Category: Quality Control

Everyday Quality: Top 5 – #worldqualitymonth

Although we should be focusing on quality all twelve months out of the year, it is nice to have a recognized international dedication to something so important and relevant in today’s global environment. ASQ (American Society for Quality) and others have been spreading the word about November’s World Quality Month for some time now and have really raised awareness.

While Pro QC is offering 10% off audits in China and Taiwan throughout the month, we also wanted to share a few ideas for incorporating quality into everyday life.  It just makes sense that a broader focus on quality would positively impact those issues that we as quality professionals (and many others) worry so much about.  Talk about root-cause analysis…

Top 5: Everyday Quality 

Multi-task less and focus more.

Even though we may feel as if our expertise at multi-tasking is unparalleled, the fact is that we need to keep it under control or the compromise is most certainly quality.  Effective planning, down to the mundane daily details, will keep your mind focused.  The more focused you are, the more likely output will meet or exceed expectations.

Check your work.

Life is very busy… But, it doesn’t mean we can’t squeeze in a few extra moments to double check our work or even reconsider bigger picture strategies or activities.  A second look, or thought, increases the likelihood of quality output… no doubt.

Spread the word.

If everyone is talking about quality, then our expectations will likely increase as well.  Quality should not be used as a marketing position, but rather as a way of life within the organization (corporate culture).  Everyone should be talking about it, and it should be fun!

Support quality as a consumer.

Don’t justify purchasing something that you know fails to meet your expectations.  Use your monetary resources to make purchasing decisions that support companies passionate about what they do and the consumers they serve.  These are the companies more likely to actually incorporate quality methods successfully!

Don’t compromise on personal and professional development. 

Each day, we make decisions.  We make decisions such as which tasks to work on, what to eat and how we’re going to entertain ourselves.  All of these decisions contribute to our personal and professional development and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Spending quality time with family makes us better individuals… learning a new skill that will help us contribute to the greater good makes us better individuals.  Compromising on our daily decisions for whatever the reason may be, should be avoided.  Set goals (priorities/aspirations)… follow them (employing metrics is great for the OCD or general QA crowd)… modify as necessary whenever improvement is identified (corrective action).

Why quality, why now?

Why quality?

At the end of the day, successfully incorporating quality into corporate-wide practices will cost you less, not more, and reap some fairly distinguishable benefits, like…

  • A decrease in costs due to less reworking, consequently producing less scrap
  • Social responsibility (they go hand-in-hand)
  • An improvement in productivity due to less time spent on reworking
  • An improvement in cycle time due to less time spent on correcting mistakes and more time being spent on value-added activities
  • A competitive advantage that supports a solid brand and positive public perception
  • Increased employee satisfaction and retention (reduction in costs associated with turnover)
  • An overall improvement in service

Pro QC’s first Feature Article in the quarterly newsletter discussed Determining the Costs of Quality in more detail.

Why now?

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan once said: “consumers, by seeking quality and value, set the standards of acceptability for products and services by voting with their marketplace dollars.”  This is true… and, we know that consumers tighten that flow of marketplace dollars in times of economic uncertainty.

So, the “bang for the buck” is scrutinized. What better time for introspection… for examining processes and figuring out what’s working and what’s not?  It’s a perfect time to reinvest, develop supplier relationships and forge ahead for growth.  It’s a perfect time to tell consumers what you’re about and why they should cast their vote on you!

Acceptance sampling isn’t scary

As it turns out, a significant number of people find the Pro QC site searching for sampling and sampling related terms such as ANSI Z1.4 or MIL-STD-105E  (no longer in use).  In speaking with organizations, I’ve also detected a certain level of fear regarding how to approach an acceptance sampling strategy.

Fear is unnecessary… In fact, sampling here is nothing more than a tool you’re going to use to provide a realistic (of course statistically relevant) assessment of quality and be able to ultimately determine whether or not product is meeting expectations without having to spend the time and money involved with a 100% inspection.  This is a good thing.

Some advice…

Get your specs straight – Before you even start to think about AQLs and defect classifications, go back and make sure you’ve really evaluated your product and have created detailed product specifications.  Once you have this information, go through each item and determine how you want to classify nonconformance (major, minor or critical).  At Pro QC, we use the following general guideline for defect classifications:

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

Special or General? – The ANSI Z1.4 tables show various sample sizes based on lot (batch)  sizes in relation to Special and General levels. Here, you’ll want to go through your spec and determine what would require higher levels (general) of sampling or lower (special).  For example, if you have an electronic product that requires functional testing (need to make sure it turns on maybe), special levels of testing makes sense because it may be considered destructive.  The same goes for drop-testing to determine the packaging integrity.  Time is an obvious important consideration, as it relates to not only cost but to shipment schedules as well.  An example might look like this:

  • Visual (cosmetic/workmanship) inspection – General Level 1
  • Drop-testing (Package integrity ISTA testing) – Special Level 3
  • Functional Testing – Special Level 1

Single or Double? – Pro QC uses ANSI Z1.4 single normal sampling as a standard, but we have had clients request double.  If you look at the tables, you’ll note the difference is simply the number you look at.  So, it goes back to time and cost, but you’re also considering your level of assurance with the supplier in general.  You can look at less with double if the product meets expectations, but you’ll be taking a 2nd full sample set if not.

