Point 6 – Training Now? Are You Crazy?

Institute modern methods of training on the job for all, including management, to make better use of every employee. New skills are required to keep up with changes in materials, methods, product and service design, machinery, techniques, and service.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming


A business acquaintance of mine owned a small machine shop back in the ’70’s and 80’s. The last big recession, for those too young to remember.

He had eleven machinists working for him. Business slowed down and the employees knew there wasn’t enough work to keep everyone on board, someone would have to go. My friend called a company meeting. He walked in to some very tense men, each wondering if he was the one who was going to be leaving for good.

Instead of laying a man off, he instituted a program of extensive training and upgrading of skills. Everyday at least one employee was in training on new and better equipment. As his competitors went out of business he bought their newer equipment for a fraction of what it was worth. When the economy picked up my friend was ready, willing and able to produce good quality product at a fraction of the cost of his competition. When other companies tried to pirate his well trained workforce, his employees laughed in their faces. Their boss had stuck with them, they would stick with him.

How did he do it? For one thing he looked at a long term plan. He watched his money and kept a cushion so small hiccups didn’t have a disruptive effect. He had a good solid long term business plan with the track record to demonstrate its’ effectiveness so the banks would lend him money while other companies were being turned down.

Ultimately he fed back into point #1 he had a constancy of purpose to be competitive, stay in business and to provide jobs.

So what about you? Look at some of the grant programs available, you may be able to offer the training at no cost to your company. Even if you don’t have the cash reserves to buy new equipment, or pay roll is tight, ask the employees, would they take a temporary reduction in everyone’s salary to institute a training program that would make them more valuable in the long run? The answer might surprise you.

Point 4 – End Lowest Tender Contracts

End the practice of awarding business solely on the basis of price tag. Instead require meaningful measures of quality along with price. Reduce the number of suppliers for the same item by eliminating those that do not qualify with statistical and other evidence of quality. The aim is to minimize total cost, not merely initial cost, by minimizing variation. This may be achieved by moving toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long term relationship of loyalty and trust. Purchasing managers have a new job, and must learn it.

Dr. W Edward Deming

We all do it. We go to a grocery store and will but the item that costs a few pennies less. Our perception is “they’re all the same”, but are they?

A very long time ago, before generics dominated the market, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer hired me as an engineer. Generics dominated conversations. Should they be allowed to replace brand name products? A well respected television news program did a segment on the subject. They stood in front of our plant, held up a generic pill and made the statement the pill was the same as anything made in our plant, the only difference was our pill cost a dollar and the generic cost a dime. What they didn’t know, or didn’t say, was our pills held the effective ingredient content to plus or minus 1% while the generic held the effective ingredient to plus or minus 25%. Generics took over the market and now if you want a name brand product, the doctor must write the prescription as “no substitutes” and some pharmacies will try very hard to get the patient to allow them to substitute. They insist, generics are exactly the same as name brands, they just cost less.

We look at suppliers the same way. They have to be the lowest price item coming through the door or we won’t buy. The companies that do research and could give us the next breakthrough product are competing with off-shore elements that copy the researching facilities products in violation of patent and copyright laws. And we support the theft by purchasing the cheapest initial product.

A bolt manufacturer can produce excellent product that never needs sorting or inspection. It goes direct to the lines and never causes a problem. A new supplier comes in a fraction of a cent cheaper in initial cost and we jump on the deal. Of course every tenth bolt has damaged threads and can’t be used but we buy from them and pat the purchasing agent on the back for our great savings.

How do we turn this around?

Look at your suppliers. When you go to evaluate the cost, look who helped you solve a problem with an innovative idea. Put a dollar figure to the increased sales or saved customer sales. Adjust the purchase price to reflect what the supplier did for you. Go talk to the line workers and look at the supplier costs on the cost of quality report. Adjust the supplier price accordingly. Point out to all the companies making an effort to quote how this information impacted your purchasing decision. Word will get around. Your suppliers will be watching what they do and looking to help you build your business and how can you beat that?

Point 3 – Cease Dependency on Mass Inspection

Eliminate the need for mass inspection as the way of life to achieve quality by building quality into the product in the first place. Require statistical evidence of built in quality in both manufacturing and purchasing functions.

