Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Official blog of the Lehigh University Chemical Engineers

ChE Ethics Firestone Tire Failure

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In my professional development class, our group was assigned to analyze the Firestone Tire Failure Case using basic chemical engineering ethics. This case happened when in the late 1999 and early 2000, Ford Motor Company began to receive reports from foreign countries for failures of tires on the Ford Explorer. The reports and complaints mostly include rollovers on Ford SUVs from countries like Brazil or Saudi Arabia where the climate is usually hot.The tires were supplied by Firestone and as a result of the investigation, it was found that there were many quality control issues during the manufacturing of the Firestone tires:

1. The adhesives used had exceeded the specified shelf life.

2. Bubbles formed on the tires but they were punctured and kept in use instead of properly disposed.

In addition to that, there’s a synergistic effect present in this case. Synergistic effect happens when two parts of a design that work well alone cause great problems when they are put together. At the end, Ford had to recall the tires at its own expense in order to preserve public image.

What could have been done to prevent this case:

1. Building better communication and cooperation; minimize synergistic effect by modifying existing designs and in specifying the test procedures for their designs.

2. Make sure that the bubbled tires are properly scrapped; stop using expired adhesives.

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Author: Jerry Jin

Hello, My name is Jerry Jin. I'm a senior at Lehigh University pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering. I'm from Allentown, PA, but I was born in Shanghai, China. I moved here when I was fourteen years old. I'm currently the secretary for Southeast Asia at Lehigh Club, and treasurer for SASE. I'm also on the Lehigh Ultimate Frisbee Team and I enjoy being spontaneous.

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