Know your AQLs – Acceptable Quality Limits are simply “the worst tolerable process average in percentage or ratio, that is still considered acceptable: that is, it is at an acceptable quality level.” To figure out what works best, play around with the numbers… Plug in your average lot sizes and levels and go through the row of scenarios.  What are you comfortable with?  An example might look like this:

  • Major Defects 1.5
  • Minor Defects, 4.0
  • Critical Defects 0.10

Tweak it – Sampling strategy is something that can grow and evolve with your product. As you develop supplier relationships and analyze inspection feedback, you’ll be able to make adjustments as necessary.

Utilize the experts – Of course, a 3rd party quality assurance provider such as Pro QC, can provide you with expert advice and guidance or even evaluate your product and develop the specs/sampling for you.  That both relieves apprehension and leverages expertise.

Note: International and national equivalents of the ANSI Z1.4 2003 standard exist as ISO 2859, NF06-022, BS 6001 and DIN 40080.

Raising the Voice of Quality: A 5W2H Approach

Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of attending and presenting at the local ASQ Section 1508 meeting over in St. Petersburg, Florida.   I had originally planned to discuss a prior article relating to quality misconceptions but later shifted the topic over to “Raising the Voice of Quality.” After attending the World Quality Conference in May, I was excited and ready to spread the word. I took a 5W2H approach that was well received.  It really was wonderful to reconnect with people that I haven’t seen in years… And, it was also a great opportunity to meet several new passionate quality professionals that live in the area.  Good stuff!

The information I presented ties in with the latest Feature Article we issued through the quarterly newsletter earlier this month.  The full presentation from last night’s meeting can be downloaded here: VoiceOfQuality_5W2H

“If, as Dr. Juran foretold, the 21st Century is to be the century of quality, it’s high time the quality community raises its voice, to bring more attention to what it knows about the quality concepts, techniques, and tools to make the world a better place.”   ~Paul Borawski (www.asq.org/blog)

Quality tools beyond Pareto, PDCA and root cause analysis…

If asked what your favorite quality tools are, you’d likely tell me Pareto, flowcharts, PDCA or root cause analysis.  I know this because I’ve recently reached out via Pro QC’s social network to get some insight.  It seems these tools are also the very same ones I’m most often working with… And, I know there’s more out there and wanted to expand my repertoire through an ongoing effort of trial and error.

I’ve reviewed the Quality Toolbox in the past and do believe this is the ultimate source on the topic.  And, anything not immediately understandable there can easily be Googled.   It’s really just a matter of taking an extra moment or two to pick the best tool for the specific problem.  It’s that “extra moment” that gets you when there’s a to-do list screaming for attention on the other side of the desk!

Dedicating some time to rediscovering existing quality tools that I can use in new ways has given me a few new favorites.  These include:

Fishbone Diagram (Ishikawa) – One of the Seven Basic Tools of Quality, this is a popular choice for identifying as many possible causes for an effect or problem.  Our engineers use it quite often in the field, but I’ve only recently realized there are so many more applications than originally thought.  I’ll admit the feature I favor most is its simplicity.  It mirrors a customizable checklist that adds the additional benefit of direction.  Focusing on people, methods, machines, materials, measurements and environment organizes information very well.  Rather than sticking too long on one topic, I’ve found just getting it all there at first and then attacking them individually generates more ideas. Try it as a tool for identifying the root cause of a reoccurring product defect.

5W2H Method (5 Why Analysis) – I love this method of asking questions about a process or problem! I’ve noticed its return to many of the business textbooks and can’t think of a more fun way of getting some really constructive brainstorming going.  I’ve seen it work brilliantly now both in the classroom and during professional meetings.  I’ve also started using it to help me organize and research articles. I think there’s something reminiscent of grade school that’s fun to get us thinking who, what, when, where, why, how and how much/many! Try it as a tool for developing inspection criteria.

Affinity Diagram – Any large whiteboard just screams for sticky notes, so this is perfect.  I’ve even heard of people putting the sticky notes on the door to organize the information (ideas) into what’s been described as their “natural relationships.”  I’ve used this tool in the past but quite honestly think my initial attempts were disorganized and maybe even missed the point. I decided to give it a try again not too long ago and have had much different results.While I had used the tool as a group effort in the past, I’ve found individual application is much better and removes some of the chaos I had associated with it before.  What’s great about it is that it works really well at something you’re trying to figure out and can keep hanging around for as long as necessary.  So, I add sticky notes to that big whiteboard whenever I think of something on my pending issue… Or, I’ll move them around after something I figured out during an entirely separate event.  It’s the best visual device I can think of that’s also tangible.  Try it as a way to evaluate supplier performance.

Any other recommendations and/or applications of those mentioned are welcome and appreciated!