Fitness for Use

Quality is fitness for use

Quality is fitness for use

Fitness for Use Categories

Dr Juran defined a non-conformance or reject or defect as “unfit for use”. Parts could be broken into one of four categories:

  • Fit for use and conforming to specification
  • Fit for use but not conforming to specifications
  • Not fit for use but conforming to specifications
  • Not fit for use, not conforming to specifications

Conforming to Specifications Not conforming to   specifications
Fit for use   These are no problem – no action is required This causes seriousInternal communications   problems
Not fit for use   This causes serious External communications   problems These are no problem – no action is required

 

Fitness for Use = Specifications

In two of the four categories, the specifications are useful. The supplier and the customer agree and the customer always get product that they want. When the parts are fit for use and conform to specifications product ships and everyone is happy. In the same way, if the product is not fit for use and does not meet the specification, the supplier will incur a cost but not lose a customer. Everyone is in agreement.

Fitness for Use≠ Specifications

Two of the categories generally lead to a level of (sometimes) controlled chaos. When the parts are fit for use but fail to meet the specification the specifications need to be changed. Understand fitness for use does not mean a product that will function but is cosmetically unsatisfactory. This product meets all the needs of the customer and they see no difference between these products and what they normally receive. Internal communications and conflict will occur until the specifications are revised.

The other category should be considered catastrophic for the supplier. The product does NOT meet the customer’s needs but the supplier views it as conforming to specification, or satisfactory product. It is here that a root cause analysis and long term preventive action is needed.

Controlling Specifications Controls Fitness for Use

Specifications are key documents for training and communication. The customer either sends their specifications or orders a catalog cut which defines the product performance. The first key step to controlling quality starts at Sales. When they take the order, they must understand and communicate the customer needs. If the customer does not what variations in color greater than .5 microns, sales must communicate this back to engineering. Engineering and manufacturing must look at the specifications and their process capability and decide of the specifications can be met. If not they must communicate back to Sales to negotiate a solution.

Clear communication at the start of the process which defines what can and cannot be done is the first step to good quality product, a satisfied customer, and a profit for the supplier.

 

Quality Management

Management requires everyone to work together for quality
Management requires everyone to work together for quality

A Fundamental Concept for Quality Management

Dr. Joseph M. Juran taught that quality management used the same three processes as financial management. They are:

  • Quality Planning
  • Quality Control
  • Quality Improvement

Quality Management – Quality Planning

Of the three elements, inadequate quality planning is a major source of quality deficiencies. Many of the remedies for quality improvement projects consist of re-planning quality. The best way to deal with poor quality is to prevent it in the first place. The earlier in the process a cause of poor quality can be removed the lower the cost to the company.

Quality Management – Quality Control

In creating quality control it is important to choose what to control, establish a unit of measurement, establish performance standards, measure performance, interpret the difference between actual versus the standard, take action on the difference. This is similar to Dr. Deming’s Plan-Do-check-Act cycle.http://technacon.com/category/dr-w-edward-deming

Quality Management – Quality Improvement

Improvement is created on a project by project basis. The first step is to identify specific projects, organize teams, discover causes, develop remedies, prove the effectiveness of the remedies, deal with cultural resistance, and establish controls to the hold the gains.

Quality Management – Return on Investment

As a rough rule of thumb, the average improvement project is worth $100,000 per year in decrease waste/cost while the average one-time cost is approximately $10,000-20,000.

Quality Management – Lessons learned

Some of the lessons learn through applying quality improvement projects are:

  • The return on investment in quality improvement is among the highest available to managers and quality improvement is not capital intensive.
  • The most decisive factor in the race for quality leadership is the rate of quality improvement

 

http://www.qualitycoach.net/products/jurans-quality-handbook-the-complete-guide-to-performance-excellence-9780071629737.asp

Quality Management follows the same basic principles as financial management, has a high return on investment and a low capital investment requirement.

Responsibilities

Quality is cyclical. Everyone contributes to the responsibilities

Quality is cyclical. Everyone contributes to the responsibilities

Who is Responsible for Quality?

Just who is responsible for quality; the customer or the processor or the supplier? Dr. Juran said they were all responsible for quality.

Customer Responsibilities

The customer must share in the responsibilities to produce a product that is fit for use. They must:

  • Transmit the needs to the supplier
  • Provide feedback to the supplier
  • Obtain feedback from the supplier

Transmitting the need is fairly clear. Provide accurate information as to specifications, delivery and expected costs. Providing feedback to the supplier is also easy to understand, if the product is unsatisfactory, tell them.

It is also necessary to provide positive feedback. At one company a customer service rep always did a little more for her clients. She would follow up on orders and check on their progress, not just in the MRP system but going out to the factory and making periodic physical checks. Thanks to her efforts more than a few errors were prevented. However, her supervisor had a performance measurement of time taking calls. When the rep was in the factory she wasn’t taking calls. There was no feedback system to her supervisor as to the effectiveness and importance of her actions so it did not appear on her performance reviews. Ultimately the rep was terminated.

