for my wife and we never touch it other than to mute so how its made meets the needs but you will not convince someone it is classified as high quality. Its viewed really like a non moving part so it can be made lighter weight and work fine.
 

OBeerWANKenobi

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Since I work with product design, engineering, manufacturing and machining every day I think I can expound on the issue a bit, at least from my perspective.

Let's say we need a new product. There's two ways that goes. First way and by far the most common is with some driving force, either a customer or the company itself, pushing for that new product. Second way but uncommon is that someone in the company takes it upon themselves to make something new or improve an existing product. We call that "Eureka" here. Good companies reward their employees very well for proactively making improvements.

The worst from a QC perspective is when a customer is driving it because they pressure management and management pressures the development as opposed to just management, feeling no pressure from above driving the development. So let's focus on this case.

First we have to design it. The designers have to stick to whatever specifications they were given. Many times they can be completely unrealistic because sales just wanted the order and didn't bother to check with product engineering (PE) or manufacturing engineering (ME) on feasibility or changes that could be made to improve profit or ease of manufacture. Hopefully they did check with PE and ME but even then, half or more of the designers just do enough work everyday to keep their jobs so they just say "whatever" and design it without any care of what happens after they throw it over the fence. Manufacturing engineering gets a hold of it, takes issue with it and it goes back to PE where the 1 or 2 peeps that actually give a crap have to fix the problems. Now they are overworked so might miss stuff or just slap "good enough" on it when they know it will work without further improvements because they just don't have enough time.

Now we have to figure out how to make it. Ideally PE and ME have already been working together closely to make sure the design has good manufacturability. If they haven't it makes this process really difficult. ME has to specify the manufacturing process and design or specify all of the tools, fixtures, patterns, machines etc. to be used by the process. Same problem here with some people just coming for a paycheck. This is where a mistake can get really expensive though, whether that mistake happened in PE or ME. Now we are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for some errors. Generally because of the expense, a lot of care is taken to get it right during this process but if a mistake is made, since it's so costly to fix it the way it should be fixed, imperfect solutions that aren't ideal but work may be implemented to correct the mistake. Just like with PE, this get's put on the 1 or 2 engineers that actually care and are overworked because everyone knows to send stuff they want done right to them.

Now it's time to make the pre-production run. This is where all of the work that's been done before gets sent down to the (hopefully, but increasingly not so much) skilled workers for manufacture. Inevitably, there will be some quality issues with gates, vents or risers in a mold or some die, or a fixture won't hold right because there's a mistake or a pattern maker decided to replace a recessed marking with a protrusion. etc. Just like in PE and ME, there are some workers that just don't care enough and others that miss things. If things are caught right away it's much better as it won't have more and more value added to it down the line until ultimately being caught in final testing or worse, go out to a customer. If a skilled worker finds an issue, now it's back to those 1 or 2 overworked people in ME and PE that give a shit to fix the problem.

If the skilled workers don't catch a problem, it's now Quality Assurance (QA) that has to. They need to decipher the blueprint and specifications disseminated by PE and make sure the part or finished product they are inspecting meets the criteria. QA's inspection criteria is also heavily influenced by PE as they have designed the testing procedures. So not only are they another possible mistake in the chain but they may have been hamstrung by a mistake from PE, just like any other step in the process. QA is usually the last gatekeeper in this process before it goes to the customer so anything missed here gets "sent".

Now imagine you've got multiple products like this going through this process, many at different points on the timeline. Not only that, but everyone involved is being pressured to get it out the door. The ones that don't care make increasingly more mistakes so they can throw stuff over the fence more quickly and "look good" to management and the ones that do care get overworked even more because of it.

So it's pretty easy to see where quality or reliability issues can rear their ugly heads, especially today, because:

1. Lack of skilled workers.
2. People not taking pride in their work.
3. Overworked employees caused by number 2.
4. Company culture that doesn't reward employees for proactivity and hard work or disincentivizes them by rewarding others, inactively or otherwise, for not doing their work.
5. Pressure from above.

Good companies with good management and skilled workers who care have way less quality problems. The current societal environment is making this increasingly difficult to obtain.
 
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Vortex

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Wow @OBeerWANKenobi, that was awesome and super insightful. Thanks for sharing a bit of background involved in the actual development and production side.
 

Jon at Radenso

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It's really simple:

It's definitely possible to deliver a first pass product that has barely any issues, but radar detector companies don't have enough money to. Issues are solved with time and time costs money. You guys forget how small we all are as an industry (even Uniden is way smaller than you think).

Development costs money, and no company with radar detector revenues (small) is going to be profitable during development. That's why Escort just doesn't do development anymore. It's why Uniden outsourced development. Thus, there is a rush to finish development and get a product to market ASAP otherwise you will go out of business or need to raise more funding.

