Quality Digest  |  07/31/2008


Is “Good Enough” Good Enough?

In “Is Three Sigma Good Enough?” (H. James Harrington, “Performance Improvement,” June 2008), the author makes some good points about whether the cost of getting to a Six Sigma level is really justified, but his point is made based on his special set of numbers. I could make up different numbers to prove that going to a Six Sigma level is cost-justified. The point that’s being missed, I feel, is the real cost of poor quality. I believe that Taguchi suggested the measurable cost of poor quality to the customer should be squared to get the real costs. If we square Mr. Harrington’s cost of bad widgets, it presents a very different picture. One can never capture the full cost of a poor product in the marketplace, but it is certainly much more than is presented in this example. As the late Philip Crosby would say, ‘There has never been a case where the cost of repairing a bad product was cheaper than doing it right the first time!’

-- Dennis Sowards


Risky Business

In the article “Risk Management--The Future of Quality” (Greg Hutchins, June 2008), the author gives three definitions of risk--none of which are the classical definition of risk. This is not a new concept as implied by the author. Its genesis predates the 1980s in general considerations and has been studied in detail in the nuclear power industry. The distinction between the examples provided by Hutchins and the treatment of the nuclear power industry is in the ability to quantify risk and thereby make intelligent decisions based on analysis.

Risk is nothing more than the probability of the occurrence of an adverse consequence multiplied by the value (cost) of that adverse consequence. Some treatments raise the consequence cost to a power determined by the possible frequency of the adverse consequence (number of deaths, for example).

The complementary benefit analysis goes hand-in-hand with risk analysis in that there is a method for directly comparing the expected benefit to the potential risk in financial terms.

The analysis of risk involves determining adverse event precursors and determining their probability. If the consequence (cost) is unacceptable after analysis, the analysis is usually transformed into a series of mitigations to reduce probability for the event precursor(s).

I reject definitions (and you should as well) that discuss risk in nonquantifiable terms such as “risk of a situation or circumstance that creates uncertainties about achieving program objectives.” I say, DRECK!

-- Thom Davis


AS9100 ICOP Scheme

“AS9100: Reducing Variation in the ICOP Scheme” (Sidney Vianna, May 2008) is well-written and covers the problems with the ICOP scheme in sufficient detail. Unfortunately, the author fails to identify the root cause of the problem. The author is not at fault here; rather, the fault lies with the aerospace industry. The author is just reporting the situation as it exists.

The aerospace industry is supporting a flawed process. The solution to the problems with audits by certification bodies (CBs) is not to tighten the rules of the current process but to change the process. The process is flawed because it violates one of the basic rules of auditing: auditors, and in turn CBs, need to be independent. The author talks about the competitive nature of the CB industry. This is actually a coverup for the conflict of interest of the CB industry. This conflict of interest is long standing and well-recognized. The aerospace industry (and other industries, too) are guilty of not addressing this root cause. The system is flawed by expecting auditors to audit the customers who are paying their salaries.

Until this root cause is eliminated, tighter rules or standards will not resolve the problems. Some believe that the cost to address this issue is too great, but the truth is that the cost of not addressing it is much greater.

-- Ira Epstein


Onion Soup

The article “Where’s My Onion Soup?” (Bill Kalmar, www.qualitydigest.com/inside/quality-insider-column/where’s-my-onion-soup.html ) discusses lack of customer focus. I am simply amazed at the number of businesses out there that still dictate to the customer. This is ice age thinking, and obviously these business owners have never once asked the customer what they really want. This is the information age, is it not? Does this line of thinking bring to light that quality management is perhaps not only about quality systems and ISO standards?

Quality systems are nothing more than tools that we use when taking care of our customers, yet we have made them the feature of our life. As a quality manager, I see my role as that of the high priest that tends his flock. I make it my duty to explore the needs, wants, and desires of staff and then marry these to the needs, wants, and desires of customers. It’s not about quality systems; it’s about people and the dying art of communication.

I, too, have witnessed this arrogant attitude toward the customer, from a cleaning products company that withdrew arguably the world’s best grease remover. Thank goodness for customer pressure. The company reintroduced the product line upon receiving so many calls about why they had stopped making this product that their switchboard was constantly jammed.

My question is: Where do these companies get these ideas from? They certainly don’t come from talking to customers.

Thanks for a lighthearted article that focuses on the real world.

-- Rob Langdon


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