Category: Quality Control

How do we “sell” quality?

ASQ recently introduced a topic on their blog regarding “selling” quality.  Paul Borawski, ASQ’s CEO, does a good job considering the hurdles faced when discussing quality buy-in from key decision-makers.

Jennifer Stepniowski, Pro QC’s Special Project Manager, responded as an ASQ Influential Voice and raises a few successful suggestions, including walking the walk, focusing on the benefits, being knowledgeable and adapting to your audience.

Michael L. Hetzel, Pro QC’s VP/Americas, also provided some insight into how he “sells” quality:

One would think that in 2012 everyone would understand that quality is an investment, with a measurable ROI, rather than an expense.  Unfortunately, this is not the case and there’s still tremendous inertia towards characterizing quality as an overhead expense.

In order to “sell” quality, we have to educate decision makers on the investment value of quality management activities and how to identify the return on the investment.  For decision makers who are not quality management professionals, it’s an educational process conveying a value proposition related to the results rather than a selling process describing the technical aspects of quality management activities.

Once they can identify the ROI, the decision makers become motivated by the self interest of their enterprise performance opportunities and “buy in to quality”.

What do you think? How do you “sell” quality?  Or, in other words, how do you inform and persuade others about the benefits of quality and the negative impact of failure to incorporate continuous improvement and quality initiatives from top-down?

As Paul suggests, “quality is important and an essential strategy for performance excellence, competitiveness, growth, sustainability, survival, efficiency, effectiveness.”  It’s important that we take every opportunity to educate others and assist them in the process of ensuring quality as a standard.

Classifying defects… Is it major, minor or critical?

One of the most common questions we receive regarding inspections is how defects are classified.

The most important component of product quality is knowing your product.  And, that requires detailed product specifications that identify exactly how the item(s) should turn out.  Product specifications should also include defect details with classifications that later link to accept/reject determinations during QC checks.  Defects can be anticipated, but the list should evolve through observation and consumer feedback.  Metrics, as always, are incredibly useful here where continuous improvement is concerned.

Each defect is generally classified as either major, minor or critical.  At Pro QC, we use the following general descriptions:

Critical – Any condition found which poses the possibility of causing injury or harm to, or otherwise endangering the life or safety of, the end-user of the product or others in the immediate vicinity of its use.

An example of a critical defect might be a sharp plastic bur that has the potential to scratch or otherwise harm people.  The AQL (acceptable quality level) is generally 0.10 here so any critical defects noted would result in a rejected inspection.

Major – Any condition found adversely affecting the product’s marketability and sale-ability or adversely affecting its required form, fit or function and which is likely to result in the end-user returning it to the source from which is was purchased for replacement or refund.

An example of a major defect might be a large (1.5″ or larger) scratch on the exterior front of the product.  The AQL is generally tighter for major defects noted, so less is acceptable in a general sample size to achieve a passing result.

Minor – Any condition found which while possibly less than desirable to the end-user of the product, does not adversely affect its required marketability, sale-ability, form, fit or function and is unlikely to result in its return to the source from which it was purchased.

An example of a minor defect might be a small (up to 1.5″) scratch on the bottom of the product. 

Pro tip: The more specific the product criteria is, the less subjective the nature of the defects.  Providing photos as examples is particularly useful.  Tracking defects and noting areas for improvement when trends are identified helps improve the overall manufacturing process and end-use value to the consumer.


Top 5 – Quality Resources that Educate & Inspire

We’ve given some thought to quality resources we find particularly useful and that both educate and inspire…  Here are our top five:

American Society for Quality > Quality Tools

  • ASQ offers comprehensive content relating to various quality tools, conveniently organized by function.  You’ll find everything from histograms to stratification.  Regularly browsing through the tools is a great way to get inspiration for data analysis or better understand an existing collection.  The Knowledge Center is invaluable!

Chartered Quality Institute > Knowledge Hub

  • The Quality Survival Guide is excellent, in addition to the collection of videos and factsheets.

Lean Enterprise Institute > Webinars

  • LEI’s website offers a great deal of content relating to all things lean… They proclaim to try and answer the simple question of every manager, which is “What can I do on Monday morning to make a difference in my organization?”

