Remembering Russ

Thank you for publishing Gregory Watson’s excellent tribute to the late Russell L. Ackoff ("Breaking From the Pack," March 2010). As a student of his for more than 45 years, I have not read a better short description of Russ’s themes.

Those who knew him will miss his amazing powers of explanation, of storytelling and of challenging students (often to their dismay), and his ability to engage deeply with people at all levels of rank and status all over the world.

Professor Russell L. Ackoff, a fine man and an amazing teacher, will be missed.  

Martin F. Stankard
Center for Organizational Dynamics
University of Pennsylvania

Reliable source

In the article "Quality 3.0" by Kreg Kukor (February 2010), part of the focus seems to be on the increased emphasis on the supply chain, as well as the control and management of quality.

During the 1980s and 1990s, many companies implemented internal quality control and improvement programs. The International Organization for Standardization and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award continued the focus on process improvements and quality management. As the article correctly points out, much of the development in supply-chain logistics focused on cost and delivery, and quality lost priority.

The other element that requires attention is product quality over time (reliability). Increasing the focus on product quality and process control is not sufficient to achieve the desired goal of customer satisfaction. While the focus on quality across the supply chain will certainly help, all elements across the supply chain contribute to product durability.

A few years ago, the electronics industry experienced a widespread increase in hard-disk failures due to a screen-size change within the process of a supplier of flame-retardant material. The impact was not evident until the materials were used in electronic components and installed in hard drives and computer systems. The simple process change resulted in system failures after a few months of operation.

Every product has durability expectations that are often part of the design intent. They are difficult to translate into concise component and material specifications. While it is relatively easy to measure the dimensions and electrical properties of supplied components, the detection of latent defects and adverse process changes is difficult and often overlooked.

The design intent for product durability requires articulation in the design and supply documentation that the critical factors of control and management include a long-term quality perspective. While the supplier of flame-retardant material may not have fully understood the end application of its product, the simple process change had significant customer impact.

Satisfying the immediate customer in the supply chain is important, and one way to do that is to meet the design intent objectives, including quality over time.

Fred Schenkelberg
FMS Reliability
Los Gatos, CA

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