The last bullet is one that is normally left out. Some of this comes from the concept “the customer is always right” or as one person put it “he who has the gold rules. The customer has the gold.” We supplied a product to an automotive manufacturer. The specification for the nut placement on the bolt was “8 mm max from the end”. Product shipped to specification. The first shift had been trained to slip on the product over both parts and tighten the nut. This was only possible if the nut had been backed off to the end of the bolt. The second shift slipped the product on one side and later inserted the other side. With the bolt backed off, the product would fall off before the assembly could be completed. Both shifts rejected the parts continually for the nut placement. The customer was furious over our “poor quality” back charging us and threatening to pull the business. They were not interested in hearing the cause of the problem. We were ordered to “fix it!” The fix – we sent our sales staff in once a month on both shifts to train the operators. The issue belonged to the customer they needed a mechanism to receive feedback.

Processor Responsibilities

The people and equipment producing the product are the most common owners of quality. They must:

  • Plan the process to meet the customer needs
  • Control the process to meet the customer needs
  • Improve the process based on customer feedback

This is the focus of most corrective actions and many people end up with the misconception that the processors own the quality responsibilities. This is not true. Quality is everyone’s job.

In my example of the customer service rep being fired for proactively checking in the factory, how many people caught the fact that she was addressing a symptom of poor quality and not the root cause? Since she was finding repeated mistakes in the process which would have produced poor quality parts, she should have gone to the person in charge and pointed out the situation. That should have resulted in root cause analysis and corrective action and she would not have needed to be in the factory.

Supplier Responsibilities

The supplier is the company as a whole that takes and order and provides a good or service. The supplier is also the previous step in the process. It is imperative that the supplier:

  • Knows who are the customers
  • Understands the needs of the customers
  • Avoid creating problems for the customers
  • Obtains feedback from the customers

As a company it is not enough to understand your own product and offer a “take it or leave it” attitude. The world is competitive and someone else is willing to step in and understand the customer’s needs and deliver exactly what they need, when they need it. A supplier must understand how the product is being used and proactively offer goods or services that best fit the customer needs. In the example of the nut position, we did offer to make two part numbers with the only difference being the nut location. The down side was maintaining inventories so the ultimate solution was for our staff to train the customer’s operators. Once we went in and talked to the people using the parts we were able to come up with a solution that avoided a problem for the customer. Did the customer fail to take on the responsibility to train their operators? Yes. Did we step up and solve the customer problem? Yes.

In the case of the internal customer, it is important to know how our product/subassembly/service is used. At one plant, a subassembly was a piece of cord cut to a set length and dropped into a gaylord then shipped across the ocean. At the next step the operator would attach the cord to a hook and wind the cord up, securing it with a rubber-band. As you can imagine the cords were twisted and tangled together and difficult to separate, wasting a great deal of time and frustrating the operator. The ultimate solution was to buy the cord in spools and set up a machine to attach the cord, measure and cut to length and automatically wind it. As an interim step the people cutting the cord would wind and rubber-band it with a tail sticking out to have the hook attached. The time to do the next operation was cut to a fraction of the original time. An interesting by-product was the wound cords took up less space and decreased the shipping cost as well.

Quality is everyone’s responsibility. It is the customer’s responsibility, the processor’s responsibility and the supplier’s responsibility. When each takes their responsibilities and acts on it the overall cost goes down and the quality improves.

Don’t Skip the Good Stuff Part 2

            If you skip down a couple of paragraphs (actually it is good reading so don’t skip the good stuff) it talks about the advantage of the process approach providing control over the linkage between the individual processes. This one may need to be read a couple of times to make any sense.

            Here is another way of looking at it. An auditor once told me 90% of his findings came not from the processes but from the hand off between processes. In other words, mistakes came from poor communications and lack of ownership. This is the place the quality manager needs to be most vigilant. No one else is going to be looking at these because no one has clear ownership. If you’ve ever spent even a few minutes on material from Dr. Deming or Dr. Juran you’ll understand how this creates failure. 

             I was doing an initial audit on a new client and following an order that was in manufacturing and due to ship the next week. There was a discrepancy between the purchase order revision of the print and the manufacturing documentation. In engineering I found the order had been returned to sales because the revision required a significant tooling investment on a product that engineering understood was being phased out. As far as Engineering knew Sales was handling the situation. As far as Sales knew, the product was in production. The problem was no system for communicating print issues back to the customer. Engineering wasn’t responsible and Sales wasn’t responsible so no one addressed the issue.

            Want to find the points in the system most likely to fail? Sketch the process from customer through your company and back to the customer. Circle points of hand off between departments. Check how this flows if things are working and how the flow of communication works when something goes wrong. Pay particular attention to who is responsible for what actions. Now quiz people and see if they are aware of their responsibilities.