Dr. W. Edward Deming

When ISO 9000 first came out, the auto manufacturers turned their noses up at it because it did not call for statistical process control. After significant discussion QS 9000 arrived to save the day. It should have been called ISO 9000 plus. The standard listed the ISO 9000 requirement and then added what the automotive companies had learned from Dr. Deming. Things stayed that way until 2000 when the ISO 9001 standard underwent major revisions to focus on continuous improvement and promote statistics.

Converting an inspection based workforce to statistical savvy operators isn’t as hard as it seems. It takes common sense. Process control limits are as simple as deciding when to mow the lawn and how much to adjust the blades or how high a temperature to set a stove when cooking up dinner. If you can compare them to everyday things that don’t use numbers, even the most math-a-phobic operator will lose the fear and begin to apply the technique, but that leads to point #8 and this is point #3.

Have you ever converted a process from inspection to statistical process control? How did it go? I did, it was a fun experience and I’d do it again.

Point 2 – The New Philosophy

The new philosophy

Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age, created in Japan. We can no longer live with commonly accepted levels of delays, mistakes, defective materials, and defective workmanship. Transformation of Western management style is necessary to halt the continued decline of business and industry.

Dr. W. Edward Deming

He spoke those words over 30 years ago but how much more true are they to today. Industry is going away from the USA in search of cheap labor, but has it been worth it?

What does management need to do differently to bring manufacturing back? What do we need do do differently with our children so they respect the person working in the factory? What do we need to do differently so people want to work for a company and have pride in what they do?

ISO started out as a European response to the superior quality of Japan and the USA. How do we bring business back on shore? What do we need to create an environment where manufacturing next door to your client is a wise business decision?

We start by looking at the real overall cost instead of chasing the short term profit. Moving off shore to reduce labor cost can be a false economy. Compare not just the labor and overhead savings but:

1. Increased shipping costs, especially expedited costs

2. Loss of control, does the new facility really understand your clients’ expectations? Assume makes an Ass out of U and Me, what is acceptable in one culture is anathema in another. Lead paint is unacceptable in the USA but used on childrens toys in third world countries.

3. Longer lead times. I dare you to get a rush shipment during Chinese New Year for the far east.

4. Putting a competitor in business. I worked with a fortune 100 company on a project. At the time they experienced extreme frustration. They had sent a product to a Chinese company for manufacturing quotation. The next thing they heard came not from the supplier but their customers. The quoting company had gone to their customers and under cut the fortune 100 company’s prices with an identical product, right down to the UL certification number. Everyone agreed it was a sad situation and the fortune 100 company had no recourse.

5. Addressing a dissatisfied customer. How much is in the pipeline when your customer notifies you of a problem? Add in the real cost of creating a gatekeeper while a solution is worked out and clearly communicated.

Point 1 – Constancy of Purpose

Constancy of purpose

Create constancy of purpose for continual improvement of products and service to society, allocating resources to provide for long range needs rather than only short term profitability, with a plan to become competitive, to stay in business, and to provide jobs.

Dr. W. Edward Deming

How do you create constancy of purpose in an economic time like this? Companies are struggling to stay in business and there are two places to put every dollar of resources so what do you do?

First you figure out how to keep the clients you have. That means understanding what makes you different from your competitors and building on that difference.

Second you understand what they like and dislike about your service and your product. You meet with your employees to discuss how to improve on the dislikes and support the likes. Making them part of the solution.

When your employees feel they are part of the solution morale improves and you drive out the fear of job loss and build loyalty.

You hold a steady course. If you started out with the right idea, don’t second guess yourself. There are ups and downs to everything, including the economy. Companies that chase fads are always one step behind the competition. Instead you get a long term picture, derive goals to meet that picture and work as a team with your employees to accomplish the end goal. Ultimately you will come through tough times stronger than the competition.

Think of it as you would your retirement investments. You buy in and hold through the lows in the market if you are in for the long term with a good investment strategy ultimately you will have a stronger financial position than selling at every market dip.

ISO 9000 is a Change to a Healthy Life Style, Not a Crash Diet

ISO 9000 is a change in the way everyone in the company thinks and behaves. It is not easy to implement correctly and it is very easy to back slide into the old way of doing things.

Think of ISO as a corporate change to healthy living from a junk-food junky. Ninety-nine percent of people don’t get up off the couch dust off the potato chip crumbs and start running five miles while munching on tofu.

Most people get on the scale and come to the realization they have to make a change. They may start out with a crash diet or they may add a walk to their daily routine, the diet may make a big impact in the short term with disastrous long term results while starting a reasonable exercise program will create gradual improvement your need for long term good health.

