Introduction to quality Part 3

How is quality achieved? ( Top down approach)

A lot people thought that quality is achieved thru inspection and this is not true at all.   As stated earlier  in “who owns quality” section,  quality can only be attained through design of the product with the customer in mind and manufacturing product with all correct control of process input  such as operator, equipment, method and material which impact  product quality .  An example of correct control of process would be if a machine is needed to cut a product to specific size,  then machine parameter such as type of cutting knife and cutting distance  and pressure must  be set to get all parts being cut clean (no burrs) and to customer specific size.  The cutting process must done by properly trained operator with step by step documented work instruction for the operator to follow.  Then it will follow with proper testing and inspection to check the product quality.

There are 3 types of approach to accomplish a quality product :-

Method  adopted
Best -1
Quality is attain through design, planning and build into the product.
Good -2
Some deficiencies in design and manufacturing of product,  there are quality improvement to address the deficiencies through corrective and preventive action
Average - 3
Ignorant of the design and plan quality into product, lack of quality improvement activities only continue to inspect and test to screen product meet  customer requirement and defective parts

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Quality is achieved by design and building quality into the product and NOT thru inspection.  Inspection is conducted on finished or semi finished product to screen out defect and compliance part.  It is too late for any real action to correct  the process or design of a finished product . 

Most of the company thought that inspection is the only way to achieve quality product which will fullfill customers' requirements.    No doubt inspection is the fastest way to deliver product which comply to the customers' requirements,  however it is the most expensive way, as you might need to reject more that 50% of  the product  to screen out parts which do not comply to specification or customer requirement .  The non compliance part need to be reworked  or worst scrapped which involve cost.  Hence inspection to get ‘quality”  part should NOT be a long term solution.    Figure 3 below show the differences between good design and well controlled process with poor design and badly controlled process  which stress on the point quality is design and build in.

From figure 3a above, you will notice  an organization with less than 50% compliance product (< 50% yield rate) have go to thru the reworked or scrapped cycle 50 times more than an organization with yield rate 99% good parts in figure 3b. 

Most companys' top management failed to recognize this fact or some company who have some knowledge,  however failed to drive their design and engineering team to work towards good quality product and manufacturing process  design thus have to bear the cost of poor quality. 
Top 4 reasons why most company are unable to build quality into product could be
Top management does have any knowledge on quality engineering and only thought quality is achieved through inspection
Top management does not want to invest in good quality engineering infrastructure which include qualified  or certified quality engineer/manager 

Top management  does not realize that everybody including they themselves are the one who contributed to quality of the product and put the blame of poor quality on quality department

Top management has a “just do it” attitude with no patience for proper planning,  not  recognizing that they would have to put in more time and money in inspecting quality and suffer from poor product and process design.

You will notice that I have faulted the top management,  as Dr. Edward Deming (1900-1993), a famous quality guru of past century had stated that management actually contribute almost 85% of quality problem.  Top management is the major culprit of poor quality.

Therefore quality can only be achieved by having an educated top management team in quality engineering and then proliferate it down to the whole organization on the importance everyone in organization play a role from quality product creation to finished goods.

Different aspect of Quality management and quality engineering

There are many components  within quality management and engineering function starting from the most basic  quality control to higher level quality engineering and management.   I shall go thru each of them briefly for  the benefit  of  reader who had just being introduced to quality engineering

Quality control 
Process output  (finished product)
the most basic quality management function which focus on  finished product inspection according to customer requirement

Quality assurance
Process input  (process steps)
Ensure the all procedure or process steps need to make a product to ensure all process step meets preset specification to produce good parts for customer assurance

Quality management system
Planning,  design Process input , output and improve
Management system is a set policies or guideline which company follows to ensure their product  or services  consistently meet customer quality requirement.   The most universal quality management system used is  ISO 9001.  There are four components in quality management systems quality planning, quality control and quality assurance and quality improvement

Quality Planning
Establish document plan
Developing  plan which the organization has to adopt in order to achieve a product which full fill customer requirement with fitness for use

Quality improvement

A program which use systematic methodology  well known models such as Advance product quality planning (APQP) six sigma, 7 QC tools, PDCA model with the purpose of achieving quality improvement objectively.
(you can google those terms as there are many website which give detail explanation & I shall cover in my future blog)

Quality engineering
All  aspect of plan, manage, execute, monitor quality 
Quality engineering would encompasses (according to American Society of Quality :
·        Quality management and leadership – philosophies, management system,  leadership principles, communication, customer relations and supplier management
·        Quality system – quality standards and audit, cost of quality, quality training
·        Product and process design-  product drawing, life cycle reliability
·        Product and process control - material control, measurement system analysis
·        Continuous improvement using statistical tools six sigma

I have reached the last part of "introduction to quality" section of this blog.  I hope that my readers would have a better understanding on product quality definition, ownership of quality, quality in every steps of product creation and various function of quality.  In the future I shall share details on quality methodologies related to six sigma, case studies,  statistical techniques in quality engineering and of course my expertise in supplier quality management.

Introduction to Quality Part 2

Who owns quality -  Quality is Everybody business

Throughout the years of interacting with over 100 companies in  computer  or electronic base component industry,  more than 80% of them  told me that quality department owns the quality of the product.    I am sure you will give the same answer that personnel in the quality department is accountable for a product is quality useless you are already an experience quality practitioner or are  certified quality engineer.

The correct answer would be everyone in the organization who is involved in bringing the product to the end consumer is responsible for product quality.  Top management, designers and planners,  operators in the  manufacturing line  play a role in overall product creation owns quality. 

