3 Ways to Use Defect Data to Drive Improvement

Our quality engineers collect data from supplier locations all over the world, and we encourage our clients to get as much value as possible from our reporting to drive overall improvements and support successful supplier partnerships.

Consider the simplified example of conducting weekly pre-shipment inspections of one product at a single supplier site.  The information provided in the product specification determines the defects and whether they are major, minor or critical, which the quality engineer checks for on-site when evaluating the random samples.  An accept, reject or on-hold determination is made for each inspection based on the AQLs and other factors, but defect data can be tracked over time to add value over just the individual shipment result alone.

Here are three ways to get more from defect data:

1) Evaluate a check sheet or other data chart over a period of time such as the basic information below.



2) Visualize the information to observe and compare trends over any determined period of time.


3) Incorporate multiple suppliers to target improvement efforts at each location.  For example, is one supplier exceeding at meeting expectations in one or more areas where others are not?  Why? Use quality tools to further examine root causes and generate corrective actions.

SupplierComparisonThese examples only scratch the surface of what can be captured from quality inspection reports.  Each organization is unique and can determine how to select the data most relevant to goals and objectives.

Quality Tools for Quality of Life

Celebrating Chinese New Year (Gong Xi Fa Cai!) has us thinking about resolutions again.  Pro QC’s Communications Director met with local quality professionals recently through the American Society of Quality’s network in the Tampa Bay area and discussed the application of quality tools to quality of life.

Highlights from this discussion reveal a compelling case for both employers and employees:

  • “75% of our job success is predicted not by intelligence, but by our optimism, social support network and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way.” (Happiness Advantage)
  • “Increasing your optimism can improve your productive energy by 31%.” (Happiness Advantage)
  • “Research has shown that increased activity reduces stress, increases self-efficacy and is proven to help balance work and family.” (Harvard Business Review)
  • “Workers become more productive, have less sick days, and contribute to a lower turnover.  They are more adaptable to change and are shown to contribute to a positive work environment”  (Happiness Advantage)

Suggestions discussed for improving quality of life include:

  • Brainstorm – What are your goals in 1yr, 5 yrs and your lifetime?  Consider: Career, Financial, Education, Family, Attitude, Physical, etc.
  • Audit yourself. Conduct a personal SWOT analysis.
  • Conduct a Quality of Life assessment.  Use tools like GROW or The Energy Project audits.
  • Use an affinity diagram to group brainstormed ideas or SWOT  information… Focus on the 20%. Pareto always fits.
  • Set SMART goals – Create calendar reminders to assess and improve as necessary.
  • Use an app & or set calendar reminders to walk – Work up to 10,000 steps per day. Have walking meetings. 
  • Flowchart your day or specific activity to identify areas of improvement.
  • Use a Grid Analysis for important decision making.  Refer to the example we have posted in the past using supplier selection.
  • Develop a personal mission statement. As Drucker would say, “What business are you in?”
  • Use ISO 26000 as a guideline for personal social responsibility – Audit yourself.  
  • Use To-Do lists to manage time. Each day, identify activities that focus on both short and long-term action items.  
  • Track health data with wearable technology, such as Fitbit.  
  • Use Lifehacker’s Daily Personal Inventory Form to identify root causes.
  • 3-to-1 ratio – Keep a daily list of 3 things your thankful for. “Research shows you’ll be more resilient to adversity and better able to achieve things.” It is noted up to a 15% decrease in stress can be achieved by doing this daily for 10 minutes.

Other resources:

Action for Happiness:

“Everyone’s path to happiness is different. But  review of the latest research has found 10 Keys to Happier Living that consistently tend to make people’s lives happier and more fulfilling.”

The Happy Manifesto (Free Download) – Make your organization a great place to work.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeoplePersonal Workbook – Stephen R. Covey

TEDx – The Happy Secret to Better Work

“Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we’re positive, our brains are more motivated, engaged, creative, energetic, resilient and productive.”  The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor

3 Ways to Improve Communications with Suppliers

Developing and maintaining strong supplier partnerships depends on a solid foundation of successful communication.

In our thirty years of experience at the table with clients and suppliers around the world, we’ve seen a range of outcomes where communications are concerned.  The impact is quite often more substantial than you may think, with some arguing that communications are the primary reason for a partnership’s success or failure.

think it aboutCertainly, there is no shortage of recommendations out there for improving communications.  However, our three recommendations focus on suppliers and our observations over the years.

1. Recognize that communication is about understanding. 

In order for us to understand a perspective outside of our own, we need to actively listen.  We are all guilty of wanting to believe we’re right, but the mindful moment is when we realize that others think they are right as well.

Recognizing that communication is about understanding means that we allow all parties to express their position without judgement, interruption or disrespect.  Communication ceases to exist without this.

Ask yourself, what is their purpose as compared to yours at this particular moment?  Our clients and their suppliers often find their objectives are more similar than they thought.  With common ground, understanding is less stressful and more focused on problem solving.