Khan Academy 

  • This site has an amazing collection of videos… over 3000 in fact! While topics range from science to humanities, the math videos relating to statistics and probability are particularly helpful for those in the quality industry.

The Quality Toolbox

  • This is the one quality book you can’t do without.  It’s everything you need… and more.

And, we’ll add one extra invaluable resource to the mix…

Pro QC International > Quality Resources

  • We’ve tried to organize  resources accessible directly from our site.  We’ve incorporated quality terms, sampling and defect classification information and more. We are also working on a collection of educational videos addressing the most common questions we receive.

Learn cause and effect diagrams and more…

We have found an excellent resource for videos explaining various quality tools.  One of our favorites relates to cause and effect diagrams, but we found the GoogleStorming video quite interesting as well.  There are several other videos relating to quality tools on the Dr. Eugene O’Loughlin YouTube page.  It’s worth checking out!

An additional resource for a instructional videos relating to a wider variety of topics includes the Khan Academy.

Welcome 2012 – Top 10 Ways to Add Value & Keep Resolutions

Welcome 2012!  For Pro QC, this year will be met once again with the primary objective of continuous learning and adaptation of skills and services with the intent of adding value to our industry and helping reduce quality risks and cost along the way.  Of course, as many of us already know, this is more challenging than it seems.  And, just saying that this is what we’d like to do wouldn’t necessarily provide the results we want.  So, we have incorporated several principles into our planning process that maintains focus and gets us results.

Top 10 Ways to Add Value & Keep Resolutions:

  • Plan, plan, plan… Then, plan some more.  – Quality tools are imperative here. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of them or resources that show you when and how to easily incorporate them into your process.  (The Quality Toolbox is a an absolute must-have!) Plan objectives that lead to both short-term (micro) and long-term (macro) success (adding value).  But, make them S.M.A.R.T. so everything else falls into place as expected.
  • Stay Focused – It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day obstacles.  The best way to make sure you stay focused on short and long-term objectives (resolutions) is to schedule it in.  Figure out a reasonable time you can dedicate each day or week and block it out in your calendar.
  • Stay Informed – There’s never a good enough excuse to be unaware of what’s going on in your industry or the general business environment. Think of it as an ongoing PEST analysis, but you will be surprised by the opportunities and threats that you’ll identify by reacting early.  Staying informed can be as easy as subscribing to industry blogs and newsfeeds in something like Google Reader, listening to podcasts during your commute or even getting active in industry organizations, such as the American Society for Quality for us.
  • Maintain Perspective – Keep your eye on the ball and always be able to answer “why am I doing this?” with a response that directly ties into your specific objectives.
  • Dedicate Resources – It’s often one thing to think an idea is good but another to dedicate the time and other resources to the associated activities required to make it happen.  If the planning process concluded an activity as something that will generate results, follow through with making sure the resources are there to back-up the successful development.
  • Measure the Important Stuff – There was a quote that I can’t quite recall the source of, but it said ~65% of the data we are presented with, we ignore.  The point there seems to be we naturally focus on what’s important, so why not free up resources by eliminating data that doesn’t directly have an impact on adding value or those activities that are involved in creating or maintaining value.
  • Regularly Review Metrics – Whatever data remains and is deemed as the most relevant to the tasks at hand, people do need to evaluate it and be able to suggest and act on changes that will improve the results.  This usually works best when interests from a multitude of departments are involved and one or more people are responsible for managing and making changes.
  • Make Decisions Based on Pre-Determined Objectives – Regularly reviewing metrics will likely identify opportunities to rededicate resources and focus, but it’s important to make decisions based on the specific short and long-term objectives identified at the beginning of the process.  It’s not necessary to discount an identified opportunity or change of course, but separate efforts.
  • Communicate – Join in the conversation and keep all of your stakeholders informed of your activities and related news.  Comments and suggestions will increase, which will guide the decision making and planning process.  People want to know what’s going on.  Communication should be open, honest and welcomed from all levels within the organization and from outside.
  • Accept Change – Ralph Waldo Emerson pointed out a key perspective of change, which is that “we change whether we like it or not.”   With that logic, focus should be on change management.  Organizational culture and the reference to communication as referenced above are good places to start.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi