Case Study: Defective Chips
Engineer A is an electrical engineer working in quality control at a computer chip plant. Engineer A’s staff generally identifies defects in manufactured chips at a rate of 1 in 150. The general industry practice is for defective chips to be repaired or destroyed. Engineer B, Engineer A’s supervisor, recently announced that defective chips are to be destroyed, because it is more expensive to repair a defective chip than it is to make a new chip. Engineer A proceeds on the basis of Engineer B’s instructions. A few months later, Engineer B informs Engineer A that Engineer A’s quality control staff is rejecting too many chips, which is having an effect on overall plant output and, ultimately, company profitability. Engineer B advises Engineer A’s staff to allow a higher percentage of chips to pass through quality control. Engineer B notes that in the end, these issues can be best handled under the company’s warranty policy under which the company agrees to replace defective chips based upon customer complaints. Engineer A has concerns as to whether this approach is in the best interest of the company or its clients.
(Acknowledgments: National Society of Professional Engineers, Case No. 08-2)
What are Engineer A’s ethical obligations under the circumstances