Fine-Tuning Quality Tools

In June of last year, QP published an article entitled "Quality Profession Must Learn To Heed Its Own Advice," and it clearly made an impression. In fact, readers of this magazine voted it as the best article of the year.

The author of that piece, Tom Pyzdek, made the simple but provocative point that those of us who care about quality should do more to live up to the lofty claims that we make on its behalf. "As we always tell our employers, suppliers and clients, we can never be good enough," he wrote.

Quality is such an attractive banner that sometimes we think we can get away with just waving it, without doing the hard work necessary to achieve it. That approach won't last forever, however, and eventually problems start coming to the surface.

When they do, it's easy to start pointing fingers. Senior executives didn't take quality to heart, say some. The work force wasn't truly involved, say others. Or maybe it's concluded that quality just isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Fortunately the quality profession has a self-correcting mechanism, the recognition that continuous improvement is vital and necessary. Sometimes improvements come on a global scale, such as with International Organiza-tion for Standardization, known as ISO, standards, or in a dramatic burst of publicity, as with Six Sigma.

But quality improvements also come incrementally, when practitioners refine their use of established quality tools. This month's issue is devoted to three examples of quality tools that have been fine-tuned to make them more effective. Starting on p. 37, Mark Kaganov discusses the use of checklists in writing quality manuals. As he points out, the arrival of the final version of ISO 9000:2000 makes this a good time for companies to look for ways to improve their development and revision of quality manuals.

S.K. Vermani describes an approach that Boeing has used to deal with shortcomings in traditional statistical process control in an environment of reduced production rates and smaller lot sizes (see p. 43). The article combines the principles of both precontrol and short run charts.

In his article on Pareto analysis (see p. 51), William Stevenson examines the typical approach, using frequency of occurrence, and explains why this can lead to problems. He then goes on to suggest alternatives that can focus attention on  the most important factors.

If nothing else, these three articles show that the quality profession is indeed capable of taking its own advice by using quality thinking to improve quality tools.

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  Miles Maguire

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