The corporate scale is the Cost of Quality report. It measures where there is waste and what it costs to keep control of problems. This is a report you should craft carefully because it is how management is going to measure your success or failure. Understand where the numbers come from, what it takes to collect them, and just how closely it relates to the P&L report. If you can’t find a close correspondence between the two reports, you need to revise the Cost of Quality report.

You need to break management into the idea that you are looking at a 5-10 year plan. Yes there will be measurable improvements in the short term but the real benefit comes from continuously monitoring and improving. You are about to implement Dr. Deming’s, Plan-Do-Check-Act and you better do it right or don’t bother doing anything at all.

Don’t Skip the Good Stuff Part 6

Management Responsibility

            There is a saying, “What goes around, comes around” or you can look at this circle and considerate it the visual definition of “synergy”. There is a reason this is a circle. Management responsibility, resource management, product realization, measurement, analysis and improvement are interrelated. Take away any one of these and the ball, better known as your company profits, drops dead. It is another way of looking at Dr. Deming’s ‘Plan Do Check Act” model.


            Looking at section .2 the top box in the circle is management responsibility. I have seen many corporate executives abdicate this point to the quality manager. Usually they pass along the responsibility but not the authority. So what is management responsible for doing?

  1. Steer the bus

This means providing a long term plan, as in a 10 year objective and nothing as vague as “make money”.

  1. Provide the fuel

Management must find the people, funds, equipment and raw materials to make the process work.

            If a company is going to grow and remain in business there must be a written policy for doing business and goals to be achieved. Unless a company is a charity the basic is to make a profit. The question is how much profit? A company isn’t going to double in size without planning, or if it does, it won’t stay that way for long. Management must set out a clear and definitive game plan to get long term positive results.

            The fuel is something else management must provide. Imagine making medicine with untrained people. The result would be catastrophic. Management must find the right people and provide training. Good people are hard to find, they should not be treated as a commodity or the long term growth will suffer.

            Equipment is another resource management is responsible to provide. This does not mean going out and ordering a one of a kind machine to make your particular widget. It does mean making sure the machine consistently produces acceptable product. There is a tool called total productivity maintenance. I have seen examples where using team work and asking the operators for input has resulted in a machine which is 10 years old increasing in productivity by 30% and reducing variation by 50%. Normally productivity goes down and variation increases as a machine ages.

            Raw materials are another matter. There is an old saying, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Raw materials must be capable of turning into good product. At one point I worked for a pharmaceutical company. We produced an injectable drug. The basic material was organic so there were variations. However on one particular lot an extraneous peak showed up in the gas chromatograph analysis. Checking backwards, that same peak had been in the raw material. Countless man hours were wasted because the raw material was not capable. Management had approve the purchase because they were desperate to fill a stock out situation and didn’t want to acknowledge the material was bad.

            Having provided everything necessary to make the product it is time to do just that – produce something to sell. There is an element of QS 9000 I like to implement in ISO 9000 applications. It is called the Pre-Production Approval Process (PPAP). It tests the ability to make a consistent product over a reasonable duration of time, usually half a shift.

            Once the product has been produced, it is time to measure and analyze for improvement and send it to the customer for feedback. One of my clients made toothpaste closures. They made millions of them and were very proud that they only had 12 open closures per 100,000 manufactured. The cost to the toothpaste company was huge down time. Every open closure shut the line down for cleaning for 10 minutes they were filling at the rate of 600 tubes per minute. Seven people stopped producing salable product and wielded scrub brushes for every open cap. With this feedback, my client designed a machine to make sure the closures snapped shut and removed those that did not. Cavity marking on the rejects gave the root cause of the problem and before too long they were whistling along at 3.4 parts per million open caps. Without the analysis and the customer feedback, my client would have lost a very important piece of business. Which would have impacted the long term plan.

So there you have it. The really good stuff for ISO 9000 is before you even get to the standard.

Don’t Skip the Good Stuff Part 5

            What is continual improvement of the quality management system? It is the big picture. It is looking at the performance of all the sub-processes that make the whole process, from getting the customer specifications and orders, to making sure the parts arrives on-time, at a reasonable cost and in a useable form.

