Intel’s Failure to Manage Quality in Production

During the first week of January 2018, independent researchers announced that they had discovered massive security breaches in all of Intel’s chips. These flaws allowed hackers to penetrate the data within to recover files stored on the chips that were deemed the most secure. Spectre and Meltdown, as the breach points have become known, are now two of the biggest problems plaguing Intel’s supply of processors currently. The extent of this discovered breach is massive as it impacts almost every single PC, smartphone, and server in the entire world. Intel has a near monopoly on the supply of these processors world-wide, however over the last few years many have been eyeing their position in hopes of gaining market share. Soon after the research was posted, Intel released a software patch that supposedly fixes and alleviates security concerns but slows down all of their chips by 30%. This severely impacted their reputation as one of the driving forces in computing and a brand of the highest quality.

This is a clear example of a problem that is an assignable cause to all of their products. Fortunately, being a piece of technology that doesn’t need to be re-hardwired the company was able to save billions on potential recalls for millions of their chips. However many cloud based services are preparing suits against Intel as they are losing 30% of their previous capacity due to the update, as well as the large potential security breaches. This is a huge issue for their corporation that could have been avoided if they had made quality and security more of a priority during production and development of the chips.

The corporation runs on a tight schedule, attempting to release the newest generation of faster processors every twelve months. The pressure to continue to innovate and create ever faster chips must have put a large strain on engineers attempting to decrease their critical path. The lack of slack time involved in the project must have put an extra stress on assets that are order qualifiers such as security that they are not focused on, in order to achieve an order winner such as speed of the processor. Intel has continually pushed to have the fastest and most efficient processors on the market. This pressure could have been a reason that the security issue was allowed to go so far without being noticed over the last 20 years.

Intel should focus on improving their processes surrounding security, in order to prevent such flaws from being incorporated into their chips. They can develop new projects and processes to improve security while maintaining the current levels of speed that the processors possess today. Security is increasingly becoming more of an order winner as the Internet develops more sophisticated criminals that would be able to easily take advantage of security leaks such as this. Intel should prioritize security for the next round of chip production, as the average consumer won’t particularly hurt by any potential speed improvements yet would give their public image a much needed facelift.

 

Additional Sources:

http://www.zdnet.com/article/security-flaws-affect-every-intel-chip-since-1995-arm-processors-vulnerable/

https://www.wired.com/story/meltdown-spectre-bug-collision-intel-chip-flaw-discovery/

https://web-a-ebscohost-com.newman.richmond.edu/bsi/detail/detail?vid=5&sid=18400241-7115-4fcc-a3f2-ab722bcbeaf5%40sessionmgr4009&bdata=JnNpdGU9YnNpLWxpdmU%3d#db=bth&AN=127382714

6 thoughts on “Intel’s Failure to Manage Quality in Production

  • February 13, 2018 at 9:00 pm
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    I agree! Intel should first begin by looking at how consumers are defining quality today. You are correct in saying security online is becoming more and more of an order winner. Intel needs to begin by redefining their concept of quality. The company needs to evaluate what features consumer’s look for in meeting their overall satisfaction levels of the product. Following that, the company then needs to work to re-engineer their processes to meet these new standards. The reengineering process will allow the company to see exactly where in the processes the flaw occurred. In addition, the company needs to look into its standard of being the most innovative. Do you think that Intel needs to redefine its company’s values of innovation when it puts in jeopardy the security of its products? How do you suggest Intel go about determine their order winners? Is this defect worth their company’s entire reputation?

  • February 13, 2018 at 9:00 pm
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    I agree! Intel should first begin by looking at how consumers are defining quality today. You are correct in saying security online is becoming more and more of an order winner. Intel needs to begin by redefining their concept of quality. The company needs to evaluate what features consumer’s look for in meeting their overall satisfaction levels of the product. Following that, the company then needs to work to re-engineer their processes to meet these new standards. The reengineering process will allow the company to see exactly where in the processes the flaw occurred. In addition, the company needs to look into its standard of being the most innovative. Do you think that Intel needs to redefine its company’s values of innovation when it puts in jeopardy the security of its products? How do you suggest Intel go about determine their order winners? Is this defect worth their company’s entire reputation?

  • February 14, 2018 at 10:31 pm
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    Intel needs to take a step back and reevaluate what matters to consumers today. With hacking and spying constantly talked about in the media or social media platforms (albeit usually in a joking manner), Intel has to realize that security has become one of the more important features that people want. Additionally, although it saved the company tons of money, the patch reducing the speed of the processor was also a huge deal. A lot of people buy intel’s products for the speed, I mean one of their biggest advertising pieces is that they all come with a minimum of a dual core processor! For the company to turn around and fix one problem while creating another, shows that it was nothing more than a bandage for the time being and most likely irritated many customers.
    In the instance of my family, my brothers are big computer geeks and decided to design and build their own computers to guarantee the highest possible speed and level of security. Albeit that’s not the case for most normal people, I know that they are not alone in what they do. The fact that intel had such a slip up in the way of security leads to the question of whether or not people will trust them in the long run, or start to look for new and alternatives ways to get what they need.

  • February 14, 2018 at 11:41 pm
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    It seems that any amount of statistical process controlling would have been sufficient to point out the defects and eventually diagnosing the problems with the microchips. Either Intel’s management was cutting appraisal and/or prevention costs in order to streamline production or failed on some premise. Perhaps the sample size used to measure variation in the chips was too small or a bias existed in the sampling of the chips which may have led to inaccurate inferences to the greater population of microchips. It is also possible that Intel’s factory did not have the capacity to produce microchips with the specifications that were given by its customers; however, Intel most likely would have identified this with a process capability analysis. It appears that the controller failed to recognize an assignable cause that was altering the chips. A common cause of variability would not have caused this large of an amount of defects. The engineers may not have been able to find a significant pattern in run charts or an extremely unlikely event occurred that skewed the microchip production in a negative way. It is certain that this breach will hurt Intel’s standing as the world leader in microchip production.

  • February 14, 2018 at 11:49 pm
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    Wow, that is a major recall issue. I did not know that was happening with Intel. I think it is important that companies focus on maintaining the status of their order qualifiers as you mentioned so that they can continue to reap the benefits of consumers buying their products for their order winners. The security breach is disheartening because almost everything is electronic these days, so for such a major computer processor to fail to maintain basic security standards is sad. Additionally, the pressure on engineers to continually innovate is unnecessary. In my marketing class, we have been talking about consumer buying behavior, and we learned that only about 2.5% of consumers are early innovators. This means that only 2.5% of buyers will want to buy the latest and greatest gear. For the average consumer, it may take years before they upgrade. With that being said, Intel should not worry about continually releasing upgrades every year, instead, they focus on quality improvement.

  • February 15, 2018 at 12:11 am
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    As data breaches become commonplace and cost company’s potentially millions of dollars it may be interesting to see whether any of the high level recent breaches were caused by Intel processors. This would have a devastating impact on the company and as you mentioned create a huge opportunity for other chip manufacturers. I also agree that the company needs to focus primarily on the security aspect of the chips going forward. With so much information being stored online today there has never been greater need for strong security. A potential new step in their quality management practices could be hiring capable individuals to attempt to hack into the chips and spent considerable time testing for any weaknesses.

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