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Quality comes “Before the Floor”

Customer quality expectations are rising. When you buy a new TV, computer, iPad, (insert your shiny new gadget here) you expect it will work and be free of defect from the get go. You don’t want to take delivery and find a defect.

Let me say it again, customer quality expectations are rising. We’ve all been trained to expect “perfection”. This perfection is expected throughout the entire supply chain. If you took a typical supply chain at its most basic level and backward chain it, it would look like something like:  “End” Customer (retail or commercial) > Seller (retail or commercial) > OEM > Tier 1 Supplier > Tier 2 Supplier > Tier 3 Supplier…

At every point in the chain improved quality drives improved schedule, improved costs, improved RONA, and improved process efficiency. In lean lingo, defects/scrap are one of the 8 deadly wastes. Within each link, your customer needs your parts to be defect free in order for the manufacturing processes to be defect free. The end customer will thank you. (Or at least not write a negative review on Yelp.)

Quality starts and ends where everyone internalizes and participates in the quality cycle. Everyone. But where does all this “improved” begin? I’m inclined to think it starts “before the floor”. Before you go all chicken/egg on me… let me explain.

Nowadays we have enough computer models and “invisible” processes which are the norm in the manufacturing world. SO much so that we can take them for granted. I come from an era where Deming wasn’t always as popular as his legacy is today. But these invisible processes are foundational to the manufacturing floor. Quality inputs deliver quality outputs.

And just as the hard working folks on the floor assemble, mill, measure, or wire something to create an assembly, knowledge workers add, subtract, input and shape data to create and maintain the process(es). Any error in the data causes rework or “information scrap” in the form of time wasted.

Just as floor craftspeople strive to build it right the first time, knowledge workers strive to deliver the report, spreadsheet, system conversation, product design — “right the first time”. Surprisingly, lean concepts for the floor, such as poky-yoke, also work for the knowledge worker. Six sigma and black belts work for the floor and the office.

A culture of quality starts when each of us strive for less errors and more execution of excellence. No matter what our job is.

Be Intentional,
Melissa