Star Wars: Engineering Lessons from the Dark Side

Star Wars: Engineering Lessons from the Dark Side

In product development work here at Arena Solutions, we’ve worked with manufacturers small and large across many different industries; some domestically, some internationally and some in galaxies far, far away.

The Galactic Empire is a tragic example of an enterprise-size organization that suffered from a catastrophic quality failure that doomed the entire company.

The Death Star was shipped to market with a design flaw that resulted in costly damage to the Dark Side brand. “How can you expect to instill fear throughout the galaxy and squelch a rebel uprising when your ultimate weapon has a flaw so glaring that it can be exploited by a one-man X Wing Fighter?” said Death Star scientist and quality manager Rorax Falken.

Sadly, the Death Star failure could have easily been avoided. Unfortunately, the Galactic Empire—like many large companies—failed to integrate a quality management system (QMS) with its design and development processes to more effectively reduce supply chain oversights, employee missteps and design errors.

“When we were the Galactic Republic, it was a really relaxed vibe—just me and a handful of engineers,” said Falken. “When I needed a design spec or bill of materials (BOM) verified, I could boogie over to Senator Palpatine’s cube near the foosball table and get him to signoff on drone specs, etc; however, once we became the Galactic Empire, we failed to upgrade to a formal BOM solution capable of keeping pace with the complexity of the Death Star’s product documentation set.”

There is no question the Death Star was the Empire’s most ambitious project ever launched. The space station had a crew of 265,675, as well as 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 30,984 storm troopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 180,216 pilots and support crew. The hangars contain assault shuttles, blast boats, strike cruisers, land vehicles, support ships and 7,293 TIE fighters. The station was protected by 10,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,600 ion cannons and roughly 768 tractor beam projectors.

To keep esprit de corps high among staff members, the Death Star housed a miniature golf course, bowling alley, and a TGI Friday’s conveniently located for crew and guests of The Emperor.

The problem with the manufacturing of the Death Star and management of all related quality issues was that the Galactic Empire continued to rely on manila folders, emails, spreadsheets as well as disparate quality management systems to jury-rig corrective action and preventive actions (CAPA). These tactics failed to foster the cross-functional collaboration and visibility necessary to sustain successful quality management across the product lifecycleFor example, with a major emphasis placed on the development of the fortress’s magnificent defense systems, engineers overlooked the potential design flaws and security risks of a simple exhaust port.

“I warned engineers that if a two-meter-wide thermal exhaust port suffered a direct hit from a photon torpedo it could ignite a chain reaction in the main reactor that could destroy the Death Star,” said Falkan. According to the quality manager, the port was never fixed for two reasons: one, a system to foster collaboration and overcome engineering’s mistrust of the quality group was never implemented; and two, because Falkan’s quality people were not allowed to provide feedback early in the design cycle, engineering was even more reluctant to rework designs so late in the manufacturing process.

“Why can’t you be a team player, come to the Dark Side, and stop nagging us about this ridiculous exhaust port?” recalls Falkan about the engineers. “In the end, the engineering group didn’t change it, rationalizing that a direct hit was impossible since the portal was ‘no bigger than a womp rat.’ Boy, were they wrong.”

Falkan recognized that once a product quality failure is out the door, the cost to rectify it increases dramatically. The destruction of the Death Star demonstrates the importance for companies to foster collaboration across the enterprise and implement a holistic quality solution to prevent the same types of costly errors that the Galactic Empire experienced.


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  • Daniela Moraïs

    Fan of the Dark Side ever since day one

  • Evans Desbhy

    Star Wars is my childhood

  • Emma

    Fun Read.....I swear to God, if Luke tells Rey "I am your father" in Episode VIII, I will walk out of the theater.... Then walk right back in because I paid money for that ticket.

  • Gabriel Gendron

    You have made some interesting points. On a similar note, Disney has no incentive to introduce new ideas, take risks, and expand the universe because people will take whatever it gives them.

  • Julian Zabala

    In reply to: Gabriel Gendron

    Say what you want, I love Star Wars

  • Elijah Young

    Rip Carrie Fisher, not my favourite character but we will always remember you.

  • Damian Simmonds

    Just goes to show why creativity is stifled these days.

  • Brian B

    The dark side is stronger than the force but its power comes at a price

  • Amaan Sajid

    In reply to: Brian B

    I think we need both aspects of the force to be stronger

  • Nirvik Mahin

    In reply to: Brian B

    good always wins

  • Ben Palermo

    In reply to: Brian B

    The light side is stronger mentally and the dark side is stronger physically, END OF THE STORY

  • Nicholas Fitzgerald

    The dark side is like a steroid. Yes you'll reach heights in the force faster than a lightside user, but you are also weak in the sense you don't have the will, enough power and mental toughness to avoid falling to the dark side (use steroids).

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John Papageorge

Tech Expert

John is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Omnicell. He is a results-driven consultant who has worked with some of the biggest names in technology, including Oracle, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, and IBM, to improve their marketing and lead generation strategies. John holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

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