Monday, March 11, 2013

You Don’t Need Quality Police, Focus on Quality Prevention

In some organizations, we might as well give the quality folks a uniform, a badge and a gun. They act like they are the Quality Police. Progressive companies realize you cannot inspect quality into a product.  By the time product is inspected, its level of quality has already been established. The primary means of ensuring a quality product is delivered is not by waiting until the product is assembled to test it. Great companies build quality in from the start and maintain that quality throughout the manufacturing process. To improve quality, you have to improve the process that produced it.

Generally the most effective way to achieve quality is to avoid having defects in the first place. It is much less costly to prevent a problem from ever happening than it is to find and correct the problem after it has occurred. Focusing on prevention activities whose purpose is to reduce the number of defects is better. Companies employ many techniques to prevent defects for example statistical process control, quality engineering, training, and a variety of tools from the Lean and Six Sigma tool kit.

Start with the idea of preventing defects, not waiting until they are identified and correcting them. Many companies have an active Zero Defects policy where defect prevention is paramount and quality inspection is almost just a verification of what they already know – that the product is defect free. If we can start with quality and maintain that quality throughout the process we will have a quality product.

Quality must go beyond our product specification or contracted service. We cannot add it at the end of the line or inspect it into the product. At best that is only a false sense of security. If we want a quality product it must be made with quality processes by quality minded people. A focus on quality must be intrinsic to the company culture and practices for the customer to take notice.

Quality is about prevention—you cannot "inspect" quality into a product. It has to happen before the inspection process.

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