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Bugging Out

I read with interest Laura Smith’s article “What’s Bugging the Big Three?” (November 2005). I agree that supplier relationships are a stumbling block in need of immediate attention. One point the Big Three needs to consider: Regardless of effective efforts to improve quality, in most cases they continue to offer limited 36,000-mile warranties. That represents less than two years of average driving. If they expect the consumer’s “poor quality perception” to change, then they must show enough confidence in their product to offer warranties at least comparable to their competition. Of course, they must then be willing to effectively honor them.

—Janet Stoll


I have to take issue with the claim that American manufacturers have closed the gap on quality. The article refers to “as delivered” quality, but what about the other components of quality: reliability and durability?

Later-model GM cars in general have serious, chronic and expensive reliability problems. For example, numerous GM cars are affected by failing intake manifold gaskets, which typically cost more than $500 to replace. In addition, numerous GM car models suffer from premature failure (i.e., warping) of disc-brake rotors, which leads to a pulsing in the brake pedal; in some cases, the brake rotors don’t last as long as the pads. Many customers who are forced to pay for these design problems are understandably reluctant to buy another GM vehicle. In today’s market, car owners are too busy to waste time making expensive trips to the dealership for unplanned maintenance.

Thanks for the provocative article.

—Chris J. Horne


Honestly, I normally don’t pay too much attention to the articles in Quality Digest; however, the article titled “What’s Bugging the Big Three?” was actually very good. Besides being well written, I think it showed quality at a level that everyone can relate to, even engineers making semiconductor lasers. Using the article, I was able to spark further interest in quality even among nonquality people.

—Chris Wiggins

Editor’s note: Thanks… we think.


Defensive Flying

In reference to H. James Harrington’s column on airline quality, “Lost in the Service Quality Void” ("Performance Improvement,” November 2005): Having arrived without my baggage, having my baggage arrive without me and having neither one arrive at all, I have found that absolutely no one at any airline feels your urgency but yourself. When traveling, I firmly believe in 5S—shirt, shaving kit, socks, skivvies and sport coat—rolled up in my carry-on.

—Daniel E. Beougher


Until quality improvements are made by at least one airline, we need to preserve our own organizational quality (e.g., on-time arrival, proper attire, materials, samples, etc.) through preventive measures. Simply put, use a reputable shipper to send materials to your hotel or the client in advance, carry on a 20-in. wheel bag that has your basics in it and travel light. Just as there is such a thing as defensive driving to watch out for the quality problems of others, there is defensive traveling as well. Look both ways, Jim; look both ways.

—Greg Fulkerson


Cover Your Assets

I have been reviewing November’s Quality Digest with unusual interest. Reading “Asset Management: Seeing the Big Picture” by Cliff Veach was like having a fog lift before my eyes. This is a clairvoyant and compelling argument for what should be obvious to any asset-dependent organization but is commonly obscured by the limitations of isolated legacy systems and a lack of vision. I feel as if my optometrist had just prescribed new glasses that let me see this issue clearly for the first time!

—Neil Jackson


Take Your ISO Vitamins

In reference to “Bringing Your QMS to the Boardroom” (Denise Robitaille, November 2005), I've been a lead auditor since our automotive plant implemented ISO 9001. I’ve been one of the people struggling to force-feed management, staff and associates their ISO vitamins since 1999. It hasn’t been easy, and even today I wonder what percentage of personnel really appreciate the new QMS that they operate under. No one is doing a comparative and quantitative study to show how ISO standards have improved our processes. I believe most people attribute a better documentation system to ISO standards and believe that all other improvements in our system are related to personal achievement and goal-setting. In reality, at least from my perspective, ISO 9001 has been the eye-opening, feet-to-the-fire accountability model that has brought the best changes to our management strategies.

—Don S. Spaulding


Online Feedback

Regarding your online article “Root Cause Analysis Takes Too Long” (Ken Levine, www.qualitydigest.com/sixsigma), even with good contingency plans in place, you’re still dealing with a defect after it’s occurred. The purpose of root cause analysis is to understand why a problem happened and prevent it from happening again. For this reason, efforts should be made to identify root causes of potential problems while developing plans to prevent them or mitigate their effects.

—Carol Mahoney


Levine’s proactive approach is one that more companies need to adopt. There’s a lot of emphasis on mistake-proofing, yet mistakes still happen. When mistakes do happen, the response is never quite right in the customer’s eyes, even with the best of intentions. Levine took an interesting line of thinking that I had not seen before, but which makes perfect sense.

—Steve Burkert