Defect management

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The term error management summarizes the human activities with which humans react to an error in a human-machine system in order to finally eliminate the error or initially limit its effects. It also means systematic error assessment, diagnosis, detection and prevention as well as the initiation and evaluation of countermeasures in order to reduce the likelihood of serious consequences.


The ability to manage errors is one of the non-technical skills and is an essential reason to keep people with a high level of responsibility in the technical system. Good error management can decide whether a human error or a technical defect leads to a catastrophe or not.

In order to deal with errors professionally, however, you not only need a high level of individual error competence, but also a productive error culture in the company. After all, it requires “willing”, “being able” and “being allowed” to be so that the members of the organization can efficiently and effectively manage errors.

To this end, people must be given the opportunity to manage errors: The technical components of the human-machine system must be designed in such a way that error management is enabled and supported in all phases.


Error management is usually divided into three or four phases:

  • Fault detection,
  • Error diagnosis , then possibly
  • Error compensation, and
  • Bug fix.

The detection of errors is not an event, but a phase, since in systems with large time constants and slowly changing values, the deviation from the normal state cannot immediately be clearly identified as an error.

During the error diagnosis (see e.g. vehicle diagnostic system ), an attempt is made to determine the error itself with the help of the information that can be experienced (visible, audible, tangible, ...) at the interface between humans and the technical system. The collection of information is not limited to the human-machine interface itself, but includes all parts of the technical system accessible to the operator. (In the event of a fault in the vehicle, not only the rev counter and fuel gauge are observed, but also the bonnet is opened and the radiator cap is unscrewed; in the event of a fault in an industrial plant, not only are the screens in the control room observed, but also the pipes and containers outside in the plant are examined .)

Before the error correction, if a complete correction is not possible immediately, but operation must be maintained, the error compensation phase may be inserted first. This mitigates the effects of the error so that safe operation is possible if the error cannot be rectified immediately.

The error correction corrects the error.

See also


  • Gunnar Johannsen: man-machine systems . Springer-Verlag, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-540-56152-8 .
  • James Reason: Human Error: Psychological Risk Factors and Modern Technology. Spektrum, Akad. Verlag, Heidelberg et al. 1994, ISBN 3-86025-098-1 .
  • Elke M. Schüttelkopf: Success strategy error culture. How organizations increase their performance through professional handling of errors. In: Gabriele Ebner, Peter Heimerl, Elke M. Schüttelkopf: Fehler.Lernen.Unternehmen. How you perceive and shape the error culture and learning maturity of your organization. Frankfurt am Main et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-631-57744-8 , pp. 151-314.
  • Elke M. Schüttelkopf: Learning from mistakes: How to learn from damage. Freiburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-648-04595-4 .
  • Peter Hochreither: Failure as a success factor! Personal success through failure. businessvillage, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-934424-43-0 .

Individual evidence

  1. Definition of errors and error management . JP CONSULTING & TRAINING. Retrieved on March 14, 2010: "Error management: Systematically operated error prevention, error detection, error diagnosis and evaluation as well as the initiation and evaluation of countermeasures with the aim of minimizing the risk of serious consequences."