When Will We Start Dealing With Real Quality?

Thanks for an excellent and straightforward article. I (and others) have been thinking the very things mentioned in the article "Why Quality Gets an 'F'" (R.W. Hoyer, October 2001, p. 32) for a long time. I congratulate ASQ and Quality Progress for printing articles depicting the negative side of ISO 9000, QS-9000 and the state of the current quality profession. When will we get the standards out of the picture and start dealing with real quality (actual performance results)?

Boone, NC

Nasser Rid Ford Of Any Responsibility

As a quality assurance manager in the '60s and early '70s, I admire QP's fortitude in publishing R.W. Hoyer's article "Why Quality Gets an 'F'." It is a clear exposure of how "profit is job #1" at Ford. Jacques Nasser's comment before Congress was a cop-out, ridding Ford of any responsibility for the deadly debacle associated with Nasser's project.

If we carry Hoyer's position one step further, Ford failed to stop the line and fix the problem. Nasser believed then that the way to handle a serious problem is to blame it on a supplier.

Hoyer is urging all of us to get back to basics: recognize customer complaints, use rejection slips, support the review board and take timely corrective action.

Sun City West, AZ

Quality Has Taken A Backseat to Profits

R. W. Hoyer's comments in "Why Quality gets an 'F'" and those he references from Bert Gunter are, in my opinion, true. In recent years, quality has taken the backseat, joining business ethics. Jacques Nasser made this clear with his comments regarding the Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone tragedies. I am afraid Nasser's clear inaction in response to these tragedies will have a lasting, negative effect on Ford. Until folks understand the proverbial bottom line is secondary to the needs of the customer, disasters like this will continue to happen. Endorsement of a Six Sigma culture is not the answer--it will lead to a similar end.

The article shows "product out" rather than "customer in" thinking, which is evidence a system does not exist. Profit comes at any cost. The sad return to financial paradigms, as correctly suggested by Hoyer, is promoted and reinforced by Wall Street. This has caused a terrible setback in the quality community and with the quality movement. If people are not losing their lives, they're losing their jobs.

The quality community needs to educate others on the benefits of a quality paradigm, one consistent with improvement of everything and everyone in the system. We are after quality of life, not finger pointing over tragedies in a vain attempt to maintain profitability. I believe many of the families currently living with the tragic consequences so easily dismissed by big business would agree with me on this.

Thule Inc.
Seymour, CT

Ford Lacks Customer Feedback System

The article "Why Quality Gets an 'F'" by R.W. Hoyer was not only well-written, but also showed some courage on the part of ASQ and the staff at Quality Progress. We have been reading apple pie and motherhood articles in Quality Progress for too long.

At Ford, quality is not job #1. How could it be when the company doesn't have any quality customer feedback system? I want to challenge anyone to find a way to communicate with a quality manager at Ford. I spent three days trying and failed.

My local Ford dealer had a problem getting the correct axle for my Explorer last winter. (It took two weeks and the shipment of three wrong rear axles before we got the correct one.) The dealer staff didn't even have a phone number to call so they could verify they were getting the correct part before it was shipped.

In an effort to help my dealer solve the problem, I asked if there was a way to report this obvious system error, and to my disbelief, there wasn't. I asked everyone I called for the phone number of anyone at Ford with the title "quality manager" and never found one. I called Ford's customer complaint phone number and talked to a pleasant young lady who had no concept of quality feedback or the word "quality." She said she couldn't help me, but would log my concerns.

At least it is nice to know why quality is not job #1 at Ford anymore. Thanks, Hoyer, for telling us not only why Ford is not interested in quality, but for exposing the hoax behind ISO 9000--something I have suspected for years.

Retired engineer
Yakima, WA

You Can't Inspect Quality Into a Commodity

The title of "Why Quality Gets an 'F'" assumes quality should take responsibility for the problem. Quality must be built into a product. You can't inspect quality into a commodity.

In Firestone/Bridgestone's defense, the tires were probably built to Ford's specifications. The question in my mind is, was the vehicle tested with the tires in mind? Auto manufacturers test vehicles under a barrage of different scenarios.

Lenexa, KS

Things Haven't Changed Much in 20 Years

Most of what I learned about bad manufacturing, design practices and poor quality I learned over 20 years ago in an automobile assembly plant. Jacques Nasser's comments lead me to believe things have not changed much. It's a good thing I did not learn about systems there, or I, like R.W. Hoyer in "Why Quality Gets an 'F'," would have missed the obvious flaw in Ford Systems Engineering's V Model. There is no feedback loop.

As everyone with a basic understanding of systems knows, the feedback loop is the critical piece of the system. Negative feedback (feedback that negates change) tells the system if outputs of the transformation process are doing what they were designed to do, while positive feedback provides the system with information on whether it is continuing to meet the needs of its customer base.

