QUALITY IN THE FIRST PERSON
A Journey Toward Quality
Experiences that pointed the way toward a career in quality
by Venkata Kantumuchu
Hailing from a developing country like India, quality to me always meant the best price. Throughout my childhood, price seemed to be the only thing discussed in transactions I witnessed. The only thing that certifications like ISO 9001 or TS 16949 meant were that the goods or services were verified by a third party.
When I was 13 and had purchasing power of my own, I noticed a new dimension of quality in grocery stores and city markets—value. I started perceiving quality as an index of value vs. price. After some research, I began to understand that doing things right the first time increased the value of a good or service by reducing its production cost and increasing its quality.
During this time, I was fascinated with visiting manufacturers to see how things were made. Although I wasn’t able to quantify it back then, I observed that a considerable portion of the work being done was rework on products.
Do it right the first time
This observation is not unique to India. According to Joseph M. Juran, "In the U.S.A., about a third of what we do consists of redoing work previously done."1 This made me realize the enormity of rework done in typical industry sectors.
Necessary rework not only involves tangible losses such as material, money and wear-of-use on parts, but also several intangible and potentially irreversible losses such as bad customer experience, lowered market share, and redundant tests and inspections.
After a wave of recalls due to faulty ignition systems, General Motors not only spent $2.7 billion on repairs, but also faced a potential claim of $10 billion from customers for the reduced value of the vehicles.2
As I continued to visit organizations to better understand rejects and rework, I wondered what could be done to reduce these defects. I realized the various causes of rejects all converged into a simple term—variability.
I initially assumed that reducing variability would not be a hectic task. My perception changed completely while I was studying data at an alloy wheel manufacturer. The number of contributing variables alone helped me realize that variability reduction is not as simple as it seems.
In pursuit of education
At that point in my career, I had earned my bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and spent a number of years working in the quality industry in India. I realized I needed to learn more and learn it in a new environment. I needed to work in a different culture and get out of the paradigm I had been living in for several years.
In January 2011, I came to the United States and began a master’s program in manufacturing engineering. Through my coursework, my understanding of quality grew, and while researching my thesis, I realized what quality should be. I came across several examples of how quality has solved critical, complex problems using tools such as measurement system analysis.
I learned that quality should not be inspected, but built into the product. This lesson came while I was performing a cost of poor quality (COPQ) analysis at one of my first jobs after graduation. While I was researching the COPQ involved, I realized that investing in prevention had saved the organization 10 times the money invested, based on the history of failures. Since then, I have become a firm believer of prevention and processes that support it.
Since joining ASQ in 2011, I have continued to learn and improve in the field of quality, from networking with other quality professionals to obtaining multiple certifications. I also will soon complete my MBA, which has helped me improve my organizational leadership skills. I’ve come a long way, but I feel like the journey has just started.
- Joel E. Ross, Total Quality Management, St. Lucie Press, 1999.
- Linda Sandler, "GM Nine-Month Recall Costs Total $2.7 Billion in Repairs," Bloomberg, Oct. 27, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/gmrecallcosts.
Venkata Kantumuchu is quality manager and environmental health and safety coordinator at Hectronic Inc. in Oklahoma City. Kantumuchu has a master’s in manufacturing engineering from Bradley University in Peoria, IL, and an MBA from Oklahoma Baptist University in Oklahoma City. A senior member of ASQ, Kantumuchu is an ASQ-certified quality engineer, auditor, and manager of quality/operational excellence.