Investors aren't really interested in the radar detector space for the most part, which means the only other source of funding would be consumers. If you want a radar detector to be perfect out of the gate you would probably have to have hundreds of customers crowdfunding a company with no release pressures, and it would probably be a 3 year project with customers guaranteeing monthly cashflow for a company.

That's not going to happen, so the reality is companies do their best to get to market and improve it within their budgets.
 

Vancity23

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V1g2 did seem rushed to market. Funny how life goes full circle, Uniden was slammed pretty hard here for some faulty display issues and now another brand is suffering the same issues. Appreciate Jon’s oversight on the industry which explains a lot.
 

Jon at Radenso

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The display thing is another example of how our industry is too small to matter. I looked into doing a GoPro lcd style display but at our volumes it was a million dollars just for tooling plus like 50 bucks for the screen. We could do it but you guys would have to donate 800k for the tooling cost difference and the detectors mrsp would go up $200 to cover BOM. Or, I could fund the whole thing myself, amortize tooling, and MSRP would go up $600 just for the screen.

We complain about stuff, but when it comes down to it as customers we aren't willing to pay for it to be better. Unfortunately, investors aren't either.
 

Vortex

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Agreed, thank you @Jon at Radenso for sharing your perspective on the funding side too.

I guess I'm wondering the best way to strike a balance. We all want reliable radar detectors that don't stop working while we're out driving, putting us at risk, and it's easy to rag on companies and criticize them when a failure happens.

It seems like this stuff is going to be largely inevitable and so a big point of consideration is also how well a company responds to solving problems when they do arise.

I wonder if it'd also make sense to lower the bar of my expectations. I don't like doing that, but sometimes it does get a little disappointing when wanting a detector with great range, minimal false alerts, a nice feature-set, is easy to use, plus is reliable and problem-free. That's the dream, but is that ever realistically achievable? Certainly easier said than done...
 

Jon at Radenso

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I actually think you should raise your bar. Part of the problem right now is companies don't need to fix their products. All of the radar detectors on your recommended list have critical flaws that could give someone a ticket.

I get that puts you in an awkward position - what do you recommend if all radar detectors suck? But that is how eventually we will get to a point where most radar detectors DON'T suck.

Doing a more visible job highlighting critical flaws like Escort's lockup bug is not being "negative," it's incentivizing companies to fix them. Right now there is zero incentive to fix problems because you recommend them all anyway. Currently, you are relying on the good will of the ownership of Escort, Mike V, Me, and Uniden to fix things. The problem with that is there is no ownership at Escort or Uniden. I do have full faith Valentine will fix the V1G2.

It's much more reliable to use market forces to force companies to improve or die and you're uniquely in a position to do that. I guarantee you if you put the Max 360C to a "do not recommend" status the lockup bug would be fixed in 30 days flat. If you told me that you wouldn't recommend a Pro M unless I made it pink with polkadots, I'd have to do that even though I think pink is ugly on a radar detector.

It's just the way it is.
 
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OBeerWANKenobi

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The display thing is another example of how our industry is too small to matter. I looked into doing a GoPro lcd style display but at our volumes it was a million dollars just for tooling plus like 50 bucks for the screen. We could do it but you guys would have to donate 800k for the tooling cost difference and the detectors mrsp would go up $200 to cover BOM. Or, I could fund the whole thing myself, amortize tooling, and MSRP would go up $600 just for the screen.

We complain about stuff, but when it comes down to it as customers we aren't willing to pay for it to be better. Unfortunately, investors aren't either.
This is why I really appreciate people coming up with novel solutions to problems like you guys did with your new look at how a radar detector should work instead of just drawing between the lines of the preexisting format.

In your display example, maybe one possible solution would be allowing for customers to hook up to some external display of their choice if they wanted, which may be a lower cost solution that still makes a lot of people happy.

Innovation is the enemy of many presuppositions and natural predator of stagnation. :)
 

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All new consumer electronics fail to some degree, its just the way it is, sometimes you get lucky sometimes you dont. While no company wants this to happen, as noted what is really important is how quickly the vendor fixes or replaces it.
 

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I can't really say I expect more form the detector industry right now in terms of reliability.
When shopping for new lap tops it is unsettling to read my consumer reports and have it spelled out that laptops are some of the most unreliable products we buy.
Such a high percentage of serious failures within the first year.
I can't buy washer and dryers, dishwashers like 20-30 years ago that just never quit or leaked. Now I'm averaging 2-5 years on those.
Vehicles may be the exception in my life as they are more trouble free than ever, but when they do go, yikes!
Every product today has a profit margin built in, and answers to stakeholders.
So every penny saved is a penny into the profits of those in charge.
Unfortunately those in charge are not usually the one in charge of QC or design.
Those exeptional few companies that can prioritize the product over the profit are rare indeed.
 

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