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Built-in Quality has been mis-sold, here’s why

August 7, 2023
4 minutes
Russell Watkins
Guest writer

Getting things in order

There’s no controversy in stating that, in any business where you're creating something, you want to be operating in a safe way, making quality things, and delivering them on time.

For lean people like me, Safety, Quality and Delivery (SQD) appear in this priority order for specific reasons.

Priority 1: Safety - everyone goes home with the same fingers and toes they came to work with, and we create safe products for our customer

Priority 2: Quality -we provide a quality product to the spec that the customer expects, and only then…

Priority 3: Delivery – on time and in full. There’s little point delivering crap on-time!

Making products or Making apps– it’s the same

Whether it's a manufactured product or you’re in the business of building apps, Quality secures our customers into the future. Priceis just a ticket to the game. 

In general, we're well past the days of “Inspect-in Quality”where everyone at the front end of the process just ploughs on and relies on some poor soul at the end to inspect everything, catch all the problems, and protect the customer. There isn’t a person skilled enough or a machine smart enough to be this all singing, all dancing firewall. Most companies recognise the costs and flaws in this approach now and have moved to some kind of “Built-in quality” thinking.

But, and here’s the kicker, “Built-in Quality” thinking alone won't get you to anywhere near the top of your market. The reason? there’s a weakness in the way “Built-in Quality” has been sold (or mis-sold) inside and outside of manufacturing.
The problem stems from the call-and-response-style answer to the question ‘Who owns Quality?’

Generally, a chorus of ‘We all do!’ is the response.Unfortunately, it’s a lazy answer. The sentiment is fine but if we all ownQuality, well, nobody does. It’s a recipe for things to fall between the gaps with cries of ‘I thought he/she was doing that bit’

How you should be thinking

The best companies in the world, including Toyota group, realise the following:

If we make 100,000 cars and ONLY 1 of them is defective, most businesses will be “high fiving” because that's a 99.999% RFT% (Right First Time). Sounds pretty good right? In PPM (Parts Per Million) terms it's even better - 10 PPM, which is generally considered world class. 

But, Toyota amongst others, understand that for the 1 customer out of 100,000 it’s a 100% defect rate! Think about that, 0.001%equals 100% if you’re on the end of the defect. It’s this relentless striving that keeps market leaders outperforming the rest.

How to get there? Well, in Quality terms you go beyond the bland exhortation of ‘Quality is everyone’s responsibility’ to embracing and living “Built-in quality with ownership” 

In Japanese it’s called Jikoutei Kan Ketsu (literally,self-process completion), a way of ensuring that everyone understands and owns the practical things they have to do to “Build-in Quality” at their stage of the process.

 Two Examples

 For example, in a manufacturing business launching a new version of an existing product, it means:

  • The Production Engineer (designing the process and specifying machines) learning from current machines and designing a better jig to avoid accidental damage currently caused during part loading.
  • The Operator (running the machine) doing their morning preventive maintenance checks on the jig because they know that any build-up of swarf in the jig affects the loading.
  • Maintenance knowing that they have to do their quarterly strip down of the jig to keep it working well, because they grasp theQuality implication of not doing their part.

The same principles hold true if you’re designing and building a gamified learning app  - there are a series of handovers that have to be understood and owned. The developer’s works is built on the technical architect’s work. The learning designer can do the finest job in the world but a clunky architecture and glitchy coding will undermine the design intent.

If you want to reach the top in your market, stop agreeing that ‘Quality is everybody’s job’ and get down to the business of agreeing who owns which tasks, in a linked chain, to make it happen.

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Russell Watkins
Guest writer
Russell Watkins is the Co-founder of Sempai®, assisting organisations serious about improving the performance of their business. He has held Operations, Materials and Lean positions within the Automotive, Aerospace and Construction Equipment sectors. Russell’s Lean transformation work has taken him to shopfloors and boardrooms in the UK, Europe, the US, China, India, Japan and South America. He is also leading a digital start-up around lean skills, whilst helping manufacturers with his keen eye for identifying and supporting Industry 4.0 opportunities. Russell is the author of “Adventures in Leanland” a speaker and awards judge. Russell loves factories, they are the ambient soundtrack to his life. Training & coaching a thousand+ people creates a lot of stories to share

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