Quality Assurance at Home

Do you have the lime to make your guacamole?

By Lula Moon

Having ripe avocados, garlic, onion, jalapeno and sea salt but no fresh limes when I want to make guacamole is like having various types of conforming widgets in stock but no connecting hardware. So to run my home efficiently—and never again forget the lime—I’ve incorporated quality assurance principles.

Quality assurance 5S principles—sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain—benefit my home life in the same ways that quality assurance principles benefit the workplace. When I sort and remove clutter, have my favorite delivery menus set in order and readily available, clean and shine household areas and equipment, make standardized lists to ensure I have an inventory of necessities like toilet paper, and sustain my routines, I simultaneously simplify and shape home life into a well-oiled machine.

When I make a list of errands to run and constellate them geographically, I save time and gas, like lean manufacturing waste elimination (motion, transportation and waiting).

ISO 9001:2008 requires six written procedures. My home life operates more smoothly with written standard operating procedures (SOP) in the form of lists designed to eliminate the human error of forgetfulness. Updated and current revision status required by section 4.2.3(b, c) ensures I benefit from using the newest lists. To illustrate, I’ve included four lists that may be used to brainstorm and create your own customized home-care SOPs.

List reminders

My recurring grocery list (Table 1) reminds me to restock frequently used kitchen, bathroom and pet-care items, plus it helps me keep track of stores that have the best price and product selection. Grouping items on my list in the same order as the stores display them maximizes shopping productivity like lean manufacturing standardized work maximizes manufacturing productivity.

Table 1

For example, I love fresh coconut and peanut butter, but before I added them to my recurring grocery list, I often forgot them and ended up buying and eating less-nutritious snacks food from the convenience store and vending machine. An unexpected additional benefit is that the sound of me cracking a coconut to remove the coconut flesh in my front yard has become a neighborhood socializing magnet.

My kayaking gear list (see Online Table 1) guarantees I have electrolytes to replenish my body fluids, salt and energy while I am exposed on the river on hot sunny days. It also ensures I have a fleece hat and long-sleeved shirt for warmth after the temperature suddenly plummets due to a summer thundershower (think identifying potential failures).

Online Table 1

My day hiking gear list (Online Table 2) identifies potential failures and promotes safety. In case I end up on the trail after dark, the list ensures I remember to bring a flashlight, lighter, whistle, jacket and ground cloth.

Online Table 2

My miscellaneous reminders list (Online Table 3) prompts me to have the gate access code and condo key when I arrive at my vacation destination. It also similarly reminds me to have the access code and key or combination for my storage unit, and to take my reading glasses to help me see menus and programs during a night on the town. Another universally helpful list includes one for the toiletry bag and traveling items.

Online Table 3

Quality benefits

My family and I, as customers of and stakeholders in our home, deserve the satisfaction of knowing that our needs are being remembered and met. Quality assurance principles, when implemented in the home, provide a process management tool for home-care continuous improvement. Advantages of this structure are focus (I know what needs doing) and increased productivity (I get it done). As a result, I enjoy more quality in my personal life.

Lula Moon earned a bachelor’s degree from Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. An ASQ member, she is an ASQ-certified manager of quality/organizational excellence, quality engineer, technician and auditor.

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