Lack of negative feedback causes poor quality products (defective vehicle systems) to reach the marketplace; lack of positive feedback causes products nobody wants (ugly vehicle systems) to reach the marketplace. Ford's system concept provides us with concrete evidence of what can happen when there is no feedback loop.

Hoyer criticizes the failure of QS-9000 to prevent the tire debacle, but how effective have statistics been in preventing tire blowouts? Where are all the high-powered Six Sigma consultants Ford hired to help discover the magic of statistics? Statistics alone, like looking at tires alone, will not improve quality. Statistics and ISO 9000, like tires, are components of a dynamic system, not a magic bullet. Until we realize that, we will continue to produce defective products nobody wants.

Coyote Solutions
Wantagh, NY

Standard Registration Doesn't Guarantee Quality

I agree with most of the statements by R.W. Hoyer in "Why Quality Gets an 'F'," but he made a common mistake regarding standards.

ISO 9001 is fundamentally sound. It captures the quality management body of knowledge, from its beginning as MIL-Q-9858 in 1954 to the present, quite nicely. Of course, it's not rocket science, but it is good stuff. The same is true with QS-9000.

Hoyer confuses these standards with conformity assessment to them. Indeed, registration to these documents does not always guarantee acceptable quality of the resulting goods or services, but let's not condemn the standards because they're inadequately implemented.

Columbia Audit
Kennewick, WA

Comments Well-Meaning, But Content Disappointing

"Why Quality Gets an 'F'" may have been a well-meaning article, but it was disappointing. The author rested his sensationalistic generalization that quality deserves an 'F' on the argument that if the American automotive quality leader is associated with tire failures, the rest must be worse. But performance is demonstrated empirically, not by logical syllogism. The article barely acknowledged evidence that American automakers have advanced tremendously since the '80s.

Fact based management also requires operational definitions, yet the author did not share one for his grading system. Without an operational definition for measurement, how will we know when American automakers deserve an "A"?

Hoyer admits the root cause of the tire failures is unknown; unfortunately, the article points fingers without solid analysis. Is a product dangerous if sold by a firm that offers different warranties for different components, adopts standards, attempts value engineering or asks suppliers to undertake more component design and development? These approaches are common to many successful companies, so it doesn't prove they're the cause.

The puzzle is incomplete. Does evidence suggest specific causes? Are tire blowouts rare but predictable--an undesirable but inherent by-product of the road-driver-product-quality assurance system? What correction and prevention loops exist among suppliers, producers, insurance firms and public agencies? What lessons are suggested about the need to test safety related components and maintenance recommendations for interaction effects? If the article offered ideas for improvement, I missed them. These and other topics were unexplored. The implications are huge.

Granted, this was an op-ed piece, but its angry tone seemed out of place. Are we returning to the days when assigning guilt was a preferred tool for improvement? Haven't we learned the blame game tends to impede rational inquiry and progress? I hope forthcoming opinion articles offer more insight and less invective.

Performance Management Inc.
Kalamazoo, MI

There Should an Award For Environmental Quality

Yes, I fully agree there should be an American National Environmental Quality Award (ANEQA) modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, "Up Front," October 2001, p. 6 and Hampton Scott Tonk, "Proposal for an American National Environmental Quality Award," Quality Progress Discussion Board on www.asqnet.org). This aspect of quality deserves its own award at the same level as the Baldrige--it is important for determining the quality of life on Earth, not only for our generation, but for future generations. It should not become embroiled in politics, bureaucracy and inaction.

Quality professionals have an important role to play in preserving our natural resources because we are well-trained, motivated and passionate about all aspects of quality. But why not go for an international environmental award, which would have a positive influence on the entire planet? We could call it the Global Environmental Quality Award (GEQA).

Andover, KS

Percentage Presentations Can Alter Perceptions

Reading Richard F. Gunst's article "Inferences on Percentage Changes" ("Statistics Roundtable," October 2001, p. 56) reminded me of some issues regarding percentages that have intrigued me lately. If a company's on time delivery percentage starts at 100%, but drops 10%, rises 10%, drops 10%, rises 10%, drops 10% and rises 10%, the company is not back where it started. Instead, it is down to 97% due to the different equational denominators when the percentage is rising vs. falling.

Try this with an even bigger percentage, such as 50%, and the drift is more pronounced. Similar arithmetic could result in having a slight misperception if your mutual fund dropped 30% this year after rising 30% last year. Overall you have actually lost.

If anyone knows of an existing term for this phenomenon, please let me know. If not, we could call it "Lore's Persense." And if that's not enough to win the Nobel prize, let's say a company had 10 successful patents out of 100 attempts, or 10%, followed by a period of 20 patents out of 100, or 20%. Some people might say the patent rate increased only 10%, while others might say patents increased a whopping 100%. Different ways of presenting percentages can drastically change perceptions.

DAKO Consulting
Troy, MI

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this article

Add Comments

View comments
Comments FAQ

Featured advertisers