Editor’s note: Umberto Tunesi is a new columnist for Quality Digest. He brings his auditing expertise to bear on a surprising range of subjects, and we’re happy to add his European perspective to our mix. “I realize I’m being tough on the ISO/TS 16949 and AIAG manual writers, as well on performance-monitoring criteria,” he tells us, “but I guess I wouldn’t be writing for QD if I weren’t such a nasty guy. For centuries, my family’s motto has been ‘Crazy but just.’ ” We think he’ll fit in pretty well around here.
Where I was born, in a town close to Milan, Italy, there’s a saying: “When you have no memory, you have no history” and vice-versa. If there’s something that measurement policies, systems, and devices don’t measure, it’s the capability of human memory.
I started in 1969 working as a laboratory technician—developing and producing industrial adhesives. Then in 1979 I was assigned a job as inspector of chemicals. Some 10 years later I began to realize that inspecting products was quite foolish, not to mention expensive. So I started looking at quality assurance methodologies. When I found out there were standards that addressed my concerns, I couldn’t believe it. These weren’t magic wands but rather neat and good-value processes for ensuring “quality,” be it product conformity to specifications or environmental output in accordance to legal requirements (I’m a chemist and know what dirty things we chemists do), or safety.
So I immersed myself in standards: ISO 29000, ISO 9000, QS 9000, ISO/TS 16949, ISO 14000, and BS OHSAS 18001 and its previous releases. I worked and studied as a third-party (certification) auditor, consultant, trainer, and coach.
Let’s focus on the automotive industry, which, despite its notorious downturns in economic and technical output, is still queen of the world. I love cars, I love engines and whatever goes with them, but I can’t forget that I also want to live on planet Earth as much and as well as I can.
All automakers want to sell their “quality.” It’s a competition to see who can offer the most and best, although sadly, the quality reality often falls short of its hype. Don’t misunderstand me; like any key consumer-oriented business, the auto industry is a benchmark. However, since I started working in it, I’m seeing that the key principles of the ISO standards as well as QS 9000 (the bible for us automotive types) are moving away from a planning, programming, and predictive approach to the costly, fossilized, quality-controlling approach. And this despite the inevitable “lessons learned”: 2009, with its tough economic message for industry, wasn’t yesterday, but we’re still lacking an honest, effective analysis of how things could be made better.
Controlling quality—whether it’s for product conformity, environmental friendliness, or people safety—is obviously no joke. But, beware: Although in English “control” has a preventive, even predictive meaning (it’s closer to “monitoring”), in Italian the word carries a post-production implication. Although we Italians “monitor” the cooking of spaghetti, we still maniacally tend to verify the conformity of a product, service, or performance at the end of the line. I wonder if the ISO Technical Committee (TC)/176 people understand and appreciate this difference.
Read enough white papers and look at as many websites, and it’s evident that for all sectors, the emphasis is on “widgets,” whatever they may be—software, measurement devices, and consultancy and certification services (the distinction between the two is always more vague during a downturn).
I am especially concerned with measurement devices. They are made more and more technologically sophisticated, and therefore the people using them must be properly trained and periodically checked. AIAG’s well-known and appreciated Measurement Systems Analysis manual comes to mind. It clearly offers guidance on designing measurement systems, based on product, process design, and engineering. I can of course use a $30,000 CMM to check bolts, but is it worth it? A $30 go/no go device will be just as effective, provided the measurement system—that is, the sampling plan, device, and operator—are validated. My work experience, however, suggests that training and checking aren’t always a priority.
In addition, top managers usually think expensive measurement devices are more reliable than effective product-realization planning. I run across this approach often when working in the automotive industry. For example, automakers’ and tier-one suppliers’ strict requirement for a Cpk higher than such and such, and for 100-percent part inspection.
It has become fashionable among automotive engineers to focus on Cpk and ignore Cp. That’s good to some extent since it makes things “leaner.” Yet by doing so, they forget the “loss function” concept, as outlined in AIAG’s Statistical Process Control: “The underlying concept motivating this desire is that all parts within specification, regardless of where they are located within the specification range, are equally ‘good’ (acceptable), and all parts beyond specifications, regardless of how far beyond specifications they may be, are equally ‘bad’ (unacceptable). Quality professionals sometimes refer to this concept as ‘goal post’ mentality.”
Apart from not understanding any Cp significance, and therefore creating a quality-loss principle, there is other evidence that suggests most automotive engineers need to go back to school—again assuming their teachers are properly validated.
The measurement-widget lobby is very powerful. It promotes and sells tangible “things” that are unfortunately too highly valued. As a quality professional I still endure the following sad work encounter: When I ask $5,000 from a company for a 10-day consultancy project to reduce its costs of poor quality by $30,000, the CEO will tell me I’m too expensive. Yet the next day he will order a $30,000 CMM, which his technicians will take a year to learn to use.
As dedicated and motivated quality professionals, we must promote, if not goad, those around us into proper awareness. It is our duty; we undertook it when we joined the profession.