Quality goes with reputation.  A person or company with quality will normally have a positive reputation.  A person or company without a quality product or output will have a negative reputation. In many Pacific rim industrial centers, quality is related to morality.  A person who produces items of poor quality is someone with faulty morals.

Quality discussions and ideas are found online, in books, and in consulting and training.  TQM, 8-D, Six-Sigma, 5-S, just name a few of the methods used in industries and companies, ranging from electronic system technologies to healthcare and the service industry.

Good quality requires work.  Do you have to buy all the books, experts, and classes?  NO.  You do need to know a few things about quality and be willing to put in a little time.

In a study that took place in the very early 1900’s, scientists were trying to find out the best environment for factory production.  The scientists called all the workers in the factory together and explained what they were doing and why.  Then the scientists started playing with the environment in the Factory.  They made the lights brighter for a while, and then dimmer for a time.  Then they mad the factory colder, then warmer.  As they this, the scientists explained to the workers what they were doing next and why.

Every time the scientists changed something the production output kept going up.  It took a little time, and then the scientists began to understand what was happening.  Production kept going up because the scientists kept meeting with the production crew and talking with them.  Thus the first rule of communication:

Good quality requires good communication.  For good communications, there must be trust.

If you have not started yet, it is time to make some notes. We are about to get hands-on because this is important.

Time to make a Quality Tree.  The main Trunk of the tree is trust.

Without the full trust of everyone involved, needed information never comes forth.  Without trust fingers point, blame grows; hidden factories and lower quality quickly become the norm.

So start to draw your tree.

The largest branch is communication.  Communication keeps everyone in the loop.  Quality communication ensures no surprises up or down the line.

Another branch is accountability. Accountability is not finger pointing or punishment if things go wrong.  Accountability is, a positive and rewarded virtue bestowed upon all who are part of an organization.  With accountability comes pride in a job well done.   A feeling of accomplishment, and a sense of being part of something larger.

Some companies treat their people as throw away items.  Making outrageous time demands, threatening, and not properly training or motivating their workers.  These companies do not use a positive structure of Accountability and are less likely to have a history of quality because of a breakdown in trust.

To help communications flow smoother, follow the flow.  First, listen then speak.  Often management and supervisors come into a problem, talk a little, shout a little, pass around a few threats, along with an insult or two and then consider the possibility of maybe listening to someone.  By the time they finish, no one wants to talk to them anymore, and the only question is, “Who does this person think he or she is, Trump?”

Keep in mind the rule of thumb.  Two ears and one mouth means listen two-thirds and talk one-third. Talking more is an indication of talking out of both sides of one’s mouth.

Measurement is a required branch to the tree. Knowing what is good and bad about the product, and how long it takes to make the product is very important.  Hiding problems or actual assembly times causes hidden factories.  Hidden factories become very expensive and very costly.

As a process engineer, I had several people come and tell me about a recurring problem on an assembly line.  I checked the Shop Floor Data Collector to see what it would tell me.  I only saw one error, not several.  I did notice the line was running slower than it should and was behind on a total number of units built.

I went to the floor to investigate and see for myself.  I found the answer at the Quality Control Inspection Station.  The Quality Technician, trying to help the line, did not scan errors found and set all the units with errors to the side and fixed them herself.  The thought behind this was to make the build line look better on paper.

I appreciate those who want to help the production line; however, this action did not help.  Engineers hear all types of stories. To make sure they are looking at the right points, engineers rely on data.  If the data is wrong, an engineer cannot identify a problem in the data. The engineer cannot find a root-cause analysis or a permanent fix to the process.

The inspector who caused the problem worked with a sense of fear for the workers, because the factory was undergoing layoffs.  It is important to remove fear by replacing it with accountability, trust, and communications.  Flamed by rumors, fear cause a set of quality failures on the line, because no one had enough trust to admit there was a problem and ask for help.







Author: Mike Balof

A retired Air Force Master Sergeant, Mike used to lay in bed at night and worry about what would happen if his plant closed or found himself without a job. One day his plant closed. Rather than panic and hysteria (OK, maybe a little) Mike found himself carried away on the adventure of his life. Mike started with the best job he ever had working at Home Depot. He spent 8 years working with job seekers at a local workforce center, helping them to find employment. He then started his own company developing courses, writing books and urging others to follow their own paths into the future. Mike holds a Master of Arts in Adult Education and Training and a Bachelor of Business Management, earned through the University of Phoenix and an AAS degree in Electronics Systems Technology from the Community College of the Air Force. Mike is a member of the Delta Mu Delta Business Honor Society.

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