QUALITY IN THE FIRST PERSON
Quality Is Everywhere
Finding quality tools in your daily life
by Marc Macot
What is quality to you? Is it something that specialists apply in their work? Is it a way of thinking? Is it a complex world or is it common sense? Is quality part separate from your daily life?
Quality in manufacturing is defined as a measure of excellence or a state of being free of defects, deficiencies and significant variations brought about by the strict and consistent adherence to measurable and verifiable standards to achieve uniformity of output that satisfies specific customer or user requirements.1
Quality practitioners are a special breed of people who organize, manage, measure, calculate, observe and constantly try to improve processes. They use many different tools to achieve this and may seem to be in a world of their own. But quality also is a part of everyday life.
At the store
Some daily routines look a lot like quality or lean manufacturing activities, or use the same tools. Looking at your daily life with the quality filter makes you realize that quality and your life are linked.
When you go to the grocery store to purchase grapes, for example, you may taste one to see if the bunch is ripe. In doing so, you apply sampling with accepted quality level, meaning you believe the taste of the sample should reflect the quality of the entire bunch.
When you try on clothes before purchasing them, you’re applying a mix of quality control, self-inspection, auditing and the calculation of the quality cost
Quality control occurs when you check for defects, spots or stains on the clothing. Self-inspection is trying it on to see whether it fits properly. You audit the clothes by comparing your self-inspection results to your expectations.
The final decision is the calculation of the quality cost by deciding how the overall inspection of the item compares to its cost and your budget.
Even your kitchen likely follows the 5S method. If you routinely go through your fridge to toss products that are expired, you’re sorting. Keeping everything organized in the same, easy-to-reach place ensures your kitchen is set in order and standardized. Systematic cleaning ensures your kitchen is always a safe place to prepare meals, and following through on each of these means you are sustaining the discipline.
If you do let a mess get away from you, it can become overwhelming. To tackle the mess, you could use batch-size reduction to break it down into more manageable parts.
One of the most charming and irritating examples of quality tools in daily life comes from children around the age of 4. Their logic is incredible even if they lack the knowledge, which is why the keep asking one question, "Why?"
How many times can a child ask "Why?" until a parent or guardian exasperatedly replies with, "Because"? In quality, the five whys method is used to understand and find the true root cause of a problem. By the time you reach the fifth "Why?" you’ve likely reached the root cause, but try telling that to a 4-year-old.
On the town
Taverns also use 5S, which is why you will rarely see an experienced bartender searching for a particular spirit. This quality tool allows the bartenders to work quickly and prepare drinks just in time for the customer.
If your friend asks you where the tavern is, you may find it easiest to sketch a map with arrows telling him or her which direction to take, or landmarks that may help your friend arrive without getting lost. This map is a visual instruction, which quality practitioners often use to ease understanding of processes that require long, descriptive texts to explain.
Even professionals outside of what is typically seen as the quality field, use quality tools in their work, such as firefighters, farmers and administrative assistants. These professionals may not know the specific name or history of the tool they are using, but practice and experience has shown them that these methods allow them to produce their best work.
In the next few days, try to find as many quality tools in everyday life as you can by simply looking around you. You will be surprised to find that quality is everywhere, and you can find it in the simplest things.
Linking quality and lean tools to activities that may not seem to considered part of quality helps quality professionals understand the basic application on which they can build throughout their careers.
A qualitician, for instance, may see quality principles applied in many settings. This is a great advantage if he or she were asked to implement a new quality tool or system in an organization.
Recognizing the daily occurrences of quality tools also will benefit quality professionals who may have a difficult time explaining their job responsibilities to people outside of the field. People understand concepts better after they have an applicable example to reference.
All of us seek to organize the world to be comfortable and efficient. The quality tools we use are based on common sense, but we recognize that these methods can be used to improve quality of life on a greater scale.
- "Quality," Businessdictionary.com, http://tinyurl.com/quality-define.
Marc Macot is the director of continuous improvement for aviation services at GardaWorld in Montreal, Canada. He has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from the University of Quebec and more than 25 years of experience in the quality industry. Macot is a senior member of ASQ.