Bonus: Taking time to listen and evaluate in any given situation actually saves time because it’s likely to avoid conflicts, miscommunication, etc.

2. Nonverbal communication counts.

In addition to managing our own nonverbal communications, it is helpful to assess the other party’s as well.

The tone of someone’s voice is considered nonverbal communication.  Be mindful of the tone in any communications, from email to face-to-face. Clarify before assuming. 

With operations in over thirty countries, we recognize there’s a heavy reliance on email.  But, when emails and regular phone calls fail to get the desired results, try Skype (or whatever similar) or an actual face-to-face before giving up.  The best communicators know exactly when to make that call.

3. Stay positive.  Seriously, stay positive.

Staying positive definitely sounds easier than it may be at times, especially when you’re facing production issues, shipment deadlines, etc.  Higher stress situations often send all of the regular rules of communications packing. You want your purchase order and you want it to match the specifications.  The supplier wants their payment and says you weren’t specific enough.  What’s there to smile about in this situation?

Well, take a moment and consider the effect of not smiling in this situation.  Not staying positive has a much higher incidence of the situation not getting resolved in an ideal manner.  Even if you feel like you’ve gotten what you wanted in any given situation, the future of the relationship  may have suffered because you didn’t think about the long-term investment.  There’s often significant value there.   And, consider that even if you don’t value this particular relationship, it is entirely possible to believe that your negative reaction will result in a poor perception of your organization to your stakeholders.  That’s not good.

So, be positive… Take that extra moment to process the effect that being negative will have on the situation and rest assured you do catch more flies with honey.

Fishbone Example: Rejected Pre-Shipment Inspections

We like Ishikawa’s fishbone diagrams, also referred to as cause and effect diagrams for good reason.  They’re great for figuring out why something isn’t working.

For our clients, it is not uncommon for pre-shipments inspections to uncover trends in failures.  When this happens, we want to know why the problem is occurring so appropriate corrective actions can be taken.

We shared a useful four minute overview of fishbone diagrams some time ago, but also decided to put together a general example specific to our experience in the quality industry.  ASQ and Mind Tools also have great resources and templates on the subject as well.

The following process took place to create the fishbone diagram example below.

  1. We talked about the problem and defined it in a way that was specific and relevant.  In this case, there were a series of rejected pre-shipment inspections where paint defects were exceeding AQLs as part of the visual evaluation.
  2. We brainstormed categories that would have an effect on this problem.  We read about and do find the use of sticky notes to be a very effective way to organize this information.  Also, looking through examples can help with this, as there are a handful of very common categories used.  The categories are used as the branches off the main arrow.
  3. We brainstormed the issues digging deeper into each one and including them where they fit best in the categories.  Keep asking why to get a more in-depth evaluation.  Layers in the branches can subdivide out the issues further, as necessary.
  4. We analyzed the diagram and did further research into the causes we listed.  When identifying causes and incorporating corrective action, follow-up metrics are very useful in determining if your actions have produced the desired result of effectively resolving the problem you stated.


5 Reasons Packaging Integrity Matters

Packaging is considered to be both the presentation of products to consumers, as well as the configuration in which products will be expedited through various channels.

The master carton or “pack” design includes the configuration in which product will be shipped through channels for end-user consumption, making it especially important where packaging integrity is concerned.

Here’s why:

1) Carefully planned packaging includes both cost savings obtained through the minimal use of materials, weight and labor, as well as reductions in potential rework costs.

2) Packaging has a direct impact on the perception of quality by the consumer.  

3) Orientation is an important consideration because the carton itself only has stacking strength in one direction, which is why it is imperative that the pack be designed the way it will be stacked in transit.  Labeling is important in communicating packaging requirements.

4) Packaging experiences a number of potentially damaging forces, which might include shock from handling, drops, vibration from transportation or compression from stacking in warehouses and vehicles.

5) Above all else, the objective of packaging is to insure products arrive safely in the hands of consumers without sustaining damage or other potential cosmetic or aesthetic issues.

Pro QC uses the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) 1A standard for special testing during on-site inspections. This evaluation focuses on the drop-test of individual cartons at a corner, edges and sides. The ISTA Series 1 is considered non-simulation integrity performance testing and is designed to challenge the strength and robustness of the product and package combination, not to simulate environmental occurrences. Pro QC considers defects resulting from this test as critical, so any issues noted with the product result in a reject status.

Additional test procedures are available through ISTA that also incorporate vibration, compression and atmospheric conditions. “Use of ISTA test procedures reduces risks in the transport environment and increases confidence in the safe delivery of a tested packaged-product.”

There are two types of tests that ISTA offers, which includes performance tests and development tests. According to ISTA, performance tests “result in a pass/fail assessment and are used to determine the viability of a packaged product to survive normal shipment. Development tests compare relative performance to two or more designs or the same design from different suppliers.”

We posted an article related to the Importance of Packaging in our quarterly newsletter.  Contact us for additional information.