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Laurence Finley

Quality Insider

Quality Semantics—Name It What It Is

Let's take Zero Defects one step further.

Published: Thursday, July 2, 2009 - 14:06


One of the earliest quotes I remember from a general manager: “If my manufacturing manager and quality manager weren’t at each other’s throats, then I would be concerned.” At the time, as a young graduate mechanical engineer acting a quality control manager for a small aerospace firm, I thought that this statement was in perfect keeping with the established tension that usually exists between manufacturing and quality assurance.

In the ensuing forty years, I've often been in that nether region between the demands and quotas in production and the checks and balances required in quality environments. Each time I've accepted the acknowledged rift and how they seem to be inherently contradictory.

Although there is much information on establishing a closer working relationship between manufacturing and quality, there is a tool available which I believe hasn't been tried that may have profound significance—if those in control have the gumption to use it. I don't consider it to be a silver bullet to end all manufacturing problems, but the ratio between the expenditure to implement versus the potential revenue from the improvements, proves it's in a category by itself.

The realization that preceded this suggestion is simple: People usually try to do what is expected of them. If they are in manufacturing, their goal is production. Those in quality are tasked with the responsibility of maintaining or improving the status quo of the company’s product. At this point, I suggest that we take a radical step in the basic construct and verbiage surrounding our manufacturing environment.

If we expect our army of operators to take the responsibility for being the source of whatever quality level is inherent in their output, then their job and department should be called “fault-free production" rather than "manufacturing." If we expect a high quality product and the manufacturer is in agreement that it must be done right the first time, then any operator should have no problem with a job title of fault-free operator rather than operator, and fault-free machinist instead of machinist, and so forth. (Note: This is similar to the past notion of zero defects but is taking it a step farther. )

Likewise, the quality department needs redirection. Instead of quality assurance, quality control, or simply quality, this department should be called “manufacturing feedback.” This is, I believe, the most succinct description of the main functions in which quality personnel are engaged: dealing with, correcting, improving, and tracking the output of the “fault-free production” group.

I sincerely believe that these minor tweaks of a company’s organization chart might well provide the incentive and power to withdraw the current wedge between manufacturing and quality. I would very much like to receive any feedback you may be willing to provide regarding these suggestions. Just use the "Add Comment" link below.



About The Author

Laurence Finley’s default image

Laurence Finley

Laurence Finley is a certified quality engineer (CQE), with a Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He lives in Long Beach, California.


They should have crucified me years ago

So, I have only been in the quality department only 15 years. So I admit that I do not know squat (whatever that means).
Very early on in my career, while only being a meer quality controler - I took hold of the MRB meetings. During these meetings (which were held with the ceo, engineering manager, and operations manager), I brought into the mrb resolving equation the "ex-factory factor". True, I was nieve and had NO real idea what I was doing, but as it happens - I was building my own quality philosophy. That was over 10 years ago now. Since then I have built on that philosophy. And yes - they should have crucified me!!!
Today, I not only look at the product and the processes but the whole supply chain.
I believe that,
" There is a person waking up today who is going to walk into a shop somewhere. If my product is not there(for whatever reason - such as there is a 2mm scratch instead of a 1mm scratch) - the potential customer will not buy that product - end of story - not really.
What begins with a decision at one point usually ends up at the same point.
So "calculative risk" enters into the equation.
I can always defend a customer's complaint.

reply to Quality Semantics

Two problems with the moniker you assigned to the Quality Department:
1) You already dismissed the title of "manufacturing" with the previous renaming. There can be no "manufacturing feedback" since there is no longer a manufacturing department.
2) You have limited the scope of the quality department exclusively to the production function. What about the quality department's monitoring of sales, management, human resources, et al? Maybe a better title would be "enterprise feedback"??

Quality Semantics - Name it what it is!

Like you I have spent the better part of 40 years in quality. I have always said - even before it was popular - that those that produce should be responsible and held accountable for what they do. The quality organization is a monitoring (for the sake of the customer) and measuring (for the sake of the company) organization. We don't build product!!!!! How is it that even today many organizations want to hold quality responsible for everything the report on that is bad? I very much like your idea of changing the name and will be tryining the concept out - I'll let you know how much resistance there is.

Thanks for the great article.