Job Interview Question - Faulty machine



Hi everyone,

I was at a job interview where I was given the question what steps must you take to keep a line running if a machine becomes faulty in a manufacturing line (the machine is essential to keep the line running). I was quite stumped and did not really know how to answer it, so i proceeded to talk about having a replacement machine and directly incorporating it into the line.

I was just wondering whether my answer was correct and was really hoping for some advice into how to answer this particular question.

Just some information about myself, I have almost graduated from university with a mechanical engineering degree.

thank you so much everyone!
I suppose the answer would have to be tailored to the position applied for. For example, your answer as a line supervisor or production manager would be different than a position in machine maintenance. Maybe you could tell us the position title?


Quality Manager
In all the CNC shops I've worked in we were able to temporarily use another machine while maintenance got the machine up and running. In the sheet metal forming shop I worked in there were machines that had no others that could run what they do; deep draw press, hydroform press, and heat treat ovens and tanks. That shop was proactive with preventive maintenance but I did see one go down that halted production until it was fixed.

John Broomfield

Super Moderator

This may be a question to test your:

1. Commitment to quality, and
2. Awareness of TPM.

...after all prevention is the key to profitable production.

Your research of the organization and its ethos prior to the interview may have helped.



Starting to get Involved
The answer to your question depends totally on manufacturing, if they are manufacturing candles it is different and if they are manufacturing sensitive circuit boards it is different.
Than do they have a an computer automated system in manufacturing?
If it is automated robotic system what is making it faulty, the software or some glitch in the server.
Do the company has redundancy plans.
Is critical data recorded automatically , downtime of computers can halt whole operation, loss of data.
Company must have a manual of their own regarding what to do in that situation.
John Broomfield has suggested the right thing that one must have a detailed research regarding the company, its products and its operations. And in case you are not familiar with their manufacturing, try to google that specific manufacturing and watch some youtube videos to have a virtual tour of how things are happening in that kind of manufacturing.
Usually a new manager first tries to do the same which previous managers have done to curb that issue successfully. If all previous efforts were fruitless than one would adopt new strategies. But the best way is to stick to the SOP developed by that corporation ( And that development is result of study/facing of issues and problems in the past)


Thanks for the responses everyone!

The title of my position was a Graduate Manufacturing Engineer and the company mainly deals with lean manufacturing practices within the company.


Involved In Discussions
In addition to what the others said, it could also be a chance to talk about risk assessment and contingency planning.


Looking for Reality
Trusted Information Resource
Typically, questions like this in an interview have no "right" answer...the question is really to see what your approach to the issue is.

The "answer" might include questions back to them such as:
- Is there a safety stock of product? How much time is available to sort this out?
- Is there a maintenance crew on site, or do you outsource?
- Is there a PPAP or other validation requirement connected to the machine that I need to be aware of?
- Is the malfunction known or still to be diagnosed?
- How much product has already been affected?

Things like this display your awareness of a bigger picture than "a machine broke, fix it"...and the question may have been asked to probe how big of a picture you see.

In my experience, interview questions are not typically about whether you have the right answer...but to determine how you handle issues amid the bigger picture of business profitability.
That said...if the question is "what is the cube root of 27 ?"...there is a right answer and approach doesn't really matter...
In lean, many speedboats, no ocean liners. So your idea of swapping out a machine may have been on the right track, as a flexible supply of smaller output machines rather than one or two monster machines would be the resource factor. Many machines would also tolerate this condition well without a major impact on the production flow, as ideally, the Takt time could be adjusted to compensate.
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