            Here is where the quality manager has to avoid the biggest pitfall known to the engineering mind – trying to pick the fly poop out of the pepper. Engineers don’t know when to stop, and they are right, continuous improvement never stops but you have to know when to move on. I can say this as I am an engineer and there have been times when my engineering tendencies have driven my husband, a really knowledgeable construction consultant, to offer specific guidance (Honey, hand me the darned 2 x 4, it doesn’t matter that it’s off by a thirty-second).

            It is the Quality manager’s responsibility to evaluate the effectiveness of each step in the process and to determine where to improve the process. This means having a way to measure the performance of each step and a method to compare the various results. There are a number of tools to use.

            A good customer satisfaction survey is one. One of the most common things I see is a four or five generic question survey where any rating less than excellent draws attention like road kill draws flies. Sales staff and customers a like groan at the thought of filling the thing out and the input has no value. Do some research into your customer base. Talk to your sales staff, field engineers and repair people. They interacts with the customer in the field and you need their input on what is an effective line of questions to get real information from your customer.

            Complaints and returns are another resource when it comes to measuring customer dissatisfaction. There is a difference between measuring satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Depending on the price of a part, you may never know the customer has a problem. They may throw it away and go elsewhere without ever talking to you.

            Measuring internal costs to achieve customer satisfaction is a third. If you have to 100% sort parts before shipping them, this might be a process that needs to improve.

            Once you have all this data you must convert it into dollars of impact on the company. It is the only way to make a fair evaluation. How much is it taking away from profitability? How much sales have we lost? How much sales could we increase? Put a rough estimate together as to costs to evaluate a solution for each problem. Now you have a report that management can understand. Now you are ready to truly implement ISO 9000.

Don’t Skip the Good Stuff Part 4

            Let’s jump to the next page and Figure 1, don’t worry, we’re not skipping the good stuff, just getting a visual. We need to talk about how to obtain results of a process performance and effectiveness.

            We have to start with the customer requirements. Not just the in-house print but the specifications, prints and input of the customer. We need to know how they are using our product and what the method of installation is.

            The example of the reversed angle explains how the transfer of information from one document form to another can be a problem, but we also need to understand how the customer is installing the product.

            I remember being called to an automotive company to explain our excessive defect rate on a part. both shifts were reporting huge problems. The threats were long and loud. Until I pointed out that the two different shifts were installing the part in very different ways. In one case the nut had to be run almost completely down. In the other it needed to be so close to the tip of the bolt as to be in danger of falling off. Our specification from the customer was to have the nut run on “no less than 8 mm”. Of the 100 “defective” parts they had tossed on the table all 100 were at 8 mm. We than helped them do a study to find out which method of installation was most effective for their process. We left the retraining of the shifts to them.

            We could have left the customer embarrassed at their actions and gone away slapping ourselves on the back and talking about how smart we were. However, the problem was not solved and would have come back sooner or later. We would have ended up with a reputation as a poor quality supplier even though we were not at fault.

            Many times the customer’s requirements are not what they have written down. It is very possible the customer doesn’t even know what they require. When you are sure you are meeting the communicated customer requirements and they are having problems with your parts it is time to go find out how the parts are being used.

            This is the two bars in the figure labeled customers “requirements” and “satisfaction”. The circle directly relates to the standard. The continual improvement bar is for next time.

Don’t Skip the Good Stuff Part 3

            Staying in section 0.2, it talks about a process approach emphasizing the importance of

a)    Understanding and meeting requirements

b)    The need to consider processes in terms of added value

c)    Obtaining results of process performance and effectiveness

d)    Continual improvement of processes based on objective measurement

            Understanding and meeting requirements sounds so simple but it was the root cause of my old employer producing unacceptable parts (see Don’t Skip the Good Stuff Part 2).

            Considering the process in terms of added value brings to mind a mistake by a young process engineer. He was charged with finding a way to improve the quality on a product that had approximately two more years of production life and a total sales value of $100,000. He worked diligently researching new systems and methods. He was very proud as he stood before us and proposed we invest $2 million dollars to reduce a .1% defect rate on 250,000 parts worth about 40 cents each to a defect rate of .04%.

            The young man had found a solution that would improve our product quality but the value of his solution to the process was a negative. When working on process improvement it must be cost effective as well as quality effective.

            Look at how the goals are defined to a team assigned a process improvement task. Make sure the team understands the current costs and performance when they start.

            Obtaining the results of process performance and effectiveness and the continual improvement of processes based on objective evidence are blogs for another day.