A failure analysis engineer works as part of a design team to determine where the potential for breakdown lies when manufacturing a product or developing a process. A person working in this career may also work in the field of forensic investigation to determine the sequence of events which led to a specific event. The failure analysis engineer will use a number of techniques to gather data as part of his or her job duties, including obtaining samples of materials, using a microscope or other laboratory equipment or reviewing witness statements.
The work performed by a failure analysis engineer is an important part of developing new products. Designers need to be aware of potential risks associated with manufacturing or using a product. Working with an engineer, these hazards can be anticipated and minimized in order to ensure the product meets quality standards and is safe to use.
Depending on the type of product or process the failure analysis engineer is working on, his or her work may involve examining a piece of hardware to determine where a breakdown in its structure or function may occur. If the engineer is considering failure as it relates to a manufacturing process, he or she will need to look at factors which can lead to its breakdown, including availability of supplies or a piece of equipment requiring repairs.
In a case where the failure analysis engineer is working in a forensic capacity, he or she will use a different approach to the task. In this instance, the analysis involves looking at an event which has already taken place and determining the sequence of steps which led up to it. The failure analysis engineer may need to conduct a physical examination of a machine or device or review maintenance records as part of this work.
Another aspect of the forensic application of this type of work takes into account the human factor in the failure event. The failure analysis engineer would need to put together a picture of the events based on the events observed by witnesses and the statements given by the participants. The engineer may conclude that the loss was caused by human error or due to a malfunction of a component or a system in a machine. The investigation may also include attempting to recreate the event to determine whether the equipment or human actions were to blame for the loss.