A dependent failure is some sort of adverse event that occurs within a production process, with the event being triggered by a problem earlier in the process. With this type of activity, some sort of breakdown serves as the beginning of subsequent breakdowns further along in the usual operating process. Depending on the nature of the event that began the sequence, there may be more than one dependent failure that occurs as a result.
There are a number of events that may trigger a dependent failure. For example, an assembly malfunction that involves an equipment failure at some point along the line may result in a temporary shutdown of portions of the remaining sections of that line. This may lead to an overall assembly breakdown that causes production to halt for a period of time, which in turn can impact the ability of the company to produce enough goods to fill pending customer orders. Until the initial operational event is resolved and any subsequent issues that were caused by that event are corrected, the company will continue to lose money and time.
The nature of a dependent failure is somewhat different from what is known as an independent failure. With the former, the occurrence of the malfunction has a ripple effect that creates problems later in the process. By contrast, an independent failure is somewhat contained, with the effects focused mainly on that single event and process, without causing any real or measurable difficulties for the rest of the operation. Typically, an independent failure presents less of an operational obstacle for a company to overcome, since the rest of the operation can continue without any slowdown or decrease in the efficiency of the overall operation. With a dependent failure, there is the potential for a single event to slow or even shut down other phases of the operation that require the impacted tasks to be completed before further processing through the operational process is possible.
Every type of business has the potential to experience a dependent failure. While the term is more commonly associated with machinery and equipment breakdowns in a manufacturing setting, the general concept can also translate into the operation of a back office setting. This means that if certain back office functions were interrupted for a period of time, other functions could also be slowed or unable to take place until the original event was corrected and normal operations were restored.