This is because quality has to be designed in, planned  in and built in and it is not achieved through inspection.  Most of the organization has the misconception that inspection process create quality product and inspection function is the main function of the quality department.  Therefore when customer complain of poor quality,  the counter measure by such organization would always include more inspections.  Thus,  inspection is always attach to quality department and everybody thought that quality department is accountable for product quality.  Poor quality department are always blamed if there is customer complaint of poor quality when every product creation process contribute to the product quality!!

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How do we measure quality?

Consumer (end user) and producer (product manufacturer or supplier) measure quality differently.  As the end user is the pay master therefore every producer must understand how consumer measure quality of the product in order to produce parts which is able to satisfy consumers requirement and “specs”.   Unfortunately not many producer esp top management  is able to appreciate this point and able to drive this point across the organization.  Organizations that are able to measure their product from the consumers' perspective  usually enjoy higher rate of success which resulted in higher sales.

Refer to this youtube for more explanation on critical to customer tree 👇

What consumers measure are very subjective and  each consumer perceived quality differently therefore in order to objectively measure quality,  producer or product/part supplier must be able to identify  a few key measurable characteristics of product which represent general consumer measurement. 

An example below shows how  an important measurable characteristic an electric fan can be identified thru the use of critical to quality tree per below. Critical to quality tree is used to translate the customer's requirements into  measurable metrics and  align to the customer requirement. It is used in six sigma methodology to determine which  key parameters of a product should be measured and controlled.  Through critical to quality to tree analysis,  we have identified 4 parameters which need monitoring -  motor torque, fan blade size,  appearance cosmetic check, motor speed.  During the manufacturing process of the electrical fan,  manufacturer need to ensure the 4 key parameters are being monitored and controlled.  

The  key critical to quality characteristic are then measured/tested  using calibrated measuring/testing equipment  or inspected by inspection equipment or human inspector (applicable appearance that is not possible to be measured). 

Figure 2 Critical to Quality Tree for an electric fan

In summary  we can measure quality once we have identified the key parameters which are important to customer and quality.  


Introduction to Quality Part 1

A lot of people have a misconception that quality is equal to inspection of finish goods from manufacturing process to ensure that the final product fulfill customer’s requirements or specifications.  This is a very narrow minded thinking as inspection only forms a small slice of quality management and engineering.  I still find  that many  quality professional and top management in manufacturing  does not really have very good understanding in the following areas : 

Definition of  quality,  
Why is quality important
Who owns quality
How do we measure quality?
How is quality achieve?
Different aspect of quality
What are the various aspect of quality and different types of quality engineers

All the above items might sound very fundamental, unfortunately there are many misconceptions on the above basic quality topics in manufacturing industries. Therefore I would like to start this blog by sharing the above basics topic for my readers  to understand quality better and share my perspective as a quality engineering professional for nearly 3 decades

Definition of quality

According to American Society of Quality (a well known global leader in quality) quality of the a product is defined as fitness for use, conformance to requirements, and the pursuit of excellence.  There are 2 aspects of quality product
  • Product must fit for use for its intended purpose and has  ability to satisfy stated or implied customer needs
  • A product free of deficiencies and able to function without problem for its intended purpose

This means if I were to buy a refrigerator,  it should have a frozen compartment for my frozen foods and chiller  to  preserve my food item in low temperature and able to function according to the feature given by manufacturer once (fitness of use for its intended purpose). I should be able to install the refrigerator without any problem (free from deficiencies) easily.  After installation the refrigerator should work properly.
Consumer and producer would look at quality differently.  As a producer,  if I  produce or supply product which comply to customer requirement, fit for use  and free from defect  then the product is of good quality. 

For a consumer this would be considered as expected feature such as the refrigerator example above where we will expect the refrigerator to function well after set up and plug in electricity and quality could mean “extra” feature at reasonable cost.  Quality could also mean long lasting from a consumer's point of view in more traditional and might not be applicable anymore in today's “throw way” society where gadget such as smart phone get upgraded almost every 6 months.  With such  frequent upgrade not many consumer will care if the gadget could last for years.

I would personally defined a product as good quality with the following features

  1. Well design according to consumer needs  
  2.  Made from good quality material (high grade material), 
  3. Originated from well control process input such as trained operator,  manufacturing methods, well maintained equipment  and environment which able to reduce variations process input
  4. Minimal handling of the product such as no excessive testing or inspection which minimize handling defects
  5. Appropriate check and balance process (inspection and/or test process) which reflect the performance capability of the product
  6. Do it right the first time with no rework. 
  7. Able to function well beyond its warranty period 
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If product full fill the above seven criteria, not only  will we have a good quality product , we would also be able to meet the cost objective of both producer and consumer as well.

Figure 1 :  Criteria for good quality product

Why is quality important

Quality is important to achieve customer satisfaction and loyalty.  From a supplier perspective,  you must ensure  customer willing to spend money to buy  your product and NOT your competitor’s product.  Customer is the one that determine the quality value of your product base on how much the product full fill their requirements and beyond which sometimes include price target.  Some customer are even willing to pay for reputable brand which synonymous to quality  in their perception.  Therefore at the minimum, producer must have  the ability  to  market a product which is perceive as good quality in order to sell the product.  It would defeat the purpose of business entity  if the product  is not able to sell in consumer market as there is no profit and revenue generated.

Consumer has the power to determine how successful a product would be and how much profit a company would make. In short we would like to have a quality product according to consumer perception of “quality “in a highly competitive market place as they are the one choose to buy your product.  

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