When most people -- even quality professionals -- think about modern quality management, they think of assembly
lines cranking out thousands (or even millions) of identical parts or finished items. The fact that many of the same management methods, concepts and tools can be applied to service operations or
small lot production, however, is not well-understood. People and companies producing only a few items a year are quite convinced they are different -- that somehow the same methods and tools
used in mass production don't apply to small lots or job shops.
Figure 1: Job Shop Grid
Len Seder has been studying such companies for many decades. In
"Job Shop Industries," Section 24 in Juran's Quality Handbook, Fifth Edition, Seder illustrates very clearly that the tools and methods do apply. Not only do
they apply, but most organizations are a mix of mass production activities and job shop activities anyway. He presents a simple job shop grid to demonstrate which
are job shop operations and which are production shop operations (see Figure 1). In this grid, Seder characterizes job shop operations as those
where the number of jobs per worker per week are high and the percent of repeat jobs are low.
Seder goes on to state that numerous job orders don't affect the materials,
processes or people. He contends that these remain common to all jobs. They don't affect the systems, practices or procedures, either, which also remain
common to all jobs. Instead, numerous job orders primarily affect preproduction planning and manufacturing planning. Communication becomes
the critical issue as a function of the number of job orders; the number of ways in which the order is different; and the number of processes, tools and
procedures affected by each of the differences. The complications of numerous job orders are similar to the difficulties we encounter when
launching many new products every week. To deal with either, we must:
Discover what is truly "new"
Define how this affects product design, plan of manufacture, special tools, requirements and so on
Determine what needs to be done to ensure that the "newness" is correctly identified and complied with by all departments
An organization's allocation of effort between planning and control differs considerably between job shop operations and production shop operations.
When there are few repeat jobs, a high percentage of the effort goes to planning. When there are many repeat jobs -- assembly line manufacturing, for
example -- a high percentage of the effort is directed toward control rather than planning. But the concepts, methods and tools to plan and control quality are quite similar in both cases.
In a key table, Seder clearly describes a variety of typical products that fall into four clear types. Each type can be further characterized as
low-to-moderate-percent repeat jobs or moderate-to-high-percent repeat jobs.
The first type is large, complex equipment. Examples in the
low-to-moderate-percent repeat jobs category include locomotives, chemical plants, buildings, automated production equipment and spacecraft. Examples
of large, complex equipment with moderate-to-high-percent repeat jobs include farm equipment, printing presses, machine tools, aircraft and factory machinery.
His type-two classifications are small, simple end products and components. Even here, there are many products in the low-to-moderate-percent repeat
jobs group. These include certain circuit boards, fabricated materials, fashion fabrics and books. Those in the moderate-to-high-percent repeat jobs include
tires, shoes, garments and household appliances.
The third type of products is custom parts. In the low-to-moderate-percent
repeat jobs category are machined parts, forgings and weldings. In the moderate-to-high category are stampings, castings and molded plastics.
His final classification is subcontracted services. Here, toolmaking, diemaking, moldmaking and machining fall into the low-to-moderate-percent repeat job
group. Heat treatment, welding, plating and electro-polishing are usually moderate-to-high-percent repeat jobs.
Recently, I was working with a high-tech company that makes very complex products in small numbers. These products must have extremely high
reliability, and the quality of each subcomponent must be nearly perfect. Many of the managers and engineers openly questioned whether modern quality
management methods would be useful. During one workshop, we had a small exercise. Using Seder's classification table, we explored where different tasks
in the organization fit. The managers and engineers were quite surprised to find how many jobs they routinely perform from almost every part of the table. The
only unused cell in the table was large, complex equipment with moderate-to-high-percent repeat jobs.
Their experience is typical of many large organizations. Many tasks are done in small numbers with very low percentages of repeat jobs. Each of these
tasks requires considerable planning and each is unique in many ways. Other tasks are done frequently; these tasks can be standardized. The emphasis is
on control. The critical issues in the job shop activities are mainly in communication. The first is planning to communicate the essential quality
information to all concerned. The second is controlling the errors and inadequacies in this communication. And the third is improving not merely the
processes and products but also the planning and communication.
Several years ago, when Ritz-Carlton won the Malcolm Baldrige National
Quality Award, its management surprised me by publicly acknowledging support from Juran Institute. Because I wasn't aware they were customers,
when I called to thank them for the citation, I asked them what support we had provided.
"Juran's Quality Handbook," they answered immediately.
Because there was no section on hotels or the hospitality industry in the fourth edition, I was still surprised. Then I discovered they had rewritten Seder's job
shop section to describe quality management of weddings, conferences and other special events. Each one of these activities had to be designed for a
special customer. They had rewritten the mass-production section to describe how to manage the quality of the routine processes, such as cleaning rooms,
that they did hundreds of times a day in every hotel worldwide. This type of creativity and ability to learn from others is what truly distinguishes world-class organizations from average ones.
About the author
A. Blanton Godfrey is chairman and CEO of Juran Institute Inc. in
Wilton, Connecticut. He is the co-editor of Juran's Quality Handbook, Fifth Edition, which was published in March of this year. Special copies signed
by both Godfrey and Joseph M. Juran are available from Juran Institute (www.juran.com). He has co-authored two other books and written more
than 200 articles, and has taught and lectured in more than 50 countries. Contact Godfrey by e-mail at email@example.com .