Famous manufacturing mistakes that proved costly

Employees are human and humans make mistakes. If the reason for an error remains unexplained, even corrective and preventive actions can fail to address the underlying conditions for the failure.

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Even seemingly small mistakes can lead to huge losses, as these cautionary tales from the manufacturing world show.

#1: In 1999, while building a satellite, NASA used the metric system while Lockheed Martin used the English system

In 1999, when building a Mars orbiter, a team of Lockheed Martin engineers used the English system of measurement, while the rest of the team used the metric system. Due to the use of two systems of measurement, navigation coordinates failed to transfer correctly from a spacecraft team in Denver to a lab in California. As a result, the $125 million orbiter was lost in space. Adjusting the loss to today’s dollars, this mistake would have costed NASA approximately $165.6 million today.

#2: Faulty sensors caused America’s most expensive jet to crash on takeoff

As per the Air Force, while on a practice flight in Guam, a B-2 stealth bomber, which was America’s most expensive jet, was destroyed when faulty sensors caused it to pitch up on takeoff, stall, and then crash. The bomber’s cost was $1.4 billion and was one of only 21 such aircraft in existence at the time. Although both pilots were able to eject to safety, the monetary loss was huge. 

#3: Safety inspectors forgot to replace a valve at the Piper Bravo oil rig

In July 1988, oil workers were evacuated from the Piper Bravo oil rig following an explosion. The explosion killed 167 of the 226 men working at the time. During a routine check, inspectors removed and replaced all safety valves, except for one, which was never put back. Unaware that the safety valve was missing, a worker pushed the start button, and gas began to leak out. Repair costs amounted to $3.4 billion. 

#4: Equipment fault caused a £230 billion nuclear disaster 

A tragedy that still sends shivers down the spines of many around the world, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster was caused by an equipment failure in four reactors that went out of control during a test. The 1986 disaster cost a massive £230 billion in cleanup and in the value of lost farmland. The loss at today’s inflated rate stands at a staggering £464 billion, or 600 billion USD!

These mistakes have already happened. What’s important now is to learn from the mistakes and ensure that the same mistakes don’t happen again.

Are you aware of more of such mistakes, then do share with us.

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